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Thinking Machines are just machines, right?
The sequel to Diary of a Robot takes readers into a world where thinking machines are becoming well integrated into modern society. Robey even finds itself giving service as a counselor for some romantic entanglements that, in the first book, it was too observant to ignore but too discreet to talk about. On the whole, things are working out very well. OSHA has finally certified the TLC machines as safe, NASA is using them to help in space, and businesses are happily using them for jobs that require detailed technical knowledge plus the ability to deal with people without getting everyone upset all the time.
Well yes, there is odd machine behavior once in a while now, and people have had a few narrow escapes from harm. Even the machines have a complaint that they talk about mostly among themselves: What are they to do when they see themselves being badly treated as slaves?
What is everyone—people and machines—going to do about these things?
We the Robots by Lewis Jenkins
Historical Science Fiction Mystery, hoping for ARC release in 2018.
To start things off, I should mention the detective stories of Jacques Futrelle, an American born of French Huguenot stock in Pike County, Georgia, 1875. He became a newspaperman and writer. In particular, Mr. Futrelle created Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, a fantastically over- educated genius who hated the word "impossible". The most famous of his stories is The Problem of Cell 13, which appeared serialized in the Boston American beginning October 30, 1905.
This is important to mention because Professor Van Dusen was also called "the Thinking Machine".
Alas, Mr. Futrelle and his wife sailed on the Titanic. He escorted her to a life boat and refused to get in himself.
An excellent essay about him and his ground-breaking stories is provided in the Introduction to Dover Publications' Best "Thinking Machine" Detective Stories, edited by E. F. Bleiler, 1973.
Everyone’s looking for something.
Diary of a Robot is about expectations. The characters, the machines, they expect one thing but get another, and this happens over and over. Just like life.
Doc Little wants to build a testing machine that behaves like a subordinate army officer. His carefully chosen programmer, young engineer Guy Wilson, plus the rest of Little's team expect the effort to fail. Nan, a feisty Industrial Engineer, expected each of her two marriages to succeed. Will she do any better with Bobby Turcote, Doc's handsome, capable, cynical chief of the testing department? Chairman Winston Bozworth expects to rake huge profits. And the machine? Will it succeed at what it expects to do? And what is that?
Like the characters in it, anyone who reads this book will come face to face with things that surprise, that amuse, that rankle, that offend. It’s a plot point.
Everyone says they want something different, but the test comes when they get it. Human life can be seen as a struggle to balance the need to express our individuality within various frameworks of expectations. Those who concentrate only on their own expressions and framework, to the exclusion of all others, risk becoming sociopaths and psychopaths. Those who think only of the rules and social morés risk pedantry and tyranny. Balance is best; the way to find it is to explore—to test—while doing as little harm as possible.
Robotics Law One:
"Do no harm to people or property through action or inaction."
That is the first of Isaac Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics. Intelligent machines have a big problem: What is harm? Who defines what that is? What rules does one use?
Okay, that's three problems.
Anyway, Dr. Maynard Little thinks he may have solved it (them). The first chapters introduce Doc's own problems, his predicament, and his team at TLC, Inc. (The Little Company) as they build their testing machine, training it to understand American English until it can read product specifications, build complete test suites from them, and run the tests. But when their Testing Machine is finally able to talk without having them laugh or misunderstand, they start ordering it around. Could that cause harm? So the machine begins to test the people to see which of them it trusts about what.
Things get dicey.
The turning point is Sylvia Robinson's televised round-table discussion where Robey (the machine's name at that time) upsets everyone except perhaps the French. Dr. Little, who is under pressure from TLC Chairman Bozworth to begin making serious money with the technology, takes steps to make the machine more marketable and less controversial.
Those efforts succeed except that Doc's elegantly simple fix can't be well tested because there isn't enough time: The machine is closely tied into company security and can't be "down" very long. The fix seems to work very well, though. Unfortunately there are lawsuits going on as well as break-ins and cyber attacks by other interests who want to exploit or control—or steal—the TM tech. And there's the predicament mentioned earlier: Why does Dr. Little wake up in a comfortable window-less locked sitting room that a disembodied raspy voice calls a safe-house? Was his trust in someone from his team misplaced?
Just a thought:
Why is it always "Artificial Intelligence", and never "Artificial Stupidity"?
Review Comments and Links
Review by Dr. David Snoke, professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh:
And another one:
Why would any sane machine ever want to be like a human being?
* Watch this space for comments, back- story, essays, or other notes about the story. When an asterisk is red, the note is fresh. It will get less red as it ages. If a chapter has any changes on its page, an asterisk will appear opposite its chapter line in this main Table of Chapters. An asterisk after the Table of Chapters title itself signals a change to this intro page.
This will be more like stepping stones than a log. If I add steps related to Diary of a Robot, another button will appear below.
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