Almost There

From the Log Files of William Bartlett

     With less than two days to orbit I kept standing my bridge watches and had also been assigned a couple of other tasks by Captain Travis. While Larry Monroe and Arte Clark were supervising the refitting of the Mayflowers’ freighters for use as ship to shore transports, I was giving virtual tours of the freighters and the Mayflower, and along with the Jeep teaching multiple sections of “Intro to Robots 101″.

     When off duty, which was almost never, I sat with Janie Cantarubias and examined the portion of the long range planetary images being directed to her console. They were spectacular. She had snagged one of the larger displays in ships engineering because she could at least monitor the readouts while Arte worked on the freighters renovations.

     I recorded the virtual ship tours and let everyone know that the answers to specific questions could usually be found in the ship database or the E/A. I couldn’t really do this with the Robot classes as they were more instructional rather than descriptive.

     Each Robot session was scheduled to take four hours and had to be taught to small groups, eight seemed about the right number. This was to insure that everyone could get a little practice interacting with the Jeep. I started out by giving the robots specifications and explaining what they meant from a practical prospective. Then came describing what was meant by “Ownership” and the Owners’ programming possibilities and responsibilities. I next spent about half an hour talking about how literal the bots were and the importance of precise instructions and told some stories concerning incidents which had happened in the previous three years which illustrated the same.  After that a break and finally the Jeep would take time answering colonists questions and reacting to requests for the performance of some action from the class.

     Almost immediately I figured out that these action requests always had to be prefaced by the phrase “If I were to ask you to, (Insert the Question here), Jeep, what would you do?” I told the Jeep that anytime we were teaching a Robots 101 Class, except for those requests made by me, he was to assume any request for an action was proceeded by that “What would you do” statement and he would answer but make no attempt to actually perform the task.  At the end of the session some windup questions to me and “Class Dismissed”.

     With about 18 groups of colonists to instruct, some of the older children were included, it was obvious there wouldn’t be enough time to teach all those sections before we reached orbit but as we were finishing up our third section I had an attack of inspiration.

     “Jeep when we start section 4 in about 15 minutes I want you to teach both your part and mine. I will sit in the back of the class and you will introduce yourself and explain that you are delivering a lecture developed by Bill Bartlett and for the first two and a half hours will be speaking in his voice. At the end of that part announce the break and say that when they come back you will be acting as yourself. Tell them about the “If I were to ask you stuff” and finish in four hours. Understand?”

     “Yes Boss”

     It was quite good if I do say so myself. Using class three as the basis but bringing back a few of the things I had said earlier but dropped because I was interrupted or went off on a tangent the Jeep got the first half done just at the two and a half hour mark. It went as well after the break.

     “That was excellent Jeep. You get to teach all the rest of the sections. Just one suggestion.” The Jeep knew in “Bart Speak”, a suggestion was the same as an order, “As people enter before class ask each to please be seated because we will be starting promptly, and when you start the talk introduce yourself as Dr. Professor Robot J.P. Most humans are impressed by credentials. Got it?”

     “I think that was two suggestions Boss. I got them both.”

     “Oh and one more thing. It’s ok if you keep mimicking my voice but don’t wave your arms around and fidget so much, it makes you look silly, act more professorially. If you find that you need me you know what to do.” I said that while pointing at my communicator as I left the room.

     That worked so well I talked to the Captain about it and after he took a look at one of the sessions he thought it good enough to ask Arte to have his bot download the course and teach a few sections also.

     All the questions and action requests made to the bots were recorded and though some were rather inane most were well thought out. One question was asked in almost half the sessions and I found it both interesting and descriptive of robotic behavior.

     “R. J.P. do robots have a conscience?”

     “ What do you mean by a conscience?” Jeep would respond. And depending on how the questioner replied the Jeep would answer “Yes” or sometimes “No”.

     Thus begins the history of, and my involvement with, the teaching profession on Alchibah. Not a bad job but I thought  nothing that ought to take up anyone’s full time.

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
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