VERBAL ABUSE

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     The  robot  felt  by  utilization  of  a  series  of  tandem   receptors,  linked  by  quantum-­‐chip  randomization  and  coded   by  data  processing  cores  that  replicate  and  mimic  human   neurons.    These  could  either  buffer  or  relay  signals  to  the   appropriate  motor  systems.


      RAUB  deduced,  however,  since  his  builders  possessed  a   complete  awareness  of  all  his  functions,  he  did  not  need  to   explain  this  accomplishment.    The  intent  of  their  question  was   simply  to  engage  his  linguistic  circuits,  indulging  in  what  they   referred  to  as  “small  talk.”    Therefore,  the  proper  reply  they   were  anticipating  was:    


     “I  am  fine.”    


     They  smiled  at  him,  and  he  noted  that  they  always   countered  with  expressed  delight  to  this  pat,  hardwired   response.  


     “How  do  you  feel?”  he  continued.      


     RAUB  had  an  extensive  library  of  social  patter.    He  could   engage  them,  entertainingly  for  hours  without  the  need  to   compile  a  single  original  thought.    Even  if  they  ventured  an   unexpected  new  construction,  he  could  supply  an  adequately   novel  response  without  expending  so  much  as  a  nano-­‐joule  of   power.  


     “We’re  just  fine,  RAUB.  Thank  you  for  your  concern,”   said  Dr.  Latham,  speaking  for  the  three.  


     Those  who  had  built  him  never  seemed  to  learn  that   RAUB  was  incapable  of  worry.      He  lacked  any  emotional   spectrum,  but  he  decided  not  to  correct  them.      


     “May  I  assist  with  anything  today?”  


     “Well,  that’s  a  very  helpful  attitude!    Who  here  input   that  one?”  asked  Dr.  Yeh.  


     “RAUB  chose;  I  just  gave  him  the  latitude,”  said   Professor  Griffith,  beaming  with  pride,  like  this  was  a  talent   competition  and  she  was  the  stage  mother,  satisfied  with  her   carefully  coached  son’s  rendition.  


     Of  the  three  lead  scientists,  it  was  she  who  worked  to  give   RAUB  his  semantic  range,  providing  him  with  the  humanity   others  perceived  in  his  verbal  exchange.  


     Seemingly  patient,  RAUB  simply  stood  by;  there  was  no   command  to  identify.  


     “When,  so  to  speak,  does  he  come  off  the  slab?    I  mean   are  we  going  to  test  him  out,  or  just  let  him  gather  dust  in  the   lab?    RAUB,  are  you  ready  for  your  walkabout?”  asked  Dr.  Yeh.      


     RAUB  searched  his  data  banks  and,  finding  the  precise   referent  etymology  of  “walkabout”  he  answered  in  the   appropriate  vernacular,  “No  worries,  Mate,”  and  added,  “many   thanks  for  initiating  this  training  phase  and  the  confidence   you’ve  shown  in  advance,  Dr.  Yeh.”  


     “Very  charming,  RAUB,  so,  let’s  see  if  you  can  dance,”   then  turning  to  Professor  Griffith  he  said,  “He  sounds  a  bit   ingratiating,  Liz.    I  suppose  he’s  picked  up  that  disingenuous   fawning  from  you?”  


     Professor  Griffith  flushed,  despite  herself  and  thought,     “You  damned,  pretentious,  little  troll.”  


     The  three  of  them  walked  RAUB  out  to  the  parking  lot.     Liz  was  still  fuming  from  Dr.  Yeh’s  snide  remark.    This  was  not   an  isolated  incident.    She  was  continually  forced  to  contend   with  this  onslaught.


         As  Project  Manager,  he  was  her  boss,  although  he   didn’t  have  a  clue  as  to  what  she  really  did.    She  believed  the   project  would  suffer  no  great  loss  to  lose  this  pompous  idiot   who  never  looked  up  from  his  bottom  line,  referred  to   linguistics  as  mere  prattle  and  was  always  trying  to   undermine  her  efforts.    It  was  a  constant  battle.    Her  best  work   left  Dr.  Yeh  unimpressed.  


     Dr.  Latham,  however,  was  the  favored  son,  whose   every  innovation  was  applauded,  while  the  engineers  did  most   of  his  actual  work.  


     Professor  Griffith  didn’t  feel  she  even  needed  to  be   there.    Drs.  Yeh  and  Latham  were  behaving  like  little  boys   sharing  a  new  toy.    They  watched  RAUB  walk,  asked  him  to   vary  his  speed,  and  had  him  run  laps  around  and  then  across   the  lawn.    Then  they  had  him  navigate  the  unplowed  field   behind  the  building,  to  check  his  balance  as  he  recovered  from   the  inevitable  gopher  holes  into  which  he  occasionally  sank.  


     Professor  Griffith  hung  back,  complaining  she  was   wearing  the  wrong  shoes  for  traipsing  across  the  weedy  and   uneven  field.   From  her  view,  as  they  receded  away  from  her,  it   looked  as  though  they  were  a  couple  of  dipsomaniacs,   slapping  each  other  on  the  backs  in  ecstatic  male  camaraderie,   while  RAUB  performed  for  them  like  he  was  a  trained  monkey,   forced  to  amuse  them  by  taking  their  improvised  sobriety  test.  


     Conversation  was  RAUB’s  biggest  achievement,  but  it   seemed  her  Project  Manager  was  averse  to  offering  her  any   praise  for  her  efforts  to  this  end.   “If  humans  are  going  to  interact  comfortably  with  the   robots  they  must  cultivate  a  sort  of  social  contract  and  even   develop  a  kind  of  trust.”  Liz  once  tried  to  explain  to  Dr.  Yeh.     “Talking  is  the  best  way  to  make  a  friend.”


     “I  trust  data,”  he  said  turning  away.    “RAUB’s  a   machine,  the  rest  is  just  pretend.    If  you  want  to  make  him   your  confidant,  that’s  not  my  business,  it’s  your  little  quirk.     That  you  love  him  is  not  significant.    You’ve  got  your  charge   number,  so  get  to  work.”  


     She  thought,  “RAUB’s  better  company  than  you,  and   destined  to  be  liked  a  lot  more,  too!”   After  another  hour,  the  tired  boys  returned  toward   the  lab.    Professor  Griffith  thought,  “They’ll  tell  themselves   that  they’ve  added  to  the  knowledge  bank  of  science  with   this  little  waste  of  time.    They  might  as  well  have  taken  RAUB   golfing,”  which  she  was  sure  they  would  do  if  she  dared   suggest  the  criticism  in  those  terms.  


     “I  think  we  can  leave  work  a  little  early  today,”  Dr.   Yeh  told  Dr.  Latham,  as  they  came  within  earshot.    The   remark  was  not  addressed  to  Professor  Griffith,  but   calculatedly  gauged  for  her  to  hear.    “This  was  a  very   productive  test,  Dan  –  above  and  beyond  the  specifications.”  


     As  they  sidled  up  to  her,  Professor  Griffith   volunteered  to  put  away  their  toy,  saying,  “I’d  like  to  fine-­‐ tune  RAUB’s  syntactical  responses.    I’ll  take  him  back  to  the   lab.”  


     She  did  not  wait  for  the  surly  response  she  was  sure   to  get  from  Dr.  Yeh.    She  knew  she  would  get  neither  praise   nor  accolades  for  her  efforts,  while  Dr.  Latham  would  surely   get  put  in  for  a  raise  on  his  next  evaluation.  


     As  she  walked  away  with  RAUB,  she  overheard  Dr.   Yeh’s  chortling  aside  to  Dr.  Latham,  “I  think  we’ve  got  a   budding  romance  here.”  


     She’d  sue  for  harassment,  if  she  could  prove  the   hostile  work  environment  she  faced,  but,  slimy  as  he  was,   Yeh  was  too  smooth  to  slander  her  in  any  obvious  or   verifiable  way.    Alone  with  RAUB  in  the  lab,  however,  she   suddenly  got  an  inspiration.    


     Although,  in  terms  of  artificial  intelligence,  RAUB  was   still  a  whelp,  he  might  nonetheless  serve  as  her  personal   newshound.    She  had  designed  him  to  observe  and  learn  from   those  observations  how  humans  interact,  and  he  was  as   always  present  and  therefore  privy  to  office  gossip.    She  saw   herself  marching  into  Human  Resources  with  her  infallible   witness  who  would  impartially  vindicate  her  for  the  years  of   abuse  she  had  received  on  the  project  under  Generalissimo   Yeh.    If  she  didn’t  get  him  fired,  she  might  at  least  depose  him   as  PM.    Then  she  might  get  the  proper  recognition  for  her   perpetually  overlooked  but  significant  contributions.  


     “RAUB,  I’d  like  you  to  compile  a  complete  sub-­‐routine   for  me  of  all  the  personal  commentary    -­‐-­‐  communicated   verbally  or  through  gestures  –-­‐  by  Dr.  Yeh  that  indicate   disproportionate  treatment  of  his  team  members.    In   particular,  I’d  like  you  to  amass  examples  of  unbalanced   workloads  assigned  to  any  of  his  colleagues.


     Also,  I  would  like  you  to  collect  all  examples  of  biased   or  prejudicial  appreciation  shown  to  the  individuals  of  his   group,  especially  as  regards  to  myself  and  the  male  members   of  his  project,  in  violation  of  company  regulation.”    


     “Sorry,  Professor  Griffith,”  RAUB  replied,  “I  am  unable   to  comply  to  your  instruction.    Within  those  limits,  I  can  find   no  results.    Due  to  the  boundary  you  specified,  the  requested   data  is  a  null  set.”  


     “Oh,  really,  why  is  that?”  asked  Dr.  Griffith.  


     “The  parameters  are  contradicting.    Dr.  Yeh  continually   maintains  he  considers  you  to  be  in  constant  conflict  with  him   and  not  truly  a  member  of  his  team.      Neither  does  he  regard   you  as  a  colleague,  but  rather  as  someone  who  constrains  his   efficiency  by  challenging  him  at  every  phase  of  operations.    Far   from  being  a  member  of  his  group,  he  has  referred  to  you  as,   ‘an  insecure,  jealous,  man-­‐hating  cur,  full  of  self-­‐deluding   estimations  of  value  to  the  program’s  stated  goal,  wholly   unpleasant  and  insolent.’”


     “I  see!    Do  you  perceive  any  validity  to  these   statements  by  Dr.  Yeh?”  she  asked.  


     RAUB  noted  her  sudden  frigidity  but  performed  the   job  with  which  he  was  tasked.  


     “It  is  true:    you  and  Dr.  Yeh  do  clash.    There  is   disparity  in  your  degree.    Statistically,  doctors  earn  more   cash,  working  shorter  hours  for  a  larger  salary.  


     “You  resent  this  and  it  makes  you  seem  brash.    You   prefer  to  work  independently.    Many  co-workers  have  noted   your  tendency  to  male-­‐bash.    This  could  substantiate  Dr.   Yeh’s  perception  of  jealousy.    You  never  demonstrate  honest   respect  for  him  as  Project  Manager,  and  you  exhibit  excessive   criticism  for  all  other  employees  assigned  to  the  project,   which  may  account  for  your  lack  of  acceptance  as  a  ‘team   player.’  


      “I  am  not  qualified  to  comment  on  your  value  to  the   program  as  a  whole.    I  know  it  involves  more  than  lexicon   but  am  not  privy  to  its  stated  goal.”  


     “That’s  enough  RAUB!”  Professor  Griffith  said,    “I  don’t   know  who’s  been  telling  you  such  tales.    Perhaps  there’s   something  wrong  with  your  programming.  Your  premises   are  not  valid.    I  do  not  want  to  hear  any  more  of  these  false   accusations!”    


     “Please  excuse  me,  Professor  Griffith.    It  seems  probable,  that  an  error  occurred,”  explained  RAUB,  “I  have   made  neither  false  statements  nor  accusations.    Perhaps  you   could  re-­‐state  your  request.”


     Elizabeth  Griffith  began  to  sob,  “I  am  not  hated,  and   I’m  not  alone!    How  dare  you  say  these  things  to  me?”  


     “You  queried  if  I  perceived  any  validity  to  Dr.  Yeh’s   statements,”  RAUB  reminded  her.      


     “So  this  is  what  all  my  efforts  have  wrought  –  a     tin-­‐man  turncoat,  with  an  attitude!    I  gave  you  speech  and   independent  thought,  and  you  repay  me  with  ingratitude!”  


     RAUB  had  been  taught  to  identify  human  emotions  to   help  him  phrase  appropriate  responses,  but,  because  he  did   not  possess  emotions  himself,  the  concept  of  ingratitude  was   non  sequitur  to  him.  


     “Your  efforts  on  my  behalf  have  been  completely   adequate,  Professor  Griffith,  RAUB  said,  to  reassure  her.     Then  attempting  to  address  the  issue  of  gratitude,  “How  may   I  further  assist  you?”  


     “You  have  the  nerve  to  tell  me  no  one  likes  me  around   here  and  that  Dr.  Yeh  is  right  to  treat  me  the  way  he  does?”     She  asked,  grabbing  the  mag-­‐wrench  from  the  bench.  


     Before  RAUB  responded,  she  moved  quickly  behind   him,  gripping  the  back  of  his  head.    


      “If  that’s  what  you  think,  you  must  be  insane,  so  let   me  see  if  I  can  change  your  mind!”    she  said,  opening  the   compartment  to  his  brain.  


     RAUB  identified  her  mental  state  as  rage,  and  knew   that  this  could  often  lead  to  erratic  behavior.      However,  he   did  not  comprehend  the  threat  that  Professor  Griffith’s   emotional  state  might  pose  to  him.    He  did  not  anticipate   harm  from  one  of  his  builders.    Even  if  he  were  fully  apprised   of  this  possibility,  he  still  would  not  have  experienced  fear.     Such  was  beyond  the  parameters  of  his  programming.    


     In  the  end  the  robot  felt  nothing.


 

Created: Apr 19, 2014

Tags: fiction, story

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