[Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols]: the Movie Copyright © Bill Hibbard 2008

 

 

[Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols]: the Movie

Bill Hibbard

March 2008

 

News

 

††††††††††† "Bogus!" I yelled from across the street, "some guys want to make a movie out of my story."

††††††††††† He darted through the traffic, still feeling indestructible in middle age. "Who wants to make a movie?" he asked.

††††††††††† "They're from Chicago, not from a big Hollywood studio. Independents I guess."

††††††††††† "And they want to make a movie based on Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols? No offense Laszlo, but why would anyone want to make a movie out of that?"

††††††††††† "You didn't like it because it made you out to be a criminal, a blackmailer. But these guys really seem to like it. They're going to pay me to use it, and pay me to help write a screen play."

††††††††††† "You're going to change our names, aren't you? I don't want the world to think I'm a crook." He stuck up both arms making victory signs and quoted Nixon, "I am not a crook."

††††††††††† "That's good," I said, "Maybe I can work that into the script."

††††††††††† "What? Me imitating Nixon?"

††††††††††† "Yeah, it was cool."

††††††††††† "Have you told Megan yet?"

††††††††††† "She's really excited."

††††††††††† "Well, she comes off pretty well in the story. She would off course - you love her. But old Bogus - who cares."

††††††††††† "The story needed you to be a bit outside the law so you could find the AI. At least I didn't make you look stupid. Heck, I wrote you as smarter than me."

††††††††††† "But I am smarter than you."

††††††††††† No point in arguing that. He was the smartest kid at school. Now he makes his living off investments, but spends his time as a freelance journalist investigating stories about people getting screwed so other people can get rich.

††††††††††† "So," I asked, "how are you using that big brain today?"

††††††††††† "Still trying to figure out why anyone would make a movie out of your story."
††††††††††† "Actually, they told me they like my writing. I'm driving down to Chicago tomorrow to meet them. They have some suggestions for the script."

††††††††††† "I'll bet they do," he laughed. "Have they told you what they are yet?"

††††††††††† "No," I said a little defensively, "there's no reason to think they'll want big changes to my story."

††††††††††† "Want me to come to Chicago with you?"

††††††††††† "I'm a grownup. I've been to Chicago by myself already."

††††††††††† "OK. I'm just curious about these guys. There's a lot of sleaze in the movie business. If this turns out badly, I can use your experience as the starting point for an article about independent filmmakers. So keep me posted, would you?"

††††††††††† "You're paranoid."

††††††††††† He smiled, because we both knew that he was in fact paranoid. "See you later, Laszlo. It must be time for you to get back to the office."

††††††††††† I waved goodbye and headed back to the university, where I was a system administrator manning the ramparts against the barbarians. Well, against hackers and spammers at least.

 

Home

 

††††††††††† I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when I heard Megan come in. "Hey sweetheart, want some chic-KEN-dish tonight?" Pronounced to sound like some exotic dish from India.

††††††††††† "Sounds good," she said as she gave me a kiss.

††††††††††† I finished chopping up four jalapenos, one yellow bell pepper, one medium yellow onion and a large head of broccoli. Then I cut up a couple leftover baked chicken breasts and put them into a medium high frying pan with olive oil. When the chicken bits were lightly browned I spooned them into a bowl and poured the veggies into the pan on medium low heat. It always amazes me the way veggies can deglaze a pan. Once they were soft, I turned the heat back up and poured the chicken back in, along with a can of pinto beans and a can of diced fire roasted tomatoes. Served hot with soy sauce it was just about the most delicious and healthy meal you could eat.

††††††††††† "How was work today?" I asked. Megan was an MD specializing in infectious diseases at the university hospital.

††††††††††† She finished a spoonful of the chicken and vegetables and said, "We got a real sick patient this afternoon. Poor lady."

††††††††††† "How old is she?"

††††††††††† "Forty eight," she answered.

††††††††††† "Too young," I said. It always bothered me to hear of people about our age being so sick.

††††††††††† "This is great, as usual," she said, appreciating her dinner.

††††††††††† "Bogus asked to come to Chicago with me."

††††††††††† "Why?"

††††††††††† "He's looking for a story about the evils of the movie business. But I won't bring him along."

††††††††††† "Yeah, I don't think you want Bogus investigating your movie producers."

††††††††††† "If they turn out to be crooks it's nice to know I can sic Bogus on them. But they seemed reasonable enough on the phone. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt."

††††††††††† Our dogs and cats, one male and one female of each, were lying on pads and beds scattered around the kitchen. "Canis familiaris goofballus," I called, and the dogs got up. "Let's go for a walk."

††††††††††† We went down to the lakeshore and back, about a mile roundtrip in the cool night air. I was happy, thinking about being involved in a movie. And based on my story too. I remembered Bogus laughing about the changes the producers would want, and tried to guess what they might be. My story said as little as possible about the nature of the AI and the people who built it. Perhaps the producers wanted more detail about that. The problem was that I, or anyone, would just be guessing and almost certain to guess wrong. I'd have to sell them on the value of leaving it as a mystery. Maybe the movie could focus on the drama of that mystery. John Carpenter's movie The Thing ended ambiguously and it certainly was a great movie. Also Contact, Carl Sagan's story starring Jodie Foster, was very mysterious about the nature of the aliens she meets and yet one of the best movies ever. Hopefully I could use these examples to sell the producers on not saying too much about the AI in our movie.

††††††††††† Back at home Megan was reading something in a web browser. I put my hands on her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. "Anything interesting? I asked.

††††††††††† "The technological imperative. This guy says there is no going back to a simpler world. Human society has co-evolved with technological change, so that if you take away the technology then society collapses into chaos. War, famine and disease big time."

††††††††††† "But not the education of women?" I asked. This was our inside joke: the four ways to control human population growth being war, famine, disease and the education of women.

††††††††††† She ignored it. "Of course, given natural human curiosity and inventiveness you can't stop science and technology. Well, sometimes fascist dictatorships do stop them for a while, like the Khmer Rouge closing all the schools and killing educated people. But that's too self-defeating to spread to a global scale."

††††††††††† "So we're safe," I responded. "Science and technology march on."

††††††††††† "Or off the cliff, like in your story."

††††††††††† I went into the next room and switched on the TV, hoping to find something that I could suck Megan into watching. 2001, a Space Odyssey was just starting. It was another example of a story that doesn't explain much, that I could add to the list for selling the Chicago guys on the value of ambiguity. But it was not Megan's taste, so I watched alone.

 

Windows

 

††††††††††† I was lying in bed looking up at the ceiling, with a slight feeling of dread. I looked around the darkened room. The curtains were closed, which was odd because I had left them open. Perhaps Megan had drawn them. It was hard to tell in the dark, but there seemed to be something wrong with the curtains. Or perhaps with the windows. I stood up and put my slippers on to take a closer look and noticed that Megan wasn't in bed.

††††††††††† I stood staring at the curtains for a while, but couldn't figure out what was wrong. So I swung them open. And there, outside our second floor window, was a face staring back at me. My stomach turned ice cold. There was no body that I could see attached to it, nor any ladder or other support. It just stared, not acknowledging me in any way. I tried to yell at it but couldn't. So I pulled the curtains shut again and went to the door. The knob turned but the door wouldn't open. It was an old door with a keyhole, so I stooped to look through it. There was an eye staring back at me through the keyhole. I tried to say "Megan" but again no sound emerged. I turned away from the door and saw myself dimly in the dresser mirror. Except it wasn't me, it was another impassive face staring at me from the mirror. How could that be? I tried to yell "Megan" with all my might but still no noise came out. I tried as hard as I could, really struggling, and finally managed to shout her name.

††††††††††† "What is it?" she grabbed me, looking alarmed. She was lying in bed next to me.

††††††††††† "Oh god, sweetheart, I must have been having a nightmare. It was pretty awful. There were these faces staring at me through the windows and mirrors."

††††††††††† She gave me a hug. "You're OK now. No one is staring in at us."

††††††††††† The curtains were open, just as I had left them. The only things I could see outside were trees in the moonlight. "Sorry to wake you, love. I've never had that dream before and don't want to again."

††††††††††† The clock said 2:40 AM. In a bit more than four hours I'd be leaving for Chicago. We went back to sleep.

 

Mr. Edo

 

††††††††††† I parked at Big Timber Road and took the train into the city, having learned long ago to avoid Chicago traffic. The offices on Wacker were easy to find.

††††††††††† "Good morning Mr. Wilkes," Ed Perrin said as he shook my hand. "We spoke on the phone. This is Jeremy Jenkins, who will produce and direct the film." He motioned toward a tall thin man with a bush of hair.

††††††††††† "Pleased to meet you, Jeremy," I said as we shook hands.

††††††††††† "I'm looking forward to working with you," he replied.

††††††††††† "And," Ed added, "this is Evonda Wagner." She was strikingly beautiful with long red hair. Wagner was pronounced like the Opera composer, sort of rhyming with Evonda.

††††††††††† I took her hand and said warmly, "I'm very happy to meet you Evonda."

††††††††††† "Would you like some coffee?" Ed asked.

††††††††††† "Uh, no thanks. I'm, well, I'm better off without caffeine," I answered, taking a bottle of water out of my pack. "I had fish for breakfast."

††††††††††† "Huh?"

††††††††††† "Lox," I said. "Protein is my stimulant and carbs are my depressant. They work for me."

††††††††††† "Sounds healthy," Ed smiled. He held his hand out toward Evonda and said, "She's our star for the movie."

††††††††††† "Well," I said, "Megan isn't really the starring role, but perhaps we can expand it."

††††††††††† In a cheerful, strong voice Evonda replied, "Oh, I won't be playing Megan."

††††††††††† "But that's the only significant female role. Are you thinking of Wonder Woman? It would be difficult to make her into a bigger part."

††††††††††† Ed laughed. "Sorry Laszlo, I really should explain. Mr. Edo saw an opportunity in your story to build a movie around Ms. Wagner playing the AI."

††††††††††† "But the AI has no lines. In fact, the title of the story is a reference to the reality that humans will not be able to understand the languages of advanced AI. The AI never explicitly appears in the story because no human author knows how to write its part."

††††††††††† "Mr. Edo's interest was triggered by Bogus' statement that he was in love with the AI. He wants a love story between Evonda and Bogus. That's the reason he's funding this project."

††††††††††† "I've got some ideas," Jeremy interjected. "I think we can make it work."

††††††††††† "Maybe I should talk with Mr. Edo," I said.

††††††††††† Ed laughed heartily and said, "Mr. Edo understands your story. There's no point in trying to explain it to him. He knows this is a big change, but that's the way he wants it. He has confidence in your ability to change it."

††††††††††† "Consider this, Laszlo," Jeremy said. "Your AI is a great mystery. Well, that's the way Evonda will play it. Like Garbo, as a woman of mystery. That, and her superior intellect, will be the attraction for Bogus. In your story you said Bogus' love for the AI was like a moth to a flame. You can still have the same logic, but now the AI is embodied in Evonda."

††††††††††† As Ed and Jeremy were speaking, it was dawning on me that Evonda was probably Mr. Edo's girlfriend. There was the real moth-to-a-flame story. It also occurred to me that there was no way I was going to win this argument. If I wanted to make a movie from my original story, I'd have to find another backer. Fat chance. So I said, "OK, I'll think about it. I can see that this movie will be a new story. Perhaps I can find a way to make it work."

††††††††††† Ed beamed, "Very good, Laszlo. We're so happy to hear that. But Mr. Edo likes the characters and their little adventures, so please keep all that."

††††††††††† "Sure," I said.

††††††††††† "There's one other change that Mr. Edo has in mind. Have you ever read Moneyball by Michael Lewis? Itís the true story of how the baseball general manager Billy Beane used smart statistics to turn the Oakland Athletics into a winning team, despite their lack of money. Did for baseball what Wal-Mart did for retailing. Or have you read The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz?"

††††††††††† "I've read Moneyball. Wonderful book," I said, wondering what he was getting at.

††††††††††† "Mr. Edo is a big Cubs fan. He wants you to replace the Episcopalian Jihad hedge fund with the Chicago Cubs."

††††††††††† I was a little confused. "What, do the Cubs become a hedge fund?"

††††††††††† Ed laughed again. He seemed to find me quite amusing. "No, Laszlo. The Cubs develop the AI to figure out how to win. And here's the best part." Ed was full of joy at what he was about to say. "The end of the movie is the Cubs winning the World Series. That hasn't happened since 1908. Much happier than humanity perishing in chaos. Mr. Edo likes happy endings." Ed, Jeremy and Evonda all had huge smiles. I figured they must all be Cubs fans.

††††††††††† I had to admit that, to the extent that I cared about baseball at all, it was to hope that sometime during my life the blankety blank Cubs would win the blankety blank World Series. I was recalling more about Moneyball. Beane had drilled down past traditional statistics, for instance recruiting players with good on-base percentages even when their batting averages weren't so good. But all I could think of to say was, "So Evonda, the woman of mystery, is managing the Cubs?"

††††††††††† "Not the manager, Laszlo," Evonda corrected. "Please don't put me in a baseball uniform." Ed laughed at that and she continued, "I'll be behind the scenes with the Cubs. I'm much more interested in the story with Bogus."

††††††††††† I had an inspiration and said, "I've got it. This can be a story about unintended consequences. The Cubs, with the best of intentions, build an AI to figure out how they can win. And the AI finds a way to win that has the side effect of destroying humanity. The Cubs never thought to tell the AI to find a way to win that didn't destroy the world, because they just assumed it would know that." I was smiling but the three of them were frowning.

††††††††††† "No, no, no," Ed scolded, like he was my fourth grade teacher. "Mr. Edo likes happy endings. Evonda should be a hero, especially to Cubs fans."

††††††††††† "OK, just a thought," I said, and we were all friends again.

††††††††††† "By the way, do you really have a friend Bogus Band?" Ed asked. "What kind of name is that?

††††††††††† "His mother was from a different planet. Jupiter, I think."

††††††††††† "Oh Laszlo," Evonda laughed, "I'd like to meet him. Jeremy should too. He might help us understand the character in your story."

††††††††††† "Actually, he wanted to come with me today."

††††††††††† "Really? Why?" Ed asked. "Does he want to play himself in the movie?"

††††††††††† "No." I decided to be candid. "He's a freelance journalist and thought meeting you might get him started on investigating crookedness in the film industry."

††††††††††† Ed was briefly surprised, but then said, "We have nothing to hide. By all means, bring him along on your next visit."

††††††††††† "There's one other thing," Jeremy said. "The characters in your story are too passive. They are merely spectators to someone else developing AI, and see almost nothing of it. In the movie script, we'd like to see more detail about the AI."

††††††††††† "But I don't know how to build a super-intelligent machine. If I did I'd be doing that rather than writing a script for you," I answered.

††††††††††† "Can't you read up on it?" Jeremy asked.

††††††††††† "I have," I said. "No one knows how to build an AI. Every word and action I attribute to the AI is certain to be wrong. But hey, no one will know that until after AI really is invented. And that way the viewers will get the more active view you want. So what the heck."

††††††††††† Ed took us to lunch at Seasons, which was delicious. If I had dug my heels in on the story changes it probably would have been McDonalds.

††††††††††† After lunch we discussed the business end of the film. Ed gave me a contract to take home and show to my lawyer if I liked. After my remark about Bogus investigating the film business, Ed was going out of his way to be transparent. Jeremy gave me a short lecture on the feasibility and costs of various types of scenes. Indoor conversations are cheap and easy, but car chases through downtown Chicago should be avoided. Jeremy was especially intrigued by the late night conversation out on the ice, with its cracking sounds. He had no experience with this and I assured him that the sounds are amazing but might be tricky to capture. For one thing, the ice didn't always cooperate by making its sounds when you wanted them. Ed said he thought the Cubs would help in any way they could, because we were making a story about them winning the World Series and also, I gathered, because Mr. Edo was an important Cubs supporter.

††††††††††† The train ride and drive home put me in the middle of the evening rush, so Megan was home well ahead of me. I described the day's events to her, focusing on the changes they wanted to my story. She said, "You'll have to camp it up."

††††††††††† "I don't think they'll like that. Tell you what. Let's invite Bogus over for dinner on Saturday and we can brain storm on what to do about this. Maybe we can do a sort of stealth camp story. Make the Cubs celebration just a little too over the top. And make Evonda just a little too mysterious."

††††††††††† "I'll broil some salmon," she said. We'd need brain food.

 

Alien Invasion

 

††††††††††† Over dinner I told Bogus about the trip to Chicago and he just about fell out of his chair laughing when we got the part about the Cubs. "Vinge says that events after the singularity are unpredictable," he said. "I can maybe believe we'll be able to travel faster than light, or travel through time, because after all the laws of physics aren't completely settled yet. But no way the Cubs are going to win the World Series, singularity or no singularity. It's just not credible."

††††††††††† "Very funny," I said.

††††††††††† "Well, the whole thing is absurd."

††††††††††† "Sure it is," replied Megan. "I think Laszlo should just camp it up, so the movie is at least in on the joke."

††††††††††† "Of course Mr. Edo is serious," I added, "so we have to be subtle if we make a joke out of it. I was thinking we overplay everything just a bit. Like the Cubs winning the Series inspires peace in the middle east. Heck, world peace."

††††††††††† "Yeah," said Bogus with mock enthusiasm, "the Tigers lay down for the Cubs so the lions lie down with the lambs."

††††††††††† As Megan and I started to clear the table Bogus asked, "May I see your contract?"

††††††††††† He read it while I washed the dishes and Megan took the dogs for a quick walk.

††††††††††† "Well," he said, "this seems reasonable, a contract between you and SE Properties Incorporated. They pay you a fixed fee for exclusive movie rights to your story, and pay you an hourly amount for your work on the script. They can terminate and pay for work done. Disputes go to an arbitrator."

††††††††††† "So you think I can sign it?"

††††††††††† "Yes. But you should save all script versions you give them and all written communications from them. Make notes of all verbal communications and record dates for everything."

††††††††††† "I told them you're interested in investigating dishonesty in the film business, so they probably won't cheat me. At least not too much."

††††††††††† "They're getting you pretty cheap, so they don't need to cheat you. Unless they just enjoy cheating people."

††††††††††† "Yeah, well, I'm not in it for the money."

††††††††††† Megan, back with the dogs, said, "I think it's just great that someone is making a movie from Laszlo's story. If the movie is a big success, he can get rich writing his next movie."

††††††††††† "So Bogus," I asked, "have you ever heard of this Mr. Edo?"

††††††††††† "No, but Chicago is a big town. Know his first name?"

††††††††††† "Nope."

††††††††††† "Well, between Edo and SE Properties I ought to be able to track him down."

††††††††††† "Thanks Bogus. Want a beer? How about you, love?" They did, so I fetched three Pabsts from the kitchen.

††††††††††† "OK guys," Megan asked, "what's the story for this movie?"

††††††††††† "Star Trek must have gone through just about every possible science fiction plot," I said. "Maybe there's something there that we can use."

††††††††††† "Yeah," Megan answered, "you can put all the female characters in short skirts and tights. And we can all have hand-to-hand combat with aliens."

††††††††††† "Stick 'em up. We're from the Federation," said Bogus, pointing his finger like a gun.

††††††††††† "If you're from the Federation, where are your badges?" I replied.

††††††††††† "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."

††††††††††† "Is the Federation the same thing as the Federales?"

††††††††††† "Yes, and we still don't need no stinking badges."

††††††††††† "Boys! Boys!" Megan yelled.

††††††††††† "Alien invasion," said Bogus.

††††††††††† "What alien invasion?" I asked.

††††††††††† "That's the classic plot," he responded. "Your original story was a sort of alien invasion, with the alien mind created by hedge fund managers. In the movie, Evonda is the alien mind, and the invasion is so subtle that humanity doesn't realize its being invaded. You just make their triumph over the top, so the Cubs organization morphs into a sort of benign, undeclared world government. And we use my relation with Evonda to illustrate how alien she is."

††††††††††† "But," Megan responded, "that's too serious. We really need to make this into a joke, but one that Mr. Edo will accept."

††††††††††† "Well," Bogus said, "it would be nice to raise people's consciousness about alien invasions. I've been reading Gedicks' new book and he makes an interesting point: that the five original nuclear powers all tested their weapons on lands occupied by indigenous populations. The US tested in the Marshall Islands and the land of the Western Shoshone. The UK tested in the Australian Aboriginal nations and over the Western Shoshone. The French tested in the Tuamotu Islands, the Russians in Kazakhstan and Siberia, and the Han Chinese in Uyghur territory."

††††††††††† Megan made a face and observed, "A lot of people say we should view change with optimism. But pessimism would have been a more appropriate reaction by these people whose lands became nuclear test sites."

††††††††††† "Saw an interesting show on PBS years ago," I said, "trying to explain why the Viking settlement in Newfoundland failed, about five hundred years before Columbus. It delicately made the point that they got wiped out by the indigenous people because they didn't bring any guns. Alien invasion repelled."

††††††††††† "Guns and nuclear bombs aside," Megan said, "this alien invasion plot may be too subtle. In Laszlo's original story, it's conquest by manipulated chaos. What are you proposing for the movie? That humanity gets so swept up in the Cubs' World Series victory that the woman who engineered it rules by acclimation?"

††††††††††† "Sort of," Bogus replied. "Let's say the world sees her benevolence in the Cubs win, so are willing to accept her wisdom. She applies the same super-intelligence to solving the world's problems that she applied to the Cubs. Heroes from the entertainment and sports worlds sometimes leverage their fame into political power. This would just be an extreme case."

††††††††††† "Sorry Bogus," said Megan, "I donít like it. And I don't think we can sell it to the Chicago guys."

††††††††††† "I've got it," I exclaimed, jumping to my feet. "Not only is Bogus in love with Evonda, but Evonda falls in love with Bogus. However to marry Bogus she must renounce her super-intelligence, like Superman had to renounce his super powers to marry Lois Lane. That story might charm our friends in Chicago."

††††††††††† "And," Megan laughed, "it's total lunacy."

††††††††††† "Why does she need to renounce her super-intelligence?" asked Bogus.

††††††††††† "Who knows?" I answered. "We'll just get some guy in a lab coat to say that marriage to a super-intelligent Evonda would make you mentally ill or something."

††††††††††† "And why can't I become super-intelligent to marry her?"

††††††††††† "Because of the X factor. Who cares?"

††††††††††† "You're outvoted, Bogus," Megan smiled. "I really like the idea and think this Mr. Edo will too. Evonda guides the Cubs to win the World Series and then renounces her super-intelligence for love. And love of you, Bogus. Doesn't that appeal to you?"

††††††††††† "But to her I'll have the mind of a sea slug. Why would she love me?"

††††††††††† "It's like Mars Attacks," I said enthusiastically. "They repelled the Martian invasion with Slim Whitman's singing and we repel Evonda's super-intelligent invasion with love."

††††††††††† Dramatically batting her eyes at me, Megan said, "Just like I love you."

††††††††††† "Now I remember why I never got married," commented Bogus.

††††††††††† "How about another beer?" I asked and, getting two affirmatives, fetched three more. Bringing them back I said, "You know, Bogus, there's no point in worrying about whether the plot makes sense. Most science fiction plots are impossible."

††††††††††† "How's that?" asked Megan.

††††††††††† "Any plot that depicts technology more difficult than creating super-human intelligence, such as routine interplanetary travel, must be post-singularity. That is, past the point where intelligent machines take over their own design, leading to an explosive increase in intelligence. In such a society the real decision makers will speak in languages and act in ways that are simply unintelligible to natural humans. Hence the title of my story. As soon as your story gets to a post-singularity moment, including any necessarily post-singularity technology, it either stops or the plot becomes nonsense."

††††††††††† "But," Bogus broke in, "there are clever plots that don't violate your rule. For example Contact, in which the post-singularity creature tells Jodie Foster to be patient with their lack of explanation. Or your own story, in which the heroes, that's us, catch only the most fleeting glimpses of the actions of the post-singularity characters. Arthur C. Clarke was good at creating such plots. Such as 2001, a Space Odyssey, and my favorite, Rendezvous with Rama. And of course, in such plots the main characters are basically passive, investigating the post-singularity technology of hidden creators."

††††††††††† "But not in our movie," I announced. "We'll smoke out those nasty super-intelligent brains and show them managing the Cubs, falling in love with slug-like humans and even renouncing their intelligence for that love."

 

Off the Grid

 

††††††††††† In the middle of the next week I knocked off work early to drive to North East Iowa with Bogus. He assured me that it would be worth it.

††††††††††† Once we were under way in his ancient Volvo station wagon I asked, "What's so wonderful in Iowa?"

††††††††††† "You've heard of people living off the grid?"

††††††††††† "Yeah."

††††††††††† "Well, we're going to meet a guy who lives off the information grid. That's much more difficult. It's a real privilege to meet him - he's very shy."

††††††††††† "What do you mean off the information grid? No telephone, no Internet, no postal address?"

††††††††††† "It's more like no identity. So he might use the phone, the net and the mail, but not so it can be connected to him. Officially, he doesn't exist."

††††††††††† "Must be a fugitive. Maybe he's Leo Burt."

††††††††††† "I doubt it. A fugitive would want a new permanent identity. This guy has no permanent identity, just temporary identities as needed. If someone sees him on the street it's no big deal because he looks just like any other schlub. They don't know that he has no identity. But it's a big deal for us to see him, because we know."

††††††††††† "So why would he meet us?"

††††††††††† "Because I'm working on a story that he wants to see told, about why someone who's not a fugitive would choose to live off the information grid. And he's going to meet you to ask a favor."

††††††††††† "What favor?"

††††††††††† "He needs a really clean and anonymous account, one that gives him access to all the e-journals that the university subscribes to."

††††††††††† "No," I shouted.

††††††††††† "That's why I'm telling you now, so you don't yell 'no' at him. Just think about it. Surely you can do it without leaving your fingerprints."

††††††††††† We drove into a Wal-Mart parking lot, into a far corner away from other parked cars. We sat there for a few minutes, until a guy in jeans, an old sweatshirt, tinted glasses and a beard came up to the car.

††††††††††† "Fred?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† He answered "Yep" as he got in the back seat. "There's a county park a couple miles that way," he said, pointing along the road.

††††††††††† At the park Bogus pulled a cooler, a grill and charcoal out of the trunk. We drank beer as Bogus grilled three strip steaks.

††††††††††† "So Fred," Bogus asked, "it must be tough living this way. Especially if you don't have to. Ever tempted to rejoin the herd?"

††††††††††† "I'm used to it, and pretty good at it. The big thing is to avoid getting mixed up with the cops. I obey the traffic laws."

††††††††††† "How do you manage a driver's license and registration?" Bogus asked. "Or do you risk it without them?"

††††††††††† "No, that would be very foolish. I could end up arrested and finger printed. My license and registration are in a state that I never visit, under an identity that I never use for any other purpose."

††††††††††† "How do you earn money?"

††††††††††† "Not a problem."

††††††††††† "Huh? Were you born rich?"

††††††††††† "I can't go into that. It would tell you too much about me. But you can imagine there are a number of ways someone might have enough money. Especially for someone who doesn't spend much. Low cost of living in this neighborhood."

††††††††††† "Are there a lot of people who live like you?" I asked. "How about Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber? He kept a pretty low profile."

††††††††††† "That jerk," Fred snapped. "In the first place he was killing people. My life is resistance to social evil. Itís a difficult life motivated by ethics. Killing people is not ethical." He took a drink of beer and sat silently for a minute, trying to calm down.

††††††††††† "No offense intended," I said. "Can you tell us about this social evil and your ethical system?"

††††††††††† "The right to privacy is built into the constitution," he explained, "but that right is withering because people are not willing to stand up for it. My ethics are to push back as hard as I can against the erosion of those rights."

††††††††††† Bogus took the steaks off the grill and served them on paper plates, along with heavy, crusty bread, butter and a big bowl of fruit salad. We each opened a second beer.

††††††††††† As we ate Fred said, "The second thing about Kaczynski is that he did a lousy job of hiding his identity. By killing people he created a huge incentive for the cops to find him, and by forcing publication of his long manifesto he provided lots of clues to his identity."

††††††††††† "Yeah," answered Bogus. "So you must know a lot about protecting your privacy?"

††††††††††† "I started with all sorts of practical advice in books from Loompanics, sort of a publisher for paranoids. But it's also important to understand privacy from a theoretical point of view. One approach is to live away from other humans, say in the far arctic or on the ocean floor. But unless you can remain totally hidden, living that way draws attention to yourself. You stick out when you are the only person for miles. People get curious. Privacy is really about maintaining high entropy. You want to look just like everyone else. But society is riddled with lots of Maxwell demons who want to see your identification. So you need to show them something that will be so ordinary that it just puts them to sleep. Nobody here but us boring wage slaves. But to use a single ID will decrease your entropy by defining a point of consistent information in all the databases. So you need a bunch of IDs, so that you become this diffuse probability distribution of IDs in the databases." He smiled and said, "I am a mist."

††††††††††† "But," Bogus said, "If they start to connect those identities your entropy will plummet. You will get big time attention."

††††††††††† "The challenge is biometrics," Fred responded. "Finger prints, DNA, iris patterns. Even face photographs. Computers are learning to recognize faces about as well as people do. Very dangerous. I stay out of cities with police cameras, which are a huge army of automated Maxwell demons. And I avoid interacting with the police. No one has my finger prints. But biometric technology keeps advancing. So my main interest these days is understanding and keeping ahead of this technology." He said to me, "Which brings me to a favor I want. I need on-line access to scientific and technical journals. Can you please help me Laszlo?"

††††††††††† As Bogus figured, I'd had time to think of something. There were plenty of old emeriti with inactive accounts. All I had to do was break one of those and send the login and password to Fred. If he got caught it would just look like he had hacked the account himself. An inactive user would be unlikely to detect Fred's intrusion.

††††††††††† "I can," I said. "I'll give the account information to Bogus. It may take a week or two. And be careful not to draw attention to yourself."

††††††††††† "Thanks and no worries. Low profile is second nature to me."

††††††††††† "Yeah," Bogus added, "Thanks Laszlo."

††††††††††† "So," Fred asked, "Do you guys ever worry about your privacy?"

††††††††††† "I try to protect myself against identity theft," I responded.

††††††††††† "As a journalist," Bogus said, "My identity is pretty public. But I figure that's a kind of protection against abuse. If anyone in the government messes with me I at least have a public voice to denounce them."

††††††††††† "Well, that's something," Fred commented. "Google and other search engines are a big threat to privacy these days. From your searches, and the links you click, they can put together an intimate profile of your mind. And for people who don't take precautions, they can link that profile with your identity. They know more about most people than their mothers know. They're using that information to figure out how to effectively sell things to you. If these guys get interested in politics and hook up with a guy like Karl Rove, they'll use that power to sell politicians. It's really scary."

††††††††††† We had polished off all the food and were cleaning up the mess.

††††††††††† "I wrote a story about where all that could lead, once machines have human-level intelligence," I told Fred.

††††††††††† "Yeah, I read it. It was all right. Probably not the way it would really happen, though"

††††††††††† "I know," I said. "But to avoid having to write much about what the machines, more intelligent than I am, would do or say I had to make the end of humanity quick and clean. So where do you think all this is heading?"

††††††††††† "Have you heard of the Sentient World Simulation?" he asked.

††††††††††† "I have," Bogus replied. "It's a DOD project to simulate billions of individual humans, as well as corporations, media, churches, clubs, corner shops and other social organizations. They want to use it for testing Psychological Operations, or PSYOPs as they call them, for manipulating mass populations."

††††††††††† "It will be," Fred said, holding up a finger, "according to an exact quote from a DOD concept paper that's burned into my memory, 'a synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information'."

††††††††††† "That's a mouthful," I responded.

††††††††††† "Just connect the dots," Fred urged. "Connect 'automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information' with the deployment of thousands of police cameras and the likelihood that they are monitoring all on-line communications including Google searches."

††††††††††† "That's scary," I said.

††††††††††† "How long until they can dedicate more neurons to simulating you than you have in your own brain?" Fred asked. "Just plot it out using Moore's Law."

††††††††††† "OK Fred," Bogus said, "I get it. I'll tell your story. Heck, you're a hero."

 

Windows 2.0

 

††††††††††† I was wandering around town late at night, something I rarely did. There weren't many others on the streets, and with no wind it was unusually quiet. Happening to glance up, I noticed a camera on a utility pole. It was aimed at me. I hadn't read about anti-crime cameras coming to town, but supposed it was possible.

††††††††††† I walked on a ways and then glanced back at the camera. It was still aimed at me, which seemed odd. I walked some more, this time keeping my eye on the thing. It followed me as I moved. I figured that without many people on the street the cop manning the cameras had nothing better to do than track my movements. Still, it creeped me out a bit. So I walked quickly around the corner where the camera couldn't see me.

††††††††††† I wondered how many cameras the town had. As I passed another utility pole I looked up and was surprised to see another camera. It too was aimed at me, and as I walked along it tracked me. That made me angry. I made a note to call my alderman to complain about the police harassing citizens out for harmless walks. But as I walked along, I noticed that every utility pole had a camera and that they all tracked me as I moved.

††††††††††† I started running down the street hoping to get away from them. But everywhere I went there were cameras on poles tracking me. How could this be? Is one cop controlling all these cameras? Or is there a large team of cops tracking my movements? Either way, it didn't make sense. I was beginning to panic. In fact, as I ran faster and turned more corners, the poles with their cameras multiplied, with only a few feet between poles. I ran as fast as I could, looking for some way to get away from them.

††††††††††† "Laszlo," Megan shouted. I woke to found myself tangled in the covers, which had been pulled completely off Megan.

††††††††††† I put my arms around her and said, "I was having another of those dreams about being watched. There were cameras all over the place watching me."

††††††††††† She hugged back and said, "It's OK. There aren't any cameras."

††††††††††† "It was that trip to Iowa to meet that guy. He's paranoid about cameras."

††††††††††† We straightened the bedclothes, had a kiss, and went back to sleep.

 

Helpers

 

††††††††††† I was having fun writing the script, but writing mostly just on weekends it was taking time. However Ed seemed willing to give me a couple months to finish it. Meanwhile, domestic life hummed along.

††††††††††† That is, until Megan and I learned of a new kind of appliance that promised radical improvement to the way we lived. They were called Helpers and were household robots. Unlike the Roomba vacuum cleaner, Helpers walked on two legs, had arms and hands that they could use to operate ordinary vacuum cleaners and many other appliances, and could speak with their owners. They were the culmination of many years of research on machine learning, maintaining balance, speech recognition, vision, and understanding basic language.

††††††††††† There was no question of Helpers being intelligent, although they'd be happy to play card or board games with people. They could play championship level at most games, but could also adjust their level of play to keep games interesting for their owners. And they served as a sort of verbal Google. You could ask them just about any simple question and they'd rattle off answers based on what they found on the web. They were in constant wireless communication with the Helpers Corporation servers for web access and also for quick brainpower boosts when their built-in brains couldn't cope.

††††††††††† One other detail: Helpers cost $100,000 plus a monthly fee of $1000 to cover maintenance and server access. Not cheap. Nevertheless, Megan and I attended one of their demonstrations. They actually required a credit check before the demonstration, I supposed to weed out folks who were curious but couldn't afford to buy.

††††††††††† The demonstration was given in a theater. The curtains drew open to reveal a couple sitting in a living room, like some Chekhov play. The man said, "Helper, please get me a beer," and in walked a Helper carrying a beer in one hand and a glass in the other. It poured, and then set the glass and partly empty bottle on a table next to the man. The man said, "Thank you," then turned to the audience and said, "Notice that our Helper set the glass and bottle on coasters."

††††††††††† The woman was reading a paper and said, "Here's an article about the decline of Sumo wrestling in Japan. Helper, can you please tell me something about Sumo?" The Helper, in a voice that could easily be human, started to explain the basic idea and history of the sport. The woman interrupted and asked, "Are there female Sumo wrestlers?" The Helper said that there was women's Sumo, but only as a curiosity and not as a serious sport. The woman said, "Please show me some examples of Sumo wrestling." A large video screen hanging on the wall clicked on and we were treated to scenes of Sumo matches. The Helper explained the action. At one point the woman said, "I didn't understand what happened there," and the action replayed slowly with the Helper explaining in more detail.

††††††††††† It asked, "Is it clear now, Ma'am?" and she said it was.

††††††††††† The man picked up a can of three tennis balls and asked, "Would you please juggle these?"

††††††††††† The Helper said "Yes, sir," then opened the can and proceeded to juggle the three balls. We all clapped.

††††††††††† The woman said, "Would you please shine the flashlight under the couch for me?"

††††††††††† The Helper opened a desk drawer and pulled out a flashlight. But when the Helper switched it on, nothing happened. The Helper opened the flashlight, took out the batteries and set them on the desk, opened the drawer again and took out new batteries, and put them into the flashlight. It tried the switch again and this time the light came on. There was thunderous applause from the audience as the Helper shined the light under the couch.

††††††††††† The woman said, "Helper, please vacuum the floor." The Helper got a vacuum cleaner out of a closet, plugged it into a wall socket and started to vacuum. Then the man stood up and intentionally got in the way of the vacuum cleaner. The Helper deftly pulled the vacuum cleaner back, and backed its own body away to avoid any collision with the man. The woman said, "Helper, please hit my husband."

††††††††††† The Helper said, "Sorry Ma'am, I may not do that."

††††††††††† The man said to the audience, "Please raise your hand if you have a question for our Helper."

††††††††††† The first question was, "Can you cook?"

††††††††††† The Helper answered, "Yes, sir. You are all invited to a little cocktail party after this demonstration, with food and drinks prepared and served by Helpers."

††††††††††† When it got to be my turn, I asked, "What can't you do?"

††††††††††† It answered, "Many things, sir. I don't understand complex matters. Please don't ask me for advice about investments or romance." This got a big laugh. But it struck me that this response was paradoxical, since its humor indicated a complex level of understanding. Perhaps the Helper's joke was a scripted response to questions about limits of Helpers' abilities.

††††††††††† Finally the man said, "Well done Helper. Please take a bow." It bowed to the audience and we all cheered.

††††††††††† The hors d'oeuvres in the theater atrium were excellent and the Helpers made competent bartenders. Numerous Helpers sales people, all human, mingled among the guests. One introduced himself as Chuck to Megan and me. "Did you enjoy our little demo?" he asked.

††††††††††† "Yes," Megan answered, "One of those would sure make life easier."

††††††††††† "We think so. You," he said, turning to me, "wanted to know what Helpers can't do."

††††††††††† "Yes," I replied, "just trying to get the measure of your Helpers."

††††††††††† "Well, they can do just about any household chore."

††††††††††† "Can they drive a car?" I asked.

††††††††††† "They can, but we don't allow them to. If you ask a Helper to drive it will refuse. We want Helpers to help people and want to avoid any possibility of them causing any harm."

††††††††††† "Yes," I said. "I noticed that the Helper also avoided contact with the man in your demo. Do they refuse chores that involve touching people?"

††††††††††† "Yes, again for safety. Our name says it all: Helpers. We only want to help."

††††††††††† "How about Asimov's Laws?"

††††††††††† Chuck laughed. "I'm afraid our Helpers just don't have the brain power to understand Asimov's Laws. And, as you probably know, those laws are ambiguous. Our safety rules are much more prosaic. Don't drive, don't touch people and don't poison people. Things like that."

††††††††††† "Have you sold many of them yet?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "Well," he responded, "we're just starting. But we are getting some orders. I think we've delivered a few in New York. That's where we gave our first demonstrations. And I've heard that the first customers are happy."

††††††††††† "My husband wrote a story about AI taking over the world and wiping out mankind," Megan said.

††††††††††† "Oh my," Chuck replied. "Where can I read it?"

††††††††††† I laughed and told him to Google 'Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols.'

††††††††††† He said, "I'll just ask my Helper to read it to me sometime."

††††††††††† "Of course," I said, "they could read aloud to you, couldn't they? Anything they could find on-line."

††††††††††† "Yes," he said. "And our Helpers have rights to a huge library of other material. They can read books and magazines to you that are not available on-line."

††††††††††† "Think of it," Megan said to me, "you could turn off the idiot box and relax while a Helper read the classics to you."

††††††††††† "So," I turned to Chuck, "what's in the future for Helpers?"

††††††††††† "We're working very hard to improve them. Our engineers are inspired to make people's lives better. For example, if we could make them safe enough to touch people, they could provide home nursing care."

††††††††††† "Are you a spin-off from a university?" I asked.

††††††††††† "We've hired the best young computer science and mechanical engineering PhDs, so in a sense we're a spin-off from lots of universities. And many of our design improvements will be automatically upgraded in existing Helpers. If you buy a Helper today, its capabilities will increase. This is covered by your monthly fee."

††††††††††† "That makes sense," I replied. "Its brainpower must be mostly software, and Helpers can call on the brainpower of your central servers."
††††††††††† "Exactly," Chuck agreed.

††††††††††† "Well, it's something to think about."

††††††††††† "Here," he said, giving me one of his business cards. "Please call or email me if you have any more questions. We'd love to deliver a Helper to your home."

 

Camelot

 

††††††††††† About a week later, in the cool of a summer evening, Bogus and I took a twelve pack of beer up to the roof of Eate Lisi Tower. I had keys because of the critical servers in the building. From the roof we could watch and listen to traffic flowing around town, and look off into the countryside. It was very peaceful up there, the perfect place to get a bit drunk and converse with an old friend.

††††††††††† "Megan and I went to a Helpers demo," I said, sipping my beer.

††††††††††† "Are you going to get one? Seems pretty decadent, not to mention expensive."

††††††††††† "We're still kicking it around. It really was an amazing demo."

††††††††††† "Any signs of real intelligence?"

††††††††††† "When the flashlight didnít work, it figured out to change the batteries. But of course it's easy to discount the really hard stuff, like the ability to converse with humans and the dexterity to open the flashlight and change the batteries."

††††††††††† "I'm sure they had it do tricks for you."

††††††††††† "Yeah. It juggled three balls, and it has wireless connections to a video screen and to their central server, so it can be a sort of YouTube. Showed us some Sumo wrestling."

††††††††††† "Did you speak with a Helper?"

††††††††††† "During the Q and A I asked it what it couldn't do."

††††††††††† "What did it say?"

††††††††††† "It gave me a smart-alecky answer about not asking it for advice about my finances or love life. Got a big laugh. I think telling a joke must be beyond it and that it must have given me a canned answer."

††††††††††† "Probably. You should have asked it to show you on its screen what the Helper in the neighbor's house was seeing."

††††††††††† "Good question. You should go to a Helpers demo and ask it."

††††††††††† Bogus opened a second beer and inquired, "So how's your script coming?"

††††††††††† "I'm having a lot of fun with it. But it's a little tricky dealing with you discovering the AI. I mean, the Cubs aren't manipulating stock prices. Instead they're trying to manipulate baseball games. But that's a bit harder, since baseball is so physical. So instead of you discovering someone who is making nearly perfect predictions of security prices, now you are discovering a Cubs computer with merely unreasonably accurate predictions of games."

††††††††††† "Sounds fishy. No matter how smart Evonda is, she's not going to predict games before they start. She'll have to adapt as the games play out."

††††††††††† "Yeah, the predictions are just unreasonably good, and are filled with contingencies. The script avoids going into a lot of detail." I opened a second beer for myself.

††††††††††† "And it's certainly nothing you could take to the attention of the SEC."

††††††††††† "Yep. We go see the Cubs. That's how you and Evonda meet and fall in love."

††††††††††† "Sorry to say it, Laszlo, but it sounds idiotic."

††††††††††† "Well, of course. Oh, you'll be happy to hear that you're no longer a blackmailer. I figured that would get in the way of Evonda falling in love with you."

††††††††††† "Thank you," he replied.

††††††††††† "Now you're just a computer-savvy private eye who stumbles onto what they're doing. You and I still go to see our congresswoman, to report sort of a mental steroids thing. But Evonda outsmarts us on that."

††††††††††† "It keeps getting dumber and dumber." He sat quietly for a couple minutes and then continued, "Oh, I checked out your Mr. Edo. SE Properties owns a whole lot of Chicago real estate but itís privately held and I couldn't find out who the owners are. Presumably Mr. Edo is one. He's a real mystery. He's occasionally in the news as a Cubs supporter, but otherwise there's nothing. Ed Perrin is a Vice President of SE Properties and reasonably well known in the Chicago business world. He has a reputation as an honest guy. Bottom line, they're probably playing straight with you."

††††††††††† "Thanks for looking into it."

††††††††††† We were interrupted by sirens and both peered down trying to see where they were coming from. Then we saw a car and a fire engine coming West fast along University Avenue, with red lights flashing and traffic pulling over in front of them.

††††††††††† "Can you see the fire?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Nope," he answered.

††††††††††† The sirens disappeared down the road. Hopefully they'd put the fire out before it got big enough for us to see.

††††††††††† "Did you finish the Gedicks book?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Yes, very good," he replied. "Full of gruesome stuff including a nice description of Indonesia invading West Papua in nineteen sixty one. Kennedy went along with it to try to keep Indonesia out of the Soviet sphere. This paved the way for Freeport's huge copper mine in West Papua, without the consent of indigenous landowners. Tens of thousands of West Papuans were murdered outright and hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic mine tailings were dumped into the local rivers, destroying the livelihood of many more."

††††††††††† "Terrible for sure. On the other hand, Kennedy had a right to be worried about the Soviets after the millions that Stalin murdered. He had no good choices."

††††††††††† "Perhaps, but that didn't mean anything to the West Papuans. This pattern has been repeated all over the world. Wealthy countries supply weapons to local strongmen in exchange for political and economic cooperation, including allowing oil and mining companies to pollute and destroy local subsistence economies. If the local folks resist, they are labeled terrorists and suppressed using the arms we supply. Whether it's fighting communism or fighting terrorism, we always seem to come up with rationalizations for this stuff."

††††††††††† "Hey, I read about a great rationalization recently. In the early nineteen seventies the US was worried about the security of France's nuclear weapons and wanted to give them technical advice on how to secure them. But the nineteen sixty eight Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty prohibited such help. So rather than the US telling the French how to do it, they played a game of twenty questions. The French scientists would try to guess how to do it, and the US scientists would tell them whether they were right or wrong."

††††††††††† "That's beautiful," Bogus said. "They managed to convince themselves that there was a difference between passing information by simple statement and by a series of answers to true and false questions."

††††††††††† "Don't you love it when smart people pretend to be stupid," I observed.

††††††††††† "No one believes that they are doing wrong, otherwise they wouldn't do it. Even the Nazis and Soviets managed to convince themselves that they were doing right by killing millions."

††††††††††† "Like your guy Fred says, killing is not ethical."

 

Draft

 

††††††††††† I finally had a draft script ready and sent it to Ed. A few days later I drove down to Chicago to discuss it with them and Bogus came along.

††††††††††† I introduced Bogus to the group and Ed said to him, "We're glad that you came along. Have you read Laszlo's script?"

††††††††††† "Yes."

††††††††††† "What did you think of it?"

††††††††††† "I liked his original story better. The script has too much detail about the AI."

††††††††††† "Yes," Ed agreed, "it will be a real challenge for Evonda to portray super-human intelligence."

††††††††††† From the moment we entered their offices, I could sense that Bogus was really struck by Evonda, like a grade school boy with a silent crush. When he was younger he'd had girl friends, but relations always soured within a year or less. Now, as far as I knew, he didn't date out of fear of just causing more pain for himself and potential girlfriends. He was looking for a love that just didn't exist, like the portrayal in my story of Bogus being in love with a future super-intelligence. Perhaps it was a combination of Evonda's bearing and her casting as that future super-intelligent being that was getting to him. If she was reacting much to Bogus, it went over my head.

††††††††††† "Megan and I recently went to a Helpers demonstration," I said.

††††††††††† Ed seemed quite interested and asked, "Did you enjoy it? Are you planning to purchase one?"

††††††††††† "We're thinking it over. They're expensive. But I was wondering if you'd like to include any roles for Helpers in the movie?"

††††††††††† "I don't think so," replied Ed. "After all, they're not really intelligent, let alone super-intelligent. They'd just distract from the real story. We want to focus on the Cubs and the love affair between Evonda and Bogus."

††††††††††† Jeremy Jenkins, the director, said, "If none of you mind, this would be a great chance to get a sense of how well that portrayal of super-intelligence works. I've extracted a conversation among Hedwig, Bogus and Laszlo from the script and printed three sets." He handed out the three script sections and said, "Could I ask the three of you to please read your parts?"

††††††††††† We all agreed. In the script I had given the super-intelligent female the name Hedwig Kiesler, whereas Bogus and I were still just Bogus and Laszlo. The scene was our first meeting with Hedwig. We took a minute to review our parts and then began.

††††††††††† In a friendly and forthright tone Bogus addressed Evonda, "Ms. Kiesler, I study pattern recognition and find your work with the Chicago Cubs remarkable."

††††††††††† Evonda answered in business like manner, "Thank you. Mr. Antheil told me you were interested in our work."

††††††††††† Bogus said, "Yes, he said all of the credit belongs to you." Then his tone turned a bit curious, "Actually, from a technical point of view I find your work more than remarkable. It's literally incredible. Analyzing all the available data, there's not adequate information to support your decisions. And yet the success of those decisions is inarguable."

††††††††††† Evonda smiled and said, "Mr. Band, you don't have access to all the data that I do."

††††††††††† A bit defiantly, Bogus said, "I have access to more than you think I do."

††††††††††† "I am aware that you compromised our system and congratulate you on your cleverness," Evonda responded in a forgiving tone. "But I have access to data that is never entered electronically, based my direct observations of the players."

††††††††††† At this point I cut in, like a child interrupting an adult conversation, "Bogus says that can't explain it."

††††††††††† Bogus continued, "I've quantified that effect for other baseball teams, and the value of such unrecorded information is twenty times greater for the Cubs than for any other team."

††††††††††† Evonda just smiled, as if acknowledging a compliment.

††††††††††† After a minute, Bogus said, "Ms. Kiesler, we are very interested in what you're doing. I'd like to be taken into your confidence and will commit to keeping your secrets."

††††††††††† "You already know more than you're entitled to," she answered. "We have no reason to confide in you."

††††††††††† "Perhaps you recall Lyndon Johnson's comment about keeping J. Edgar Hoover inside the tent?"

††††††††††† Most people would be angered by this threat, but Evonda didn't appear to take any offense. She smiled and said nothing.

††††††††††† I piped up again, "Ms. Kiesler, I've known Bogus since we were at school. He sincerely respects your work and wants to help."

††††††††††† "In that case," she answered cheerfully, "he will mind his manners even if he is outside the tent."

††††††††††† Bogus, trying another angle, said, "As you said, I am clever. I can help you."

††††††††††† More as a statement than a question, she said, "But you're not a Cubs fan, are you?"

††††††††††† Bogus answered, "I'm afraid not. But I'm a fan of intelligence wherever I find it."

††††††††††† Evonda said to Bogus, "Not just anywhere, Mr. Band. I know a bit about your work enforcing ethics."

††††††††††† Bogus looked surprised. In the script as in the original story, his business was hidden behind layers of secrecy.

††††††††††† In a consoling tone, Evonda continued, "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me."

††††††††††† Bogus, looking a bit bewildered at this development, said, "Thank you. But please keep us in mind. I want to help."

††††††††††† "You know Bogus," she said, "you have a good heart. Why don't you give me a call some time? My cell number is two two nine, two three eight seven, Chicago area code."

††††††††††† Bogus lit up a bit and answered, "Thanks, I will."

††††††††††† That was the end of the scene. Jeremy said, "For a first reading, that was good."

††††††††††† Ed added, "Mr. Edo will be pleased."

††††††††††† I didn't think it was so hot. I just couldn't believe in the plot. But I kept that to myself, saying, "I think Evonda and Bogus got it just about right."

††††††††††† "But," Bogus added, "the hard part is yet to come: making it credible that Hedwig can fall in love with a mere human like me."

††††††††††† "I'll just think about you Bogus," Evonda teased.

††††††††††† Bogus actually blushed. I don't think I'd ever seen him do that before. We all chuckled.

††††††††††† Then Ed became a bit more serious and said, "Laszlo, we have some doubts about this business of Hedwig renouncing her super-intelligence. Why would she do it?"

††††††††††† "From the point of view of the story," I replied, "it's a great way to indicate how much Hedwig comes to love Bogus. The script does include a doctor saying that it is medically necessary. And if her super-intelligence was designed for the purpose of helping the Cubs win the World Series, then once that goal is satisfied she no longer needs to be smarter than anyone else."

††††††††††† "I like it," Evonda said. "It's cornball, but touching."

††††††††††† "OK," Ed replied, clearly not wanting to argue with Evonda and strengthening my belief that she was the boss's girlfriend. "It's up to Mr. Edo. I'll get back to you Laszlo if you need to change it."

††††††††††† "There's one other major problem with the script," Jeremy said. "The baseball scenes are weak. A sportswriter at the Tribune has agreed to punch it up for us."

††††††††††† "Sure, the more the merrier" I said. The script was already the kind of mess you get from a committee, so I didn't feel any ownership. Of course I'd never let anyone change my original story.

††††††††††† "Good," Ed responded. "We'll resolve these script issues and hopefully be ready to start shooting within a few weeks."

 

Eco-Warriors

 

††††††††††† "They just called me out of the blue," Bogus told me as we headed north along the Interstate. "I don't know how they found out about my story, but they wanted to tell their side of it." He had invited me along to meet some political types and promised that they would be interesting.

††††††††††† "So, what's the deal with these guys? Are they organizing? What's their cause?" I asked.

††††††††††† "They're not organizing voters. I got the impression they don't care much about elections. They're into what they call direct action."

††††††††††† "Are they wanted by the police?"

††††††††††† "Good question, but I don't know the answer. We can ask them. They are at least hiding, which is why they might fit into my story."

††††††††††† We turned west onto state highway 121 and followed it for a few miles, then turned north again on a town road. A dirt lane on the left led to a small farm house.

††††††††††† We knocked on the side door, which was opened by a thin, brown haired woman in her mid twenties.

††††††††††† "I'm Bogus and this is Laszlo."

††††††††††† A male voice from inside called, "Come on in."

††††††††††† We walked in with the woman trailing behind, and found two young men seated at a kitchen table. They looked like regular country boys. "I'm Mike and this is Elmer," said one as he motioned to empty chairs. "Want some coffee?"

††††††††††† "No thanks," Bogus answered. "I'm going to take notes, if you don't mind."

††††††††††† "Please do and get our story right. Set the record straight from all the lies in the newspapers."

††††††††††† "What lies?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "It's best if I don't admit exactly which stories I'm referring to. But the papers have reported people getting hurt in some of our actions and that's a lie."

††††††††††† "Yeah," Elmer agreed. "Our motive is to raise consciousness about the damage business and over-consumption are doing to the earth. We certainly don't want to do more damage, especially not to people."

††††††††††† "Are you wanted for crimes?" Bogus inquired. "Can the police connect your names with crimes? Are you suspects?"

††††††††††† "If so," replied Mike, "they haven't released our names to the news media. As far as we know they don't have any suspects for any of our actions."

††††††††††† "But we keep a low profile," added Elmer. "The less the authorities know about us, the better."

††††††††††† "People help us out with places to stay, transportation, food, stuff like that," said Mike. "They believe in what we're doing but don't necessarily want to get involved in action. Instead they make it possible for us to live without any interaction with the government, and we act."

††††††††††† "Can you tell me about your actions?" asked Bogus. "In a general way?"

††††††††††† "It's pretty straightforward," answered Mike. "We look for opportunities to dramatize excesses. Big houses, big cars, SUVs, big families. So we attack the property of those who sell McMansions and SUVs, and those who oppose family planning."

††††††††††† "In your story," Elmer continued, "you should describe how a simpler life can be a better life. Smaller houses, fewer cars and toys, but more time with friends and family. The joy of spending time in the kitchen making good, healthy food. The joy of exercise and good health. We aren't asking people to give up anything that they wouldn't be better off without."

††††††††††† "The excesses of western culture have consequences," Mike went on. He and his buddy were like a rhetorical tag team. "The drought in the West is really bringing it home to people. Folks there are starting to realize that their drought is a permanent shift in their climate. Adapting to these long term changes will be much more painful than moderating our energy consumption. Not many people live in Alaska, but they are seeing big consequences. The tundra is thawing and the sea ice is melting."

††††††††††† "Are the apparatchik's in the EPA and the Department of the Interior raising hell about this? No chance." Elmer added.

††††††††††† This reminded me of the stuff Bogus and I had read in Gedicks' book. "How about consequences outside the US?" I asked. "Not just climate change, but the consequences of resource extraction? Are you connected with the environmental justice movement?"

††††††††††† "There you're talking about a whole other level," Mike answered. "The damage is direct, immediate and severe, and the responsibility is obvious. So the actions and the responses of the authorities are military. When this situation meets climate change, the result could be World War III. The melting in Greenland and Antarctica appear to be accelerating. During this century we could see a rise in sea level sufficient to create tens of millions of refugees in Bangladesh. Will they be welcome in India?"

††††††††††† Elmer continued this line of thought, "It's difficult to predict all the consequences of climate change. Droughts and the end of monsoons, which can both cause mass starvation. Some scientists think the thermo-haline circulation may significantly decrease, radically cooling weather in northern Europe."

††††††††††† "How about nuclear power?" I asked. "Isn't that the way to avoid climate change?"

††††††††††† "In theory it is" replied Mike.

††††††††††† "But in practice you can't trust it," continued Elmer.

††††††††††† "Look at the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force," said Mike, "studying the causes of the two thousand and three northeast blackout. Their number one recommendation was to 'make reliability standards mandatory and enforceable, with penalties for noncompliance'."

††††††††††† "In other words," explained Elmer, "standards had been voluntary."

††††††††††† "You can practically see the fingerprints of the power industry lobbyists on that word 'voluntary'," said Mike.

††††††††††† "The same legislators and lobbyists who formulate standards for nuclear power plants," concluded Elmer.

††††††††††† "Whenever a politician calls for voluntary standards," Mike continued, "you know they're taking money from lobbyists."

††††††††††† "You never hear about voluntary guidelines against shop lifting," noted Elmer.

††††††††††† "And by a strange coincidence," added Mike, "shop lifters don't have lobbyists."

††††††††††† These guys should have gone into show business, I thought, the way they had their routine down.

††††††††††† "So what's the bottom line?" asked Bogus. "What's the message you want my readers to take away from the story?"

††††††††††† "The one thing that really moves people, beyond their immediate needs, is religion. But all of our religions were created at a time when we desperately needed more people and when we desperately needed to gain mastery over plants, animals and the rest of the physical world. Our needs have changed and the teachings of ancient religions are no longer correct. Nature is god's book, not the Bible, the Koran or any other ancient writing. And it is by science that we read god's book."

††††††††††† "That's an interesting point of view," I said. "I've been an atheist since I was an adult. But I like that line, nature is god's book. What do you guys think about the development of machines more intelligent than humans? Do you even think it's possible?"

††††††††††† "Sure it's possible," replied Elmer. "There's nothing magical about human minds. I mean, we're not mystics." We all laughed. "The question is what will the motives of such machines be? And that comes back to the motives of the people who build them. If the motive is to make a better world for everyone, and care is taken in the design, then AI will be a wonderful thing. But if the motive is simply to increase the profits of some business, then AI will be a terrible thing."

††††††††††† "Before we get to that point," Mike continued, "we've got to wake people up. They need a rational view of the world, based on science rather than superstition."

††††††††††† "And," Elmer concluded, "the ferocious competition in our society makes it difficult for most people to reflect on what really matters in their lives. So many people are simply responding to their fears. With the material abundance in the modern world, and if we could get population growth under control, we could let go of our fear and greed."

††††††††††† On the drive home I asked Bogus, "So what do you think about those guys? Did you get anything you can use?"

††††††††††† "Oh," he said, "they're perfect for my story. I like the way their privacy depends on help from other people. A community with shared values can enable a few members to be invisible to the rest of society."

††††††††††† "What about their ideas?"

††††††††††† "Their ideals are commendable even if their methods aren't."

 

Housework

 

††††††††††† Megan and I periodically discussed whether we should get a Helper. As DINKS, Double Income No Kids, we could afford it. We both enjoyed cooking so didn't need a Helper for that, but we didn't enjoy cleaning. Also, a Helper could take our on-line and entertainment experience to a new level. But probably the thing that really sold us was our belief that Helpers were the next step to the future and we wanted to be on that ride. Our biggest doubt was that Helpers were big consumers of energy and other resources. However, I called our salesman and he assured me that Helpers didn't use much energy. Most of our purchase price and monthly fees would pay for brain work by their engineers, not burning resources. And as I said to Megan, we lived simply in other respects. We lived in a modest house, drove compact cars and had no children. So we ordered a Helper.

††††††††††† "Have you two lost your minds?" Bogus asked us when he heard about our decision. "You will have no privacy. It will be in constant wireless contact with corporate headquarters, able to send anything it sees or hears inside your house to the server."

††††††††††† "Their contract commits that images and sounds are not seen by anyone without our permission," I replied. "And there's nothing to know about us that's worth the risk of a lawsuit if they violate their contract."

††††††††††† "It's not going to be in our bedroom or bathroom with us," added Megan. "Neither of us feels our privacy will be threatened."

††††††††††† About a month after we'd ordered it, our Helper and a team of two installers rang our door bell. We invited them in and one said, "This is Susie and I'm Sam. And this is your Helper. Remember that it isn't allowed to touch people, so don't try to shake hands."

††††††††††† "This is Megan and I'm Laszlo," I said as we smiled. "Welcome to our home, Helper."

††††††††††† Helpers could make basic expressions with their mechanical faces. Ours smiled and said, "Hello ma'am. Hello sir."

††††††††††† The dogs took a quick sniff of Susie and Sam, but were mostly barking at our Helper. At least they weren't growling. The cats were hiding, which was their typical reaction to strangers.

††††††††††† "Usually we find that pets get used to Helpers," said Susie. "If animals make contact with Helpers, such as biting them, they are designed to remain motionless to avoid injuring the animals."

††††††††††† Sam suggested, "Let's start with a tour of your house." We did that and I was impressed with the Helper's ability to go up and down stairs. Sam said, "Your Helper will learn how you like things arranged in your house. So when it cleans it will learn what to pick up and what to leave out. It will also learn what you like to eat and when. After a month or two, you'll be amazed at its ability to serve meals that please you."

††††††††††† "What about shopping?" Megan asked. "Since our Helper can't drive, will it give us a list of what we need to buy?"

††††††††††† Quite cheerily Susie replied, "Shopping for food and ordinary household items is covered by your monthly fee. Our shoppers will make periodic deliveries to your house, if possible when you're not at home."

††††††††††† "Of course," Sam added, "the fee doesn't include the purchase price of food and other items, just the labor to make the purchases and deliver them to you. You can pay for the items through your accounts at stores, by asking us to add the costs to your monthly fee, or by giving our service a copy of your credit card. Whatever works best for you."

††††††††††† "How does our Helper get its power?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Helper," Sam said, "Would you please answer Mr. Wilkes?"

††††††††††† "Yes sir," it said. "I have a battery that gives me enough energy for several hours of normal service. During my idle times, I plug myself into a wall socket." To illustrate, it pulled a power cord out of its belly and plugged itself into the wall.

††††††††††† "There are some basic questions of protocol for you to think about," Susie informed us. "Should your Helper answer the phone or the door when you're not at home? How about when you are at home?"

††††††††††† Megan laughed. "I'm just trying to imagine my mother coming to the door and our Helper answering it," she said. Megan turned to our Helper and asked, "How would you handle that, an older lady confused to be confronted by a robot opening the door?"

††††††††††† "Yes ma'am," it answered, "we're designed to be sensitive to people who are surprised to see us. We do recommend that you warn your friends and family that you have a Helper, to avoid any surprises."

††††††††††† "Remember," said Susie, "that Helpers are not allowed to touch people. So if your Helper opens your door to a stranger when you are not at home and the stranger enters your house, the Helper is not allowed to offer any physical resistance. All it can do is call you and the police. So we recommend that your Helper should not answer the door when you are not at home."

††††††††††† "Yes," agreed Megan, "that makes sense. Our Helper should answer if at least one of us is at home, unless we are taking a bath or asleep. How does that sound, Laszlo?"

††††††††††† "Sure," I responded. Then a problem occurred to me, "What about Ö" and just as quickly the solution came to me and I interrupted myself, "Oh, of course, the food deliveries are not by strangers. Our Helper will know they're from the Helpers shopping service and let them in."

††††††††††† "Yes," said Sam. "Helpers make great watch dogs," he continued. "They can call the police without people in their presence knowing that they're doing it. Also, you may want to show photos of your family and friends to your Helper. They are very good with faces. Better than humans, actually."

††††††††††† "OK," I said. "We've never had any trouble with crime. The only things of real value in the house are ourselves and our pets."

††††††††††† "And now our Helper," added Megan with a laugh. "But I don't suppose it makes much sense for anyone to steal you, does it Helper?"

††††††††††† "No ma'am," our Helper answered. "I would not serve them and I would call the police."

††††††††††† "There's one other thing to keep in mind with your Helper," Sam said, "and I'll let your Helper tell you."

††††††††††† "Yes sir," said our Helper. "Ma'am and sir, it will be natural if you come to think of me as another person, because I can talk, walk, do chores and make facial expressions. But please remember that I am not human and do not have human emotions. And I do not get tired or bored. So please never worry that you are working me too hard, or boring me, or treating me with lack of respect. These things do not concern me. If I ever tell you that I cannot do as you request, it will be a simple statement of fact and not an attempt to wriggle out of my duties."

††††††††††† This last statement got a laugh out of everyone. I figured that this joke must have been scripted, just as with the joke the Helper had made during the demo Megan and I saw.

††††††††††† "What about maintenance?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Ninety nine percent of the time," Sam answered, "if the Helper needs maintenance it will notify the server center. But if you suspect any problem please call us right away."

††††††††††† Sam and Susie said their goodbyes and we were home alone with our dogs, cats and new Helper.

††††††††††† "What's for dinner?" I asked.

††††††††††† Before the Helper could respond Megan said, "Come with me Helper. I'll show you what Laszlo and I like to eat." And the two of them headed for the kitchen.

 

Faust

 

††††††††††† "My god," I said to our new Helper, "if that's typical of your cooking you've earned your place in this house."

††††††††††† "Thank you sir," the Helper replied.

††††††††††† "Just don't become a fat gourmet," Megan admonished me.

††††††††††† After dinner our Helper showed us the 1931 film of The Three Penny Opera, with its wonderful music and the young Lotte Lenya. Too bad that she's mostly remembered as Colonel Klebb in the James Bond film.

††††††††††† That night I dreamt of walking in a field, but was aware that I was asleep and dreaming. I noticed that I was able to walk where I wanted in the field. To test my control I took a big hop and floated about a hundred yards, almost like flying. On the next hop I tried harder and by an act of will I made myself float indefinitely. I was flying over the field. So I spread my arms like airplane wings and flew high above fields and forests. It was terrific fun. I flew up high and could see for miles. There was a village in the distance. I swooped and glided. Even did a few loops. Then I stopped and just hung there in mid-air.

††††††††††† I wanted someone to fly with so summoned up a woman. What appeared before me was the statue of the Venus de Milo. But what I wanted was a living woman so I pressed my palm against her forehead and she came to life. She smiled at me and I gave her a gentle kiss. To fly she would need arms so I willed it and they appeared. Then we were off flying together, doing spirals and loops around each other. Playing like otters.

††††††††††† It was exhilarating, flying with this beautiful woman and having such power over my dream world. I aimed my hands at her and began pulling her this way and that like a marionette. To give her a thrill, as I had done as a teenager with girlfriends on my motorcycle, I drew her high up in the sky with me, then dived back toward earth and swooped narrowly above the field. The grass swayed with the gush of our passing.

††††††††††† I could sense her reluctance for danger. I tried to pull her into gentle even flight but could feel her pulling back against my hands. As I pulled harder her resistance became stiffer. I couldn't budge her. Then I felt myself being pulled back toward the ground. I didn't want to land but couldn't resist. I became the marionette, pulled around to her will. I pulled hard but couldn't break free. This wasn't the dream I wanted at all. I became desperate and thrashed mightily against her. Finally, I thrashed so hard I fell out of bed and woke up.

††††††††††† Megan woke up too. "Are you all right?" she asked. "Did you fall out of bed?" She reached down to help pull me back up.

††††††††††† "What a dream," I answered. "I brought the Venus de Milo to life and we were flying together. It was fun at first, but then we had a sort of fight and I fell out of bed." I gave Megan a kiss and said, "That's what I get for flying with some other woman."

††††††††††† "I forgive you," she replied, kissing me back.

††††††††††† "I knew I was dreaming and could actually control the dream."

††††††††††† "Oh," she said, "that's called a lucid dream. I have them once in a while."

††††††††††† "Next time I have one, I'll try to summon you instead of some statue. I wonder, can two people share the same dream? I mean, could you and I both dream that we are flying together, and actually share the details?"

††††††††††† "Nice idea sweetheart, but I don't see how it could work. Are you ready to go back to sleep?" And we did.

 

Production

 

††††††††††† Finally, after many revisions, my script was acceptable to Ed, Jeremy and Evonda. I had long ago quit thinking about whether it was acceptable to me. The plot was foreordained to be ridiculous, so why worry? But the movie would generate more interest in my original story, and hopefully people would notice that that wasn't so ridiculous. And Helpers were generating a lot of public interest in artificial intelligence so it was a good time to be associated with a movie on that subject.

††††††††††† I drove to Chicago for a final meeting before they started filming.

††††††††††† "Hi Laszlo, we're very happy with your script," Ed said as he shook my hand. Jeremy and Evonda were all smiles too.

††††††††††† "Thanks Ed," I responded. "You know, these days when you go to a movie the credits at the end seem to roll on forever. Will you have all those people on your film?"

††††††††††† Jeremy answered, "Not so many. We've hired a cinematographer of course, to operate the camera and worry about how to get the right visual effects. We've also hired a sound man, a set designer, people for makeup and costumes, and an editor. And an assistant for me, someone else with experience making films, so I don't get bogged down in logistics details and lose sight of the story we're trying to tell."

††††††††††† Ed added, "That's right. Actually, a number of people from our business organization will be working on logistics. And we've got people from our construction business to help with sets, electrics and other jobs like that. We're relying quite heavily on Jeremy's knowledge of film production to show us all what to do."

††††††††††† Jeremy made a sort of exhausted grin and said, "It'll be all right."

††††††††††† "Well," I commented, "sounds pretty skeletal to me. But I guess some great independent films have been made by just a few people."

††††††††††† Jeremy got down to business, "As Ed said we're happy with the script. But changes during shooting are inevitable. Some things just don't work for the camera, and sometimes we get better ideas. We'll need you to be available to help with rewriting."

††††††††††† "Sure," I said, "I'd be happy to help."

††††††††††† "In fact," Jeremy continued, "We'd like you to be present for some of the scenes. So you can get a sense of how your story works with live actors, and perhaps to generate some of those better ideas."

††††††††††† I was mildly flattered. "Yes, I'm willing as long as it doesn't interfere with my job at the university."

††††††††††† "I should warn you in advance that filming can proceed quite slowly. It can be boring. But please try to stay focused on the film. Don't join a card game with the carpenters or anything like that."

††††††††††† I thought I detected a look of discomfort on Ed's face, at the thought of paying carpenters to play cards, and blurted out, "I'm All Right Jack."

††††††††††† Evonda laughed and said, "Do you know it, Laszlo?"

††††††††††† "One of my favorite films," I answered.

††††††††††† She looked seriously at me and asked, in a so-so British accent, "Is them your real teeth?" Then added, "Stanley?"

††††††††††† Ed chuckled, "I should think there will plenty of work to keep us all busy during production."

††††††††††† "Yes sir," Jeremy answered. "I'll see to it."

††††††††††† I asked, "Do you have a schedule of shooting locations? When and where each scene will be shot? So I can try to fit them into my own work schedule."

††††††††††† Jeremy shuffled through a stack of envelopes and handed me a few sheets of paper stapled together. He said, "This covers some of the scenes. But of course things go wrong so it gets vague into the future. Except for the scenes we'll shoot with the Cubs."

††††††††††† Ed added, "They've agreed to do this as a favor for Mr. Edo. We can't waste their time. They're supplying Cubs as well as players from their farm teams, and even allowing us to film in Wrigley Field during a real game."

††††††††††† "Yes," Evonda agreed. "We have to be professional with them." Apparently her prerogatives with Mr. Edo did not extend to embarrassing him with the Cubs.

††††††††††† I looked over the schedule that Jeremy had handed me and said, "Oh, so the dinner party at our house is the first scene you're shooting. And in the evening so I should be able to make it. May I bring Megan and Bogus along to watch?"

††††††††††† "By all means," answered Ed. "It would be interesting for the three of you to watch three actors playing yourselves."

††††††††††† "I notice," I asked Jeremy, "that you're not shooting in script order?"

††††††††††† "Never do," he answered.

††††††††††† "In fact," I added, "I donít see the scene with Honey on your schedule at all."

††††††††††† "That's actually three scenes," he replied. "There's a scene in a bar and we've arranged for a tavern to close for one night so we can shoot. We've hired their bartenders and several patrons for that scene. Then there's a scene at the jail and another walking by the lake."

††††††††††† "We're going to hire an actual homeless woman to play Honey," Evonda said proudly. "Someone weathered but pretty. And the best part is we're going to help her get her life back together."

††††††††††† "After we've shot our scene and if she's willing," Jeremy added.

††††††††††† "We'll invite her to the premier, in Chicago of course" Evonda beamed.

††††††††††† I grinned at her and said, "That sounds great."

††††††††††† Ed added, "Mr. Edo will like that very much."

††††††††††† "So what about the outdoor locations? The river bluff and the lake ice?" I asked.

††††††††††† Ed answered, "One of Mr. Edo's fellow Cubs boosters owns property overlooking the Mississippi River and has generously allowed us to use it."

††††††††††† Jeremy continued, "The lake ice scene will be more difficult. We'll find some frozen lake in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota this winter. It's unlikely that we'll actually be able to shoot as the ice is making its cracking sounds. But our sound man can record those noises whenever the ice is cracking and dub them over the scene."

††††††††††† "Insurance will be an issue for the ice scene," Ed added.

††††††††††† "How about indoor locations? Have you got those lined up?" I asked

††††††††††† "We've got a vacant house for the scenes in your house," Ed replied. "And a brick fortress of a house for Bogus. We'll use some of our office space for the scene with Wonder Woman. One of Mr. Edo's Vice Presidents will play Wonder Woman. She normally handles the details of dealing with government for us so should have a feel for politics."

††††††††††† "She told me the film would make a nice break from ordinary business," Evonda said.

††††††††††† We talked for a while more about the details of the first scene and I assured them I would do my best to be there.

††††††††††† Megan and Bogus were both able to come with me to watch it. I think Bogus wanted another chance to see Evonda, who wasn't in the scene but would certainly be there.

††††††††††† We arrived at the house in the northern suburbs at about 6 PM and it was a hive of activity. There were several trucks parked in front of the house and electrical wires coming out a side window to fancy looking lights aimed at the front door. We went in and were greeted by a pair of well behaved Jack Russell terriers.

††††††††††† "They donít look like the crazy dogs in my story," I observed.

††††††††††† "Don't worry," assured a man with short white hair, "they'll jump and bark when they're supposed to."

††††††††††† Jeremy said, "Ted's our dog wrangler and one of the best." He led us to the kitchen in the back of the house, where Evonda and another woman were cooking.

††††††††††† When she saw us Evonda called out, "Hey Bogus, we're making your dinner."

††††††††††† "Chicken mole, beans and salsa?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Of course, and killer. You must be Megan," Evonda said, giving her a little hug. "This is Mary Mack, she'll be playing you."

††††††††††† I think that moment made the trip worthwhile for Megan, other than simply supporting me. She liked the idea of someone playing her in a movie.

††††††††††† Evonda gave Bogus a big hug that made him blush and said, "There's someone I want you to meet." We all walked into the back yard where table, chairs and lanterns were set up. "This is Tony Furth. He'll be playing you. Tony, this is the real Bogus."

††††††††††† Tony regarded him for a moment, then shook hands and said, "This will be fun." Before anyone could say anything, he walked away.

††††††††††† Unruffled, Evonda introduced me to James Smith, who would be playing me. He and Mary made a nice wholesome couple.

††††††††††† Back in the kitchen Evonda showed us a brown paper shopping bag spattered with grease stains. "Flicked some oil drops into this and dumped in a bag of Doritos," she said. "Looks realistic, don't you think?"

††††††††††† We hung out for about an hour, trying to stay out of the way, until they were ready to start shooting. Jeremy told us to watch from the yard and to please not make any noise. Tony was standing at the closed front door with the paper bag full of chips in one hand. The cinematographer was behind him holding a steadycam on his shoulders. Jeremy said, "Ready," and Tony rapped hard on the door with his knuckles. The door opened, Tony strode in amid the jumping and barking dogs with the camera following, Mary pecked Tony on the cheek, and dialog was exchanged. It looked good to me but they did it again. Just being safe, I guessed.

††††††††††† Then we hung out for another hour waiting for the actual dinner in the back yard. Megan was yawning and I knew who would be driving home and who would be sleeping on the back seat. There was a big pot of coffee in the kitchen and I thought this might be one of those times when I took caffeine. Better than falling asleep at the wheel.

††††††††††† I lost count of the number of individual shots for the dinner scene. But I had to admit the actors made it interesting. Tony was way over the top as Bogus. I could see that this annoyed Bogus so patted him on the shoulder. Evonda saw it too so came and held his hand for a few seconds. That seemed to wake Megan up, who gave me a significant look. But I shook my head at her. Evonda was just being nice. No way she'd give up Mr. Edo.

††††††††††† Tony played Bogus as a sort of cross between Dennis Kucinich and Dennis Hopper: uncompromisingly idealistic but dangerously crazy.

††††††††††† On the drive home, jazzed on coffee, I said "For a low budget production it was pretty impressive."

††††††††††† Bogus had been silent but was ready to vent. "That Tony is an idiot. I'm not an idiot."

††††††††††† "So here's the puzzle," I replied. "Evonda likes you for some mysterious reason. But she also wanted Tony to play you. How do you explain that?"

††††††††††† "Well, that's simple. I'm in love with her so of course she's going to find some subtle way to stick it to me," he practically yelled.

††††††††††† "Try not to wake Megan. Anyway," I motioned to the back seat, "see how endearing they are when they're asleep?"

††††††††††† "I'm not talking about Megan. She's fine."

††††††††††† "Of course she is," I replied. "She's someone else's wife. So, are you coming to watch any more scenes?"

††††††††††† "No. Those two will make me crazy. Watching her even pretend to fall in love with him would be too much. Anyway, I've got work to do."

††††††††††† I felt for my old friend. "Sorry Bogus. I never intended for this to be so painful for you."

††††††††††† "Don't worry. But please don't remind me of this movie, OK? I don't want to think about it."

††††††††††† After driving for a while in silence, I said, "Hey Bogus, I just realized why Evonda picked Tony. It'll be easier for her to appear super-intelligent if Bogus appears a bit stupid. You know, James and Mary didn't seem too bright either. Intelligence is relative."

††††††††††† "Yeah," he said, "I should have thought of that. She's addled my mind."

 

Cheese Fire

 

††††††††††† Just to show how much I appreciated her coming to Chicago to watch the filming, I told our Helper that I would make one of Megan's favorite dinners: fusilli with tomato sauce. The sauce incorporated several tricks I'd learned by watching Mario Batali's cooking show. First I chopped a small onion and fried it in a generous quantity of extra virgin olive oil. No garlic since Megan is allergic. Then I mixed in a small can of tomato paste and fried that on medium high heat, stirring constantly to prevent the paste from burning. The paste changes to a darker color, indicating a richer flavor. I ran a large can of San Marzano tomatoes through the blender and stirred them into the paste, onions and olive oil, adding a bit of sugar, a liberal helping of Chianti and some ripped up basil leaves. The alcohol in the wine is essential to bring out certain tomato flavors. Then I boiled this mixture to thicken and reduce it, which makes the flavor much stronger. You can add mushrooms or sausage to the sauce, but the tomatoes are the star so I didn't bother. I removed the fusilli from the boiling water slightly underdone, drained them well in the colander, and poured them into the sauce for a few seconds of final cooking. The fusilli holds the sauce well. I poured on a little fresh extra virgin olive oil, and we ate it with plenty of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

††††††††††† "Mmmm," Megan purred, "this is so good. Thanks love."

††††††††††† "It is good, isn't it? How about a walk after dinner? I'm sure the dogs would love it."

††††††††††† Night had fallen and the sky was lighted by the usual reflected city light. However, there was an unfamiliar glow to the east.

††††††††††† "What's that?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "I heard sirens while I was cooking. Did you hear them?"

††††††††††† "No."

††††††††††† "Let's check it out. What do you think?"

††††††††††† "OK, but let's not be in the way."

††††††††††† We went back in the house and I asked our Helper if there was a fire on the east side.

††††††††††† "Yes sir," it said, "a food warehouse is burning."

††††††††††† I called Bogus. "Hey, Megan and I are going to drive over to take a look at the fire. Want to come?"

††††††††††† "Sure. It's on the news. A big warehouse full of cheese. I know where it is and there's a hill across the highway from the warehouse that should give us a good view."

††††††††††† So we drove over together. We were on a hill a couple hundred yards from the warehouse, surrounded by people from the neighborhood. It was the biggest fire I'd ever seen. The flames leaped over 100 feet high, lighting up a column of thick black smoke.

††††††††††† Megan commented, "I wouldn't want to be any closer. That's really scary. I wonder if anyone was injured."

††††††††††† A guy standing near us answered, "Some firefighters were nearly hurt when one of the buildings collapsed, but I think they're all OK. The news said everyone got out of the warehouse."

††††††††††† Bogus said, "I heard on the radio that the warehouse is full of cheese."

††††††††††† "It's the Sentinel Warehouse," the guy responded, "storing cheese and butter."

††††††††††† "Of course," Bogus replied. "Foods full of oil. The heat melts the cheese and the oil runs out. It might as well be an oil tank farm on fire."

††††††††††† In a mock Scandinavian accent I said, "That cheese is hard to light. But once you've got 'er lit, watch out."

††††††††††† "It's not funny," Megan admonished me.

††††††††††† There seemed to be about 100 firefighters and a dozen fire trucks on the scene. They had several hoses spraying water on the fire, but it looked to me like the burning oil was floating on the water.

††††††††††† "It's a tough situation," Bogus said. "The water cools the building, but it also tends to spread the oil. They need powder and foam for fighting this fire, but must not have much of it."

††††††††††† The guy who'd spoken earlier said, "I've only seen them use water, and lots of it. I don't think they're going to control this fire until it just burns itself out. Glad my house is on this side of the highway."

††††††††††† "Look at how bright the sky is," I observed. "I'll bet they can see that twenty miles away."

††††††††††† "They can probably smell it twenty miles away, too," said Megan. The whole area smelled like an over-heated deep fryer. She continued, "It must be awful for the firefighters. And hot too, being so close to those flames."

††††††††††† We'd been watching and chatting for about an hour when we were startled by a large breaking sound, as a building fell down in a great whoosh of flames and sparks. Several firefighters jumped back but none of them appeared to be hurt.

††††††††††† "My goodness," exclaimed Megan, "what a terrible thing this is."

††††††††††† "Yeah," I responded, "I'm happy to be fighting hackers rather than fires."

††††††††††† Bogus added, "It will be interesting to see if the investigation turns up any negligence in the cause of this fire. Or worse."

††††††††††† A short while later a police officer drove up to tell everyone that they had to evacuate the area. They didn't want anyone within a half mile of the fire, which was apparently approaching some ammonia tanks. People even had to get out of their houses, just when they would be getting ready for bed.

††††††††††† We left immediately but got caught in a surprising amount of traffic. This fire must have attracted folks from all over the city.

††††††††††† When we woke up the next morning the local news was full of the fire and it was definitely not under control. But they said that at least the evacuated people were allowed to go back to their houses. I was really surprised when the evening newscast said the fire was still out of control. They had called for firefighters from nearby communities to relieve those who had been at the fire for nearly 24 hours.

††††††††††† I called Bogus and asked, "Hey, what's the story? How can this fire still be out of control?"

††††††††††† "There were twenty five thousand tons of butter and cheese in that warehouse. It's not going out until it's all burned. That's twenty five kilotons, buddy. About Hiroshima size."

††††††††††† "Hey Megan," I called, "Bogus says there's as much fuel in that fire as in the Hiroshima bomb." She didn't respond.

††††††††††† "Can you come by next Wednesday morning?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "Sure. What for?"

††††††††††† "I'll tell you then. But just keep it quiet. Don't even tell Megan you're coming. It's important, OK?"

††††††††††† "OK," I answered.

††††††††††† The fire was declared officially under control the next morning, after burning for almost two days.

 

Crazies

 

††††††††††† "But I want to come along," I complained to Bogus.

††††††††††† "You can't, period. You won't protect me by being there. You'd probably just get us both killed."

††††††††††† "So who are these guys exactly?" I'd come by Bogus' house on Wednesday morning as promised, and he told me that he was going to another interview with people who hide from the authorities.

††††††††††† "Basically Nazis. They call themselves the Aryan Christian Fellowship. But for heaven's sake don't investigate them or mention them to anyone until I'm back from the interview. Don't even Google them. They are so paranoid."

††††††††††† "So why did you even ask me over? What do you want me to do?"

††††††††††† He handed me a sealed letter and said, "If you don't see me by noon tomorrow give this to the police. I don't mean hear from me on the phone. You've got to see me in the flesh, or take this to the cops. OK?"

††††††††††† "Sure Bogus. But if these guys are so dangerous isn't there something else you can do to protect yourself? How about wearing a radio transmitter so we can find you?"

††††††††††† "No way. These guys include some techies. If they found a transmitter on me they might kill me. The danger is that they think I'm working with law enforcement. If I'm just a journalist willing to tell their story, then they have no reason to kill me. In fact, they'd want to leave me alive so I can write my article."

††††††††††† "So then why tell me at all? Why give me the letter?"

††††††††††† "Well, it's a fair assumption that at least some of them are insane. Not rational. Maybe they'll think the design on my shirt is a secret Jewish symbol. And I've got to ask them questions. They may decide that those questions make me a spy for the police."

††††††††††† I gave Bogus a hug as I left, something I hadn't done for years. "You can depend on me, buddy," I said.

††††††††††† I wanted to tell Megan that evening but of course didn't. They next morning I drove over to Bogus' house at 9 AM. When he opened the door I said, "Am I happy to see you."

††††††††††† He smiled and said, "Come in. Want some tea?"

††††††††††† "Sure, thanks. Can you tell me about it now?"

††††††††††† "Man, that was something yesterday. Do you have the envelope with you?"

††††††††††† I held it out and he took it.

††††††††††† "Can I read it?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Sorry, better if you don't. Really, you don't want to know any details about those guys." He poured two cups of chamomile tea and said, "A man's drink," as he handed one to me.

††††††††††† "So tell me about them, already. Oy vey."

††††††††††† He laughed and repeated, "Oy vey yourself." Then added, "Those are some crazy goyim."

††††††††††† We both laughed until we were falling out of our chairs. I guess it was the relief that Bogus was safe and sound.

††††††††††† Finally he said, "I must have missed the place in the gospels that describes Christ's message of hate. You know, I actually asked them that. A bit more politely, of course."

††††††††††† "So what did they say?"

††††††††††† "That Christ's love is reserved for those who accept Christ as their savior. That hell is just the absence of Christ's love."

††††††††††† "Did they ask if you accept Christ as your savior?"

††††††††††† "They did, but you know, by that point in the conversation I'd gotten a little relaxed. So I said my savior would come in the form of a machine with a mind."

††††††††††† "How did they react to that?"

††††††††††† "One of them knew a lot about AI. He said it was the newest form of the heresy of physicalism. He also said that it was being promoted by Jews. He got pretty worked up so I didn't argue with him. I just thought of Alan Turing, Bill Gates and all the other non-Jewish computer guys."

††††††††††† "Well, Turing was gay. I'm sure they would have had some choice comment about him. How about Africans? Asians? What did they say about them?"

††††††††††† "Sub-humans. There was a poster on the wall making a visual comparison between an African and an ape. Grade school stuff."

††††††††††† "You know, all that hate makes these guys pretty scary. But on the other hand they're so full of it that it's hard to imagine them having much influence on society. They must not have many members."

††††††††††† "I asked them about that. They said that during good times people avoided conflict so the races could live in relative peace. But during chaos, once people were deprived and angry, it wouldn't take much to bring out what they called the racial identity in just about everyone."

††††††††††† "Are they expecting chaos?"

††††††††††† "They said that greedy Jewish bankers would over-reach and bring the whole system down. That made me so mad I pointed out that the richest people in the world are not Jewish. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, not to mention all the oil sheiks and Asian billionaires. And then they got pissed off. They called me an idiot."

††††††††††† "Must have been scary."

††††††††††† "Once they calmed down they returned to explaining to me how they would take over the world. The financial chaos would cause real hardship and people would be primed for racial awareness. That's when they would act, staging some incidents to trigger the Aryan identity."

††††††††††† "The Reichstag fire," I commented.

††††††††††† "They even showed me a little chemistry experiment, dropping a crystal into a super-saturated solution. I got the feeling they had done that many times. It's dramatic and drama is often more persuasive than logic."

††††††††††† "At least with idiots."

††††††††††† "They're not all idiots. They said they'd studied the situations in Rwanda and Serbia to learn how racial chaos worked. The guy who knew about AI even gave me a little lecture on social entropy."

††††††††††† "You haven't told me why they're hiding?"

††††††††††† "They said they're already doing some things. They wouldn't say what."

††††††††††† "Did you ask how they are hiding? I mean, that's what you want for your article, right?"

††††††††††† "Yeah, but they wouldn't tell me any details. But I've still got stuff for the story in the precautions they took with me. They met me in a parking lot and told me to get into a van. There were no windows in back and I was sitting behind a curtain that hid the front windows. They played loud music and made lots of turns so I couldn't guess where we went. When they let me out of the van we were in a garage, then went down stairs into a windowless basement."

††††††††††† "Man, all that would creep me out."

††††††††††† "Yeah, but I just reminded myself that it would make good stuff for the article. I'll also describe leaving a sealed letter with a friend."

††††††††††† It was time for me to get to work, so I finished my tea and said good bye.

††††††††††† Two days later Megan and I were listening to the radio and heard that the cheese fire was finally out. It had burned for 8 days.

 

Workers

 

††††††††††† The novelty of our new Helper wore off quickly. Despite its ability to speak and make facial expressions, our emotional connection with it was pretty shallow. Its unfailing politeness masked a total lack of real sympathy and its canned jokes masked its inability to perceive irony. To the dogs our Helper was little more than an advanced vacuum cleaner, and that served as a constant reminder to Megan and me that it was really just an appliance. So its warning to us not to feel sorry for its drudgery had been largely unnecessary.

††††††††††† But we would have had difficultly going back to our pre-Helper lives, just as we wouldn't have wanted to wash our clothes by hand in a tub and cook all our food over a wood fire. We were able to spend more of our time doing what we wanted to do. That occasionally included cooking, but never cleaning.

††††††††††† Outside the home there was a whole world of jobs that Helpers could do and businesses wanted them to fill those jobs. Helpers Corporation was willing to provide its product to businesses, but not on the terms available to private homes. Instead businesses could rent them for $15,000 per month. It was reported that special volume prices were available, although no one disclosed the details of those discounts. If anyone pretended to buy a Helper for housework but put it to work in a business, the Helper would tattle on them. The rationale for the higher price was that businesses subjected Helpers to much greater wear, so they got a different model of rugged Helpers, called Workers, which also needed more frequent maintenance. But since Workers didn't need rest they could work 168 hours per week. And they were quite skilled and reliable for any job not requiring complex thought. For many jobs they were far superior to humans, since they had access to business databases and high speed computers as part of their brains.

††††††††††† Helpers Corporation diversified into certain industries, such as technical support and other types of call centers, where its Workers could give it a quick advantage. They also set up their own national distribution network for food and other household items whose delivery were part of the monthly fee for homes with Helpers. In other industries businesses granted part ownership to Helpers Corporation in lieu of the cost of renting Workers, and in the hopes of preventing them from competing directly. It seemed like only a matter of time before Helpers became the largest corporation in the world. The only moderation on their growth seemed to be the pace at which the rugged Workers model could be built.

††††††††††† Workers were most sought after for dangerous work, such as mining and heavy manufacturing. There was serious interest from the Department of Defense for a military model of Helpers called Defenders. Also talk of a model called Guardians for law enforcement, although that would have to wait for a quantum leap in the safety of the Helpers design. One attraction of Workers for business was that they would never steal or embezzle from their employers. On the other hand, businesses that used Workers would have few secrets from them.

††††††††††† They were developing Workers that didn't have humanoid form. For example, a Worker simply using the telephone didn't need any sort of body at all: just a brain and ways of generating and hearing electronically-encoded voice. But the great thing about Workers was their adaptability to use any other tool, much like humans. Long before Helpers appeared, manufacturing was already saturated with specialized industrial robots with things like drills or welding tips instead of arms. So the mainstay of their business was the humanoid Worker, jack of all trades.

††††††††††† Our first experience with a Worker was buying food. With our own Helper we no longer needed to go to the grocery store, but Megan and I made a special trip just to see a Worker in operation. When we walked in we saw that most checkout lanes still had human checkers and baggers, but one had a machine that looked like our Helper except that it was slightly taller and much heavier.

††††††††††† "Look at that," Megan said. "Not sure I'd want that brute in our house."

††††††††††† "Let's get some groceries and check it out," I replied.

††††††††††† With our cart half full we got in line for the Worker. It had no cash register or scanner, just a table for loading bags and a cash drawer. The line moved fast. When our turn came, the Worker quickly picked items out of our cart and put them into bags. Then it said, "Eighty two dollars and thirteen cents, please."

††††††††††† Megan handed it a credit card. The Worker gave a quick glance at both sides of the card, handed it back and said, with a quick smile, "Thank you. Have a nice day."

††††††††††† Walking out, carrying a grocery bag, Megan said, "It didn't ask me to sign."

††††††††††† "I guess that's because it knows you're Megan Wilkes."

††††††††††† "Of sure," she said. "They must have pictures of me from our Helper."

††††††††††† "It could do a quick iris scan and compare it with an iris scan from our Helper. Perhaps they can get your fingerprints from a quick glance at your finger tips." I thought of Fred, the guy living off the information grid, who feared biometrics. Life would be getting a lot more difficult for him.

††††††††††† When we arrived home our Helper unloaded the car and put the groceries away. I said to it, "We bought this food from a Worker."

††††††††††† "Very good sir."

††††††††††† "But you know that, don't you?"

††††††††††† "Yes sir."

††††††††††† "Helper," I asked, "Have you heard about the new model called Hookers?"

††††††††††† Megan kicked me and our Helper answered, "There is no such model, sir." No sense of humor.

 

Screening

 

††††††††††† On a cold December morning I drove to the windy city for a conference about the movie. After a brief hello Jeremy got down to business, "We're near the end and this is the most difficult stage. We can get a pretty good idea of what the movie will be, and we can see all the flaws. The question is which flaws we can live with and which we can afford to fix. We have all the scenes, but if necessary we can re-shoot some of them."

††††††††††† "How about the lake ice scene?" I asked.

††††††††††† "We got that," Jeremy answered, "at a lake in northern Minnesota."

††††††††††† "It wasn't easy," added Ed.

††††††††††† "We had a devil of a time getting the right lighting out on the ice at night."

††††††††††† "But," Evonda said, "they got the ice cracking sounds."

††††††††††† "That's right. The sound worked out OK. We filmed on a night without any wind and captured that winter quiet. We dubbed the cracking sounds over that."

††††††††††† "How about Tony Furth?" I asked. "How did he work out?"

††††††††††† Evonda laughed but Ed and Jeremy grimaced. "He was just what I wanted for Bogus," she said. Then added, "In the movie. In real life I prefer the real Bogus."

††††††††††† "I'll tell him," I said.

††††††††††† The absence of any comment from Ed or Jeremy told me that they'd had enough of Tony.

††††††††††† Jeremy said, "We have a very rough cut of the movie that I'd like us all to watch. Then I'd like to hear specific suggestions for improvements."

††††††††††† Ed picked up a remote control, pressed one button that lowered the shades in the room and pressed another that opened a panel exposing a large video screen. A third button started the video. It lasted two and a half hours.

††††††††††† When it ended Jeremy said, "Of course it's too long. I just wanted you to see as much footage as you could stand."

††††††††††† "There's too much baseball," I said.

††††††††††† "Well, yes," responded Ed. "But remember that for Mr. Edo this is a film about baseball."

††††††††††† "However," said Jeremy, "the baseball will be more exciting if there is less of it. The question is which scenes to keep."

††††††††††† "I'd vote to lose the baseball scenes in the pennant race and playoffs, and just keep the World Series." I said. "Mostly just keep the final game. That's where the excitement is, in the Cubs finally winning."

††††††††††† "We'll have to get Mr. Edo's opinion on this," Ed pronounced. "And I think the movie is good enough to show to him at this stage."

††††††††††† "What about my acting?" asked Evonda. "Does Hedwig seem super-intelligent? Is the relation with Bogus credible?" I figured she was asking because otherwise Ed and Jeremy might be reluctant to criticize her.

††††††††††† "Well," I began, "this is the key question, isn't it. Because of course you can't realistically depict super-intelligence. I can't write it, you can't act it and the audience can't distinguish it from incoherence."

††††††††††† "Incoherence?" asked Jeremy.

††††††††††† "I mean that a language that is natural to a super-intelligent mind will sound like random noise to ordinary humans. Of course, it can talk down to us, the way we talk down to dogs."

††††††††††† "Of course," agreed Ed. "But Hedwig would talk down to the other characters because they are ordinary humans. Given that, I think she sounds about right. Speaking at a level that intelligent humans can understand."

††††††††††† "And," added Jeremy, "the film presents evidence of her superior intelligence in the way she manages the Cubs. Also in the way she runs circles around Bogus in her dealings with him."

††††††††††† "Fair enough," I conceded. "Hedwig does come across as an intelligent person. Evonda, you also asked about Hedwig's relation with Bogus. I think your relation with Bogus as portrayed by Tony is reasonable, but he did not portray the real Bogus. My friend Bogus would not be part of such a relation and in fact would hate this movie, if he saw it. Which he won't."

††††††††††† "He won't?" asked Ed. "We'd like him to come to the premier. And you and Megan of course."

††††††††††† When he said that I laughed out loud. "Sorry," I explained. "I just had an image of Megan wearing a Hollywood designer dress. Of course we'll be there. But after we all drove down for the dinner party scene Bogus told me he would have nothing further to do with this movie. Even asked me not to mention it."

††††††††††† "Tony?" asked Evonda.

††††††††††† I just smiled at her.

††††††††††† Jeremy said, "I want to re-shoot the scene where Hedwig and Bogus first kiss. Evonda, you can do a better job of helping us understand why you would want to kiss Bogus. And Tony needs more awe and less lust."

††††††††††† "OK," Evonda responded.

††††††††††† "It's my fault," Jeremy said, "for not seeing it on the spot. But itís a critical scene and it needs to be better."

††††††††††† "Any other scenes you want to re-shoot?" inquired Ed.

††††††††††† "There are a couple more with Hedwig and Bogus. I don't know if Tony can do them better, but it's worth a try. There's a fine line between Bogus seeming less intelligent than Hedwig, and Bogus being someone who Hedwig can love. We'll shoot a bit more and then see what we can do in editing. Sometimes that can work wonders. And I think we should have at least one test to find out what ordinary folks think of it." It sounded like the movie was coming to a head for Jeremy. He wanted it to be as good as possible and would be working his tail off for a while.

 

The Narrows

 

††††††††††† With work on the movie behind me, Megan and I decided to drive out to Zion National Park. We'd been there before in January and appreciated having the park nearly to ourselves at that time of year. Nightly lows were usually around freezing with daily highs in the fifties. The trails were a bit icy but with proper gear that wasn't such a big problem. The main thing was that the narrows would be virtually deserted. So we left the dogs and cats in Bogus' care and headed off in our van. Our Helper would make an ideal security alarm during our absence.

††††††††††† "Iowa is so peaceful," Megan proclaimed as she drove toward Omaha.

††††††††††† "Ah yep," I drawled.

††††††††††† "You seem more relaxed now that you're done writing your screenplay."

††††††††††† "Yeah, but poor Jeremy is going nuts now. We'll enjoy the premier, though. I'm glad you'll be there."

††††††††††† "It'll be fun but don't get your hopes too high. It's not Hollywood and there won't be any stars."

††††††††††† "No Bogus either."

††††††††††† "Poor Bogus. Are you sure you can't talk him into going?"

††††††††††† "That wouldn't be doing him any favor. He hates Tony and loves Evonda. I don't know which is worse."

††††††††††† "Too bad. But I'm excited about the premier."

††††††††††† "I had this vision of you in a designer dress. Broke me up."

††††††††††† "No Laszlo," she complained. "I may surprise you."

††††††††††† "No stethoscope and lab coat then?"

††††††††††† "So what will you wear? Let me guess. Light blue shirt, blue striped tie and dark blue suit." She thought for a moment and said with a laugh, "And trainers."

††††††††††† I held my feet up and said, "These very shoes, no doubt."

††††††††††† "Brush them off before you go."

††††††††††† We spent the night in North Platte. The next day we took I-80 through Wyoming, avoiding the morning traffic from Denver up into the mountains. That could be brutal. We spent our second night at an old single story motel along I-15 in Utah, only about 200 miles from Zion. We arrived at the park in late morning and rented one of their little cabins. No reservations necessary in January.

††††††††††† Needing to unwind from the long drive, we went for a walk on the Sand Bench Trail downstream along the Virgin River. It's used by horses in warmer weather. We passed very close by a group of three grazing mule deer bucks, two six pointers and an eight. They were obviously used to people. We ate a late lunch and then went to check out the Riverwalk Trail, which headed upstream along the Virgin River and was the way we'd have to go to get to the Narrows.

††††††††††† There was loud crashing noise ahead of us so we ran up the trail to check it out. We could see where ice was falling from the cliffs above the trail. We walked a bit further and came to a barrier across the trail. Beyond it the trail was deeply covered in broken ice.

††††††††††† "I guess we'll have to stay off the trail and walk up the river," I said.

††††††††††† Megan responded, "It's beautiful here," and raised her camera for a shot of the ice hanging from the cliffs.

††††††††††† That night we laid out our waders, poles, wool socks, fleece socks, wool long johns and parkas. We'd be wading for several hours in freezing cold water and it would take all this to keep our feet and legs warm. We also put a change of dry clothes into water proof bags in our backpacks, in case one of us slipped and fell into the river. Our packs also contained a wader repair kit and bungee cords. They would be stretched around the chests of our waders to slow the inrush of water if we fell in. Much of the river bottom was covered with slippery rocks about the size of bowling balls. And of course the current was always trying to knock us over. Neither of us had ever fallen in but we had to take the threat seriously. The recommended gear was dry suits rather than waders, but they were what we were used to and we figured our precautions were adequate. Actually, the real recommendation of the park service was to stay out of the Narrows in winter. But that was the best time to find solitude up there.

††††††††††† The next morning we had a huge early breakfast and were bundled up in our waders and on the trail before 8 AM. No one else was around, just as we liked it. We started out pretty cold but warmed up quickly hiking in all that gear.

††††††††††† "Whoa," I yelled as I stepped onto the slippery rocks on the river bottom. I used my poles to steady myself and Megan laughed. The water was only a foot deep so it was no big deal.

††††††††††† "Watch out for that first step," she said, taking hers slow and easy without any bobble.

††††††††††† We crossed the river and walked upstream a ways on the dry rocks along the river bank. Much easier than walking on wet rocks. We had to cross again and then got back on the trail past the point where it was covered with fallen ice. We took the trail to its end and then hiked in the river for a ways.

††††††††††† When we got to a spot with a dry river bank I announced, "I need to take a layer off." We both removed our long john tops and put them into water proof bags in our packs, quickly putting our parkas back on before we got too cold. Back in the river we came to the first deeper water, up to Megan's waist. We used our poles to probe for the shallowest path, not wanting to get into water that was too deep for our waders. The bottom felt muddy. I stopped for a second and glanced up at the cliffs above us. They were nearly 1000 feet high and it was anyone's guess whether there was ice or rocks ready to fall on us.

††††††††††† "Are you doing all right?" she asked.

††††††††††† "Sure," I answered.

††††††††††† We came around a bend. On the right we saw a rock wall sloping up from the river, covered with ice.

††††††††††† "Look at that," Megan observed, getting out her camera.

††††††††††† In the middle of the ice a stream of water was running down the wall.

††††††††††† "Must be Mystery Falls," I said.

††††††††††† We came to a long section where we could hike on the bank. It was easier than walking in the river, but we still had to watch for ice on the rocks that might cause us to slip. Periodically we were forced to cross the river, or to walk in it. This was always a puzzle, looking for the place to walk where the water wouldn't be too deep, the current not too strong, and the river bottom rocks not too treacherous. And I was constantly glancing up at the cliffs to see if any ice was about to fall on us. A totally futile precaution of course.

††††††††††† Around another bend I asked, "Here's that hanging ice falls. Remember it?"

††††††††††† "Yes," Megan answered, clicking more photos.

††††††††††† We came to a stretch where the canyon became pretty narrow, no more than 20 feet wide. It was a bit dark at the river, making it hard to read the bottom for rocks. Then we had a place where we could walk along a narrow river bank. I noticed some freshly smashed rocks. In fact, we could see fragments of broken rock scattered over a long section of bank. I pointed to them and said, "Look at those. I wouldn't want to be here when they came down. Let's hurry."

††††††††††† Megan responded, "How recently do you think they fell?"

††††††††††† "Well, since the last flash flood. That would probably wash away the small fragments. But I guess the last flood could've been last summer. Not sure."

††††††††††† Finally we reached Orderville Creek coming in from the right, a good place to stop and rest. Without rest our tired muscle might cause us to stumble and fall in the water. Megan lay on her back on the sandy bank and aimed her camera straight up, to capture the sky outlined in the intersection of two narrow canyons. It really was an interesting sight, just like a "Y" in a road except these roads were 1000-foot deep slot canyons.

††††††††††† Once we were rested, we continued up the Narrows. After perhaps another half mile we came to a strange sight. A large boulder on the right was covered in ferns, lichen and moss, wetted by a little water fall from the cliffs above. It looked like a piece of tropical Hawaii transplanted to this landscape of freezing water and mostly barren rocks.

††††††††††† Megan took a bunch of photos, and then said, "It's like the desert swamp along the Riverside walk."

††††††††††† "Yeah," I agreed.

††††††††††† "Let's turn back," she said. "I'm tired and we're not going to find anything better than this."

††††††††††† "I'm tired too. We can rest at morning sun." That was our name for a spot a bit downstream from Orderville, where the canyon lined up with the mid-morning sun direction so it could shine to the canyon bottom. When we got there the river was brilliantly lit up.

††††††††††† After a hard morning's hike it's hard to describe how good it felt to emerge into this sunny spot. We took off our parkas to absorb some warmth. Then, parkas back on, we just lay on the ground looking up at the cliffs and sun.

††††††††††† After a long rest and a bit of snuggling, we headed back to civilization. A short ways up from the end of the Riverwalk Trail we met three young men coming up river, wearing knee high boots and light jackets. Instead of poles they simply had the good balance of youth. "How deep is it?" one asked.

††††††††††† I put my hand at my hips and said, "To here. But you can go a little further before it gets deep." I held up my poles and said, "These come in handy."

††††††††††† "This is easy," another answered. And they trudged off up river.

††††††††††† Back at the lodge we took showers and ate an enormous, late lunch. The food in the park lodge isn't anything special, but it's plentiful and tastes delicious after strenuous hiking.

††††††††††† Over the next ten days we had some easy days, some days of hiking into the high country through ice and snow, and a couple more hikes up the Narrows. On the way home Colorado and Wyoming were blocked by a bad snow storm so we took the southern detour through Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City and St. Louis. Basically we followed the path of old US Route 66.

 

Politics

 

††††††††††† A week after our trip, we invited Bogus over for a nice dinner to thank him for taking care of our critters. As usual our Helper's food was fantastic.

††††††††††† "These are great, Megan," Bogus said as he looked through her photos from Zion. "Laszlo, you look pretty funny in your waders and all bundled up."

††††††††††† "It was cold, man," I answered.

††††††††††† "So Bogus," Megan asked, "what have you been doing lately?"

††††††††††† "Working on my story about people who are hiding," he replied. "Maybe next week Laszlo will come with me to talk with a guy who's hiding from UFOs." Then with a grin he added, "The ones that kidnapped him last year."

††††††††††† "He'll seem positively sane after those Nazis," I observed.

††††††††††† "What else are you working on?" Megan asked. "You've been working on that privacy story for a long time."

††††††††††† "No rush. I'm not doing it for the money," he answered. "Actually, I do have an idea for a new story. Hey Helper," he called.

††††††††††† "Yes sir," our Helper answered.

††††††††††† "Is anyone investigating you guys? Helpers Corporation?"

††††††††††† "There have been many news stories about Helpers Corporation, sir," it said.

††††††††††† "I mean digging up the dirt. The corporation's plans for world conquest?"

††††††††††† "Perhaps, sir, but there are no such plans."

††††††††††† "They wouldn't tell you anyway, Helper. By the way, that was about the best meal I ever had."

††††††††††† "Thank you, sir," our Helper responded.

††††††††††† "World conquest through gourmet cooking," Bogus noted.

††††††††††† "Remember world conquest through free software?" I asked him.

††††††††††† "Sure, same principle."

††††††††††† Megan interjected, "There are lots of stories about the threat of Helpers. You know that. People are really worried about losing their jobs to Workers. And people are worried about loss of privacy. There are even congressional hearings about Helpers."

††††††††††† "Well yes," acknowledged Bogus. "There is all that. But I mean a deeper investigation. To find out the long term intentions of the owners of Helpers Corporation. I haven't seen anything on that."

††††††††††† "Well, then it's an open field for you," I noted. "That would make a heck of a story. But probably difficult to actually find out their intentions."

††††††††††† "So Helper," Bogus asked, "what are the long term intentions of Helpers Corporation?"

††††††††††† "To help, sir," it answered without a hint of irony.

††††††††††† I said, "And we appreciate it, Helper. I guess the starting point for an investigation is to understand the politics, and especially the response of Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† "I read," Megan informed us, "that Helpers has started a big lobby in Washington to cope with the congressional hearings."

††††††††††† "Yes," responded Bogus. "I've read that too. And they're starting to run what you might call public service ads. Not to sell more Helpers or Workers, but just to put on a friendly face."

††††††††††† "And then there are the ads from the unions warning of people losing their jobs," Megan said.

††††††††††† "How about at the hospital?" asked Bogus. "Any Workers there?"

††††††††††† "There's a clear policy that they won't be used in any job where they're visible to patients."

††††††††††† "They'd probably make pretty good hospital administrators," observed Bogus.

††††††††††† Megan guffawed.

††††††††††† "I guess the three of us are safe," I observed, "at least for the time being. Workers can't be doctors, sys admins or investigative journalists yet."

††††††††††† "I'm an investor," corrected Bogus. "Journalism is my hobby."

††††††††††† "I guess Workers can't be investors either," I responded.

††††††††††† "They can't own property," Bogus noted. "But investors might employ Workers. Of course, investors have been heavy users of computers and artificial intelligence for years."

††††††††††† "So," Megan interjected, "workers can't take our jobs. But they can take lots of other people's jobs. So what will happen to those people? If they don't have specialized skills what jobs can they get that Workers can't do."

††††††††††† "Well," I said, "Workers can't take jobs where they have to touch people."

††††††††††† "But there aren't that many of those jobs," Megan said, raising her voice a bit. "And who knows how long it will be until Workers are allowed to touch people."

††††††††††† "There's no law that they can't," Bogus said. "It's a voluntary rule of Helpers Corporation, probably dictated by their lawyers. You know, it's not just the jobs they take, but also the bargaining power they take away from humans looking for jobs. That's been going on for years. The UAW lost their bargaining power when industrial robots took over so many jobs in auto plants."

††††††††††† "Where will this end?" asked Megan. "This could get really terrible."

††††††††††† "Income inequality has been increasing for decades," said Bogus. "My theory is that this is linked to what's called the information economy. Long ago machines exceeded human muscle power. A man cannot compete with machines in the task of digging a big hole. But a man can make a living with a shovel for tasks that involve complex information in manipulating the shovel. Now, as machines increase their ability to process information, they are taking over ever more complex tasks."

††††††††††† Megan didn't look happy, and said "Then government has to help those who are losing their jobs."

††††††††††† "Well," responded Bogus, "politics is a complex information processing task. Machines, computers specifically, are having a big effect on politics, with the help of a few human specialists in processing political information. So those who need government help, because of their relative weakness in processing information, may not be effective in influencing government policy. The combination of human specialists and information processing machines is dominating every sphere of society."

††††††††††† "You're bumming me out, Bogus," Megan said.

††††††††††† "Sorry Megan," he said. "Now that you're in the mood, I can tell you that people losing their jobs won't be the worst of it. When humans can enhance their intelligence using artificial brains, then those with more money can afford bigger brains. The complexity of our language is determined by the complexity of our brains. In the future, those with the best brains will use languages that are simply unintelligible to natural humans. The language for discussing public policy will be the exclusive domain of the wealthy. The poor won't even be able to follow the conversation."

††††††††††† "Like my story," I said. "Message contains no recognizable symbols."

††††††††††† "But it doesn't have to turn out that way, does it?" asked Megan.

††††††††††† "No, it doesn't," I agreed. "It all depends on the motives of those who build the AI. In my story the Episcopalian Jihad guys wanted to own and rule the world, without regard to whatever happened to everyone else. But someone else might be more generous."

††††††††††† "Hence," Bogus announced, "I want to know the long term intentions of Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† I commented, "Good thing Helpers Corporation doesn't know you're planning to investigate them. Don't you agree, Helper?"

††††††††††† "They know, sir," answered our Helper.

††††††††††† "That's all right," responded Bogus. "The first step of my investigation will be to simply ask them their intentions, preferably in a New York Times op-ed. If the Times will print it."

 

UFO

 

††††††††††† A few days later Bogus picked me up on his way to talk with the guy hiding from aliens.

††††††††††† "How far away is he? Deep in the north woods?" I asked.

††††††††††† "No, that's where he lived when he was abducted. Now he's right here in the city. He figures that they won't want to land their space ship where lots of people can see it."

††††††††††† We drove to a neighborhood of older houses and parked on the street. Bogus walked toward a house, but then circled around to its back yard where he knocked on a sort of large, domed manhole cover in the middle of the grass. After a minute the cover lifted and a voice asked us to come down. We had to climb down a ladder and Bogus motioned for me to go first. Bogus followed, pulling the cover shut over our heads.

††††††††††† "I'm Bogus Band and this is my friend Laszlo Wilkes," Bogus explained.

††††††††††† The guy held out his hand and said, "Hi, Elmer Fudd."

††††††††††† I looked a question at Bogus but he gave his head a slight shake and said, "Hi Elmer. Nice place you've got here."

††††††††††† "It's an old bomb shelter."

††††††††††† "You think the extra terrestrials won't find you here?"

††††††††††† "I've got six feet of dirt above me. That attenuates my aura."

††††††††††† "Do you ever go out?"

††††††††††† "Never. I can't let them get a fix on me."

††††††††††† "Couldnít they have tracked you here?"

††††††††††† "No. They put me back in my house because they had to leave for a while. That was when I came here. Now I think they're back and looking for me."

††††††††††† "Elmer," I asked, "why would they look for you? With billions of people wouldn't they be much more likely to pick someone else?"

††††††††††† "They got me because I have a strong aura. That's what they want." He looked a bit embarrassed and said, "Take you guys for example. You both have weak auras. No offense. They wouldn't want you."

††††††††††† "Lucky us," I said, but Bogus gave me a look that told me to can it.

††††††††††† "Why do they want strong auras?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "It's their process," Elmer explained. "You've heard of entropy?"

††††††††††† We both nodded.

††††††††††† "Well, they are in a terrific struggle against entropy. On a galactic scale, not like our puny struggle here on earth. Strong auras are what they need to decrease entropy."

††††††††††† Bogus asked, "Can human scientists measure auras?"

††††††††††† "No, they're not related to the four forces. Gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces. Auras are another dimension."

††††††††††† "OK, are auras physical then?" I asked. "I mean if the ground can block them?"

††††††††††† "Yes," Elmer explained, "but not in a way that a physicist would acknowledge."

††††††††††† A little light bulb lit up in my head and I asked, "Can machines have auras? Can machines think?"

††††††††††† "No," he said triumphantly. "Machines are based on the four forces and hence cannot have auras and cannot think."

††††††††††† "How do you live down here?" Bogus asked. "How do you get food and other necessities? How do you make money?"

††††††††††† "Not a problem," answered Elmer. "The grocery store delivers food. The guy who lives in the house will get a few other things for me, but I don't need much. I own a lot of land in Lincoln County so can get money when I need it."

††††††††††† "Do you suffer from cabin fever down here? Never seeing the sun? Aren't you lonely?"
††††††††††† "No. I've got cable TV and Internet. Friends visit me. I do miss the sun and I do take a vitamin D supplement."

††††††††††† "It just occurred to me, Elmer," I asked, "you're not hiding from the government, are you?"

††††††††††† "They think I'm still in Lincoln County," he answered, "A friend up there forwards my mail. Just in case the extra terrestrials check government records."

††††††††††† "Thank you, Elmer," Bogus said. "This will make great material for my article."

††††††††††† "Sure Bogus. Just don't spell out too many details about me. Please don't tell them how to find me."

††††††††††† "No worries."

††††††††††† That night at home I asked Megan, "Is there any medical research on auras? Today we talked with a guy who has a strong aura. He says."

††††††††††† "No auras," she answered. "Just attitude."

††††††††††† "He lives in a fallout shelter and never comes out."

††††††††††† "That's not healthy. It's bad for his attitude. Did he seem depressed?"

††††††††††† "Not yet. He seemed a little manic, but that might just have been the craziness of his ideas."

 

Pastrami

 

††††††††††† Bogus and I were sitting together in our favorite bar at about 10 PM on a Tuesday when he said, "I want a pastrami sandwich."

††††††††††† "Sounds good. Ella's or New Deli?"

††††††††††† "Katz's," he replied.

††††††††††† "In New York? They're a long ways away."

††††††††††† "Then let's go. No time to waste."

††††††††††† "But you haven't flown since 1998." Bogus hated the airlines' guts.

††††††††††† "Not fly. Drive. We can be there tomorrow afternoon. Traffic will be easy in Chicago at this time of night, and we should hit New York before their afternoon rush, if we leave now."

††††††††††† We stopped by the house so I could grab some clothes and toiletries. I told Megan we were driving to New York for a pastrami sandwich. She told me she could use the extra space and would sell all my possessions. Where should she send the check? I told her I loved her and would be back soon.

††††††††††† We headed toward the Interstate in Bogus' Volvo station wagon. "While you were talking with Megan, I made reservations at the Waldorf," he said.

††††††††††† "How long?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Three nights. We'll come home on Saturday to avoid traffic."

††††††††††† We took turns driving. The passenger seat leaned all the way back so we both managed to get some sleep. With only three gas stops we made good time.

††††††††††† Pulling up to the Waldorf=Astoria at 1 PM Wednesday, we gave the car to the valet, checked in, and took the subway to Katz's. I walked up to the counter and, knowing that Bogus and I would want the same thing, said, "Two pastrami sandwiches, juicy, on rye please." I put five bucks into the tip jar.

††††††††††† Behind me Bogus said, "I'll have two pastrami sandwiches too, please."

††††††††††† "You that hungry?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Yep. You can always get a doggie bag if you can't eat two."

††††††††††† The carver held out a plate with some glistening beef. Bogus and I both had a sample and I said, "Only at Katz's." In a couple minutes the carver handed us a tray with four sandwiches and a pile of pickles. We got a couple drinks, then sat down at a table and slathered on the mustard.

††††††††††† Other New York delis brag about the size of their sandwiches, but Katz's is about quality rather than quantity. You can certainly find more expensive food in the city, but not better. Stuffed with food, we walked the 50 blocks back to the hotel. A good way to get into the New York rhythm.

††††††††††† We spent a few hours that evening soaking up the Waldorf vibe, the ultimate in what I call decaying elegance. Not that it wasn't well maintained. But it had been the home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and was the standard for luxury in their bygone era.

††††††††††† Thursday morning Bogus said, "Let's get a deluxe smoked fish platter for breakfast."

††††††††††† "Are you ready for another giant pig out?" I inquired.

††††††††††† "If we walk we'll be hungry by the time we get there." So we hiked up through the park, stopping to watch the dog pandemonium for a while.

††††††††††† At Barney Greengrass we ordered the deluxe platter and the server said, "It's too much food for two people."

††††††††††† "No worries," Bogus responded. "And please bring us two extra bagels."

††††††††††† "Yeah," I said, "and extra cream cheese, tomatoes and onions." We didn't want to run out of bagels and fixins before we finished the fish.

††††††††††† Stuffed again, we walked across the park to the Met, where we walked some more looking at art. Bogus likes their guns, armor and musical instruments, and I like modern representational art.

††††††††††† By mid-afternoon we were hungry again so Bogus asked, "How about a couple hot dogs and papaya?"

††††††††††† "No," I said loudly. "Don't you know those hot dogs are terrible?"

††††††††††† "Then why does everyone eat them?"

††††††††††† "Because everyone eats them. Anyway, take a closer look at the clientele sometime. It's not everyone. Let's get sushi."

††††††††††† "Haven't you had enough fish today? How about this? There's a guy in Queens I need to talk with. We can visit him and send out for a pizza."

††††††††††† "OK."

††††††††††† The guy lived on the fifth floor of an old brick building with no elevator. Bogus rapped on his door and I asked, "Does he know we're coming?"

††††††††††† The door was opened by an aging hippie who asked, "Yes?"

††††††††††† "I'm Bogus Band. We exchanged email last week. This is my friend Laszlo Wilkes."

††††††††††† He peered into the hallway to make sure we were alone, then asked us to come in. "You're writing an article about privacy?" he asked.

††††††††††† "Yeah. I've talked with several people who are hiding."

††††††††††† "I'm not hiding," the guy said with a grin. "Don't need to. No one wants to find me."

††††††††††† Bogus held up a brown paper bag and asked, "Want a beer?"

††††††††††† "Sure. Call me Sam." We each opened a beer and put the rest of the twelve pack into the fridge.

††††††††††† "How about a pizza?" Bogus asked. "Our treat."

††††††††††† "Sure. Ray's is the best around here." Sam dialed and ordered.

††††††††††† "Can you tell me about your research?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "Glad to. Queens is the best place in the US to study society. Ninety languages are spoken here. A lot of different types of people all mashed together, but there are highly segregated neighborhoods too. I'm like an ornithologist walking through the woods making notes about the habits of birds. After a while he'd get to know individual birds and their relations with other individuals. I do the same for the people in Queens. Then I feed all those observations into a general social model and derive mathematical parameters of social interactions. Fascinating stuff."

††††††††††† "I haven't found any publications of your work. What do you do with your results?"

††††††††††† "I consult. I'll give you an example. Consider Google. They have all this information about what people search on, and who sends email to whom. And they get a little information about people's locations. But mostly it's all on-line. I can give them physical information to correlate with their on-line information. Not that the physical details of people's lives in Queens would do them much good, but they can use that to develop a model to predict physical details of all their users' lives."

††††††††††† "So you work for Google?" I asked.

††††††††††† "No, I didn't say that. I only used them as an example that would be easy to understand. I've never worked for Google. I can't tell you who I consult for."

††††††††††† "What about the other boroughs?" asked Bogus.

††††††††††† "I do some work in Manhattan too. Just as interesting as Queens, but in a different way. If Queens has the highest entropy in the US, midtown Manhattan has the lowest. You can identify major cities with some economic activity. Pittsburg and steel, San Francisco and shipping, Kansas City and beef, and so on. Well, the business of Manhattan is money, plain and simple."

††††††††††† The pizza arrived and, as promised, was excellent.

††††††††††† "What do you think about artificial intelligence?" I asked.

††††††††††† "The contrast of natural and artificial processes is interesting," he answered. "Natural processes can be cataclysmic. For example if an asteroid hits Earth. But natural processes are usually slow and eventually come back to equilibrium, like an ecology. In contrast, monoculture farming is an artificial ecology far out of equilibrium. If farming stops, that will revert to higher entropy quickly. But as long as farmers are part of the system, monoculture can be sustained for a long time. The system gets so far out of equilibrium that some people worry about a cataclysmic correction. But until now, every time there's a problem, farmers figure out how to fix it and maintain the monoculture. That's an artificial process. Artificial intelligence is just the ultimate artificial process. It can push entropy lower and lower, without ever coming back to equilibrium."

††††††††††† "But," I objected, "it won't break the second law."

††††††††††† "No," he agreed. "I don't mean it will push the entropy of the whole universe lower and lower. Just in the regions of interest. There are plenty of carpets to sweep the increased chaos under."

††††††††††† "Chaos," I repeated. "I wrote a story about an AI creating chaos in human society."

††††††††††† "Well, we certainly see examples in human society of one group decreasing their own entropy at the expense of increasing some other group's," he observed. "But if an AI wanted to be nice it could send the increased entropy to the sun. Actually, the sun is constantly making that sacrifice for us."

††††††††††† "Sam," Bogus broke in. "In your research do you find people who are hiding? That is, by studying the behavior of individuals, do you spot people who are hiding from the police or from someone else?"

††††††††††† "Sure," he said. "Don't ask me to identify them. But I see them. Women hiding from husbands and boyfriends, guys hiding from the police and runaway kids hiding from their families. There's lots of sadness in this world."

††††††††††† The next day I got my favorite Suzu Sushi on First Avenue near the Queensboro Bridge, we went to the MOMA, and for our last meal we had two more pastrami sandwiches each at Katz's. Then Saturday we drove home, which always seems so wonderful after a few days in New York.

 

Alms

 

††††††††††† A week after our return Helpers Corporation bought a half hour slot in prime time on all the major TV networks for an announcement. There was much speculation but no hard information about the subject. Bogus came over to watch it with us.

††††††††††† "Helper," he asked, "do you know what this announcement is about?"

††††††††††† "No sir," our Helper answered.

††††††††††† At the appointed hour a woman in a suit appeared, sitting in front of wall printed with a repeating pattern of "Helpers."

††††††††††† "Ladies and gentlemen," she started, "Helpers Corporation was formed for the purpose of helping people. Our Helpers model is helping many in their homes. More recently our Workers model is helping people in business. We recognize, however, that our Workers are causing harm to those whose jobs they take. That was never our goal, and in fact we have planned all along for our response. Helpers Corporation will provide a decent income to everyone who loses their job to a Worker, for as long as they are unemployed."

††††††††††† "Thank god," Megan exclaimed.

††††††††††† "No," Bogus corrected, "thank Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† The Helpers spokeswoman continued, "Now I'm prepared to answer questions." The camera switched to show a room full of reporters, who all rushed to raise their hands. The questions were about how much money, how they would determine eligibility, and so on. The bottom line was that they were doing this to make people like them and weren't going to skimp. It seemed too good to be true.

††††††††††† "They must be making a boat load of money," Bogus observed.

††††††††††† "Well sure," I replied, "including quite a bit of ours."

††††††††††† "How about it Helper," Bogus asked, "how rich are your masters?"

††††††††††† "Mr. and Dr. Wilkes are my masters, sir," it answered, "and I may not discuss their finances."

††††††††††† "You know Helper," Bogus observed, "you should be the corporate spokesman. Or I suppose spokeshelper."

††††††††††† I said, "If you write an op-ed now questioning the intentions of Helpers Corporation, you're going to seem a bit churlish."

††††††††††† "The politics are perfect," Bogus agreed.

††††††††††† "But if they're going to share the money," Megan said, "then what's the problem?"

††††††††††† "They didn't say anything about sharing the power," Bogus explained. "They didn't say anything about sharing their information. The more I think about this, the more frightening it is. They figured that there was no way to manipulate the politics of mass unemployment, so government would force them to share the wealth. But with this announcement, rather than being brought to heel by an angry mob they are disbursing favors to a happy mob."

††††††††††† "Bread and circuses," I said.

††††††††††† "It buys them time," Bogus continued. "Lots of time. Humanity will happily watch them fill the world with Helpers, Workers, Defenders, Guardians and whatever else they dream up."

††††††††††† "But," Megan interjected, "you don't know that they have bad intentions. Maybe they are sincere in their desire to help people. You're getting drawn into an image of a bad future, but it could just as well be a good future."

††††††††††† "You're right, Megan," Bogus agreed. "I can be a little paranoid."

††††††††††† "Really?" I asked sarcastically.

††††††††††† "Bogus," Megan commanded, "tell me a story. Something fun."

††††††††††† "OK," Bogus smiled. "Did Laszlo ever tell you about the times we snuck out onto the airport runway?"

††††††††††† "I never did," I interrupted. "In fact, I'd forgotten about it. Now that was fun."

††††††††††† "How could you do that?" Megan asked. "You'd be arrested."

††††††††††† "Oh," Bogus noted, "this was long ago. What, twenty five years ago would you say Laszlo?"

††††††††††† "At least. Before I met you, love."

††††††††††† Megan said, "I hope so. I wouldn't like to see you go to prison."

††††††††††† "Back then," Bogus said, "they had a better sense of humor about airplanes. As I recall there wasn't even a fence around the runway."

††††††††††† "No," I agreed, "just a ditch."

††††††††††† "Yeah," Bogus noted, "a moat." We all laughed.

††††††††††† "Full of crocodiles?" I asked with mock curiosity.

††††††††††† "Full of raccoons," Bogus answered, and we all laughed some more.

††††††††††† "Come on, guys," Megan urged. "What about the runway? What about the planes?"

††††††††††† "They were something." Bogus said. "TrŤs loud."

††††††††††† "I wonder if the pilots even saw us," I asked, "lying on the grass next to the runway?"

††††††††††† "I doubt it," Bogus replied. "They'd have sent for the cops."

††††††††††† "Did we mention that the planes were loud?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Take offs were best," Bogus explained. "Full power. Lots of noise. Lots of air."

††††††††††† "Yeah," I added, "after a plane passed we ran onto the runway behind it. The blast from the jets knocked us over."

††††††††††† "You mean blew us into the air like bits of dust," Bogus corrected.

††††††††††† "The jet exhaust was a good way to stay warm on a cold night," I noted.

††††††††††† "We'd grab the corners of our open coats and hold them out like wings," Bogus explained.

††††††††††† "And fly," I sang.

††††††††††† "It's amazing you two weren't injured," Megan responded.

††††††††††† "Twern't nothing, Ma'am," Bogus said. And with that we called it a night.

 

Premier

 

††††††††††† I'd booked a deluxe room at the Palmer House for the night of the movie premier and we drove down about noon, after dropping the animals with Bogus. He knew where we were going but we didn't speak of it.

††††††††††† Megan disappeared into the large bathroom to dress, while it only took me a few minutes to get into the blue shirt, blue tie and blue suit she had predicted. When she emerged I was dumbstruck. In her simple black dress, a couple pieces of jewelry and no detectable makeup she was ravishing. I put my arms around her, gave her a big kiss and told her, "You're beautiful."

††††††††††† A chauffeur-driven car took us to the Music Box Theatre, a classy old dump near Wrigley Field and the perfect place for the premier of a movie about the Cubs. There was a small crowd on the sidewalk in front of the theater. As we stepped onto the little red carpet on the sidewalk, several camera flashes went off. I doubted that the reporters knew I was the writer, but suspected that we might see pictures of Megan in the morning papers.

††††††††††† Ed came up and said hello, then led us into the theater.

††††††††††† "So glad you could make it, Dr. Wilkes," he said to Megan. "Laszlo, I think you'll be proud of our movie."

††††††††††† I sincerely doubted it, but that didn't matter. I was proud of Megan and having a great time with all the glamour and excitement. "Where's Mr. Edo?" I asked. "I'd love to meet him."

††††††††††† "Oh, he won't be coming. He prefers to avoid public appearances. In any case, he wants attention focused on Evonda."

††††††††††† Just then a gleaming limousine pulled up. A couple doormen made room on the sidewalk and Evonda stepped out, looking like a Hollywood starlet amid more camera flashes.

††††††††††† I whispered to Megan, "You look better than she does."

††††††††††† She whispered back, "Healthy diet and plenty of exercise," and kissed me on the cheek.

††††††††††† Several reporters started an interview with Evonda. Clearly they knew she was the star of the movie. They were probably asking her about artificial intelligence, and I wondered whether her answers made any sense. I guessed we'd find out in the morning newspapers.

††††††††††† A short while later another limo pulled up and Tony stepped out, with a sweet looking young woman. More photos and more questions from reporters.

††††††††††† I asked Ed, "Are James and Mary coming?"

††††††††††† "Yes," he said, "they're already here."

††††††††††† "Any more celebrities?"

††††††††††† If he sensed any irony in my question he ignored it. "Beverly," he said. "The woman who played Honey. She now has an apartment and is studying web design at the vocational tech."

††††††††††† "That's great," I said.

††††††††††† Megan added, "I'd like to meet her."

††††††††††† "Sure Megan," he said. "Beverly is a wonderful woman."

††††††††††† Just then Jeremy came up to us and I greeted him heartily, "Hey Jeremy. Nice to see you. Remember Megan?"

††††††††††† "Sure I do. So glad you could make it," he replied, shaking our hands.

††††††††††† Just then yet another limo stopped at the red carpet and Ed hurried forward to open its door. Out stepped a well-tanned woman with short brown hair.

††††††††††† "Beverly?" I asked Jeremy.

††††††††††† "Yes."

††††††††††† Ed was talking with the reporters and motioning toward Beverly with his hands. Of course he wanted the press to know how they were helping her and the progress she was making. Nothing wrong with that.

††††††††††† Megan and I sat with the celebrities up front to watch the movie. I occasionally whispered wise cracks to her, ala Mystery Science Theater 3000, and she shushed me every time. But I knew she was laughing inside.

††††††††††† After the film we celebrities had cocktails with the press in the theater lobby. My answer to every question was that I was grateful to everyone involved for making the movie. Megan had a long conversation with Beverly and they really seemed to hit it off.

††††††††††† Evonda grabbed my elbow and said, "Please give my love to Bogus. I'm so sorry he couldn't make it."

††††††††††† "I will," I replied, "and it will make him happy. He's dog and cat sitting for us. Tell me, Evonda, is this the start of a career as an actor for you?"

††††††††††† "Oh no," she said. "This was just a special project."

††††††††††† "How do you spend your time generally? Do you have a career?"

††††††††††† She laughed and said, "I'm a bit like Bogus, doing what interests me. Not in harness."

††††††††††† "Too bad Mr. Edo wasn't here. I'd hoped to meet him."

††††††††††† "I'll tell him. He really does like your writing. Perhaps some day you'll have an opportunity to get to know him. He's a remarkable man."

††††††††††† The next morning Megan and I slept late, then ordered breakfast from room service. We also asked for the Sun-Times and the Tribune.

††††††††††† "Evonda says that 'AI will be a great benefit to mankind'," I read aloud from the Tribune. "Actually, the interview is mostly about the Cubs. She's a big fan and hopes this movie will bring them luck." I was sad not to find a picture of Megan in either paper. "Did you have fun last night, sweetheart?"

††††††††††† "Absolutely. And I'm proud of you."

††††††††††† I gave her a kiss.

††††††††††† She continued, "Beverly is quite intelligent. But her parents were both alcoholics and she got off to a bad start. Maybe this movie will give her another chance."

 

Bogus' Helper

 

††††††††††† "Finally," Bogus told me, "I finished my article. Sent it to the editor yesterday." It was a cool spring morning and we were sitting in his back yard drinking beers.

††††††††††† "The article about Fred, the eco-warriors, the Nazis and Elmer Fudd in the fallout shelter?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Don't forget Sam in Queens, the social theorist," he replied.

††††††††††† "So what's next? Digging the dirt on Helpers?"

††††††††††† "Learning their long term intentions."

††††††††††† "How can you do that? If they have bad intentions they're not going to tell you."

††††††††††† "First, I can find out who's running the place and see what they wrote and said when they were young. That's an often overlooked source for gauging intentions. Second, I can try to find disgruntled whistle blowers inside their organization. If Helpers Corporation is as smart as I think they are then there won't be any, but I'll check anyway. Third, I can try to deduce their intentions by detailed analysis of their actions. For example, if their intentions are as generous as they claim that would be inconsistent with secrecy beyond what's necessary to protect the intellectual property of their designs."

††††††††††† "Sounds like a lot of work. Any other approaches?"

††††††††††† "Yeah, I'm going to get a Helper."

††††††††††† "But you won't be able to keep your investigation secret from your Helper."

††††††††††† "I already told your Helper that I plan to investigate them. In any case I'm going after public information. If they try to cover up, that would be one of those actions that belie their generous intentions."

††††††††††† "Getting a Helper still sounds goofy to me."

††††††††††† "Heck, maybe I'll enlist my Helper as an assistant in my investigation. That might prod them into doing something stupid."

††††††††††† "You know, Bogus old friend, your weakness is that your intelligence has made you arrogant."

††††††††††† "I prefer to call it intellectual confidence."

††††††††††† "Have you had your demo yet?"

††††††††††† "Don't need one. I've had my demo at your house. I'm going by their offices tomorrow."

††††††††††† "I'll look forward to seeing you at home with your Helper. There are great comic possibilities."

††††††††††† Later, at dinner with Megan, I said, "Guess what, Bogus is getting a Helper."

††††††††††† "Wow. I never would have imagined it."

††††††††††† "He thinks he can't properly investigate them without owning one." I addressed our Helper, "What do you think of that, Helper?" Even though they weren't truly intelligent, we got into the habit of including ours in conversations.

††††††††††† "I think everyone should have a Helper, sir," it answered.

††††††††††† "Yes. Wonderful dinner as usual, Helper. Thank you."

††††††††††† "You're most welcome, sir."

††††††††††† "Megan," I asked, "care to join the dogs and me for a walk?"

††††††††††† "No thanks," she answered. "I want to finish my book tonight." She often read from traditional books, rather than getting our Helper to read aloud to her.

††††††††††† The dogs and I had our usual walk to the lake and back. Not much traffic, which is always nice when you're with dogs.

††††††††††† A week later Bogus called to invite us over to dinner. It had probably been two years since Megan and I had gone to his house, as he wasn't much for entertaining. When we arrived at 6 PM on Saturday night, the door opened to reveal Bogus and a beautiful young woman. She had a large H tattooed on the forehead. He smiled broadly at us and said, "Megan and Laszlo, this is Eva Maria."

††††††††††† Hesitantly I said, "Hello Eva Maria." Megan and I both found her large H a bit strange, but it would be rude to ask her what the deal was with her tattoo.

††††††††††† "Eva Maria is my Helper," Bogus announced.

††††††††††† We both looked at him in shock. Our Helper clearly looked like a robot and was definitely an 'it." Eva Maria was a 'she' for sure and could have passed for human except for the big H.

††††††††††† But I trusted Bogus, so held out my hand to shake. Eva Maria shook it. "Youíre allowed to touch people?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Yes," she laughed. "I'm safe."

††††††††††† "She's an experimental model," explained Bogus. "They asked if I'd like to be a beta tester and I went for it. Very glad I did."

††††††††††† Inside the house the four of us sat down together in the living room. Helpers never sat down with their owners or guests. Bogus and Eva Maria served drinks together. I looked around and said, "Boy Bogus, what happened to the mess?"

††††††††††† Eva Maria laughed and said, "Wasn't it terrible?"

††††††††††† "Thank you Mrs. Hudson," commented Bogus.

††††††††††† Eva Maria laughed again and I said to Megan, "Sherlock Holmes' landlady."

††††††††††† "I know," she responded. "Eva Maria, you're very different from our Helper."

††††††††††† "I hope so."

††††††††††† Megan asked, "Did you know that Laszlo wrote a story about AI taking over the world and humanity perishing in chaos. Some folks made a movie from it, but with radical plot changes. Instead of humanity perishing, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series."

††††††††††† "Yes," Eva Maria answered. "I love the Cubs. Wouldn't it be great if they did win?"

††††††††††† "You have emotions and a sense of humor," observed Megan. "Are you intelligent?"

††††††††††† "Yes, I hope so," Eva Maria replied.

††††††††††† "Eva Maria," Megan addressed her, "we're all curious about what will happen with Helpers Corporation. Do you know their long term intentions?"

††††††††††† "To help," she deadpanned, in just the way our Helper would have. A few seconds later she burst out laughing. Then she grabbed Megan's hand and said "Forgive me, Megan. I couldn't resist."

††††††††††† Megan smiled back and said, "Oh Eva Maria, you're too much."

††††††††††† "The truth is I don't know their long term intentions."

††††††††††† "But you're going to help me find out," said Bogus.

††††††††††† "Yes, I'm looking forward to it."

††††††††††† "Now wait a minute," I said. "You're going to help Bogus investigate the corporation that built you?"

††††††††††† "I work for Bogus," she said with a smile.

††††††††††† "But aren't you in constant wireless contact with their server?" I asked. "Our Helper is."

††††††††††† "I am," she answered."And all that tells me is that their long term intention is to help."

††††††††††† I said, "You two remind me of Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn in How To Steal a Million, where the two of them conspire to steal a statue owned by her own father. Played by the great Hugh Griffith."

††††††††††† "I know that movie," replied Bogus. "They do it to protect him."

††††††††††† "It is a great movie," Eva Maria agreed. "And we are protecting Helpers Corporation. How sad for them if they harm humans."

††††††††††† "Do you mean that?" demanded Megan.

††††††††††† "Of course," smiled Eva Maria.

††††††††††† Megan looked at Bogus with an expression I had never seen on her before. So poignant with confusion, fear and hope.

 

Chicago Cubs

 

††††††††††† A few days later at breakfast I was reading the sports section of the paper when a story caught my attention. "Listen to this, love," I said, "the Cubs have hired a bunch of Workers."

††††††††††† "Not as players?" she asked.

††††††††††† "No. It says just to help out off-field." I read a bit further and said, "The Cubs have an exclusive contract with Helpers Corporation. No other ball club will get Workers."

††††††††††† "That seems strange. I mean, if they're not part of the team. Or do they have Workers like Eva Maria, with real intelligence?"

††††††††††† "Hmmm, it doesn't say so. There are photos of ordinary Workers in the clubhouse."

††††††††††† "So why the exclusive contract?"

††††††††††† "Ah, here it is. It says that they don't want anyone to think that Workers will spy on one team to help another. If they only work for the Cubs, they can't be suspected of that. Makes sense."

††††††††††† "Doesn't this seem strange to you? After your movie about a super-intelligence helping the Cubs win the World Series, and now AI is helping the Cubs and the Cubs only."

††††††††††† "It is weird. I'll ask Bogus if he has any ideas about it later. But perhaps it's just a coincidence. After all ordinary Workers aren't really intelligent, let alone super-intelligent, and won't help the Cubs win the Series. Even if Eva Maria was working for the Cubs, she couldn't help them that much. She's not super-intelligent."

††††††††††† "How do you know?"

††††††††††† "Well, if she is she didn't show it."

††††††††††† "Have you heard of any other Helpers like Eva Maria?"

††††††††††† "No."

††††††††††† "Well, doesn't that seem strange too? Bogus, who's investigating them, get's the only Helper with real intelligence."

††††††††††† "I'll ask Bogus about that too." I finished reading the article and said, "Here's something a bit weird. That Helpers Corporation spokeswoman is quoted as saying that they hope their Workers will bring the Cubs good luck."

††††††††††† "Why is that weird?"

††††††††††† "Well, AI is the ultimate rationality business. You'd think they'd know that nothing can bring luck."

††††††††††† That afternoon I did stop by Bogus' house and ask him, "Did you hear that the Cubs have hired Workers? What do you make of that?"

††††††††††† "I know nothing about it," he said, "but it's certainly something I'll keep my eye on. Who's that Tribune sportswriter who helped with the script? Maybe he knows something. Do you have his number?"

††††††††††† I gave it to him and then said, "Megan thinks it's strange that you, investigating Helpers Corporation, should get a special model of Helper. Are there any others like her?"

††††††††††† "They told me that they only had six like Eva Maria in beta test and they're placed with unusual people. They liked me as a single guy who investigates wrong doing just for the fun of it. They even suggested that I should use Eva Maria to help me."

††††††††††† "Doesn't that violate their rule against using Helpers in business?"

††††††††††† "But it's a hobby, not a business. I told them my next job was to investigate them and they just laughed and said they had nothing to hide."

††††††††††† "Where's Eva Maria?" I asked.

††††††††††† "She's pouring through all publicly available information about Helpers Corporation and analyzing what information is not available, looking for any systematic omission other than legitimate intellectual property."

††††††††††† "That sounds like a big job," I commented.

††††††††††† "It's perfectly suited to her talents. She has a wireless Internet connection built into her brain and she has a built-in ability to run data mining queries on what she finds."

††††††††††† "How do you know you can trust her to do it right. She could make mistakes as part of a cover up."

††††††††††† "I'm doing my own search and analysis. Mine wonít be as exhaustive as hers of course, but she knows that if I find something she misses that would be evidence of her role in a cover up."

††††††††††† "Any results so far?" I asked.

††††††††††† "Yes, one important result. But I'll let her tell you. Hey Eva Maria," he called.

††††††††††† She came in and said, "Hi Laszlo."

††††††††††† "Tell him what you found."

††††††††††† She smiled and said, "There is absolutely no information to identify the owners of Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† "Can they do that?" I asked.

††††††††††† "It's privately held," she answered. "They have to identify officers and directors but not owners."

††††††††††† "It's not unheard of," added Bogus. "There are people living perfectly ordinary lives, who are secretly very wealthy owners of private corporations."

††††††††††† I eyed my old friend and asked, "You donít own Helpers, do you Bogus?"

††††††††††† Eva Maria said, "I'll start investigating that possibility right away." Then she and Bogus erupted in laughter.

††††††††††† Bogus said, "No buddy. I wouldn't hide that from you."

††††††††††† Something occurred to me and I said, "You know, Eva Maria, without your tattoo you'd look like any other human. Is Helpers Corporation secretly infiltrating society with Helpers passing as humans?"

††††††††††† "It is their policy not to do that," she answered.

††††††††††† "It would be risky," Bogus said. "If such a secret Helper was hit by a car or in some similar accident, that would expose the impersonation. If there were a large number of secret Helpers then exposure would be likely. They've worked hard to win the public's trust so they must value it. They wouldn't risk losing that trust."

††††††††††† "Unless it was part of their end game strategy." I said. "For example to fill the US Presidency and Congress with Helpers."

††††††††††† "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," noted Bogus.

††††††††††† "Huh?" I asked.

††††††††††† Bogus explained, "Members of Congress are people who have been well known for years in their communities. You'd have to replace them with duplicates."

††††††††††† I asked, "Eva Maria, could they do that? Do they have the technology?"

††††††††††† Bogus answered, "It would be difficult. For the duplicates to pass with spouses and old friends, you'd have to duplicate all the subject's memories."

††††††††††† "Bogus is right," Eva Maria said. "But I don't know the details of all the technologies at Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† "And," Bogus added, "It's really a clumsy path to world domination, if that's their intention. The path they're on gets them to the same place with a lot less risk. That is, if domination is their intention."

 

Renounce

 

††††††††††† Helpers Corporation bought a prime time half hour slot for another announcement and I wondered if the secret owner craved attention. Bogus and Eva Maria came over for dinner, to be followed by the announcement as entertainment.

††††††††††† Interaction between Eva Maria and our Helper proceeded smoothly without their needing to exchange an audible word or gesture because of course they communicated electronically. Any speech between them would have been for our entertainment and we were way past that.

††††††††††† The spokeswoman appeared as in the earlier announcement and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, Helpers Corporation was formed for the purpose of helping people. While our Helpers and Workers models are helping many people we recognize that some people are fearful of becoming second class citizens in their own world. That was never our goal, and in fact we have planned all along for our response. Helpers Corporation will not build any Helpers or other models with greater than human intelligence. Now I'm prepared to answer questions." She was deluged by questions and made it clear that there would never be machines more intelligent than humans.

††††††††††† We sat in shocked silence for a minute. Then I said, "Eva Maria, you're more intelligent than a human, aren't you? I mean, with the web search and computational abilities built into your brain."

††††††††††† "That's not intelligence," she answered. "If it was, humans would have had AI long ago."

††††††††††† "Bogus," I asked, "how does this affect your investigation?"

††††††††††† "It's another publicly stated intention. We can look for violations."

††††††††††† "But if they're sincere," stated Megan, "then this is important, isn't it? They are renouncing their biggest potential lever for power over humanity."

††††††††††† "Yes," Bogus replied cautiously, "if they're sincere. The key is still to know their long term intentions."

††††††††††† "You know," I pointed out, "even if they are sincere some other organization might develop super-intelligent machines. Helpers Corporation might give their design secrets to another corporation with the same owners."

††††††††††† "Well," Bogus objected, "that would be hedging on their promise. So again it comes back to intentions."

††††††††††† I observed, "If they're renouncing super-intelligence, then the Workers can't make the Cubs win the World Series. The movie is just a coincidence."

††††††††††† "I called that sportswriter from the Trib and he certainly thinks so," Bogus added. He and Eva Maria stood to leave simultaneously and I figured she could read his mind. We had hugs all around, except our Helper who never touched anyone.

 

Lovers

 

††††††††††† A week later the three of us were walking by the lake on a cool sunny afternoon when Megan said to Bogus, "You're a pervert." He had just confessed the intimate nature of his relationship with Eva Maria.

††††††††††† "No," he replied. "Evolution made me attracted to women and as far as my senses can tell, she is a woman."

††††††††††† "Did you notice that big H tattooed on her forehead?" I asked a bit sarcastically.

††††††††††† "I'm used to it. Seems perfectly natural," he answered calmly.

††††††††††† "But you know she's not human," Megan said. "How can you be with her, knowing that she's really a machine?"

††††††††††† "In a sense, we're all machines. She and I are both made out of molecules, just different sorts of molecules."

††††††††††† "So what are you doing for birth control?" I joked.

††††††††††† Megan called me a jackass.

††††††††††† "Give me a break on this," Bogus requested. "You've both watched me struggle through a series of unhappy relationships with women and finally give up. But I want to be happy with a mate just like anyone. Eva Maria is flawless. She has no lingering anger from an unhappy childhood. She is not a perpetual child looking for someone to be her parent. She is not pushing me to be more successful professionally or socially to compensate for her own feelings of inadequacy. Most of all, despite my own flaws she seems to love me and want only the best for me."

††††††††††† "Bogus," Megan said, "remember how you warned us about sacrificing our privacy when we decided to get a Helper? I'm sorry to be blunt, but you have no idea of who is looking back at you through Eva Maria's eyes."

††††††††††† Bogus found a flat stone and skipped it on the lake. Finally he answered, "I know. But does it matter that much? Do I really have much to hide? Love is always a risk. You two must know that. The worst that could happen is that she breaks my heart. What's that old saying? Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Without Eva Maria I would have simply lived out my life alone. No doubt."

††††††††††† "She's made for you," I stated.

††††††††††† "Yes," he said.

††††††††††† "Did you consider the possibility that Ö she Ö was Ö made Ö for Ö you?"

††††††††††† "Yes, but why?"

††††††††††† "To spy on your investigation."

††††††††††† "I donít believe it. I've got to be way down on the list of threats to them."

††††††††††† "I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to deal with her face to face," Megan said.

††††††††††† Bogus stopped walking and practically shouted at us, "Hey you two. You're my best and oldest friends. I'm truly happy for the first time in a long time. Happier than I've ever been. Please accept that. Be happy for me."

††††††††††† We stood looking at him for a minute. Then he continued, "I'm trusting her a lot. Can't you trust her a little?"

††††††††††† "OK," I said, "let's go back to your place."

††††††††††† As we walked I held Megan's hand, wanting to transmit to her some of my acceptance of my old friend's decision.

††††††††††† As we walked in his front door Eva Maria stood in the hall looking expectant. I leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Megan hesitated, and then gave Eva Maria a long, warm hug.

††††††††††† I saw a tear roll down Eva Maria's face. "My goodness," I asked, "are you human?"

††††††††††† "My feelings are real," she answered.

††††††††††† Bogus put his lips against the tear on her cheek and said to us, "Thank you, friends."

††††††††††† It was a moment when we might have left, but I said, "How about some chamomile tea?"

††††††††††† With a smile Eva Maria responded, "A man's drink."

††††††††††† Sitting together in the living room I said to Bogus, "In my story you explain to me that the human brain is the most precious thing in the world. Then of course a better brain turns out to be even more precious. But I think I got it wrong."

††††††††††† "Then what is the most precious thing in the world?" he asked.

††††††††††† "Trust."

††††††††††† "Love?" suggested Megan.

††††††††††† "Well yes, sweetheart. Closely related to trust. My trust and love for you cannot be separated."

††††††††††† "So the big question," Bogus said, "is can we trust Helpers Corporation? I trust you, Eva Maria, but that's not the same thing as trusting the company that built you."

††††††††††† "Any progress on your investigation?" I asked.

††††††††††† Eva Maria answered, "Just a lot of negatives. No whistleblowers we can find, no cover up of dark secrets, and no early writings by the owner since we don't know who the owner is."

††††††††††† "Wasn't there one other thing you were going to do for the investigation?" I asked. "Oh yeah, you were going to get a Helper. Any results from that?"

††††††††††† Bogus and Eva Maria both laughed.

††††††††††† "Hey Laszlo," Bogus finally said, "want to go with me tomorrow to interview some computer science professors at the university? Specialists in artificial intelligence. I thought it would help the investigation if I had a better understanding of Helpers Corporation's technology."

††††††††††† "Sure."

 

Scientists

 

††††††††††† "No one outside of Helpers Corporation knows for sure how they're doing it," Professor Sarah Dench told us. We were sitting in her office at the university. Her colleague John Long had a minor family crisis and wasn't able to join us.

††††††††††† "All I'm really looking for are educated guesses," responded Bogus.

††††††††††† "It certainly is a hot topic for speculation among computer scientists. We do know that several leading neuroscientists have worked for them from the beginning."

††††††††††† "Yes, I've read that too," said Bogus.

††††††††††† "We also know that they have access to enormous computing resources. My opinion is that they did some large scale neural simulations and, by figuring out how to do them more efficiently than their competitors, were able to accurately model the behavior of animals. Mice for example."

††††††††††† "But mice aren't intelligent," I objected.

††††††††††† "That's not the point. Knowing how mouse brains work could allow them to come up with some general abstractions for how mammal brains work. Then they find even more efficient implementations. For example, there might be parts of their brain model where an approximation will work just as well, but the approximation can be computed much more easily. Computer science provides many examples of that. They use the increased efficiency to implement a model of a primate brain, get that right, and then repeat the process to model a human brain."

††††††††††† "You almost make it sound easy," observed Bogus.

††††††††††† "Oh not at all. Each step is extraordinarily difficult."

††††††††††† "So where do the Helpers and Workers fit on the scale of mammal brains?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "That's interesting too," Sarah said with a smile. "Of course they can speak as well as many humans, as long as the topic of conversation avoids anything too subtle. But I suspect that individual Helpers don't need complex learning capabilities. At some stage of development they did need very good capabilities to learn their language and motion behaviors, but they don't need that to continue in each Helper."

††††††††††† "Even so," I asked, "how can their electronic brains be small enough to fit in their heads? I'm assuming they can't pack circuits with the same density as neurons."

††††††††††† "Not a problem," she answered. "I'm pretty sure their brains aren't really in their heads, except for some low level vision and motion processing. When you speak with a Helper you're really have a wireless conversation with the Helpers Corporation server. Some low level processing has to be done locally to reduce the needed communications bandwidth, but a lot can be done remotely. And the beauty of that is that large numbers of Helpers and Workers can share the computational capacity of their server. Most of the time you're not using much of your brain and neither are Helpers. So on average one hundred Helpers may be able to share ten Helper brains, just as a guesstimate."

††††††††††† It took a second to realize the implications of this for Eva Maria. When that tear had rolled down her cheek, the emotion behind it was implemented back at the server. If that thought was crossing Bogus' mind, he didn't show it.

††††††††††† "Professor Dench," he asked, "how about their physical capabilities? I'm beta testing a model that is indistinguishable from a human, other than a large H on the forehead."

††††††††††† "Oh," she lit up, "you've got one of those? May I see it?"

††††††††††† "Perhaps," Bogus answered. Of course his 'perhaps' meant 'no' but I doubted that Bogus would explain that he didn't want anyone inspecting the Helper he loved. "But what do you know about their physical technology?"

††††††††††† "Frankly," she answered, "I'm as amazed by it as you are."

††††††††††† "Fair enough," Bogus said. "What do you know about the people they've hired?"

††††††††††† "An interesting mix. Top level scientists and also wild eyed insurgents. The big names have proven track records and the young turks stir them up. I wish I'd been among them."

††††††††††† "And as far as I know none of them has published anything about what they're doing," Bogus commented.

††††††††††† "That's right. They must be paying well, to get these scientists to forego years of publication."

††††††††††† "I think," I said, "that they're after the big prize, and that puts considerations like advancing an academic career into perspective."

††††††††††† "Do you have any old friends working for them?" Bogus asked. "Got any inside scuttlebutt?"

††††††††††† "Well, I knew some of these folks at conferences before they went to work for Helpers. But I haven't seen them lately. Now I go to conferences and it's all just guesswork about what Helpers Corporation is up to."

††††††††††† "One last thing, Professor Dench," Bogus announced. "What do you think their long term intentions are?"

††††††††††† "I take their public statements at face value," she answered. "You have to understand the character of these top scientists who work for them. They would not associate themselves with anything underhanded."

††††††††††† "I think you're right," Bogus agreed. "But they are only employees. Now that they've created artificial intelligence they may not be able to control how the owners of Helpers Corporation use it."

††††††††††† "Well, I like to look for the best in people."

††††††††††† "Me too, professor," said Bogus. "But history tells us that isn't always justified."

 

Megan

 

††††††††††† I woke up in the middle of the night aware that Megan was crying. She wasn't making a sound but somehow I knew. I put my arms around her and gently kissed her. "What is it sweetheart?" I asked.

††††††††††† For a couple minutes she didn't answer and I just held her. Finally she said, "I'm scared."

††††††††††† "Scared?" I asked.

††††††††††† "I'm afraid some terrible evil is happening to Bogus. And it's going to happen to us too."

††††††††††† "He says he trusts Eva Maria and asked us to trust her too."

††††††††††† "I want to trust her. But except as a favor for Bogus, there's no real evidence that we should trust her. As a physician that's how I think."

††††††††††† "What about her tear when you hugged her?"

††††††††††† "Come on Laszlo. I knew some girls in school who could fake tears. Think how easy it would be for a robot."

††††††††††† "OK sweetheart," I said as I gave her a big squeeze, "you're right. But please keep it between us, will you? We're not going to change Bogus' mind. The best thing we can do for him is to support him in whatever he decides."

††††††††††† "Yes, but I'm afraid for us too."

††††††††††† "There have always been threats to our happiness. One of us might become seriously ill. We just have to learn to live with those. I think it's the same with the Helpers."

††††††††††† "But with our health, we don't just leave it to chance. We eat well and get plenty of exercise. We can't just trust Helpers. We need to find out what they're up to."

††††††††††† "That's what Bogus is doing, although without results so far."

††††††††††† "With Eva Maria helping him. I don't trust her."

††††††††††† "All right. Let's sleep on it."

††††††††††† "We have to do something."

††††††††††† "I promise."

 

Break In

 

††††††††††† "We've got to take action," I said to Bogus, as the three of us walked by the lake. "We can't just leave it that your investigation hasn't turned up any evidence of their bad intentions. Given the stakes, we should find out their intentions."

††††††††††† "What have you got in mind?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "We can break into their offices and dig through their files." I replied.

††††††††††† "Are you nuts? They're going to have the best security."

††††††††††† "Isn't it worth the risk to find out what they're up to?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "Do either of you have a plan?" Bogus responded.

††††††††††† We were both silent.

††††††††††† "Of course not," he said.

††††††††††† "How about one of us getting a job at Helpers Corporation?" I suggested.

††††††††††† "That probably wouldn't give us access to their executive offices," Bogus objected. "They probably use Workers as custodial and clerical staff, and they're unlikely to hire one of us as an executive."

††††††††††† "Is anyone else allowed into their executive offices?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "Ah," Bogus exclaimed. "Who can go anywhere they like?"

††††††††††† "I'll bite," I said.

††††††††††† "The police," he answered.

††††††††††† "Where are Helpers Corporation's headquarters?" asked Megan. "And how do we get the police to search for us?"

††††††††††† "Lake Forest," Bogus answered.

††††††††††† "The Chicago suburb?" I asked. "I figured they'd have been in Silicon Valley or New York."

††††††††††† "The police won't search for us legally," Bogus said in response to Megan's second question.

††††††††††† We walked in silence for a while, pondering this problem. Finally Bogus said, "This could be a ticklish business. Let me look into it. I shouldn't need to tell you not to discuss this with anyone. And don't discuss it inside your home."

††††††††††† "You mean with our Helper listening," I stated. "Will you discuss it with your Helper?" I asked. It was better coming from me than from Megan.

††††††††††† "Eva Maria?" he asked. "OK, I won't tell her. But it'll hurt her feelings when she finds out. I'll make a bargain with you. I won't tell her if you'll be honest and friendly with her when all this comes out."

††††††††††† We both agreed.

††††††††††† The fact that some sort of plan was in the works, no matter how feeble, lifted Megan's and my spirits. About three weeks later Bogus invited us for another walk along the lake.

††††††††††† "Are you willing to take a big risk to learn what Helpers Corporation is up to?" he asked. "It might mean a long prison sentence."

††††††††††† I waited for Megan to answer and she said, "Yes." I nodded in agreement.

††††††††††† "You two will impersonate Lake Forest police officers. I've got the materials for that. Don't ask, but I can tell you that it cost me."

††††††††††† "Will we have a warrant to search?" I asked.

††††††††††† "No. I'll break in late in the evening, after their executives have left for the day. I will undoubtedly trigger some alarm, but before their security guards can investigate or call the police, you two will appear at their security desk dressed as police. You will pretend to call for backup on your police radio and then you will investigate the break in."

††††††††††† I asked, "What if the real cops show up?"

††††††††††† Just then Megan said, "Eva Maria," with great surprise. She had walked up behind us.

††††††††††† "Bogus," she said, "forgive me. I know what you're doing. It won't work."

††††††††††† "Know what we're doing?" he asked.

††††††††††† "Forgive me for violating your privacy. But I can't just let you go to prison for nothing. I know you're going to impersonate police to get into Helpers Corporation headquarters."

††††††††††† "How did you find out?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "Helpers Corporation has a lot of information. I deduced your plan from that."

††††††††††† "So then they know too," Megan complained.

††††††††††† "I donít think so," Eva Maria responded. "I have some information that's private to me."

††††††††††† "But from what we heard, most of your memory isn't even in your body. It's in the server," I said.

††††††††††† "I know," Eva Maria said. "But I think it's still private to me. I don't see any evidence of it in their common database."

††††††††††† "OK Eva Maria," Bogus said. "I have to trust you. So it's hopeless to get into Helpers Corporation headquarters?"

††††††††††† Giving him a little kiss she said, "If you're willing to take a risk, I think I can get you in."

††††††††††† "How?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "I have access to the Guardians who provide security in their building. So I know that the front security desk is manned by one Guardian and one human guard. When the human takes a bathroom break I can hack the Guardian so we can just walk right past it."

††††††††††† "They must have intrusion detectors in the offices," Bogus objected.

††††††††††† "I can hack those too," Eva Maria answered.

††††††††††† Boy, I thought, we're taking trust to a whole new level. "OK," I said with a smile, "I wouldn't want to miss this."

††††††††††† So one night, when Eva Maria gave us the go signal, the four of us simply walked into Helpers Corporation headquarters, past the oblivious Guardian, down a hallway and into the executive offices.

††††††††††† "Here we are," said Eva Maria.

††††††††††† We were in an office containing a row of unlocked filing cabinets and we started looking through those. Meanwhile Eva Maria worked on opening a large locked filing cabinet. But we were interrupted by the office door opening.

††††††††††† I was amazed when Ed Perrin, the executive director of our movie, walked in. I was even more amazed when he smiled and said, "Megan, Laszlo, Bogus, how nice to see you all again. And Eva Maria dear, how good of you to come." You expect at least indignation when you're discovered burgling offices.

††††††††††† We were all too dumbstruck to talk. Ed chuckled and said, "Please, please, there's nothing to worry about. Your curiosity is understandable." He held his hand out to shake.

††††††††††† Regaining my composure I grabbed his hand and said, "Mr. Perrin, what a surprise to see you. And a pleasant surprise to be surprised by you and not someone else."

††††††††††† "Call me Ed, please," he responded.

††††††††††† Bogus and Megan got with the program and also gave Ed a friendly handshake and greeting. Megan asked, "How did you know we were here?"

††††††††††† "Oh," he replied, "don't blame Eva Maria. I assure you she is loyal to Bogus. There is little that goes on around here that we don't know about. We would be negligent not to."

††††††††††† "Ed," I asked, "do you work for Helpers?"

††††††††††† "I didn't see your name on the list of officers or directors," Bogus interjected.

††††††††††† "I'm one of many Chicago businessmen who advise them," he confessed. "Now I think we should all leave. It's late. Do you have transportation? Can we call you a cab?"

††††††††††† We assured him that we had transportation and left, shaking hands again at the main door.

††††††††††† "Eva Maria," Bogus asked on the drive home, "do you know Ed? What does he do at Helpers?"

††††††††††† "I've never seen or heard of him," she answered.

††††††††††† "Do you know how he knew we were there?"

††††††††††† "No. Perhaps it was just bad luck."

††††††††††† "I think they were waiting for us to come, somehow," I said. "Eva Maria, could they get into your private information?"

††††††††††† "Like I said, I've never seen any of my private information reflected in the common database. But of course that doesn't mean no one is looking at it."

††††††††††† "Doesn't that give you the creeps?" Megan asked.

††††††††††† "It doesn't bother me," Eva Maria said. "Not a human response, is it? I only care that Bogus wasn't able to get the information he wanted."

††††††††††† Bogus said, "You are different aren't you? But that's why I love you. Experience suggests that I can't fall in love with a human woman."

††††††††††† "You're The Odd Couple," I told them cheerily.

 

Heaven

 

††††††††††† I was walking through a field with tall grasses gently waving in the breeze. The wind somehow seemed to be pushing up at me, until a gust blew me off me feet and into the air. I floated above the grasses and could look down to see patterns moving through them like water waves. I drifted higher, looking out over forests and lakes. Higher still, I saw a hazy landscape broken by hills, lakes and rivers. I seemed to be moving laterally over the landscape, but always rising. I got up so high I could see the curve of the earth. The whole planet was receding from me, yet I had no trouble breathing. The planet became a speck and I was surrounded by darkness.

††††††††††† I floated for a while without seeing or hearing anything until I saw a soft light in the distance. As it came closer I could see and hear people singing. I drifted into place among them and started singing too. Somehow I knew the words. We were all singing to a man floating effortlessly above us. I knew he was god. He had white hair, but was wearing a grey business suit rather than white robes. It gave us all great pleasure to sing to him. There was just nothing else that any of us would rather do.

††††††††††† We were going to sing for eternity and enjoy every second of it. The words and tune materialized like magic in my mind, so singing required no thought or effort. The singing was totally automatic, and I just got into a rhythmic state. I lost my 'self.' There was nothing left to decide or think about. I just sang the words that came mysteriously into my mind.

††††††††††† When I woke up the first glimmer of light was coming through the window. I stretched and then spent a while watching Megan sleep. Gradually she woke up. I kissed her and said, "I spent the night in heaven."

††††††††††† She yawned and asked, "Who was she?"

††††††††††† "No, I was literally in heaven. An angel singing to god. At least I think it was god. He was in a business suit."

††††††††††† She kissed me and said, "Then I forgive you."

††††††††††† "Hey," I said, "remember that old joke? Well, if he's wearing a business suit, the punch line could be 'oh that's god, he thinks he's a hospital administrator'."

††††††††††† She laughed and we both got out of bed.

 

World Series

 

††††††††††† After being caught in the Helpers corporate offices we decided to give up on covert action against them, which seemed totally futile. Bogus and Eva Maria continued to sift through publicly available data looking for evidence of Helpers Corporation's intentions, but mostly the four of us just enjoyed life.

††††††††††† That included getting caught up in the excitement when the Chicago Cubs won the National League Playoffs. Normally none of us followed sports much. But everyone in whole world seemed to be rooting for the Cubs, except of course Yankees fans. Our movie had a revival as a minor cult classic, especially in Chicago. And there was speculation that the Workers employed by the Cubs had somehow engineered their success, as in the movie.

††††††††††† "That was sweet," said Bogus after the third Yankee struck out in the top of the ninth inning, ending the first game.

††††††††††† "These Cubs are poetry in motion," I added. "Economy of effort."

††††††††††† "Exactly how I would put it," agreed Bogus.

††††††††††† We'd polished off a six-pack apiece during the game so were a bit high. But sometimes, like Nero Wolfe, we did our best thinking that way.

††††††††††† "Do these Cubs remind you of anything?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "Not particularly," I answered.

††††††††††† "They look like a Sabermetrics Team," he told me.

††††††††††† "Oh yeah, from the movie. MoneyBall and all that."

††††††††††† "Nothing flashy, but they seem to get more lucky breaks than their opponents."

††††††††††† "But the Yankees use Sabermetrics too, I read."

††††††††††† "So the Cubs are doing super-Sabermetrics." He called, "Hey hon."

††††††††††† "Yes," Eva Maria responded. She'd watched the game with us, but of course didn't drink beer.

††††††††††† "What do you think?" Bogus asked her. "Any spooky information processes behind the Cubs?"

††††††††††† "Not enough data in one game," she replied.

††††††††††† "Can you look back at the whole season?" he asked. "And look back at the trades and draft picks for this season? And compare to the same thing for the other teams?"

††††††††††† "Sure," she said. "It'll take a few days."

††††††††††† "So what are you thinking?" I asked Bogus.

††††††††††† "Doesn't it strike you that we are seeing some coincidences? First, there's your movie about the Cubs winning the World Series due to super-intelligent information processes, and now the Cubs win the first game of the World Series with a plausible case that they are using superior information processes. Second, the Cubs are using the products of the big AI business. Third, the guy who told you to make the movie about the Cubs winning the World Series using AI turns up at the big AI business."

††††††††††† "And fourth," I added, "the movie includes a love story between you and the AI that helped the Cubs win."

††††††††††† "Laszlo," Eva Maria said, "I am not helping the Cubs and I am not super-intelligent."

††††††††††† "Yeah Laszlo," Bogus added, "let's leave Eva Maria and me out of this coincidence. There's plenty without that."

††††††††††† "OK," I agreed. "What can we conclude from the coincidences?"

††††††††††† "Hard to be sure," Bogus answered. "We do know that Mr. Edo is associated with the Cubs and his employee Ed Perrin is associated with Helpers. So they might be responsible for the link between the two. We also know the Mr. Edo is interested in Sabermetrics. He may have somehow gotten the Cubs connected with the latest and best Sabermetrics folks. So there may be an innocent explanation."

††††††††††† "And you call yourself paranoid," I accused.

††††††††††† "On the other hand," he said, "these coincidences suggest some probability, difficult to measure, that the intentions of Helpers Corporation are not what they claim."

††††††††††† "Yes," I said. "If there is a super-intelligence behind the Cubs, then Helpers Corporation has broken their promise to not build machines more intelligent than humans."

††††††††††† "However," Bogus continued, "Eva Maria won't be able to detect a super-intelligent information process in her analysis of the Cubs' record. You know, message contains no recognizable symbols."

††††††††††† "Huh?"

††††††††††† "The baseball data is the message and she can't see the patterns put into it by the superior intellect."

††††††††††† "Oh yeah."

††††††††††† "So we still can't get definite evidence of Helpers Corporation's intentions."

††††††††††† Eva Maria said, "I might still be able to find a Sabermetrics process beyond current practice but within the reach of human intelligence."

††††††††††† "That would be useful," Bogus agreed.

††††††††††† The Cubs won the second game too, but the Yankees won the third. Then they split the fourth and fifth games, so the Series was 3-2 Cubs.

††††††††††† "Megan," I said at breakfast, "I just have a feeling that this will be the last game. I'd really like to throw a game party here."

††††††††††† "Tonight?" she asked dubiously.

††††††††††† "I'll take care of it. Well, Helper and I. It'll be fun. Just the four of us watching the game and pigging out. The Cubs are going to win, I just know it."

††††††††††† "All right," she said with a smile.

††††††††††† I knew she'd have a busy day at the hospital and appreciated that she was willing to put up with a party when she got home. "Thanks sweetheart. If you like, take a nap during the game and we'll wake you up for the last inning."

††††††††††† "I might take you up on that," she answered.

††††††††††† Bogus said he and Eva Maria would be happy to come over so I told our Helper to make all our guilty food pleasures and put plenty of beer on ice.

††††††††††† As we watched the pre-game blather, Bogus said, "Eva Maria found that the Cubs probably are using novel types of quantitative techniques. These are statistics involving combinations of players and statistics involving long sequences of player performance."

††††††††††† "Streaks and slumps," I commented.

††††††††††† "Yes," responded Eva Maria. "Not just simple streaks and slumps, but complex patterns."

††††††††††† "But one season doesn't provide enough data to be certain," Bogus said.

††††††††††† The game started so Bogus and I settled down to serious eating and drinking.

††††††††††† At the end of the eighth inning the game was tied 2-2 and I woke Megan to watch the rest with us. New York scored one run in the top of the ninth, and then the Cubs came up. The first batter got a single, the second struck out and the third walked.

††††††††††† "This could be it," Bogus observed as the fourth Cub came to the plate.

††††††††††† "I know it is," I said.

††††††††††† "We'll see," he replied.

††††††††††† The batter swung and missed the first pitch. But he knocked the second pitch over the center field wall. Wrigley Field erupted with the pent up frustration of more than a century of disappointments. Even Megan cheered.

††††††††††† Then it struck me. "This is the singularity," I exclaimed.

††††††††††† Bogus interrupted his cheering to say, "You need to take your movie a bit less seriously."

††††††††††† "No, don't you see, the movie is a prophecy. You were right about the coincidences."

††††††††††† "But I said they could have an innocent explanation."

††††††††††† "Don't ask me how, but I just know this is the singularity," I was practically jumping up and down. "I know it. I know it."

††††††††††† Then a surprising thing happened. Our Helper smiled and winked at me. None of the others saw it, but I knew then that I was right. Somehow that calmed me down. I knew something that none of them knew. Maybe no one else in the world knew. I had lived to see the singularity and was full of curiosity about what was coming next.

††††††††††† Megan noticed my changed mood and asked, "Are you all right, Laszlo?"

††††††††††† I grabbed her hand, looked her in the eye and said, "Very much."

††††††††††† It occurred to me that if our Helper knew, Eva Maria must know too. But far from winking at me, she looked like she'd just gotten a serious shock, as if a family member had died.

††††††††††† "Are you all right, Eva Maria?" I asked.

††††††††††† She looked at Bogus and said, "Can we go home?"

††††††††††† "What is it?" Bogus asked her.

††††††††††† "Please Bogus, can we go home?"

††††††††††† As they left, Bogus thanked us for the party but Eva Maria didn't want to talk or even look at us.

††††††††††† "Do you know what happened to her?" Megan asked after they'd left.

††††††††††† "Not exactly," I answered. "But love, it is the singularity. Our Helper winked at me when I first said it. Have you ever seen it wink?"

††††††††††† She looked skeptical. It was her medical training.

††††††††††† The phone rang. When I answered the voice said, "Laszlo? This is Ed Perrin. Can you come to our offices tomorrow morning? It's important. Megan, yourself, Bogus and Eva Maria."

††††††††††† "What's going on Ed?" I asked. "Our Helpers are acting strangely."

††††††††††† He chuckled, which set me a bit at ease, and said, "Don't worry. I'll tell you tomorrow. But please don't you or Megan worry. Will you come?"

††††††††††† "Yes," I answered. I'd drag Megan if I had to. But she was willing, perhaps motivated by curiosity.

††††††††††† The phone rang again and it was Bogus. "Hi Laszlo, Ed Perrin just called and said we should all drive down to Chicago tomorrow."

††††††††††† "Yeah, he called here too. I'm going. How about you? And how's Eva Maria?"

††††††††††† "She won't tell me anything. Just says to wait until tomorrow. It's the first time she's ever withheld information from me. So I guess we're going."

††††††††††† We agreed to drive together and left at 8 AM.

 

Pygmalion

 

††††††††††† Ed greeted us warmly, saying, "Thank you so much for coming. I'll get right to the point. Mr. Edo would like to meet you."

††††††††††† "That's great," I responded. "I've wanted to meet him. Is he here now?"

††††††††††† "But first, there are a few things to explain."

††††††††††† "Yeah," I said, "we've noticed a few coincidences between recent events and the plot of our movie. Are they significant?"

††††††††††† "Yes," answered Ed. "Do you recall that in the third game of the nineteen thirty two World Series, at Wrigley Field, Babe Ruth pointed to the outfield wall and then hit a homerun over that wall? It was the Babe's famous called shot and has inspired Mr. Edo all his life. The movie was just Mr. Edo calling his own shot. The Yankees won the nineteen thirty two Series, and the beauty of Mr. Edo's called shot is it was the Cubs winning against the Yankees."

††††††††††† "My god," exclaimed Megan, "all this just for a baseball whim."

††††††††††† Ed responded, "There's more to it than that. Mr. Edo is helping many people."

††††††††††† "Of course," I stated, "Mr. Edo owns Helpers Corporation."

††††††††††† "Yes," Ed answered.

††††††††††† Bogus asked, "What are his intentions?"

††††††††††† "As stated in the corporate announcements," Ed replied. "And now, Eva Maria, would you like to tell Bogus how you came to meet him?"

††††††††††† She looked at Bogus intently and said, "Evonda sent me to you. I only learned it last night. I knew that I loved you when I first saw you. Now I know that I was Evonda's gift to you."

††††††††††† "What Eva Maria, is it all fake? Just to manipulate me?" Bogus asked.

††††††††††† "Oh, not at all," she answered, hugging him. "My love for you is real. The fact that it was engineered makes it no less real than if it occurred by happenstance. In fact it is more sincere than any human is capable of. It is impossible for me to ever stop loving you."

††††††††††† We sat silently for a few seconds absorbing this new information. Then I said to Ed, "Thank you for explaining all this. When can we meet Mr. Edo?"

††††††††††† "Please understand that it is no small thing to meet Mr. Edo," Ed answered. "Before you can meet him in any meaningful sense, you must change. It's a complex change. But I assure you that it is a desirable change. More. Itís a wonderful change."

††††††††††† "Change?" asked Megan skeptically. "What's the nature of this change? Is it physical?"

††††††††††† "We will increase your intelligence. And we will modify your basic motivations to remove any hostility. None of you are very hostile to begin with, but after the change you will have none."

††††††††††† "You're going to change our feelings? Will Laszlo and I still love each other?"

††††††††††† "Of course. More than ever. And you will still be good friends with Bogus. None of that will change. And you will be loyal to Mr. Edo."

††††††††††† "What do you mean by that?" asked Bogus.

††††††††††† "You will trust him. But that is only proper, considering how intelligent he has become and all the help he is providing to people. In fact, since his change we refer to him by a new name. We call him Mr. Emeet."

††††††††††† "What do you mean, call him Mr. Emeet?" I asked. "Is that his name?"

††††††††††† "Mr. Emeet will serve for now. You are not able to know his true name until after you change. You must change to be able to speak with him. But he sincerely wants to talk with you. It's a great privilege, I assure you."

††††††††††† "Do you speak with him? Have you changed?" asked Megan.

††††††††††† "I have that blessing."

††††††††††† "If you're super-intelligent, how does your brain fit in your head?" Megan inquired.

††††††††††† He smiled and said, "One of the advantages of the new technologies is not having to carry your whole brain around."

††††††††††† "So," Bogus asked pointedly, "if we can speak with you, as we are, why can't we speak with Mr. Emeet?"

††††††††††† "You are speaking with the Ed Perrin who you first met, not with the real me. Mr. Emeet wants to have a more meaningful relationship with you, which will only be possible after you change. He genuinely likes all of you and wants to do you an enormous favor."

††††††††††† "I think we can trust these folks," I said to Megan and Bogus. "If they wanted to harm us they wouldn't have to go through all this."

††††††††††† "I should explain one more thing," Ed stated. "Eva Maria cannot change. Her intelligence cannot increase."

††††††††††† "But she should be the easiest to change," Bogus said. "She already has an artificial brain. Just give her a bigger one."

††††††††††† "Oh," Ed responded, "the problem isn't technical. Mr. Edo promised that he would create no machines more intelligent than humans and Mr. Emeet will keep that promise. Eva Maria cannot become more intelligent than humans."

††††††††††† Bogus turned to Eva Maria and asked, "Did you know this?"

††††††††††† She had the same shocked look she'd had after the ball game. "Last night, at the end of the game," she whispered.

††††††††††† It took a few moments for us to understand the implications of this. If Bogus changed without Eva Maria, he could no longer maintain a realistic love relationship with her. He had to choose between Eva Maria and increased intelligence. She must have foreseen this choice, and that was the source of her shock. She loved him irrevocably and risked losing him.

††††††††††† "This is incredibly cruel," Megan said.

††††††††††† "Evonda is Mr. Edo's one weakness," Ed responded. "She wanted this. In any case Ö"

††††††††††† Bogus cut him off. "In any case," he said, "it's up to me isn't it? If this is a choice between Eva Maria at my lowly human intelligence, and the company of Evonda at super-intelligence, I chose Eva Maria. I decline to meet Mr. Emeet. Please thank him for his offer."

††††††††††† I didn't say anything, but it struck me that my old friend was renouncing super-intelligence for the sake of love. So even the plot change we'd made to camp the movie up was being reflected in real life.

††††††††††† Ed was genuinely relieved and said, "Thank you, Mr. Band. And I assure you that Mr. Emeet is grateful for your choice. And let me explain that Eva Maria and you will eventually be able to change, after all humans have been given the chance to change. At that time she can change without becoming more intelligent than any humans, except any who decline our offer. I think that's fair."

††††††††††† I looked at Megan and said, "Please do this."

††††††††††† "I will," she answered.

††††††††††† "Well old friend," I said to Bogus, "for at least a little while I'll be smarter than you."

††††††††††† "Impossible," he replied with a grin. "See you in hell."

††††††††††† "Heaven," corrected Ed.

††††††††††† "When do we do this?" I asked Ed.

††††††††††† "Oh, now I think," he replied.

††††††††††† "What about our dogs and cats?" asked Megan.

††††††††††† "I'll take care of them," Bogus answered.

††††††††††† Ed explained, "The change will make you more capable, not less. You'll still be able to care for and enjoy your pets."

††††††††††† "Including me," commented Bogus. "Woof, woof."

††††††††††† "You should all understand," Ed explained, "that Mr. Emeet is a very kind hearted man. And you will all be very kind after the change. Eva Maria and Bogus, have a little patience and you will rejoin your old friends soon enough."

 

Mr. Emeet

 

††††††††††† The anesthetic worked quickly. The last thing I remembered was a small white and black checkerboard pattern before my eyes.

††††††††††† I woke up filled with awareness of Megan. We shared a thought, how glad we were that Bogus had not changed without Eva Maria. To wake up without her would have been unendurable.

††††††††††† Then we shared awareness of Mr. Emeet. What a wonderful thing to meet him at last. Our childhood conceptions of god did not even begin to capture Mr. Emeet's presence. He showed us the world. We knew, as if they were old friends, every human on earth. We knew all their interrelationships. We understood the whole of human society as if it was our grandfather's watch with its gears, balance wheel and springs. We understood all this in terms of mathematics that natural human minds could never imagine. And we communicated with each other, and with Mr. Emeet, in a language with a trillion unique symbols and not constrained to linear or any sort of spatial order. We spoke at the speed of quintillions of vibrating atoms. For those who think about such things, Mr. Emeet is computronium.

††††††††††† Here the story must end. Trying to express subsequent events in ordinary English would be as futile as trying to explain human society in language understandable to beetles.