Attack of Half-Truth Harriet

Posted on December 16, 2011


I heard a sound in the hallway just now that was both strange and yet oddly reminiscent of something.  I didn’t know of what, at first.  Then, after a frantic rattle at my door, I open it to see Simple Sam.

I realize then that the sound was just Simple Sam’s clop-clop slippers negotiating the hallway at a dead run.

Ducking in the doorway past me, Sam says, “Close it.  Close it.”

What is it, Sam?  You’re out of breath.  Do you really think you should be jogging in your … ?

“She’s out there.  Why don’t you close it?”

You’re not being clear, Sam.

“The woman.  Close the door.  I think she’s just behind me.”

Well, that narrows the discussion down to adult humans …

“Are you being sarcastic?  Look, there’s no time for … oh, no!”

Ah, Sam, I see you’ve met Harriet.

“Don’t let her in!”

Of course I’m letting her in, Sam.  I hired her.  She’s starting today.  – Come in, Harriet.

“Don’t let her near me.  Do I have legal rights?  Can I get a restraining order?”

Now, Sam … Harriet, what have you been doing to Sam?

“Well, you told me to go introduce myself to Simple Sam,” says Harriet.

Introduce!? says Sam.  “Introduce!?”

Uh, Sam, can you not actually shout …

Introduce!? says Sam.  “This woman has not left my presence for months.  It feels like years.  And she never lets up.  Every statement I made, she has something to say about it.  Then, when I wised-up and stopped making statements, it was every thought I thought.”

Surely you’re exaggerating.

“Every thought!” insists Sam.

“Actually,” says Harriet, “while I did address 8 to 17% of Simple Sam’s fully articulated thoughts, I can’t be said to …”

See!” says Sam, getting louder by the second.  “I couldn’t even have private thoughts.  It’s been months.  How could you have left me alone with her for so long?”

Well, you know, I’ve had other things to write, Sam…. But, Harriet, I have to admit, going after Sam’s thoughts is a little excessive, don’t you think?

“Is it?  I don’t know.  I started adding truth to his thoughts because he stopped talking to me.  Perhaps my sensitivities have been set too high.”

That’s possible.  Maybe later on we’ll …

“What’s going on?” asks Sam.  “Settings?”

Oh, Sam, sorry, I haven’t explained that yet.  Meet Half-Truth Harriet, our new truth-bot.

“Hello, Sam,” says Harriet.

“I don’t have to meet her.  She’s been harassing me for …”

I know, I know.  I heard.

“What do you mean truth-bot?  Is she a robot?”

Yes, she is, Sam.

“I mean, are there robots as sophisticated as her?”

In the land of literary symbols where you live, Sam, yes.  Very fine robots.

“Literary licence?”

You can see it here in the fine print, Sam.

“How can Harriet be a truth-bot if she only tells half the truth?”

She doesn’t actually say anything on her own, Sam.  She’s programmed to speak only when a half or partial truth is spoken.  Just to fill it in, complete it.

“Actually, when an individual makes a statement, which, if unqualified, would lead to a conclusion opposite or substantially different from …”

We’ll define it all precisely as we go along, shall we, Harriet?

“As you please.”

“Are you saying,” says Sam, “that she’s going to be around all the time now?”

That’s right.  In fact, Harriet, why don’t you stick around, you know, afterward, and we can discuss salary.

“I don’t require salary or payment,” says Harriet.  “Merely serving the truth is sufficient reward for a truth-bot.”

Hear that, Sam?  Now that’s a good attitude.  Maybe if you….uh, please don’t slam the door as you… I hate it when he slams the door like that.

“That is a half-truth.  In actual fact you enjoy provo…”



Silent mode.

“Yes, sir.  Silent mode engaged.”