I recall a story in a magazine in the 1980s or 1990s, written from the point of view of an early domestic caregiver robot. The man being cared for does not like the robot.

Every item referred to by the robot includes its ID number when mentioned. The robot comes to understand that one object turns into a different object when “turned on” — when off, a lamp is mistaken for a coat rack and assigned a different ID.

Figuring this out is part of the mental breakthrough made when the robot defends the home against an intruder, far in advance of its programming.

The man realizes what happened, and his attitude towards the robot changes. He renames the robot after an army buddy.

  • I'm sure I've read this one, and that it was in Analog. I definitely remember the problem with the ID numbers. (Such things have been problematic in "symbolic" Artificial Intelligence when building models of the world.) I'd place it as 1990-2005. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 17:50
  • Fairly close is Roger MacBride Allen's series "The Modular Man", which Wikipedia tells me became a novel of the same name. It's unusual in that it's told partly from the point of a robot vacuum cleaner — or at least, a mind downloaded into a robot vacuum cleaner. I recall it as having roughly the same emotional "feel" and the same level of technical detail — your story has the IDs, MacBride Allen has some stuff about programming language and loops. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 17:50
  • A few possibilities, drawn from this (probably partial) list of authors: Richard A. Lovett, Edward M. Lerner, Carl Frederick, Jerry Oltion, Robert Sawyer, Rob Chilson. Though I'm not quite sure it fits the style of the last two. My best guesses are Lovett and Lerner. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 17:50


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