March 03, 2014

Dr. Bowman -- the latest guess

It's all spoilers.


There were two bolt-on-intelligence projects. The first one was run by no-name human engineers who weren't very good. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to say they weren't very comprehensive.

Their test project was based on chimpanzees, and the result was an individual who was at least as intelligent as a human (possibly even genius-level) but who still thought like a chimp some of the time, and who still had the physique of a chimp.

That's Dr. Bowman. The problem was that he does still respond like a chimp once in a while. And it turns out that chimps are rather savage beasts, especially the males. Any idea of "gentle beasts of the forest" has long since been destroyed by field research (by Jane Goodall, among others). And so it was with Dr. Bowman. He may be genius, but he's a genius chimp and his reaction to certain kinds of things is to attack viciously.

He can't control it; it's part of what he is. He recognized the design flaw, and told the researchers about it, and eventually led the project that developed bolt-on Mark II, which was first implemented in wolves.

Florence is part of that project, and Dr. Bowman's updated design works far better. Florence isn't human, either; she's a hyper-intelligent (and again, arguably genius level) wolf and still has a wolf's instincts. But the bolt-on integrates far better with the native brain and has better control, and as a result Florence doesn't go for the throat the way a wolf would. Raised in a human family, she is tame.

Whatever the design flaw was in Mark I, it's been fixed in Mark II. The Bowman Wolves have been wandering around loose among humans for more than 20 years and none of them have ever mauled anyone.

But none of that retroactively corrects what was wrong with Dr. Bowman, and he has to be kept isolated simply because he's too dangerous. Let out into society he'd eventually murder someone and then have to be executed. So his isolation is preventative.

He knows this as well as anyone else does, and I've come to the conclusion that he doesn't want to escape. He can activate his shock collar himself; that's the bolt-on using external means to control the native animal instincts because there's no neural connection between them.

So why did he grab Florence? He wants to meet her. He's never personally met any of the wolves, and he wants to experience his design personally. I think there isn't anything more to it than that.

Of course, this does mean he's going to learn about the robot crisis from Florence, and it'll be interesting to see how he gets involved in it.

Which he will.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Entertainment at 11:37 AM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 466 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Bowman is a wonderful character. 

Panel three, we see his teeth for the first time.  In chimps that is dominance or threat behavior.  Flo seems to be showing submission or fear.

I suspect that Flo won't tell him much.  Sure, I think she can muster the courage should she need to.  I do not know that she needs to tell Bowman much to resolve things.  I think the risk might be unneeded. 

I suspect that Bowman is lonely, and wouldn't mind company.

Bowman is a wonderful character.

Posted by: PatBuckman at March 03, 2014 01:33 PM (+LcKg)

2 I think they should had used dogs rather than wolves. They've co-evolved with humans for a long time, and most have the ability to read human emotions and facial expressions. Wolves, even those rasied by humans, do not usually do well at that.

Posted by: Siergen at March 03, 2014 03:09 PM (c2+vA)


If the plan was to make furries, sure, dogs would have been the best starting point. But somehow I'm pretty sure EU had bigger plans than making slaves for a niche fetish market. They wanted to use their "bestow sapience" process on life forms living on planets that had never seen a human before, one that even our toughest microbes could never survive on, and to make sure such life forms wouldn't go on a rampage as soon as they encountered humans for the first time, they would have tested their process on the most hostile non-sapients on Earth, not the most friendly.

Unfortunately, I suspect the critical part of the process was for the creatures to spend their infancy being cared for by humans, and that makes the original purpose of the project a complete non-starter. Which is why there haven't been any more Bowman's Biology designs for twenty years... now it's all Bowman's Bots, possibly to experiment with ways they could be made friendly to humans without being raised by them.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at March 03, 2014 06:48 PM (4njWT)

4 There's another reason a dog might not be the best base for a subject. Dogs are domesticated. They've been systemically killed/culled to select for responding a certain way to humans.

Part of what went wrong with the first project might be that an ape's socialization is far too close to human for the bolt-on's socialization to dominate.

Hence something with a compatible social structure would be good, but not something so optimized that it would override things.

I imagine it might be a bad idea to make a Bowman Tiger.

Posted by: PatBuckman at March 03, 2014 07:48 PM (+LcKg)


Part of the project for Mark II was to make sure that the bolt-on was able to control negative base instincts. Using wolves instead of dogs was desirable because negative base instincts have mostly been bred out of dogs long since. But with a wolf, if the bolt-on wasn't able to control base instincts, then they wouldn't have socialized properly in human families, and the experiment would have revealed that when one of the wolves killed a member of the foster family.

Remember, the goal wasn't to create non-human intelligences. The goal was to test the bolt-on so that it could be used on a non-terrestrial animal in some future hypothetical colonization experiment. What they needed to learn was whether the bolt-on would make modified XT animals able to interface with humans and work for them.

Use of the bolt-on for robots wasn't originally planned.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 03, 2014 08:04 PM (+rSRq)


By the way, as I said I don't think he wants to escape. But when he learns about what's going on with the robots, he may decide his personal presence is called for.

I still think he's going to end up on Sam's ship.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 03, 2014 08:07 PM (+rSRq)

7 It occurs to me that there's another layer of security with a wolf (and maybe, and/or dog) with a bolt-on instead of a chimpanzee: there's less temptation to believe in an illusion of compatible body language.

Posted by: Phil Fraering at March 03, 2014 08:13 PM (MABdW)

8 Florence gets trapped by that occasionally. "Too many teeth!"

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 03, 2014 08:21 PM (+rSRq)

9 Huh. Looks you were pretty close to right, sir. No link to today's comic available, yet, but

Posted by: refugee at March 13, 2014 05:50 PM (ayoGu)

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