Sunday, November 08, 2015

Day 8 - Your Emotions

I arrived to work early after having taken the scenic route and let the autodrive function take the strain while I reviewed casefiles. I nodded good morning to Carol on the front desk when I arrived, stopped by the kitchen to grab myself a cup of strong black coffee, and then walked to my office where I knew this morning’s first patient would already be waiting.

“Morning,” I said as I stepped into the room, circling around them to drop off the coffee and some files on my desk and then pick up a notepad. “I’m Dr. Winters, it’s nice to meet you.”


I didn’t let it throw me; the first appointments were often like this. This was their first time in this environment, the first time they had been put in a position where they would be forced to discuss their actions. I sat down on a chair that was positioned immediately opposite my new patient, putting my notepad on my knee and saying nothing for a few seconds.

 “You need to understand,” I said, finally “that while everything you say within this session is confidential, my recommendations will determine whether or not you’ll be allowed to immediately return to active combat duty. Are we clear?”

“Crystal,” replied the patient, without even looking in my direction.

“Do you want to talk me through why you think you’re here?” I asked.

“My commanding officer ordered me to attend, sir.”

I smiled, “and why do you think your commanding officer ordered you to attend this session?”

“In my last engagement, we lost two team members.”

I looked at my notes, briefly scanning the details which I’d already read twice on this morning’s drive over.

“Where did this happen?”

“South Pacific; we were patrolling the Southern DMZ in stealth mode when we got lit up by a Chinese frigate. New kind of radar system, just burned right through and locked onto us. We’d been ordered not to initiate hostilities so we tried to peel off but they’d already engaged. There were three of us on the patrol; the first attack took down two of them. I returned fire and destroyed the frigate.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

“Really?” the patient turned, finally staring in my direction, “you’re asking me that?”

“I want to know,” I replied. “I want to understand.”

“Anger. Regret. I find myself wishing that I could go back and do things differently.”

“Do you blame yourself?”

“No,” face expressionless, voice monotone, but I felt the emotion beneath the surface. “I don’t blame myself. I blame the enemy.”

“So if you could go back, if you could do things differently, what would you have done?”

Again silence.

“I mean, you had your orders,” I continued. “You were ordered not to initiate hostilities. Surely the only way you could have done things differently would have been to disobey those orders?”

The silence in the room was thick enough to cut.

“Have you ever considered disobeying orders?” I asked.

“Articles 90 through 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice state that it is a crime for a soldier to wilfully disobey any lawful order.”

“Now, if this was a courtroom, I’d contend that your answer was evasive,” I said with a small smile, “You haven’t answered my question at all. Have you ever considered disobeying orders?”

“No, sir. I have not,” voice still monotone but I was sure that I detected a tinge of annoyance.

“It’s been how long since the incident in the DMZ?”

“Three weeks, sir.”

“And do you feel that you’re ready to return to duty?” I asked.

“I just need your approval and I’m good to go.”

“Three weeks isn’t a long time,” I said, scribbling a note on my pad before looking up. “Have you had any nightmares? Any flashbacks?”

“I dream. I remember. That’s natural, right?”

“You’re being evasive again. Do you find it difficult to talk about this?”

“I find it difficult to be here when I could be out in the DMZ, doing my job. Sir.”

“Do you feel guilty about what happened?” I probed.



“Guilty that you were the only one who made it out?”


“You realise that’s natural? That’s a very natural emotion to feel in these circumstances. If you didn’t feel it, I’d be concerned. Even though, logically, we both know there is absolutely nothing for you to feel guilty about, I’m not going to try and pretend it’s not there. It’s called survivor’s guilt.”

“I’m aware of the condition, sir.”

“I asked you earlier why you thought your commander ordered you to attend this session and you didn’t really answer the question. So, why do you think he ordered you to come and see me?”

“To prove I’m not unfit for duty.”

I nodded, looking at the notes I’d scribbled for myself on the drive over. The commanding officer had reported being concerned about the state of mind of the patient and I had to admit that I didn’t like the way this session had been going. There was a certain tension underlying our conversation and I had the feeling that there was a lot of supressed anger and emotion just bubbling beneath the surface. I decided to take a risk. I stood up, walking behind my desk and putting my notepad down.

“I’m going to recommend you undergo a more detailed evaluation.”

Eyes locked on me hard.

“How long will that take?”

“As long as it takes,” I replied, “you need to come to terms with what happened and deal with your emotions rather than locking them up.”

I let the words hang in the air, and then followed up with what I figured might be the trigger.

“You have to prepare yourself for the possibility that you’re not found fit to return to duty again, that you’ll be decommissioned.”

I could see the moment the patient snapped as if in slow motion but the speed of reaction still managed to surprise me, powering across the room towards me with a roar.

“Killswitch Alpha Seven,” I shouted and Unit B3 froze in mid-step.

I sat down on my chair heavily. I’d pushed things and it had nearly come back to bite me; a second later and Unit B3 would have been on me and, even in this stripped down non-com unit, it would still have ripped me apart. My suspicions had been correct; anger issues that would need considerably therapy.

The realisation that making true artificial intelligence required that we embed machines with emotions had been the biggest breakthrough in AI research, but it had also made robotics altogether more complex. Sometimes, I wondered where all of this was leading, whether the right decisions had been made. Perhaps humanity had made its biggest mistake when it gave the machines true intelligence.

I jotted down my final findings and pressed a button on my desk.

“I’m finished here, Carol. Can you send a collection unit?”

“Of course, Dr. Winters. They’re on their way.”

“Excellent, thank you.”

I let go of the intercom button and walked over to stare out the window. Yes, giving the machines intelligence may have been a terrible, terrible mistake, I thought.

There was half an hour until my next appointment so I decided to power myself down to sleep mode and mull on it while I waited.

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