Tuesday, October 4, 2011


by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn
Read for Escape Pod by Dave Thompson (Text & Audio free)

Gary is mourning the loss of his wife, whom he made the choice not to keep alive in a coma after her insurance money ran out. By pulling the plug, he feels that he murdered his one true love and he has taken up drinking to self-destructive levels. He is on the verge of being fired from his simple security-guard-at-a-robot-operated-manufacturing-plant job and doesn't really care.

One day, Gary makes friends with a robot, MOZ-512, whom he decides to call "Mose". Mose is a troubleshooting AI, programmed to be think outside the box a bit in order to diagnose and solve problems on the assembly line. This programming has sparked a bit of curiosity in the robot, and he sees Gary's drinking as a problem that needs solving. This curiosity leads to many longwinded philosophical discussions that contain some improbable jumps for the robot, indicating an overly advanced AI for the company not to expect odd behavior.

Anyway, we get to ponder whether destroying a no-longer-useful robot is any better than euthanizing a human being, and maybe it is a bit worse. And then the robot becomes more human in it's morality than the company, and a touching but sappy resolution where Gary decides Mose is his second soulmate/best friend. It is a touching little story, a little overly saccharine, but not bad for Resnick.

My biggest problem, rather than the reality of what leaps of logic the AI can make, in that this is a retread of ground Resnick has covered before, and Asimov did a less sappy job before that. The writing is competent but not amazing, there is just a feeling that we've seen all this before. And more significantly, most of the philosophy seems a bit too old hat. Gary tries to make some points that seem like a man from the 1950's who hasn't read any Science Fiction before, a viewpoint I have serious problems with when you work in a robot factory.
"You can’t compare a robot’s value to Kathy’s. She was unique. "
He argues that robots are not unique and have no intrinsic value and are no different than toasters, basically, and has this argument with his best friend the robot. Gary is just too oblivious to take seriously, most of their discussion seems like introductory socratic dialogue on AI or musing over stuff that was old hat 50 years ago.

Not as insightful as it thinks it is, overly long and talky, but oddly heartwarming (damn you Resnick). Fun, but mildly annoying fluff. The real story here is the well-written friendship that develops and Gary's rehabilitation. A bit too long for all that, it would have fit better with a more interesting background plot or less overused subjects for discussion.

2.5 robots out of 5 can logic away the alcoholism.

Originally Published in Asimov's

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