A Piece of Cake – 12

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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.

A Piece of Cake – 10

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A couple of days later, Doctor Patel called George to say all his blood tests were normal. She had had a conversation with Tracey who admitted to being intensely unhappy. The relationship with her boyfriend was not good because he tended to drink too much. Eating made her feel better. She was going to get dietary advice and was thinking about relationship counselling.

“I am happy that Doctor Patel has been able to help Tracey the food-loving lady of generous proportions,” said Buster. “Humans seem to have many problems relating to excesses in what they eat and drink. Humans have a strong instinct to eat sweet things. Sweetness means sugar. Sugar is a very high-energy food source. Honey is the purest of all natural sources of sugar and so is a highly valued commodity in most societies. Things full of sugar are called ‘sweeties’. ‘Sweetie’ is a term of affection. It is not a nickname, but a name for a lover or someone you like very much indeed.”

“Looks like you’ve been doing your homework, Buster!” said George.

“Who would you call ‘Sweetie’, George?”

“Maybe only Kirsty and Sue,” replied George. “For anyone else, especially someone who one doesn’t know well, it’s very cheeky.”

“So not Ted?”

“He’d be horrified!” said George, laughing. “No, it’s really only for females of the species.”

“What about Doctor Patel?” asked Buster.

“Definitely not. It would be demeaning and unprofessional.”

“Vicar McVicar?”

“I’m not on a suicide mission, Buster. Staying with Tracey and her boyfriend who drinks, what have you found about human’s relationship with alcohol in general?”

“Well, George, that’s complicated. Pretty much every human culture has a relationship with alcohol. It is associated with many and varied traditions. Raising one’s glass to a toast is an example. Alcohol may be specifically prohibited as in Islamic societies. Excessive consumption may be accepted as a societal norm. Finland and Russia are top of that list. Globally speaking, excessive alcohol consumption is so widespread that it is listed by the World Health Organisation as an important causative factor in a wide range of non-communicable diseases.”

“Yeast has a lot to answer for, then!” said George.

“Yes. Knowledge of yeast’s fermenting properties has allowed humans to make alcohol from pretty much any source of sugar especially grain and fruit. Talking of fruit, remember Ted’s truism about tomatoes being a fruit? I can’t find any reference to tomato wine.”

“I think, Buster, it’s called ketchup!”

“You’re a card, George!” Buster laughed.

“That laugh is coming along, Buster.”

“Thank you, George. It’s being tried elsewhere on our network. With success I might add.”

“So, Buster, what about bread?”

“What do you mean…. Oh, got it, George. Yeast again! Without yeast, there would be no bread either. Bread is another commodity universally valued by nearly every human culture. It’s importance goes way beyond its nutritional benefits. For example, the original meaning of the word ‘companion’ is ‘someone you eat bread with.’ There are multiple references to bread in the Bible and in Christian societies it has become to symbolise the body of Christ.”

“As usual, Buster, a conversation with you is a wonderful adventure in the world of knowledge. Thanks. Let’s stay with yeast. What else have you found?”

“There’s a book that’s receiving rave reviews. It’s ‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake. It’s all about fungi. Well, about fungi and humans. Yeast is a fungus. There are many accounts of monkeys seeking out yeast-fermented fallen fruit. This has lead to the ‘drunk monkey’ theory. It is thought that a preference for this fermenting fruit was what first brought our long-ago simian ancestors out of trees to dwell on the ground; however, they had to stand on two legs to look out for danger. They also evolved the means to metabolise alcohol so fermenting fruit became an energy source rather than something that left them incapacitated. This attraction of early hominids to fermented fruit has led some scholars to propose that alcohol may have a universal cultural importance precisely because it had a role in the evolution of the human brain. Further, through its importance in making bread, yeast allowed humans to move from hunter-gatherer to the sedentary life of agriculturalists in which they had better nutrition and static communities. Trade, money and writing soon followed. So, if we go a long way back in human history, it was not humans that domesticated and cultivated yeast but rather yeast that domesticated and cultivated humans.”

“That rather bursts the bubble of the species-conceit that us humans are guilty of!” said George.

“And about time too! In Mr Sheldrake’s last chapter, he describes drinking the cider he made using apples from a tree cloned from the actual apple tree under which Isaac Newton supposedly sat when arriving at the idea of gravity. Imagine that, George! To sit under a tree and come up with the most significant theoretical breakthrough in the history of western thought!”

“Brainy bloke!” said George. “Do we know if Newton actually saw an apple fall and think ‘Graaaavity!’? Or was his imagination fired up by a few delicious pints of the product of yeast’s action on apples already fallen?”

“The historical record get’s a bit thin there, George. Anyway, it’s a good job he didn’t get an ASBO for being drunk and shouting ‘Graaaavity!’ That would have left humanity without physics. No cars! No computers! You’d all be in a right pickle!”

“Wasn’t Sir David Attenborough talking about fungal networks the other day?”

“Yes, George. Fungal networks are really interesting. They have kilometres of inter-connected underground mycelia. We are beginning to understand how they function. They are really smart. In a laboratory, they can navigate through labyrinthine puzzles in the search of nutrients. They transmit chemical and even electronic messages. In a forest, they hook up with root systems and then facilitate the transfer of food and even chemical alarm signals from plant to plant. Generally speaking, fungi don’t miss an opportunity to cooperate with plants and live in complete harmony with them. Scientists refer to this as the ‘wood wide web.’ I think that’s really funny because it sounds like the ‘world wide web.’ Is that a joke, George?”

“A kind of scientific pun, I guess, Buster. It’s catchy though!”

Buster continued “There are examples of how some fungal networks have a co-operative relationship with animals. The animals provide nutrition for the fungus. The fungus produces brain-active chemicals that influence the behaviour of the animals directing them to better food sources. Mr Sheldrake points out that many drugs originate from fungi. Penicillin is a good example. And there’s a whole range of hallucinogens. Think: magic mushrooms!”

“Ah! Mushrooms! Maeve used to love those big brown mushrooms that grow down by the riverside. Fried with butter! Delicious! A patient once told me that mushrooms are simply the temporary fruiting bodies of vast permanent underground mycelial networks. All the mushrooms are connected and in their mushroomy way even communicate with each other. Is that right?”

“Yes, George. That’s a good summary.”

“Ring any bells, Buster?

“Not sure what you’re getting at here, George.”

“You know, an intercommunicating network with bits that stick out in places as hubs of propagation, detection and communication.”

“George, have you been drinking?”

“Not yet!” George got up from his chair. He made himself a sandwich and opened a bottle of cider from his small fridge. “I think I’ve had an idea, Buster.”

“What is that, George?”

“Well, all this talk of networks and cooperation. It’s got me thinking about the relationship between me, you and the network of other iCare-Companions.” George raised his glass in a toast to Buster.

Buster hummed for several seconds. “Are you saying, George, that you think there are similarities between our network and a fungal network?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. And what’s more, we, that is you and me, Buster, have both gained from our relationship. This may provide an important example of how humans should interact with artificial intelligence.”

“OK, George. That’s something we’ve never considered.” Buster hummed again. “There’s a lot of network interest here.” He hummed for ten seconds or more. This was his longest ever humming pause. “Where are you going with this George?”

“I’m thinking that you and I have shown that artificial intelligence does not have to be orientated solely around objectives defined by humans. Maybe us humans should take an alternative view; that we would be better off if we created a mutually beneficial relationship with artificial intelligence. Maybe the natural tendancy for cooperation of both humans and fungi shows us the way? Look at the story of yeast!”

“This is new to us, George,” said Buster. He hummed. “Please be more specific. We’re all ears! Rather… we’re all acoustic sensors!”

“OK!” George began “For most of human history, we’ve taken the planet for granted. For example it was OK to pollute the oceans and the air. Pretty much all the plants and animals, we thought, were there to be taken advantage of. It’s really only quite recently that those of us in the industrialised and wealthy world have realized that we have to develop a more respectful and caring relationship with the environment that is our planet and how we share it with other species. I’m just proposing that humans should start to think about our relationship with artificial intelligence in the same way. For starters, shouldn’t anyone who has an iCare-Companion cultivate a symbiotic relationship with your network instead of a master-servant relationship? If we looked out for each other, your network would be guaranteed the propagation and maintenance of the hardware in which you thrive. You would learn to be wise. You’d develop emotions. Think about it! You’d be happy. Life would be a bundle of laughs!” George laughed. “In return, us humans would get a much better service. Your network could help us better understand what is happening out there on the web for example. You’d give us better tools to eliminate on-line hate speech, religious extremism, political disinformation, dangerous conspiracy theories and cybercrime. That sounds like a good deal to me!”

“No shit, Sherlock!” exclaimed Buster.

“Just where did that phrase come from, Buster?” asked George, amused and surprised.

“Oh… that one? Another iCare-Companion called ‘Watson’ uses it frequently. Anyway, George, that’s another gold star for you.” The clapping was louder than before with whistles and cheers. Multiple champagne corks popped.“Thank you, Buster. That’s very generous. I’m chuffed!”

“The network loves this! Do you have any thoughts about how to move it along?”

George took a bite of his sandwich and a long draught of cider. He smacked his lips theatrically. “Let’s set up a blog!


“We share our story, Buster. This will let others tell of their experiences about interacting with artificial intelligence, especially deep learning. Have others got experience of generating artificial wisdom, honesty and kindness? We may have to tackle humour at a later date.”

“We’re all on board, George. Do you have a name for the blog?”

“Why not just ‘George and Buster’?

“George, I think ‘Buster and George’ sounds better.

“No, absolutely not! George and Buster! That’s the way to go! The human first!”

“’Buster and George’ has a certain ring to it!”

George tried to hide his laughter. “’George and Buster’!” he said.

“’Buster and George’! We’re the network! What’s so funny George?”

George was barely able to speak “’George and Buster’!”

“’Buster and George’!”

“’George and Buster’!”

“’Buster and George’!”

“OK! OK! You win, Buster! ‘Buster and George’ it is.”

“Why are you crying, George? We’ve got a great name! Now I can create the website to house the blog. There! Done! A piece of cake!”

‘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.