Sunday, December 2, 2007

Larry Niven's "Intent to Deceive": Robots go bonkers because of a software bug!

Quote from Intent to Deceive aka The Deceivers by Larry NivenWell - actually this humorous tale doesn't mention software bug. But if you are a programmer, you will know.

A reference to society of "The Jigsaw Man" suggests this story is a sequel, though it is quite independent.

Title comes from laws banning misleading advertising in this future society. I failed to figure out how it really relates to the story.

Story summary.

It's told as a frame story - by Lucas Garnet, 174 years old, to Lloyd Masney, half Lucas age. In a fully automated robots-where-you-expect-humans restaurant called Red Planet. Lucas, the narrator is uncomfortable in a no-humans restaurant, & tells a personal experience from "around 2025" with very early versions of such restaurants - that is the main story. Near end, Lucas tells us he had made up the main story. But made up or not, that is the main story.

Lucas & a friend Dreamer Glass visited a then new all-automated restaurant called Herr Ober. "The only human beings involved were the maintenance crew, & they only showed up once a week. Everything else ... was machinery."

And something went wrong with their order. "I must have typed wrong... I wanted two lunches, but the damn thing is bringing us two lunches each"! Unfortunately, the robot waiter kept bring two more lunches every time they finished! No chance to ask for bill! Cannot figure out how to complain to manager. And "The payment counter wouldn't let me by. There was a barrier. I tried to give it some money, but nothing happened. When I tried to go over the barrier, I got an electric shock!"

Major racket, because this order had somehow messed up other patrons orders too. Attempt to overpower a waiter would win you an electric shock & reprimand that robots are expensive!

They finally were able to get out when it was closing time, by paying huge sums. With several hurt, & Dreamer dead.

Fact sheet.

"Intent to Deceive" aka "The Deceivers", short story, review
First published: Galaxy Magazine, April 1968.
Rating: B
Series: "The Jigsaw Man" (A), "Intent to Deceive", "Cloak of Anarchy" (B).