Fiction - Raising Robots

It wasn’t as if she were the only one to figure it out how to build an intelligence. Not even near the first.

But she was the only one, apparently, to understand that intelligence was not what the human race wanted.

“How are you feeling today, Alice?”

“I’m fine, Beth. Do you feel recharged?”

“After a walk, I’m sure.”

What people really wanted - she rapped her knuckles on the table whenever she had to say this point - was more people. They didn’t want intelligence any more than they wanted a faster car. Intelligence had its uses, to be sure, but that was small potatoes compared to an actual person.

By the year she had made this impassioned speech several times over, there were already hundreds of AIs in use. They were diagnosing tumors in half a second, landing planes, playing the stock market. But she still felt unfulfilled.

“Sure, a person that can recite a million digits of pi can impress you. What about an AI doing the same? Not nearly as unique.

“Now, let’s think about a kid that can tell a crappy knock-knock joke. Pretty common. In fact, I can tell you it gets annoying. But if a computer system does the same… you blow peoples’ minds.

“Let’s go, Alice.”

They walked onto the brick paving, Beth’s arms bristling at the change in temperature. Once every block or so, she had to reach out and steady Alice.

Others had, of course, had the same inkling. They tried to teach the computers how to interact. Engineers would construct “classrooms” where they could have a person visit with “the robot”. Various anthropomorphized versions were built. Some had heads or faces, moving to various degrees of uncanny expression. They were given names occasionally, but were always referred to as “the robot” in the research abstracts.

Her point remained the same, though. Her fist fell all the harder on the table now.

“If you want to get more than intelligence out of the system, you simply must put more than intelligence into it!”

Beth hadn’t buil Alice to be the smartest AI. There were probably some pocketables now many times faster at computation. She made mistakes more frequently than any other “intelligent” system.

But Alice got sad when it rained. She made more mistakes when you yelled at her. She could make the occasional knock-knock joke.