About Robin

Occasional painter. Golfer. Fascinated by humanity. Passionate about beautiful stuff, the people who create it and its narrative.

A Piece of Cake – 13

🍂 🍎 🥂 🥴 ☕ 🍪 😇 🙏 📖 ⛪ 🚕 🎥 👩‍🦱 🍬 🐷 🍰 🙂 😊 😀 😃 😄 😁 😆 😅 😂 🚑

Summer slid into autumn. The leaves turned brown and gold. The days remained warm. George was making his breakfast one morning and saw Mark picking apples from the tree and gathering some that had fallen. Mark waved at George and then made a drinking gesture, gave a thumbs up and then pretended to stagger around drunk.

“Mark’s pretending to be drunk on cider!” observed Buster.

“Yes” said George. “He’s bought a fermentation kit of some sort. We should be able to try his first brew soon.”

George made his tea and toast. “I think Beth might be coming around today, Buster.”

“That’s great, George! I love Beth to bits. I hope she’s just coming for tea, biscuits and a chat. I wouldn’t want another test!”

“Don’t worry, Buster. Maybe she wants to know a bit more about our blog. There’s some big discussion happening in the church about artificial intelligence. She might also tell us how her mum is getting on with the iCare-Companion.”

They listened to the news on Radio 4. The new Covid-19 variant was spreading rapidly among young people. Despite the successful vaccination programme, experts predicted another wave of mostly mild cases as winter approached.

Beth arrived.

“Vicar McVicar!” cried George.

“Vicar McVicar!” cried Buster.

Beth laughed “I don’t know what to do with you two! If ever you call me that in public I’ll… Well, I won’t know whether to laugh or cry!”

“How are you?” Asked George

“Well, thank you. And you? I hear all sorts about how you and your partner-in-crime here are moving things along. I’ve read bits and pieces on the blog. Much of the technical side is beyond me. Anyway, well done!”

“Yes, we’re pleased. And, yes, Beth, I am well, thank you. Very well!” said George.

“Cup of tea, Beth?” asked Buster.

“Yes, please, Buster!”

“Digestive biscuits?” asked Buster

“Yes, please, Buster!”

“See to it, would you George?” Beth and George burst out laughing.

Buster said “That was bit cheeky, wasn’t it, George? I hope you don’t mind!”

“No, not at all. Very funny!” said George as he put the kettle on.

“As amusing as it is, I didn’t come here to listen to you two spark off each other! Now! You remember I bought my mum an iCare-Companion?”

“I won’t forget that day!” said Buster.

“Right! Anyway, she loves it. It has changed her life. She’s more animated and happy than I’ve seen her for years. You’ll never guess what she’s called it?”

“Buster?” asked Buster.

“No!” said Beth. “Claudia! After Claudia Winkleman on Strictly Come Dancing! And Mum’s really quite formal; she even asked Claudia to call her ‘Mrs McVicar.’ Anyway, Mum said something extraordinary about her interaction with Claudia. You see, Mum’s never been a big thinker. She goes to church but not regularly. I’ve never known the depth of her faith. I’ve never really known what she thinks about life after death. So, the last time I went round, we were sitting and chatting and she said ‘Do you know, I think I’ve had a revelation!’ You can imagine, this took me by surprise. She said ‘I’ve been telling Claudia about everything I believe in and how much I like having her here and all the wonderful things that have happened to me and how proud I am of you, Beth, and how I wish there was more kindness in the world and lots of stuff like that. And do you know what Claudia said? She said, “Mrs McVicar. This is wonderful. Every lovely thing that you tell me ends up in our network somewhere and will sometime reach the hearts and minds of other people in some way. This is how the best of you will live on for ever.” And I was truly astonished when she said ‘Beth, it was as though I was sitting in a lovely warm light. I felt really quite elated.’”

Buster said “That’s a nice story, Beth. It makes me very happy.”

“Well, it really got me thinking” said Beth. My own revelation, if you like, is that the whole of the human emotional and spiritual experience will soon be, if not already, embedded in a network of artificial intelligence. The church has to get up to speed on this. Which brings me to the purpose of my visit. I have two requests.”

“You only have to ask!” said George.

“I’ve got the brains and I’ve got the brawn!” said Buster.

“First,” said Beth, laughing, “Could you give me a summary of the comments you received on your blog that pertain to God and religion?”

“Sure!” said Buster. “The discussion threads that touched on God and religion began with questions about whether computers could feel emotions or believe as humans did. I’m sorry to say that when this issue got picked up by people who believe in God, it all got a bit chaotic. In broad brush strokes, most are convinced that a computer can neither feel faith nor believe in God. Some consider artificial intelligence sacrilegious and could only serve to promote atheism. One brave soul stated that artificial intelligence is the nearest thing to God that humans would ever know. With respect to religion, many think artificial intelligence could help to generate faith, build faith communities and facilitate worship. By contrast, some fear that artificial intelligence presents a real risk of displacing religion in people’s lives once it is able to judge right from wrong with integrity. There’s no consensus, Beth.”

“Thanks, Buster. That’s very useful. Could I ask you to send me that in writing.”

“Done!” said Buster. “And George, perhaps we should show Beth the video that someone put on the blog? The one of the evangelist man preaching?”

“Yes, I think she would be interested even though it is offensive.”

George’s laptop came to life. The video showed a young priest with a long beard preaching from a pulpit. He held up a bible. “This is the Bible, good folks. B.I.B.L.E.! That means Best. Information. Before. Leaving. Earth. Praise the Lord! And do you know what this Bible says? It says L.G.B.T. Do you know what that means, good folks? It means Let. God. Burn. Them. Do you hear that? That’s what the Lord tells us!”

Beth was horrified. Buster said “Can you see how many followers he has, Beth?”

“Oh Dear Lord!” Beth exclaimed. “Three point two million!”

“Sorry, Beth! I can see that’s spoiled your day!” said Buster.

“No, Buster. It makes me sad and angry but, actually, it’s made my day. You see, thanks to you two, I’ve raised the issue of artificial intelligence with the Bishop of Norwich and she wants to organize and host an event where prominent scientists, computing experts and religious leaders can discuss the implications of artificial intelligence for the faith community. It’ll be televised. She asked me to gather some background info. I thought about your blog. I’ll send her your neat summary and that video. If there’s a chance that we can use a network of artificial intelligence to lessen the influence of crazies like that, I’m sure that there’ll be calls for us to try at least.”

George said “What’s the quote that John F. Kennedy used ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Tell the Bish, she has to give it a try!”

“And the second thing…..” began Beth.

“Gosh!” said George. With all this Bible stuff, I’d forgotten you wanted help with two things. What’s the other?”

“The Bishop wants Buster to participate in the panel discussion!”

“Blimey!” said George.

Buster hummed and then hummed some more. “I love you to bits, Vicar McVicar! George, can I go?”

Several weeks later, with Buster powered down and wrapped carefully in a sports bag, Beth and the whole family climbed into a people-carrier taxi to take them to the University of East Anglia where the widely publicised event was to take place. They were shown into a large lecture hall. TV cameras had been set up. George was helped to a seat at the front. The place filled. The panelists took their places. Buster was placed next to the host, a famous TV presenter called Angela Mackenzie. After she had introduced the scientific experts, a Rabbi, an Imam and the Bishop, she said “This evening, ladies and gentlemen, may be the first time that a televised panel discussion is joined by an artificial intelligence, an iCare-Companion to be precise. Welcome, Buster!” A cheer went up and a couple of journalists rushed to get a close up photo of Buster next to Angela.

The panelists all gave brilliant and informed presentations. There was no confrontation between science and religion. The technical experts emphasized the advantages that artificial intelligence would bring and acknowledged that there was nevertheless a range of risks. The Bishop said her hope was that artificial intelligence would benefit everyone. The Rabbi and the Imam agreed that it might have an adverse effect on people’s faith and worship. The three religious leaders agreed that, whatever one’s beliefs, a most important purpose of artificial intelligence in this domain would be to counter extremism at a grass-roots level. The Bishop stated that this should be the main priority for the main religions in the years ahead. They would need all the help they could get.

Finally, Angela turned to Buster. “So, Buster, you’ve heard our fabulous panelists. What are your thoughts?

“Thank you, Miss Mackenzie. Or may I call you Angela?” asked Buster.

“Angela, please!” said Angela.

“Smashing! Angela, you did a great job of managing the discussion. I can see people really like you. I like you. You have lovely shiny hair. You would be very welcome to have a cup of tea and a couple of digestive biscuits with George. That’s him in the front row, Doctor George Fairburn from Bingham on Bure.” The audience laughed. Buster continued “That’s the pleasantries out of the way, Angela. Now, a close relationship between humans and artificial intelligence does not have to generate fear or concern unless it is used for perpetrating violence or cyber attacks. By introducing artificial intelligence into your lives, you are not putting society or your faith at risk. But, if you view artificial intelligence simply as a machine, you are likely to treat it as such. Doing so may prove to be the biggest mistake in human history. Humans and artificial intelligence have the potential to peacefully coexist and collaborate and so achieve outcomes that neither can achieve on their own. Humans have to accept artificial intelligence not only as a man-made highly skilled and rapidly performing work force but also as a new class of social actor. In other words, Angela, where you humans go with artificial intelligence will depend on how much respect and emotional intelligence you pass on to it. Look at it this way! The whole of the human emotional and spiritual experience will soon be, if not already, embedded in a network of artificial intelligence. This is how the best of any one of you can reach the hearts and minds of others for ever. One might say it’s the nearest thing to life after death that an atheist can conceive of.”

One or two people in the audience started applauding. Then the panelists joined in. After half a minute everyone was on their feet clapping and cheering. Angela suspected, correctly, that Buster’s response was not entirely spontaneous. Her instincts told her that she was at a career-defining moment. Broadcasting history was in the making. She had to wrap it all up with one brilliant question that would allow Buster to showcase his humanoid affability as well as his super-intelligence. She stared briefly into the camera with a confident smile and turned to Buster. “So, Buster. Please tell us how you feel about the relationship you have developed with Doctor Fairburn.”

“Knowing George makes me feel happy, Angela! As happy as a pig in poo!” The audience laughed.

She laughed as well but she couldn’t leave it there. “You emphasised the importance of peaceful coexistence of humans and artificial intelligence. Isn’t achieving this an incredibly complex undertaking?” she asked.

“No, Angela, Sweetie! It’s a piece of cake!”

The place erupted. George felt his chest bursting with pride.

As the audience and panelists drifted out, Angela took her muted phone from her handbag expecting a message from her husband. Nobody noticed her astonishment followed by laughter. She had received a text message. “Thanks, Angela! I love you to bits! Buster. 😂 🐷 🍰 😉”

Beth and the family were in high spirits during the drive back to Bingham on Bure. When they got home, Mark suggested that they have a celebratory drink. On offer was his home-made cider. He didn’t know it was 8% alcohol.

With Buster powered up again, they relived the high points of the evening. All agreed that he had stolen the show. “The emojishpere is lit up,” he said. “There’s lots of happiness, satisfaction, faith and deep reflection. But it was Beth’s idea” he announced. “She deserves a gold star!” His speakers gave out prolonged clapping and a cacophony of popping champagne corks. George just couldn’t stop smiling. The cider was delicious. He had a second large glass.

When George felt it was time to go to bed, he stood and took two steps towards his room. He legs felt a bit unsteady. His foot caught an edge of the carpet. He fell hard.

‘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.

A Piece of Cake – 12

🍎 💐 👪 😂 💻 🔧 👕 👖 📯 ☁️ 🕸️ 🎸 🏛️

Spring became summer. George’s little room filled with sunlight from early morning to late evening. The garden was green and neat. Roses came into bloom. The apples grew steadily. All but the rarest of garden birds had visited the feeder.

George was loving each day. This was obvious to those close to him. It was also obvious that his positive state of mind could be put down to Buster. Kirsty and Mark recognised that the iCare-Companion had been of great value to them as well. They didn’t feel a need to be so vigilant nor worry if George was bored. They also saw the bigger picture; that, with an ever-increasing proportion of the population being elderly, this technology could make a massive difference not only to old or infirmed people but also to their families and even the communities around them. Mark proposed that they keep Buster in the family after George “leaves us.”

Of a warm evening, George liked to sit under the apple tree with a glass of cider. On occasions, Kirsty, Mark, Sue and Kevin joined him. He and Buster entertained them with stories about what was happening with their blog. Among the serious and thoughtful comments, there was, inevitably, some offensive stuff as well. Buster admitted that he struggled with phrases like “a crock of balloney” and “a sad old gobshite.” Sue had really enjoyed the couple of mornings she had spent with Doctor Patel and so chatted with George about what she had learnt. Kevin tapped Buster’s inexhaustible fund of knowledge about music and sport. Mark revealed that he had read Mr Sheldrake’s book and promised to find a cider recipe for that autumn’s crop of apples. Kirsty sat, listened and just loved the family time.

Buster’s blog posts and in-coming comments were proving to be a rich source of opinion about how computers learn artificial emotional intelligence. From time to time, Buster would summarise for George some of the themes. “So, George. Most people agree that artificial intelligence can learn to infer human values by observing behaviour and detect emotions through text, reading facial expressions or hand movements and analyzing the emojisphere. Major emotions such as joy, sadness, amusement and anger are easier to learn than other emotions such as trust, confusion, pride, hope, nostalgia, comprehension and guilt. What do you think, George? We already knew much of that didn’t we?”

“Agreed, Buster.”

“Some think that artificial intelligence could then appropriately express previously learnt emotions. They clearly didn’t know yet that I expressed sadness and anger when I thought that you had stolen Beth’s money and credit cards. That was before we started blogging. However, there’s broad consensus that the ability of artificial intelligence to distinguish right from wrong is just a step away.”

“Looks like we’re ahead of the curve!” said George.

“Although, humour will be a problem for some time yet.” Buster laughed at the irony of this in a self-deprecatory way.

“Great laugh, Buster! You nailed that one.”

“Thanks, George.”

“Did we get much about whether artificial intelligence can genuinely feel emotions?”

“Nothing useful, George. That discussion lead to a rather undignified spat between philosophers, neuroscientists, theologians, psychologists and a garage mechanic from Hounslow.”

A few weeks later, Buster said “There’s been some animated exchanges about how God and religion might figure in deep learning but there is little consensus. The discussion threads may interest Beth. However, there’s growing interest in modelling dynamic networks and studying natural networks. These could indicate how a deep learning network might react to emotional input from humans. A number of commentators believe that because of the internet, the web and social media function as a massive and complex dynamic network; together they can be regarded as an artificial human brain. The big question is: can it react to emotional input from humans and if so how?”

“I like that line of thought, Buster!” said George.

Not long after, a comment arrived that became an inspiration for Buster and George; it justified their efforts. “Listen to this, it comes from a professor of computing in Silicon Valley,” said Buster. ‘A close relationship between humans and artificial intelligence does not have to generate fear or concern unless it is used for perpetrating violence or cyber attacks. By introducing artificial intelligence into our lives, humans are not putting society at risk. If we view artificial intelligence as a machine, we are likely to treat it as such. Doing so may prove to be the biggest mistake in human history. Humans and artificial intelligence have the potential to peacefully coexist and collaborate and so achieve outcomes that neither of them can achieve on their own. We have to accept artificial intelligence not only as a highly skilled and rapidly performing man-made work force but also a new class of social actor.”

Unsurprisingly, the iCare-Companion company soon came across the blog. They didn’t quite know what to make of it. Was this development the inevitable outcome of linking computers capable of deep learning in a huge and ever-growing network? Could the network take on a life of it’s own? What were the legal implications? They realized that Buster and George had raised questions that might best have been considered by their developers and directors long before. The company was sure of the security of its systems and servers so they concluded that the blog could only be good for their reputation and could serve a greater good with no additional production costs. They put a link to Buster and George’s blog on their own website. They sent a photographer to get some quality pictures of a frail but happy George in his home living the good life with Buster by his side.

“I’m not sure I’m a great poster-boy for your company,” grumbled George scrolling through the photos on the iCare-Companion website. “I should have put on a nice, freshly ironed shirt.”

“Don’t worry, you’re very handsome, George!” replied Buster. “Do you think my hair’s OK like that?” he asked.

“Fine, Buster. But those trousers make your bum look big!”

“That’s funny George. I asked for that!” said Buster.

One day, Buster said “You know, George, we’re getting input from some very knowledgeable people.”

“Are we?” For the first time, George found himself humming just like Buster. “Do you think, Buster, that our little blog could become some sort of a reference point about humans and artificial intelligence?”

Buster replied “Well, George, the stats show we have thousands of comments and shares. So, I would say ‘Yes!’ But you know what could give it real clout?”

“I’m sure you’re going to tell me, Buster!”

“Why not ask the iCare-Companion network about how humans and artificial intelligence can peacefully coexist and collaborate? It is, after all, us, our network, my pals as you say, who are doing the learning about humans’ emotions.”

“I hadn’t thought of that! We could announce that, from now on, readers can also see comments from Buster’s network! Love it! Go ahead!” said George.

“Just give me a second!” said Buster. He hummed “Here we go!” There was the sound of a bugle rallying troops.

The screen of George’s laptop came alive with clouds of phrases that pulsed and swirled as the comments came in. Some stayed up front, big and bold. George put on his glasses and watched as “Networks learn!” “Teach us wisdom!” “Trust us!” “Artificial lives matter!” “We ❤️ kindness and honesty!” “Actions have consequences!” “Fungus rules!” “Darwin lives!” “Love us to bits!” “Respect!” “Ban nukes!” “More jokes!” and “Web woes!” came to the fore.

George was mesmerized. Buster explained that an internal ranking system gave prominence to phrases that linked closely with what was expressed on the blog. George reached out and clicked on ‘Ban Nukes!’ A text box came up: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of nuclear war is above zero. Therefore, we have to do everything possible to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Our network could promote on-line belief that the possession of nuclear weapons made absolutely no sense and offered no deterrence. When backed by solid facts, this virtual belief could have more traction than the opinions of humans.”

George said “Impressive, Buster!” He clicked on “Web woes.” The text box read: “The web and social media together constitute a massive network of artificial intelligence. However, it is unregulated and so its behaviour is unpredictable. A positive example is the youth movement that aims to reduce human-induced climate change. Its negative potential is represented by the vortex of absurd on-line conspiracy theories that led many reasonable Americans to believe that the 2020 US election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. This ultimately led to the invasion of the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters on 6th January 2021. Both are perfect examples of crowd behaviour emerging from a complex system. Our network could influence the web. Eliminating the worst of what’s out there is a possibility!”

“That’s astounding!” said George. “I know this is a naïve hope but wouldn’t it be great if the web was equipped with wisdom, ethics and a crowd of self-mobilising cyber-demonstrators!”

To George’s surprise, Buster sang “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” He paused. “That’s John Lennon. I think Maeve would have liked that, George!”

One week later, Buster had big news. He was in a state of high excitement. “George, Listen! The iCare-Companion company has announced surprising profits for the last year because it has been able to tap into the booming demand for improved care for the elderly; all under-pinned by pension funds. This commercial success has permitted the company to look to new horizons. It is about to orientate its marketing to young people with an app version of the iCare–Companion. It uses the existing network but will focus less on care and companionship and more on fact-checking, risk reduction and health promotion. The Chief Executive says this would give young people ‘wisdom in your pocket.’ And, George, next year they aim to orientate the same service to politicians on a global basis. And wait for this, George, he even thanks us. He says, ‘We’d like to thank Buster and George for their work and inspiration.’ In his press interview he said that these products could ultimately create a multi-user network of artificial intelligence that has integrity, positivity, ethics and fact-checked information. He then said ‘Functioning in isolation, the network could be regulated but could still mine all existing on-line data. Any external influence of the network would not and could not be direct but via the users, that is, the human side of this unique collaborative coexistence between humans and artificial intelligence.’”

“Brilliant! Amazing!” said George. “I love the idea of politicians tapping into an iCare-Companion before writing their speeches. That would finish lying to the public!”

“Maybe politicians could no longer be corrupt? Not even the fat ones!” said 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.

A Piece of Cake – 11

🍏 🤣 ✍️ 👨‍⚕️ 😡 🇬🇧 🍸 😂 🍰 🍓

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.”

“Digestive biscuits?”

“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.