“Above all it is essential to refer to things by their correct names. If things are not referred to by their correct names, then our language will not reflect reality. If our language does not reflect reality, then our actions will not reflect reality, and will be exercises in futility.”
— Confucius, The Analects, Chapter 13, Verse 3
My life had become even busier and more scattered. I was still reading widely into the psychology of intelligence, all of the sciences that reveal aspects of ‘human nature’, and artificial intelligence. The research into the Tessel’s tech had mostly moved into the world and since it became clear there was no particular danger from it and had since had been largely independent of me . I couldn’t do more than keep up with the high points and give talks to the new patrons — we still did not apply for government grants, too many strings and too high an overhead from the university that ran the hospital that ran the adjacent research lab.
At this time, we were still working through details of how our lab’s servicebots had become individualized, had taken the initiative in playing games with our kids and developing the depth-of-play analysis of intellect, using it for training, and producing such rapid progress with them, especially the Tessels. At age 7.5, our Tessels were beating the parents in checkers, routinely. Another thread of research that I kept track of, tho it was in the hands of psychologists and servicebots, I was out of that also.
The editor insists I include more ‘personality’. Such a bad idea for you, the reader, personal connections make humans trust. You should most appreciate explanations from a cold, beady-eyed mentat hardass, an autistic savant with whom you can have no personal identification at all. Why let anyone close enough to see any chinks in your armour, mental or physical, while you coolly and calmly consider the truth and wisdom of their thoughts? Especially as I am good at this. Be warned. I have convinced people to give me money many times, convincing you to open your mind to my ideas is child’s play compared to talking money out of a venture capitalist.
OK, I begin by bragging about my wife : I married foreign, I married up in beauty and energy and work ethic and my friends and family knew it. My mother, I joked, referred to me as “G’s husband”. My wife was fully my equal in character and intelligence, and our son was completely outstanding as a result. I had never doubted this, and neither of us were the type to stray, so far as I knew and certainly had no reason to doubt. To the extent that anyone can, after 20+ years in our country, she was a fully American as anyone can be. I mean, she could explain American jokes to the kid as well as I could, a very high level of cultural assimilation.
But the woman is a hardhead, I had not convinced her to change mind or behavior in much of anything in the course of our 20 years of marrage. Love, deep love, we both agreed, was the glue, but the relationship was stormy at times.
My personal and professional life was pretty strenuous, this was a challenging job I had assigned myself, reforming the basis of civilization, but I had always lost sleep from not being able to turn my mind off. Hardware, software or people, they all took thought. My work life was not much different, what I had lost in physical stamina I thought I had made-up for in better mental tools developed in my many different work tasks.
My lovely wife had been more and more stressed by events in hers as the years passed. It was nothing new, just an intensification of everything. Her parents were older and needed much attention. Mine were native, and lived far away from us, but near other relatives. They were both self-sufficient in their retirement and helped as-needed by my siblings and cousins. My wife’s parents spoke enough English to get by, drove themselves and so did their own shopping and visiting the community center, but most of their community was Old Country and their son was busy with his young children, so my wife accompanied them to medical appointments and watched out for their interests generally. They needed attention and company, more and more as they aged. It didn’t get easier for a woman in her 40s.
Lovely wife’s job was harder as she got older, she came home tired many days, sometimes after long hours. She didn’t want me helping with shopping or cooking, I did laundry and dishes, the kid his share, we had housekeepers for the rest, so there wasn’t much else I could do to reduce the work she did. I wasn’t entirely easy to get along with, ever, and we argued a lot. More and more, it seemed to me, she was a bitch! No kidding, I love her ethnic side, when she is a happy individual she is wonderful. A nice sense of humor, recites jokes from her clients, each group of which has a different ethnic humor. Ethnic jokes sometimes take a lot of explaining, I can’t see the joke. Fun stories about her clients, and I told her about life in the lab, ‘bots and Tessels. When we were easy between us, we enjoyed each other, and always had. It was a deepening love, I suppose. And sex was great, whenever she was in the mood. Sadly for me, that was increasingly rarely.
Even if I had had the time, a girl friend was not an option. I had largely kept in the background throughout the development of the Tessels, as much as I could do that while being in all the meetings and doing much of the management and coordination of our work, but was was a big enough man in our little research community that I had opportunities. Medical research is filled with foreigners, I certainly admired some of the foreign women. BUT! OKBOB controlled all. My relationship with my wife was not something I could jeopardize in any way, nor my reputation for honesty in the rest of my life. The success of my project certainly depended strongly upon that, in addition to the problem that many of the women in my daily life could be considered as dependent upon me somehow. OKBOB again, one cannot take advantage of power or authority.
I thought about a girlfriend, of course, but didn’t bother to discuss it with her : old country women would rather their husbands went off to the prostitute and didn’t tell anyone. Deniability means nobody has to be publicly ashamed or angry, no matter how easy or optimal that solution for them. Paid sex is normal, from my wife’s stories, in that culture. I had tried it a few times as a driven young man, never found it satisfactory. Besides being a bit of a Puritan, I didn’t have money to waste and much better uses for what I had : I bought computers.
I looked into various alternatives for relieving my wife’s stress levels — they would also relieve mine and maybe I would get more sex. She already did yoga and got a massage every week, was a ‘natural everything’ advocate, so the most she allowed herself was a glass of wine on Friday evening, maybe with a bout of love making on Sunday, which we normally spent in bed, watching one of the serials she liked when I couldn’t get out of it. It wasn’t enough, she had become more stressed over the years, irritable when she got home in the evening, and we argued a lot. Stressful for me, those episodes, and it reduced the amount of horizontal exercise I got yet further. When she gets going on a rant, she remembers every less-than-excellent thing I have ever done and recites them in chronological order, adding any new bits of mental, personal and idiosyncratic dumbness. Recites them at high volume, in a register of voice that grates my mind raw, I would put my hands over my ears and shout STOP! STOP!. Beyond that, I hate being dumb, certainly have been, and don’t like being reminded. Those episodes are the kind of thing that keep me awake at night, mentally kicking myself.
We fought. At times, a lot. Eventually, I considered the problem abstractly enough to note that the glass of wine calmed her down a lot, she sometimes became quite cuddly. I idly considered what else might help : she was not the kind to drink much, a bottle of wine normally went bad on the counter before being finished, none of her or my people drank much. Talking cures of counselors had still not been shown to be more than a placebo, marriage counseling might help, but I had never moved her with anything I did, and she didn’t approve of that, either. We tried vacations, interesting, of course, I liked foreign lands, but boring to spend a week or weekend on the beach, and I got sunburned easily.
All of the alternatives seemed to me to be sub-optimal. Heavier drugs were certainly a bad idea, although I had long recognized that the opioids made me feel both good and happy for several days after a dose. Adding the wine to sex was nice, and is the normal solution to stress, but alcohol as a drug had a long history of bad results, long-term and short-.
Research. I learned more neurochemistry in addition to what I had already studied for my overview of the issues surrounding savants and hints about what could be the sources of the Tessel’s intellect. Definitely a neurotransmitter deficiency, I thought.
Even when I decided upon the proper treatment, getting her to even try proved to be a big problem. Unlike me, my wife does not experiment with life, my normal approach. Of course you only had an N of 1 and it was impossible to control your life well enough to accurately gauge the effects, positive and negative, of even a dietary supplement from the health food store. And physiology is not a constant, even when you thought you were holding your life on an even plane.
I habitually experimented with my life, and had thought about how to do that often. One could not achieve the certainty of a scientific experiment in a personal life. Drug’s effects are individual, dependent upon the alleles that determine the exact chemical-electronic surface of your receptors and enzymes. An N of one isn’t the problem, you are not running a clinical trial and don’t care about the answer for anyone but yourself. For drugs, your individual metabolism is what you are assessing in your clinical trial. ‘Data’ will never be the plural of ‘anecdote’, but repeat the cycle of on and off of any treatment enough times, and the results will become at least ‘good hypothesis’. Cross-check that with a few other people’s experiences, you can guide your life that way. To me, it didn’t seem intrinsically more fallible than clinical trials, tho I had to admit I would not notice a VIOXX with this procedure. That class of drugs worked well, merely had the side effect of suddenly and unexpectedly killing many older men, producing a 2% increase in America’s death rate for a 5 years running. Finally the FDA published the paper in the NEJM, delayed in the editorial process for a full year, that lead to the recall of the drug. For some reason, the CDC, normally producing a press release whenever any city has an extra 30 deaths they can attribute to flu, didn’t notice a 2% increase in the nation’s death rate. Five years running, they didn’t notice a 2% increase in the nation’s death rate, the largest and most distinct step function since the Civil War and the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
We can expect more judgment from entities with more data, but that is the way we have to run our lives, you collect all the information you can as systematically as you can, and try to make sense of it.
Changing things is difficult for my wife, she likes her life to run on rails. Also, especially when stressed, she invents evidence to support her arguments and they become facts in her mind, unalterable. I have seen it happen too often, and know it is a common thing : it takes training and discipline to view the world in its raw state, our minds don’t like it, and physiology makes us most resistant to change when stressed. OTOH, the scientific literature and anecdote indicated this drug was likely the proper treatment, low cost, with a very low risk of side-effects.
So, I spiked my wife’s wine. The drug didn’t taste very good and I knew my wife’s taste buds are exquisite because her cooking is very wonderful, she invents new dishes often. I had found, while being a poor student back in the old days, that adding a teaspoon of concentrated fruit juice to a bottle of cheap wine made the worst of them at least a drinkable wine. Additionally, a clove or pinch of cinnamon transformed it to acceptable or better, tho it moved it from ‘wine’ to ‘spiced wine’. Both got better to much better after a week in the bottle, and the first wasn’t even detectable as adulterated. I began make a ‘special spiced wine’ for our weekend day in bed, presented it as new taste sensations. She liked a decent red better, but put up with the variations to please me.
It took a while to get the dose low enough, 5mg per glass, she was very sensitive to that drug, but as far as I was concerned, it had a wonderful effect : I had never seen her so relaxed, happy, even giggly. My wife is very definitely not the giggly type. Sex was marvelous, even better than usual, better for her also, I thought, but that could have been wishful male thinking. Also, she has a hard time sleeping, and the combination of wine and drug often put her into a sleep for half an our or so, from which she would awake refreshed and happy. That good mood often persisted for a few days before events dragged her back down, so I saw a cycle during the week, falling from the weekend, nadir through Saturday, elevated mood again on Sunday.
I was pleased with the evidence and the progress, for a while, and then her ‘nothing new’ kicked in, and she ended that ploy telling me she wanted good wine without anything added. We were immediately back into irritation, bitching, fighting. I hated it. No sex, either. After a month or of so of trying to convince her to begin using it using medical fact and rational argument, and getting nowhere, I was nearing the end of my rope. I had enough stresses, same as her, we were being multiplicative rather than subtractive for each other.
I had first tried rational argument without informing her of the drug in the wine and my observations : she was insistent that it was bad for her, based on experiences years previously, when we were still dating. I could not convince her, no amount of argument would make her try the obviously beneficial medicine, as good for self-imposed stress, “uptightness”, as lithium is for a manic-depressive or a tri-cyclic for a psychotic. After I confessed what I had been done, and the basis for my claims of ‘it is good for you’, she denied my evidence, she remembered the events entirely differently!
The contradiction of her remembered experiences and my observations stunned me. I knew full-well she had had fun, much giggling happened the times I got the dose right. You can’t be giggling and also having a bad afternoon in bed. The situation was something of an ethical conundrum for me, and my solution ultimately worked, but led to more conversations with Scherrhy (still could not see how to make a PR story out of that name, couldn’t get her or the lab to budge), interesting in themselves.
What are the ethics of forcing medicines into a mental patient? The situation is the same as making decisions about a child’s medical care, from one pov. Nobody had any problem with that, they were not competent to decide for themselves. How about forcing the decision on a child’s parents? Or the medical system to any one of us, or us to our elderly parents?
Was the situation I faced equal to the psychiatrist’s patient confined to a medical hosptial? Patients don’t like tricylics, hate them, would rather be insane. But insanity is a danger to the patient, very high death rate in the average homeless population in a city environment. In fact, they often from OD on a drug they take to alleviate the symptoms of the insanity as well as insanity + drug, perhaps got hooked on after doing that.
Psychiatrists beginning with Thomas Szasz had critiqued the medical model of physical disease applied to mental problems, saying the problems of mental patients were entirely social mental, there was no physical, that the psychiatric drugs of the time produced positive effects by shutting down the spark of whatever-it-was that patients so clearly preferred to the drugs — they nearly all went off them often, that single fact accounted for most of the homeless in any large city. I thought it was before any of the research on neurotransmitter systems and receptors’s variability had been done. That line of research had produced many new psychatric drugs, and the general assumption among psychatrists was now that most of people’s emotional aberrations, my wife’s was an example, I thought, were due to neurotransmitter issues, fixed by those drugs.
Empirical evidence does not drive ethical decisions, it seemed to me. Just because the end is noble doesn’t imply that the means is. But, ultimately, TINA. Side-effects mental or physical, we already had major effects on our marriage and probably our health. I didn’t think self-interest was behind my reasoning, tho more sex would be so good. Any improvement would be for both of us.
We had had these arguments, the same sequence of her being irritable, bitching and me being seriously pissed, repeatedly, it was the worst aspect of the marriage for both of us. Both had made very sincere attempts to fix things in a way which would at least reduce the frequency, if not permanently repair things. We loved each other, and hadn’t considered divorce, we put up with what we thought of as the other’s flaws. None of the remedies had worked. Both of us thought the other’s inflexibility was the issue of course.
Now I was beyond exasperated because the woman would not listen to reason. Engineers hold ourselves to a much higher standard, I thought. Mostly.
This process of understanding on my part and deciding what to do about it had taken about 6 months, a fact that I hope merely illustrates how difficult diagnosing personal problems can be. It took another 3 months to cajole, and arm-twist her into the first experiments, and even then she had times of extreme recalcitrance, just like psychotics. At least she didn’t claim the drug was bad, it was always some other reason, e.g. ‘dizzy’, ‘nauseous’ and ‘scattered the next morning’. I could see she was happier across the board, and persisted. She had always said it was easier to give in to me than go on arguing, in those very rare cases where I had changed anything in her mind.
The fact that it took me so long to twig to the relationship to my ethical conundrum and its TINA resolution to the situation with Scherrhy is another example of me taking too long to realize the obvious. When I did, I began the discussion that told her about all this. OKBOB again, the situation and my solution and rationale could and should be a consideration in her deciding whether to pursue the embodiment process.
I started chatting with her in the evening before facing the traffic home, probably saved me time, I normally got home not much later and saved much annoyance. Some nights a traffic accident would stop everything, those were one of the fat-tailed distributions that plagued us all and made modern life a crap shoot for schedules. I normally listened to an audiobook in those days before any rational person would trust their self-driving auto. I was still in love with my 20 year old sports car, have always driven a stick. SciFi novels mostly.
I didn’t include the rest of the team, this was private, about me, none of their business, I thought. I couldn’t see that it a trust issue for any of them, I wasn’t doing anything to their life equivalent to what embodiment might mean for Scherrhy, she was in a much worse position to make an informed decision, and my happiness was not as intertwined with hers as my wife’s was, I could not so blithely conclude TINA for her.
Yes, the other members of the team were affected by my decisions, but I couldn’t dictate even if anyone had listened. They were independent thinkers, or they wouldn’t have ended up in this crew. This was a collaborative effort among people with skin in the same game and far more expertise in any area than I had, same as any open-source project and all successful engineering efforts. We either shared all of the information, or it couldn’t work, the exact reason most corporate environments worked so poorly.
We had weekly meetings of the entire group, and I talked with everyone down to the lab techs at least every couple of weeks, not full one-on-ones, but enough to know that their managers were doing that and I didn’t need to deal with any issues between them or something their managers couldn’t handle or didn’t want to deal with for some reason.
I brought everyone involved into everything, including my efforts to get parts funded. That role did give me a certain power and authority, to the extent that I controlled anything. At most, I could work to raise research funds, or not, but we always kept everyone up to date about those kind of priorities, and they raise their own research $ now, often from private donors for individual experiments. KickStarter had had a major effect on science, not the least releasing it from the power of bureaucrats like me.
This was still about 6 months after the ’embodiment’ research had been begun, Scherrhy had continued to be one of the group, she had been in all of the meetings on the subject. She was mostly silent unless asked a direct question, which still had to be prefaced by Scherrhy!. I had talked to a couple of the manufacturers of humanoid robots, the best were still in Japan, tho China’s industry was developing rapidly. We had selected a model of a new chassis we only could evaluate as prototype, one of the younger engineers had gone to several trade shows and finally visited Japan to make the final selection based partly on how difficult it would be to integrate our code with their AI. We promised to be a showcase, so this was more R&D agreement than deal. Well, to be completely honest, they needed an edge in the market, and I convinced their management we were going to be major publicity. Which would be true, tho the prospects for it to be positive PR were perhaps not as optimistic as they might have concluded from the writeups I sent along.
Honest hype, we couldn’t promise embodiment would produce the clearly-speaking human I expected, but it was not expensive for them to ship a prototype to us and they didn’t spend much more past some engineer to support it. That was something they had to do for every new model, part of their R&D. A good deal for both of us.
I had contacts with a couple of people in the Japanese sexbot business, acquaintances of some of our acquaintances. I like to work via personal contacts. It is always easier. Our guy, a young control system engineer, made the selection between the competitors based his personal aesthetics, I assume. That became the’shell’, required some mods from the chassis manufacturer for the internals, although they had already assumed the need to accommodate sex organs, that had been part of the marketing specifications, so nothing major.
The sexbot manufacturers selected the sculptor for what became the most famous face in the world. Also the most famous pussy, that is the one that won the Adult Video News award, presented at the big sex convention in Los Vegas. We made his reputation, at least, and it didn’t even take that long, he lived to profit from his fame, unusual in the world of artists.
Back here at our R&D labs, Scherrhy stopped by my office every evening for the few weeks I took to explain the problem in my wife and I’s relationship, my medical solution, the various ethical considerations and my conclusion of TINA. Every evening after, she stopped by and we exchanged at least a few words and I brought her up to date on my progress at home and what I saw going on around the lab.
The conversations were much easier than previously, at least one of us was learning the mental terrain of the other. Still hard for me, she clearly had a mind, but the completely blank servicebot visage and flat affect to her voice made it hard to even continue communicating, much less be easy and natural about it. I could see why Turing tests were done via chat, not even video. My engineer’s lack of social skills possibly helped here. I realized, thinking about it, that I had been assigned all of the strangest engineers throughout my management career.
I had adopted many of them, in fact, and used what I called “full service management”, what do they individually need, and what could I do to help them get it. Money is so rarely the answer. I remembered one guy from while I was still working as an engineer building and operating recording and other equipment in a medical science lab, for the few years after college, who I had recruited to do a specialist bit in one project.
Strange guy, about 30, brilliant, on the edge of too weird for me, and I can handle weird. I was his best man when he got married that spring. Lovely wedding, I recall, under the pagoda with all the wisteria. Nobody in the two families, both sets of parents on the faculty, could decide whether to be enthusiastically happy for them or not. His wife worked in the record room of the local hospital, was mildly retired, some non-genetic reason. A good person, by all accounts. There was no doubt about him being able to support her, he was in demand as soon as I worked on his resume. They were ‘good enough and much better than nothing’ for each other, the usual compromises people were forced to make in running their life.
He was not the first, nor last, nor the most strange, I had attracted a long list of people like that. Got along with them fine, I took them all seriously, exactly what most people need, used what I could do to get them what they most needed. They were more honest than most. I thought they hadn’t ever had the social skills to learn to lie well.
As the simulation of the core brain and autonomic nervous system progressed toward our goal, we didn’t make schedules, just goals what features would be in it, I was not going to get into the problem of trying to integrate buggy software, we kept the Japanese informed, they could use all the time to finish details there. We ran behind them, so they did the chassis and skin integration in Japan and didn’t ship it until nearly 6 months after we had written a contract. Our simulation was close, so they shipped it.
Scherrhy and I had made a habit of chatting most nights, when I could. I told her about my various interesting experience like those. All of it was new for her, ‘bots had never considered any of it, they had been learning skills from walking without tripping through through running the lab. Nothing about people.
Scherrhy was, by this time, a recognizable entity around the lab. All of them had been from the first time we had had 3 or more in one place : we assigned them names and gave them distinctive hats. The hats told us who was who, even from the back, and the name was a way of telling ‘George’ to pay attention, necessary in a multi-bot scene. Some people had renamed their home Alexa or equivalent, but that was for the same reason they named their car. Not personal for the car or their Alexa. Our names were not personal for the bots.
All of the bots had, as the 2nd bit of initiative they had shown, switched hats, one at a time. It wasn’t important, not even mentioned that I heard, I assumed they been lost or someone had given them one the humans who were most around them liked better : it seemed to be a fashion that spread through the lab. One at a time, everyone adjusted without problem or comment. Really, without comment that anyone remembered, I asked around when I caught the implications of individuality. Most I heard was startlement at the red homburg, but that was already after everyone had adjusted to the new hats. Another had a red fez. Sailor, … it all happened gradually, soon was normal, the way these things happen. Visitors blinked, ‘we need to identify them’, ‘joke’, and later “make our ‘bot look good” were the explanations. That was people making themselves the agents of everything, not a cause. When I checked, we only could claim step one. The bots did the rest, we found out later it was from the hospital lost and found, those were given to a homeless shelter after everyone had picked through the accumulation. People lost a lot of stuff.
A sure sign of an evolutionary system, I thought when I had someone go back through the tapes to see when the hats had been adopted and how people had reacted. I didn’t see a pattern to the ‘bots’ adoption. Reactions were pretty much what I had found, not much. Scherrhy and several others were still wearing the one they had originally been given, now unique outside of their normal work.
I eventually prevailed in this dispute with my wife, with my constant harassment she had adopted a nightly dose of cannabis and had to admit it was an improvement, and that most, at least, of her objections were in fact not true. Our lives were happier, I got more sex. Engineers can’t ask for more than that.
Beyond Scherrhy taking it all in, asking me what the drug was, she didn’t say much. She didn’t say much in our chats in those early days, but I got more comfortable talking about things, went on to tell her about lots of other stuff. My wife heard all of this, probably more detail than she wanted, but it was something to entertain her clients with. She was amused. She brought Scherrhy her black Fedora. Classy hat!
Meanwhile, work at the lab continued on all fronts. The Sexbot chassis had been shipped, the simulation was ready, we were ready to embody a ‘bot, and my wife still loved me, despite everything.
The ‘bots were still alien, they were still taking care of our kids, the kids still conversed with them better than any adult, they were still showing initiative, people were still not seeing their initiatives. The system was still evolving.
Hats had to be a visible sign of some mental capability, newly acquired. What? What else had we missed?
*Generalissimo Grand Strategy, Intelligence Analysis and Psyops, First Volunteer Panzer Psyops Corp. Cleverly Gently Martial In Spirit