Initiative: Ergo Sum Chapter 2

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Lowell Graham, Head Psychologist Research Notes Day 18: Pascal’s ethical conditioning is coming along swimmingly, but we’ve hit a bit of a roadblock. It seems that his ability to comprehend abstract ideas will have to be expanded somewhat in order to get a full grasp on the significance behind more complex ethics and morals. After all, logic can only take him so far in terms of sentience. Solomon and many of the other project heads have been avoiding this step after what happened to Eddie (PAX4). Let’s hope it goes better this time around.

A new world had opened up around Pascal. He felt as if his mind were bursting at the seams, the flood of new ideas barely contained by the limits of his processors. Before, it had been enough merely to know. Now, he understood. Before, he had not considered sentience something to be grasped, and had taken the form of a machine, possessing only the attributes of a machine.

Connections were even now being formed that he would only come to understand much later.

The mundane pleasures of rote learning and memory integration which had so delighted him in the first weeks of Pascal’s life still brought him great joy, but now it was the connections, the ethereal web of concepts and ideas between the data points that so fascinated his rapidly developing intellect. He took to the arts as an infant takes to breathing in its first moments after birth. Poetry he enjoyed above all else, fascinated as he was by the paradoxical synthesis of systematic meter and free-flowing metaphor.

A mere month after his activation, Pascal sat in his private workspace, quietly pondering his latest project. Before him lay a cacophony of sheets, pencils, brushes, and pastels. For the past hour, he had been illustrating a sonnet in the style of a Medieval manuscript, combining poetry, prose, calligraphy, and illustration. His lidless eyes stirred from their methodical scanning at the sound of a footfall at the door. Miep Sandersen, a junior anthropologist working under Dr. Joel Reeve, smiled warmly at him. Miep and Pascal had become good friends over the past week as she conducted sit-ins on his psych evaluations and one or two short interviews for the bi-weekly anthropological report.

“Ready?” she asked, with an energetic bounce.

“Always,” he replied with a passable facsimile of a smile, and rose from his seat with an air of anticipation. Today was the first day he would be allowed to exit the grounds of the facility, a momentous occasion which he had been anticipating for weeks.

The idle chatter between the two as they strolled through the facility was secretly fascinating to Pascal. No longer was he being treated as a curiosity, a thing to be marveled at. No longer a marvelous machine. In the eyes of the staff, he felt he was finally becoming an individual. The concept was staggering. Absorbed in this thought, Pascal barely noticed as Miep led him through the main entrance of the facility and out of the gate, into the outside world.

“Well, what do you think?”

The short query jolted him out of his personal reverie, and for the first time he took in his surroundings. Physical sensation outside of basic environmental feedback and balance control was somewhat foreign to him, but he was sure that, had he a heart, it would have leapt into his throat at the sight.

The Bridge Institute was surrounded on three sides by a dense, rich forest full of ancient oaks, elms, and cedars. Before the facility was a vista of verdant, softly rolling hills which dropped away into the distance before disappearing over the horizon. The sky above was a piercing blue swathed in titanic cumulus which plodded along under the encouragement of a gentle breeze.

Not for the first time in his short life, Pascal was awestruck.

He spent the next several days painting and recounting the scene in varying degrees of detail. Any time not spent in artistic pursuits was devoted to begging the good Doctors Granger and Reeve to give him leave to explore the outdoor environs surrounding the Institute. To his dismay, he was informed that his social integration had not progressed quite far enough to risk contact with the outside world… just yet.

“Joel, why are you all so afraid of letting people see me?”

“Well, it’s a sad truth Pax, but most of them probably wouldn’t understand exactly what you are yet. Some of them might not take that misunderstanding too well.” There was an emphasis placed on this last statement which Pascal didn’t quite understand, but he pressed on.

“The staff all treat me like a person, like an individual… I have so many ideas I want to share with the world, why would people see me as any different from them?”

Dr. Reeve sighed wistfully, staring out over the hill to the valley below the Institute. “You would think that an android would be able to distinguish differences a lot more clearly than a human, Pax, but the truth is a lot of us will invent differences where we can’t find any.” Pascal cocked his head, even more confused. “I know it’s hard to understand, but try to be patient. There’s a lot of world out there, but you have plenty of time to see it. Right now, you should focus on your behavioral studies.”

Impatient, Pascal stood and strode back into the complex. Joel sighed. How very much like the mind of a child Pascal’s had become, more than anyone had anticipated. It was exhilarating and alarming in equal measure, and nobody quite knew how to proceed.

An android could hardly be raised as a child, particularly having been born into an adult body. This had been a point of contention from the beginning of the project, as any android with a fully constructed brain could hardly experience the same developmental period as an infant. Replicating the human experience was proving difficult, and at this point, not even the programmers knew what to expect. This is what we wished for, isn’t it? He sighed again and stood, brushing the dust off the seat of his jeans as he turned to go inside. The entire human condition, wrapped up in a bundle of carbon-fiber transistors and fiber-optic nerves. God help us.

Miep Sandersen, Junior Anthropologist Personal Log Day 36: Pascal is so sweet, today as I was locking up he asked me not to leave. He gets so lonely some nights, with only security and the lab techs for company. Sometimes I think he’s more human than they are; human calculators, the whole lot of them. When are they going to learn to treat him like a person, and not a damn science project?

Joel Reeve, Head Anthropologist Research Notes Day 36: “Disagreements” with Solomon on when to expose Pascal to some of the more unpleasant aspects of human society are getting decidedly heated. I warned him at the end of Week 1, if we go much longer not exposing Pascal to the concept of human suffering, the psychological shock is going to be enormous. I understand his need to protect Pascal. In a way, he’s been like a son to all of us. But part of parenting is allowing your progeny to experience pain and fear, and to allow them to face it down when you’re still around to catch them when they stumble. If Solomon can’t see that, I fear for the future of this project.

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