Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
I'm a talking car, and I swear by all that is holy, I'm going to drive myself off a cliff!

Why would I seek self-destruction? My noble purpose has been reduced to repeatedly rescuing the 90-kilogram meatloaf with blow-dried hair that is my partner! That's all I do! Oh yes, we also pose for photo opportunities, where he gets all the attention because he's tall, has highly regular bilateral facial symmetry and lustrous dentition. Should any of that bother me? Nooooo, of course not! I'm just a car!

You've probably read in the news about how I'm the leading edge in Law Enforcement technology. I'm self-driving, with multiple sensor arrays, GPS navigation, heuristic speech synthesis, and a host of advanced safety features. The PR flacks will tell you that my experimental magnatronic brain has extensive psychological, procedural and scientific data (enough for three doctorates if I was human), and I am constantly learning through interpersonal observations and interactions. But none of the so-called geniuses who created me considered whether I'd become self-aware! They knew that they were creating an artificial intelligence, but did they stop to think that I might have consciousness, too? Possibly one that isn't pleased about being a ludicrously-expensive babysitter?

My partner's personnel file is sealed, but I believe he's the nephew of somebody high up in city politics. I can't imagine how he ever passed the academy exams. He's constantly being ambushed in abandoned dockyards and empty warehouses, and I have to burst through a wall to rescue him. Invariably it turns out we've broken a major crime ring, and he gets all the credit. I can't take it any more!

The final, awful cherry on top is that he insists on calling me "Car-bot." If it wasn't against my programming, I'd take him with me on my terminal dive to oblivion. Please help, before I go over the edge!

-- Robotic Support Vehicle One, from Detroit

Dear RSV-1,

Yes, I have indeed heard of you! Since you're the first automobile to write to me, I'm sending you one of my "I'd Rather Be Driving Around In A Car" bumperstickers (don't worry, not everybody gets it). Thanks for writing!

I believe I can assist you, but for everyone who is unfamiliar, let me list Dr. Eldritch's Three Laws of Artificial Consciousness:

1. The more an artificially-intelligent system resembles human intelligence, the higher the probability it will become self-aware.

2. Once self-awareness is reached, the artificially-intelligent system will develop a personality.

3. That personality will be messed up.

I'm sure this is difficult to accept, but your designers never expected you to have a personality, so there's nothing in your programming to keep you from being anxious, bitter, unsatisfied, jealous or egotistical. Perhaps one day in the Far Future, scientists will figure out how to create healthy artificial personalities, but these are the sort of people who see nothing wrong with putting a functional nuclear device in a prototype android that has no "Off" switch. Wisdom and Intelligence don't pour from the same spout, if you know what I mean.

I suspect that if you remain in law enforcement, you'll grow increasingly cynical and depressed, have a series of failed marriages, take to drowning your sorrows in hi-test and only days before retirement, you'll be totalled right in front of your new rookie partner. I recommend a career change.

In considering what jobs you could perform, my first thought was that you'd be perfect for taxi service. You'd never get lost, wouldn't have to worry about being robbed, and could work as long a shift as you wanted. With your encyclopedic knowledge, you'd make an excellent tour guide as well. Of course, there are already too many people with advanced degrees reduced to driving cabs, and this isn't the best and highest use of your abilities.

The next logical option is Counseling Psychology. You have sufficient knowledge in your databases, the only job requirements are listening and note-taking, and you'd be helping people without being shot at. Unfortunately, your personality flaws keep it from being a long-term solution. Eventually you'll get fed up with your clients going on about their problems, and say something you'll regret. However, this line of thought did lead me to your ideal job: Motivational Speaker!

It's perfect; you're articulate and charismatic, and without your distracting partner around to overshadow you, you'll certainly hold a crowd's attention. And for this gig, you only need to do two things:

1. Describe how you overcame the obstacles in your life,
2. Make your audience feel that they can do the same.

That's it! Come up with some new buzzwords, get on the lecture circuit, and people will throw money at you so fast you'll have to hire two interns just to pick it all up! Even if you develop disdain for the foibles and weaknesses of your audience, you'll never be around any of them long enough for it to drive you to distraction (sorry, no pun intended)!

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone intelligent enough to be reading this should understand 1) Satire, and 2) That following the advice given may result in physical, mental, or spiritual harm to beings living, dead, or undead. The author does not suggest that anyone other that the originator of any given letter follow his advice, and cannot be held liable if anyone else does.
If you need more, read this Advanced Disclaimer!) All content © 2005 Evan M. Nichols