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11:12 NORMAL EEG


"People," Gerhard said, in mock irritation. "They just can't handle machine data." It was true. Machines could handle column after column of numbers. People needed to see patterns. On the other hand, machines were very poor at recognizing patterns. The classic problem was trying to get a machine to differentiate between the letter "B" and the letter "D." A child could do it; it was almost impossible for a machine to look at the two patterns and discern the difference.

"I'll give you a graphic display," Gerhard said. He punched buttons, wiping the screen. After a moment, cross-hatching for a graph appeared, and the points began to blink on.

"Damn," she said when she saw the graph.

"What's the matter?" Gerhard said.

"He's getting more frequent stimulations. He had none for a long time, and then he began to have them every couple of hours. Now it looks like one an hour."

"So?" Gerhard said.

"What does that suggest to you?" she said.

"Nothing in particular."

"It should suggest something quite specific," she said.

"We know that Benson's brain will be interacting with the computer, right?"

"Yes…"

"And that interaction will be a learning pattern of some kind. It's just like a kid with a cookie jar. If you slap the kid's hand every time he reaches for the cookies, pretty soon he won't reach so often. Look." She drew a quick sketch.

"Now," she said, "that's negative reinforcement. The kid reaches, but he gets hurt. So he stops reaching. Eventually he'll quit altogether. Okay?"

"Sure," Gerhard said, "but- "

"Let me finish. If the kid is normal, it works that way. But if the kid is a masochist, it will be very different." She drew another curve.

"Here the kid is reaching more often for the cookies, because he likes getting hit. It should be negative reinforcement, but it's really positive reinforcement. Do you remember Cecil?"

"No," Gerhard said.

On the computer console, a new report appeared:



08:52 NORMAL EEG 11:02 NORMAL EEG | The Terminal Man | 11:22 STIMULATION







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