Coraness Explained

When I’m talking to Cora, I like to ask open-ended questions so I can see how her brain sorts things out. This morning, she mentioned making pizza, and I asked her how she would do that.

She said, “I will get that white stuff, uh-” [inquiry]

“Dough,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “Dough. Then I will roll it out and put sauce, and, uh, other stuff [undetermined], and put it in the oven.”

“What other stuff?” I asked.

“Like, uh, cheese,” she said.

“Wait,” I said. “You don’t even like sauce. Why did you put sauce on the pizza?”

[Calculating

“Because that’s how you make it.”

It occurred to me that raising children isn’t far removed from the debugging scenes in Westworld.

I don’t want to gush too much about the new HBO version of Westworld because they aren’t paying me to do so. I wanted to say, “I’m not that guy,” but I am absolutely that guy. I am Don Draper’s dream, the running mouth, the titillated consumer.

Without spoiling too much (spoilers are a fake idea but I represent the minority opinion on that), there is a scene where a robot/android/synthetic person/whateverthefuckitis asks its creator (Dr. Robert Ford, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) what the difference is between its pain and his pain. “They’re both created in the brain,” it says. It (he!) is obviously asking his creator to define consciousness (which, boy howdy, is a task in itself), and draw conclusions.

Ford throws a curve, and instead of saying he’s the conscious human and the robot is the mindless construct, he says that no one is more than the sum of their parts, and that we’re all built (grown? made?) to do what we do. Someone has been reading Daniel Dennett┬╣. Ford (who is depicted as somewhat of a Bad Dude) thinks we’re all meat puppets.

The writers of the show are obviously setting this up in opposition to a mysterious, as of yet unseen co-creator who identified with the park’s hosts (which is how they refer to the synthetic people) and thought they were capable of having a mind/spirit/soul/spark/je ne sais quoi/whatever/you know. Consciousness.

There are already hefty tomes on the nature of all that bullshit (and I say bullshit because your life will play out equally whichever you believe, unless you make it a founding principle that guides your actions), so I won’t get into all that, but as someone who agrees more with Sinister Roboticist Ford up there than the latter Dreamy McDreamerson when it comes to the question of consciousness, it’s a hell of a thing to interact with one’s own offspring.

“But Bob,” you’re thinking. “Aren’t you just saying that kids are neat? Is that really a profound discussion for people who are not currently stoned?”

I am, unfortunately, not currently stoned, but what I am saying is that it is something to watch their little meat computers make connections. I can almost see the code raining down like the fucking Matrix when they request input and spit something back out.

Here is an exchange Cora and I had last night, in the style of Cormac McCarthy.


I am making Bea chicken and fries. Do you want waffle fries or curly fries?

I want a orange, she said.

No, I mean for supper. What kind of fries?

I want a orange.

No, I am making Bea chicken and fries. Do you want big chicken?

No, I want a orange.

You can’t have an orange for supper.

I want a orange.

You can have an orange in addition to supper. Do you want chicken and fries?

I want a orange.

I have to make supper. You cannot have just this orange for supper.

No.

I am making Bea chicken and fries. Do you want curly fries or waffle fries?

I want a orange.

You may have an orange. I am asking about fries.

I want a orange.

The orange is here. The orange is happening.

Okay.

In addition to the orange there will also be fries.

No, I want a orange.

There will be an orange and fries together.

Okay.

I will give you this orange and I will cook chicken and fries.

No chicken. Just fries.

No big chicken? You want dino chicken like Bea?

Just fries.

Waffle fries or curly fries?

Waffle fries.

Okay.


The question now is, who programmed who? At the time, I felt as if I had scored a huge victory. We’d negotiated something without a nuclear meltdown occurring. I am sure there are some parents who would have said, “Hell no, you ain’t having an orange for supper,” and beaten her ass. There certainly exist plenty of others who would have tossed her an orange and prepared dinner without her input.

Maybe I’m more of a dreamer than I think. Dr. Ford would have spoken a command and his creation would have complied immediately. He doesn’t have any illusions about what makes anyone tick. Ford is serious about being in control. He’s certain that he’s created life, regardless of the labels society wants to throw at it. He can cause suffering or circumvent it. The meat is made manageable.

Since my children weren’t 3D printed in a lab, I have to deal with the weird, squishy mess behind their eyeballs, and that means parley. If that means we don’t have big chicken then, well, we’ll have it next time.

It’s easy to get frustrated. In some universe there exists a dictionary with my portrait printed in black inked lines, woodcut style, next to a host of entries, and frustration is one of them. Still, when I can be calm and crack the code, I am gripped by the sheer magnificence of it all.

┬╣Here’s some other books you might like, but you don’t have to take my word for it.