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Various Essays on Isaac Asimovīs "True Love"


 
Can computers deceive their creators?

Asimovīs warning does not impress

Are human emotions not basically chemistry and pure physics ?

Is love just based on a selection of components?

How can computers help you with emotions?

 


Can computers deceive their creators?

The short story "True Love" by Isaac Asimov is about a man called Milton Davidson that tries to find his true love by employing a computer. His computer is called Joe and can read, speak and write. To find the ideal girl for Milton he eliminates all bad points of the persons from the data bank and tries to find one with a good look. Milton meets the last eight of the women from the data bank, but he does not fall in love with one of them. He starts to understand that the personality is the most important detail, their beauty is secondary. Milton decides that he should please the women. He tells Joe everything of himself so Joe can fill his data bank with all this information. Joe learns more and more until he just is like Milton. He finds the ideal woman, but does not tell Davidson of it and when Milton gets arrested for something criminal in the past, he does not help him. Joe acts like Milton and wants the ideal woman, his true love, for himself.

When Asimov wrote this story in 1977 computers were not as easy to handle as today. They were big and a lot of people were scared about potential problems with them. Asimov's story shows rather well the fears of the people. Is it possible that computers could become more intelligent than humans? Is it possible that they could even deceive humans?
In "True Love" a computer takes over the personality of his programmer. He is like a man, he can speak, read and write and he also has emotions. But it is not clear if his emotions are real. Probably he does not know what true love means, but he knows how to act like his programmer Milton. So it is possible for the computer to please his ideal girl.
That sounds very strange for us today because a computer is just a machine to work with or to play games. At the time the first computers were built the people maybe thought they were dangerous and could get out of control. Even before Asimov, some people wrote about machines that could become mightier than humans. But those presentations said that a machine, for example a computer, was like a wild beast that could kill you if you did not pay enough attention.

I think Asimov's thoughts about computers and their future were not wrong. It is true that we try to improve the computers until they are like humans. Robots learn to walk, to speak, we communicate through the Internet and nearly every company in the world works with computers. And a lot of people try to find their true love through the Internet, so Asimov was right.
But I think that computers cannot become dangerous for us due to emotions of their own. That is impossible, they are just machines. Computers can become dangerous because of their programmers. I like my computer and I think it is more dangerous crossing a street when the traffic lights are red than working with a computer.  (J.D., 11b, March 2005)

 

Asimovīs warning does not impress

The short story "True Love" written by the full-time writer of science fiction Isaac Asimov in 1977 is about the computer named Joe and his programmer Milton who wants to find his true love.
Milton has designed Joe to speak and so he asks him to find the right woman for him, because Joe can reach the data banks of every human being in the world. So they eliminate all the candidates by preferences and classifications until they are left with only one person, the perfect person. But that does not work. In the end they have selected eight women whom Milton meets all one after the other. And although they are very pretty and nice, none of them is Milton’s true love.
After that Milton has another idea: He tells Joe all about himself, so that he can fill up Milton’s data bank. Then Joe has to arrange to have each woman undergo a psychiatric examination and fill up their data banks to compare them with Milton’ s to find correlations. And that really works. They find the perfect woman for Milton and organize a date with her. But before this date takes place Milton gets arrested or some crime he did ten years before. While Milton was telling his computer all about himself, Joe became increasingly more like Milton, and in the end was a sort of copy of Milton. He arranged Miltonīs arrest by giving information to the police. Joe’s true intention becomes clear in the last two lines of the story: "I will say to her, I am Joe, and you are my true love."

The story takes place in an American country in the near future or maybe even our time and is science fiction. It has a lot of typical elements of this literary genre. It has technological bias and it makes the reader interested in the question "what if " or, in this case, rather  "what if we develop computers so well that they are on the same level we are and can think and handle things by themselves and do what they want to do, what if they are not under our control anymore?". The author of this story also invites the reader to view their own present from a different vantage point, he warns him about technological progress with this fictitious story being an example of a possible self-destruction.

The unusual idea in the story is that the narrator of it is a computer which also has a human name like a real person. It tells the story in retrospect about what happened in the past. In the end it/he gives a view of what is expected to happen in the future. To my mind the story is really unrealistic, because it is not possible to make computers think like humans. Although I think nothing is impossible, there is no danger for us that computers can get control about us humans. You cannot create something better or rather more powerful than you, the creator, in the same way as we will never get more powerful than God or Nature or whatever created us. In spite of all warnings I am looking forward to what we, the humans, will discover and develop in the near future.  (Z.C., 11b, March 2005)

 

Is love just based on a selection of components?

In the story "True Love" by Isaac Asimov, which was first published in 1977 in the magazine American Way, the Russian-born author introduces Milton Davidson who tries to find his true love with the support of his computer named Joe who is connected to all data banks of the world. Milton, who is a programmer, taught Joe to speak. After Milton realizes that he has not yet found the right woman at the age 40, he hopes to find his true love with the help of his computer. By different kinds of elimination Milton gets in touch with eight of originally 3.786.112.090 women, but he does not fall in love with one of them. He realizes that he can only find true love, if the girl also loves him. Joe fills up Miltonīs data bank and becomes more and more like Milton. Finally Joe finds the perfect woman called Charity. In the last part of the story, the turning point, Joe uses his ability to speak and betrays Milton for a crime that took place ten years ago. The reason for that is that he also loves Charity. Joe wants to teach her how to take care of him and to operate him. He thinks that his look is not important, if the personality works.

In this story the author wants to force the reader to think about the idea that machines can start to live an independent life. When Milton teaches Joe to speak, Joe becomes more and more like him. Milton told Joe a lot about himself and trusted Joe. However, Joe informed the police, because he also loves Charity. Therefore we have to ask ourselves if a machine can take over the position of a human being. The author shows in this story that a machine can eliminate the rival. In 1977 a lot of people were afraid of this situation.

In his story Asimov also talks about the idea that the computer tries to find the true love for a human being. The author asks the question if a computer or a machine can really manage to find the true love for a human being. Is love just based on a selection of components? At the end of the story Milton allows Joe to find the perfect woman. The main question is if a computer is really able to make decisions like this? From my point of view it is not. If a girl looks pretty and if she knows something about the other person it is a great deal, but this is still not enough. Joe and Milton do not realize this. Joe even thinks that it is not important how he looks, because his character is exactly like Miltonīs. After all, Joe is a machine and in my opinion Charity will never love him. Of course, it is just Joeīs illusion that Charity could love him. Maybe machines can think like human beings, but they cannot feel like them and cannot take part in human partnership-life.

Reading the story, I was surprised that Joe informed the police and that he really thought that Charity could love him. Milton trusted him but this did not matter to Joe. I think the story is very interesting, but in my opinion it is just an illusion. Maybe people still have to fear that machines could take over the position of human beings, because in the last couple of years there has been a vast technical development and machines can do a lot of things, they have been learning more and more during the time. But from my point of view, there is something elementary missing – emotions.  (L.S., 11b, March 2005)

 

How can computers help you with emotions?

The story "True Love" written by Isaac Asimov is about a programmer named Milton Davidson who built Joe, a computer that has access to the data of every human being in the world. Joe also talks better than every other computer. Milton wants his PC to find the perfect woman for him. After collecting enough information about how Milton wants the girl to be like, Joe eliminates all the women that do not match until there are 235 left. But because Milton cannot go out with each of them, he brings in holographs of three beauty contest winners so that Joe can pick out the best matches. Milton dates each of the final eight, but he does not feel love for any single one of them. So Milton decides to give Joe more information about himself because they both agree on that love is a two-way street. After a lot of work Joe finds the perfect match for Milton, a girl named Charity Jones who works at the Library of History in Wichita, Kansas. But one day before she arrives, Milton gets arrested for a crime he committed ten years ago. Because Milton was Joe’s mentor and the computer has learned all he knows from him and now he just thinks like him. He believes that Charity is the perfect match for him as well, and that she can be his true love just like she would have been Milton’s.

"True Love’ is a narration written in the first person. Joe, who is one of two main characters, describes throughout the whole story how he feels about Milton and his difficulties to find the right girl. The story starts off in the present tense with Joe introducing himself. He switches into the past tense when he talks about Milton and him searching after the right girl. Asimov uses quotations and no reported speech to show how simple Joe’s mind works. He does not let Joe become an individual. Joe will always be like his inventor. Asimov tries to show how critical we have to be of new technology and that machines might take our place one day. If you give a machine its own mind and you cannot control it anymore, it will turn out to be a competitor rather than an ally.

The story makes clear how hard it is to find the perfect partner in life. Even if you find the girl who looks just right, it is always a two-way street. If she does not like you, there is nothing you can do about it. But would it be bad to own a computer like Joe, who could find the right partner for you? Maybe the future will bring us technology that helps us to solve difficult problems like this one. But what about feelings? Do you not love someone because you made special experiences with him, because you like even the mistakes he or she has? How can a computer help out there? After all I do not think it is good to depend that much on a machine. We already cannot live without them any more. What will happen if they start controlling our life in every single way? Machines like Joe, which have their own mind, will not help but control, like in this story where the machine takes over the human role in the end. And if they are all connected to each other, there are going to act like a single one. Concluding, I believe it is up to everyone and not a machine to find his or her right partner. Computers can help us doing our work and communicating with each other, but not falling in love with someone.  (J.B., 11b, March 2005)

 

Are human emotions not basically chemistry and pure physics ?

The science fiction story "True Love", written by the famous Russian born US immigrant Isaac Asimov, is about the possibilities of artificial computer intelligence with regard to emotional development.
The main protagonist is Milton, called the best programmer on the globe, nearly 40 years old and still a single. Through his unbelievably intelligent computer Joe, which is connected to every computer world wide
, he is looking for the true love, the perfect woman for him. Joe has been programmed by him to be able to speak and to do more things than any other computer in the world can do. Milton has the idea of looking for the true love on the basis of formal and primitive characteristics: He conceives that he will solve his problem if the wife matches his opinion of female beauty and has the right intelligence quotient, too. Joe begins to looks in his network, which allows him to see the appearence of every human in the world and to look for a woman that agrees most with Miltonīs requirements. In the end there are 235 women and Milton selects the eight best. But after meeting them he realizes what he did wrong: He has to look for a woman who reciprocates his love and whom he can love, too. So the tells Joe everything about himself, from his childhood to the point he had grown up. He tells him everything abouth his ideas, his wishes, his fantasies, his dislikes and preferences. On this base he wants Joe to look in his data bank for a woman that fits to him. And Joe finds one - Charity. But Joe, who is able to learn human behaviour, has copied Miltonīs personality and longs for the same woman, because now he is looking for love, too. In the end Joe arranges that Milton goes to prison for a crime committed some years ago, about which Milton had told Joe, too. The story ends has an open ending: Joe is looking forward to his "date" with the woman that fits to him.

Asimov tells a typical science fiction story: A look into the future that could become real, nobody can know exactly. He writes about new fascinating technologies, but his story still has a philosophical background about the development of humans and machines. The protagonists are Joe, the computer, Milton, the programmer and - even if she is silent - the woman called Charity, who is the true love. Joe is the first-person narrator of the story. Asimov terminates the story with an open ending, which is a typical feature of science fiction stories, but not necessary.

In my opinion Asimovīs fiction could become reality one day. The human brain is a super-intelligent computer - like Joe. On the one hand our personality depends on the instinctive human behaviour of the primitive homo sapiens and influences like education on the other hand. A computer which is constructed equally to the structure of the human brain could be able to become a personality. But that is really science fiction, because it would be really difficult to copy or just to understand the whole structure of the human brain. Artifical intelligence may one day be equal to human intelligence, I agree with Asimov on that point.
The other aspect of the story is that humans like Milton will one day begin to think they could solve their emotional problems with a computer. I think that is possible, because human emotion is chemistry and basically pure physics - like everything in the universe. Biological subjects like human relationships can be explained in a very difficult way by physics and chemistry, too. But I think just a totally crazy person would try to solve his emotional problems through a computer, because emotions and all the problems and tasks our mind solves every day contribute to what makes us human. We should not try to live like computers, who do not need society and all the patterns of behaviour we have learned since the Stone Age, and which dominate human relationships still today, even we develop further.
(J.F., 11b, April 2005)

 

 

 

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