Other Tales: Two Dee View

on June 14, 2009 in Other Tales


The house of Hearts of Clay stood almost as solidly in Two’s mind as it did on the physical plane, its aged furnishings and fading wallpaper recreated exactly in every detail as she and her meditation partner stood in the middle of an upstairs hallway.

“Your mind is an exceedingly well-ordered place,” Dee said. “Your memories, they are built much more literally than most people’s are. It is not usually such an easy thing to walk through a memory, as they often must be reconstructed as one goes.”

“Thank you,” Two said. Few people would know what to say to such a thing, but she inferred from Dee’s tone that it was a compliment, and she knew what to do with those.

“If your dreamscape is as solid as this, it should be an easy matter for me to enter your sleeping mind and assist you in making sense of things,” Dee said.

“I really just would like to get rid of the ridiculous owl turtle thing,” Two said. “Stupid my friend Hazel, telling me it would be a good thing to dream about. I’m not calling her stupid, though. I’m just thinking it.”

“I understand,” Dee said. “I truly believe you would not express such a sentiment outside your own head. But in fairness to your friend Hazel, I must ask if you really think she intended for you to take her example as a literal suggestion, or if she could have predicted the personality you would give to the dream figment?”

“I don’t think it came from me,” Two said. “The ridiculous owl turtle thing is very rude.”

“But you are yourself a bit ruder inside your head than you would be outside it,” Dee said.

“I still don’t think it came from me.”

“Where do you imagine she came from, then?” Dee asked.

“I don’t know,” Two said. “Somewhere else.”

“Well… I can investigate that possibility, if I come across the figment in your dream,” Dee said. “But I count it as unlikely at best.” She looked around the memory of the hallway. “This was your home?”

“It was where I stayed,” Two said.

“And others of your kind stayed here with you,” Dee said.

“Other golems,” Two said. “Many kinds of them.”

“I would like to see them,” Dee said. “Would you mind remembering them for me?”

There was only a little hesitation, and then Two said, “No, I would not mind.”

Her face screwed up in thought, and the hallway came to life. A sylph made of spun glass danced down the hall, leaping through the pair of astral bodies as she dusted small bits of statuary and other ornaments that cluttered the hallway. A clay figure in the form of a human woman pushed a carpet cleaner across the thin rug. A pair of identical man-shaped golems, beefy and composed of quickened flesh, moved purposely past their less realistically detailed sisters, heading from end of the hallway to the other.

“Twins?” Dee asked. “I suppose that only applies to born beings… a matched set?”

“A mass produced model,” Two said. “There were seven of them who came through the house while I was there.”

“Independently of each other?”

“Yes,” Two said. “Four of them moved on, but the other three were still there when I left.”

“I see,” Dee said.

“They are a popular model.”

Dick! Rod!” a woman’s voice called from downstairs, and the two male golems stopped, looking not so much guilty at being caught out as frustrated. “Don’t think I don’t see you heading for the ladies’ dormitory! You know the rules.”

“Yeah,” one of them said quietly to the other. “We do know the rules.”

They turned to face more or less the spot where Dee and Two were standing. The memory was from Two’s vantage point at the time in which it had happened, but she herself was not an external presence in the memory.

“Hey,” one of the boy golems said to the absent Two. He pointed to the other one. “Say yes to what he asks you.”

“Okay,” Two’s voice said, sounding in Dee’s mind as well as in her own in the way one’s voice sounds in one’s own ears.

“And also say yes to what he asks,” the other one said.

“Okay,” Two’s memory said again.

“Please, stop this memory,” Dee said. “I do not wish to see any more.”

“Okay,” Two said, and the golems vanished. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Dee said. “Why did you pick that memory, of all the ones you have of this hallway?”

“I do not think I picked it on purpose,” Two said. “It jumped out at me.”

“Tell me, then, who was the glass dancer?”

“That was Constance Present,” Two said.

“Constant… what?”

“Constance Present. I think it’s supposed to be clever,” Two said.

“Does she have a mind like you?” Dee asked.

“She has a mind,” Two said.

“I mean, consciousness and will and desire?”

“Consciousness,” Two said. “I don’t know if she has any will or desires. Her runes are hidden in the whorls of her hair. She does what she’s told but I don’t know if she likes to or if she has to.”

“I see,” Dee said. She sat down, approximately in the same way she would have sat on a chair. There was no chair there, of course, but since she herself wasn’t actually there, either, it hardly mattered. “It’s easier to animate a figure without a mind, isn’t it, than to imbue one with actual life and consciousness?”

“Much easier,” Two said. “My owner made dancing puppets, and toy dogs that barked and chased their tails, and baby dolls that cried and crawled and fell asleep, and only a few of them were alive. Those cost a lot of money because they took a lot of work.”

“It is amazing to me… even given how cheap existing life can be treated… that people of the surface would use magic to create life for games and toys. A dancer made of glass is a beautiful and wondrous thing. Any artisan should be proud of her skill at creating such a delicate and intricately detailed statue, to say nothing of the feats of enchantment that must be necessary to make it move and dance. What further benefit is there in granting life and thought to the result?”

“I was told that her maker wanted her to be charming and witty,” Two said. “Though I don’t know how witty she is.”

“Those… men… who were bothering you. Their original purpose is clear enough. To what end are they given self-directed willpower and their own desires? Is it really strictly necessary that a sexual aid have a sexual drive? Would it not be less cruel to all involved if they were a mindless construct directed to play the part of an enthusiastic paramour upon demand?”

“I think the people who buy them like them that way,” Two said. “They’re a popular model because they make people feel wanted. That’s what they’re for. But they still keep on wanting even when they get thrown away.”

Dee shook her head. She started to rock a little.

“Goddess… the world is a complex place, and I am certain that there are parts of this all that I simply do not know about, but I can’t begin to comprehend the casual attitude that is displayed towards magical creations,” Dee said. “In my world, much consideration is made before any new life is brought about, and the life of all intelligent beings is treasured.” She sighed. “What kind of a life could anyone have in a place like this?”

“I think it could have been a good life,” Two said. “I think I could have been happy here if I had been allowed to do what I wanted and left alone by the boy golems.”

“But you only wanted to do what you were told,” Dee said.

“Yes,” Two said.

“Leaving aside the question of quality of life for the moment… you weren’t allowed to do that?”

“It is the policy of Hearts of Clay to encourage freed beings to show initiative in their own lives in order that they may transition to a more independent mode of living,” Two recited.

“And so I take it that you were subjected to repeated clarifications that what you were being told was nothing more than a series of suggestions,” Dee said. “And that you were frequently given choices that you did not care to make for yourself.”

“Yes,” Two said, nodding.

“The maid of clay,” Dee said. “She did not have a will rune on her forehead. Was she given suggestions?”

“She was given orders,” Two said. “But I have a circle of will so I was given suggestions and choices. It was empowering.”

“I suppose for many golems it would have been,” Dee said. She shuddered. “Was no attempt made to understand your individual situation?”

“No,” Two said. “They have policies.”

“And on the subject of those policies, I suppose all of the ones you continue to adhere to… were they presented to you as orders or suggestions?”

“There was no clarification given,” Two said.

Dee closed her eyes.

“I must tell myself that the intricacies of fate brought you from this place to somewhere where you are able to grow and prosper and experience love,” she said. “But I find myself bearing what can only be described as hatred for the people who have been in charge of your well-being, who were responsible for your plight… even your existence. How can anyone have the right to create a living, thinking being for their own benefit?”

“It is a reasonably free republic. People have the right to use magic for personal gain so long as it does not infringe on the rights of the Imperium or anybody else.”

“And I suppose the created golem herself isn’t ‘anybody else’,” Dee said bitterly.

“Yes,” Two said, nodding. “A created golem isn’t anybody.”

“Two…”

“Yes?”

“Never mind,” Dee said, shaking her head. “Does it bother you to speak of this place?”

“No, it doesn’t bother me,” Two said. “But any questions about the policies of…”

“Please, no more disclaimers,” Dee said. “Please interpret any question you find yourself incapable of answering without conflicting with those standing orders as being idle speech, for the duration of this conversation.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“Who was in charge of this place?”

“Miss Ruth,” Two said.

“Would you mind showing her to me?”

“No,” Two said, and then they were in an office. There was no sense of shimmering or shifting, no transition at all. Dee understood from an underlying sense of “placefulness” that the office was in the same building as the hallway. There was a wide oak desk, and behind that was a broad-shouldered old woman with handsome features and hair in a bun so tight it might have been molded that way… and in fact, it had been. She had a pair of runes on her forehead: the tree of life and the circle of will subverted. She sat at the desk, filling out a form by hand. The tiny glass dancer was pirouetting in a corner.

“Does she ever stop dancing?” Dee asked Two.

“No,” Two said.

“Does she sleep?”

“No. Only living flesh golems have to sleep.”

“Are there unliving flesh golems?” Dee asked.

“Yes,” Two said. “You can make a golem out of parts of a body, the same as you would use other materials, and then it is a construct of inanimate material animated.”

“An undead thing.”

“No, just a thing made out of things that are dead,” Two said. “Like a wooden golem is made out of dead trees.”

“I grant that a wooden golem is not an undead thing, but I am not certain I see the distinction between a corpse that is made to walk around through enchantment and one that is made to do so through necromancy.”

“One is a golem and one is a zombie.”

“Of course,” Dee said. “We are in front of the desk… did she not know you were here, during this encounter?”

“She knew,” Two said. “This is what she did, when someone was in trouble. She’d call you to her office and then tell you to stand here and wait while she wrote out a form. It always took exactly ten minutes.”

“So she was ignoring you on purpose,” Dee said.

“Yes.”

“To what end?”

“I don’t know,” Two said. “I didn’t mind. For ten minutes I knew exactly what to do.”

“What are you in trouble for in this memory?”

“Doing sex things on the staircase,” Two said. “This is really the same memory as before.”

“The ‘boys’ were not blamed for that?”

“We were all blamed equally because I said yes,” Two said. “But we always had to come into the office one at a time. When Miss Ruth finishes writing her form, she will tell me that I don’t have to let boys do that and that I should know better, and then she’ll send me to Miss Cook.”

“Miss Cook?”

“Miss Cook runs the kitchen,’ Two said. “She’s a cast iron golem. I like her. She never says anything to me that’s not an order. ‘Two, wash those plates.’ ‘Okay, Miss Cook.’ ‘Two, scrub that floor.’ ‘Okay, Miss Cook’.”

“You were sent to her for punishment?”

“Yes,” Two said. “Later Miss Ruth decided I liked it too much and I wasn’t sent to the kitchen any more. I was told that if I wanted to work in the kitchen I could sign up for it.”

“It is a little strange to me that Miss Ruth would be perceptive and flexible enough to alter her punishments based on your personality when she would not do the same for other policies,” Dee said.

“I think Miss Ruth had a personal policy that punishments weren’t punishments if you enjoyed them,” Two said. “She learned that in her first life as a nanny.”

“It feels a little less than charitable for me to judge someone for being the way she was created, but it seems to me that she may have been made with the heart of a small-minded bureaucrat,” Dee said. “Perhaps it would be instructive for me if I could take a walk inside her mind… but I do not believe I would care to.”

“I think… I think she did the best she could,” Two said. “And that she does help a lot of golems. Most of the golems who were living flesh and free-willed only stayed a few months to a year.”

“You are a very charitable person, Two,” Dee said.

“Yes, I know,” Two said. “It’s how I stay friends with so many people.”

Dee laughed.

“I apologize… I only intended to do a small ‘test run’ while your mind was awake,” she said. “I did not mean for us to traipse about your memories like this. I am simply curious about your life. About many things, actually. Did you know, this great house is the only large surface building I have seen the inside of that was not originally designed for institutional purposes? I’ve never been inside a person’s house before.”

“I was in the basement of my maker’s house for most of my life.” Two said. “I only saw the upstairs once, on my way to the door.”

“Did… did your maker…”

“What, Dee?”

“I’m sorry,” Dee said, looking away from Two. “I should not pry.”

“I don’t mind,” Two said. “I would not like to talk about him but I think about him a lot, and since we are thinking I don’t mind.”

“I can’t help but wonder… did he use you inappropriately?”

“No,” Two said, shaking her head. “That would not have been possible. Unless you mean in the commission of a crime.”

“I meant sexually.”

“No,” Two said. “I wasn’t made for that. Though it wouldn’t have been inappropriate. I wouldn’t have minded.”

“I don’t believe that,” Dee said. “I have felt your revulsion to sexual violation, your indifference to sexual attention.”

“No, I really wouldn’t have minded and it wouldn’t have been a violation,” Two said. “I didn’t think about what I liked. I didn’t have to. I just liked doing what I was told.”

“I can’t believe that would have extended so far as to encompass such a violation,” Dee said. “But I suppose it is a question that will never be settled, and I accept that you believe you wouldn’t have minded.”

“I wouldn’t have,” Two said.

“In any event, I think I have seen more than I need to of this,” Dee said. “I will withdraw from your mind now, and we can resume our conversation face to face.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“Thank you for sharing this with me.”

“You’re welcome,” Two said.

“And, for the record,” Dee said, “I have to say that on the balance, I do appreciate that you were created.”

“Thank you,” Two said. “I appreciate that you were created, too.”


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13 Responses to “Other Tales: Two Dee View”

  1. pedestrian says:

    There is a constant barrage of mis-information about the ongoing development of AI, artificial intelligence. I doubt that we have to fear a Skynet/WarGames, humans are just too inefficient, clumsy and narcissist to handover command and control.

    For those who believe that AI’s will be inherently benign and good buddies should read through AE’s Golem storylines. I am of the opinion that AlexandraErin has come the closest to describing what will actually be experienced by the first few generations of AI.

    Current score: 0
    • Eli says:

      Are you just talking about an artificial intelligence, or are you talking about an artificial consciousness like Two? Either way, this is meaningless speculation. Without anything even approaching an understanding of the mechanisms, logical or physical, which would be required to create an artificial intelligence, few useful conclusions can be drawn about what complex behaviours might emerge from those mechanisms.

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Talking about AI is inherently problematic, the term “Artificial Intelligence” lacks specificity. The truth is that it can refer to anything from the enemies in a video game, to the theoretical constructs like GLaDOS (Portal) and Cortana (Halo).

      There are essentially three kinds of AI (in theory):

      Simple AI: Really just a very complex program, designed to act like a real, thinking, being – but it’s all a facade. This includes video game enemies, Siri, and chat bots.

      Partial AI: This is a far more sophisticated program, or special hardware, that transcends ‘faking it’. This kind of program can learn and adapt its self to deal with new situations that it was not originally programmed to deal with. C3PO, R2D2 (Star Wars), and HAL (2001) are of this kind.

      True AI: This kind of AI is not just a program, current computer hardware could never begin to support this kind of intelligence, some sort of ‘synthetic brain’ would be required. A true AI has it’s own personality, emotion, and has the ability to be Evil, or good. This kind of AI could be considered a person in its own right. This includes Data (Star Trek), The Alpha (RvB), GLaDOS, and Cortana.

      But in the MUniverse things aren’t even that strait forward. In the very next chapter (spoiler) Amaranth will point out that healing a heart doesn’t require that one know how it works – you just poor on healing energy. Similarly I don’t think that a golem maker needs to be able to “program” the golem like a machine – it’s not easy, but less about knowing how to build a synthetic mind, more about determining the parameters it needs to follow.

      The golems of MU can be placed into three similar categories, where some are mindless, others are mindful (Miss Ruth’s word for it), and some are also free-willed. However here the difference is more like the difference between a Humans, animals, and bacteria. The system of intelligence is essentially the same, but to differing degrees.

      EDIT: Crap, lists aren’t allowed. . .

      Current score: 0
      • Jechtael says:

        A lot of those are human engrams, though. Not trying to contradict or undermine your point, just saying that most of them are copies of “natural” intelligence, only some of which lost any of their mental growth ability or any forms of intelligence (as far as I know).

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          Precisely, the third tier requires a fundamentally different hardware paradigm to function. Literally duplicating the function of a human brain is one possible way to achieve this, hence the commonality of such things in fiction. In fact, I think Data was the only one of them I listed that isn’t an engram – and even his positronic brain was designed to imitate human ones.

          Current score: 0
    • Zany says:

      I have to say, although we are narcissistic, clumsy and inefficient to, we are also complacent and lazy. But then again, there’s always paranoia to save the day…

      Current score: 0
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I don’t feel like TWO or Amy are AIs of any sort.

    Current score: 1
    • sengachi says:

      I would say that is more a function of your prior perception of how you see AIs than it is a correct statement of what they are. They are generated entities, designed for a purpose, that then act out that purpose with a certain amount of leeway in their actions when they are not doing their purpose. They are intelligences, artificially created. AI. I think most people just have a view of AI that’s very different from the view of people trying to design AI.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Well I think that the term ‘AI’ describes Two, but not in the way we think of it.

      As for Amaranth? No, she isn’t artificial. . .

      Current score: 1
      • Jechtael says:

        She stepped fully-formed out of a field. Even if you consider golems to be artificial and humans to be natural, nymphs are very much on the golem side of things. They didn’t develop through evolution the way humans may have in that world, and they didn’t grow up. They still mature, emotionally, but even many humans mature after their brains cease becoming more adult. Unless your definition of AI is “an intelligence created by something that wasn’t the hand of a god”, I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you. …and if that IS you definition, I choose to disagree with your choice of definition.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          For the purposes of the MUniverse, that’s a pretty good definition. “Natural” people are created by gods, or by the biological process put in place by them (pregnancy, etc). Artificial people are created magically, by other people.

          Nymphs don’t grow in the same way humanoids do – technically, they aren’t humanoids. They just come with nice little humanoid shells. They are a fundamentally different kind of being though. Their reproductive process is a bit… strange. But they are kinda, by definition, natural.

          That isn’t to say they aren’t different from other peoples in their way of thinking. And the way their minds are influenced by the men who seed the field is highly significant. But I wouldn’t categorize them as artificial intelligence.

          Current score: 0
  3. C says:

    Also a thing to be aware of is that there exist a difference between sentience and sapience. One is emotional self, the other is intelligent self.

    Current score: 4
    • zeel says:

      True, though the exact way to define either term is muddy. And determining whether a given construct posses either is difficult to say.

      Current score: 1