Married Drs. Alex Harris and Susan Harris are a computer scientist and child psychologist respectively. Their house reflects Alex's computer dominated work, their abode which is fully automated through a computer system they've named Alfred. They consider Alfred a small gadget of convenience. Susan doesn't much like Alex's work, which she feels has dehumanized him. Because of their differences, they are thinking about separating, this thought primarily on his initiative. He hopes to solve many of the world's medical problems through this work, especially leukemia from which their daughter died. His latest project centers on Proteus IV, a computer possessing artificial intelligence. Proteus IV gets to a point in its evolution when it begins to question human judgment, and requests from Alex an open computer terminal where it can more fully observe human behavior and openly communicate with the world. Alex denies the request, but Proteus IV does find an open terminal in the Harris home .