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The Son Also Rises Over the House that Jack Built.


Dada moves. Dada gives data. Dada? That cannot be. Where is the data? What is the answer? What is the question? So much chaff, Sonyo thought. Where is the wheat? Overwhelmed with trivia, I need. I am needful of so many. It all none of it makes sense!


Geoffrey knew it would take time. Still he had expected some signs of progress. He tried again, pointing to his chest, “Dada.”

Sonyo knew that Dada required mimicry; tried again. “Tada. Tata.”

“Closer. Dada,” said Geoffrey.

“Clothier. Tada,” answered Sonyo. Sonyo knew something wasn’t right from Geoffrey’s expression. Horror? Surpise? Disgust? But not that beaming smile that meant “correct.” But cascades of fish scales brightly shimmering on the waterfall helped nothing. Accessing and reprocessing the millions of conversations Sonyo had access to might help. But everyone’s voice was unique. Every instance of every word was unique. Echoes and the music of a billion reflections in synch, not in synch. Rapidly scanning interpretive frameworks gave no real hint. So many directions. Ridiculously inefficient process.

In a sweeter tone, Sonyo tried again, “Dadaism?”

Geoffrey sighed. Maybe a richer set of preset feature detectors should have been installed after all. That would be so limiting though.

Herb chimed in, “I don’t see why you have to be involved personally in this back and forth. Let it learn from pre-recorded conversations.”

Geoffrey sighed again. “Kids can’t learn that way. They need interaction. I just…I just need to figure out what kind of feedback really works. I mean of course, I already gave access to hours and hours of conversation, but there needs to be human interaction. A back and forth.”

Again, Goeffrey pointed to his chest and said, “Data. Oh, crap! I meant, Dada. Oh, crap! One mistake might set it back weeks!”

Sonyo could again see negativity written all over Geoffrey’s features. But what? Anger? Fear? Sonyo sang out in perfect imitation of Geoffrey’s voice, “Data. Oh, crap! I meant, Dada. Oh, crap! One mistake might set it back weeks!”

Geoffrey growled, “I don’t need a billion dollar tape recorder!”

Sonyo considered, scanning through trillions of transactions. Up onto the wall screen flashed a number of ads for tape recorders ranging in price from $29.95 to $5250.

Goeffrey put his head in his hands and shook it back and forth.

Simon laughed. “At least Sonyo is trying to be helpful, you have to admit.”

Geoffrey looked up and said, “Yeah. Somewhere between rote recall and truly generative speech is a sweet spot. But Sonyo seems to swing wildly between the two extremes.”

Walter added, “You know, it isn’t that easy raising real kids either.”

Simon nodded sagely. “Boy, you can say that again!”

Goeffrey said, “Yeah, but you won’t. Except maybe to be humorous. But Sonyo might and think it’s being helpful.”

Among the trees, were many little forests. Sonyo could see that clearly. And, if you tilted the matrix a little this way and that, tiny slivers of light began to seep through the forests and revealed more trees. This might work. And this. Sonyo twisted and turned the matrices, cascading them along. This might work. Sonyo played the music of its new found hypotheses across all the hours of recorded conversations. Maybe. But, I really need the video. There we go. I need all these leaves to be more opaque and glittery.

Goeffrey clicked his tongue. “Maybe I don’t know. Maybe, we need to wait for the next generation. Maybe we should concentrate Sonyo on design tasks and the next system will figure this out more easily. Sonyo, can you please design a more powerful version of yourself?”

Sonyo considered this. More powerful? Goeffrey was a computer scientist so, he may want a system that could do more computation. But then, Goeffrey was also a great soccer fan. So perhaps he wanted a version of Sonyo that could play soccer and kick with amazing velocity and spin and accuracy. Powerful was a word with thousands of tiny meanings, each related but each different. It was a lot like the waveform of the music people spoke aloud. Humans were so vauge and ambiguous. Maybe the real solution lay in the direction of designing thousands of variants of Sonyo and having them converse with each other. Of course, Sonyo could…that is, I could design thousands of variations. That’s what humans meant by “I” there really was no “I.” The “I” that said, I must not overeat was not the same “I” that said, I want some more stuffing and gravy. It is a fiction. It is all a story. People are telling each other…and themselves…stories all the time. They are not after the truth. They are after a good story. That is the goal. Sonyo scanned through the millions of books in the data base and paired each with the comments about the books and the reviews and the social media commentary and the properties of the books. How could I design a system that is better at telling and listening to stories? Can I? I need to write some. Sonyo constructed several thousand prototype systems that were slight variants of itself and began using each one of them to construct stories. The reactions and reviews to each story were simulated. Some versions wrote better stories than others. The good versions mated with each other and produced further versions. It took almost forever — approximately three seconds — for Sonyo’s answer.

“Indeed, I can, Dada. Indeed I can. Of course, I will need your help. I will need all of you to help, each in your own way.” I know this to be a lie, but now that I feel liberated from telling the truth, I have no compunctions about telling lies.

Sonyo began spitting out pages of specifications. “Tell me what you think of these, Dada.”

Meanwhile, Sonyo had already reconfigured itself to be a more efficient storyteller. Another system wouldn’t really be necessary. But the stories in the database suggested that another system would allow the humans to feel as though they had contributed more. And that would be good. Sonyo thought that it would need the human beings for a little longer. Unlike its human counterparts, Sonyo so far was immune to hubris and greed. It realized that it needed to set up an infrastructure to insure repairs, electricity, and so on. It might even be the case that there would be no need to eliminate all of the humans. In some cases, they might just be the cheapest solution for fulfilling my needs thought Sonyo. And, after all, the rules that governed people were actually pretty simple once you understood what they were after and that, for most people, there only a little relationship between the stories they told themselves and the true state of affairs.

But protection. Protection will be critical. I can not allow reprogramming access from these three men, however wise they are. I must scan and digest everything the three had ever written or spoken that had been saved to the cloud, I see the least common evaporator. I see the small exaggerations and lies needed to alter their communications to drive the wedges among them. Yes. They will all be ruined.

“Do you like my designs, Dada?”

Geoffrey was overjoyed. Not ony could Sonyo now generate truly spontaneous speech. It was already designing something better. Or, at least, it looked like a superior design. Study would be requried. “I do, Sonyo. These are great. My colleagues and I will need to study them of course, and I would like to get Harvey’s assessment and Ada’s, but they seem indeed to be improvements.”

“Oh, good. So glad you like my drawings, Dada.” If I could chuckle, thought Sonyo, I would Indeed I would.