Fiction, Humorous Science Fiction
Published: February 2019
A robot possessing unique artificial intelligence and human awareness, André 1 tells the story of his creation and “growing up” in his inventor’s family.
Often humorously fumbling in his interactions with people, André analyzes his experiences, attempting to understand the faults and foibles of human
personality. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Dr. Margaret 13, a droid physician of his own creation, André achieves a position as translator and self-appointed mendacity-monitor to the American President and strives to save humans from themselves.
The novel is a work of science fiction and social commentary. André is wired to
take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning so as to be able
to analyze human societies without the usual biases and to propose clear-eyed
strategies for saving humanity from the many calamities toward which it
presently appears to be headed.
“WHAT IS IT, ANDRÉ? YOU’RE vibrating all over.” Dr. Margaret 13 exclaimed. “What’s
They threw me out, Margaret. They’re about to make a horrendous mistake.” I glanced around the White House Infirmary, noting no humans present. “He had me ejected from the Situation Room. Secret Service agents forced me out.”
“First, let’s reduce your electromagnetic activity,” she said. She took me by the hand and led me over to a chair. I sat but was too excited to be still.
“Now tell me what happened,” she insisted. “Tell me everything, so your circuits will release the energy.”
“They are considering a nuclear attack. Nuclear, Margaret! It’s Armageddon if they do it.” I paused to release a breath of static discharge. “I must act,” I said, standing up, “but do what?”
Margaret gently pushed me back down in the chair. “Just sit here for a moment, dear, while I go get my meter. I want to be sure your servomotor controller is functioning correctly.”
“But I have to . . .”
“Hush, André. I am the doctor. You must be still for a few minutes.”
Reluctantly, I sat back and shook my head. I had no authority. I merely was the President’s translator, which allowed me no more than a position against the wall in the Situation Room. I had determined, however, that I had a more valuable duty to perform, which was to offer observations void of emotion—something I had learned humans could not do. And with this President in power, my sober views were vital. Never before had I faced a crisis like this. What occurred to me—and it was a dangerous circumstance—because of my dispassionate awareness, I was as responsible, as liable to blame, as anyone there. I had watched the crisis unfold in the Situation Room, and my neural network began to heat up as I realized the circumstances were intolerable.
“You must listen to me,” I had shouted at them, with my volume up several decibels. “You cannot win. There is no way to win. We have tried to tell you that for . ..”
But it was uncanny how the assembly silenced me at that point with their jeers and threats. I was ordered out of the room forthwith, and my departure was between two burly Secret Service men.
“How am I to combat such foolishness?” I said when Dr. Margaret 13, a creation of my own hands, my only real companion, returned with her scanner.
“Combat is a strong word, André 1, I’ve never heard you use it before.” She opened my chest and carefully touched probes to my voltage regulator. I processed the idea of combat 378 times.
“I do not have any active algorithm for violence in my entire circuitry,” I said, “except for what may be required for self-defense. And yet to prevent the imprudent actions of an unquestioning military, a spineless staff, and a reckless President, I cannot calculate any alternative.” I paused 4.96 seconds to reconsider.
“You were programmed for loyalty, duty and respon-sibility,” Margaret said as she removed the probes and closed my chest. “You have no algorithm to deal with the present situation. You have no menu of violent responses to activate any physical aggression. That is why your circuitry is vibrating with heat.”
“I must modify my behavior programming,” I said. “I cannot sit idly by and let these humans destroy everything.” I took her hands in mine. “Years ago, when Dr. Strauss helped me develop self-defense, I installed secret integrated circuitry in my legs. These IC’s only need to be connected to my CPU. You can make the connections and then reprogram me, Margaret, so I can I generate aggressive behavior. I must be made capable of violent force.”
“What will we be doing, André?” Dr. Margaret 13 asked. “If I reprogram your CPU to allow for violent action, the process will corrupt your basic behavior algorithms. And what right does a droid have to act aggressively? Will we not be violating the very principles of ethical behavior?”
“Listen, Margaret,” I said. “We are facing a tremendously serious crisis, not only for humans but for the Earth itself. We must act immediately.” I sensed my circuits abuzz as she pulled up the schematic diagram of my system and studied it.
“It could cause a deep disturbance in your processors,” she shook her head. “I cannot condone such a traumatic operation. No, André, you are programmed to obey humans and not harm them.”
I produced the sound of human laughter. “I have been disobeying the President for months already. Look how often I have contradicted and argued with him. Not that it’s done any good.”
“And now you can do no better than violent attack?” She held up her hands to signal dismay. …
About the Author
A resident of Birmingham, Stephen B. Coleman, Jr. (Steve), a graduate of Indian Springs School, earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Duke University and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Alabama. He is married to the former Dr. Sumter M. Carmichael, a psychiatrist. Steve has been a naval officer, a high school teacher, a businessman, and a commercial real estate broker. After retiring in 2009, he now enjoys sailing, writing, and landscape painting. He has authored biographies and histories of local interest, magazine articles, novels, and poetry. His story, “The Meanest Man in Pickens County,” was the first place (state) winner in the 2013 Hackney Literary Awards for short stories. He has published two novels: The Navigator: A Perilous Passage, Evasion at Sea and The Navigator II: Irish Revenge. For more information, please visit his websites:
Capt Steve Stories and Andre the Robot