The Cirrus T-80 taxied to the hangar and only briefly paused to wait for the hangar door to open for it. Then we taxied into the hangar and the doors immediately started to close off our view of a very cold valley. Instead of entering the freight section of the plane again we exited from the cabin down a short flight of stairs that was part of the plane’s built-in debarking equipment. Once on the hangar floor I noticed the temperature was not more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Our hosts pointed to a large steel door and we followed them into a very large elevator. You don’t see twenty meters by twenty meters elevators very often. Even the ceiling was ten meters high. From there we descended at least sixty meters down until the doors opened up on a large storage room. There was everything you could think of. Industrial size 3D printers, foodstuffs, tanks of oxygen, nitrogen, and other rare gases, and many other crates of items I could not guess at lined the walls and large industrial shelves. Waiting for us was a small electric vehicle that we all piled into. Sir Terrance told the vehicle to take us to his quarters. We zoomed off to the other end of the large storage room to another elevator that took us still in the vehicle to another floor that must have been another thirty meters down. When the doors opened the interior was slick and modern. The vehicle took off again down a large hall and stopped at a door that only had a room number of 117. At this point Dr. Larson walked down the hall and disappeared into another doorway.
The door automatically opened for the rest of us and we all entered what looked like a reception area where we were greeted by a GAIC unit that looked very feminine. We proceeded through another set of doors and were in what looked like a combination living room and research lab. The Princess did not say a word but walked to a copper colored door and disappeared. Sir Terrance motioned for me to take a seat and he also entered another set of copper colored doors. Frank mumbled, “I wonder what they are up to now? Probably getting dressed to dissect me.” A moment later, the Princess reappeared and motioned Frank over to her.
“Frank, I bet you could use a restroom break. Come use this one because there aren’t too many of them at the lab. Mostly robots here.”
Frank gave her a smile and entered the bathroom. I stayed in the living room and stood by the copper door. A minute later Frank came out of the copper door. I could hear the sound of a toilet cycling and a moment later Sir Terrance was back as well. I can only assume everyone needed to take care of their organic waste tasks. Such a waste of time.
Sir Terrance rubbed his hands and said, “How about a tour of my secret lab?”
“Hold on, dearest, let’s have something to eat. I’m starved,” Princess said to her husband with a matter of fact tone.
“Yes, I suppose fuel is in order” Lutts said.
“I swear he would starve to death if I let him do what he wants to do,” fussed the Princess as she opened the door and told the GAIC to order a lunch for three. She specified that she wanted champagne as well as a dessert. No more than two minutes later three GAICs came with trays and set a table with our meals. It was efficient and flawless as one would expect. The meal was simple in many respects. Fish soup made with reindeer milk. An omelet made with spinach and reindeer sausage was the main course and fresh Finnish rye bread with plenty of honey mustard butter. I heard Marianne say to Frank that she likes to eat food that reflects where she is in the world. It kept her palate “primed” she said.
Frank enjoyed the food. I don’t think he realized he was hungry as Marianne had proclaimed to be. After mostly chewing and ample tasting of the champagne conversation slowly started up again.
“Sir Terrance, this is very delicious. Human or robot cooks?”
“How old is this facility?”
“It took two years to build and it has been operational two years.”
“Why the secrecy?”
“You can thank Dr. Larson for that. Five years ago she discovered we had a spy leaking out technical data to a competitor. Since then we have divided research up among our three labs. As you may know I have one in New Mexico as well. The New Mexico one is the smallest. This is the largest.”
“Can you tell me what the latest discovery is?”
“Yes, I can. My sister, as you may know from my biography, had a troubled life. She suffered from depression from the time she turned ten. That was the year my parents were killed. Despite both medical and psychological help for years she could not shake the crushing weight of depression off her mind. I was so oblivious to her suffering that I did not do anything for her other than to try and be a loving brother. I did worry about her, but my main energy was to finish my education. In that respect I failed her and that has been eating at the back of my mind since she took her own life.”
“I didn’t realize you were so close to your sister.”
“In many ways we were not close. She lived for spiritual things and I did not. I found religion foolish and so we often had arguments over that. In hindsight they were stupid arguments. I mean I now realize religion helped keep her alive. Over the funeral we had had a doozy of an argument. I kept telling her that the parents were not in heaven and she kept insisting they were. One week later she was gone.”
“I’m sorry, dear.” Marianne said softly, “I did not know.”
“Well, I try to wear my grief not on my sleeve, but I did make it one of my goals to conquer depression so all the other Annes would not have to feel the oppression of depression. Anyway, Mr. Huntington, it is at this lab that the research came together for a cure for depression. Probably the best way to explain how we have cured depression is to give you a tour of my largest laboratory. Let’s go back to the hallway and take the electric cart. The facility is way too large to walk,” Sir Terrance smiled and pointed towards the door.
None of the GAICs followed us. I was the only artificial intelligence to go along. Sir Terrance got in the front seat as did Frank. I sat in the back with the Princess. Lutts told the vehicle to head for Lab B-1. While the vehicle was whizzing down halls left and right the good host talked about how difficult depression has been for medical science to conquer.
“You see, Mr. Huntington, the history of dealing with depression has been a sordid one. Not until the 20th Century did medical science try and address therapies to cure depression. Freud used psychoanalysis to cure depression with mixed results. In fact, Freud himself suffered from depression throughout his life. During the 1930s the next fad was electroconvulsive therapy which was extremely brutal in both side effects and limited success. Not until the middle 1950s did drugs come into play. Again, the results were imperfect and eventually caused more harm for many sufferers. What is interesting is all three forms of therapies were used throughout most of the second half of the 20th Century. Newer drugs have become the norm during our times with only marginally better results. More often than not it is the passage of time that brings about relief rather than anything prescribed to the patient. In short, it still was very much a riddle that has not been solved. That riddle I have solved. My discovery ends depression – whether it is depression caused by short term stresses or depression that seems to be chronic and debilitating.”
“So what causes it?”
“Like all complex human illnesses it can be a combination of causes. It can be triggered by horrific life events, it can be genetic and like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and it can be induced by viral infections. The interplay of these causes can really send the brain into a tailspin of depression. As in the case of my poor sister, she cured herself with the only cure that works 100% of the time - death.”
“Have you discovered a way to diagnose what is the source of an individual’s type of depression?”
“That sounds implausible.”
“They said the same thing about the cure for cancer. They kept counting all the different trees in the forest and then would try and cure each unique version of cancer. The forest of cancer would still be here if I followed that same reasoning. I burned the forest. Cancer is no more. I will burn the forest of depression now.”
Finally, the vehicle pulled up to a double door that had a sign that read, ‘Lab B-1 Viewing Room’. We entered what looked more like a long 500 foot-long hallway that had paintings of famous scientists and small groupings of chairs and sofas on one side, and ceiling to floor windows on the other side. The floor by the windows was a moving walkway that by command could either move to the left or right of the windows. We all stepped onto the walkway and Lutts told it to move to the left and then he continued his little lecture on depression.
“You see, Mr. Huntington, I always aim for something that will work universally. I am not like those pharmaceutical corporations that want to create medicines that just manage your symptoms while leaving the disease intact. If you look at the history of cancer treatments the rate of cure was an illusion. You would do their chemical treatments (that often were combined with radiation) and the doctors after a year of million dollar medical bills pronounced you cured. In five years or less 75% of those patients would be back with a new cancer. In some parts of the world they would give up because they were still paying for their first round of cancer treatment. In others countries they don’t have to pay a dime and they grit their teeth and carry on. In the United States they always have to pay a big share of their treatment and if they want the best and newest they find it is not covered and they have to pay for it all. This is the mess that millions of people have to face in order for the medical industry to make billions.”
By then, the walkway had stopped and so had Sir Terrance’s lecture. We all looked at Sir Terrance waiting for him to resume. Sir Terrance looked out through the glass at the vast lab. All of a sudden I had the AI feeling that he wasn’t with us. He looked like he was inspecting all the equipment, counting the test tubes, Bunsen burners, Petri dishes, and electron microscopes. I can’t guess what he was feeling. I don’t have emotions. One of the things that is hardest for robots to understand about humans is the emotions that reinforce their thoughts. Our programming gives us a guide on how human emotions relate to decision making. It is probably one of the most complex flow charts I have within my code. I can understand 38 languages and can download any new language I need, but reading human emotions correctly is only 96 percent correct. And when a human is silent like Sir Terrance was it is very difficult, indeed, for me to understand what that silence means.
Finally, Sir Terrance turned towards Frank and said, “What do you see, Mr. Huntington?”
“A lab with a lot of equipment that I don’t have the foggiest idea what it is for,” Frank said without a smile.
“What I see are tools to create civilization, to find truth, and to end as much pain as possible.”
“I understand. I remember growing up back in Minnesota. I was in third grade and a girl who was in my class and rode on my bus got cancer. I remember how she suddenly disappeared. A few months later she came back to class totally bald. She was a different person. The sparkle in her eyes was gone. Two weeks later she was gone again and I knew I would never see her again. No one told me how serious her cancer was, but I just knew she had given up. Just before school was over for the year we were told she had died. I felt anger. I was only ten years old, but I felt her death was bullshit. Later that night I cried. Yes, I get pain.”
“I can’t guess at the millions of hours of pain I have removed from the human experience by getting rid of cancer. Now I look forward to doing the same for all those who suffer from depression.”
“So how did you do it?”
“I will reveal that as we look at the rest of the facility. Walkway, proceed to other end. Much of this lab is involved in original research. When it came to understanding how cells went about their business there was so much to do. And when I started work on the disease of depression I realized there was just as much to understand when it came to the workings of the human brain. Over there, you see that large blue boxlike machine, Mr. Huntington, that is a machine that allows human neural cells to live in situ to mimic how neural networks interact in the human brain. And over there …”
Sir Terrance went on to point out that many of the devices his laboratory had to be invented in order to understand the human brain to a level where the mechanism of depression was comprehensive. We looked at three more labs. One was mostly concerned with neurology. Another laboratory was molecular chemistry and the third laboratory was nanobiology. The third lab was the biggest. As we were moved by another moving walkway I counted six supercomputers like the one we saw at Maidstone Labs. Two of them were controllers for fifty deoxyribonucleic acid assemblers. The most impressive device was a carbon nano packet manufacturing assembly line that was fully automated. It was operated by the sixth supercomputer in the nanobiology lab.
“So we package the DNA necessary to rewire the brain’s centers for depression and loop them back into the areas of the brain responsible for positive feelings. It leaves the subject's thoughts and memories intact. This is not brainwashing. Nor is the brain submitted to an endless assault by drugs with crippling side effects. Nor is the brain subjected to surgery or electroshock – both of which brutally maul the brain into what looks like a cure but is not. I hope this does not bore you, Mr. Huntington, I know we have been at this tour a long time.”
“No, not at all. I always am impressed by science. I must admit my brain circuits are overloaded with all the information you have given me. As usual, Sir Terrance, it is a tour de force. I can’t imagine the pharmaceutical companies are going to love you. Jack, how many billions of dollars is the drug industry for depression?”
“It is 89 billion in the United States, 27 billion in the United Kingdom and 460 billion worldwide.”
“I’m surprised if they won’t put a price on your head.”
“There have been threats on my life since I made my cure for cancer available. The doctors still need to diagnose the cancer, but I now cure it. Ask your JAIC to see what that did to the cancer industry.”
“Jack, how much was being spent on cancer before Sir Terrance cured it?”
“Worldwide it was a three trillion dollar industry,” I immediately answered. I could see the look of surprise on not only Frank’s face, but on the Princess’s face as well.
Sir Terrance chuckled seeing their jaws drop and said, “Lutts Industries makes less than three hundred million on our cancer cure a year. I expect our cure of depression will only generate eighty percent of that. Like with my cancer cure I am not out to maximize my profits.”
“But this lab must have cost you more than that?” Frank asked while rubbing his chin.
“True, but as you know my labs have done research that have produced other income streams and they will continue to do so in the future.”
“Dear, I am so proud of you. You make the Pope look like a piker with all the good you do in the world. No more children will die from cancer, ever! No more broken homes because a mother or father dies from that horrid disease. You should be the Pope,” she said as she came over to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Well, maybe Savior would be more appropriate,” quipped Frank.
“That is a good one, Mr. Huntington. I will have to remember that. Let’s get into my robo-cart and have some champagne to celebrate the end of depression.”
We all took our seats and the cart took off down halls and up the elevator to the same room where our tour had started. The GAICs already had the champagne iced and tall fluted glasses ready for us along with an assortment of desserts. It looked all very colorful.
Frank looked at the desserts and asked if
they glowed in the dark like Lutts’s ice cream.
“Sorry, Mr. Huntington, they do not. That is a good idea, though. I will have to give that some thought. You wouldn’t need candles if the birthday cake glowed all by itself,” Lutts said thinking out loud at the possibilities.
The talk was pretty light as they finished the first bottle quickly and then started on a second bottle. Mostly they talked about how many industries had come and gone over the last two hundred years. First was the self employed artisan who saw his trade taken over by steam driven factories. Millions of people must have lost their jobs when horses were replaced by automobiles. At least in the case of automobiles an even greater number of jobs were created. You needed more miners for the iron, rubber plantations, the rise of oil, as well as someone to plow snow off the freeways. Computers in the 20th Century took over millions of office jobs. And now at the close of the 21st Century every industry was impacted by robotics.
Frank put down his empty glass on the table and said in a very matter of fact way, “You realize if you keep this up all the doctors will be out of business.”
“Is that a bad thing? My vision someday is to cure aging. You heard last week that the great opera singer Toystoyski died. Of course, it has been more than a decade since he performed publicly. His voice was shot from old age. What a waste of such a gift. All those years of study destroyed because his DNA is programmed to turn his hair gray, his skin as thin as paper and his voice gruff and shaky. It is almost as great a sin as allowing a beautiful woman to become an old crone.”
“Will you miss my youthful body, Terrance?” the Princess said with a look of mockery in her eyes.
“Yes, I would, but I hope you will be my inspiration to reverse aging, my love,” Lutts said while picking up her hand and giving it a squeeze.
“That would be nice, dear. Then you would not have to listen to me complain about my aches and pains. That is all I hear from my mother these days.”
“Sir Terrance, you realize that would end more pain than both your cure for cancer and depression. You’ll have more than just the doctors wanting you dead.”
“Before I am done, there will be many who will want me dead, if they knew the future,” Lutts said with a slight smile while his eyes looked as if they were looking into the future rather than what was in front of him. Frank was quiet and assumed the same look as Lutts. This only lasted a moment, by human time, but my AI suggested that Frank must have had a new idea. An idea that was not a happy one.
“Sir Terrance, do you ever think about what a game changer you are?” Frank asked suddenly.
“I do. Sometimes I think about what Robert Oppenheimer said after he created the nuclear bomb, ‘I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’” mused Lutts.
“Dear, you have become life, the destroyer of pain. Don’t depress yourself, you have nothing to be ashamed of,” said the Princess, bringing her husband a fresh glass of champagne.
“Perhaps I am both,” mused Lutts, “Perhaps I am both life and death. Life will never be the same, that is for sure.”
Frank had the look again. I could not surmise the meaning. I know he must have some kind of new idea taking shape in his brain. Most people who have had one too many drinks don’t think straight. In Frank’s case I think he often comes up with some of his best ideas. I wonder if it was an idea for a new article?
Frank got up and made his way to the bar and asked Lutts’s GAIC bartender if it had any Jack Daniels.
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“Give me a double. Suddenly it feels hot in here.”
Marianne looked happy with the world and suggested, “Maybe we should go up and take a walk.”
“I’ll stick with a cool drink. It must be below zero up there,” Frank said as he came back to sit down. “Tell me” Frank asked once he was comfortable, “Could your nanobots be used to change ideas in someone’s head?”
Lutts gave Frank an odd look, but then a soft smile came across his face, “No, Mr. Huntington, it can’t. It can’t change anyone’s ideas. Whatever caused a person to be depressed, be it betrayal, a death, or whatever, those memories are still there. It can’t erase anything in a brain.”
“Then how does it work?”
“Let me give you an example. Let’s say I told you the moon was made of cheese. Now your brain is complex. There would be a few cells that would accept the idea of a cheesy moon and there will be a few cells that know the moon is made of rocks and dust. What my nano device does is make sure the cells that think the moon is cheddar is the dominate [dominant] neural pathway. In a depressed person there already exist weak neural pathways that would be considered coping with whatever depresses a person or causes the emotion of depression to be prominent. By tweaking the weak pathway and weakening the other, the depression is ended. It is very possible that a person who has suffered depression after my treatment would not be able to say why they feel happy because they still see why they should be unhappy.”
“That makes sense,” Frank said and then took a sip of his drink, “it is all very clear to me. So, Sir Terrance, when are you going to roll out this new cure?”
“Next week. So please hold off until I have my big press announcement in London on Friday. I would love to have you come out with a big article about your visit here. I think the public will find it fascinating how we went about finding a cure.”
“So the cure will be available immediately after the press announcement?” asked Frank.
“No, I will tell them that it will be available at our cancer treatment clinics the first of the month.”
“How much will you charge?”
“Good question. The price will be $1000.00 for those with medical insurance and $10.00 for those who don’t. We will lose money on those who don’t. I figure I have spent over 200 million pounds setting up this lab as well as parsed out work at the other two laboratories to complete this project. As I have always stated I don’t worry about money. It is not my motivation.”
“No, I think you have made that very clear to the world,” Frank said slowly while he put his glass down.
“I detect mixed feelings from you Mr. Huntington. I hope you will not write anything that will damage the roll-out of this new boon to mankind. It would make me very unhappy. Marianne has assured me you would be supportive.”
“Sir Terrance, you can count on me. This is all a remarkable story. I apologize not being all enthusiasm, but I have been on too many jets lately and I am rather worn out.”
“Terrance, dear, let’s let Mr. Huntington get some rest. He can fly out tomorrow morning.”
“No, really, that is thoughtful Princess, but if possible I would love to fly back to London as soon as possible,” Frank said getting up like he needed to leave immediately for a flight.
“No problem, Mr. Huntington. I will arrange our T-80 to take you back immediately. Maybe you can sleep on the plane?”
“Maybe I should go back with Mr. Huntington, dear. I would like to order some new dresses in London. I expect I will have to do my share of dealing with the press.”
“No, I need you here, my dear. We will fly back to London tomorrow evening.”
The Princess looked a little disappointed, but maybe that was just a show for Frank. One of Lutts’s GAICs came up and said the plane was ready. Frank thanked both Sir Terrance and the Princess for an interesting tour and then followed the GAIC to the robotic vehicle which took us back to the cold hangar where the T-80 was waiting for us. Within fifteen minutes we were airborne.
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