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Chapter 2594: Controversial View
"Where is Lucky?" Maikel curiously asked.
"He has a day job now. Don't worry about him." Ves dismissively answered. "Anyway, let's talk about your recent progress. I've studied your test results and looked at your practical performance. First, let me say I appreciate your progress. Your coursework is very onerous. Compared to what I had to learn, your workload is at least eight times higher. According to Gloriana, a typical mech design student at Kelma University has to maintain a similar pace as yours."
"Does this mean I'm the best?"
Ves softly knocked his fist against Maikel's head.
"Don't be arrogant! Gloriana achieved much better scores and completed many more courses than you did in the same amount of time. There's a reason why she has managed to become a Journeyman so early. If you want to become just as good as her, you need to motivate yourself to work harder. I can't push you along. Do you understand?"
"Uhm, I'm already studying as hard as I can manage. If I increase my workload any further, I think I'll burn out. The other mech designers I've spoken to have told me that it's better for me to maintain my current balance."
Ves looked closely at his student. The adolescent Larkinson did appear a bit more frazzled than before.
He inwardly sighed. He was demanding way too much from his underlings. Ves was so used to working harder that it was hard for him to understand the limitations of those who didn't enjoy his advantages.
Ves remembered that he used to be much worse than Maikel at the same age. Back before he obtained the System, he was nothing more than a baseline human with average intelligence compared to his fellow cla.s.smates. He did not even come close to matching Patricia's brilliance.
It was different now. The Attribute Candies obtained from the System along with his Archimedes Rubal implant had completely transformed his learning ability. What took years for other mech designers to absorb only took a couple of weeks for Ves to internalize. This was not rote memorization, but true mastery.
If not for the fact that Ves had his hands full with his design projects, he would have reserved some time to supplement his knowledge base by reading some of Aisling's excellent textbooks.
For a moment, Ves thought about bestowing the same advantages to his students. While he boosted their Intelligence to 1.6 by feeding them some candies, he didn't want to improve their cognitive abilities too much for fear of distorting their personalities.
Already, Ves was able to ascertain that Maikel and his other student Zanthar experienced some personality changes. Their constant exposure to other mech designers along with all of the knowledge they learned had made them more eccentric. Already, they developed obsessions related to their chosen specializations.
That last part gave Ves a bit of a headache. While Zanthar's interest in maximizing firepower was easily satisfied by allowing him to observe a Transcendent Punisher up close, Maikel was not as easy to develop.
The Larkinson Clan possessed plenty of living mechs. Even though the various mech forces had retired all of their third-cla.s.s mechs, they hadn't gotten rid of them all. There was ample s.p.a.ce to store some obsolete mechs as backups or as future museum exhibits.
Ves even allowed Maikel to examine excellent living mechs such as the Quint and the s.h.i.+eld of Samar up close. Both mechs were spiritually enhanced to over 150 Ves, which meant that they possessed more life than any other machine that Ves had seen!
Despite exposing Maikel to mechs that were br.i.m.m.i.n.g with life, his student didn't seem to have gained much insight from these sessions.
Apparently, blindly showing Maikel around was not the right approach. If Ves wanted his protege to make some progress in his formative years, then he needed to find a more effective solution.
"Maikel, how much progress have you made on your personal framework?"
Ves looked sharper. "I hope you haven't spent all of this time on your studies and on drooling over my products. No matter how much benefits you derive from the work of others, you are ultimately only copying someone else's work. A true mech designer can never be a true professional as long as he keeps admiring existing work. The whole point about our profession is to generate new work. We are creators, not gawkers."
"I-I-I'm aware of that, teacher, but it's hard to get started on this topic. I know what I want, but I don't have a starting point. I have spent hundreds of hours with your mechs, but I still haven't figured out why they are alive. When I compare any LMC mech to a comparable mech designed by a compet.i.tor, I haven't identified any components that instill any special qualities to your products."
"The applications of design philosophies transcend material reality. This is especially the case for a design philosophy as abnormal as mine. You are looking in the wrong places if you think that my mechs are alive because they possess a unique physical component or something."
The young student lowered his head. He looked frustrated. "Then what am I supposed to do? I have tried to study your work from multiple angles. I even borrowed some biology textbooks from Dr. Ranya in order to understand how traditional life is put together. None of it has worked so far. I'm just as clueless as before."
What a th.o.r.n.y issue. Ves had no choice but to take a step back and think about this situation.
Maikel wanted to design the same kind of living mechs as Ves, but that was not practical. Unlike Ves who possessed spiritual perception, Maikel was practically blind to spirituality, which meant he would never be able to manipulate spiritual energy with precision.
The reason why Ves allowed Maikel to grope in the dark was because he wanted his student to find a method that suited him most.
So far, the results were rather lacking.
While a mech design student did not necessarily have to develop a framework or a design philosophy before graduation, Ves expected better from his proteges. The earlier they found their own way, the sooner they could work towards becoming a Journeyman.
He began to think how he could accelerate Maikel's snail-like progress. He did not want the kid to waste years of his time on ineffectual explorations.
It seemed he needed to provide more targeted direction. In hindsight, he may have been asking too much from someone who wasn't even a fully-fledged mech designer.
"What do living mechs mean to you?" Ves asked.
"They're powerful. They have glows. They are responsive to their mech pilots. They are really magical and completely different from any other mech." Maikel instantly answered.
Unlike most mech pilots and mech designers, Maikel's obsession for LMC mechs rivaled that of Joshua's. Both of them were aware of the key traits of every mech designed by Ves!
"That's a good answer, but that's not entirely what I'm asking. You are just describing the properties of my work. What my question is truly about is your personal interpretation of what a living mech should be. Forget about what I think about living mechs. This is about you now. You can't keep referencing my work all the time. You are different from me, so you should hold some diverging opinions. Tell me what a living mech truly needs."
His inquiry caused Maikel to look uncomfortable. Compared to someone who practically invented living mechs, whatever Maikel thought about them was doubtlessly embarra.s.sing!
"Are you ashamed?" Ves probed.
"Don't be. You're an aspiring mech designer. Not only that, you're my student. There is nothing shameful about exposing your own work and revealing your own thoughts to me. I can't adequately guide you if I don't know where you stand. As your teacher and mentor, I would never judge you if you say anything wrong."
After a bit more coaxing, Maikel finally voiced one of his views.
"Well, I have looked at a lot of living mechs. They're really good and all, but.. there's one area I don't really agree on. I've been reluctant to mention this to you because it's not an appropriate opinion. I'm afraid that others will think differently of me if I voice this view."
"Go on." Ves smiled as he tried to adopt a gentle persona. "You can trust me with your thoughts, no matter how controversial they might sound. Even if I don't agree with you, I won't interfere with your choices. Mech designers should have the confidence to pursue their own agenda even if everyone tells them they are wrong. It'll be harder to achieve success this way, but once you accomplish something, your impact will be as great as mine."
His encouraging words loosened Maikel's guard. After a bit of internal struggle, the younger Larkinson finally relaxed and spilled his view.
"According to you, a mech is alive when it is able to bond and be more responsible to the mech pilot. While I have heard plenty of stories about this, I think this effect is too subtle. In the symbiosis that you establish, the mech pilot acts as the brain while the machine acts as the brawn. The result is that the mech pilot is always in charge while the mech is mainly relegated to an a.s.sisting role."
"That is by design." Ves nodded. He appreciated how Maikel succinctly summarized the relations.h.i.+p between man and machine. "Mechs are products that humans use to fight their enemies and accomplish their goals. The MTA and much of humanity doesn't like it if mechs aren't subordinate anymore. Others don't consider mechs to be alive, so they are very reluctant to hand over any significant decision-making power to them. Just like AIs, mechs can go astray if their programming and design are faulty."
Maikel sat up straighter all of a sudden. "That rule doesn't apply anymore! Ordinary mechs may be as untrustworthy as AIs, but living mechs are different! Have you ever thought about entrusting them with more power? What if they can act on their own? What if they can cover for the areas that their mech pilots are weak at? With two different living minds controlling the mech instead of one, the results should be much better!"
Of all of the views that Ves expected to hear, he never thought that Maikel would dig up the old autonomy debate.
Ves looked a bit more uncertain now. "I can see why you have been reluctant to voice this view. It goes against what is in your textbooks and what I have taught to you. Mechs aren't supposed to be autonomous, Maikel. Mechs aren't human and cannot be trusted to act in our best interests."
"Is that really true?" Maikel asked. Now that he exposed his thoughts, he no longer felt timid. "These rules and paradigms about keeping mechs subordinate to their human masters are outdated. While I admit they are still valid when it comes to other mechs, I don't think we need to be so careful anymore! Living mechs are intrinsically different. Isn't that what you say to me all the time? We can't cling to our old a.s.sumptions and blindly follow every rule. We need to rethink everything about living mechs in order to unearth their potential. As far as I'm concerned, not making use of their intelligence is a missed opportunity!"
What a controversial view! If Maikel voiced this exact opinion to Master Willix, she would probably smack his face until he lost all of his teeth!
The MTA never liked to allow mechs to think for themselves! Whether a mech designer aimed to grant partial or complete autonomy to their mech designs, the mech industry always pushed back against these products!
A proper mech must always answer to a mech pilot. That was the rule and custom in the mech industry. Ves really didn't know whether he should approve of Maikel's current train of thought!