I put this story in my blog, but I thought I'd post it here, too.
“What are you doing?!” the Foreman asked me, sounding annoyed.
“I’m trying to get this to behave itself!” I replied. “These parameters keep changing by themselves! It’s this new algorithm Adominis devised. He thinks it’s an improvement on the old customary one that works better. I wish these young techs would stop having new ideas. This next generation…I don’t know.”
“Well, do the best you can with it,” the Foreman advised, “but the Supervisor expects results. We’re starting to go over budget already We can’t afford another delay.”
With that the Foreman left the lab. I concentrated for a while on trying to tease the equation to behave itself, but soon gave up in frustration. This job has its drawbacks alright, I thought to myself. But the pay is good, and with a new family to support I would have to stick with it, no matter how annoying it is.
Of course I knew even if I tamed the wiggly thing, the result still wouldn’t be perfect. It’s all a matter of refining probabilities. That’s the basics of the process. It’s impossible to construct absolute determinism because, for one thing, that would not allow for the fundamental randomness that is essential for creative possibilities.
Oh, it’s been tried in the early days. Locked-down, fixed parameters describing fixed resolutions of events, but the result was just a mechanism. We weren’t trying to build a clock-work machine; we were attempting to construct a self-resolving instrument that was resourceful, an autonomous entity that had the ability to initiate its own approaches to resolving various changes to its basic program.
Well, in the end it’s tricky to accomplish all this, given the budget and time frame allowed. One other aspect is, it had to include certain, let me say, elements the higher-ups insist on. Imperfections, mainly. The configuration had to contain certain limitations and constraints as to its precision. In other words, it could not be a better device than the one we lived with ourselves.
This has always a sticking point with me. I mean, why not build something that is as perfect as we can build it? But we’re not allowed to do this. We must introduce some specific flaws and defects into the project. Our algorithms must be adjusted ever so slightly so that the finished product has some shortcomings built into it.
I think the great scientists and engineers at the top level have taken careful measure of our own system, and where they have discovered deficiencies, they have decided these same defects must be included in the new model.
This is maddening to me, for I can see how the project can be made perfect. But I’m not allowed to install these improvements. I must instead alter certain aspects so that the design contains these prescribed defects.
I feel regret and even guilt that the function of the completed structure will not be ideal. Its evolution will be flawed in unpredictable ways. Then again maybe this is a good thing. Perfection would be dull and unimaginative. Perhaps within its flaws it will become inventive and resourceful in coping with its limitations.
It’s a new beginning, anyway. It will have to rely on its instincts and capacity for variation to fulfill itself as best it can, as our system has done. The final outcome is unknown, but I hope it will be successful in realizing its potential.
As I now sit back in my chair, I wonder if its evolution will result in new life arising from the parameters we have created for it…if we have fashioned a capacity for the as yet unborn. I like to think so. Oftentimes I dream of these, my forever unnamed children, so to speak, orphaned into a world they do not expect. They will never know me, in part, their father. Never to hold them in my loving embrace, or perhaps to face in horror their glorious malevolence.
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