No need to panic, thought Harvey. Ada should be back soon. Or, I can go to a neighbor. I am not going to freeze to death on my own front porch. Harvey shivered just then as another icy blast hit him. He turned and scanned the neighborhood. Crumpled cars blocked the streets. None of the houses in his immediate area were lit. Wasn’t this the season of lights? I suppose one of the motorists could help if any of their cars is still in working order. And they were willing to break the law and leave the scene of an accident. And they had sense enough to have snow tires.
He stamped his feet on the concrete. Harvey told himself that this was to keep circulation going, and not some childish outburst of frustration. He looked down the street and saw two dim figures approaching arm in arm from the direction of the Von Neumann’s house. As they drew nearer, he heard the warm voice of his sweet Ada.
“Hey, Harv! Did you decide to come out and enjoy the winter beauty too?”
“Hi, Ada. Please tell me you have a key.”
“Sure. I always take my keys when I leave the house.” She laughed. “Wouldn’t want to lock myself out.” She chuckled again. “Guess what? I found Lucy out for a walk too and I invited her over for dinner.”
“Hi, Lucy. Sure. We’re just having mainly mixed veggies for dinner, but if that’s okay…”
Lucy smiled. “Great with me, Harvey. Thanks!”
Ada spoke again, “Come on Harv. It’s beautiful outside but we’re cold. Let’s go in! Besides too much traffic out here for my taste. What a crash! Say, isn’t that …in fact, aren’t those two blue cars ones that you worked on? I thought they were supposed to be uncrashable.”
Harvey sighed. “Well, nothing is uncrashable. AI cannot undo the laws of physics. No doubt, some human driver without proper tires or following too close started a chain reaction.”
Ada said, “Yeah. Let’s discuss this inside. Okay?”
“Sure,” said Harvey. “Can you get the door?”
“Well, okay. Oh! You didn’t lock yourself out did you?” Ada laughed in soprano and Lucy added the alto line. “You picked a great night for it.”
“I’ll explain inside.”
Ada unlocked the door. In the trio went, shook off their snow, removed their boots and headed into the kitchen. Harvey began unloading vegetables from the fridge while Ada turned on some Holiday music. “Hey, Harv, how about the three of us stand JCN at trivia while you cook?”
Harvey did not really want to explain that he may have accidentally wiped out their bank account with Lucy in the room. “No, let’s just talk. Let JCN go dream or whatever it is he does. I just feel like human voices tonight.”
“Okay, Hon. Did you see the accident? How it started?”
“No, I was inside when I heard the crash, and then, I started to worry about you so….Anyway, Lucy, any vegetables you don’t like? Sweet potato okay? And cilantro? And how about curry sauce?”
“All, good, Harvey. I’m easy. Anything is fine with me.”
Harvey stole a quick glance at Lucy. Was that a double entrendre? Surely not. He was imagining things. “Cool. I’ll start with the sweet potatoes. They take a little longer.”
Harvey quickly filled the skillet with a little olive oil and some orange flavored bubbly water, added the spices and began cleaning and chopping.
Ada said, “Harvey makes a really good sauce for vegetables.”
Harvey, meanwhile, focused on not adding his finger to the mix. His mind was elsewhere. He wondered whether the pile-up outside had really been caused by human error or…
Lucy chimed in. “Sounds delicious, Harvey. What’s in your secret sauce? I’d love to have it.”
Harvey frowned slightly, “Well, there’s no real secret. Secret sauce. Secret sauce. Why do people have sauces? Did you ever consider that?”
Ada laughed again. The Holidays seemed to make her genuinely happy. “No, I haven’t, but I’m sure you are about to tell us.”
Harvey continued to chop sweet potato, as he began, “Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Sing. No secret sauce. No sauce at all, in fact.”
Lucy spoke up, “What? What are you talking about, Harvey? You want to put your sauce into a computer system? Well, I’m sure I’d love it, but I’m not so sure about the Sing.” Now Lucy and Ada both laughed.
Harvey continued, “You see what the water does?”
Lucy wanted to play along. “Cooks the vegetables? That would be my guess.” Lucy and Ada laughed again.
“Exactly!” agreed Harvey, “but how? Do you see? Water boils at 100 C. No matter what the heat is, it never gets hotter in the pan than 100 degrees. The sauce gaurantees a constant cooking environment.”
Lucy seemed uncertain. “But you can make it hotter by turning up the flame, right?”
“No. No. It may boil more vigorously and I’ll run out of sauce sooner, but the temperature will remain constant. That’s one effect. But there’s more. The sauce guarantees a constancy of interaction!”
Ada asked, “Interaction? You are saying the sauce let’s the veggies talk to each other?”
In the background, “We Three Kings” began its mournful minor musings. “Yes,” mused Harvey. “Exactly. I mean, they obviously do not literally talk, but imagine these vegetables are cooking and there is no sauce. In some cases, you have a piece of sweet potato next to a piece of red pepper so they share flavors. In another case, a piece of sweet potato is next to broccoli so they share flavors. The sauce provides a way for all these vegetables to exchange flavors evenly throughout the whole dish. And the key. The key in music. All the notes “know” what the key is so the choice is limited by this global structure. And the beat of course. Everything works in harmony. All because of the secret sauce! But there is no secret! It’s been right in front of us the whole time!”
Ada was no longer laughing. “You’re probably right, Harv, but are you feeling okay? Maybe you got a little hypothermia out there?”
“No, no. I’m fine. Don’t you see? The rhythm and the beat of the music! They provide a coherent overall structure for all of these different instruments and notes to play nicely together.”
Lucy added, “Well, I for one am all for playing nicely together.”
Harvey stopped chopping for a moment. “Exactly! There are global rules that make the individual parts work together. And, the curry sauce not only provides a consistent basis for the dish. It also dictates, or at least influences, which elements I add to the vegetables. Some vegetables are not going to taste right or look to be the right color with curry sauce. And, it lets them all communicate in a common language. You see? We humans see something like cars crumpled up and hear the crash and we can put the two together. Right?”
Ada had lots of experience with the way Harvey’s mind worked so she realized he was quite serious. Lucy, on the other hand, assumed he was just trying to be funny or had had a couple martinis before she arrived on the scene. So Lucy decided to play along, “Well, Harvey, all this talk about your secret sauce is giving me an appetite. Any ETA on dinner?”
Harvey continued, “But the Sing doesn’t have any secret sauce. Nor JCN. There is no overall way for the various pieces of knowledge to work together in a harmonious whole. That’s why JCN wiped out our bank account! That’s probably why the cars crashed too.”
“Smells delicious, Harvey,” Lucy said.
Ada was beginning to forget about dinner. “Harvey. What did you say about our bank account?”
“The Sing needs a way for the parts to work together in a harmonious overall structure! Otherwise, any slight error can be magnified in particular cases. Once the system tries to operate on cases that are outside of what was imagined at design time, there is no gaurantee about results!”
“Harvey. Go back to the part about our bank account.”
Harvey stirred the vegetables absent-mindedly. “If I let this sauce all boil away, the same thing will happen. Some vegetables will get burned. The taste and texture will no longer work together.”
Ada was not to be deterred. “Harvey. Tell me about our bank account. What do you mean that it was wiped out?”
“Yes, Ada! That’s what I am saying. Of course, there are rules and the rules cover a huge number of cases. But there is no overall set of principles that the Sing has to abide by. There is no secret sauce! There is no sauce of any kind. It’s ALL vegetables. I think dinner is ready. Lucy did you want yogurt or cheese on yours?”
“Yum. Give it to me with yogurt please.”
“Okay, Lucy. And I know Ada likes hers that way too.”
“Right you are Harvey. What about our bank account?”
Harvey’s eyes looked away from the mind maps he was drawing in his head and he looked at Ada directly. “Ada, let’s eat first. I am sure that we can restore our bank account somehow through back up systems. JCN made an error. But I didn’t transfer the money or really authorize any payments or anything like that. It’s just a bank error. But for now, let’s eat. We can recover, Ada, because the human systems that surround and control the Sign still include sauce. At least for now.”
In the background, “Joy to the World” began playing in 4/4 time in D major.