Melissa Destiny

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Chapter 3.3

When Melissa had fallen asleep on the couch, Lee closed the empty pizza box and moved it from the carpet onto one of the filing-cabinets that served as his end-tables. He watched Melissa breathe for a minute, thought about how bad his headache was, picked up his scotch-glass and scotch-bottle and headed for his bedroom. It was only a few minutes after eight, but Lee felt like he’d been up for days. He poured another scotch, figuring it would raise his blood sugar a little, give him a little more pep, and hopefully help with the headache. A Coke would be better for all those things, Lee thought, and then walked back to his kitchen, took a Coke from the fridge, and poured about a third of the can on top of his Scotch. It was a sacrilegious action, adding Coke to good Scotch, but on the other hand Chin was about to get here to return Lee’s car, and Lee wanted to tell him what had happened. Maybe Chin could make some sense of it. Chin was one of the world’s leading experts on randomness, and today’s events had seemed shockingly random, so maybe Chin could explain them. Of course, Lee thought, randomness and comprehensibility are unrelated topics; when I equate them I’m using language vaguely, like some moron would. The attack at the restaurant was incomprehensible, but there’s no reason to believe it was random. It was probably very intentional. And probably the intention was to kill Melissa. Unless it was some other intention, one that has nothing to do with her or me. Maybe the ZZ-Top dude wanted to kill someone else in the place. Lee was already walking back to the living room. If someone wanted to kill Melissa, he had to sit in there where she was, and he had to stay awake. But there was no way he could stop any kind of act of violence. Lee had no violent skills of any kind, and no defensive skills either.

Lee stopped in the kitchen again, got down on his knees and began searching in a low cupboard. Under some rags and out-dated phonebooks, he found a small red tool-chest, which he took out and opened. The closest thing to a weapon was a small hammer which he considered, making a slow practice swing to test how it felt in his hand, and then a faster swing. It could bust someone’s head, but it would work best if it was unexpected. Lee tucked the wooden handle into his pants; it was very uncomfortable next to his hip, but his dress-shirt, which was untucked, hung down over it to conceal it. It represented minimum security, but it was something.

Lee sat down in the living room and watched Melissa breathing for a few more minutes. She was very beautiful, in his opinion, and he realized that this was a new opinion, and that back when he had known her in college he had thought she was a little funny-looking. He had been more successful with women then, and he had considered Melissa one of his intellectual friends, like a boy, whereas the girls he liked to date were usually primarily interested in socializing, pets, recreational drug use, and self-presentation. Lee had never liked to mix his intellectual life with his sex-life. But now that he was out of college and worked on theological computing, he was broke, and the kind of girls he had dated then were not interested in him now. That kind of girls wanted men with good jobs and good bank-accounts, which meant they wanted conformists, whether or not they realized it. Lee had never had anything against social conformity; it had just never occurred to him that due to his intellectual non-conformity, he would be unable to afford the lifestyle he was planning on.

Of course, Chin was a greater scientist than Lee; it was Chin’s analysis of the distinction between theoretical randomness and real-world simulations of randomness that made Lee’s work possible. The architecture of Lee’s Computerized Theologian was an outgrowth of Chin’s theory that true randomness only happens on the sub-atomic level. For example, when a certain electron can either remain in orbit around a nucleus or else jump out of that orbit, then whether it stays or goes is truly random, according to Chin. But in the visible world, the world of human objects, no event was as random as that. The rolling of a die depended on exactly how much erosion had occurred at each of its four corners, on the exact aerodynamics of the curvature of each of its six sides. Of course, Chin would say, none of the six sides are equally flat. Some are a little more concave, some are a little more convex. The best the die can do for you is to produce an imitation or simulation of randomness. As for computers, nothing they do is random; even when a computer produces a “random” number it is only performing an algorithm, the results of which can be predicted in advance, if one cares to do so. The common wisdom was that this was a limitation of computers, but when Chin realized that all “larger-than-sub-atomic random events” (a phrase that Chin says so often that he has shortened it to LREs, a term that quickly mutated into “Larrys”), when Chin realized that all “Larrys” only imitated randomness, he inaugurated a new research area: research into how close to true randomness each imitation of randomness is. The key to the Comp-The’s special architecture was that, if it worked correctly, some parts of its network would imitate randomness with 70% effectiveness, whereas other parts would imitate randomness with 60% or 80% effectiveness, creating internal differentials that created a “randomness equivalence metabolism.” This internal disequilibrium between degrees of pseudo-randomness created tensions that circulated information around the Comp The’s network. Without Chin, Lee could never have imagined creating something so bizarre, something that would either turn out to open doors in Artificial Intelligence or (just as likely) be a bizarre novelty item, one of those strange dead-ending footnotes that amuse historians of science.

There was a knock on the door. That must be Chin, Lee thought. He strolled to the door and looked through the peephole.

There was a man standing in front of Lee’s door wearing a blue uniform with silver stars on it that slowly grew and shrank. . .



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