'The Day The Dolphin Spoke' is what happens when you're finding excuses not to do the work you ought to be doing and end up reading philosophy papers about the qualification of dolphins as 'people'. You sit down to write space marine dialogue and for some reason you end up with this.
'This' is a first person monologue, the style being something of a pastiche of Michael Crichton / old school sci fi. Centrally it's concerned with asking questions of self-awareness, rationality and the human belief structure - and somehow making that more palatable than it probably sounds. It's also about talking dolphins. If you're at all interested to know what my writing looks like 'naked' - ie without the creative direction imposed by everything from publishers to marketing to the budget - this is the place to be.
It's around 10 - 15 minutes' reading, and I hope you enjoy it.
Update: Damn, my old marketing manager would kill me if he knew I'd posted this without an extract.
What you have to understand is that we weren't really trying to communicate. Not fully. Our grant was to automate existing communication, it was monkey work. The thing was, our program worked better than we expected. It was a joke, really, that first question. Quinton tapped it in after one too many espressos.Read more
//Can you understand us?
The dolphin watched us for a second, from the murk at the far end of the tank, and then slowly, deliberately, swam over and nosed the pedal we installed so she could tell us when she was hungry.
White mice are smart enough to hit a button when they’re hungry, it’s not really intelligence at all, just habit. We draw a line, in animal biology, between instinct and intelligence: the latter indicates self-awareness. When a dog sits because you told it to it’s not that it understands; it doesn’t have a thought process which runs “If I sit I will be rewarded”. It just has a natural instinct that prompts it to act in ways that have previously proved advantageous. The difference between a person and an animal, it’s held, is that a person has an interim stage between motivation and action, and we call that stage 'the self'. It’s the bit that looks at the motivation and decides how best to act.
It’s the bit that bothers to say “I am”, as opposed to just getting on with being.
Thing was, she wasn’t asking for food: she'd just been fed. This was a response. It was an answer. It wasn’t until days later that we figured out what was going on in the code...