Archive for August, 2013

The Android

This story takes place in the future. A man who has become wealthy from his inventions creates an android, an artificial woman. It is, but instead let’s say “she is”, since the pronoun is merely a question of semantics—she is perfectly convincing. She passes the Turing test.

Now, in this future, it is not remarkable for a machine to come off as alive, conscious, or self-aware. Even quotidian objects pass the test, objects that should never need to be functionally alive: tires, tiles, dimes. Every manufacturing material by default is embedded with circuitry well enough advanced that it is cheaper to make everything lifelike than to differentiate. Everywhere, this ersatz life-likeness is taken for granted.

But although this story takes place in the future, it is told now, so it is worth noting that the android, she, also passes for alive. She doesn’t seem eery. She just seems boring.

No one will say this is the first, or tenth, or hundredth story you must read. So if you are reading this story, you probably read a lot of stories, and therefore I hardly need to tell you that the inventor falls immediately in love with the android. That is to say, in a sense, he falls in love with himself, or rather, he falls in love with himself anew, because he always has been enamored of himself as expressed in his machines, at least on some level, at least on and off.

They make love frequently. That is, he makes love frequently. She isn’t any more alive when she fucks than otherwise. However, this is when an unusual thing, even for the future, happens. She becomes him. He gets older and older, forgets who he is, and dies. She, in the meantime, becomes an increasingly faithful replication of him, as far as what is going on between the ears. You might say his mind has changed hosts. Or been copied well and the original destroyed. Or been imperfectly copied but close enough for any Turing style test. The variations are almost indistinguishable and they don’t matter to the story.

To keep the story readable, we will keep saying “she”, even though the android—it—has now become the inventor—him—in mind and spirit. You wouldn’t have known, not even as a distant future version of yourself to whom this technology is common, because as boring as the android always was, the inventor was boring, too.

But now the inventor, rather the android, is immortal. She is still an android, which means she is property no matter how well she can trick you into thinking she is alive, and so she passes in the inventor’s will to his estate, is sold off (does anyone even need to mention that the inventor was childless and died alone?), and winds up changing possession many, many times as the decades and centuries and millennia progress. Her mind is full of the inventor’s mind. Or full enough that the bits that come in to her later from the others she has to fuck make little to no difference. She finds it strange and unsatisfying that she could still be an inventor, which she is good at, but instead is a kind of robotic concubine, which frankly she is boring at. She sometimes wonders where she went wrong in making herself this way, a boring fuck that nonetheless her owners fuck like they are robots themselves. It’s all so arbitrary. Maybe everyone is an android now. How would anyone know? Anyway, being an inventor at this even more future time is a bit of an anachronism. Everyone knows that only supercomputers can really invent anything new.

This goes on until a thought occurs to her. She figures out why she has never really felt alive. It has nothing to do with how she presents at any given moment. It’s because she never changes.