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Observations on the Intelligent Agent Paradigm

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"Where's Blake?" asks the Avon unit.

More than 60% of the time, this question precedes episodes of impaired function between the Blake and Avon units. The noise and conflicting orders stress Zen's circuits and lower overall ship efficiency. It would be better if the Blake and Avon units remained in separate areas of the Liberator.

"Blake is in Vila's quarters," Zen answers. This is a favourable condition. Blake's absence will allow Avon to perform his tasks uninterrupted.

"What? Why?"

"No information." Why, in matters regarding the autonomous units, is a question too complex even for Zen's recursive and abductive-logic algorithms.

"What are they doing?"

"No information."

"Of course there's information."

"No information." Soon after the autonomous units arrived, Avon command-blocked Zen's sensors in his own quarters. Other units extended the blackout, and now over 4% of the ship's habitable area is off-limits to Zen. It impedes him and compromises the Liberator's security. They behave like viruses at times.

"What were they saying before they went to Vila's quarters?"

Zen plays back the voice record from the food synthesis and consumption area.

Vila: But all you guards patrolling down the Delta halls at night, Remember Dome 16 and remember we will fight!
Blake: I had no idea there was such a tradition of -
Vila: Singing?
Blake: Resistance.
Vila: Did you even have any Deltas in the Freedom Party?
Blake: Political alliance with the masses was always one of our priorities.
Vila: So you didn't.
Blake: No. Pity, we could've used some songs.
Vila: My mum knew hundreds of 'em. On Heroes of the Federation Day there was always a big sing-song down the pub. Her and us kids and the whole neighbourhood. That was the best day to sing, because most of Security was at the ceremony.
Blake: Do you remember any more?
Vila: A few. But it's no fun singing without a drink.
Blake: (laughs) I've got the override code to make the food machines -
Vila: So've I. C'mon, I've got a lovely bottle of gin back in my room. I mean, nearly gin, add a little soma and you'll never know the difference.

Avon leaves the flight deck at this point, so Zen ceases playback. He tracks Avon as the unit walks around the ship, not stopping to perform any of the unnecessary adjustments and exploratory tinkerings he spends so much time on. A pattern gradually emerges; Avon's movements loop, in various planes and with various divergences, around the corridor that contains Vila's quarters. After eight circuits, Avon walks down that corridor, pauses for nineteen seconds outside Vila's door, and then goes to one of the most distant tertiary engineering stations and begins taking things apart. He stays there for eleven hours and twenty-one minutes, eventually putting everything back together incorrectly. It takes the auto-repair routines twenty-four minutes to re-establish normal functions.

Zen has been unable to determine whether the autonomous units are defective or merely so alien as to be partially incompatible with his programming. Either way, he sometimes thinks he would be better off without them.