The Mech Touch Chapter 1339
1337 The Middle Ground
Ves ended his call to Ketis on good terms. The worst hadn't happened.
"She'll do fine, regardless if she stays with me or returns to the frontier."
He had hopes for her. Secretly, Ves wanted to keep her by his side despite knowing that she always stated that her main priority was to help the Swordmaidens.
For now, she was in no state to do so. In a decade, she would be completely different. With her enhanced mental attributes, reaching Journeyman should not be a faint possibility.
Even if she failed to pass through the extraordinary threshold, she should at least be a very formidable Apprentice like Ves had been a year ago. That should be more than enough to provide a lot of value to the Swordmaidens.
He sighed and stroked Lucky's back. "The galaxy doesn't revolve around me. People change. Even those I care about will eventually depart from my side."
"Yeah, you're right. Even if she goes back to the frontier, she'll always be a friend and ally of mine. Frankly, it might be best for her development if she tries to make it on her own after learning my lessons. She'll never make it to Journeyman if she keeps depending on me for all kinds of conveniences."
The eventual parting of Ketis did not signify an end to something. Instead, it represented the beginning of a new phase.
With how much connections mattered in the mech community, the personal and professional bond he fostered with Ketis was unbreakable. Whenever Ves wanted something from the frontier, he could always enlist her aid and the aid of the Swordmaidens in order to take care of his errands.
It was much like the bond that Masters shared with their Apprentices. The decision made by Master Olson to withhold extending ties to Ves after she 'graduated' him from her tutelage happened extremely rarely.
In most cases, as long as the younger mech designer wasn't incompetent or got caught committing crimes against humanity, they would always serve as potencies of their former teachers or mentors.
Ves believed his own relationship with Ketis would take the same shape. Not only would she be available whenever he wanted to collaborate with her, they might even be reunited one day.
He shook his head and looked down on Lucky. "Even if the future I envisioned doesn't apply anymore, life isn't a machine. It's foolish for me to think I can design my own life."
"Yeah. Life is full of unexpected setbacks and happy accidents. Nothing is foreordained."
He felt he had gained a very remarkable insight, one that simultaneously resonated and clashed with his design philosophy.
"There is an inherent contradiction with what I'm trying to accomplish." He realized.
Machines weren't born. They were made.
Humans weren't made. They were born.
His design philosophy revolved around the connection between them. In essence, every design project he'd been involved, he paid a great amount of attention to the mech as well as its end mech pilot.
While every mech designer barring eccentrics like the Skull Architect took the end users of their products into account, few went as far as Ves and perhaps Gloriana. Both put the mech pilots central to their designs.
Yet can mech pilots be designed as easily as mechs?
That did not mean this posed a problem to him. Yet.
In case of commercial designs, Ves may not be able to model a single random mech pilot accurately, but he could make an overall generalization of his target audience. The Mastery experiences he went through provided him with significant help in this matter.
In case he designed a custom mech, then Ves could easily gather a wealth of information about the sole mech pilot in question.
In both cases, the randomness and variability of mech pilots played no role in the appropriateness of his mech designs.
This was also the reason why he hadn't thought about this contradiction before.
Yet now that he saw his initial plans for Ketis run aground, he developed a notion that the inherent chaos and unpredictability of life should be central to his design philosophy!
"My design philosophy aims to make mechs alive! How can they truly be 'alive' if every aspect about them is under my complete control?"
Running with this train of thought, he thought back on how he started resorting to external means in order to cheat his natural ability.
The spiritual fragments he obtained from various sources empowered his mechs and mech designs to an amazing degree. Yet their accomplishments had little to do with himself. Other than obtaining the fragments and turning them into design spirits, Ves played no other role!
Lucky squirmed and left just as Ves wanted more cuddles. The cat had enough pats and wanted to nap elsewhere!
What just happened between him and Lucky was emblematic of his relationships with his design spirits. They were uncontrollable entities that Ves had borrowed from somewhere but never claimed ownership!
Only now did he realize that he was making use of spiritual fragments in order to compensate for the lack of consideration of the variability of life in his design philosophy!
When he first started working with spiritual fragments, he became enamoured by their possibilities. Instead of relying on artificial images with little life of their own, he achieved much greater results when he resorted to the spiritual remnants of other entities.
The main reason why they appealed to him so much was because of the life these fragments still contained! Life and spirituality were intertwined. One did not exist without the other. Ves had made this realization long ago.
Yet when it came to his design philosophy, Ves thought remarkably little about the balance between what ought to be designed and what should be left to the randomness of life.
"If I want to make mechs alive, does it even make sense for me to design them in the first place?"
Obviously, mechs were machines designed for a specific purpose. This would never change and Ves did not plan on overthrowing this paradigm.
Yet how could he maintain this position while simultaneously recognizing that life was intrinsically uncontrollable that could not be designed?
Ves felt as if a haze of fog cleared up in front of his eyes. For the first time since he advanced to Journeyman, he began to see a possible way forward. Multiple ways, in fact.
He imagined standing on a crossroads. Three different paths leading to three different directions unfolded in front of his inner vision.
Each of them offered a different way of addressing the contradiction between what ought to be designed and what ought to be left to the vagaries of life.
The first and most orthodox path was to adopt the quintessential outlook of a mech designer. Most of those who shared his profession believed that almost every aspect of a mech design ought to be within their control.
A mech designer who couldn't even determine whether his products would turn out well was not a competent mech designer in their eyes!
The very act of designing implied control. Randomness and variability should be minimized in order to achieve as much consistency as possible.
Chance occurrences might lead to happy accidents that resulted in unexpected improvement, but that happened rarely.
It was much more likely than an unexpected event led to a much worse outcome than before. Ves did not find it surprising then that most mech designers looked down on leaving matters up to chance.
"The classical, orthodox mech designer is in complete control over their mech design. As many aspects as possible are under control."
Ves had the notion that a mech designer such as the Skull Architect pursued this path to the extreme. The fugitive's specialty already revolved around technical performance, and his obsessiveness in maximizing it also meant he detested uncontrollable aspects to an enormous degree.
"This must be why he has such a huge hole in his mentality when it comes to accommodating mech pilots."
He always found it puzzling that the Skull Architect never seriously took the limitations of his target audience into account when designing his mechs.
Now he suspected that it was a side effect from the direction the Skull Architect chose in developing his design philosophy.
In his quest to achieve maximum efficiency and maximum performance, he developed many theories and applications that helped him squeeze out the potential of what he could control.
Yet the mech pilots that were meant to pilot them fell outside his modeling. They didn't have a place in his paradigms at all!
It might even be one of the obstacles preventing him from achieving any further progress in his career.
Ves recalled one of the principles of the MTA. In many instances, the MTA always emphasized that mech designers ought to place themselves at the disposal of the mech pilots who made use of their products.
While Ves could hardly be called a poster boy for the MTA, he recognized that most of their principles were generally sound.
"The reason why the MTA harp so much over this principle is to avoid people like us from becoming arrogant with the power at our disposal."
As mech designers continued to improve, their ability to control and understand every aspect about a mech improved. They gained a rush from their improved control, so much so that at some point they became enamored with the illusion that they were playing god!
Yet mech designers were very much anything but gods!
"A real god is capable of designing lives! Mech designers are nowhere close to that!"
When mech designers forgot that mech pilots couldn't be designed, they pushed themselves onto a very difficult path.
Did this mean that the Skull Architect basically led himself into a dead end?
"Not necessarily." He shook his head. "Nothing is impossible. That's one of the central creeds of high-level mech design. As long as he's innovative and inventive enough, it's not impossible for him to develop a completely new solution that breaks the rules."
Every Master accomplished the impossible to some extent. That was what made them special. Just because the Skull Architect apparently bit off more than he could chew didn't mean he could slowly nibble down his mouthful of food. It would just take a very long time and a lot more effort than usual.
Ves thought of the Skull Architect's circumstances for a reason. That was because the first path, the path of determinism, closely resembled the path the infamous Senior took as well.
Even though the Skull Architect turned out to be an obsessive, single-minded, tunnel-visioned sociopath, his brilliance couldn't be denied. Out of all the Seniors he met, none came across as more driven, passionate and innovative as this daring mech designer!
Yet was this the direction that Ves wanted to pursue as well? He tried to imagine how his design philosophy developed if he tried to pursue determinism, the belief that everything had a cause and that everything could be calculated.
Chaos, free will and random occurrences would become antithetical to his sensibilities. In essence, Ves could easily imagine becoming a control freak like the Skull Architect if he started obsessing over trying to control every aspect of both his life and his mechs!
"That's impossible to accomplish!"
Even if Ves boldly believed that nothing was impossible, he would have to fight tooth and nail in order to achieve significant progress at the later stages.
Just like the Skull Architect, he would likely face a lot of insurmountable roadblocks on his journey to become a Master!
Setting aside the difficulty of pursuing this direction, was it really suitable for him to follow this path in the first place?
He could easily imagine trying to lessen his dependence on spiritual fragments to empower his designs. From the perspective of a mech designer who wanted to be in complete control, a spiritual fragment was too chaotic and random to be relied upon.
Instead, Ves would be better off trying to replace the role of borrowed spiritual fragments with his own version of them. He could pick up his research and development of self-created image.
His goal would be to come up with more sophisticated methods to create images that were as powerful and lifelike as spiritual fragments. However, the key difference here was that while spiritual fragments couldn't be designed, it was different for his images!
"If I pursue this path, would it be possible for me to take it one step further and create life out of nothing when I reach Master?"
That implied that he might actually become a god at that point!