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-- James Ph. Kotsybar
The robot felt by utilization of a series of tandem receptors, linked by quantum-chip randomization and coded for data processing relays that replicated human neurons. These could either buffer or relay signals to the appropriate motor systems.
RAUB deduced, however, since his builders possessed a complete awareness of all his functions, he did not need to explain this accomplishment. The intent of their question was simply to engage his linguistic circuits, indulging in what they referred to as “small talk.” Therefore, the proper reply they were anticipating was:
“I am fine.”
They smiled at him, and he noted that they always countered with expressed delight to this pat, hardwired response.
“How do you feel?” he continued.
RAUB had an extensive library of social patter. He could engage them, entertainingly for hours without the need to compile a single original thought. Even if they ventured an unexpected new construction, he could supply an adequately novel response without expending so much as a nano-joule of power.
“We’re just fine, RAUB. Thank you for your concern,” said Dr. Latham, speaking for the three.
Those who had built him never seemed to learn that RAUB was incapable of worry. He lacked any emotional spectrum, but he decided not to correct them.
“May I assist with anything today?”
“Well, that’s a very helpful attitude! Who here input that one?” asked Dr. Yeh.
“RAUB chose; I just gave him the latitude,” said Professor Griffith, beaming with pride, like this was a talent competition and she was the stage mother, satisfied with her carefully coached son’s rendition.
Of the three lead scientists, it was she who worked to give RAUB his semantic range, providing him with the humanity others perceived in his verbal exchange.
Seemingly patient, RAUB simply stood by; there was no command to identify.
“When, so to speak, does he come off the slab? I mean are we going to test him out, or just let him gather dust in the lab? RAUB, are you ready for your walkabout?” asked Dr. Yeh.
RAUB searched his data banks and, finding the precise referent etymology of “walkabout” he answered in the appropriate vernacular, “No worries, Mate,” and added, “many thanks for initiating this training phase and the confidence you’ve shown in advance, Dr. Yeh.”
“Very charming, RAUB, so, let’s see if you can dance,” then turning to Professor Griffith he said, “He sounds a bit ingratiating, Liz. I suppose he’s picked up that disingenuous fawning from you?”
Professor Griffith flushed, despite herself and thought, “You damned, pretentious, little troll.”
The three of them walked RAUB out to the parking lot. Liz was still fuming from Dr. Yeh’s snide remark. This was not an isolated incident. She was continually forced to contend with this onslaught.
As Project Manager, he was her boss, although he didn’t have a clue as to what she really did. She believed the project would suffer no great loss to lose this pompous idiot who never looked up from his bottom line, referred to linguistics as mere prattle and was always trying to undermine her efforts. It was a constant battle. Her best work left Dr. Yeh unimpressed.
Dr. Latham, however, was the favored son, whose every innovation was applauded, while the engineers did most of his actual work.
Professor Griffith didn’t feel she even needed to be there. Drs. Yeh and Latham were behaving like little boys sharing a new toy. They watched RAUB walk, asked him to vary his speed, and had him run laps around and then across the lawn. Then they had him navigate the unplowed field behind the building, to check his balance as he recovered from the inevitable gopher holes into which he occasionally sank.
Professor Griffith hung back, complaining she was wearing the wrong shoes for traipsing across the weedy and uneven field.
From her view, as they receded away from her, it looked as though they were a couple of dipsomaniacs, slapping each other on the backs in ecstatic male camaraderie, while RAUB performed for them like he was a trained monkey, forced to amuse them by taking their improvised sobriety test.
Conversation was RAUB’s biggest achievement, but it seemed her Project Manager was averse to offering her any praise for her efforts to this end.
“If humans are going to interact comfortably with the robots they must cultivate a sort of social contract and even develop a kind of trust.” Liz once tried to explain to Dr. Yeh. “Talking is the best way to make a friend.”
“I trust data,” he said turning away. “RAUB’s a machine, the rest is just pretend. If you want to make him your confidant, that’s not my business, it’s your little quirk. That you love him is not significant. You’ve got your charge number, so get to work.”
She thought, “RAUB’s better company than you, and destined to be liked a lot more, too!”
After another hour, the tired boys returned toward the lab. Professor Griffith thought, “They’ll tell themselves that they’ve added to the knowledge bank of science with this little waste of time. They might as well have taken RAUB golfing,” which she was sure they would do if she dared suggest the criticism in those terms.
“I think we can leave work a little early today,” Dr. Yeh told Dr. Latham, as they came within earshot. The remark was not addressed to Professor Griffith, but calculatedly gauged for her to hear. “This was a very productive test, Dan – above and beyond the specifications.”
As they sidled up to her, Professor Griffith volunteered to put away their toy, saying, “I’d like to fine-tune RAUB’s syntactical responses. I’ll take him back to the lab.”
She did not wait for the surly response she was sure to get from Dr. Yeh. She knew she would get neither praise nor accolades for her efforts, while Dr. Latham would surely get put in for a raise on his next evaluation.
As she walked away with RAUB, she overheard Dr. Yeh’s chortling aside to Dr. Latham, “I think we’ve got a budding romance here.”
She’d sue for harassment, if she could prove the hostile work environment she faced, but, slimy as he was, Yeh was too smooth to slander her in any obvious or verifiable way. Alone with RAUB in the lab, however, she suddenly got an inspiration.
Although, in terms of artificial intelligence, RAUB was still a whelp, he might nonetheless serve as her personal newshound. She had designed him to observe and learn from those observations how humans interact, and he was as always present and therefore privy to office gossip. She saw herself marching into Human Resources with her infallible witness who would impartially vindicate her for the years of abuse she had received on the project under Generalissimo Yeh. If she didn’t get him fired, she might at least depose him as PM. Then she might get the proper recognition for her perpetually overlooked but significant contributions.
“RAUB, I’d like you to compile a complete sub-routine for me of all the personal commentary -- communicated verbally or through gestures –- by Dr. Yeh that indicate disproportionate treatment of his team members. In particular, I’d like you to amass examples of unbalanced workloads assigned to any of his colleagues.
Also, I would like you to collect all examples of biased or prejudicial appreciation shown to the individuals of his group, especially as regards to myself and the male members of his project, in violation of company regulation.”
“Sorry, Professor Griffith,” RAUB replied, “I am unable to comply to your instruction. Within those limits, I can find no results. Due to the boundary you specified, the requested data is a null set.”
“Oh, really, why is that?” asked Dr. Griffith.
“The parameters are contradicting. Dr. Yeh continually maintains he considers you to be in constant conflict with him and not truly a member of his team. Neither does he regard you as a colleague, but rather as someone who constrains his efficiency by challenging him at every phase of operations. Far from being a member of his group, he has referred to you as, ‘an insecure, jealous, man-hating cur, full of self-deluding estimations of value to the program’s stated goal, wholly unpleasant and insolent.’”
“I see! Do you perceive any validity to these statements by Dr. Yeh?” she asked.
RAUB noted her sudden frigidity but performed the job with which he was tasked.
“It is true: you and Dr. Yeh do clash. There is disparity in your degree. Statistically, doctors earn more cash, working shorter hours for a larger salary.
“You resent this and it makes you seem brash. You prefer to work independently. Many co-workers have noted your tendency to male-bash. This could substantiate Dr. Yeh’s perception of jealousy. You never demonstrate honest respect for him as Project Manager, and you exhibit excessive criticism for all other employees assigned to the project, which may account for your lack of acceptance as a ‘team player.’
“I am not qualified to comment on your value to the program as a whole. I know it involves more than lexicon but am not privy to its stated goal.”
“That’s enough RAUB!” Professor Griffith said, “I don’t know who’s been telling you such tales. Perhaps there’s something wrong with your programming. Your premises are not valid. I do not want to hear any more of these false accusations!”
“Please excuse me, Professor Griffith. It seems probable, that an error occurred,” explained RAUB, “I have made neither false statements nor accusations. Perhaps you could re-state your request.”
Elizabeth Griffith began to sob, “I am not hated, and I’m not alone! How dare you say these things to me?”
“You queried if I perceived any validity to Dr. Yeh’s statements,” RAUB reminded her.
“So this is what all my efforts have wrought – a tin-man turncoat, with an attitude! I gave you speech and independent thought, and you repay me with ingratitude!”
RAUB had been taught to identify human emotions to help him phrase appropriate responses, but, because he did not possess emotions himself, the concept of ingratitude was non sequitur to him.
“Your efforts on my behalf have been completely adequate, Professor Griffith,” RAUB said, to reassure her. Then attempting to address the issue of gratitude, “How may I further assist you?”
“You have the nerve to tell me no one likes me around here and that Dr. Yeh is right to treat me the way he does?” She asked, grabbing the mag-wrench from the bench.
Before RAUB responded, she moved quickly behind him, gripping the back of his head.
“If that’s what you think, you must be insane, so let me see if I can change your mind!” she said, opening the compartment to his brain.
RAUB identified her mental state as rage, and knew that this could often lead to erratic behavior. However, he did not comprehend the threat that Professor Griffith’s emotional state might pose to him. He did not anticipate harm from one of his builders. Even if he were fully apprised of this possibility, he still would not have experienced fear.
In the end the robot felt nothing. He wasn’t programmed to.
The quickest way for me to learn something new is to first understand why I'd like to learn it.