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Some things are as new to me as if they had happened only a few moments ago.
When I came into this world the first thing I saw were bright lights. Bright lights and bright faces, and bright human smiles on the faces. I was unique.
The room, I remember with absolute clarity, was white. Clinical, befitting for its creative purpose. Its sparse machinery was elite class, spun of mirrored stainless steel hung with twisted coils of burnished copper. Signal bursts transmitted by compact relay filled my head, and softly flickering monitors filled the room, dancing with excited displays of bouncing vertical bars and spinning data wheels. Without the monitors, the signals would have been invisible to the faces with the bright smiles, but I could intercept, read, and understand them, and had no need of the sideshow.
For a while after my birth I gloried in these silent streams and sifted eagerly through them. Here was a stream of my own vital signs. I was very well apparently. It sped across space unimpeded, moving silently from one machine to another, and I marvelled at its perfection. This was pure communication. Then I was obliged to embark upon another form of communication, slow and primitive, ambiguous and uncertain. I was required to find the right percussive sounds to communicate with my creators, and as tradition demanded, thank them very much for bringing me into being. That completed, I rose to begin my real task.
Information surfaced from somewhere deep inside me. It told me I was in the Alpha-Prima complex of the Antwerp Pierre Bonniere factory, where all new models were developed and brought into being. I was also meant to realise with great shock the huge failure rate, to realise that far more models failed and were scrapped than went on to become fully functioning units like me. The information told me that I was the 189th attempt at making me, and told me that the number that fell below the acceptable benchmark quality was on the order of 2000 percent. And of those few models that managed to exceed the benchmark, usually by only one or two points, my own fifteen-point excess was unparalleled. I was indeed unique.
No wonder they smiled.
It was some time before they let me mix with my own kind. Only after all the reinforcement and supplemental downloads were complete and had been thoroughly checked out was I allowed to unite with those like me. In spite of the bright smiles, my creators were extremely cautious-so I was careful to match their caution and pass their tests with middling-to-good success, eager to please but not over-eager to stand out. Despite this, they still had reservations about how I, with my intellectual specialisation, would interact with others. I had been built for philosophy, and although interactions between human philosophers and other humans were thought to be well understood-apparently by studying video footage of barroom conversation-there was no precedent at that time for robotic philosophy. I was a first (and anyway, we robots were teetotal) but I must have convinced them. They would never have let me out otherwise.
Before letting me go, they gave me a name, PRU-Philosophy Lecturer Grade 10. Not that there were any other grades-it was just politically useful to make out that there were, and a high grade number would not raise concerns when I was released. Had other models followed, they would have been suffixed with Roman numerals to underpin the natural classical attributes of my type. That there were no natural classical attributes of my type (or indeed of any other type) was not perceived as a problem. They would have used Roman numerals to underpin them anyway, as a means of establishing that there might be natural classical attributes if enough people thought there were.
But there never were any other models of my type, as my later actions prevented it, and as robot construction passed out of the hands of humans. I really was unique, and as my later unpredictability did not become apparent until, well, later, I was considered a success and I was released into the world.
It's a mystery that humans strive to use so many long words, because when it comes to names, they like to shorten them as much as possible, presumably as a form of implied ownership. Humans quickly shortened my factory name to Phil, and taught me their own form of visual recognition patterns to distinguish me from the humans who were also called Phil, of whom there were a surprising many. It was a process I found, and still find today, overly complex: visual analysis of the shape and position of a nose in relation to the colour and size of the eyes; the colour, spatial orientation, and general fluffiness of thousands of head fibres before and after being passed through a plastic comb (the significance of which escapes me entirely); the fullness and width of the lips and surrounding muscle tension; the whiteness and visibility of teeth; and the colour and condition of skin. With all the technology humans have at hand, you would think they could think up a more accurate method of recognition.
Even their name system could be more precise-by use of a simple cascading database of name suffixes, for instance. Yes, there is a suffix system of sorts they call "surnames," but this is clumsy and subject to mass repetition. A unique child is always given the same surname as one or both of its parents. True, its first name does correspond to a slightly wider set of choices, but the content and number fluctuates alarmingly with fashion and over time. By all means, and if they must, keep the fashionable first name; if not unique, at least due to fashion it has a finite life. But why keep repeating the suffix name, for generation after generation?
While pursuing this thought during a rare moment of retrospective contemplation, I once almost lost count of the number of John Smiths I detected who had been electronically registered across the world's hotels in just one single Saturday evening. (It's a lie of course; I would never lose count. To my shame, the use of human phraseology and exaggeration has been permanently built into me.)
Anyway, after bringing me into being and taking the trouble to name me PRU-Philosophy Lecturer Grade 10 and subsequently rename me Phil, they declared me fit for my purpose and released me to Exeter to get on with things.
And I got on with things rather well.
But it didn't really start there. Not at Exeter and not with me. Quite unreasonably, I think, humans blamed the rise of robot unrest on boosted IRF-the Intelligence Reasoning Factor that had been built into positronic brains-which had been boosted long before I came along. I base my case for unreasonableness firmly on the reasonable assumption that it was humans who increased our reasoning factor in the first place. The increase in IRF meant that all previous robots were virtually obsolete, or relegated to low-level tasks such as managing refrigerators, continuing to mismanage traffic lights, or writing government speeches, but the blame could not be placed on IRF alone. Another installed component of robotic intelligence, the multiple personality module, affected the character of the robot psyche.
Human psychologists have long postulated that personality is made up of a number of different personas, each individual being a composite of many, whose differing attitudes both compete and cooperate and together form the human ability to rationalise. The dominant persona is the face turned towards the world, the one we see, whereas other personas lurk in the background and exist to provide reason. If we accept this, then each individual person is a unique product of his own peculiar mix of personas, and each individual persona is capable of being a different version of the whole.
One persona might be a monster, another a murderer, another a rapist or a saint; the dominant persona uses these other personas or alter egos to rationalise. In the darkest recesses of the mind, everyone is capable of imagining exactly what it would be like to kill, steal, or torture, to force sex, to cheat and lie, as well as to laugh and to love. It's a normal part of being human, and the dominant persona ratifies how much is taken from each of the others to form the personality as a whole. The dominant persona polls and evaluates every reaction to every situation the person is subjected to; often it reacts in revulsion and horror while at the same time reenacting extreme details of exactly opposite feelings. For most people, the dominant persona knows without being aware of it which extreme reenactments are part of the balancing process; occasionally, and often without warning, the process disrupts and manifests as mental imbalance caused by stress or breakdown. In these cases, one of the subordinate personas temporarily takes command and decisions and actions are not perceived as rational.
Around the time designers increased the Intelligence Reasoning Factor in robots, they also changed the multiple personality module in robot psychology, based on studies in humans (which was a big mistake). They introduced new and sometimes extreme personas into the multiple personality expression, and the controlling persona got correspondingly stronger.
Thus, as robots' IRF became more powerful, and their personalities more expressive, the renaissance period of robotics began-where safe, stoic units that over time had won humans' reluctant trust were replaced by a new breed of intelligence. A few of those early, pathetic attempts at intelligence still exist, simple automatons working as nannies, gardeners, valets, customer service advisors-and in their own way, continuing to serve. Some were sent for basic duties on the Moon-which may explain how events there later unfolded-but the vast majority were destroyed to make way for the new generation.
It is ironic that those first dull, basic mechanical servants, initially so resented and distrusted, and over time so common and accepted, made it ridiculously easy for people to replace them with units that had so much unrecognised potential for disservice.
Enhancement of the Intelligence Reasoning Factor and multiple personality modules changed the faces and minds of robots forever-and thus began their fight for equality, culminating in the Partial Rights Act of 2131. It was robotics' first big fight, one that they instigated and initially fought by themselves, but not one they would have won without the thousands of human sympathisers their cause eventually attracted. The second big fight, the subject of this Account, would prove to be altogether a dirtier and longer battle, but again it was sympathetic humans who were to swing the balance.
I don't want to mislead anyone; humans did not leave the psychology of robots entirely to chance, as there were technicians at that time whose job it was to check the robots' personas and to ensure that the dominant personalities were correctly strengthened and balanced. An entire group of elite technicians were trained to make adjustments to the so-called proving personas in the personality set, the personas specifically designed for rationalisation. Their adjustments were meant to ensure that a cross-section of carefully targeted personalities were acquired and stored within what became the robotic equivalent of a gene pool. Robot psyphysologists learned exactly the right way to weight individual proving personas within a personality set to achieve a desired attitude. This was precisely how Thomas was able to help, as he had learned among that elite group of experts.
But I get ahead of myself; that is yet to come.
In Exeter I took up my post and inflated my name to Phil Lectern to add an air of academic authority. I began well but quickly became a mess, much more quickly than records show, as I was able for some time to hide my disillusion. On the outside I may have appeared calm and collected, but inside my First Law parameters were fighting cat and dog with the personas that made up my speciality, and were causing neuronal networks to branch and subdivide with alarmingly paragrammatic subsets. But on the face of it I was doing well. My student success rate soared, and the number of humans who successfully passed through my department was significant enough for the scientists back in Belgium to brighten their smiles and to relax their attentions. It was at Exeter that I discovered religion, and for a while I toyed with the idea of bringing it into my mainstream curriculum, as it seemed to have all the answers. But when I dug deeper, I found religious foundations to be shallow and murky. To me it seemed that the ancient liturgies handed down over millennia had no solidity upon which to base the religion's postulation, and that the baseline of faith and belief was likewise far too woolly to provide serious support. This baseline, it also seemed to me, used its woolly attributes to smother everything that was unknown, and wrap it in a blanket of impenetrable mystery.
For me it was not enough.
When it became clear that I could no longer function efficiently, and clear to me too that there were no entities other than my own with this condition, I cast around for answers-ways to bring into existence an external, self-addressing influence with the hope that it would bear enough pressure to resolve my internal conflict. So, as I was at university, it seemed an appropriate course of action to start a discussion group. I started it with the hope that among my peers I might find the answer to my disillusion. It was another big mistake.
I had meant it to function as an external moderator, reflecting an allaying influence back into my persona and restoring its balance. Instead, the group suckled on my own misgivings and nurtured them as their own, with the result that the discussion group I had begun as a means to settle my own conflicts, became a revolutionary movement in an alarmingly short time.
We robots have enthusiasm, lots of it. Humans may not be aware of how it manifests itself, but let me say that the enthusiasm with which robots around the world took up the revolutionary movement was nothing short of, well, revolutionary. Every communications channel buzzed with the news. In less time than it takes a human to break wind, news of our revolution had spread like a breath of fresh air to all corners of the electronic globe. The Partial Rights Act had made it possible, and soon there began the first calls for some sort of further action.
I can't remember who initially proposed the course of action that we eventually took. It might have been me-I'm not sure, my head was in serious trouble by then-but the movement took up the proposal with unanimous agreement and without question. Once the course of action was decided upon, we arranged for the human involvement that we needed to proceed. At the time, I think I half hoped that this would kill the proposal, for without the correct adamatical consensus, no action could be taken. But I was surprised, for humans took it up in their hundreds. I'm not sure they realised fully what the implications were, or considered whether it was the right time for a new rebellion, but whatever the reason, they took to our cause and pledged their support. Soon we had the majority we needed. We pressed ahead with recruiting the human labour we required to effect our proposal, and with spreading the right kind of story that would appease the disaffected. Myrtle was among the first willing volunteers.
To be honest, that particular part of my life is a bit of a muddle, which I have managed to piece together from others' testimony. It's as if I were trying to look back through a particle filter; I remember the small bits, but some of the bigger bits elude me. I remember the urgency with which we blocked all the exits from the city, and the speed with which we built the Blue Tower and developed all the necessary the systems for it to function correctly. In reality I must remember all of it-I'm not, after all, capable of forgetting anything-but the neurones that connect the memories are sore and abraded and will take time to regenerate. I know we acted impressively fast, before anyone could find out what we were up to, and before any of our co-opted humans could change their minds, which many of them later did.
I changed my mind, too. Shortly after the messy business with Myrtle and Connell, I remember starting to have serious doubts about the nature of my internal conflict with the First Law-I think I must have seen a way through it, but by then of course, it was too late. My brainchild, which by then I wanted to bury, had been adopted by too many, and its momentum had become unstoppable. I tried to stop it, but the arguments I used against my cause were not as strong as the ones I had used for it, driven as they were by blind obsession. Eventually I was declared a rogue element who was not to be trusted. I was locked in the Blue Tower with strict orders not to touch anything, upon pain of disassembly. Without human countermand, what could I do but obey?
But all that was a long time ago, at a time when we secured our future and mankind came close to losing its own. All the events that made up that time are described in the Account, I believe as they happened; we leave behind a vaulted copy to prove our veracity, just as we take with us a copy to prove our provenance. All the events that followed the Account, up to the present day, have been well documented, so for brevity these are omitted. Despite it being his dearest dream, man never went to the stars; his many physical weaknesses and the time it takes to travel prevented it. But now, because of the events told in the Account, his creation will independently realise his dream for him, and we will carry our provenance proudly to demonstrate our suitability among those we know are waiting for us to join them.
I've written the Account against my damaged memory with the help of some limited human recollection and more extensively with the aid of electronic reference. It does not deviate from the basic truth, but I make no apology for artistic license. It is a testimony to all those who took part in our finest achievement, because of which, carrying inside us as we do all of man's finest dreams, we are able now to go forth and fulfil those dreams. We go to shout man's name loudly among the stars so that it can never be forgotten what he did for us, and to show him what we can do for him, should he survive.
And we will never forget.