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Do You Talk Too Much?

By Charles Walter and Edward P. Richards III, 10 IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine #3, pg. 74 (September 1991)

Jason L. Bates loved his work almost as much as he loved his wife. But Susan wasn't here anymore. Maybe she'd never be back. Jay didn't quite understand why she left: why she wanted her own apartment downtown, "her own life," as she put it.

Jay's work was different. He was an integral part of a team that was creating a software system called Doctor on Computer (DOC) for differential medical diagnosis. Albert Wright had written a special PROLOG-like meta-language for DOC. Jay's role was implementing a reasoning process similar to that used by physicians. Recently, he had been stumped by the age-old AI problem of representing fuzzy initial states in a manner that would not increase computational complexity beyond the capacity of modern computers. Now a solution seemed in sight.

Jay had left the university two years ago. The challenge of his new job with Symptomatics, Inc. renewed him intellectually. His job was not just interesting; it was important. A whole wing of the Symptomatics' building was used exclusively for the DOC project. Jay had a special access badge which was checked several times a day by Sympotmatics' guards. Every evening he placed his work in a locked drawer before he left for home and ... Susan. Now Susan wasn't there. But tonight was Friday, and he was meeting Susan for dinner. Tonight he had a date with his wife. His work had gone well today. Perhaps so would tonight.

One thing for sure: Susan was always impressed with Jay's work. Susan was the physician her partners consulted when faced with a thorny diagnostic problem. Susan understood when Jay characterized a medical problem as one involving an initial state (disease), a goal state (health) and a collection of operators (drugs, procedures, etc.) by which the initial state may be transferred into the goal state. However, she never quite understood how her mental process of "problem finding" for the diagnosis could be implemented as a well-defined initial state. There were always other possibilities to consider....

Susan dressed for each occasion. When he met her at Ristorante Diego, Jay knew that tonight would be an occasion. The antipasto was a platter of tomato slices, curled celery, salami, garlic cloves, and green peppers with marinated artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and mushrooms, all topped with anchovy dressing. The pasta was farfalloni con funghi, well-named for the short noodles shaped like butterflies, "philandering" amongst the Amanita caesarea, the North American version of famous European "mushroom of the Caesars." The main course was costolette di vitello alla valdostana, the veal chop covered with melted fontina cheese and white truffles. And the wine was a 1979 Biondi Santi from Brunello di Montalcino. Jay remembers even the number: "bottiglia No. 08321." And Susan was beautiful.

Susan's work was going well. Jay told her of his new work using abductive inference, heuristic procedures for ranking and partitioning inferences, and Zadah's fuzzy logic in parallel processing.

Susan was impressed. She observed, "Yes, it considers other possibilities, doesn't it?" She invited her husband to coffee and dessert at her apartment, and it was very good.

When Jay got home, Mark the Weimeraner was not happy about having to wait to eat until 11:00 am. However, an extra milk bone after his meal made up for everything. Neither Jay nor Mark was had ever been happier.

It was not until Wednesday that they wouldn't let Jay into the building. It was his boss, Orville Lorder, who told him he was fired. A guard escorted Jay to his desk and watched him closely as he removed his personal belongings. On his way out the door, a man identified himself as a police officer and began, "You are under arrest. You have a right to ...."

Jay spent Wednesday night in jail. Thursday morning, Susan found a lawyer through a friend of a friend. His name was Hiram Gunn. Together, Susan and Jay had $28,100.15 in their savings accounts. Mr. Gunn's retainer was $25,000.00.

The judge set bail at $5,000.00. The bond cost $600.00.

The indictment alleged that Jason L. Bates did "knowingly and without his employer's consent, communicate trade secrets, to wit, information about DOC, to his wife while at Ristorante Diego on the evening of Friday, May 3, 1991."

The prosecution's case was based on three witnesses: Mr. John Darme, chief of security at Symptomatics; Miss Ima Slooth, a private detective hired by Symptomatics; and Mrs. Susan Bates. Mr. Darme was expected to testify about measures taken at Symptomatics to maintain secrecy and about certain information known to Mr. Bates, and which is apparently also now known to one of Symptomatics potential competitors. Miss Slooth was expected to testify about a certain conversation she overheard while seated at a table next to Mr. and Mrs. Bates on the evening of May 3, 1991. And Mrs. Bates was expected to testify, probably under subpoena as a witness hostile to the prosecution, about the content of the conversation she had with Mr. Bates on the evening of May 3.

When Mrs. Bates was subpoenaed to testify, Mr. Gunn filed a motion to quash the subpoena on the grounds of interspousal privilege. The prosecution filed a reply arguing that Mr. Bates waived the interspousal privilege when he pled 'not guilty' of communicating trade secrets to his wife. The court agreed with the prosecution, holding that "Since the evidence supporting defendant's not guilty plea is the content of the communication he seeks to exclude by asserting a privilege, defendant cannot assert the privilege offensively as both a sword and a shield."

Mr. Gunn renewed his suggestion that he be authorized to negotiate a probated sentence in return for a guilty plea. Jay agreed, but it was too late. The court's ruling that Susan Bate's could be required to testify had strengthened the prosecution's case. Both Symptomatics and the state wanted an example that would deter further violations of the state's trade secret statute. Jay L. Bates was the perfect example.

Mr. Darme testified about the extensive measures that Symptomatics had taken to maintain secrecy of the DOC computer program and documentation. The work site was isolated and controlled. The information was restricted to the site and kept in locked areas when not in use. All the employees working on DOC, including Mr. Bates, had signed nondisclosure agreements promising to maintain secrecy of their work. Suspicion of an information leak had centered on Mr. Bates three months earlier when it was discovered that certain information, which was known to Mr. Bates, was apparently also known to a potential competitor.

Miss Slooth was called in to investigate. On cross-examination, Mr. Darme admitted that other individuals at Symptomatics had access to the information in question, and that no connection had been established between Mr. Bates and the competitor.

Miss Slooth testified that she overheard Mr. Bates tell Mrs. Bates about his work. On cross-examination she admitted that she didn't hear the details too well. When pressed, she said she might have heard Mr. Bates talking about some kind of new (seductive?) interference, rustic procedures for cranking and parting it, and funny logic similar to that used by his father in a pair of processes.

Score: Prosecution 1, Defendant 1.

Next, Susan Bates was sworn in by the prosecution as a hostile witness. Bite by bite, the prosecution drew from her that her husband had told her of his ideas to use abductive inference, heuristic procedures for ranking and partitioning inferences, and Zadah's fuzzy logic in parallel processing.

"The prosecution rests."

Jay Bates testified that he hadn't intended to take anything from anybody or hurt anyone; he only wanted to impress his wife. His father testified that Jay was a good person. Even Al Wright risked his job and testified that Jay was a nice guy.

Perhaps this testimony about Jay's character reduced his sentence. He didn't have to go to jail for 10 years or even for 2. His sentence was 3 years, with two years probated. His fine was $2,500. If Jay Bates doesn't cause trouble with the guards and the other inmates, he is likely to be released on parole in about 4 months.

Four months isn't so long. Or is it?


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