What is a cognitive artifact? We are surrounded by them. Whether it is your electronic organizer or the sound that your car makes when you leave on the lights, they are everywhere. A cognitive artifact or aid is something that helps you make decisions or more intelligent. They are like calculators which allow you to make all sorts of calculations that you might never attempt with just paper and pen. Even the agenda inside your PC or your watch help to augment your memory or intelligence. Imagine a world.
Perhaps far away in time and space, where every child born is given a special cognitive artifact in the form of a teddy bear.
This stuffed animal starts out life about as intelligent
as the baby is. Meaning that the little "robot"
can wiggle and say very interesting things like goo and ga. Yet, its other functions are to make the child's environment enriching and safe. Though they look like a simple stuffed toy the Teddy is equipped with a dazzling array of electronics, gizmos, and artificial intelligence. They tend to imprint the personality of their charge onto their chips, becoming almost one with the baby.
A Teddy is also a child's playmate. As he or she grows up so does the Teddy. The Teddy is the ultimate in cognitive artifacts. In the beginning, the Teddy talks to the baby. At age one the Teddy might introduce five to fifty new words a day to the young boy or girl. In a few years, they are delving into the Classics like "Green Eggs & Ham" or Shakespeare. Soon five hundred words a day or new concepts are exposed to the kids. When the child goes out to play he or she brings their Teddy with them. If they are playing pirates or house the Teddies participate. Always including subtle messages on how to get along, or why such a child reacted as he or she did. As you can imagine, growing up in this environment is an enriching experience.
Another little known fact about the Teddies is that they often start off in a different language than that of the house hold. For example: the mother and father of the child might speak French, but the Teddy would begin in Chinese. When the Teddy is satisfied that the child has a good grasp of Chinese (after several years) it might switch to German.
The Teddy Bear Planet would seem to be an utopia to someone from the end of the twentieth century.It is not without its little problems, but all in all it is a very nice place to live. For example war was and always had been unknown here. The planet of course has an official name : Vagan Prime.
Few adults on Vargan Prime would be without their
Teddies either, although some have had the form of their Teddies altered
so that they could wear them like wristwatches (what ever they were) or
simply downloaded the Teddy to their computer. AWhen fully developed a
Teddy really doesn't have to exist in just one place. There are in effect
Many of the greatest and most respected scientists kept Teddies in their labs. usually in their original form. First because it's more whimsical to see Teddies puttering about in the Lab. In addition there is an art to making a good cup of coffee that is just impossible to master if the Teddy is incorperal..
It is true that many great advances in both the humanities and sciences owe their existence to the Teddies and their influence. But you could also say that adults seemed a little arrested in their development compared to populations without Teddies.
Sometimes you could hear conversations like this among adult men and women :
Eric: « He took my Teddy ! »
Marie France: « I'm sure that's not true, is it Romain ? »
Romain: « No, of course not ! »
Marie France: « Romain »
Romain: « Okay, I took his Teddy, but its just because mine is being repaired and I miss her so. »
So this is the state of Vagan Prime, a terra formed
planet, settled by humans about three hundred years ago, peopled
by philosophers, artists, scientists, and poets, calm, pacific, wimpy
The Invasion fleet massed just outside of the Vagan
systems Ort cloud. A vast armada of warships and dreadnoughts crewed by
creatures armed to the teeth. Thousands of spaceships teeming
with hostile and aggressive Bungees. Don't laugh! It was their name for
themselves and it was supposed to instill terror in those who heard it.
Those that lived long enough to hear it. Fierce warriors, who's whole culture
was dedicated to war, conquering, and destruction; leaving ruined planet
after planet in their wake.
The Bungeean social order was simple : their females tended to mate with the meanest, fastest, most powerful, cruelest, and generally ugliest male. The females were not much to look at either. Their society was one of competition and one of the easiest methods of competing was in the Art of War, as it was called in Bungee high society. Those Bungees in the invasion fleet were the cream of the crop. Most of the warriors had several cyborg implants, from image enhancers to stainless steel claws and fangs.
The Bungee fleet was keeping itself on the other side of the sun from Vagan Prime. The Warlord, ordered a stealth ship to probe the planets defenses unseen under its cloaking shield. When the scout returned this was what was said :
Scout : Oh, my liege, sire, great one, boss,
most puissant warlord... I have strange news.
War chief : Continue !
Scout : There is not a weapon on the planet. There is not a bomb nor an arm of any kind.
War chief : What ? Are you sure ?
Scout : Positive ! Its true that some current science projects could be modified as weapons, but none are in that state at this moment. Sire, my I speak plainly.
War chief : Granted.
Scout: Their science is far more advanced then ours. But they will make the most excellent of slaves and ...
War chief : (he picked up the scout by the scruff of the neck) DON'T EVER DARE SAY THAT AN ALIEN AND AN INFERIOR ALIEN CULTURE HAS A MORE ADVANCED SCIENCE THAN WE DO ! ! ! and in a softer voice he continued ; « Good work lad. »
Then he turned to his staff and said : « Cancel the bombing runs, I gather that we will not be needing the death rays. Orbit the planet and send down the shock troops. The planet is ripe for the picking.
Turning to the scout of the stealth ship he said :
"Are you positive this is the way things are on this planet ? »
Scout : It is worse sire, the men and women carry around stuffed animals with them.
War chief : Ah, ,as sort of hunting trophies. To best wild animals armed with only their puny teeth and pitiful hands; these humans must be more formidable then they look , an admirable foe. WARN THE LANDING PARTIES.
Scout: No, O Mighty One, I abash myself for not being clear. These humans carry stuffed animals like our female children carry dolls.
War chief :You mean to tell me that I have 3 million of the most bloodthirsty warriors in this or any other galaxy and one million more weapon technicians to back them up and they are not even needed !
The officer said nothing and eventually the war chief smiled... evilly.
War chief: Send down the troops, let us cease hiding and claim what is ours.
So of course the invasion occurs. The Bungees take over
the entire world. The human population doesn't know what to do. Initially,
they thought that this invasion must be some sort of game. They are basically
powerless. The Bungees are armed like nobody's business and realistically
there is nothing the humans can do. So they more or less acquiesce.
The Bungees begin in typical fashion to smash, pillage and loot. To the Teddy's the Bungees seem to be behaving like naughty children. So they begin to scold the Bungees, to explain in very simple terms that not sharing or leaving messes about is not nice behavior. The Bungees respond by trying to disintegrate the cute stuffed toys. Some how the Teddies seem to avoid getting damaged. This is the state of things for about three days. Right up until one of the attack leaders orders the death of some human scientists. The reason given was to improve the speed and quality of the scientific work of those on the team who survived.
This to the Teddies was the last straw. They were forced to declare war. For the first and only time on Vargan Prime. The carnage was quick. The battles hot and furious. It was over in a few hours. To their horror not a single Bungee died. Yet the Bungees had lost. To lose dying gloriously, ah that was for the sagas. But this, shame upon shame, trussed up like children, knocked unconscious, or stuck in some glue like mass till the Teddies freed them, this was insupportable. Still, it had happened.
The Teddies and the Humans decided that half a years training in the niceties of life couldn't possibly hurt the Bungees. And so for the next six months the Bungees were forced to embark on a program of re-education. Conversations like the following were common.
Unit Commander: Sire, I must protest. As you know,
I am the head of the Dead match Swarm. Their history is filled with rivers
of blood shed for our race. This is unjustifiable. ( Beginning to shout)
I cannot permit this!
War Chief: Calm down, calm down ... that is an order. Now, explain, what are you talking about? (looking nervously at the two Teddies in the room)
Unit Commander: The indoctrination sir.
War Chief: The indoctrination?
Unit Commander: Yes O Spawn master. My charges have to take dancing lessons with ten and twelve year old human females at Mrs. Alger's Ballet Class. Giggling, laughing all the time. It is untenable. It's wrecking moral, and some are starting to get good at it! What kind of battalion will I have in two months time ?
War Chief: Deal with it. My own instruction in table manners is not going well. I may have to repeat the entire course. My marks in personal grooming aren't much better. Depart, immediately!
The unit commander's leave taking was without decorum.
Still, six months passed, perhaps not as fast as some
of the fleet would have liked, but it passed.
It came time for the Bungee Armada to go on their way. There were tears of farewell at Mrs. Alger's Dance school, along with cake and cookies. But overall, the Bungees looked very determined and glum as they prepared to exit the Vargan System.
Soon after the fleet went into the depths of hyper space,
never to return again to the Teddy Bear Planet, a curious conversation
took place between two technicians at one of the Teddy manufacturing sites.
Bob: Bill, I can't really understand it. In one set of data, we are missing a Teddy and in all the other sectors this Teddy never existed.
Bill: Hey, Bob, like what's the problem. You're missing a Teddy. No big deal. It is normal. That was during the invasion. Right?
Bob: Sure it could have been destroyed...
Bob: Gee, see this Teddy was almost complete. Only a few programs had not yet been downloaded.
Bill: Okay, I give. What was missing?
Bob: Morals and ethics, sensitivity, emotional IQ, that stuff.
Bob: What if a child has been given this Teddy? Children are not inherently bad , but still the Teddy will mimic the child and lacking ethical protocols it could possibly aggravate personality disorders and the like.
I would not like to be the parents coping with a Teddy and child running amok.
Bill: Aw, that's easy, if this fragmentary Teddy is out there then it has to be online. We'll just run a check. What kind of trouble could a six month old get into? There's nothing to worry about.
Naturally, they did conduct a search and nowhere on the
planetary web was this Teddy.
On board the largest of the Bungee Battlewagons, in the
private suite of the disgraced warleader, a very intriguing scene takes
place. The warchief is sitting on his command chair and on his lap is a
A very special Teddy, not soft and cuddly, but in armor, with fangs and spikes and flecks of metal protruding everywhere.
The warlord pets his Teddy and the Teddy bites him, drawing blood.
To this he replies: "Charming, simply, charming."