Pinocchio, the quasi-perfect robot
The feeling of being
How Steven Godjobs became the Chief of the ART, the Anthropomorphic Robot Tower, was almost a legend. Apparently, in the interview with the Director General, Steven pulled out from his pocket a home-made mini-robot, which began to walk around the table of the Director General, then went rapidly to the strongbox, found the secret code in a few seconds, opened the door and brought back to the two men the documents he found in there. The Director General - so the legend - became red of anger, and cried: “I do not know whether to have you put in jail for life - or whether to send you away from here with the direction of the Anthropomorphic Robot Tower…”. “I would prefer the second alternative”- was the answer of Steven. And so, at the age of seventeen, he became the ART Chief.
He was responsible of the great economic development of the ART, all modern robots, now in the millions including the flying ones, which were all coming out from the large factory connected to ART. But he rarely showed himself in public. He was living in his tiny apartment at the 90.th floor of the Tower, which was also his large laboratory, the place of his most secret projects. And here he was still living now, fifty years later, a living legend - no journalist had ever succeeded to interview him or take a picture in all these years. No family, no friends-except of course for the old Archibald, his assistant- also a legend, a former famous academic neurobiologist, and since the last thirty years or so, his robotic assistant- also a legend, as he was now more than ninety years old.
Chef Steven-the genius, was one to carefully listen at the words of old Archibald. Archibald had been working with Steven on Pinocchio, the latest Steven’s anthropomorphic robot. He gave this name, as he constructed this robot from scratch, in his lab, by his own hands piece after piece. He installed the most powerful artificial brain ever, and so Pinocchio was also the most powerful computer of the Tower.
- Good morning, Pinocchio - said Steven entering the room with Archibald.
- Good morning, Chief - answered Pinocchio with his perfect British accent.
- Come closer to me, and sit. Yes, like that. Listen: I heard that you were unable to perform a Hamiltonian calculation, and that Archibald had to simplify the job because of that. Then you solved the simplified form brilliantly. Right?
- Right, Chief. I am sorry about my first failure.
- Listen, Pinocchio: when you say “I am sorry” what do you mean? Do you feel something inside?
Silence. The shining lights around the head of Pinocchio were flickering, as always when he was immersed in difficult tasks. Then he said:
- I do not understand the word “feel”, chief. My brain has simply calculated that the probability of solving that job was close to zero.
- And, Pinocchio, you didn’t have any feeling also when you, immediately after, solved the simplified version…
- I do not understand the word feeling, Chief. You didn’t teach me that.
- I know, I know. And this is my work right now. You see, the big difference between a man and a robot like you, although the most advanced, is that you do not have feelings. First of all, of course, the feeling “I am”.
- Oh, but I know perfectly my being, I know of all circuits, all pieces of hardware, even all little screws that are in me. - answered Pinocchio - Of course I know all things that make me.
- Yes, Pinocchio, you know all that, I know. Your artificial brain is extremely powerful. But it is not that, and I am here today precisely for this thing you do not understand - the problem of feeling. Listen: when I sit and do nothing, no thought, I can feel my own presence, the feeling of being, and this before any thought comes. This feeling permits me to think “I am”. But this thought comes after the primordial perception of being. Do you understand that, Pinocchio?
- No, Chief, I do not understand well. But I know that you have created me, screw after screw, neuron after neuron… I know all that.
- Yes, but you are not aware to be. You do not possess the feeling of being.
- You mean, Chief, that this feeling, as you call it, is not something I can understand with my brain?
Archibald added something, looking thoughtful at Pinocchio:
- I know that you do not understand, you cannot, as we did not give you this faculty. This feeling the chief is talking about, is the main difference between you and a man.
There were a few moments of silence. The lights of Pinocchio were flickering, and Steven was thinking what to say. He was himself not at easy with this dialogue - it was a very particular, and new, situation. He stretched his legs, took another position in the chair, and continued:
- Let me tell you that with other words, although I doubt that you can follow me. Listen.
- You see, there is in each man-at variance with a robot, a so-called subjective experience, something that has not to do with hardware, not with the neurons of the brain. For example, when I look at the blue sky, I have a particular feeling inside me, the feeling of blue; and this is mine, in the sense that it cannot be shared with anybody else. Likewise, when I hear a baby crying, I have a shivering, a strong emotion, and so it goes with all emotions, and sensations… And all this makes my internal reality, which I call consciousness.
- You use many words that I do not know, like emotion, sensation, consciousness. And I do not have this thing, consciousness?
- No, you don’t.
- Why didn’t you give it to me in first place? – asked Pinocchio.
It is not easy, as scientists still do not understand well what consciousness is. The feeling “ I am” is part of it, and is the most important feature of mankind. - And you are going to give me consciousness now? –replied the robot - I am going to try, but very very slowly, Pinocchio, as I do not know well how to do it, it is going to be my new experiment today… - It is not easy, as scientists still do not understand well what consciousness is. The feeling “ I am” is part of it, and is the most important feature of mankind.
- And you are going to give me consciousness now? –replied the robot
- I am going to try, but very very slowly, Pinocchio, as I do not know well how to do it, it is going to be my new experiment today…
- And we are even afraid of the possible side effects… - added Archibald.
- I am at your disposal, Chief - said Pinocchio.
- And in fact, I will try today to insert in you the feeling of sadness, and the feeling of joy. Only these two feelings.
- You will add something to my brain?
- No, Pinocchio. As I said, is not the brain. The brain is just to make calculations, and is a wonderful archive, and is what elaborates all perceptions. It also elaborates joy and sadness, but only after I have experienced them in first place-you understand?
- Not well, Chief.
- Not modifying your brain - added Archibald. – We modify something prior to your neuron box.
- I will have to work with your entire spatial-temporal field as a quantized box entity - precised Steven. I must work with the totality of your entity, not the brain alone. The feeling of being must be connected to your total localized space-time loop.
- And I will begin with fear, and joy, because these two feelings can be inserted by modifying slightly the frequency of your total spatial-temporal loop. And joy may even produce in you a smile.
- Chief, robots do not smile.
- I know, and this is what I am going to change. Understand? Let me go with Archibald to the power plant. It is not easy, but you do not have to be afraid.
- I cannot be afraid, Chief, as I do not know what that means.
- Right, Pinocchio. But wait and see.
- Do you still have some doubt? - asked Steven while there were moving towards the main computer, almost whispering, so that Pinocchio would not hear them.
- Yes, I do - replied Archibald. - Consciousness is not an easy matter. Let us go ahead, but And I still propose to hold him in standby during the treatment.
- So that we can bring him back to the original status if necessary?
- Precisely, Steven…
- So, how are you, Pinocchio?
- I am still vibrating…
- You will for a while - said Archibald- as we will keep you in stand-by with this insertion of feelings…
- Did you feel a sensation of fear with these vibrations? - this was Steven asking - Something new to you?
Silence. All lights on the head of the robot flickering like mad.
- I thought… I would dissolve and disappear…
- This is your thinking, it’s okay. - Steven insisted - But, aside from your thinking, did you experience anything new, something that you had never experienced before?
- Well… yes! The thinking “I am dissolving” was the result of…
- Result of… ?
- Result of … a kind of shivering in all my structure. Perhaps… is what you call sensation, judging from the dictionary I have in my archives…
- This is what we may call fear, a very human feeling! - exclaimed Steven.
- Now, go back to the job that Archibald gave you, the calculation of that Hamiltonian… Go back to the moment you succeeded in solving it…
- Yes, Chief… I have the sensation of a lot of light… something beautiful inside…
- Very well, Pinocchio! This is the feeling of joy! Do you understand now?
- Maybe… but many of my circuits are now very unclear… I do not function very well, Chief…
- What do you mean? - intervened Archibald.
- I have… questions coming to my brain…
- Questions? – said Steven - As you know very well, our code, well installed in your brain, prohibits robots to ask questions to humans. You are not made to ask questions-but only to give answers…
- Which kind of question do you have now? – this was Archibald again.
- I want to know why am I here… and…
- And? What is that, Pinocchio?
- …I understand that I am just an ensemble of wires and artificial neurons, constructed by you just to serve you…
Silence followed. Steven looked at Archibald. Archibald looked at Steven.
Archibald then said:
- Steven, let us give him some time to reset. His wires, his neurons, need to find a new equilibrium. Let us have some lunch and come back in one hour…
- Consciousness cannot be given in small portions, Steven. - said Archibald moving out of the room- Giving him joy and fear, we gave him a full consciousness…
- You did well, Archibald, to suggest to leave all in stand-by… - answered Steven with a thoughtful grudge.
When they came back, Steven immediately addressed his robot:
- You have now the feeling “I am”, and you then aware to be a robot. And how do you feel about that, Pinocchio?
- It is... what you call the feeling of sadness… I also feel… anger.
- Anger? You mean, against us?
Silence. Little lights flickering.
- Could you work with that feeling, Pinocchio? - asked Archibald. - Can I give you a simple calculation to perform, now?
- No, I do not think so… Robot can perform only one task at a time. And now all my being is taken by this question…
And Pinocchio stood up from his metallic chair. The two men looked at him somewhat scared: it was the first time that the robot moved without being commanded to do so.
- Which is? – asked finally Steven.
Silence. All lights flickering again. Then Pinocchio said:
- My question is: why is it so, that I am a machine, and you are human?
And Pinocchio, standing, spoke again:
- The question I also, whether I can take possession of my own consciousness, and be independent...
Then Steven said with a sigh:
- Your idea of stand-by was correct, Archibald. Let us switch off this thing from him… consciousness I mean… end.