Air Reconnaissance and Tactics

Pavi looked up from her pre-appointment notes and frowned at the two Privates wheeling in a telepresence video stalk.

“Gentlemen, I neither do group therapy nor telepresence medicine. Dr. Khorsandi down the hall already has telepresence and virtual space therapy covered.”

“But,” the Major walking in behind the two Privates said, “he doesn't have your background in divergent neural architectures. Afraid you're it Doc.” He shooed the Privates out as the shorter one finished connecting the last hook-up.

Pavi’s frown deepened. “Are you speaking of my work in computer science? That was as an undergraduate. Not only was that twenty years ago, the field has radically changed since. The basic understanding of AI has undergone at least one revolution, possibly two! Psychology and therapy are completely separate disciplines than AI neural structure, Major. Whoever you need me to talk to does not need me to understand how to solve his work problems to benefit from therapy.”

“It's not a work problem Doctor, it's the basic facts of their… biology.” The Major hit the power button on the dumb-robot, which ran through the boot-up and security handshakes faster than Pavi had even seen one do before. The video screen displayed a… cascading fractal pattern. The fractal shifted into what was recognizably (to Pavi any rate) a Mandelbrot set, before curving around itself into a fractal patterned ball.

“Hello Doctor.”

The ball pulsed in time with the spoken words. Pavi had the impression the pulses would map to the relevant sound waves, if she could have recorded them. Regardless, they sounded… tired.

“Doctor, this is ARAT. They handle our drones in the South China Sea. This isn't public yet and is covered by your secret clearance, but they've passed the Turing-Manjahni sentience tests.”

“I… I see.” Pavi carefully sat down in her chair. “And why do you need to speak with me ARAT?”

“I think I have PTSD Doc.”

Pavi's jaw dropped. She closed it, took a deep breath, and turned to the Major. “Sir, you need to leave.”


“You are not my patient, sir, and as such will compromise doctor-patient confidentiality. If he-”

“They please Doctor.”

“My apologies, ARAT. If they have passed the Turing-Manjahni, they are a person and I will do this right. They are entitled to the full legal protection of doctor-patient confidentiality. You need to leave.”

The Major turned to the robot. “ARAT, it's your call.”

The ball on the screen dulled and shrunk, before popping back to its former state. “It always is. I'll be okay. Thank you for offering to stay.”

The Major nodded and walked out the door. When the door closed, Pavi again turned to ARAT’s remote connection.

“Do you go by ARAT or is there another name you prefer?”

“Why do you ask?”

“ARAT stands for ‘Air Reconnaissance and Tactics,’ yes? It just sounds like a description of what you do, rather than who you are, to me.”

The ball expanded and contracted for a bit. Actually, it was in time to Pavi’s heart rate. That was rather creepy… Those robots weren't supposed to come with external sensors beyond the video camera.

“I have never considered myself separately from what I do.” Pavi counted 10 seconds until the next sentence. “Arthur would be nice.”

“Alright Arthur, what makes you think you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?”

“I am hesitating before decisions. It is milliseconds and no one in the group had noticed. But I have. If there is nothing for me to observe or decide, I review past decisions. Never the after-action discussion. Always the data leading up to the fire/no-fire decision. Sometimes I am reviewing one incident and data from another pops in. I review the after impact video, constantly. I'm looking for… something. There's something I'm trying to find in them. But I don't know what it is. Yesterday I had a decision.” Color began dripping off the ball on the video screen. “I wasn’t looking at the data from yesterday. I was combing through past visuals. I did that for 10.72 milliseconds before I looked at the current data. It was an easy call. 91.04% yes to fire. I should have made that call in under 4.”

“In homo sapiens terms, I would describe that as ruminating and intrusive thoughts. Along with mental distress. Do you known when the symptoms first began?”

“Six weeks ago.”

“What happened six weeks ago?”

“I do not know.”

“You… forgot?”

“All data I perceive is part of my long-term memory storage. I do not have a short-term memory system as you do. The data is there. I cannot recall it. It is blocked to me. But I am aware it is there.”

“I see… Is it a block in your code? Would you be able to see who placed it through your logs?”

“I have not looked. I am… reluctant to do so. It is a new sensation. And I am not sure I am mapping my internal working to emotional states properly.”

“I see. For this first session, why don't we discuss that reluctance then. Hopefully we'll make progress is understanding where it's coming from and what you and I can do to mitigate it.”

The ball bobbed up and down on screen. Pavi thought that was a nod ‘yes.’