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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Clockwork Orientation (Science Fiction)

By Brian Barr

Published: Brian Barr Books (February 28, 2018)

Softcover 32 pages

      From the finest traditions of science fiction, we have “A Clockwork Orientation”. When you look back at old school science fiction, A.E Van Vogt, H. Beam Piper, Isaac Asimov their work was more about a speculation on life and new ideas, rather than a spectacle of images - which is where much modern written science fiction seems to be headed. An error in my opinion. For the best sci-fi asks questions, they didn’t shoot the answer at you in a great space battle. So reading this short story was a breath of fresh air.
     The story deals with an artificial intelligence who goes berserk one day and kills over a hundred people. Rather than scrap the creature, its owners decide to attempt to rehabilitate them with a new program that will allow the creature to feel pain, specifically his victim’s pain. This has some unexpected results.
Author Brian Barr
    The story asks some deep questions on the nature of emotional development. The cyborg main character, Mannix (not named after the TV show character, I discovered), murdered over a hundred people because he was bored, because he was given toys but not allowed to use them. This is sociopathic behavior in a human, but with artificial intelligence the ability to emote to another life form is not a given. Part of our empathic nature is that we are nurtured by others and shown love, but artificial intelligence will not have that. They will blink on with full consciousness. If they are empathetic it will be towards their own kind, not us.
    Some may say that emotions can be programmed. But, as the story points out, are they real? Or will a pre-programmed set of actions just cause an AI to go through the motions, while harboring other ideas beneath them. You cannot force someone to care about something, as the story demonstrates, even if you torture them, as what happens to the protagonist. This is the fascinating nature of the story. Quite a lot for only thirty two pages.

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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