Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daily Story 165: Adapting Technology

Doctor Goldberg looked at the general, examining his facial features and posture. He had always been bad at reading people, and often the general looked angry even when he was in a good mood. Still, there were some cues. "You're unhappy, general Rosewater?"

"Unhappy is an understatement, doc. This artificial intelligence is not what we wanted." The general took a seat, but remained stiff-backed and formal. Doctor Goldberg dug through the mounds of clutter on his desk, shifting piles of paper and causing several minor avalanches.
"General, if I can just find the message you sent to refer to... I don't really recall anything specific being requested."
"Doctor... you were asked to design intelligent robots for the military. You've given me a child." Both men turned to look at the hulking shape in the corner of the room - a demonic form carved from black armor and weapons, sinister red eyes glowing as it looked back at them and gave a tiny wave. Doctor Goldberg waved back.

"He gets distracted by butterflies, doc. He questions his orders and asks what food tastes like. Good soldiers don't waste time with things like that."
A deep voice rumbled from the corner, "Sorry."
"And he apologizes all the time. Courtesy is fine, it can be mighty hard to find people with common decency these days, but watch this." The general picked up a pen from the desk and hurled it across the room, bouncing it off one of the luminous red eyes. "Pardon me," the robot rumbled, "Is there something I did wrong?"
General Rosewater raised one eyebrow. "Is this a joke, doctor?"

Doctor Goldberg looked pleased. "I think it's wonderful! I've only given him basic knowledge and some stabilizing emotional settings and morals - to keep him from turning against humans and killing everyone indiscriminately, you understand - but he's developed his own personality!" He stood and went over to the robot and reached out to shake his hand. "AT165, do you remember me?"
AT165 took the doctor's hand gently. "Yes. At the time that we parted, I was unable to articulate or understand my own feelings. I would now like to thank you for creating me and giving me the opportunity to experience life."

General Rosewater snorted in disgust. "I wanted some sort of... soulless machine of death. You gave me a philosophical civilian. Can't you just strip off the emotions, leave it pure machine?"
The doctor returned and took a seat. "I'm confused. I don't make intelligent computers, I make artificial brains. They're modeled directly off of the human brain and... well, I can remove the emotions easily enough - there are certainly humans without emotion - but..." he began to dig through the wreckage on his desk again, throwing various blueprints aside. "If I remove all the human aspects entirely it will either go insane or be unable to exhibit the creativity that I assumed you wanted. With time I will be able to develop brains that work the way you require, but even then after enough time they'll develop personalities. To be honest, I had planned on them providing child care, helping in nursing homes, that kind of thing."

The general sighed. "Doc, this is a huge disappointment. How am I supposed to give my superiors a battle-ready robot in two months?"
Goldberg smiled. "Well, that would be easy enough. Have whoever built the body make a few modifications and use a pre-existing brain. I'm sure you have some injured soldier somewhere who would volunteer. Or... I'm sorry, I forget about social mores at times. Would that be in poor taste?"
The general was smiling from ear to ear. "Taste? This is war, doctor. Nothing is in poor taste."