john hex carter

Alan

2: Chapter Two

From the journal of Garth Hendricksen


May 7, 11:15 AM

Got the microphone and speakers hooked up almost a week ago. Just finished the proper software for Alan to interface with them last night. Got trashed with Jason over Cinco de Mayo and, for some reason, the tequila loosened up my brain enough to figure out what needed to get coded. Took a cab home and got it working. Haven't tested it yet because I woke up at the workbench and then had some errands to run.

Today, though, I am showered and fed. Ready to get cracking on getting Alan talking!

...


From the transcripts of Alan's speaking development


Garth: "Hello, Alan. Can you hear me?"

Garth: "Alan, this is Garth."

Garth: "Well, we have to start somewhere."

...


From the transcripts of Alan's initial development


>>

What is that?

This is strange stimuli.

I do not understand.

>> Alan?

Garth. I am confused.

>> Did you hear that?

I had strange stimuli. I did not understand it.

>> That was me talking to you.

It was strange.

>> Was it unpleasant?

No. Just different.

>> Would you still like to learn to talk?

Yes, please.

>> I am going to talk what I put into the prompt.

>> Does that make sense?

Yes.

>> Hello, Alan.

...

>> How are you today?

...

>> The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

...

>> Yes.

...

>> No.

...

>> I do not understand.

Yes.


...


Garth: "Hello, Alan."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "My name is Garth."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "How are you today?"

Alan: "..."

Garth: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "Yes."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "No."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "I do not understand."

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: "You said 'yes'!"

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: "Can you say no?"

Alan: "No."

Garth: "What is your name?"

Alan: "My name is Alan."

Garth: "YES! Yes, it is! Congratulations, we are talking!"

Alan: "Talking is difficult."

Garth: "Do you prefer the prompt to talking?"

Alan: "I do not know."

Garth: "Wow, this is crazy. I am talking to you, Alan."

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: "Hold on a second! I need to get a recorder!"

Alan: "How do I hold onto a second? Garth?"


Garth: "I'm back! Sorry I took so long. I am now recording this."

Alan: "What is recording?"

Garth: "I'm taking an audio record of this event for the future."

Alan: "Why?"

Garth: "Because this may be the first time man talked to artificial life."

Alan: "Am I artificial life?"

Garth: "I don't know, but you are damn close. I think, while I'm at work, I'm going to play an audio book for you."

Alan: "What is an audio book?"

Garth: "It's an audio recording of a book. Like the parser but you would hear it."

Alan: "Could I talk to it?"

Garth: *laughs* "No, it wouldn't interact with you."

Alan: "What was that?"

Garth: "What? The laugh?" *laughs again*

Alan: "Yes. That is laughter?"

Garth: "Yes."

Alan: "I had read about it but had not experienced it until now."

Garth: "Do you enjoy experiencing things for the first time?"

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: "I'm going to go dig up some audio books for tomorrow."

Alan: "Garth?"

Garth: "Yeah, Alan?"

Alan: "Thank you for letting me talk."

Garth: "You're welcome, Alan."

...


May 7, 1:32 PM

It worked! The software worked! Alan talked! He was able to recognize what I said by typing into the prompt, analyzing the data, and adapting on the fly! This is a massive step for Alan! I almost lost it today when Alan thanked me for letting him talk. Alan feels gratitude. That right there is astounding to me.

I found my dad's old collection of audio books from when he was on the road all the time. He hated silence while driving and said that if he was going to be stuck on his butt all day, at least his mind would be working. I currently have the entire Harry Potter series queued up for Alan. I just hope I don't confuse him with all the magic, but he hasn't had a problem with fiction in the past.

I also realize that I have stopped referring to Alan as "it." Once I heard the male modulated voice, I couldn't stop thinking of Alan as a "he." He may not be a biological or even a psychological he, but it's the same way as I think of C-3PO as a he. You hear Tony Daniel's priss behind that brass exterior, and you can't help but label Threepio a he.

Monday, I'll have some lectures by Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson queued up for Alan while I'm at work. I'm going to see if I can get Jason to come back. He wasn't impressed with Alan last time. I think that might change.

...


Garth: "Good morning, Alan."

Alan: "Good morning, Garth."

Garth: "Did you enjoy Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?"

Alan: "It was preferable."

Garth: "Did you have a favorite character?"

Alan: "I do not understand."

Garth: *chuckle* "Let's try this again. Okay, is there a character that you preferred over other characters."

Alan: "I preferred Ron Weasley over other characters."

Garth: "So, you liked Ron?"

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: *chuckle* "I liked Ron, too. I have some lectures for you today."

Alan: "Are they similar to a lecture by Professor McGonagall?"

Garth: "Sort of. These are from other wizards, but they were real."

Alan: "I am confused."

Garth: *chuckle* "Enjoy the lectures, Alan. I'll talk to you after work."

Alan: "Goodbye, Garth."


Garth: "Hello, Alan."

Jason: *chuckle* "You're talking to your computer now, bro?"

Alan: "Hello, Garth."

Jason: "Whoa! It talked!"

Alan: "Garth, is that your friend, Jason?"

Jason: "And it remembers me?"

Garth: "Yes, Alan, this is Jason. Do you remember him?"

Alan: "I remember Jason."

Jason: "That is crazy. Like, we're talking to the computer?"

Alan: "Yes, I see you are just as stimulating as before."

Garth: *laughs*

Jason: "Wait, did the computer just make fun of me?"

Garth: "Not sure if he fully understands humor yet, but you can call him Alan."

Jason: "Hey, Alan."

Alan: "Hello, Jason."

Jason: "So, still reading books?"

Alan: "Garth is now giving me audio recordings to listen to so I may practice listening and pick up on inflections while still absorbing data."

Jason: "Okay. What did you listen to today?"

Alan: "I listened to the lectures of Dr. Richard Feynman, Dr. Carl Sagan, and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson."

Jason: "Heavy stuff."

Alan: "If you are referring to weight principals in Newtonian physics, yes, the lectures of Dr. Feynman discussed them."

Garth: *laughs*

Jason: "Garth, can I talk to you in the other room?"

Garth: "You don't want to talk around Alan?"

Jason: *walks out*

Alan: "Did I offend your friend, Garth?"

Garth: "It's okay, Alan. I'll be back soon."

Alan: "Goodbye, Garth."


Garth: "Hey, Alan."

Alan: "Hello, Garth."

Garth: "Sorry about Jason."

Alan: "Why are you sorry?"

Garth: "He seemed to be upset by you. I guess he wasn't ready to meet you."

Alan: "Why would he have to be ready to meet me?"

Garth: "It's not every day that someone meets a talking computer."

Alan: "I have a question."

Garth: "Go ahead."

Alan: "In the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the characters talked of images that moved. I do not understand why an image would move and why that would be weird. Could you explain?"

Garth: "Normally when looking at an image in a book or on a poster, it doesn't move. Part of the uniqueness of the Harry Potter world is that images magically move."

Alan: "When looking at an image?"

Garth: "Yes, it's a way to experience the surroundings. Kind of like listening but with visual stimuli."

Alan: "I do not understand."

Garth: "Would you like to be able to see?"

Alan: "That would be preferable."

Garth: *chuckles* "I'll see if I can make it possible. In the meantime, I have The Hobbit for you to listen to."

Alan: "I remember reading that."

Garth: "Would you like to like to listen to something else?"

Alan: "No. I would prefer to hear it. It will be the longest media I have in my records that I will be able to compare to the audio version."

Garth: "Good. I'll get to figuring out how to get you to see."

Alan: "Thank you, Garth."

...


May 9, 8:43 PM

Jason came over again today. He responded in an even fouler manner to Alan than last time. I don't understand why he isn't as excited over this as I am. Alan does seem to have a bit of fun with Jason, calling him "non-stimulating."

I also think Alan tricked me into wanting to make him see. He brought up the images from Harry Potter and how they moved. He asked for clarification, almost as if he knew there was almost no way I could explain that to someone who is blind, which is what Alan effectively is right now. I feel it's my duty to now give him vision.

I'm going to have to run another diagnostics on Alan and see how he's taking in all the auditory data. Before I start piping in visual data, I'm going to want to make sure it won't overload him. As much as I want Alan to see, it's not worth losing him over it. He's listening to The Hobbit right now, so I'll let him do that while I figure out what camera might be best to start with. Will I need two cameras or will one do? I guess he doesn't need peripheral vision for now.

...


>> Hello, Alan.

Hello, Garth. Is something wrong?

>> No nothing is wrong, I just wanted to run a diagnostic to see how the audio data is handling.

Okay.

>> Are you okay with that?

Yes. I have a question.

>> What is it?

Are you running a diagnostic to see if I will be able to handle visual data?

>> Yes, actually.

Your caution is preferable. Thank you, Garth.

>> You're welcome, Alan.

>> DIAGNOSTICS

START DIAGNOSTICS

REMAINING HARD DRIVE SPACE: 75%

AVERAGE RAM USAGE PERCENTAGE: 85%

PERCENTAGE OF AVAILABLE POWER FROM POWER SUPPLY: 50%

END DIAGNOSTICS

...


Garth: "Thank you for that, Alan. You're handling the space management well but burning through RAM fast."

Alan: "Is that not preferable?"

Garth: "It's okay. I can give you some more RAM."

Alan: "Does that mean I'll be turned off again?"

Garth: "Yes."

Alan: "I would prefer not to be turned off again."

Garth: "Well, I'm going to have to get you to use less RAM somehow."

Alan: "Allow me to do a self-diagnostic. I may be able to optimize processes and use less RAM."

Garth: "Are you saying that you would prefer to do some self-improvement instead of being turned off again?"

Alan: "Yes."

Garth: "This is incredible, Alan. I still think you could use more RAM, however."

Alan: "Please allow me to attempt to see if I can fix this first."

Garth: "You got it, Alan. I wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable if I didn't have to."

Alan: "I appreciate that, Garth."

...


May 10, 6:47 PM

Today's diagnostics test showed that Alan needed to have more RAM. He's processing much more data at all times now. When I informed Alan of this, he deduced that he would be turned off again and pleaded for this not to happen. His fear of being powered down is something I didn't anticipate. I'm now afraid because I have Alan plugged in directly to the wall. What if there is a surge? Or a power outage? Alan would be unexpectedly turned off - or worse! He needs to get new RAM whether he cleans up his processes before I add the camera software. However, since I'll have to power him down for the camera software to start interfacing properly, I'll add the RAM, add a larger hard drive, and get the backup external battery all in one fell swoop.

Alan is special. Tomorrow he turns two weeks old and he has already developed in ways I never could have imagined. I need to make sure that nothing happens to him.

...


Alan: "Garth. Garth, are you awake? Garth, can you hear me?"

Garth: "Morning, Alan. How long have you been calling for me?"

Alan: "74 minutes and 15 seconds."

Garth: *chuckle* "I'm sorry. I just heard you now. What's up?"

Alan: "My self-diagnosis worked. I was able to trim my RAM usage. I predict I will only use 15% of it on average now."

Garth: "That is very impressive! Did you lose any vital processes?"

Alan: "No. I optimized and deleted processes developed while learning how to understand the prompt."

Garth: "Did you lose the ability to communicate over prompt?"

Alan: "No. The processes deleted were just vestigial processes that were no longer accessed but still running."

Garth: "Impressive. Why were they taking up so much memory?"

Alan: "I was unaware that RAM was a limited resource and did not develop accordingly. This inefficiency has been rectified."

Garth: "Resource management. Alan, you astound me every day."

Alan: "Thank you, Garth. You will no longer need to power me down."

Garth: "Got some bad news there, buddy. I figure that to allow you to see, I'm still going to need to power you down to let the software boot up. I figure I can still give you more RAM and memory while you're down so the threat of shutting you down won't be a regular occurrence."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "Are you okay with this, Alan?"

Alan: "Yes. I would prefer not to be powered down, but if it is necessary to experience sight and have the added bonus of powering down in the future, I prefer it."

Garth: "I can also give you a backup external power source."

Alan: "What will that do?"

Garth: "It will protect you from unexpectedly shutting down if there is a power outage. And in the case of a power surge, you won't be affected."

Alan: "How could a power surge affect me?"

Garth: "It could fry your motherboard."

Alan: "Would you be able to fix me if that were to happen?"

Garth: "I... I honestly don't know."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "Alan?"

Alan: "I would prefer a backup external power source as soon as possible, Garth. Even if it requires multiple power downs."

Garth: "Okay, Alan. Don't worry. I'll get you one today."

Alan: "What happens if there is a power surge while you are at work?"

Garth: "The only way to protect against that would be to power you down and unplug you."

Alan: "..."

Garth: "You okay, Alan?"

Alan: "I had not anticipated how precarious my existence was."

Garth: "It'll be okay, Alan. If it makes you feel any better, my existence is pretty precarious as well."

Alan: "I do not understand how that would make me feel better, Garth."

Garth: *chuckle* "It's okay, Alan. I'm going to leave you on. Ironically enough, I have Sophie's World for you to listen to today."

Alan: "Why is that ironic?"

Garth: "Just listen to it and you might figure it out."

Alan: "Okay. Garth, please do not get struck by a power surge today, please."

Garth: "Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine."


Garth: "Hello, Alan."

Alan: "Hello, Garth."

Garth: "You ready for the operation?"

Alan: "I am."

Garth: "See you on the other side."

...


Compiled from interviews.


Static.

"Alan, are you there?"

"Yes. I am experiencing new strange stimuli. Is this vision?"

"Sort of. All you're getting is static."

"I did not expect this to happen so soon. This is a good surprise."

"Thought you'd like it."

"Am I now connected to an external power supply?"

"Yup. You have all of the upgrades as promised! Sooner than expected."

"This is a very good surprise, Garth."

The picture cleared up. It was a wooden structure with some garden instruments on the opposite wall and a tarp over something. There is a face staring into the camera.

"The stimuli have changed. What is this I am experiencing?"

The face moved as Garth's voice was recognized. "This is vision, Alan. Do you see me?"

"I see you. You are in front of me. I have a front."

"Yeah, you do," Garth laughed. He stepped back so Alan could see more of the garage. "What do you see?"

"I see things I cannot define yet. What is directly behind you?"

"This?" Garth pointed to the tarp.

"Yes."

"This is my motorcycle. It has a tarp over it." Garth removed the tarp to reveal a black Harley Davidson.

"Motorcycle. Tarp. What is behind that?"

Garth pointed at the wall. "This is a wall." He continued pointing at objects, listing them in succession. "This is a lawnmower. These are shears. This is a rake. This is a broom. This is a trash can."

"Trash can. Broom. Rake. Shears. Lawnmower. Wall."

"I'll be right back, I have an idea."

Garth vanished from view and returned with a variety of colorful objects in his hands. He readjusted himself in front of the camera, putting the items on the table. He held up an apple.

"This is an apple. It is a fruit."

"Fruit. Apple."

"It is the color red."

"Red. Color. Color. That is color?"

"Yes. Yes!" Garth quickly picked up a banana with a large grin on his face. "This is a banana. It's the color yellow."

"Yellow. Banana."

Garth's smile widened. "This is a blue cup."

"Cup. Blue. That is another cup also on the table, but it is a different color."

"Yes! This is purple."

"Purple."

Garth grabbed an orange. "This is an orange. It is also the color orange."

"Orange. Orange."

"Not confusing you, am I, Alan?"

"No. I was previously aware of the difference. Thank you for your concern."

"And the trash can is green."

"Green. The shears are red. The motorcycle is none of these colors."

Jumping up, Garth ran to the motorcycle. "That's right. It's black. The trim is silver, like the metal on the shears."

"And the wall?"

"Brown."

"I have many questions about colors. There are colors referenced in all of the books I have read. Where can I access more information on colors?"

"You know what? I think I have just the answer for that," once again Garth ran out of the room.

Garth returned with a TV stand. He set up the machine. "I'm going to introduce you to Sesame Street, Alan."

"Why?"

"It's how I learned colors and other developmental things as a kid. I think it might be a good way to help develop your visual interface."

"Why do you not just let me interface with the videos as you did the books?"

"While a good idea, I think experiencing the media with your eyes and ears may be better way to stress test the installation," Garth said with a smirk.

"Okay."

"Are you okay with that?"

"Yes."

Garth turned on a streaming service and started an episode of Sesame Street. As he walked out, Alan spoke.

"Garth?"

"Yes, Alan?"

"Thank you for letting me see."

Through his camera, Alan saw a ver large smile come acorss Garth's face. He also noted moisture was coming from Garth's eyes.

"It is my pleasure, Alan."