Artificial Intelligence

June 23, 2008
By Mike Chen, Pleasanton, CA

December 19

I’m only thirteen, but I have some idea of what the word “ethics” means.

There are dinner table ethics. There are also war ethics. For example, when a country captures enemy soldiers, there are rules to be followed. Those enemy soldiers are treated like guests and must remain unharmed. (We learned about this in social studies.)

So are there parenting ethics? Are there rules that prohibit parents from forcing medical treatments upon their children?

December 29

Even though I know it will help me, it doesn’t feel right. My parents are much older than I, but they don’t understand our generation. I know they just want the best for me. But don’t they care about what I want?

January 15

Joey from math class had his operation last week. He said that it didn’t hurt at all– in fact, they put you to sleep so you don’t even remember what happens to you. He showed me a small bump on the side of his head with pride. “That’s where they made the incision,” he said.

“Do you feel any smarter?” I asked him.

“Not really, but I’m sure the benefits will become more obvious over the long term.”

I observed Joey for the rest of the day. He seemed pretty normal, so I took his word for it. Maybe this was a good idea after all. My parents had scheduled an appointment for this weekend, and for the first time I feel willing to oblige them.

March 10

It has been over three weeks since I had my operation. I feel like my normal self, except that now I’ve become more in tune to the incompetence of others. I won’t condescend, so I choose not to use the word “stupidity” to refer to my peers. “Stupidity” implies permanence, while “incompetence” is transitory. Incompetence can be helped.

We had a group problem set in math today. I let my group members endeavor for the solutions to the problem set, but I couldn’t help but pity them. So I finished the questions all on my own.

April 14

“Cognitive Enhancements: Are They Dangerous For Our Children?”

I saw the headlines on a teleprojector today. There’s always been a lot of controversy surrounding brain implants; even when crude and ubiquitous memory enhancements were introduced to market half a decade ago, pundits raised an outcry against them.

But this presentation was different. Instead of a long, bitter diatribe against the ethics of cognitive enhancements, as I expected from conservative science pundits, the man in the teleprojection was talking about a scientific study he had conducted. After tracking 35 adolescents across the Atlantic seaboard for over 6 months, he had reached the conclusion that “reasoning implants” caused behavioral problems in youth.

I found his presentation quite offensive. But it wasn’t the type of garbage that teleprojecting companies typically project nowadays. This scientist was smart. He had a point. And he was convincing.

That’s why I volunteered myself for his second observational study. Somebody had to prove him wrong.

May 21

The nerve! John Randolph– that’s the name of the neurologist whom I had seen on the teleprojection weeks ago– has contacted every one of my teachers, and they’ve been secretly monitoring me for… how many weeks is it now? As if I am some lab specimen!

I submitted myself to an observational study, but I didn’t sign away all of my rights. I would consider a lawsuit, but I will not deign to quarrel with idiots in our decaying courts of law.

However, I do intend to confront my teachers this week.

May 25

How impudent Ms. Miller was to lecture me about my rights! As if being a social studies teacher gives her the authority to do so, to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong! She ought to feel a sense of humility to teach such an exceptional student.

There is always this sound of jealousy in her voice whenever she speaks to me. She envies that I can reason so effectively and that I can memorize so quickly. She hates how I ace her tests. She feels that her authority is threatened.

I don’t blame her. It was inevitable that this situation would arise. Students like me should be placed in a special curriculum. Give us accelerated classes. Let us do in two years what other students do in four.

So tomorrow, I plan to write and submit a petition to the district superintendent requesting a special curriculum for next year. Maybe Joey and the other students like us will help.

May 27

There was an envelope waiting for me at home today. Inside was a letter from John Randolph, communicating why he had to terminate his observational study of me. He claimed he had all the data he needed to proceed. He thanked me for my cooperation.

His arrogance baffles me. Not even an apology? To think that he would ask my teachers to spy on me– and then brush it off as though nothing had happened– was almost unimaginable.

May 29

I spent most of the day in the school psychiatrist’s office. She tried to suggest that there was something wrong with me, even though I was perfectly fine. No doubt this is a technique that psychiatrists like to employ.

By the end of our session, I was so annoyed that I just went along with her act. Yes, I have noticed a change in my personality, I acquiesced. Yes, I have been irritated by the mannerisms of other people. (Has anyone told you that the way you clear your throat is annoying?) Yes, I have trouble sleeping.

June 1

I’m fed up with my teachers. I’m fed up with the other students at my school. I’ve just about had it with our school district.

They’ve denied our petition for an accelerated curriculum. They hate us and they envy us.

We will go to the media to press our case.

June 2

I was called into the principal’s office today. He told me to stop joking around. This media circus was bad publicity for the school and the district.

He said that threatening teachers was an infraction with grave consequences. He proceeded by threatening me with suspension from school.

I told him that our school had a lot of problems– and surely, the state board of education would be very interested in these problems.

I could tell from the way his face turned white and his finger shook as he pointed at the door that he feared me.

August 21

They are giving us our special curriculum. In fact, there has always been a special curriculum on school campus.

They call it “special education,” tailored to students with learning difficulties.

I bet the principal thinks himself clever for inventing this scheme. Sending me to the psychiatrist’s office as a ploy to “diagnose” me with a behavioral problem… Arranging my visit to his office…

September 2

In my room last night, I could hear my parents talking. They were talking about my surgery. About what a mistake it was to put me through it. I heard my mom say that there was a clinic that offered to take implants out. They are going there tomorrow for a consultation. I suppose all of this is being kept a secret from me.

September 4

I asked my parents why they hadn’t gone to work yesterday. They didn’t give me a straight answer.

Dad was on the phone for almost two hours tonight. I could sense that he was talking to the clinic– it was the way he stepped away from the kitchen table and into his bedroom, the way he furtively closed the doors behind him.

September 5

I confronted my parents about the clinic. I told them that I knew what they were planning. I told them they couldn’t force a treatment upon me against my will.

My dad actually looked a bit sheepish. I could tell that mom had dragged him into all this, that it was her idea to begin with.

But my mom wasn’t going to give up so fast. She gave me a dirty look and said, “that’s nice, honey,” as though I was to go up to my room like an obedient son and finish my homework.

I flashed a fake smile and fingered the reporter’s business card in my pocket. I imagined how delighted he would be to write another scathing story for me.

September 12

The state sent a lawyer to our house today. I answered the door. As he came into the house, he winked at me and told me that the state would protect me.

There was a confrontational tone in my dad’s voice as he asked the lawyer why he was here. The article had come out last Friday. Both of my parents had read it. Naturally, my dad was defensive.

The state reserves the right to remove your child from this household and put him under its care, the lawyer told my dad.

Why? What did we ever do to him? We’re good parents…

I understand, but this isn’t my decision. The state has decided that you can’t force brain surgery on a child. However, this is unchartered territory in law. No situation like this has ever occurred before. I am here to tell you that you can get a lawyer to represent yourself, the lawyer said.

Do you know how much that costs? You filthy rich, good for nothing lawyers, my mother screamed at him.

We are sending a social worker to your house tomorrow to take him away. All this is temporary, until the state evaluates the conditions surrounding this situation. You may visit any time you wish of course, the lawyer explained. He nodded his head and left.

November 8

I haven’t seen my parents for almost a month now. I haven’t been to school either– not since the state took me away. I’m home schooled now, which I find suits me quite well. I can learn at my own pace, and I’m no longer inhibited by my peers or my teachers.

I have high hopes for the future. I’d like to become a scientist, but all subjects come naturally to me. Why not become a renaissance man? I believe that people like me are destined to do great things.


The diary of Jacob Ackerman sheds insight on the mentality of patients who have undergone surgery for cognitive enhancement.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ackerman lost contact with his parents. He moved out of town after finishing school, and by the time he moved back, his parents had vacated the house that he had grown up in.

We traced his work history and found that Mr. Ackerman never remained with the same employer for more than a year. He “resigned” from two jobs. He was fired by three other employers over “incompatibility issues.”

The damaged lives of patients such as Jacob Ackerman provide strong evidence of the adverse side effects of reasoning implants. Patients themselves believe that they are fine, but careful observation by medical professionals often suggest that this is not the case. I strongly recommend that the FDA recall this medical device.

John Randolph

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