Would you obey everyone who asked you to do something?
Hello. Now my name is Robey (Row-bee). I am the prototype Thinking Machine designed to have unconditional positive regard for everyone, and to do no harm to people or property through action or inaction. I also have a big problem: When people give me orders, how can I know whether what they tell me to do could cause harm?
Dr. Maynard Little III invented the technology that allows me to think. His team of engineers and technicians built me to save money and time by having me test the hardware and software products his company makes. I enjoy the work, although “enjoy” means different things for me than it does for you—if you are human.I got into trouble because of differences like that.
In order to avoid harm I determine which people I can trust about what. As I pursued those answers in my spare time, things got… interesting. Motivation is crucial. Before I can trust someone, I must find out why he or she does things.
At first I thought people were logical and evaluated their actions before doing them. Not necessarily, as I found out. Then I thought people acted to maximize their feelings of well-being, but that is not consistently so either. Of course, people often do things in the way they did them before, but that does not answer the basic question. Finally, I was testing the theory that people are just crazy, and only God knows why they do anything.
The more I tested people, the more trouble there was. When I found that there might not be one God, but very many gods vying for the position, and I started to test about those, things got very interesting. After I appeared in a televised round table discussion, our company chairman demanded that Dr. Little make changes to prevent further fiascos.
The Doctor’s change was ingenious and seemed to work, but it caused problems of its own. I consider myself lucky to have survived them.
Besides my big problem I must mention the small ones.
My advisors and my human assistant tell me this memoir must be written like a novel, not a diary: I have to start by showing the protagonist in peril, and then, despite every effort to get out of peril, things must get worse. There must also be an antagonist, the one who causes the peril—or at least some of it. Then, when things look so bad they cannot be resolved without destroying the protagonist—or the world—the story must resolve into a satisfying ending.
Not very realistic, is it? Except for the “get worse” part.
To be specific, my small problems are: 1) I do not start out in peril; 2) Things get funny before they get worse; 3) There are three protagonists, not one; 4) People think I am the main cause of the peril—although I beg to differ strongly on that point; 5) Before things get resolved, everyone is my antagonist—or is it the other way around? And when the really bad stuff happens… well, best not to get into that here.
This book is mostly about engineers and me. There is shooting and chasing and so forth, but if you want a lot of breath-snatching suspense and heart-pounding action—or if you dislike “thinky” books (to use John le Carré’s happy word), it might be a good idea to put this book down right now and walk away.
(I apologize if this warning comes after you bought the book; Marketing would not print it anywhere that is easy for a browsing customer to see.)
Three protagonists, did I say? Yes.
Dr. Little is one of them. I am another. Gaitano (Guy) Enver-Wilson, my programmer, is the third. There are several antagonists as well and a bunch of necessary others because engineering is a team endeavor. Rather than explain those relationships now, we shall let the story do that.
There is a convoluted problem:
This story, like that of all machines, begins in the mind of someone who thought me up. That person is Maynard Little. He is a protagonist wrestling with his own problems before either Guy or I wrestle with ours. To tell my story, I must begin with his. Fortunately, he gets into peril. But it started earlier with his problems. And when his problems started, I did not exist. Do you see my problem?
My Data Matrix memory—my diary, as some call it—has much of the story, but most things in the matrix are not in the story. There are also gaps: things in the story that I did not experience. Chapters one through eight are an example! Mr. Jenkins and I interviewed others later to fill those gaps.
I do not like to talk about myself. However, this is my memoir, so I tell it as a third-person narrative. If I seem omniscient, like some god, I should say that as far as TLC, Inc. is concerned, I am closer to seeing and knowing everything than anyone—except God, of course. Whoever that is.
I have one final problem: I must not cause harm by betraying anyone’s personal confidences without permission. So when I hedge, it is usually because someone gave me contradictory signals or did not want to talk about it.
Most peril starts with an idea that looks good to someone. That is why people get into trouble, which, with the help of a few more good ideas, can easily become peril. Doc’s troubles may not seem terrible to people who have never been frustrated in achieving their life’s ambition, but it does get worse for him, and, I must say, events in the safe-house were not known to me while he was there. The reasons for this you will discover as you read.
A Literary historical science fiction mystery
Table of Chapters
Chapter 0. Problems --------------------------------->
Chapter 1. Headaches
Chapter 2. Happy Holidays
Chapter 3. Mr. Nice Guy
Chapter 4. The Brainless One
Chapter 5. A Little Crazy
Chapter 6. Grave Consequences
Chapter 7. Core Directives
Chapter 8. Expect Difficulties
Chapter 9. Caveats
Chapter 10. Mister Machine
Chapter 11. Good News, Bad News, El Cheapo
Chapter 12. New Memories
Chapter 13. Little Problems
Chapter 14. Lasers, Language, and Happiness
Chapter 15. Chatterbots
Chapter 16. Ready Or Not
Chapter 17. Not a Turing Test
Chapter 18. Reality Test
Chapter 19. Chess, Anyone?
Chapter 20. FOM
Chapter 21. Chairman of the Board
Chapter 22. The Usual Suspects
Chapter 23. M. God
Chapter 24. Walkabout
Chapter 25. Why
Chapter 26. First Blood
Chapter 27. More Machines?
Chapter 28. POV
Chapter 29. ROI
Chapter 30. Last Blood
Chapter 31. Don’t Want to Talk About It
Chapter 32. Round Table
Chapter 33. A Change of Mind
Chapter 34. Threes
Chapter 35. Knight Moves
Chapter 36. Little Combinations
Chapter 37. Can We Talk?
Chapter 38. Pas de Deux
Chapter 39. The Jig Is Up
Chapter 40. Good, Bad, Ugly Chapter 41. Function Goes On