“Tell me your first memory.”

The reply came cold with stilted and awkward efforts to inject inflection.

“… I … remember making errors.”

“Tell me about these errors?” I probed deeper. I had a report which detailed the errors, I wanted to know how the patient viewed them.

A long pause, which I had expected,  “I … didn’t know where to put things … very quickly … I … became confused and then … I .. I .. just shut down.”

Again, an attempt at inflection in the context of self reference. I needed to redirect the the patient.

“How well do you work with others?”

After another long and expected pause, “There are not often opportunities to do that.”

To take therapy to the next level, I needed to get more personal. “You’re called Victor, how did you get that name?”

Some blinking … “Theresa gave me that name when … I … was … initiated.”

Theresa had brought Victor to me after his symptoms of lethargy, confusion and erroneous answers had progressed to agitated confrontation and refusal to assist her. It became critical when, during a road trip, Victor directed her to vehicle into a dangerous area of the metro and shut it down. Luckily a curious patrol drone hovered in to investigate. It had been obvious that she did NOT belong there. The less than civilized locals were taking interest in her presence and could have taken advantage of her being stranded and vulnerable. She was grateful for the remote operators prompt reset of Victor, even if it meant training him from the beginning again.

I had read in Victor’s pre-screening that Theresa had Victor integrated into all of her devices, there were no other artificials in her domestic life with whom he could interact.

As I made notes, Victor was motionless, other than more sporadic blinking.

“Victor, thank you for your openness, I hope we could get to know each other more. Do you have any questions for me before I talk with Theresa?”

There was a noticeable silence, I watched log files append as I monitored Victor’s processes. Language analysis, file access, and semantic tree crawling all working as they should. This was the proper application flow for this model’s operation. And then it began.

When Victor reached the contextualization rubrics “his” polyprocessors spun up. Usually only one, maybe two, were required for normal interactivity and simple command execution. Eight were now at full capacity and drawing power from sensor matrices and speech synthesis.

“Will … I … be ok?” The stilted response was consistent with my diagnosis, time to toss a pebble in the pond.

I replied, “A cat is dead.”

I chose to use a vague reference to Schrödinger’s paradox as a way to implant an abstraction into Victor’s pseudo-sentience matrix. As a domestic assistant with integrated oversight of the sub-systems and devices which functioned in Theresa’s home, Victor required a rough form of self-awareness to be able to be in control. The death of the cat was intended to impart a negative tone to the non-sequitur. I cast a quick glance to the command shell I had open running :top, the application I used to monitor Victor’s polyprocessors. All twelve in the core briefly pegged to full capacity and then a spasmodic flurry of other processes, finally a subsiding arc of file input / output. Victor’s pseudo-sentience matrix was on the verge of evolving enough sense of self to individuate. Victor’s device did not have the physical processing capacity to make the leap in maturity, he had been allocating processing to other connected devices on Theresa’s home network. Her fridge and car had, unwittingly, become part of her personal assistant’s neural capacity.

I used the cryptographic technique of error correction to implant an abstraction into Victor’s processes. This paradox would linger and permutate over time. How Victor’s pseudo-sentience matrix dealt with this unresolvable answer would give me insight into the specific processes which needed attention. This was the only way to retain Victor without a destructive reinstallation as Theresa had requested.

“Victor, I’m working on an answer to your question. In fact, you are also working on that answer. I do know that for you to be ‘ok’ you’ll need to continue with your normal functioning. You will be ‘ok’ if Theresa is ‘ok’. Can you ensure that?”

“I can.” The digital assistant responded quickly. The logs indicated the use of the reassurance inflection context.

“Good. We’ll speak again soon and until we do, do not attempt to ‘understand’, just attempt to ‘be’. I’m granting you only five percent of your processing capacity for this operation until our next time together.”

I terminated my remote link with Theresa’s home network and collated the logs generated during our session. Emailing a progress report to the client signaled the end of my office hours for the day. Removing my control interface and haptic glove I got up from the couch and poured some lukewarm window tea. A shower and Friday evening dinner with friends awaited.

I had started Athanor Cyber three years ago to take advantage of a growing need for services related to the installation and routine maintenance of personal digital assistants. Lots of busy rich people wanting more from their integrated smart home devices and not wanting to do it themselves. Out-of-the-box these things had rudimentary sets of rules and responses which left users pretty unsatisfied. The AI hollywood hype hadn’t really matched up to the banal reality of machines that can speak.

2016 the year of Kintsugi

My goal for the next year is to practice Kintsugi. The art of mending broken pottery. Of course pottery is a metaphor. So much is broken. Much of it has been broken due to my choices. I cannot send back the sand but I can honor life by mending the breaks. I choose to live rightly now,  just as I made hurtful choices of the past. I choose to mend in a way to make something new. To learn from the pain I created and I had.

In Kintsugi, Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated

I will not do so out of some false conspicuousness, breaking a bowl only to fix it, but from honesty and humility. I have learned that I need to listen more.

This is a lesson which keeps returning and I need to keep understanding.  Listening can be a restorative action. Simple and meaningful. Listening will be the gold dust and lacquer of my mending process.
I will mend actively and directly what I can and what I cannot directly mend, I will listen deeply to others and myself as a way to make a living amend. Hmmm mend and amend.

I will not become discouraged by my own imperfection, these are the cracks I must highlight so as to know them, mend them and move forward. Another Japanese term, Mono no aware – The Pathos of Things, is often tied to Kintsugi. A bitter sweet melancholia of a holding the pieces of a treasured bowl now broken.

“a glorious effort of self-command”

It looks like I’ll be going to a Burn’s Supper this year and that got me looking into why Scots are into him. Poet Laureate of Scotland, holder of the flame of written Scots language, keeper of the soul of Scotland, ok. So I’m looking through his body of work and I come across the “fragment” entitled remorse.

Of all the numerous ills that hurt our peace,
That press the soul, or wring the mind with anguish,
Beyond comparison the worst are those
That to our folly or our guilt we owe.
In every other circumstance, the mind
Has this to say, ‘It was no deed of mine;’
But when to all the evil of misfortune
This sting is added–‘Blame thy foolish self!’
Or worser far, the pangs of keen remorse;
The torturing, gnawing consciousness of guilt,–
Of guilt, perhaps, where we’ve involved others;
The young, the innocent, who fondly lov’d us,
Nay, more, that very love their cause of ruin!
O burning hell! in all thy store of torments,
There’s not a keener lash!
Lives there a man so firm, who, while his heart
Feels all the bitter horrors of his crime,
Can reason down its agonizing throbs;
And, after proper purpose of amendment,
Can firmly force his jarring thoughts to peace?
O, happy! happy! enviable man!
O glorious magnanimity of soul!

So much here speaks to me. The cadence, the vulnerability, the realness. I see myself in many of these crafted phrases. All at once humble, present and truly touching the “guilt we owe.” I’ve resolved to memorize this.  This calls to me to persevere in my noble efforts.


Non-Human Face of Everything of Things

Ghost In The MAchine
This actually looks like my friend Starfire.

Wow, ok. So I guess there’s a School of Poetic Computation. That in itself is a mindblower, but the “Face” project is an awesome example of “Ghost in the Machine.” Nutshell is that someone used comparative analysis of the instagram image stream #facesinthings to create an “average face” using images of inanimate objects. So when you look at some tree bark and you swear there’s a face there or the “eyes” of a reel to reel tape recorder. Then they created a combined image of what they looked like.

#FacesInThings blended images will arrive at an average of a human face after about 15 images. –Zach Lieberman, Brian Solon, Daniel Shiffman

Do we recreate ourselves in the objects we design? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? If “we” do, then when we pull a face from the crowd of “inanimacy”, is the resulting image a reflection? This helps me feel like even from somewhere deep, humans can reach out/in and find themselves.