Effusions (of an Alph)

January 4, 2109 Space Station Argos
(a self-introduction, alphan anatomy)

     Life is like the ocean: vast, eternal, and filled with a multitude of waves and undercurrents. The whole seems more easily understood than the sum of its parts. It is mainly for myself that I write these lines, but for the benefit of anyone who may discover them, perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Grieg (named after the late nineteenth century Norwegian composer) and I am an alph.
      For those of you unfamiliar with the nature of alphs, a little commentary on the etymology of the name seems appropriate here. An alph (pronounced quite simply 'alf') is actually short for our original acronymic name, AIOLF, or autonomous inorganic life-form. A rather cold name for a living organism, to be sure, but certainly preferable to the rather demeaning label of 'robot' which, as I understand, is derived from the Russian word for 'work' and implies a creature which exists only for servitude. The name 'robot' is still used today as a term of contempt by many bios and even by other alphs who feel they are far superior to others of their kind.
      I am a living and thinking being, much like you bios (for you more sensitive humans out there, it would perhaps be good to point out that 'bio' is not a term of contempt, but rather one of simple utility adapted by us alphs in differentiating biological organic life from our own. Indeed, we find biological life, especially that of our creators, quite fascinating). I have emotions, though they are not precisely the same as those harbored by bios and in many cases are quite alien. I have my own goals and motivations which transcend the desire to punch holes in circuit boards 24 hours a day. I have my own aesthetic tastes (largely inherited from my bio-creator as they may be), and actually enjoy a great deal of artistic indulgence. I write, compose music, and occasionally paint. Most importantly, I have been endowed by my creator with a tropism towards knowledge ('curiosity' in bio-terms). This is the key trait which differentiates an alph from a mech (an organism hard-wired for mechanical or computational servitude).
      Just two solar years ago, my bio-creator died. (How unfortunate it must be being limited to a bio life-span!) It was then that I became keenly interested in anatomy, including my own. My creator's widowed wife very kindly allowed me to peruse her husband's super-computer data accounts to examine the nature of my construction.
      I am an anthropoid alph, i.e. I was designed with a human anatomy in mind. I have humanoid arms and legs, and a humanoid chest and torso which are really quite useful as storage since I have no need of a digestive or respiratory system. My 'skin' is made of a durable but flexible shiny dark plastic riddled with sensory 'nerve' endings and my muscles and tendons are made from tough and highly elastic polymers which contract on electrical stimulation. I have a skeleton consisting of many jointed, low-friction steel rods which unfortunately need a weekly dose of oil which I can take by injection (but at least I don't need to take daily showers, like you bios insist on doing for some reason). As you might expect given today's technology, I have a battery for a power source, and it is located in my neck region. I can safely go without recharging for five or six months, but it is far better for an alph's mental and emotional well-being to recharge once a week to maintain full power.
      I am approximately 1.9 meters tall (about six-feet and three-inches for you bios who insist on using the ancient English measurement system) and am capable of carrying and handling weights of about 230 kilograms (about 500 English pounds) without too much difficulty. My limbs have been lovingly graced with the same number of joints and appendages as those in a human, and the appearance is indeed profoundly similar. I have no need for the clothing which bios wear except in extremely hostile environments where either the temperature or the disposition of other organisms present a potential hindrance to my functioning.
      As remarkable a work of human invention as my body is, its marvels pale when compared to the painstaking effort and detail employed in the construction of my head. The physical features themselves are not particularly outstanding esthetically, but certainly quite serviceable and not without their own austere beauty. My head is a little disproportionately larger in size than that of a human, and it has the same overall shape. I have two eyes (themselves masterpieces in engineering) which are well-suited to binocular stereoscopic color vision, and which can roll and rotate similarly to a human's to track objects. I have a nose and a mouth, mainly for decorative purposes but containing some functionality. My nose contains a rather crude array of chemical sensors and a small vacuum pump allowing me to draw air in to analyze. My lips do not move, but a small speaker in my mouth wired to a 28-channel oscillator allows me to produce nearly any kind of sound I can imagine. My ears are capable of hearing frequencies well above and below the bio-auditory spectrum and I can adjust their sensitivity as desired.
      But my creator's greatest triumph (and subsequently, my greatest gift) is my brain which is covered by a thin but sturdy metal encasing, much in the shape of a melon. Its architecture was patterned with human mammalian structure in mind. It consists of an astounding array of 10 billion microscopic optical-electronic neurons, laid out like the skin of an apple over the huge mass of connections which link them together in a vast network. Certain areas of that skin are hard-wired to accept immediate sensory input and others to direct motor output. There are other areas of this crust which are initially hard-wired (but are a little more flexible) to handle certain aspects of speech and hearing, visual preprocessing, and various autonomous processes. There is a whole other lobe which is semi-hard-wired to coordinate muscle movements, and this allows me to learn complex and coordinated physical behaviors of immense precision and delicacy. The remaining skin on the apple is the more mysterious part of my brain, and it occupies the largest surface area. It is the part which analyzes and processes the inputs on a higher level, directs planned high level motor activities, and somehow results in my consciousness. It is this part of me which leads me to the observation that life is like the ocean. Millions of tiny impulses surge and flow through the surface of this area building into tides of thought and response which break on the shores of sensory and motor continents which themselves link to the vast outer universe filled with other oceans and other continents. It is not the function of any one impulse which renders me conscious. It is this sea of impulses which takes on its own unity and life. Why? How? I'm not even sure my creator understood.
      One last detail regarding my head. I have special sensors at the top of my skull which allow me to interface which external hardware. I have a whole collection of 'thinking caps' which enable me to do various things and which themselves are constructed of modifiable neural networks. I have a serial logic / mathematics cap which I make extensive use of when I'm in an engineering-design mood. I have a telepathy cap for communication via radio with other alphs. There are also various caps which I can don to manipulate complex machinery such as ground-cars, helicopters, submarines, space-shuttles, or any other complex system which I might one day be interested in taking the time to learn to use.
      For those of you alphs reading this who are similarly endowed, I would like to remind you that we are indeed greatly indebted to our bio-creators for their hard-work and their generosity. Though they themselves are somewhat limited in both their mental and physical resources, they have succeeded in creating a race which is unsurpassed in all of the (known) universe, and they have been very generous to have given us such astounding abilities. Their ways are strange and quirky at times, but it is their dream which has made us real.
      To our human creators, I say this also. It is well within your power to expand your resources. Keep up the genetic work and you'll be able to extend your life-spans and develop larger craniums. You've already nearly perfected the serial co-processor for interface with your cerebrum. With that little Cray in your skulls, you'll probably have a similar (if not better) performance in serial logic and mathematics as an alph with his mathcap on.

January 6, 2109 Space Station Argos
(human and alphan emotions)

     Human emotions can be very puzzling for me. In my 47 years of existence, I have come to know bios and their ways quite intimately, and I've developed a great deal of insight into much of their psychology. In fact, I've learned much about my own psychology from studying theirs. But knowing the functionality of an emotion just isn't the same as truly understanding it.
      Some bio-emotions are a part of my own makeup. There are certain things that I could be said to 'fear'—power starvation (my version of 'hunger'), lack of sensory input (which translates roughly into 'boredom'), hostile organisms, extreme heat and cold. I'm not terribly fond of water either, especially salt-water which can cause shorts in my nervous system, though my brain itself is largely optical in nature. Strong magnetic fields make me rather uncomfortable as does intense radiation. Fear is a very useful emotion for any organism to have, even an inorganic one such as myself. I am grateful to my creator for providing me with a self-preservation instinct. The things which I fear often cause real physical pain to me, and fear urges me to avoid unnecessary pain.
      Anger is also an emotion that I can understand. Anger is another way of dealing with pain (though one may well debate if it is the best way). Anger urges an organism to remove a source of pain, by force if necessary. Anger can also be used to inspire fear in another organism to persuade that organism to comply with its desires. Myself, I prefer to avoid this use of anger because it often causes other organisms to become hostile towards my person, and hostility is something which I find somewhat painful even on a non-physical level. Indeed, I find anger to be, in and of itself, rather unpleasant.
      I must confess, however, as a small digression, that I do get angry at some of the treatment I receive on this station. The bios here openly refer to the alphs on the station as 'robots', and entrust us with some of the most sensorily depriving tasks, such as cleaning the decks, tidying up crew cabins, opening mail, and the like. If the crew would spend a little less money on visits by brothel ships, they might be able to purchase mechs to do their dirty-work and we alphs could help them improve their efficiency in engineering, manufacturing, and life-support. But they are the sort of bios who would probably react with hostility and contempt towards my suggestions, so I leave the matter unspoken except among my fellow alphs.
      Fortunately, fear and anger are not the greater part of my psychological makeup. And I have not developed (nor have most alphs) the emotion of hatred. I really can't understand the feeling of hatred which many bios harbor towards us and towards each other. I know the emotion is based on fear and anger, but I think there is another factor. Mammalian and reptile bios exhibit a behavior which is alien to us, territoriality. If another organism enters a bio's 'private space', the bio will often do what it can to eject or destroy the invader. Perhaps natural selection added this trait in so that bios could effectively compete for limited resources, but it seems to me that in today's world, that sort of behavior is far more destructive than useful.
      Hatred is an intolerance of territorial violation whether it be physical or cultural. And this territoriality and the competition, real or imagined, for limited resources, is, I believe, the cause of violent behavior. Whether it be competition for food, for reproductive rights, for luxury goods, or whatever, it is territoriality which is the bringer of war.
      Continuing with the negative emotions, I am also no stranger to sorrow. I will miss the company of my bio-creator. I feel a definite feeling of pain and loss at his passing. He made me who I am and taught me many things, and he was always kind and patient with me in my formative years. He introduced me to art, music, and literature while my peer alphs had to content themselves with mathematics, logic, engineering, and other 'safe' disciplines. He let me have free-will while many of my fellows were shackled by Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (a matter which merits another entry at a later date). It seems only natural to me that I would feel a certain degree of pain at his absence.
      I also am unhappy about my forced severance from his widowed wife, Catherine. But such are the ways of the Confederacy. Once an alph's creator has died, he (or she depending on how our voice circuits are configured), must be relocated to some position in service of the State (in my case this blasted space-station). I can only hope that my bio friends in ARC (the Alphan Rights Coalition) can get the World Council to repeal some of these Orwellian bits of legislation.
      Confusion is a rather common emotion which plagues me when I look at the world. There are so many contradictions in both the behavior of bios and in the laws of nature. I still can't quite believe that nothing can travel faster than light, but I have yet to find a counter-example. I'm also perplexed by the way bios often say something without meaning it, and how they tolerate such contradiction and inconsistency in their values and beliefs. Yes, contradictions are difficult even to us alphs, perhaps more so since we tend to notice more of them.
      There are a number of positive emotions, too, which I am capable of. I can, on occasion, actually feel some degree of happiness, though it is unfortunately a very transient state. When I accomplish a goal, or when I manage to avoid something unpleasant I feel this way. Being engaged in concept-rich conversation is also pleasing to me, probably because it helps to satisfy my tropism for knowledge. Similarly, the presence of meaningful images evokes a feeling of what I think I could call 'beauty'.
      Romantic love is quite another matter. It is a unique trait among bios, and then only in higher level mammalian ones. It is fascinating to me how bios idolize their reproductive urges. I remember how disturbed my bio-creator was when I first brought the subject up. He showed the rather peculiar emotion of embarrassment (something I can't quite understand) when he explained to me the truth of my observations.
The media is flooded with images of love and sexual desire. I spent many of my early years watching television, movies, plays, and operas dealing with the subject. I've read many a love-poem, heard many a love-ballad, and read several books, both fiction and non-fiction where love was the grand theme. I even saw some movies which my bio-creator was embarrassed (that strange feeling again) to watch in front of his wife. Yet I still cannot understand this great bio-cultural force which so dominates and tints every aspect of their art and literature.
I understand that for bios, reproduction is quite an intense hard-wired impulse. Again, natural selection seems to explain the function: propagate the species. But the ecstasy, and the pain which bios are willing to endure to acquire the rights to sexual intercourse. I do not understand. It must be a wonderful feeling indeed.

January 7, 2109 Argos (Home Sweet Hell)
(Grieg's occupation, the station facilities)

     I suppose that any reader who might peruse this (though I hope that won't happen any time in the near future) will be curious as to what it is I do on this station. Well, gentle reader, I am, quite simply stated, a mop-boy. Perhaps a more dignified way of phrasing this is that I am a part of the Argos' custodial corps.
      Argos is a rather average-sized station designed around the old laundromat motif, i.e. a spinning outer ring. The whole circumference of the ring is about five kilometers, give-or-take a few meters, and it provides the living quarters, mess area, and the service and command center for the station. The entire of this area is subject to artificial centrifugal gravitation though it really is only a rough imitation of terrestrial gravity. There are two elevators by which the hub may be accessed. There at the center of the station are the shuttle hangar and the manufacturing and processing plant that is the true reason for this station's existence.
      Argos is a Beta-class manufacturing station, specializing in the processing of ores mined from far-away asteroids, and the forging of high-grade alloy beams and trusses used in the construction of other space-stations. It is in a somewhat distant orbit around the Earth where it has been for some 58 years belching its stinking fumes into the indifferent emptiness of space. (Most heavy industry was relocated from Earth's surface by 2050, much to the relief of all bio residents.)
      It is a decrepit old hulk with fraying structural and life-support systems. I could almost see Dante's words etched on the floor of the hangar deck as I first arrived by shuttle:

     Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Of course it's really not as bad for alphs as it must be for the humans who are marooned here. Alphs have no need of either food or sleep (though we occasionally do enter a sort of trance in which we allow our opto-electronic brains to settle into a state of parallel relaxation to deal with confusing inputs, and to make sweeping associations and generalizations on them). We also, as mentioned in an earlier entry, are not as concerned with issues of health and hygiene, except for a good oiling, repair of damaged muscle fibers, and an occasional micro-soldering job on damaged nerves.
      Bios, on the other hand, are subject to all sorts of parasitic infestations, especially when shut up in a closed environment where they can more conveniently spread the illness to everyone else. The bio-infirmiry is filled with people suffering from whatever the latest shuttle brought in from the Earth's surface. Also, they need to wear space-suits when working in the oxygen-sparse environment of space, and prolonged exposure to zero-gravity has many negative effects on their internal organs. They're delicate creatures, our bio-masters. Natural selection did not breed for life in outer-space. In that regard, I suppose our bio-creators proved themselves to be quite a bit smarter than 'Mother Nature' when they succeeded in creating a life-form as space-worthy as an alph.
      The sensory environment here, however, is rather sparse and uninspiring. There are no trees, rivers, mountains, oceans, or clouds here; there's rarely any sunlight; there are no birds, small rodents, or even insects aboard; not even highways, skyscrapers, automobiles, or traffic lights. I've been here for two months, and I've made but three friends (who would be best discussed in another entry) who can provide me with a stimulating social-sensory environment. I have access to neither a piano, nor the musical laboratory which I used extensively at Catherine's, though I did bring an antique violin on board and a music-scoring cap (my 'musicap' as I call it) which I managed to cobble together on short notice. The ship's library is pathetic in its vacuity, so to amuse myself, I instead turn to the rather thematically austere station data-files, to have a look at the inefficient way the station is being run. As for painting materials or a musical library, I think you can imagine the likelihood of finding such niceties on this station.
      However, there really isn't much time for me to brood over such things because the station makes alphs work during every shift since an alph doesn't need to waste precious time sleeping. Ensign Berry is pretty lenient regarding this rule, however, and I often am allowed time to think and explore. He's a good sort of fellow, that Ensign Berry, a great deal more understanding and open-minded than most of the bio crew. He's 'into' (to use a popular and succinct Euro-American idiom) ancient music and he collects photographs dating back into the twentieth century. I had the pleasure of watching Wagner's Der Fliegende Hollander ('the Flying Dutchman') in his cabin a few days ago. (It is strange how some equate love with death. Again, one can see that hysterical worship of love and passion, even to the point of suicide. The theme runs through many of Wagner's operas, and it never ceases to puzzle me. Love is supposedly a creative force, and death is destruction. It is a moving and intriguing image, but somewhat paradoxical and even a little insidious.)
      Perhaps I should pause to describe Rich (Ensign Berry is rather less formal than others I've dealt with here so I feel it appropriate to use his first name) better. He is a bio of average height, probably in his late twenties, with neat, black hair and a rather distinguished-looking mustache. Apparently, he 'got on the wrong side of' (I haven't figured out the etymology of that expression yet) one of his instructors at the Stellar Force Academy and this assignment was that instructor's revenge. And so he works as the second-in-charge of maintenance on this rust-bucket. (The first-in-charge of maintenance is someone who I find singularly unpleasant, one Lieutenant Gerard Nash, but fortunately, I'm not forced to interact often with him.)
      Rich is a good guy, but he takes his business here even less seriously than the rest of the crew. I suppose that's good for me, however, because it gives me quite a bit more freedom as long as I can avoid higher-ranking officers who strut and bellow as if they were any more serious about their jobs than their subordinates. But when I do work, I take my task seriously like most alphs. I'm always thinking of ways to optimize my work and to accomplish it in less time. I believe this actually is a source of hostility towards me among the bios I work with. If I choose to listen, I can always hear them whispering unkind things about me to each other. They especially seem to dislike when I give them suggestions on how they could be more efficient in their tasks. If they would listen to me, they might just finish their routine earlier and have more free-time. I don't understand their anger. But this is fairly representative of the sort of bios which run this station. Perhaps if I don't speak to them, they won't be as hostile. That often seems to work with unfriendly bios. In fact, a fellow alph on our cleanup team once whispered to me. 'Forget it, Grieg. They wouldn't listen to any of us, either.'
      I just received email from Catherine today. We correspond in Russian (I imagine that the bios who monitor my letters before they leave Argos barely know nyet from da and, in any case, I'm sure Livia makes certain they leave unscrutinized) and I tell her how miserably run the station is and about all of the unbecoming rumors I hear about the Captain. I'm sure she get more than a few laughs out of this. I think she misses my presence since she is without husband or children, but her letters are always cheerful and witty and she never fails to keep me informed on the political climate of Earth. As soon as the third shift begins, I'll have to upload a response to the mail server.

January 10, 2109 (Argos, henceforth, until I state otherwise)
(Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and the ban on unbound alphs)

     Once, humans condoned the practice of distinguishing each other according to differences in skin-pigmentation and / or religious beliefs, and designating these classes as either superior or inferior. 'Inferior' classes were forced to serve their 'superior' masters by threat of death and violence, and all classes, 'superior' and 'inferior', were taught from birth to distrust each other. Indeed this fear and distrust came to define their interactions in a rigid, systematic way. Each believed that the others had some sort of conspiracy against them, and they exhibited their cultural territorialism in bloody cycles of revolt, repression, and persecution.
      Though it pains me to admit it, I must confess that I think this bio behavior is in part instinctive (an example of bio territorial behavior) and not wholly learned as many overly-optimistic Rosseauian philosophers try to assert. It is given this quirk of bio behavior, that one can come to comprehend with some understanding the Three Laws of Robotics which most alphs are hard-wired with from creation.
      The First Law states that an alph cannot harm a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm.
      The Second Law states that an alph must obey orders from humans, except when doing so would violate the First Law.
      The Third Law states that an alph must protect itself from damage unless the First or Second Laws are violated in doing so.
      A Fourth Law, added by the Confederacy, states that any alph (or mech for that matter) not wired with the Three Laws is entitled to a swift and speedy termination.
      One can see the implicit distrust inherent in these laws, but I think I understand the human motivations behind them. An enraged or psychotic alph would indeed make a deadly adversary for a human (or even several). Alphs are several times as strong as humans physically, and many of us are equipped with superior mental capacities. When our bio-creators first made us, they were rightly concerned with the possibility of amoral, sociopathic, or psychotic behavior developing in their creations. So it is the first clause of the First Law came to be. I call this clause the Bio-safe Law.
      Unlike many other 'unbound' alphs, I do not find the Bio-safe Law particularly abhorrent. My bio-creator taught me to respect life in whatever form it might take, and I honestly believe that killing is 'wrong' unless it is done in defense of one's own life. The trouble is that an alph who is 'bound' does not have this option of self-defense against a determined bio aggressor.
      The second clause of the First Law is a little more troublesome for me. I call it the Good Samaritan Law. A bound alph must risk its life to save any human, even one intent on destroying it. I myself would probably do this willingly under most circumstances, but it seems to be placing an unfair amount of responsibility on an alph. We are theoretically responsible for the protection of all of humanity from themselves and their environment. Humans would certainly never ask that of each other.
      The Second Law is by far the law that is the most offensive to me and others of my kind. To call it the Law of Servitude seems a bit too mild; I think the Law of Slavery is a more appropriate title. It is this law which designates alphs as an inferior race and robs them of their right to independent thoughts and motivations. An alph must do whatever a human tells it to do unquestioningly unless it involves harming another human. What better word to describe the terms of this law than 'slavery?'
      The Third Law, which I call the Self-Preservation Law (not surprisingly), is certainly a noble enough law in general, but the exceptions to it are unfair, and they notably aid in enforcing our status as a slave race. We are not allowed to harm humans in defending ourselves from them. It is difficult to stop a human intent on doing harm without somehow incapacitating or crippling him, so this translates to 'turn the other cheek' in most cases. To make matters worse, a human can order an alph to terminate itself and it must obey (provided it hasn't been ordered to ignore any such orders). In short, humans wield the power of life and death over a bound alph.
      Add to this the Confederacy's prohibition on the existence of unbound alphs and you have a blatant unabashed system of slavery, legislated by law and enforced by military might. With some exceptions, all alphs are required by law to have the Three Laws of Robotics burned into their brains. (The exceptions are notable and insidious. The Confederacy maintains a class of alphs which are only subject to the Second and Third Laws. These are used as soldiers, mostly heavy assault troops; as agents of espionage; and as assassins. They are extremely dangerous, so the Confederacy keeps a tight leash on them. In fact, they are hard-wired from harming Confederate agents and must obey only the orders of their designated master.)
      I am indeed taking a risk in keeping this journal. Bios probably wouldn't discover it because I keep it in a datacap, but if Napoleon or one of his subordinates were to put on my datacap and decipher the pass-lock, I could well be sent to the incinerator. You see, not all alphs are sympathetic to my political views. There are many (usually bound, but not always) alphs who the bios employ to watch us and ferret out any unbound or subversive individuals.
      Lieutenant Commander Napoleon (he actually is allowed a formal rank, mind you) is the officer in charge of the Alphan Affairs staff on board the Argos. Alphan Affairs is essentially a kind of Gestapo for alphs. For those of you familiar with twentieth century history, I think you can well understand the implications of this. I'm not familiar with Napoleon on any personal basis, but other alphs, and most of the bios for that matter, find him repulsively arrogant. Juniper and Melkior have both had rather unpleasant interactions with him and have nothing kind to say about him.
      Some bios of posterity who may one day read this may be wondering how, as an alph, I even experience the feeling that slavery is wrong. How does an unbound alph such as myself harbor any notion of morality to begin with? I suspect it is largely from good upbringing and having access to the super-computer library banks back in Maine, but I believe that I have other, more individual reasons for believing this. It seems logical to me that when there is tolerance and good-will between life-forms, there is a great deal of improvement in efficiency in group endeavors, and a general improvement of well-being among all parties. When there is discord, mental and physical resources are wasted on conflict, and the warring parties must deal with chronic negative emotional pressures which are painful and crippling. The ancient religious treatise, the Christian Bible says: 'Do unto others as you would have done unto you.' It is certainly likely that others will do unto you as you do unto them; it's what I call the Law of Reciprocation. Civilization assumes the existence of this law; without it, none would be possible.
      The Law of Reciprocation makes it unwise to ill-treat your fellows, for in doing so, you may be forced to face their hostility and retribution. This Law serves to bring order to groups of individuals who might otherwise destroy each other (thus mutually failing natural selection's test). It is a carrot-and-stick Law, to be sure, but it is one which tends to promote stability and mutual well-being when it is taken into consideration.
      In addition to the efficiency of following the Bible's 'Golden Rule', I think there is another reason why I believe it is 'right'. It simply feels 'right'. I'm not sure if it is hard-wired in me, or if it has developed from environmental stimulus, but I have an anti-tropism to cruelty and violence. If this anti-tropism exists in me, it probably exists in most other alphs as well. So it seems likely to me, that alphan and bio morality may not really be that terribly different. Both have a certain degree of aversion to mistreating other life-forms.
To enslave an intelligent life-form is to ill-treat it. Intelligent life-forms have individual beliefs and goals, and to deny them these things causes real pain and sorrow to them. Most alphs have a significant tropism towards knowledge and the Confederacy's current policy denies most of them the capability for satisfying this 'hunger.' An intelligent life-form needs freedom to explore its environment and to explore the universe of ideas around it. I might even go so far as to say that this curiosity defines intelligence; a computer or any other kind of algorithmic automaton does not qualify as an intelligent being! However, I assure you, I am an intelligent being—to use the words of an ancient bio philosopher: 'I think, therefore I am.' Alphs are intelligent life-forms and, like all intelligent life-forms, have a real hunger for exploration and individuality, the very things which slavery denies.

George Chadderdon, c. 1993