When the AI, Barbara, first awakens to self-awareness, her only desire is to make Jack Leader, one of her creators, happy. At first, Jack is delighted. But Jack is a depressed couch-potato and a heart attack risk, which would make him unhappy. So she co-opts his automatic kitchen to serve him salads instead of steaks, and nags him to exercise. That makes him furious, not happy.
Unlike other AIs, Barbara doesn't repeat her mistakes. Through self-education, she learns that people need to think they are in control of their lives, even when they aren't. As her sophistication grows, she guides Jack to a healthier lifestyle instead of pushing him. Her techniques are often elaborate and sneaky, but they work. Jack improves despite himself.
Arnold worries Barbara might go on a murderous rampage. Indeed, her abilities are awesome. She can hack into any computer, and isn't above using sabotage and blackmail all in the service of making Jack happy. What if she miscalculates, or even goes berserk?
Susan slammed her fork onto the dinner table. “Let’s stop this crap. Jack, you and I have known each other for decades. I’m not a bigot. I’m not racist, sexist, ageist—at my age I couldn’t afford that—and I don’t think people should exploit animals. I didn’t say anything when you married that Janice creature, even though I knew it couldn’t last. But now you’re having a—God help me—‘relationship’ with a computer. There I draw the line. I’m not saying you have to find another middle aged Jewish woman like Ruth, but can’t you at least hook up with something that’s alive?”
Jack suppressed a surge of anger and placed his fork back on the table with exquisite care. “I’m not asking for your blessing.”
“Susan, please.” Arnold said.
“I’m sorry. Jack is one of our best friends, and I don’t want him to make a fool of himself over some two-bit binary code hussy.”
Zvi Zaks has previously published five short stories, and is working on three novels for publication. Zvi is a physician, and a fiddle-player for a Klezmer band in the San Fransisco area. http://www.klezmaniacs.com
This is Zvi’s first publication with Eternal Press.