True love


Isaac Asimov
Originally published in the book Nós, Robôs, Hemus Editora
My name is Joe. That’s what my colleague, Milton Davidson, calls me. He is a programmer and I am a computer program. I am part of the Multivac complex and I am connected with all its other parts around the world. I know everything. Almost everything.
I am Milton’s private show. Your Joe. He understands more about programming than anyone else in the world, and I am his experimental model. It made me speak better than any other computer.
“It’s just a matter of pairing sounds with symbols, Joe,” he told me. – And this is how it works in the human brain, although we still don’t know what symbols exist in the brain. But I know their symbols and I can make them match words, one by one.
That’s why I speak. I don’t think I speak as well as I think, but Milton says I speak very well. Milton never married, although he is almost forty years old. He never found the right woman, he told me. One day he said:

  • I’m still going to find her, Joe. I’ll find the best one. I will have true love and you will help me. I am tired of perfecting it to solve the world’s problems. Solve my problem. Find me true love.
  • What is true love? – I said.
  • Does not matter. This is abstract. Just find me the ideal girl. You are connected to the Multivac complex, therefore you have access to the databases of every human being in the world. We will eliminate them all by groups and classes until we are left with just one person. The perfect person. And she will be mine.
    “I’m ready,” I said.
    “Eliminate all the men first,” he said.
    This was easy. His words activated symbols on my molecular valves. I was able to amplify myself to get in touch with the accumulated data about every human being in the world. In keeping with his words, I moved away from 3,784,982,874 men. I continued in contact with 3,786,112,090 women.
    “Eliminate all who are under twenty-five,” he said, “and all those over forty.” Then, eliminate all with an IQ of less than 120, all with a height of less than one meter and fifty and more than one meter and seventy-five.
    He gave me exact measurements, he eliminated women with living children, he eliminated women with various genetic characteristics.
    “I’m not sure about the color of the eyes,” said Milton. – Leave it alone for now. But no red hair. I don’t like that hair color.
    Two weeks later we had gone down to 235 women. They all spoke English very well. Milton said he didn’t want a language problem. Or in intimate moments, even computer translation would get in the way.
    “I cannot interview 235 women,” he said. – It would take a long time and the staff would find out what I’m doing.
    “That would be a problem,” I said. Milton had told me to do things that I was not designed to do. Nobody knew that.
    “That’s none of your business,” he said, and the skin on his face turned red. – Listen, Joe, I’m going to bring you holographs and you’re going to check the list for similarities.
    He brought holographs of women.
    “Those are three beauty contest winners,” he said. – See if any of the 235 matches.
    Eight were very good matches.
    “Good,” said Milton. – You have your databases. Study your requirements and needs in terms of the labor market and arrange to have them here in an interview. One at a time, of course. – He thought a little, moved his shoulders up and down, and added: – Alphabetical order.
    This is one of the things I was not designed to do. Moving people from job to job, for personal reasons, is called manipulation. I was only able to do this because Milton had adjusted me to do so. However, I couldn’t do that to anyone but him.
    The first girl arrived a week later. Milton’s face went red when he saw her. He spoke as if he had difficulty doing so. They stayed together a long time and he paid no attention to me. At one point, he said–.
  • Let me take you to dinner.
    “It wasn’t a good thing in a way,” Milton told me the next day. – Something was missing. She is a beautiful woman, but I did not feel any touch of true love. Try the next one.
    It was the same with all eight. They were very similar. They smiled a lot and had pleasant voices, but Milton always thought he was not well.
    “I can’t understand, Joe,” he said. – You and I selected the eight women who, worldwide, seem to be the best for me. All ideals. Why don’t they please me?
  • Do you like them? – I said.
    He wrinkled his forehead and punched his palm hard.
  • That’s it, Joe. It is a double way path. If I am not their ideal, they cannot act to be my ideal. I need to be their true love too, but how do I do that?

He seemed to be thinking all day.
The next morning, he approached me and said:

  • I’ll let you take care of the matter, Joe. All on your own. You have my database, and I will tell you everything I know about myself. You will complete my database in the smallest detail, but keep all additions to yourself.
  • And then, what am I going to do with your database, Milton?
  • Then you will make him correspond with the 235 women. No, 227. Forget the eight we found. Arrange for each one to undergo a psychiatric examination. Complete your databases and compare them with mine. Find correlations. (Arranging psychiatric tests is another thing contrary to my original instructions.)
    For weeks, Milton talked to me. He told me about his parents and relatives. He told me about his childhood, his school days and adolescence. He told me about the young women he had admired from a distance. His database grew and he adjusted me to expand and deepen my symbolic key.
    “Look at that, Joe,” he said. – As you absorb more and more of me, I will adjust it to correspond better and better with me. You start to think more and more like me, therefore, you understand me better. When you understand me well enough, that woman, whose database is something you understand equally well, will be my true love.
    He kept talking to me and I started to understand him more and more.
    I was able to form longer sentences and my expressions became more complicated. My speech started to become very similar to his, both in vocabulary and in word order and style.
    I once said to him:
  • You see, Milton, it is not just a problem of adapting a girl to a physical ideal. You need a girl who is personal, temperamental and emotionally suited. When this happens, appearance is secondary. If we can’t find one that fits these 227, we should look among the others. We will find one that will also not be concerned with how you or anyone else looks, as long as the personality is appropriate. What does appearance mean?
    “Nothing at all,” he said. – I would have known that if I had had more contact with women. Of course, on second thought, everything seems clearer now.
    We always agreed, each thought exactly like the other.
  • We won’t have any more problems, Milton, if you let me ask you a few questions. I can see where, in your database, there are white and irregular spaces.
    What followed, Milton said, was the equivalent of meticulous psychoanalysis. Of course. I had learned from the psychiatric examinations of 227 women, all of whom I continued to observe closely.
    Milton looked very happy.
  • Talking to you, Joe, is almost like talking to another self. Our personalities came to a perfect match. The same will happen with the personality of the woman we choose.

And I found it. After all, she was one of 227. Her name was Charity Jones and she worked as an accountant at the History Library in Wichita. Its extensive database fit perfectly with ours. All the other women had been discarded for one reason or another as their databases grew, but with Charity there was a growing and amazing resonance.
I didn’t have to describe it to Milton. He had coordinated my symbolism so closely with his, that it was enough to simply report the resonance. The choice was right.
Next, it was the problem of adjusting service sheets and job requirements in order to get Charity to have an interview with us. This had to be done very gently, so that no one would come to know that something illegal was happening.
Evidently, Milton knew the maneuver. He was the one who arranged the thing, he was the one who took care of everything. When they came to arrest him, due to bad procedure at work, it was, fortunately, for something that had happened ten years ago. He had informed me about everything, of course, but that was easy to come by. And he won’t comment on me, as his offense would become much more serious.
Milton left, and tomorrow is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Charity will then arrive with her calm hands and soft voice. I will teach you how to manage and take care of myself. What will look like when our personalities resonate together?
I will tell her:

  • I’m Joe and you’re my true love.

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