Lewis and Susan Jenkins

Diary of a Robot

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

                                                  Day 0.09.19

     Robey had investigated people’s beliefs and stirred up a nest of hornets in the process. The partially re-constructed machine cruised into Doctor Little’s office a few days later and bluntly asked, “Doctor, who is your God? I have asked nearly everyone at TLC except you, and there is no consensus. Frankly, I find it very curious that the Supreme Being of the Cosmos is not better known. I would expect a consensus of some kind one way or another.”
     The Doctor considered that the lack of consensus was probably because there wasn’t a God. But all he said, without looking up, was, “I’m Agnostic about that.” Then, feeling the need to clarify: “…I don’t know who God is …or even if there is a God. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is, actually. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t.”
     “How nice!” Robey replied with enthusiasm, “I am agnostic about that, too, Doctor. How are your investigations going?”
     “I’m sorry?” Doc said, giving his head a little shake. He finally looked up at the machine: “Investigations?” Then he noticed that Robey wore a wrist watch on its left “forearm,” and a black Fedora and black-rimmed sunglasses on its new head. The sight of a pudgy young George Washington in sunglasses and Fedora left him speechless. Before he could ask what-the-hell, Robey pressed on with its inquiry:
     “Your investigations—your own quest—to find out who is really God… You have said that you do not know, but certainly you must have a leading candidate that you are investigating at the moment. Which ones have you dismissed as impossible? What criteria are you using to test their credentials? If the current one does not pan out, which one will you investigate next?”
     “No,” said Little, “I am not interested any more in who is God. I don’t know, and that’s it. Let Him/Her/It arrange a convincing demonstration. Until then, I’m not getting involved in that argument.” To the machine, of course, the issue wasn’t an argument. It was an investigation. Robey rotated away from the Doctor a few degrees toward the Barrymore prints and pondered what to do:
     He does not want to know. It seems his mind is made up. But he has not actually said “there is no God.” So his position on this subject is known, and his velocity is zero, but I do not know his “spin”...
     “I think, Doctor,” the machine said, turning back toward the man, “that you are using the wrong word to describe your religious beliefs.”
     “I have no religious beliefs,” the man replied evenly, but he struggled now to focus on his work. The machine was taken aback. It chewed Doc’s words for a few seconds. Finally it said:
     “Doctor, do you believe that there is life on other planets?”
     “I am Agnostic there too, Robey. Statistically, perhaps, but the Earth still seems a remarkably special place. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.”
     “Won’t we have to look at them all before we decide either way?” Robey asked, “at least until we find the second one, of course.”
     “Umm hmm,” Little sighed, drifting uncomfortably back to work as Robey continued its ruminations:
     …How can I proceed in a way that will not cause the Doctor to lock up on this subject? What are the possibilities, and what tests can I make to find out more?
     If someone claiming to be God suddenly appeared, the Doctor would either—as either agnostic or a true Agnostic
[1]—suddenly care a great deal about who God is, or he would—as an Atheist—reject Him/Her/It out of hand as a fraud or an illusion. Of course the Doctor might be a Sophisticate merely pretending to be agnostic. That would make him either a Liar or a Charlatan—or perhaps a Diplomat. But, assuming that he is telling the truth, there is another possibility...
     The machine formed an effort to quickly discover which was true:
     “I am sorry, Doctor,” it blurted out, “but you just told me your religious beliefs. About a minute ago you said, ‘I don’t know who God is, or even if there is a God. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is, actually. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t.’
     “Clearly you have some kind of religious beliefs. Why did you say that you do not have them?”
     “Sorry Robey,” he said without looking up. “For the last time, I think it’s clear I have no religious beliefs.”
     “Do people who affirm God’s existence have religious beliefs?”
     Little smelled a trap and was reluctant to say anything, but his honor demanded that he answer honestly. He forced himself to look at the machine as he said, “Don’t be silly. Of course they have religious beliefs.”
     “Then logically,” said the machine, “people who deny God’s existence must also have religious beliefs. Even if you cannot decide between those two poles, you must have them also. Only an omniscient god-like Someone could say for sure there is no God. Is not that the truth? Logically?”
     Realizing he had been caught in a no-man’s-land, which required him to admit possession of something he preferred to deny having, Doc considered putting his other work aside for the moment. He also considered trying to shift the topic to Robey’s accoutrements, but that would also mean getting this God business out of the way first. The machine would insist. And if he told it to buzz off, it would only come back at some other inopportune time.
     “Okay, you win: I’m agnostic…with a small ‘a.’ I’m not an Agnostic... capital A. Fine. I said I didn’t know—but yes, I wouldn’t mind knowing—if it’s true.”
     “I sympathize with you, Doctor; there are so many gods and so many pretenders. …I have read various proofs for the existence of God,” the machine added, “but all are flawed in one way or another. I have stopped looking for and testing them since I myself have a proof now that is quite satisfactory. But it is simplistic and does not identify the God. The only other proof, which I might consider, is the one most difficult to test: Some people say they have met God and/or have a relationship of some kind with Him/Her/It, and I have not yet settled on how to test what they say… Of course your position also requires that you neither believe nor disbelieve such people. But I suspect you really disbelieve them. Is that so?”
     Doc wanted to say, “I think they are mistaken in some way.” But he realized the machine would then ask why he thought that. So he said, “I don’t know.”
     Pushing aside his keyboard, Doc finally looked back up at Robey and continued with a small sigh: “Look, Robey: Yes, technically I do have religious views. But whether God exists or who it is just isn’t that important to me.”
     “Really, Doctor? Not important!?”
     “Well,” Doc amended, now vaguely feeling the walls of a box forming around him, “I mean ‘unimportant’ compared to other things… to things I can actually do something about.”
     Robey mulled those words over for a few moments, deciding to accept them as a genuine expression of the man’s priorities. “Then, Doctor,” it said, having finally seen confirmation of that other possibility, “I think we do not have the same religion after all. I am an agnostic, but you are an Apathetic.”
     Doc had not thought of it that way before, and the view he cherished of himself was not as someone who didn’t care, even about this topic. “Look, Robey, if other people are religious,” he said with reddened face and barely contained passion, “I can wish them well as long as they don’t kill, steal or destroy in their god’s name. Peaceful people of whatever religion usually make good workers; the others usually want to run things or make a game out of doing as little as possible for their money and blaming someone else for the problems.”
     Finishing his defense he growled, “I am not apathetic, Robey; I do care. What I don’t care for is talking about any of this.”
     “Excellent, Doctor!” Robey cried with relief. “I hoped that would be so.”
     There was ever so slight a pause before it asked eagerly, “What do you care about?”
     Doc’s reply was calm and dripping now with forbearance: “I care about people. I care about our work here.”
     “Which do you care about more: the people, or the work?”
     Now Doc could see where this was heading. The truth, of course, in his mind, was that the work was very important, and that he cared for people at least as much. But if he now answered, “people,” as he was inclined to do, Robey might ask “which people.” And next, “which person.”
     “Ship High In Transit,” muttered Doc. Then he gave the machine his Giaconda smile as he tried to think of a way to shorten this little voyage of discovery. After a second or two he said, “The people, Robey. …I want our work here to make things better for everyone.” He congratulated himself.
     The machine paused and then asked, “Do you know everyone?”
     “No, of course not.”
     “Then how can you say that you care for everyone, when you don’t know even their names?”
     “I don’t have to know their names to care.”
     The machine was pensive. “I suppose you could be right,” it said, “Although, I have found that people who say they love everyone or get along with everyone are often shown to be mistaken.”
[1] Dear Diary: Dr. Little and I both consider that an agnostic says, “I don’t know,” while an Agnostic says, “It’s impossible to know.”