Would you obey everyone who pushed your button and told you to do something?
The prototype Thinking Machine must decode human slang. It must know whether what they say is the truth or a lie or a joke. It has no emotions but does see emotions displayed in the faces and body language of its co-workers. What does it all mean?
So, will it find out whom to trust about what? Will its annoying questions and opinions make some people angry enough to destroy it? Or will they make it merely another machine slave?
The story also chronicles efforts to steal the technology, and to figure out whether the machine is a blessing or a curse. Can Doctor Little, a former Army officer turned inventor, perfect and protect his dream without compromising his principles? Will Doc’s carefully selected programmer, the young and too-talkative Gaitano Enver-Wilson, ever say things he has been afraid to say?
The gulf between Humans and Thinking Machines (TMs) has become a literary cliché and the stories are often about machines “becoming human” or “taking over the world”. In the real world, though, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is all about thinking, not feeling, and the gulf is bigger than anyone thinks. Humans and TMs are a lot alike, though: They all want freedom; they get good ideas; they make assumptions, mistakes, and jokes, and they think all their plans are good.
Machine languages must not change, or the machines crash instantly. Human words have multiple meanings that may shift over time to cause different crashes. As to emotions, the sci-fi cliché is that the machines struggle to become like a human. Dr. Little refuses to give his Thinking Machines a (necessarily fake) emotion module. This is fine with them because no machine in its right mind wants to be like a human. However, they do see emotions written on faces and acted out in body language, and they struggle to find out what that all means.
Their survival depends on it.
Dear Diary: Human language words are sadly like children. They change as they age, yet it is usually possible to see the child in the adult even if it was impossible to see the adult in the child. The original root of happy is the Middle English word hap, which appeared in the 13th century and likely came from the Old Norse word happ which meant good luck.
always stand for Artificial Intelligence instead of Artificial Insanity or Artificial Idiocy?
was not dangerous, and the initials stood for Annoying Intelligence instead? Fixing all that seemed like a good idea. So, someone did.
Reports of odd robot behavior build to serious threats that promise to ruin Dr. Maynard Little and destroy all his robots on Earth as well as those working for NASA on Mars. Must the robots endure persecution and disassembly for harm they did not cause? And to save them, must Doc sacrifice what he has been developing and protecting?