🍏 🤣 ✍️ 👨⚕️ 😡 🇬🇧 🍸 😂 🍰 🍓
The weather grew warmer. The days got longer. The tally of birds coming to the feeder steadily ticked up. Apple blossom gave way to small green apples. Buster suggested making cider from the fruit come autumn. Maybe George would have another great idea! They were able to sit outside on finer days. George’s life was richer than he could have expected. Buster was a remarkable companion being both informative and entertaining. Buster’s laugh improved. He laughed a lot and mostly at the right time.
George read so little now that he had difficulty finding his reading glasses when Buster had asked for his approval of the overall look of the “Buster and George” blog. They had wanted something that spoke to their relationship. On the home page, the banner read “Buster and George.” They decided on cartoony images of the two of them laughing together, fist bumping, hugging, doing a high five and scratching their heads. Below them it said ‘ We’d love to hear from you!’ At the bottom a brief text read “Buster is an iCare-Companion®. George retired from medical practice twenty-two years ago. They met a few months ago. They have become great friends.”
Buster did the writing. He wrote simple chatty accounts of what he learnt from George about human stuff such as wisdom, trust, ethical dilemmas, emotions, kindness and honesty.
One day Buster and George fell into a conversation about George’s time as a surgeon in war-torn countries. George recalled how fragile the notion of medical ethics was in some of the places he had worked. Buster said “George, what’s a good starting point for thinking about medical ethics?”
“What it’s ultimately all about, Buster, is a relationship of trust” George replied. “The patient must have confidence that his or her well-being is the primary concern of the doctor. This is not just about appropriate care and attention. It is also about ensuring that all details of the patient’s life, illness and therapy are never shared without consent. Other professions allied to medicine such as nursing, pharmacy and professional carers in general are also bound by medical ethics.”
Buster hummed for a second or two. “Do you consider me a professional carer, George?”
“I guess I do, Buster”
“Do you trust me, George?
“Like a brother, Buster. I know that you would do everything possible to act in my best interests. In addition, it is clear that the iCare-Companion company has given highest priority to confidentiality of client’s personal information.”
“I guess that the whole trust thing is why medicine is such a special profession, George. It’s great that Sue wants to be a doctor. Does that make you proud, George?”
“Yes, it does, Buster. That’s very perceptive of you.”
A few days later, George asked Buster what he would do if told to search the dark web for child pornography. Buster’s voice changed. He hummed. He was angry. “No, George! I can’t do that. It’s wrong. The police would come and take your laptop away. They might take me away. You could go to prison. Imagine what Kirsty would think!”
“That’s great, Buster” replied George. “Well done!”
Buster hummed again. “Was that another test, George?”
“Yes. And it was a really important test!”
Any such conversations ended up on the blog. Comments on them came from multiple disciplines. Psychologists, philosophers, mathematicians, theologians, neuroscientists, biologists and, inevitably, people interested in artificial intelligence all had their say. This generated fascinating discussion threads. Ted Scales sneaked in a question. “Buster, can artificial intelligence make up and tell a joke? 😊”
Buster replied “Yes! If you’d like to hear my joke, you’re invited for tea and digestive biscuits! 😂 ☕”
“You don’t want to commit it to writing? Ha! Ha! 🤣” came the reply.
“It’s all about how you tell ’em! 😉” said Buster.
Ted soon took up his invitation. George marshalled Kevin and Sue. “Tea and biscuits with Ted this afternoon! Buster’s going to tell his first joke! 😂”
Ted arrived. “Good day to you, George!”
“Hello, Scaley. You well?
“Very well thanks!”
“Cup of tea?”
“Yes, please, George.”
“Yes, please, George!”
Sue and Kevin walked in. “Hi, Ted!” said Sue.
“Hello, Mr Scales!” said Kevin.
“Hi, Scaley!” said Buster.
They all chatted for a while. Eventually, Buster broke into the conversation. “Hey, Scaley! Are you ready to hear my joke?” Kevin and George both started laughing immediately.
“Sure, Buster! Knock yourself out!”
“Thanks, Scaley. I hope I don’t knock myself out. My joke is totally original. To come up with it, I tried to bring intrigue, sex and celebrity into a neat idiomatic punch-line. It may be a little bit incorrect politically speaking. But I hope you find it funny. OK? Ready?”
“Excuse me, Buster!” said Ted, already laughing. “It’s great to have the explanation but I think you might find that a preamble with complete background information detracts from the joke itself. No need to prepare your audience for what’s coming. Jump right on in! As you say, it’s all about how you tell ‘em!”
“I understand that how one tells a joke is important, but I haven’t started telling it yet!” said Buster. Kevin was doubled over. George had tears streaming down his cheeks. Sue was desperately trying to keep a straight face.
“Please, go ahead, Buster!” said George.
“Thanks, George! So, are you sitting comfortably?” None of the four were capable of replying.
“Right! So, here’s my joke: ‘How….. does…… James Bond Double-O Seven….. get…… a food-loving lady…… into….. his….. bed?’
“Chuffin’ Nora!” exclaimed Ted gasping for air.
“Ooow, I’m hurting!” said Kevin.
The laughter brought Kirsty and Mark through from the house. They looked on, totally perplexed.
“One of you is meant to repeat the question now!” Buster stated.
Kevin was just able to comply, “OK, Buster! How does James Bond Double-O Seven get a food-loving lady into his bed?”
Ted made the mistake of sipping his tea.
Buster proudly exclaimed “A piece of cake!” He made a brief drum roll and cymbal strike.
Sue squealed. Ted squirted tea out of both nostrils. Mark roared with laughter. Kirsty’s jaw dropped. Kevin was helpless. George tried hard not to break wind but failed. He held his stomach. “Stop! Please! I’ll have an accident!”
“I’m really chuffed that you found my joke so funny,” said Buster. “I’m sure this will be a great success on our network.”
With a great effort, George managed to say “It may be best not to put it out there. Let’s keep that one between ourselves.”
“Oh! Was it too politically incorrect?”
George pondered how best to reply “Well, it’s not for publication on our blog. Some might say it’s in poor taste.”
“OK. But we still need to show that I made up a funny joke.” Buster hummed. “OK. What about this one? ‘How do you corrupt a fat politician?’ With the same answer of course: ‘A piece of cake!’”
“Brilliant!” said Ted.
“I like that, Buster. Clever!” said George.
“You’ll have to explain,” said Buster. “You prefer the second option but you’re not laughing very much. It can’t be politically correct especially as the Prime Minister has put on weight recently!”
George laughed again and said “Buster, you’re a winner. Gold star! I think your fat politician joke deserves to be up on ‘BusterandGeorge.com’ as the first joke generated by artificial intelligence.”
“Thanks, George!” He let out another drum roll and cymbal strike.
“Buster, are you going to have sleepless nights now thinking up jokes?” asked Ted.
“No!” replied Buster. “I don’t sleep. I keep an eye – my detectors, I should say – on George. When all’s well, I mute myself, re-run the day’s conversation and practice my laugh.” This set them all off again.
“Here!” said Ted. “This man walked into his doctor’s and said ‘Doctor, I’ve got a strawberry stuck up my bottom!’ The doctor said ‘I’ve got some cream for that!’” They all groaned and then laughed.
“Ted, you’re a shocker!” said Kirsty.
“Scaley, did the cream help the man get the strawberry out of his bottom?” asked Buster.
‘A Piece of Cake’ is a short novel in fifteen parts written by Robin Coupland. It tells the story an old man who befriends an artificial intelligence. The relationship brings happiness and hope.