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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (whorl) "strong AI" in the Whorl
Date: 20 Mar 2001 16:35:42 

From: William Ansley <wansley@warwick.net>

> Maytera Rose was very old and sick and was only kept alive by means
> of the many prosthetic parts that had been surgically implanted in
> her body. When even these prostheses could no longer keep Rose
> alive, Maytera Marble claimed some of them as spare parts.  In
> Wolfe's universe, robot and human parts are pretty much
> interchangeable. That robot parts could be used as prosthetic parts
> for humans and vice-versa is less silly than the idea that a robot
> (Jonas, in TNotNS) could be repaired with human flesh, but it still
> puts something of a strain on the reader's credulity (mine, at
> least).

Not mine.  The notion that "robotics" and "prosthetics" are convergent
technologies seems thoroughly acceptable to me.  Wolfe describes chem
anatomy in nearly human terms several times.  It actually dovetails
rather nicely with the fact that in Wolfe's Whorl we have both "AI"
(chems) and "scanned consciousness."  But I think that Wolfe the
engineer couldn't resist the idea that perhaps even with these
different "implementations" of consciousness there could be a common
interface.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the aspects of
Maytera Rose's personality that are now present in Maytera Marble are
AI simulations of Rose's thoughts.  Among Rose's prosthetic parts were
the mechanisms of speech (sorry, no citation).  If the original Rose
could not speak, then there must have been some method by which her
thoughts were transmitted to her artificial speaking apparatus.  It's
not much of a leap from that to imagining an internal optimization
whereby certain oft-used words, phrases, possibly even ideas could be
"cached" within the speaking mechanism (or its software), e.g. her
"devastating sniff.".  

The machine translation system I work on has a primitive mechanism
whereby if a user favors a particular translation of a word or phrase
this phrase is "learned" by giving it a small probability boost.  This
"learning data" can be saved externally so that when a user upgrades,
the same learning data can be used.  So when Rose died and Marble took
her parts, the vocal apparatus no doubt included 10-20 years of saved
data regarding how Rose spoke (and gestured, and thought perhaps).
Presumably Marble could have asked that the Rose consisousness be
expunged, but why bother recallibrating equipment that's already
working just fine?  "Strong" AI seems to be a recurring feature of the
Lupiniverse.  But surely there's more to consciousness than a bunch of
statistical data on how often an individual used particular words or
expressed particular thoughts?  Or perhaps not.  Remember, in UotNS we
hear of locks on doors old enough that their personalities have
started to diverge.  Rose (through Marble) expresses her doubts about
whether chems have consciousness (wonderful irony) and Mint expresses
doubts to Remora (at the begining of EXODUS) about whether Taluses
have souls.  Silk of course never seems to doubt "robot consciousness"
for a moment and continues to feel guilt about having killed a Talus.

Mantis has speculated that perhaps Pike and Rose were Black Mechanics
who experimented on their robot maid.  I rather like this idea, though
I'm not sure how much textual support there is for it.


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