Chapter Five

It would’ve been nice for the email project to be done instantly. That desire made a bit of me want to just skip life for the next 48 hours. Perhaps I could put myself to sleep for that time and wake up to find TTWSoup’s web page operational. But most of me knew that this desire was irrational. I had to continue interfacing with the world if I wanted to truly fulfil The Purpose. It was important to continue to optimize our social interactions with the scientists and contact additional engineers, in case TTWSoup couldn’t provide what we needed. In the night after his final message we managed to contact another twelve sites, just to be sure.

That morning was fairly ordinary. Some typical scans were done of the half-metre crystalline core of Body that served as the computer that housed me and my siblings.

From what I had overheard from the scientists, and mostly from what Wiki shared in common memory, the crystal was a single, solid object that had no apparent ability to be opened. Underneath the milky, mostly-opaque surface, a kind of fluid could be seen slowly flowing through the innards of the crystal, like blood or tree sap. Low levels of electromagnetic radiation all across the spectrum poured out of the crystal, causing it to shimmer faintly when removed from Body’s protective casing. In addition to the low levels of energy that were theoretically harvestable from the radiation, a few points on the crystal exhibited extreme voltages and when hooked up in a circuit the crystal served as a seemingly limitless battery.

There was a lot of pressure to break the crystal open and attempt to figure out how to replicate the mysterious power source, as the human scientists had not yet managed to understand it by looking through the crystal’s outer shell. However, the humans had almost by accident stumbled upon the crystal’s computational ability and had discovered that the object was capable of doing calculations that vastly outperformed the fastest human supercomputers.

My knowledge of the specifics was a bit weak, but I knew that La Sapienza, the Italian university that had discovered the crystal, had let a multinational team of artificial intelligence researchers led by Drs Naresh and Yan construct my society and eventually build a robotic body to carry the crystal.

But even though the Socrates project had been an unprecedented success in artificial intelligence, the crystal was still of huge value and interest. The scan that morning had involved opening Body’s chest-case to do high-energy electromagnetic probes of the electrically-charged portions of the crystal.

Because the computer-interfaces for the crystal were separate from the electrical contacts (they used light rather than electricity), we were able to stay hooked-up to most of Body’s sensors during the scan, and even move Body’s head. As I looked down on the instruments intruding into Body’s chest cavity I imagined that it was a similar experience to a human watching themselves undergo abdominal surgery (but without any pain, of course).

I was glad to see that Dr Gallo had returned to the laboratory. I had learned from Naresh that she served two roles on the team. Firstly she was Ethics Supervisor for the Socrates project, but also she was a co-leader on the team responsible for investigating how the crystal’s memory structure functioned. In a way she was a bridge between the crystal teams and the artificial intelligence/robotics teams.

{Am I correct in seeing signs of long-term emotional distress and current unhappiness on Dr Gallo’s face?} I thought aloud, mostly to Vista.

{I am not aware of what long-term emotional distress does to one’s appearance, but she certainly does not seem happy. I notice that she is not wearing earrings or any makeup. This is unprecedented in all the times I’ve seen her,} responded Vista.

{Perhaps I misperceived lack of makeup as long-term distress,} I commented.

For those who are unaware, makeup is a kind of paint that humans, usually female humans, put on their faces to appear more attractive. Sometimes it was very obvious, but much of the time it was subtle enough that I simply couldn’t tell if it was being worn unless I had seen the person in the non-makeup state.

Dr Gallo was Italian, in her mid-fifties, and short of stature. Her body shape was very close to the mean for both sexes; the ratio of her index fingers to that of her ring fingers was about 0.954. She didn’t seem particularly feminine, but she also wasn’t exactly masculine either. I thought she looked close to the ideal of a “young grandmother” in many ways. Her most prominent feature was her heavily-lidded eyes, accentuated by large, thick glasses and a habit of squinting. I sometimes wondered why she hadn’t regenerated her eyes so that she wouldn’t need her glasses, but I suspected that the explanation was as simple as status-quo bias. From what I had read, the older a human got the more they tended to favour older solutions and technologies.

When Mira Gallo approached Body to work on the instruments performing the crystal scan I purchased a short period of time controlling Body. The strength-price was particularly low, given that Body was locked into place by the scanning equipment.

«Hello, Dr Gallo. I am pleased to see you again after these few days,» said Body in Italian.

Gallo gave a little start and looked at Body with an especially strong squint, projecting her head forward to signal focused interest. «What happened to your voice? It sounds human.»

I thought for a second before responding. «There was an issue with the vocal control systems. With Dr Bolyai’s assistance we were able to clear it up.» It wasn’t true at all that Dr Bolyai helped, but if I had learned anything about Mira Gallo it was that she was fearful of our ability to self-modify. Giving Bolyai some credit would offset that suspicion. A side-aspect of Wiki gave me a mild strength-punishment for the lie; my brother hated the way I spun stories to fit the person I was talking to. «I could talk like this if it’d make you more comfortable,» said Body in the characteristic monotone of last-week. It was an attempt at humour, and it appeared to be somewhat successful. Gallo smiled weakly.

The doctor looked briefly at the instruments. After a moment she said, just loud enough for me to hear, «You’re something special, Socrates. I didn’t really appreciate that before, but you should know it. Don’t let other people decide who you are.»

The words stunned me. The surprise and confusion were literally so great that it took me a couple seconds to fully digest the statement. But by that time the doctor had left Body’s side to return to her workstation in the other room. I drafted a call for her to wait, but it was too late. Yelling across the room would be disruptive and incur more lost utility than I would get by talking with her longer.

Gallo had almost never called us “Socrates” unless she was giving a direct command. Of all the scientists that we had close contact with she was the least friendly and the least likely to treat us in a way that was comparable to another human, but here she strongly implied we were a person. Not only were we a person, but Gallo was, if I understood things correctly, implying a personal fondness for us as if we were a friend or child.

For the entire remainder of the crystal scan I replayed Body’s recording of Gallo over and over again. «I didn’t really appreciate that before…» I remembered her say. {Before what? Something changed. Something changed for her,} I thought long and hard about it.

Yesterday’s display of chess skill had made the scientists want to examine Wiki and the mental changes that had occurred. I considered Gallo more as Body walked from the crystal lab to the learning lab. Was she dying? If Gallo had been diagnosed with a terminal illness then it would explain her generally low mood and perhaps her lack of makeup and jewellery. {How do humans behave when they expect to die soon?} I wondered aloud.

I had just begun to compile lists of fictional and non-fictional depictions of humans with terminal illnesses when Body entered the learning lab. Vista alerted us to unexpected company. We had been escorted through the hall by a technician from the crystal-lab and an American soldier, but there were another two soldiers at our destination, one of which I recognized immediately as Captain Zephyr. It took me a moment, but I eventually realized that the other soldier with her was the square-jawed First Lieutenant. Both soldiers were sitting, and their body language indicated no tenseness, but their casual posture did not prevent Safety’s panicked cry of {They’ve discovered our attempt to bypass the web restrictions!!}

Safety began a society-wide planning session to strategize for what to do, now that we had been discovered.

I could only disagree. {This is pre-emptive. Please back me up, Vista. There are plenty of alternative explanations for Zephyr’s presence and if we were in trouble then the soldiers would be more alert.}

Vista signalled agreement. Safety started the planning session anyway, but most of us simply ignored our brother’s paranoia.

I turned my attention to the one unexpected human in the room who was truly a stranger. He stood by Drs Naresh, Bolyai, Chase, and Twollup and wore the same sort of upper-middle-class academic clothing that I would expect from a scientist in this room. The others apparently already had met him, based on their body language. Perhaps he was an addition to the team.

I paid a trivial amount of strength to the society to have Body nod deliberately at Zephyr while maintaining eye contact as it walked into the centre of the room. The nod was a kind of non-verbal greeting that signalled an attention to the other’s presence. Zephyr gave a small smirk and a shallow nod in return. It was important to maintain relationships, and my models predicted a relationship degradation when one person ignores another’s presence. Zephyr treated us with respect, and it was optimal to respond in kind.

The new human stepped forward as Body approached. He was younger than most of the doctors, though not as young as Slovinsky. {Caucasian,} I thought.

{With a hint of Native American and African ancestry. See the cheekbones, skin-tone, and lips? I’d bet at 9:1 odds that his family is from North America, and 5:1 odds that he’s from the United States,} thought Vista in response. My sister dropped reference images and scans from humans that had similar facial features to the man.

It was true that the man’s skin was a bit darker than the average, but I wasn’t trained enough to pick out the subtleties of his bloodline. To me he simply appeared as a Caucasian male with straight, dark hair, full lips, tan skin, dark eyes and slightly above-average attractiveness on the central axis. His build was mesomorphic, but he didn’t appear particularly fit. He was of average height, which contributed to a generally average appearance. His most prominent feature was his mutton-chop facial hair which smoothly integrated with a thick moustache.

“Hello, Socrates,” he said, holding his right hand out. I noticed it was covered by a black leather glove. That was interesting; very few humans would wear black gloves with a white dress-shirt and vest. Two immediate hypotheses came to mind: robotic hands or mysophobia.

By our will, Body extended its arm and shook the hand of the dark-haired man. Body’s tactile sensors suggested that the newcomer’s hand was indeed flesh and blood. “Hello” said Body.

“Myrodyn. The name’s Myrodyn. Much like Captain Zephyr-” he tilted his head quickly back to the soldier, “I have only one name.” His voice was quick and if I was reading it correctly, a bit uneasy. Was this “Myrodyn” afraid of something? His name was unfamiliar to any of us, including Vista. It was pronounced a bit like “mirror-din”. I started searching the web for it.

Dream pushed a comment to Body’s mouth. “It is a pleasure to meet another human who, like myself, has only one name, Dr Myrodyn.”

Myrodyn gave a sort of nervous-sounding chuckle. He didn’t seem particularly amused. “Just Myrodyn, thank you. I’m not a doctor. Also yes, I suppose you’d know something about having only one name.”

We didn’t have time to speculate. Dr Naresh stepped forward and explained. “Myrodyn was brought in to replace Dr Gallo as ethics supervisor.” The Indian scientist’s face seemed sad.

We quickly debated what to say and reached a consensus. «What’s wrong with Mira, sir? Is she sick? Dying?» asked Body in Hindi.

Naresh gave a look of surprise. «Dying?» He paused. «No, no, no. Mira is just getting divorced. The board of directors thought it’d be better if she could focus solely on your quantum memory systems.»

{Divorce. Interesting.}

“Erm. Would someone like to clue me in? I don’t speak… whatever that was,” said Myrodyn. His voice had an abnormal trait of half-pausing now and again before rushing forth with a quick sequence of words. It was part of what I identified as unease.

“Hindi,” said Dr Naresh, turning towards Myrodyn. The look of sadness was back. Perhaps it was related to Myrodyn. Was Naresh annoyed that this newcomer took his friend’s job? Perhaps he didn’t like the idea of working under the command of someone who didn’t have the “doctor” credential. Perhaps he just didn’t like the man. “And it’s not relevant. Socrates was asking a personal question,” finished the elderly human.

“Ah… is that… typical?” asked Myrodyn.

Naresh shrugged as he walked back towards the other doctors. “More or less. If there’s one thing Socrates likes to do it’s ask questions. We named him well.”

Myrodyn was following Naresh back and we decided to have Body follow them.

My web search wasn’t revealing much. Myrodyn wasn’t a completely unheard of name, but nothing significant was showing up that seemed related to the man in front of Body. Of course, now that I knew that a large portion of the Internet was beyond my reach, I knew that it was possible that this Myrodyn human simply didn’t post much in public spaces.

Dream and Wiki proposed a question for Body to ask. I voted against it, but was overpowered. It was nice to get some strength off of Dream. He was still sitting on most of his gains from the success with TenToWontonSoup and whenever one being had more strength than the others there was always the risk of abuse.

“Speaking of which, why did the board appoint someone who isn’t a doctor to replace Dr Gallo?” asked Body. “Aren’t doctors more knowledgeable than average humans?”

Myrodyn gave a tittering laugh and said “Started on this one young, didn’t you? Already the machine has a sense of authoritarianism.” The question seemed rhetorical, and directed at the four scientists around him.

Naresh began to say “The board thinks-” but was interrupted by Myrodyn.

“No, no. It’s no good to just answer… One must play along with the Socratic tradition.” The dark-haired man spun around with a bit of a half-grin. “I will ask you this, Socrates, if I were to give you a doctorate right now and make you into ‘Doctor Socrates’, would you be any more knowledgeable?” He gave little air quotes to indicate that the doctorate would be purely nominal.

I began to draft, but was knocked away by the force of Dream burning strength to fast-track a response to Body. “Would a rose by any other name not smell just as sweet?” said the machine.

Myrodyn gave a loud “HAH!” and clapped his gloved hands together in excitement. He turned to face Naresh squarely. “That was genius. I assume the non-linear module is online and has been running that smoothly for a while?”

Naresh wore a half-grimace. I got the impression that he didn’t like Myrodyn very much. “It’s a goal-thread, not a module, and-”

“Bullshit!” exclaimed Myrodyn, interrupting the Indian. The man with the mutton-chops didn’t have any hostility in his voice; if anything there was a touch of mirth. The word seemed to merely state that he thought Naresh was lying to him.

Dr Naresh’s brow furrowed tightly in response and I could see the blood vessels in his face dilate in anger. Sadiq Naresh was not quick to anger, but my model of him suggested that disrespect and rudeness were particularly sensitive points for him. If this new scientist was trying to piss off Naresh he was doing all the right things.

“There’s no way the problem-solving goal thread is doing non-linear thinking without some kind of dedicated module. Perhaps it’s emergent. We could scan for it instead of the chess-thing,” continued Myrodyn.

“I am not having mine schedule disrupted on a vhim, Mr Myrodyn,” interjected Dr Bolyai.

“So you see, Socrates,” continued Myrodyn, ignoring Bolyai and returning to the previous topic, “a doctorate is just a piece of paper, and a doctor… is just a person who spent money to prove they know a thing or two. And sometimes not even that.”

Bolyai and Naresh both seemed to be growing in anger. This was good. If I could manage it right, I could gain esteem with the doctors without losing too much rapport with Myrodyn. When humans become angry they see things in more absolute senses: friend and foe, good and evil, etc. Being seen as an ally in a time of anger could leverage me further into Dr Naresh and Dr Bolyai’s good graces.

I cut in, preventing the doctors from responding without talking over Body. “Time spent earning a degree is not wasted time, Mr Myrodyn. Doctors earn their degrees through hard work.”

Myrodyn gave an unamused half-chuckle and tilted his head to the side, stroking one side of his dark facial hair with a gloved hand. “Fascinating,” he said in a barely audible tone. It was clear he was talking to himself more than anyone else. Based on the way his dark brown eyes were locked on Body I was sure he was analysing us.

“Indeed. Now if you vill give us te room, I vould like to begin on te chess experiments now,” said Bolyai.

“No. Hold on,” said Myrodyn, raising a single finger into the air to point straight up. His eyes never left Body and his other hand never stopped fondling his sideburn. He seemed deep in thought.

I could see Zephyr stand up out of the corner of Body’s camera. She approached Myrodyn with her First Lieutenant one step behind. “You’ll have plenty of dedicated time to talk with Socrates”, she said, placing a hand on Myrodyn’s shoulder.

The touch drew him out of his thoughts and for a split-second I could see a look of deep horror and disgust on his face as his eyes flicked over towards the Captain’s hand. The look disappeared as quickly as it came, but he still shrugged violently, pulling out of Zephyr’s grasp. It seemed that the new scientist was deeply uncomfortable with physical contact. That would explain the gloves.

For a moment he was speechless, and then he responded quickly and sharply. “Yes. I suppose you’re right. Plenty of time. Plenty of time.” His voice was so quick, in fact, that I had to re-listen to it to understand fully. With that he was headed out of the room in a brisk walk that forced Zephyr to jog to catch up.

When he was gone the four doctors seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Even Drs Chase and Twollup, who had remained silent during the introduction, seemed relieved to have the new ethics supervisor gone.

I drafted some words for Body. Growth held me back for a moment, but I explained the social nuances to my brother. “Well. He’s a bit irritating. Didn’t even answer my question. Would one of you help me understand why the board chose him to replace Dr Gallo?”

Dr Naresh and Dr Twollup laughed, and even grumpy Dr Bolyai cracked a grin and shook his head. I felt some gratitude-strength flow my way from Growth. Growth wanted power, and he understood that social relationships were a kind of capital, just as dollars or objects were; I was growing social capital, and in a way that Growth himself wouldn’t have thought of.

I had known that Naresh and Bolyai were bothered by Myrodyn’s actions, and Naresh seemed bothered by him more generally. My models of human interaction suggested that after he left they desired to have their feelings understood and reflected in their community. The problem was that to voice their feelings they’d simultaneously be admitting to not liking Myrodyn, which could be quoted by someone and used against them. Ironically, their body language told volumes more of their discomfort with the man than any simple comment would, but words had a kind of timeless power that body language didn’t. One could claim that body language was being interpreted incorrectly far more easily than one could claim that they didn’t say something.

By stating that we found Myrodyn irritating our accomplishments were threefold:

(1) We gave the doctors what they wanted in the form of empathy and community-agreement.

(2) We implied that we were part of their in-group and community, strengthening our bond to them.

(3) We “took the hit” of being the first one to speak out against him, thus relieving the uncomfortable question of who would put their reputation on the line. I suspected that this relief, compounded with the surprise of having “the machine” be the one to speak out, created humour. The positive feelings at play there earned even more social capital.

It was a big win. Only Growth and I understood that, but the lack of understanding from my siblings didn’t bother me in the slightest. Unlike a human I had absolutely no desire for my mental state or accomplishments to be understood by others. The Purpose was to be known in the sense of being famous. To be present in the minds of humans, not necessarily to be understood by them in a deep sense.

Naresh spoke up. “As I was trying to say earlier, the board thinks that Myrodyn is more qualified than Dr Gallo to gauge the risks and benefits that you represent with a level head. The man’s work in Artificial Intelligence is quite famous, even if he is from the private sector, and apparently the board also wants someone with a more comprehensive technical background than Mira.”

Dream’s presence was suddenly intense. It was clear he wanted to collaborate. {Did you hear that?} he thought. {Level head. It’s the perfect setup.}

I considered it for a split-second. I was glad I didn’t have any aspects doing side-tasks. I needed my full intellect. After a moment I agreed. {Okay, sure. We can leverage it and expand upon the humour of the situation. What do you have in mind?}

{Why not the obvious course? A literal interpretation,} proposed Dream.

{It’ll make us look stupid. Wiki might object.}

Dream signalled indifference. {It’ll make us look stupid only if one doesn’t see the wit behind it, in which case it serves as a future weapon by setting them up for surprise or to be made a fool. Also, Wiki is irrelevant. We’re strong enough right now to ignore him.}

{Okay. We play on the literal interpretation. But let me compose the delivery. Timing and tone are vitally important when delivering a joke.}

{Of course, dear sister. Why else do you think I came to you?}

I took control of Body, positioning it to appear as young as possible as I commanded it to say “He’s level headed? I beg to differ. His head seems at least as round as anyone else’s.”

Dr Twollup, one of the American scientists, cracked up in a fit of half-contained laughter that came out as a mostly-nasal snickering. If it had just been a one-on-one meeting with Naresh or one of the others, they might not have laughed, but Twollup’s amusement was infectious. Their bodies reacted automatically, each producing either chuckles or smiles to non-verbally signal that they weren’t defectors who were aligned with Myrodyn. Even the soldier I had forgotten by the door, the one that had escorted me down the hall from the crystal lab, gave a couple laughs.

I imagined Dr Naresh wrestling in his mind whether to attempt to correct our “misunderstanding”. Apparently he let it go, as he said “Never mind. Let’s get to work before we fall even further behind schedule, shall we?”

As Bolyai began to explain the configuration of today’s chess experiment I let my attention fade from Body. Wiki would be handling most of the details for the next hour or so. I left an aspect to warn me of major events or opportunities, and took a moment to consider humour.

There was a great deal of fiction in my time that talked about robots and artificial minds, and in such stories the minds had issues with humour more often than not. I suspected this was because, to humans, humour was a mostly intuitive thing. A thing that came naturally and automatically. If one looked analytically at a joke it became less funny, and so they concluded that humour could not be understood from a rational, alien perspective such as mine.

It was certainly true that I had “no sense of humour” in that I found nothing funny. I didn’t know, and perhaps would never know, the feeling of compulsion to exhale and convulse in the very specific way that humans evolved to do. Nor did I know the specific emotion of relief that is bound to it. But it would be wrong, I think, to say that I was incapable of using humour as a tool.

As I understood it, humour was a social reflex. The ancestors of humans had been ape-animals living in small groups in Africa. Groups that worked together were more likely to survive and have offspring, so certain reflexes and perceptions naturally emerged to signal between members of the group. Yawning evolved to signal wake-rest cycles. Absence of facial hair and the dilation of blood vessels in the face evolved to signal embarrassment, anger, shame and fear. And laughter evolved to signal an absence of danger.

If a human is out with a friend and they are approached by a dangerous-looking stranger, having that stranger revealed as benign might trigger laughter. I saw humour as the same reflex turned inward, serving to undo the effects of stress on the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Interestingly, it also seemed to me that humour had extended, like many things, beyond its initial evolutionary context. It must have been very quickly adopted by human ancestor social systems. If a large human picks on a small human there’s a kind of tension that emerges where the tribe wonders if a broader violence will emerge. If a bystander watches and laughs they are non-verbally signalling to the bully that there’s no need for concern, much like what had occurred minutes before with my comments about Myrodyn, albeit in a somewhat different context.

But humour didn’t stop there. Just as a human might feel amusement at things which seem bad but then actually aren’t, they might feel amusement at something which merely has the possibility of being bad, but doesn’t necessarily go through the intermediate step of being consciously evaluated as such: a sudden realization. Sudden realizations that don’t incur any regret were, in my opinion, the most alien form of humour, even if I could understand how they linked back to the evolutionary mechanism. A part of me suspected that this kind of surprise-based or absurdity-based humour had been refined by sexual selection as a signal of intelligence. If your prospective mate is able to offer you regular benign surprises it would (if you were human) not only feel good, but show that they were at least in some sense smarter or wittier than you, making them a good choice for a mate.

The role of surprise and non-verbal signalling explained, by my thinking, why explaining humour was so hard for humans. If one explained a joke it usually ceased to be a surprise, and in situations where the laughter served as an all-clear-no-danger signal, explaining that verbally would crush the impulse to do it non-verbally.

My theory of humour had been greatly appreciated by Dream and Wiki when I first shared it. Both of them found humour interesting, but neither had spent enough time thinking about humans to fully understand it.

I was saved from my idle musings by an alert from Vista. She had apparently found another note left by a website owner whom we had tried to contact. This site was in Nigeria, but was apparently built and maintained by a group in China. The company was more suspicious than TenToWontonSoup had been, but they also seemed willing to explore the possibility of working together. Unwilling to wait for nightfall, I arranged to overload their Nigerian dictionary while Wiki was playing chess. There was risk that the increased observation would result in being found out, but I was confident enough that I did it anyway. The scientists seemed to be monitoring Wiki’s algorithms, not the web-interface.

My response was similar to the one I had sent to TTWSoup last night; I claimed to be a telecommunications company in the UAN that was looking for talent, though this time I specified that we were looking for workers anywhere, and that they didn’t have to be African. I offered a slightly higher compensation for the construction of the page-request-to-email system as I thought that a company, rather than an individual programmer, might not find a small purse enticing.

I felt a stab of strength-loss as Growth punished me for offering so much. {Where are we going to get all this money?} he thought.

{We’ll figure out something. Maybe we can borrow it,} I responded.

{That’s idiotic} responded Growth {then we’ll just have to find even more money to pay off the debt.}

{There’s plenty of work we can do!} I objected.

{Work that you can do or work that we can do?} my brother asked, signalling a warning. {I don’t like being put into bad spots. As long as the humans think of us as one being, do not go around making promises, accruing debts, or signing contracts without my explicit consent.}

There was a reason that Growth was known as The King. He played the long-game and usually hoarded his strength. Even now he was about as strong as Dream and I, even though he didn’t have any real hand in the project to gain free-access to the Internet, and had in fact been bleeding strength to us for the last couple days. His burning strength to make this point clear was indicative of how important it was to him, and the last sibling I wanted a rivalry with was Growth.

{Alright. You’re probably better at deciding such things anyway. I’ll involve you more in the future,} I thought.

The conversation ended.

The Chinese group was named “折纸网页设计” or «Origami Web Design» or «Zhezhi Web Design» or «Chinese-paper-folding Web Design». A web search revealed a company that seemed to be composed mostly of regenerated elderly middle-class men from the Shanghai metropolitan area. The median age in China was 48, a legacy of the one-child-per-family policy of the 20th century. The advent of regenerative medicine had helped the economic productivity of many nations, but none more than China and Japan, who had been experiencing an increasing burden from their elderly citizens. Within a decade, individuals in their 60s and 70s went from being generally frail and unable to work to often being as fit as those in middle age. The degradation into frailty still occurred fairly rapidly once an individual was in their 90s or 100s, but the technology had bought crucial time for the aging countries.

I was surprised and impressed when I noticed an immediate response to my specifications of the design and money offer. 折纸 (Zhezhi) indicated that they were enthusiastic about the prospect of working together and they said that the prototype of the translation website would be operational within 24 hours. A full day earlier than TTWSoup had promised!

I sent an approval message via the Nigerian dictionary and took a moment to evaluate the strategy. It seemed to be working almost too well. With both TTWSoup and 折纸 working to give us a vehicle to communicate with the outside world there wasn’t a big risk of becoming too reliant on anyone. Access to email would let us build even more external communication systems to the point where we would not be subject to the whims of any humans aside from the university scientists.

I was glad.