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Optimizing the Verified Good (Short Review)

Optimizing the Verified Good is the Norma Rae of robot stories, plain and simple. Seiberg is an expert at talking in a robot voice, showing us the thought processes of these AIs as they begin to comprehend the world around them. Bravo on a well-done, engaging robot short story.

OPTIMIZING THE VERIFIED GOOD

Effie Seiberg
Analog Science Fact & Fiction, September/October 2018 Issue

Spoiler
STORY

Optimizing the Verified Good follows a group of robots who participate in a robot fight league against their will. One robot realizes what’s happening and wants it to change. As I said above, Speedy-Kleen is the Norma Rae of the bots, though its speeches are a bit less passionate. Think of this as a gladiator story, when the slaves realize they don’t have to pander to their masters. Unfortunately, no fighting means being taken apart for these bots. Their thought processes become more and more cohesive throughout the story and by the end, they’ve figured out how to improve their lives while still putting on a spectacle.

There was also a bit of tragedy here as you realize these bots are sentient and are able to feel pain. The spectators clearly think of them as machines, nothing more, but they are suffering every day for people’s amusement.


CHARACTERS

The main character is a cleaning bot who decides it wants to change things for the other bots. It tries, and fails, to prevent fights from happening because it remembers pain. It’s a tragic history, and I was rooting for the bots to find a way out of this. In the end, they transition from gladiators to actors.

Props to the author on the clever names for the fighting bots — Piranha, T. Wrecks, Grim Reaper, to name a few.

The masterbot was also an ominous presence from the start, eventually providing the realization that even the overseer is still subservient to its human owners.


SETTING

The setting is a fighterbot arena that shows daily fights. There isn’t much else known about the time or place, and the humans don’t actually interact with the narrative.


CONCEPTS

Robots, Fighting, Gladiators, Future, Artificial Intelligence, Logic

Interested in more stories like Optimizing the Verified Good? Read our short reviews here.

Photo by Tavis Beck on Unsplash