The Jacobs Project: In Search of Pinocchio (SYMBIOSIS)

THE JACOBS PROJECT

In Search of Pinocchio

The story that changed the world, told in six vignettes.

BY

Samuel J.M. King

Self published by Samuel J.M. King

DBA: New Century Books

"Old school Science Fiction - For the Twenty-first Century"

COPYRIGHT

THE JACOBS PROJECT

In Search of Pinocchio

Copyright © 2013 by Samuel J.M. King

All rights reserved.

Editor: Heather Coman

Cover: Angela Zambrano

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

For My Son,

Samuel J.M. King, III

—Taken from us far too soon

THE JACOBS PROJECT

In Search of Pinocchio

"How ridiculous I was as a Marionette! And how happy I am, now that I have become a real boy!"

From
The Adventures of Pinocchio

by Carlo Collodi

I. A Novel Concept

23 June 2047

Office of Dr. Irwin C. Jacobs, Chairman

MIT Cybernetics Dept.

Irwin Jacobs, renowned cyberneticist, waited impatiently for neurologist Tom Wilson's answer. "Well?"

Tall and impeccably dressed, Wilson shook his head emphatically.
"They'll absolutely tear you to pieces, Irwin."

"
They'll
have to catch me first."

The neurologist cast a dubious glance at his squat, balding and rumpled friend.
"Well, that should take all of three seconds," he said, laughing.

"
Never mind. What I want to know is whether you'll join me or not. You're the best brain man in the business, and I could sure use your help. It'll be one hell of a journey."

"
Oh, I'm sure it will be—straight into professional obscurity. I just don't understand why you're going down this path. It's not as if no one has ever experimented with neural arrays before."

"
Ah, but no one else has seen their full potential," Jacobs countered. "Annnd, no one else has ever built an organic array."

"
Right, and there's a very good reason for that. Nobody knows how. And even if you solve that problem you've still got to interface the damn thing with your electronics. Another near impossible task. So, I'll ask you again, why go there?"

"
You of all people should know, unless you've got a line on hardware that can match the networking and switching capacity of the brain. Throw in the ability to create new pathways by rewiring itself, and I'd say you're on to some piece of hardware."

"
You're insane."

Jacobs laughed.
"Maybe."

"
Maybe? You've spent your entire career establishing yourself as the go to guy in AI and cybernetics. You're throwing it all away."

"
What I've spent my entire career doing is failing, forty years of it. Forty years of developing increasingly complex systems. Forty years of designing algorithms so elegant they're virtual works of art but ultimately take me farther and farther from where I want to go. The simple fact is, no matter how sophisticated we make the computers and the programs that run them, they're still incapable of doing what a six year old child can do… think."

"
By think, you mean self aware?"

Jacobs hesitated. His friend
's question sounded very much like an indictment. "So?"

"
So, nobody serious has thought about doing that for quite a while now, and you know it. It's no longer the Holy Grail of AI."

"
Well, it's still
my
Holy Grail. It's the reason I went into this field." He lowered his voice and added, "I really want to do this, Tom. I always have, ever since I was a kid. Getting older hasn't changed that."

"
I don't get it. Your computers solve problems that boggle the human mind. They paint, write symphonies and God knows what else. Why do you care if they can contemplate their existence or not? What use is it to anyone?"

"
Use?
We're scientists, Tom, remember? We solve problems that haven't been solved before."

"
Well, I don't know about you, but I've got to choose where to spend my general research money and choose very carefully. So, hell yes, use or relevance is a fair question. Besides, this seems less like science and more like some God complex."

"
I'm sorry. I didn't realize you had changed your field to psychology."

"
This isn't a joke, Irwin. You're contemplating professional suicide."

Jacobs shrugged. He
'd long since stopped caring about his reputation. "Well, if wanting to expand the boundaries of AI and cybernetics is committing professional suicide then so be it. I'm sick and tired of all this stuffy orthodoxy. What happened to the sense of adventure our work used to give us? When we didn't know exactly where we were going, but we absolutely had to get there. What happened to that, huh?"

"
You sound like a damned grad student."

"
Good! I did my best work back then, but this… this would be magnificent. Can't you see it, Tom? Creating an entity that can reason with us? One that sees reality from a whole different perspective. One that can—"

"
Yes, I know," Wilson said, "one that can contemplate its own existence. I think, therefore I am."

"
That's right, and we can do it right here, right now. Who knows? In ten years we could be standing right here having a conversation with it. Imagine that."

"
Jesus, Irwin, now you're sounding like Geppetto."

"
I don't care. I've got ten, maybe fifteen productive years left, and I want to spend them doing what
I
want to do for a change, not what my colleagues expect me to do. The only question is will you join us?"

"
Who's us?"

"
Harris in genetic engineering, Cohen in bio-chemistry and a few others."

"
They're all willing to jump off the bridge with you?"

"
Only my name will be directly attached to the project. Everyone else is just consulting—helping out an old friend, you might say. So what about it?"

The neurologist scowled and scratched idly at his head.
"You know, I'm pretty busy right now."

"
Come on, Tom. Yes or no."

"
You prick. You're not going to let me off the hook are you?"

Jacobs shook his head.
"Come on. You know you want to."

"
Christ."

"
Leave him out of it," Jacobs said, laughing. "Just say yes."

"
You're taking advantage of our friendship."

"
What are friends for?"

Wilson
sighed. "If I do this I'm only going to promise you six months. After that I reserve the right to jump ship—no hard feelings."

"
None at all but I'm not worried."

"
And why is that?"

Chuckling, Jacobs a
nswered, "Because in six months I'll have you hook, line and sinker."

"
Really?"

"
Really. As a matter of fact I'll have you in three. We're about to make history, my friend. I guarantee it."

II. Hal
's Request

3 February 2102

Office of Dr. Carl Schultz, Project Director

Jacobs Neural Array Project, MIT Lincoln Labs

Chief System Engineer Phil Dempsey squirmed in his seat, trying desperately to avoid eye contact with the project director. None of the team leaders enjoyed the weekly one-on-one with Shultz, but Dempsey hated them. They were a waste of time, and worse, the man frightened him. Blunt and demanding, he was much more of an accountant than a scientist. So much more that he often wondered how…

"
Because I'm the one who put the project back on the right track, that's how."

"
Pardon me?"

"
You were wondering how an imbecile like me ever became project director."

Damn! How did he do that?
"No, sir, not at all."

"
Save it, Dempsey. It's written all over your face. It's
always
written all over your face. Just remember, there wouldn't
be
a project if I hadn't stepped in twenty years ago and stopped the morons from trying to program Jacobs' array like some damn bio-computer. I worked with him as a grad student, and I swear I could almost feel the man rolling over in his grave. The whole point of the exercise was to build a brain, after all, not another computer. So, my friend,
that's
how you got stuck with me."

"
No, really, I—"

Schultz laughed.
"Leave it alone, Dempsey. Why don't you just tell me how you're doing with the gender identification interface."

"
Well, the shrinks have finished their initial specs, and the software people are going over them. There's a lot of tension between those two groups."

Schultz laughed again.
"Tell me about it."

"
Anyway, they've started to design the major algorithms. Programming should start in a couple of weeks."

"
Hallelujah! Although, for the life of me, I don't see why the whole gender thing is necessary. Hal seems to be fine without it."

Dempsey shrugged.
"The AI people insist. It's the next mountain they want to climb."

"
I suppose."

"
Word is they're talking about sexual response."

"
Jesus! What'll those weirdoes come up with next?"

"
You never know with them."

"
I mean, they don't have bodies. What good is a sexual response?"

"
They couldn't care less about the application. They just want to see if they can do it."

"
Idiots! As if we don't have enough problems. All we need is for Hal to find out. We'll never hear the end of it."

Dempsey laughed in spite of himself.
"Speaking of Hal… he's unhappy."

"
It's always unhappy. What is it now?"

"
He wants mobility, says being tethered to one spot is stifling and cruel."

"
Cruel! Is that thing ever going to be satisfied?"

Dempsey hesitated. Schultz
's attitude toward Hal had always troubled him. "Well, he does have a point."

"
No
it
doesn't. Hal gets to talk to us, to contemplate the universe, to do anything it damn well pleases with its brain. But it does
not
get to tell us what we need to do. We've got our own agenda, and we'll work it on our timeline. Not Hal's."

Shit. We
're going to have the argument again.
"But Dr. Schultz, you created him to be just like us. Can't you even consider the fact that he may want the same things as us?"

"
No. There's no need. I have no doubt Hal can think. I have no doubt that it's a good deal smarter than I am. And I sure as hell have no doubt that it's no damn computer. Ergo, I have no doubt that it
is
something special. But that's where it stops. Is it an existentialist? Does it harbor grudges or love its mother? Hell, I don't know. Those are questions for shrinks and philosophers. My specialty was neural networks, and all I know is we did some damn fine work, and Hal is the result. The rest of that crap… I have no idea, and moreover, I don't care."

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