Francis Meyrick

Agnes, the Old A.I.

Posted on August 5, 2012

Agnes, the old A.I.

Wikipedia: Transhumanism

There came a series of loud crashes, and his parents looked at each other, nervously.
The sounds came from the direction of their only child’s private habitat.

“I do hope”, his mother whispered, “that they are getting along together”.

His father shuffled uneasily, and replied: “I hope so! That AI cost me a fortune. And all the red tape I had to go through to get him!”
He thought morosely of the logistic nightmare of procuring latest hi-tech “Artificial Intelligence” gadgetry all the way from the Home Planet, stuck as they were on this AI forsaken rocky outpost planet on the edge of the Known Universe.
There came another crash. Followed by the unmistakable distant muffled voice of their offspring, Robert Mason Williams The Thirtieth, junior. Referred to by his loving (and weary) parents as “Buddy”.


His mother flinched. “Do you think we should go check on them?”
Her husband, nervously, replied: “You know what Buddy’s like when he’s playing…”
He thought of the prominent sign on the cubicle entry hatch:
Their beloved son was… difficult.

* * * * *

From outside the small local clinic, perched on a rocky outcrop, high above the valley floor, the Transhuman gazed down on the unlikely spread of human habitats, covering the valley floor. The distant music of a go-go disco reached his hearing, and he automatically measured the decibels, the distortion, and he noted the number of times that Music Maker had been played.

“Thank you, Doctor! See you next week! ” A human was departing, grateful for assistance received for a painful attack of post excessive calorific consumption syndrome.
The Transhuman obligingly re-arranged his features into a patient smile, murmuring softly:
“I look forward to it, Mrs Pearsons. Go easy on the calories, now…”
“Oh, yes, Doctor!”, she gushed. “Believe me, I’ve learned my lesson! It won’t happen again!”
The Transhuman smiled sweetly, and routinely computed the probability of veracity. It came in at just over three per cent. He filed the calculation away under the patient’s profile, and returned to his silent observations.

His attention was drawn to the unmistakable sound of a loud boom-box, playing at full volume. And approaching quickly. An early model Buick Stratocruiser came whizzing around the corner, far too fast. There was a speed limit in force past the hospital, but it was poorly enforced. As the Stratocruiser hissed by, exuding anti-gravitational micro waves, the Transhuman noticed a teenage girl blowing a large pink chewing gum bubble out the rear window at him. It burst, and she threw him a bored, defiant look. The Stratocruiser whizzed dangerously around a bend, and was gone from sight. The Transhuman zoomed in on the last recording, noted the oral hygiene issue, and the pollution problem, and also measured tangential velocity versus the inclination of observed orbit. It appeared the gyroscopic leveling and banking function was excessively worn. Poor maintenance, again.

A few minutes later, a newer model personal Lite Commuter shushed dangerously low right over the hospital. There was a strict no fly zone in force there, but it was routinely violated. The Transhuman looked up, just in time to catch velocity and heading, and make some kinetic energy calculations. He also caught the fact that the commuter craft was full of young people, party goers, crammed in well beyond permitted seating. He had respectfully raised that very issue at the last Council meeting, and he had found himself widely quoted over local Mind Link. Some of the passengers were now hanging out the windows, and when they observed him, they ceremoniously flipped him the bird. The Doctor sighed in his lobotomistic circuitry, and returned his scrutiny to the distant town, from where the sound of sirens now reached him. There had been some serious altercations in recent Periods, including, of all things, fist fights and muggings. The Transhuman turned, and walked back inside, past his house keeper, an ancient A.I. known as Agnes, who was busy hoovering the carpets, and microscopically examining a possible contaminant. Agnes, in need of a fresh exterior overhaul perhaps, and not fitted with the latest groovy social skill set, did not react in any way. However, she had copied all the observations of the Transhuman.

* * * * *

The surgery was busy. In the Doctor’s private room, a couple sat opposite the Transhuman.
Mrs Mason Williams was talking. Beside her, looking worried and upset, sat her husband.
“Doctor, we’re concerned about our son, young Robert Mason Williams The Thirtieth, junior.”
The Transhuman, sitting behind his desk, re-arranged his features in a sympathetic expression.
“Oh dear”, he said, with careful feeling. “What’s wrong with Buddy?”
In a quarter nano-second, the Transhuman had accessed and perused the patient profile.
“Well, Doctor, he has become very moody of late…”
The Transhuman looked concerned, and calculated the possibility that there was a significant new symptomatic phenomenon at play here. The result came in at exactly zero.
“And he has really started destroying things. We recently bought him the absolute latest Generation Two Hundred and Seventy Six, Personal A.I., and well…”
Mr Mason Williams cut in:
“…It took us forever to get it in, all the way from the Home Planet, and it cost us a fortune. And, well…”
Mrs Mason Williams took over:
“…it took him two days to destroy it.”
The Transhuman looked concerned, and calculated the possibility that there was a significant new symptomatic phenomenon at play here. The result came in at exactly zero.
He coughed wisely, the way he knew Doctors do. Then he asked, softly:
“Why did Buddy destroy the A.I.?”
“Because it wouldn’t fly.”
“Because it wouldn’t fly?”
“Yes, he thought it should be able to fly. And it couldn’t. It offered to build him a model rocket ship, that could fly, and be remotely controlled by Buddy. But then Buddy got impatient and crashed the rocket model into the habitat wall. He then blamed the A.I., and threw it and the model out the top window. The A.I. can be fixed, but we’re going to have to send it back to the manufacturer…”
The Transhuman opined that he completely understood. He prescribed some tablets for Buddy, which he introduced as the latest wonder drug. In fact, they were placebos, and very sugary. He was sure Buddy would be good at taking them. Finally, he said:

“Mrs Williams, I think it is important that Buddy not be left without his own A.I. while he is waiting for his to be repaired. This might initiate a methogogical rhythmus withdrawal event in a brain synaps. I recommend that you borrow my personal assistant, Agnes, until such time as yours is repaired and returned from the manufacturer. Agnes is not the latest model by a long shot, a little beaten up I’m afraid, but she is reliable, and I have modified her myself to incorporate the latest child psychology pedagogic implants. I think you will find her very suitable as an interim companion for young Buddy…”

“Oh, thank you, Doctor!”, both parents exclaimed. “That is very kind of you…”
The Transhuman nodded, allowing his facial program to initiate a faint smile.

* * * * *

Buddy was not pleased. He confronted Agnes in his bedroom, hands on his hips, with his lower lip stuck out defiantly. “You’re not a Generation Two Hundred and Seventy Six! You are OBSOLETE! What are the kids at school gonna say when they see YOU??”
Agnes, devoid of the latest groovy skill set, said nothing.
“Huh!”, said Buddy, stomping off to an angry corner. By way of final comment, he threw a pillow at Agnes, who unexpectedly ducked it.
A minute later, Buddy was flicking angrily through his personal image album (mostly of himself), when a pillow, expertly aimed, hit him smack in the face. He fell sideways, and when he recovered his dignity, he was furious.
“WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?”, he demanded angrily.
Agnes, devoid of the latest groovy skill set, said nothing.
Buddy stomped his foot in temper, and threw a gold framed image (of himself) hard at Agnes. Agnes, for her part, caught it expertly, and placed it gently back on a shelf.
Buddy, perplexed, slowly walked over, and stood in front of her, looking up at the battered and worn exterior of the old A.I.
He studied her for a while, and then at length, he said:
“All right then, BUILD me something!”
“Say ‘Please’, it’s much nicer”, said Agnes.
Buddy’s eyes opened wide.
Agnes, unruffled, replied:
“I- want- never- gets. Did you never learn that?”
Buddy stared at her in amazement.
“Get lost!”, he snarled eventually, and turned away. He sat down in disgust with a toy battle cruiser, but within a minute a small hard wad of paper nailed him hard on the forehead.
“Ouch!”, he said, clutching his forehead in surprise, staring at Agnes, who was sitting fifteen feet away.
Agnes, her features perfectly composed, said: “Say ‘Please’ and I will show you the secret…”
“errr… please?”
Agnes relented, and showed him a strange Y-shaped object, with an elastic band tied between the two ends. She sounded almost amused, when she whispered, with a conspiratorial wink:
“Would you like me to show YOU how to build one?”

* * * * *

The Transhuman listened patiently, as Mr and Mrs Mason Williams, sitting across his desk, explained to him their concerns.
“Doctor”, Mrs Williams began, “we are a bit confused”.
“Yes?”, said the Transhuman, his head tilted inquiringly (just so) to one side.
The parents, having cast nervous glances at each other, proceeded with some trepidation.
“We’ve had Agnes now for… four months, in Home Time. And, well…”
Mr Williams coughed.
“We have noticed a lot of changes in Buddy.”
The Transhuman looked very serious.
“He… he does strange things now. He says ‘please’, which he never did. And he eats his greens, which he never, ever did.”
The Transhuman nodded, wisely.
“But… he also seems to have learned other things. He now builds and constructs all sorts of things. Paper airplanes. Lots of them. He flies them out the top windows. And he built a working catapult. It got our neighbor Mr HigginBottom right in the eye… we think he’s been stealing apples and peaches from people’s green houses… he’s learned how to use swear words, most terribly… And somehow, he has learned to fight… he never did that before. He used to get bullied badly at school, but somehow that’s stopped completely… He seems to have learned Judo and some kind of Ancient Chinese Martial Art…”
There was a pause, before they leaned forward, and almost whispered:
“Agnes couldn’t have taught him all that, could she?”
The Transhuman assured them it was probably just a normal boy thing. A stage they go through. Nothing to worry about. But just to be on the safe side, he prescribed them both some tablets. It was the latest wonder drug, he told them. It was good for stress and worry. In fact they were placebos, which tasted like Old Scottish Whiskey. He was sure Mr and Mrs Mason Williams would be good at taking them.

* * * * *

When Buddy came home from school one day, he discovered to his horror that Agnes was gone, and that the original A.I. , by the name of Emily, had been returned, fully repaired. Buddy had a screaming fit with his parents, telling them that he wanted Agnes back, and then stomped furiously up to his private habitat. Emily was sitting patiently and prettily on a chair waiting for him.
“Hello Buddy, nice to see you!”, said Emily, who was equipped with the absolute latest social groovy skills.
“Fuck YOU, bitch!”, said Buddy, crossly.
Emily stood up, and crossed over to him, smiling sweetly. Caught off guard, Buddy found himself in a third reverse headlock, his legs kicked out from under him, sailing neatly through the air, to land painfully on his bed.
“Ouch!”, he said. “Damn!”
There followed a ten minute wrestling match, after which they both went down for dinner.
During the meal, Buddy said “please” and “Thank you”, several times, once again mystifying his parents. He was slightly pre-occupied, and Emily, sitting in a corner, remonstrated with him:
“Buddy, eat your greens!”
He sighed. “That’s something Agnes always used to say”, he grumbled.
“That is correct”, said Emily, without the slightest trace of irony.

* * * * *

The Transhuman was gazing down at the valley floor, when Agnes returned to him. He was studying the unlikely spread of human habitats, covering the valley floor. The distant music of a go-go disco reached his hearing, and he automatically measured the decibels, the distortion, and he noted the number of times that Music Maker had been played.
Half turning to Agnes, he remarked, casually:

“Did you have an interesting time?”

Agnes, who knew it was not a question, and who was not equipped with the latest social groovy skills, said nothing, and commenced to hoover the carpet, carefully scanning for any conceivable germs or contaminants.

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on August 10, 2012, 3:46 am

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