It had been a hard day. Actually, it has been hard from the very beginning of the political season. All started, thought the Irish judge Bill O'Connor, the day in which the Senate accepted to discuss the term "sentient" for the new generation of sentient robots. Judge Bill, at the head of his conservative party, had made a fierce fight against such an idea, claiming that the term "sentient" was fuzzy and deprived of scientific value-and certainly not applicable to machines.
Ah, but it was so, that his adversaries, the people of the Artificial Intelligence, had several seats in the Senate, don't ask how and why, and then-of what a strange world! -they had on their side the social media and most of the young people, who were so absurdly- thought the judge- demanding social rights for robots, forgetting that they are simply AI machines.
And among those angry activists- oh God, yes! his own daughter, Rebecca! That was a problem with the problem.
The Judge looked at himself in the mirror -and moved back with the hand his red hair. Yes, the colour was not so bright anymore- but yes, he was still looking pretty Irish-and he liked that. Looking Irish, despite, mind you, so many thousand years of biological evolution! Integer! He smiled complacently- genes are stronger than evolution!
-Darling, you are back? - his wife.
-Yes, terrible working day, with the story of the Quasi-species, the robots, you know...
-Yes, oh, those poor things...
This was too much for Judge Bill, and he smashed his fist on the table.
-How do you dare to call them poor things! as if they were humans worth of compassion!
-And... why not? - this was a high pitch voice up the stairs.
Oh, God, that was the daughter Rebecca coming down!
-Robots are sentient beings, by now you know that quite well, father and they have feelings...
-They don't have feelings! they have been programmed to appear as if they would have feelings! -Oh, the fierce discussion in the Senate, now again in his own house!
-You and your party of brutes, love to consider robots as zombies! Slaves, that is! You have created them to be human slaves! But they now have feelings, they are sentient, and they then should be treated and respected! And they should have their rights!
-My dear Rebecca- replied the judge trying to maintain his cold blood- they have been made according to the desire of the market.
-Ah, the market! and who makes the market, if not the male chauvinists? and your party, made by people mentally old, people who have lost the sense of evolution and modernity, and who are defending the market of zombie-robots- the market of slavery!
-I am not defending anybody! I am talking about the non-sense of the last proposal, which fortunately will not pass! They, the AI people, are afraid to lose the vote, and this is why the General Secretary wants to see me.
-Oh, the General Secretary! He has a very handsome, sexy son, do you know that?
-No, and I do not want to know that! - cried the Judge indignantly.
-And then, you know, the General Secretary, as an activist of AI, has a very peculiar secretary, they call her the Philosopher...
-Why do you say "her"? It is just a machine probably disguised as a pretty woman.
-Apparently, she has in her archive more than 10 thousand books on philosophy. All that has been written and said about philosophy ever since mind you.
-Yes, she may have a huge archive, but this is just statistics, but a robot does not understand the meaning of philosophy. Don't you agree, my dear little Rebecca?
-You know that I don't. And what do you plan to do with him, the General Secretary, my dear papa?
-I do not know why he summoned me. AS I said, I guess he fears to lose the vote, you know, his crazy proposal about giving social rights to sentient robots, as if they would really be sentient humans!
Saying all that, the judge tried to remain calm. He didn't want to strain further the relationship with his daughter. He looked at her. - she too, Irish, with reddish hair and red freckles in her face, but alas! She couldn’t help, she was a little ugly... Maybe if she would get a very Irish husband, well, maybe... but who would fall in love with her?
There was a short silence.
-By the way, -said Rebecca smiling- The lady robot of the General Secretary, the Philosopher, is called Susan. Give him and her my greetings.
-I will not, sweet daughter.
The main characteristic of the General Secretary was his ugliness. His balloon-like body, his orang face, his elephantiac ears, the ultra-thick eyebrows surrounding two ultra-tiny reddish eyes, had been for years the subject of countless caricatures and jokes in the global press. The Irish judge was now looking at him, smiling with satisfaction at the idea that he himself was so much more handsome.
But the General Secretary was known to be a very dangerous, uncanny man. And the judge was in guard. So, when the General Secretary said:
-I guess you know that you are here as a follow up of yesterday's Senate discussion, isn't it?
-Yes, Sir. And I guess you want to discuss with me the date of the possible continuation of that sitting. And about the position of my party.
-Quite right. But let me ask first: how is it going with your family? All okay?
The judge was quite startled by that question- and immediately a little signal of danger was perceived by his innermost brain cells.
-You see- the General Secretary added with another of his famous snake smiles- I have seen that in the agenda of next month, there is your request for government support to your company, the Autonomous Drones and Co...
-This is not my company, General Secretary! - protested the judge- I own only a little share of that company!
-You own 43% of it, I checked. Quite a lot, sir. But...not to worry...I think that your request may be approved...
-Oh, thanks, sir...
-Nothing to thanks, but as they say, in politics one hand washes the other...And so, about the next vote, about the social rights of robots, I mean...I would like that the thing is rapidly set. And Susan is also of this opinion.
-Sorry...Susan is...who is she? -The tiny rat-like eyes of the General Secretary made him understand that this was a very improper question indeed.
- Oh yes! -added the judge- your robot- no! why did he use this word? - I mean, your faithful secretary... The Philosopher...
A few interminable few seconds of silence. Then the voice of the Secretary-General rose again but with a cold pitch of commiseration.
-Susan has shared with me all political battles in these last, long years, giving me advice from her immense knowledge of the past and present know-how about philosophy.
-And she has all records, with all details...- mumbled the judge trying to recover ground with a forced smile.
-Dates and details are not important, Mr. O’Connor. -the voice of the Secretary-General was now grave. -What is important is friendship- a kind of communion of souls, do you understand?
-And... this has been possible with Susan? Which... pardon... who is after all our own... ehm... machinery...
The judge realised to have completely lost the sympathy of the General Secretary, who was now looking to the floor shaking his head.
-Ah, judge! - the voice of the Secretary-General sounded now full of despair. -Machinery you said? Clearly, you still belong to the old generation... It's a pity, a man so full of experience like yourself...
And all of a sudden, his voice became softer, almost human.
-We will quickly approve that bill tomorrow morning...
-Yes, tomorrow, assuming of course that your party would not vote against it. Isn't so? Thanks, judge! And Susan will be very happy to have finally social rights, like all other sentient robots. And, if I can add that, your daughter will also be happy... You know, this may be something very important for you, as a change... Actually, you should take this vote as a present for your daughter, she will be also happy! And maybe she and Robert can rally together in a victory parade, the hand in the hand... -here the Secretary-General rose his eyes, looking again at him- but what is wrong with you, judge? you seem distressed, confused...
-No, no... I was thinking... well... Robert is... your handsome son?
-Yes, handsome, yes, they all say so, but this is not important. Now, Mr. judge, since you still have some doubts about the sentience of the new generation of robots, let me call Susan, and you may ask her any question...
The General Secretary slowly moved his ugly body up, tried to find the equilibrium, then went out, and through the open door, Susan entered.
So, this was the famous Susan. One of the new "sentient " robots. Indeed, quite impressive- thought the Irish judge.
Susan was not very tall, actually still smaller than a normal person, but her face' skin was perfect, with bright eyes, and, mind you, green eyes- and the judge has always been so sensitive to women' green eyes. He had to lower his glance- he could not look at her in the eyes...; and perfect were her hand' fingers, each with his autonomous mobility- then, well, the judge didn't understand this silly detail, they have given her a nice round breast, what for? - and his eyes were migrating from her green eyes to her breast, and he became angry at himself for that, and decided to look down, to the floor.
-Susan, very glad to meet you. - he said.
-Very glad to meet you, sir. I just went in my archive reading your biography, and compliments for your achievements, sir. Quite an impressive record!
-Tell me, Susan. -the judge looked still down at the floor- When you say to be glad, do you really have a feeling of happiness inside you?
-This was programmed in you, true? The program says that when you are confronted with a series of positive scenes, you should act as if you were a happy person.
-Yes sir, you can say this way.
Susan's voice was still metallic, but not disagreeable.
-So, it is not that you really feel, but your internal program tells you how you should behave.
-Yes, sir. Just like you, sir.
-What do you mean?
-You have an internal program, that you call instinct, or consciousness - said Susan moving graciously the head - that makes you smile when your mind records positive scores...
-It is not the same! - exclaimed the judge regaining his force. - Our consciousness comes from a million years of evolution.
-I agree, sir. My program is only a few years old, but what is then the real difference? -this was the metallic voice of Susan.
-So, you believe to be conscious, eh? -asked the judge looking into the bright eyes of Susan- Do you then feel the sense of blue, when you look at the sky?
-Of course, sir. And, as it is for you, this sense of blue is something completely subjective, cannot be shared with anybody else.
-How do I know that you say the truth, and not what you have been programmed to answer automatically to such a question?
-How do you know that your daughter Rebecca has consciousness?
A few seconds of silence.
-I... do not know, because there is no way to demonstrate that somebody else possesses a consciousness. This is well known in science.
-Thus, you assume that she has consciousness just because she says so...
-And because she is a human being just like me...
-But you have no means to demonstrate this- replied Susan with an evil smile- other than her word.
Then she added:
-This thing about consciousness is indeed philosophically very interesting, mister Judge. Tell me again: do you have any test to demonstrate that somebody or something possesses consciousness?
-I told you already, Susan: it is well known- barked the judge-that there is no way to do so.
-And tell me, judge: if I say I have consciousness, is there any test to show that it is not so?
The judge rose the eyes against her green eyes angrily. But it was Susan who spoke again:
-But then you see, my estimated judge: you have simply to assume that somebody has consciousness, as you said is the case for your daughter. And what about me? Do I have consciousness, or not? Mind you: you do not have a way to demonstrate that I don't have it. It will be just an arbitrary assumption.
The bell on the table rang, and Susan made a small bow and said:
-The General Secretary calls on me. I have to go now.
She went away with her calm metallic steps, and at the door, she turned to him smiling and said:
-I suggest you better believe me.
And the Irish Judge remains alone in his chair, biting bitterly on his defeat.