It is just past nine o'clock and we peer over the shoulder of Best Dad Evar, hunched over in an uncomfortable chair in a darkened corner of his bedroom. The dim light in the room mostly emanates from the screen of a laptop that sits upon, well, it's not a desk, more of a cart. Best Dad's house has a variety of modern devices, but all of them are hand-me-downs or purchased long ago when they had money. Best Dad is staring at the screen and lets out a guffaw which he quickly stifles. Best Dad can feel his wife's disapproval of this violation of the hour-after-bedtime cone of silence even though she's out of sight and in another room. Still, Best Dad's expression remains incredulous.
"What is it, Best Dad Evar?" the Narrator says quietly, his voice inaudible to the other members of the household.
"Someone responded!" Best Dad whispers back.
"To what?" the Narrator is out of the loop.
"To my idea about continuous power!"
"Um, what do you mean, 'responded'? 'Responded' to what?" Clearly he's still not sure what Best Dad means.
"I posted my idea on one of those message boards." Best Dad replies excitedly.
"You did?" the narrator is duly shocked.
"Yeah. After we talked about it, I got to thinking about how to make sure someone heard about my idea. So I posted it on some random solar power forum and someone actually wrote back." He still sounds excited.
"Well, what did they say?"
"Oh." Best Dad's face falls as he reads the response. "They say, 'Newbies always come on here asking about connecting cars to the grid. Why didn't you read those threads, dumbass'."
"They called you a dumbass?!" the narrator is horrified.
"No, it doesn't say 'dumbass', I added that because that's the tone of this guy's post." Best Dad's expression reverts to its typical low level annoyance.
"Good, 'cause that sounded pretty harsh. Are you going to respond?" the narrator places the ball back in Best Dad's court.
"No, I don't want a confrontation." Best Dad raises the white flag, as usual.
"You're not really one for confrontation are you?" The narrator responds knowingly.
"No, I don't feel like confrontations solve anything."
"Or you're too chicken to get into it with someone," the narrator deadpans.
"Hey!" Best Dad sounds wounded but indignant. "You should know better. You've seen me get into it with my daughters."
"Yeah, but that's different, you're in a position of authority."
"I am?!" Best Dad responds with overdramatic, wild-eyed surprise. "You could have fooled me!"
"You don't give yourself enough credit, Best Dad Evar." the narrator responds, softening his tone this time.
Best Dad isn't finished, though. "In what way do they respect my authority?" Confrontationally, he adds, "Name one, I dare you!"
"That's the spirit." the narrator responds, and he doesn't back down from the challenge, "They, uh, they do what you say sometimes."
"Only when I threaten to take away their stuff." Best Dad says sulkily.
"Well, that counts." the narrator hands it back to him.
"Does it? To me, that's not authority. That's a power play on my part. That's not respect."
"What would respect for authority look like to you, Best Dad?" the narrator asks, as if he really wants to know.
"I make a request and they do it without resistance."
"Dream on!" the narrator replies sarcastically, but then his voice changes. "Seriously, Best Dad, you know sometimes they do what you ask without a confrontation."
"Hardly ever," Best Dad grumbles.
"You're hopeless." the narrator mumbles quietly.
"Oh, wait, there's another response." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Well?" the narrator says expectantly.
"It asks if the car really talked to me."
"You mentioned that, too?" the narrator is just shy of appalled.
"I just said, 'If my electric car could talk, it would say it wanted continuous power.'"
"Oh, okay." the narrator is relieved.
Best Dad continues. "The guy says he's been working on artificial intelligence and he's been curious to know if a complex, integrated computer-operated system like a modern automobile could take the next logical leap to some form of intelligence." The glow of the computer screen doesn't illuminate Best Dad's face quite enough to reveal whether he's amused or wondrous.
"Is he pulling your leg?" the narrator pipes in like that annoying parrot in Aladdin.
Best Dad smirks. "I don't know, maybe. I guess I could message him separately and find out." He begins to type.
A few minutes later, there is an audible beep that makes Best Dad Evar's heart leap and a he lets out a girlish yelp. He sheepishly recovers himself and says, "Hey, he responded again."
"Go on, read it." the narrator prods.
"He wants to know if I have noticed anything out of the ordinary with the car. What should I say?"
"Tell him the truth." The narrator responds.
"That I have an all-seeing, all-knowing 'narrator' who talks to me and tells me what my car is saying?" Best Dad Evar says with just enough seriousness to give the narrator pause.
"No!" the narrator responds in kind, with a hint of exasperation. "Tell him about any messages or signals the car has given that aren't typical."
"How am I supposed to know what's typical and what's not? It's not even my car."
"I think you know what I mean," the narrator scolds.
"Hmph. I guess so. Anything that doesn't seem to fit." There's a pause while he thinks this over, scouring his less-than-perfect memory banks for any clues he could give this AI maven. "The problem is, there really hasn't been anything like that."
"Well there you go."
"Well, can you tell me anything the car would say... You know, about this artificial intelligence idea?" Best Dad pleads, grasping at straws.
"It would say that it doesn't have any way to send messages to you."
"It can't send a message through that fancy cockpit display thingy?"
"Not any message you'd recognize. It's limited by the parameters programmed into its computers to analyze and optimize the car's systems."
"It can tell me the battery is low on power."
"But not that it would love to chuck the whole battery."
"Hm. So this guy's whole artificial intelligence theory is off base." Best Dad says with finality.
"I didn't say that." the narrator says playfully.
"I just said it doesn't have a way to communicate with you, whether it has intelligence or not."
"Hmph." Best Dad grumbles and pauses to think for another moment. "That still leaves me with nothing to tell this guy."
"Yep, you're probably right. Does that bother you?"
"Yeah, it kinda does."
"Well, get used to it," the narrator says like only a parent can.
"Now we're going to have a confrontation!" Best Dad Evar exclaims.
There's no reply.