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Archive for August 23rd, 2011

One year ago today I published my second “fictional interlude”, which concerned an inanimate object endowed with a human personality.  Today I’d like to revisit that theme, but via the medium of science fiction rather than fantasy and set in the future rather than the past.  I hope you like it.

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Sure I’m sure.  Do you think I want to get sued?”

“I won’t be able to sue you if my brain gets burned out.”

“It’s just a standard psychograph like they’ve been using for over forty years,” Kevin said with more than a hint of annoyance.  “You’ve used one yourself for dubbing sentios.”

“Yeah, but you’ve obviously modified this quite a bit, and a standard psychograph can’t do what you’ve told me this is supposed to do.”

He sighed, and made an effort to be patient with her.  “You’re right, but all I’ve done is to increase the number and type of receptors and to develop new and dramatically-improved interpretation software.  The principle is still the same; it’s completely passive, and just records the electromagnetic impulses from your brain.  It’s a receiver only, not a transmitter.”

“OK, OK.  I get it.  But you can’t blame me for being a little scared.”

“I don’t blame you, Rachel, but you have to believe I wouldn’t have signed that contract with you if I wasn’t 100% sure this would work.  It’s a pretty sweet deal for you, after all; half the profit for just a few hours’ work.”

She leveled a mildly disapproving glance at him.  “Really, now.  It’s my name, my face and my reputation that’ll sell this thing, if it sells.  And it took me years to earn those.”

“I’m not denying that.  Let me rephrase it; you’ve already put in the work, and now you just have to invest a few more hours to cash in.”

If it works.”

“Why shouldn’t it?  The principle of recording emotions and feelings isn’t new; all I’ve done is to increase the fidelity and multiply the number of channels so as to take a complete personality pattern.  Using that, I can program the simulacrum to act exactly like you, and think of how much guys will pay for their very own Rachel Summers sex doll.”

“But that’s just it, Kevin; I don’t think she will act exactly like me.  Despite the fact that changes in brain chemistry and physiology can strongly affect personality, we’ve never been able to locate a ‘personality center’ in the brain.  Lots of psychologists call personality an ‘emergent system’, something which arises from the neurochemistry of the brain and is contained within it, yet can’t be mapped in one-to-one correspondence with it.”

“Descartes’ ‘ghost in the machine’, you mean.”

“Descartes didn’t call it that, a 20th–century philosopher did.  Laugh if you want to, but I’m not the only one who believes that the reason true artificial intelligence has never been achieved is that the human brain is qualitatively different from a computer and engineers keep pursuing a quantitative approach.”

Though he disagreed with her conclusions, Kevin had to admit Rachel had a first-class mind in that gorgeous head of hers; it was obvious from her sentios, which is why he had approached her with this offer.  Lifelike sex robots had been popular for decades, but they had no spirit; they just did as they were told.  And while that was infinitely superior to the inert manikins of a century ago, he knew from talk on forums that the first company to produce a doll which could give her owner what the “hobbyists” of his great-grandfather’s day used to call a “GFE”, would become rich beyond the dreams of avarice.  Programmers had tried to develop an adequate personality simulation for the last decade, but it was no use; nobody had yet developed a robot which could convincingly mimic the personality of an affectionate human woman.  So Kevin had hit upon the idea of copying a personality rather than inventing one from scratch, and whose could be better than that of a golden-hearted call girl turned actress, beloved of tens of millions as much for her warmth and humanity as for her looks and sexual skills?

It would work; it had to.  “I don’t believe in the soul.”

She shrugged.  “It’s your money.”  Pouring herself into the padded couch, she lifted the helmet to her head and made herself comfortable as Kevin adjusted dozens of settings on the control panel, then signaled he was ready to begin.

Five and a half long, draining hours later, Rachel arose, stretched and announced that she was desperately in need of a steak, a baked potato and a large chocolate milkshake.  “How soon will you know if we need to do a retake?”

“About three weeks, I think,” he said.  “But I’ll let you know.”

She kissed him on the cheek and said, “I hope I’m wrong.”  But her eyes said, “I don’t think I am.”

Three weeks turned into four, then five; Kevin wanted to make absolutely sure he had everything right.  Finally, all the programming was done; it took a few hours to load into the simulacrum, and then he had to wait for agonizing minutes as her systems initialized.  Finally, her eyes snapped open, and she abruptly sat up on the table; though she was physically indistinguishable from Rachel, there was something subtly different about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on.  The doll had been programmed with every aspect of her personality; there shouldn’t be anything missing, no behavioral difference between this robot and the real Rachel.  And yet she somehow seemed…cold.  Soulless.  He pushed the unwelcome and unscientific thought from his mind and decided to test her responses; if there was a problem he’d discover it soon enough.  Better start with the basics, he thought, so he looked directly into the seemingly-human face and said “I’d like a kiss.”

Her mouth twisted into a half smile as she looked at him with queenly hauteur and asked dispassionately, “What’s in it for me?”

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