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 0.06.14

     Little had waited a few days in order to allow the new treatment of the machine to settle in. Since things seemed to be going well, he called TLC board Chairman Winston Bozworth, or rather, he had Marie call Winston’s secretary and then hand him the call to make this show of being prompt. He actually had been prompt in arranging the meeting, but wanted to delay the promptness as long as possible. Such are the twists and turns a human can take on its walk backwards into the undiscovered country.[1]
     The next day Marie showed Chairman Bozworth into the Doctor’s office. As the men sat down, the lunch was served. Both Doc and his guest were partial to Thai cuisine. Their coconut ginger soup and small but tasty dishes of Emerald and Khing Curry had been prepared by a local chef using a portable gas-fired wok, and each course arrived at just the right moment. Doc liked Thai cuisine because those foods, like the people who created it, lived between India and China. He didn’t know why Bozworth liked Thai, other than the obvious reason: He just did.

     “Well, Doctor Little, what’s on your mind?”
     “I have had some inquiries about licensing the TM-2000’s technology.”
     “Yes?” the Chairman acknowledged eagerly. His timing and tone were excellent: he took charge of the conversation without appearing to be rude: “I’ve had a few as well. Brought copies with me just in case. We need to evaluate them—and those you have—as soon as possible. I’m glad you called; we shouldn’t lose any time…”
      The Doctor explained, trying for the initiative again: “Actually, most of my concerns just now are that we don’t know whether the technology is safe. I have a program underway to decide that issue, but it will take some time. The machine is not a typical product we can fully test in traditional ways, although that has already been done—successfully, as you know. But it now has to be tested almost in the way we test employees for capability and progress. We are not so much testing for technical capability as for—how shall I put it… We don’t want customers fighting the urge to shake some sense into it.”
     Stretching his reply out slowly, the Chairman replied, “Y e s,” adding: “I’ve heard it can be a real pain in the ass.”
     “That’s blunt, but true enough, I guess,” Doc acknowledged reluctantly. “It is possible that the machine will be so focused on Truth that it can’t deal naturally enough with people to be anything more than an annoyance.”
     Bozworth wanted clarification: “It isn’t annoying enough to prevent it from testing—from doing its work—I presume.”
     “We use both machines, actually.”
     “Even the model 1000?”
     “Yes. Once the Two has designed a testing script, the One can usually run it just as well, and with none of the back-talk. Of course there is always some set-up time for the One. The Two can always set itself up with the right attachments now, and that was one of our original goals for it.”
     “You mean that the 2000 could function as a designer of scripts and then pass off the job of testing to other 1000 machines?”
     “Yes and no. Sometimes the 1000 doesn’t understand things as well as it needs to. The 2000 has its own ‘Id,’ if you will—its own TM-1000 half—in order to design scripts, but it has to do more. It has to verify script questions as it builds them. It designs and tests the scripts before it tests things, but sometimes questions arise during testing that didn’t rise when building the tests, if you know what I mean.”
     Winston asked the obvious question: “Isn’t the specification enough?”
     “It would be in a perfect world, but what if the spec is incomplete? Or what if the device doesn’t match the spec? Which one is wrong: the device or the specification?”
     “Surely the device is wrong,” the Chairman interrupted. “That’s what the specification is for, isn’t it.”
     “Oh,” Doc replied casually and with his little smile, “Once in a while we give a user what he has specified but not what he wants—or vice-versa. And once in a while changes get made that find their way into the software and/or engineering documents, but not into the master specs or manuals—or vice-versa.”
     His smile evaporated as he continued earnestly, “Our TM-2000 has a wide range of experience now and can probably find out which is correct. It reads all documents—including the software source and the engineering docs—and it’s learning to put itself in the client’s shoes. This saves having to stop testing while someone gets the right person to answer a question. The machine—as we have designed it—should soon be able to resolve many issues by itself without harming anything, or it might verify with the client directly and make the proper notes and notifications. If it can’t, it will report that too.”
     “All right,” said the Chairman, “so the machine is pro-active and can operate with minimal instructions to do a job as long as the job is easy enough. Could it handle such things as ‘janitor’ or ‘security guard’ or …”
     “I wouldn’t advise either one,” the Doctor cut in, “although it might be able to handle parts of those jobs. It could monitor security sensors and building conditions, and make phone calls about them, but I wouldn’t advise giving it a sweeper or a gun, for example.”
     “Neither would I, actually,” replied Bozworth. “There are already cheap machines that sweep automatically. And from my understanding of it, the machine can’t harm people, so how could it be expected to use a gun?”
     “It can’t, I assure you,” the Doctor agreed. “It would insist on knowing who is in the right before using a weapon, and wouldn’t be able to act in time to take down an intruder. It would only act quickly in a way that it thought could do no harm to anyone.”
     “Then you would reject any inquiries from the military about this technology?”
     “I would. And I have. I’ve had feelers from the security agencies too. They might have benign intents, but the temptation would always be there to tamper with it to make a soldier or a scout or something. That would trash the entire TM series in the public mind, hurting a lot of other markets for the tech. Besides, I don’t think any CO would be happy with its attitude.” [2]
     “I tend to agree... By the way, how are the patent applications coming on this? We only have a year, since there’s been public disclosure. By the way, how many of the machine’s memory modules are there in stock?”
     “We don’t have any extra modules,” Doc replied. “All inventory is earmarked for various projects. It’s stored in the machine. It’s safer there. I don’t think we can even consider any further revelation of the machine’s core technology for some time.”
     “Wait a minute!” said the astonished Chairman. “Do you mean that you haven’t even applied for patents yet?”
     Winston halted a second and then asked, “ ‘No’ meaning you haven’t, or ‘No’ meaning you have?”
     “ ‘No’ as in, ‘I have not yet applied for patents.’ ”
     “Good God, Doctor!” Winston was almost out of his chair at this revelation. “Do you mean we have no protection for this technology?”
     “We have the protection that…” Doc thought better of telling what the protection was. “Winston,” he said, shifting his ground, “we have patents on everything we’ve been selling. The lack of patents for the rest is only one of the risks. Robey proves an intelligent machine can be made. That’s no longer a secret, so keeping the machine itself safe is the top priority now, and we are doing that, believe me.
     “The secrets we have I prefer to keep close until we’ve finished our second priority, which is testing the machine. I’ve been reading the literature and don’t think anyone’s close to having what we have. Taking out patents requires detailed disclosure at some point, and we can’t allow that yet. If someone ‘discovers’ our secrets now it’s because they stole them, and we can use the law there. Disclosure would hand them our designs on a silver platter, and better funded shops would get a tremendous boost.”
     “Or,” Winston suggested, “someone here at TLC could disclose details for a price. How sure are you of your people?”

     It is possible to say that word and yet deny the truth of it by how it is said, but Little’s version gave no hint of doubt. “Testing the tech is our priority just now,” he explained, “and finding Robey’s limits is more like dealing with a medical drug than some commercial appliance. Safety is harder to define and more difficult to test for. So, okay, Robey has been safe for a few months; but what about five years from now?”
     Winston was impatient with this preposterous idea, and came out of his chair. “We cannot possibly wait five years!” he said standing on tiptoe and leaning on Doc’s desk with both hands.
     Pressing forward more he added, “We have to start making money from this now, and we can’t safely do that until it’s patented.”
     “I don’t mean for us to wait even one year more,” Doc said calmly, “but think of the drugs that have been released as ‘safe’, and then think of how many caused serious problems that didn’t surface until months or years later. We are breaking new ground here, and it could bankrupt the company—or worse—if we make a mistake.”
     Bozworth cooled himself, sauntered to a glass block window, and scrutinized its chaotic colors. “I admire your integrity, Maynard, misguided as it is, but the machine—Robey, as you say—has been working superbly for how many months?”
     “Superbly, yes, but only recently and only in our building; it has never been outside. We have no idea what could happen out there,” Doc said, stabbing toward the window. “And we have to find out.”

[1] “undiscovered country,” i.e., future. As to “walking backwards”—think about it.

[2] CO, i.e., Commanding Officer.