“Dr. Melinder’s programming is one reason why no one has ever been able to hack our systems.” Dr. Rose added, smiling patiently at Jonas. “To get back to the point, you are correct, fourth generation SHIAM are equipped with the Illean Melinder Algorithms. Our behavior is based upon evaluation of empirical data obtained from our various sensors and from a network of internal databases, similar to long and short-term memory in Humans.

“First through third generation SHIAM were guided by an emotional response database built into the system. As the units interact with outside stimulus, their programming analyzes the data returned through their sensors in relation to the situation. It then checks the response data table and provides the SHIAM with the proper emotion. Although the programming code provided a remarkably smooth cause and effect response system, it was never fully integrated into the SHIAM personality matrix.

“It was only when Dr. Shelby Stieller developed what you Human’s so quaintly call SPERM that the problem of dealing with emotions in artificial intelligence advanced significantly. The Simulated Personal Emotional Response Mechanism is a processing module that is designed specifically for the Illean Melinder Algorithms. It provides the processing stability needed to fully integrate SHIAM intelligence, personality and emotions into a cohesive unit. The creation of this module led to the birth of the fourth generation SHIAM.”

“Yeah, well it’s still nothing more than sleight of hand coding,” Zak said.

“Oh? So you think that this system somehow invalidates our feelings?”

“No, I don’t think you have feelings. You have programming.”

Dr. Rose managed a pretty good re-enactment of anger. Her eyes narrowed, her jaw clenched and her complexion became flushed. But it was nothing more than a re-enactment. It lacked one vital component, the living element.

“Hey! Again, time out.” Vennhim raised his voice enough to cut off any further comments Zak may have had. “Let’s all refocus, okay? We’ve got a job to do here.”

After he was satisfied that the bickering was over Vennhim said, “About the new generation unit, if you please, Dr. Rose.”

She glared at Zak as if challenging him to say something further. When he remained silent, she continued, “Even with this advancement in our emotional development, the SCE processor is still ultimately in control of the SHIAM.”

“That’s the unit that runs the SHIAM Code of Ethics routines, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Dr. Rose said. “It was imposed upon us by the United World Federation’s Artificial Intelligence Council in 5107 as part of the Android Containment Act. It acts as an inhibiting filter that prevents a SHIAM from acting outside of the predetermined code of conduct set forth by the Council.”

“You sound as though you don’t approve,” Zak observed. “It is a necessary safety precaution. It would, for example, prevent a SHIAM from becoming so angry that it would kill a sentient being. And that is as it should be.”

Dr. Rose’s expression made it clear that she did not agree with the necessity of the SCE processor. “It interferes with the natural emotional development of the SHIAM. The SCE processor inhibits the natural emotional response produced by the SPERM unit and the Illean Melinder algorithms.”

“It’s necessary to protect people,” Zak said.

“Imagine a mechanism that would suppress your emotions every time you had strong feelings. It would ultimately have a very negative affect on your mental wellbeing.”

“But I’m not a machine,” Zak said, unable to resist the dig. “I take it that this prototype has a patch to fix the problem?”

“A patch?” Dr. Rose seemed reluctant, but after a long pause continued. “Well no, not a patch. Derek is... The SCE was completely removed from Derek’s design.”

“What?” Zak wasn’t sure he had heard right. “This android has no fail safe?”

Dr. Rose only nodded her confirmation.

“Are you people out of your minds?” Zak said. He got up from his chair and began pacing again “You’re telling me that we have a SHIAM on the loose that is designed to be even stronger than previous versions, doesn’t need a power grid to recharge and doesn’t have any safety protocols!” He turned and glared at each of them in turn. “And you want me to find it!”