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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Friday, July 26, 2013

The First Superintelligent Boy: A Science Fiction Story

The First Superintelligent Boy: A Science Fiction Story

“Hey freak!” yelled David. “Yeah, I'm talking to you, pickle head.”

Alexander, age 10, knew that he was the object of the boy's taunts. He had been the target of teasing and bullying for years. Many of the boys at his school were merciless in bullying and taunting anyone who was a little different. Alexander was different in a way that anyone could notice. He had a brain much larger than the normal human brain.

This was all because Alexander's parents had agreed to participate in a trial program in genetic engineering. Back in the year 2030, scientists had discovered ways to genetically enhance an embryo so that a child could be born with a much larger brain, and a much greater number of brain cells. The technique was carefully tested on chimpanzees, and the result was a chimp that was smart enough to learn a simple language like Esperanto.

Scientists decided to move very cautiously in using the technique on human beings. They did not know whether the brain enhancement technique might result in side effects such as an early death. So they decided to use the technique on just one child in North America, one child in Europe, and one child in China. The three children would be carefully monitored until they reached the age of twenty. If no problems were detected, the genetic brain enhancement technique could then be used on a much larger set of people.

Alexander's parents had signed up to participate in the program. An ovum or egg cell of Alexander's mother had been surgically removed, and had been genetically enhanced in the laboratory. The ovum was then connected with the genetic material of Alexander's father, through the process of artificial insemination. The fertilized ovum was then surgically implanted back in Alexander's mother. The resulting pregnancy and childbirth were a little more difficult than normal for the mother, but young Alexander had been born very healthy.

The young child was a very quick learner, and learned to read by the age of two. Alexander's parents wanted to put the child in a special school for geniuses. But the scientists in charge of Alexander's program wanted him to attend the regular local school. They said it was important to test how well a superintelligent child could fit in with ordinary children.

But Alexander did not fit in well with the other children. Quite a few of the children made fun of Alexander's strange appearance. Other children resented having such a genius among them. They said it made them feel stupid. David was the child who bullied Alexander the most.

“So, freak, fork over your lunch money, so I can have some extra dessert for lunch,” demanded David near the entrance of the school.

“I feel a tinge of revulsion contemplating the notion of yielding to such intimidation, as I find it to be redolent of extortion,” said Alexander.

“As usual, I can't understand what the hell you are talking about,” said David. “All I know is you better fork over that lunch money, or you're gonna be eating grass.”

Alexander gave him the money. Within a minute Alexander thought of three ways he could raise the missing money from his fellow school children before lunch time.

When lunchtime came at the school cafeteria, Alexander felt uncomfortable as he often did. The cafeteria was a place where someone felt comfortable if he or she had fit into one of the school's social cliques. If you were an athlete, you ate at the jock table. If you were one of the popular kids you ate at a table with the other popular kids. But an oddball like Alexander had no group to fit into. At lunchtime he usually sat by himself, eating as he read.

But the other students would often taunt Alexander at lunchtime, and today the bullying was particularly bad. Some of the children whispered to themselves, and then started to make a little food sculpture. Seven boys each contributed some of their food, and one of them sculpted the food into a strange looking blob. Then a boy named Adam took the food blob over to where Alexander was sitting.

“We have a gift for you,” said Adam loudly. “It's some of the weird food from that strange planet you come from.” Laughter erupted from many of the cafeteria tables. 

“Why don't you go back to that strange alien planet you came from, freak,” said Adam, his words lashing like a whip.

“Actually, I was born in Hoboken, New Jersey,” said Alexander. He endured the bullying and taunting for the rest of the day. He was glad it was the last day of the school year.

When his mother came back from work, Alexander told her about the bullying and taunting.

“I can't stand to be in that school for another year,” said Alexander. “Besides the endless psychological tribulations, the academic payoff for me is miniscule. You've got to switch me to home schooling.”

“But you can't do home schooling,” said Mom. “Your Dad and I have to work during the day.”

Alexander came up with a solution to the problem, and began implementing it over the summer, when his school was closed for summer vacation. Alexander spent long hours in his garage. His mother heard strange noises coming from the garage, and asked Alexander about them. Alexander said it was his surprise, and that he would soon reveal the secret.

One day late in August when his mother came home from work, she saw several robots in her living room.

“Mom, I'd like to introduce you to some hard workers,” said Alexander, pointing with his fingers. “Over there is Mr. Walker, my new math teacher. He just taught me some fascinating calculus theorems. Over there is Miss Feinberg, my new literature teacher. She just helped me get a clearer understanding of the dark depths of Dostoyevsky's novels. Over there is my physics teacher, Mr. Nagel. He's helped me understand some equations I'm using for a paper I'm doing on general relativity. Then finally there's Miss Tooley, whose keen insights on world history are leading me to develop a new theory about cultural cycles.”

Mom stood for a moment, dumbfounded.

“Don't you see, Mom?” asked Alexander. “With these robots I can do home schooling, and stay away from that soul-numbing vale of tears known as P.S. 139.”

“Alexander, how did you think we can pay for these expensive robots?” asked Mom. “These type of robots cost a fortune.”

“Don't worry, Mom,” said Alexander. “They hardly cost anything, because I assembled them from spare parts that I bought quite cheaply. Most of the cost of robots is the software, and we don't have to pay that, because I did myself all the computer programming for their minds.”

“It's quite simple, Mom,” explained the superintelligent Alexander. “I've invented my own teachers.”