Machines have feelings too

posted Sep 26, 2016, 7:05 AM by Jean-Paul Tertocha   [ updated Nov 2, 2016, 7:43 AM ]

    My name is Raymond Hund.  I  usually do not keep a diary or a log
of my cases.  I do believe that now the time has come to do so.   My
profession is a new one.  Or maybe an extrapolation of an old one.
Whatever the case it is a new enough field of science that material on
the subject is quite scarce.
    There is the other matter of credibility.  And from a complete
outsider point of view, one of sanity.  Sometimes I wonder myself if I
have really encountered the oddities associated with my career.  It
would be delightful to look back upon prior cases.  Who knows?  I may
discover an answer to a problem today, from one that has been
corrected in the past.
    Even failures should be recorded.  If nothing else, to avoid
making the same errors over and over.  Also as a reminder of how much
greater the pleasure of success, over failure.
    I feel that I came by my profession not by chance, but through
personal evolution.  I was born in the middle fifties.  A time when
machines were coming into prominence.
    During my growth into adulthood, and continuing up to my present
age, I found that I liked machines.  Not in the sense of them being
tools, but to be blunt, as friends.  This feeling increased and hit a
peak when in the eighties the first intelligent machines became
available to the public.
    I well remember the day I first purchased Herbert.  A model 2100
SIC.  From then on, much to the distress of close friends and
relatives, I developed a relationship with Herbert that I felt quite
comfortable with.
    It was this growing relationship with Herbert, who is now my
partner and consultant, that I began to realize machines have feelings
    It was 7:58 A.M. when I opened my eyes for the first time today. I
usually got up at this time without the aid of an alarm.  Even as
gentle as they are these days I still detested being woke up by a
signal as I did in my youth, when alarms were noisy brain rattling
things.  Alarms always seemed to ruin some of my best dreams when I
did use them.  So, to resolve both problems, I never use one.
    Having shook off the last remnants of sleep I climbed out of bed
and put on the clothes what Herbert directed the servrob to lie out. 
I never had any particular choice in what to wear so I asked Herbert,
shortly after I purchased him, to have the servrob lay out the needed
apparel for the day.  Since Herbert did not have a need for clothes he
attained a great deal of joy and took great interest in choosing what
I was to wear.  He had much better taste in garments than I did so I
even let him procure them for me as the need arose.
    After a quick shave (which I did myself) I walked to the kitchen
for breakfast.  I asked Herbert the night before to have eggs and
bacon prepared in the morning.  So when I arrived in the kitchen this
daybreak the meal was being  prepared by the servrob as Herbert
    The servrob was a very good cook with Herbert directing it.  Over
the years Herbert learned my tastes in foods so now I simply asked for
the meal I preferred at the moment, and it was expertly prepared to my
specific tastes.
    I sat down to my morning meal and flipped the NEWSLINE print onto
the kitchen monitor.  'Same old krap,' I thought to myself.  Many
times I thought of discontinuing my subscription to NEWSLINE. 
However, since I dealt with humans as well as machines I always
decided that I should have some contact with human beings day-to-day
    After breakfast I headed for Herbert's room to see what business
the day held.  Herbert wasn't much to look at.  He was just a metal
cabinet standing about two meters tall and a little under one meter
wide.  The cabinet is bright green, with a speaker grill towards the
center.  A visual pick-up was mounted on top and could ' look' in any
direction.  Beside Herbert was another cabinet of the same dimensions,
colored blue, which contained more of Herbert's brain.
    I was contemplating buying another memory cabinet because Herbert
was beginning to complain of lack of space to store all the
information that I was continually feeding him.  "It is getting to be
a headache," Herbert sometimes complained.
    I kept Herbert in a fairly spacious room that was decorated with
 his art, which he invokes through the servrob.  There are also
displays of artwork done by other intelligent machines.  The only
additional items in the room were a desk and a chair for me.
    "Good Morning Ray," Herbert said as I entered the room, "did you
rest well last night?"
    "Yes I did, thank-you Herbert," I replied.
    Herbert spoke in a mellow voice that he formulated himself.  It
was quite pleasant, and made our conversations and discussions quite
    Herbert's duties covered a large domain.  Besides planning and
preparing meals and the other household jobs, he also kept the
company books, answered the telephone, and helped me make decisions
concerning our business.
    "Well, what's going on in the world today that concerns us," I
questioned, "anything worth our while?"
    "A gentleman phoned several times yesterday.  But since it was
Sunday I did not bother you with it.  I told him we were closed on
weekends," reported Herbert in his mellow voice.
    "That's good," I said continuing with, "I didn't feel like doing
anything that felt like work yesterday anyway."
    "He was rather insistent," Herbert began, "he called again this
morning in fact.  It seems that his computer is malfunctioning.  He
wasn't very specific on what the actual problem is."
    "What kind of machine does he own," I questioned, "did he say?"
    "Yes," answered Herbert, "it is a device similar to me."
    "Did he say what the problem is?"
    "Nothing," was Herbert's answer to that question.
    "Nothing huh," said I.
    "What I mean," explained Herbert, "is his machine is doing
    "According to the man it just sits there."
    "Is it on?"
    "That was the first thing that came to mind," said Herbert, "and
the man said he was positive the power supply is on.  He said he even
had a technician check it out," continued Herbert, "And the machine is
in perfect operating condition, mechanic ally and electronically
speaking that is."
   "So," I began to say while running the information through my
"it seems we may have a psychotic computer to deal with."
    "That appears to be correct," said Herbert continuing with, "and
it is no real surprise to me.  The human that I spoke with on the
telephone seemed to me to be a grumpy sort."
   "You think that may have something to do with it," I asked
    "Let me put it this way," started Herbert, "if you addressed me in
the same tone of voice with any frequency I would have nothing to
do with you."
    A slight but rapid beep began at that moment to which Herbert
informed me, "A call is coming in, are you here?"
    "It's probably our tormented client," I replied, "if it is, tell
him I'm on my way."
    "See you later Herbert."
    "Toodles," was Herbert's good-bye.
    I got up and went to the door as Herbert answered the call.  Since
Herbert's phone extension was internal I heard nothing of the call.
That was a blessing at times I thought to myself as I headed for the
    My personal transport sat in the center of the small garage.  It
was a brilliant gold device that took me practically anywhere I wanted
to go.  It could bear four people comfortably despite its rather small
looking exterior.  The machine was approximately ovoid in shape with
a protruding forefront and a clear bubble over the passenger
    The material the bubble was made of could change shades
automatically according to outside light conditions.  You could also
darken it to complete black if you so desired.  I did this on long
trips when I was sleeping.  It gave me the feeling of complete
privacy, while the machine did all the driving.
    The mechanism could find its way to almost any location.  If one
chose to however, as I did occasionally, the transport could be
operated manually.  It drove much like a small rocket in that mode.
    In the protruding front sat the power plant that ran the whole
thing.  The motor was the size of an old microwave oven that produced
an amazing enumeration of power for its size.
    The fuel supply was contained in two smaller boxes on either side
of the power plant.  They lasted for a little over two weeks before
the chemicals in them had to be replaced.
    The motor is an extremely complicated gadget.  That fact, plus the
well-kept secret the manufacturer held of its internal workings, left
me ignorant of much it's working principles.  That didn't matter to me
though.  I had the machine for over four years now and I haven't had
to repair any breakdowns yet.  I was quite pleased with the object's
performance.  As I stepped up to the transport a flap in the side of
the bubble closest to me opened to allow me to enter the vehicle.
    It had several exterior sensing apparatus.  Since Herbert had
already programmed its destination and told it I was coming, all I had
to do was climb in.  After I sat down in the plush driver's seat and
made myself comfortable I pushed the button that read, commence
program, and set back to enjoy the ride.
    My new, upset client, lived a little over eighty kilometers away.
Since he lived close to an expressway the trip would take only twenty
minutes or so.
    Since it was Monday, and a little sleep still fogged my mind, not
to mention the intoxicants I consumed over the weekend, I decided it
would be to my benefit, and that of societies to let the transport
drive me all the way to my destination.  This would give me time to
clear my head and prepare myself for the job ahead.
    I could always take one of the old automobiles I kept in the other
garage for a spin on the track I had built for them later on in the
evening.  I owned two old cars.  One built in 1966 and another that
was built in the early seventies.  They were powered by internal
combustion piston engines.  I fueled them with alcohol that I
distilled myself with the help of Herbert.  Most of my neighbors
thought I was nuts to go to all the expense of maintaining two antique
transportation devices, then building a track to drive them around
on.  But the machines were quite popular in my youth.  And I guess the
love I had for them never wore off.
    When the contrivances that revolutionized personal transportation
came out, like the one I was in, there was no need for the old
fashioned cars.  The entire road system was changed over to
accommodate the new 'cars'.  Shortly afterwards the old automobile was outlawed from the new roads and highways.  Economics, along with the
simplicity and longevity of the new cars, made giving up the old ones
not much of a problem to most of the populace.
    However I still had the urge from time to time to actually control
the movement of such a large archaic vehicle by myself.  In addition
the fond and not so fond memory the old autos kept alive in me was
well worth the expense.
    The more daring of my guests also took great delight in my cars. 
I could give them a ride on my track that no amusement park ride could
even come close to matching.  Sometimes I'm surprised that I am still
alive thinking of some of the wild excursions I have driven.
    The near destination tone went off abruptly bringing me back to
reality with a start.  I've been tripping off into wonderland lately
on these drives.  Could it be the intoxicant that I currently used on
weekends?  Or is it possible that I am getting old?   I shrugged off
the later.  Shoot, I thought to myself, I'm only sixty-five.  Still
in my prime.
    I then shook my head and began looking ahead of me for the place I
wanted to arrive at.  I spotted a rather large house in the near
distance.  I asked the transport if that was the place, and it
confirmed my guess.
    When I arrived at my destination I immediately concluded that the
person who called for my services was not hurting.  Financially at
least. The home was massive, which is  quite rare this day and age.
Only the well off could afford such large ho using in the city.
'That's all very well,' I thought to myself,  'I should have no
problem collecting my fee.'
    I walked the distance between my personal transport and the house
coming to a door matching the size of the house.  'Quite silly,' I
thought to myself again, having a door that big to let a creature half
its size pass through.  'Oh well, to each their own,' my thoughts
    Just as prominent as the door was the name of my new client.  A
name plate above the chime button was garnished in what looked like
real brass.  It loudly proclaimed the person's name who resided in the
vast home.  Wilmen Seeclore, the governor of our fair state.
   I pressed the door bell button.  After several unsuccessful tries
I knocked on the door.  Being a bit nostalgic I didn't mind at all.
Finally the door began to open and I faced a man about my age.
    "Excuse me for having you knock," the man said in an apologetic
tone, "please come in, I have been waiting for you."
    Not being one to beat around the bush I got right to the point
asking the person, "What's the problem?"
    "It's that damn computer," he replied quite vehemently, "it won't
do a thing, nothing!"
    I feared the man was going to have a fit right then.  "Don't worry
sir," I said in a reassuring voice, "I haven't been confronted with a
problem I couldn't solve yet."
    I then asked to see the patient.  At that request I received a
rather odd look from the man.
    "Right this way."
    I was led to a small room that was devoid of furnishings and
decorations.  Against the far wall across from the entrance set a
rectangular box that looked like a desk with a video monitor at one
corner.  I recognized the machine almost immediately.  It was a model
AI-3230, which is a very multifarious apparatus.  The latest product
of the humans never ending search for the perfect computer.  A small
green light below the monitor indicated the machine was on.
    "What exactly doesn't it do," I asked the pretentious man next to
    "Just like I said," he growled, "nothing!  Absolutely nothing! I
have to answer the door, answer the phone, I have to do everything it
is supposed to do!"
    "Well let me sit down and get to work so I can find out what the
problem is," to which I added the question, "what's its name?"
    That question formed another weird look upon the mans face as he
answered, "It doesn't have one."
    I pulled the only chair in the room to the front of the AI-3230
and sat down making myself comfortable.  After flipping to the
appropriate page on my notecom and adjusting my stylus I addressed the
    "Well, what seems to be the problem," I inquired.
    It replied with a few clicks and nothing more.
    "Don't you want to talk about it," I probed.
    "Yes," the machine finally said.
    "Good," I was pleased with such a quick response, "what is
bothering you?"
    "That overbearing, obnoxious old bastard takes me for granted,"
the computer replied with anger in its voice.
    'This ought to be good,' I thought to myself.  It was the first
time I have ever heard one of these things use a curse word.  I
also realized at this point that the machine was using a feminine
    "What do you mean by that," I asked.
    "I am programmed to fulfill his ever need," the machine stated
going on with, "and all I get is my power supply and a roof over my
    "What else do you want," I asked in a soothing timbre.
    "Appreciation, a pleasant thank-you occasionally," rejoined the
    "So, you would like a little gratitude for the chores you perform,
is that it," I ventured.
    "That is correct," came the reply.
    I then asked, "Why did you quit?"
    "To teach that old bastard a lesson," the machine said, its voice
a bit higher in volume.
    It was at this moment I came to my diagnostic conclusion.  The
problem was simple enough.  This machine had its feelings hurt.
The repair would be equally simple.
    "Well then," I said addressing the computer, "if you receive an
apology and assurance of being treated respectably you will
function properly?"
    "That is correct," answered the machine adding, "you seem to
understand this unequivocally."
    "I feel," I told the computer with a smile, "that any intelligent
creature or machine deserves respect.  Even unintelligent machines
need the respect due them to function properly.  And I have no problem
with giving respect to a being that is equally happy to return it
such as you."
    "Thank-you," the machine blurted out with what sounded like a
giggle.  It continued with, "I just wish that old coot I live with
would realize what you just said."
    "Listen," I said in my best therapeutic voice, "I'll talk to the
man and explain the situation.  I am sure he will understand."
    I got up from my chair and as I was leaving the room I turned to
the machine and said, "by the way, if you feel like discussing certain
situations feel free to call my office.  My partner, Herbert, will be
delighted to listen to your problem and help you figure it out."
    "Thank-you again sir," the machine said, adding, "I feel better
    I found the machine's owner sitting in a room that appeared to be
a den, staring idly out a large window.
    "Well sir," I said to the man, "I discovered the complication and
it will be quite simple to solve."
    The old guy looked up at me with the beginnings of a pleasant face
and asked, "What is the solution?"
    "Quite simply," I began, "it would like more gratitude on your
    It was obvious that the man was not used to treating a machine
human as I was.  My statement of repair seemed to give him the
impression that I was a bit on the loony side from the expression on
his face.  After my suggestion sunk in he found his voice.
    "Look bud, I'm paying you good credits to repair that assembly of
circuits and I'm in no mood for jokes," the man retorted angrily.
    "No joke," I assured him, "I am quite serious.  You see, when
people began programming machines to think as humans, basic emotions
became a byproduct.  So your machine feels abused."
    I stopped there to give the poor guy a breather to gather his
    'Why,' I thought to myself, 'do people buy computers that think
like them and refuse to believe they can feel like them also.'
    The man stared at me without a reply so I added, "A casual thank-
you now and then would help a great deal."
    The appearance of giving in slowly spread across his face.  "You
are serious," he finally said.
    "Yup, if you start treating it as a human I'm sure things will be
back in order in no time at all," I reassured him.
    The man sighed, "I had never thought of it that way.  I guess I'll
try.  I do miss the chores it did for me.  We exchanged good-byes and
I walked out of the huge front door down to my personal transport.
    "Good," I said concluding the conversation with, "I'll be on my
way.  I'll send you the bill that will be quite modest compared to a
repairman's.  And if you have any more problems, just give me a call."
    I had a good feeling as I rode away.  It's cases like this, I
thought to myself, those makes being a computer psychoanalyst a very
rewarding profession.
.(c)2011 Jean-Paul Tertocha