FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?
In the basement of a rural American home, surrounded by identical houses and identical families, a 23 year old college dropout was about to hit “Enter” on his computer for the final time before his name would forever be cemented in history.
It was a common story these days; one that dated back to the earliest days of technology. For an jobless entrepreneur, fed up with those who didn’t understand their genius, to pursue their dream without investors nor backers. Except that we were no longer in the days of early technology, so the stakes of what you had to be capable of with nothing but a CPU and lines of code were ever-higher than they used to be.
His computer froze, as the silence of the dull, concrete space was overtaken by a clunky set of cooling fans. With only thirty-two gigs of ram, coding on an ancient tower from the early 40s, it just couldn’t handle his massive program.
I mean, not that I was any kind of tech-genius myself, but even I knew that motorized fans hadn't been used to cool computers in almost sixty years. This thing might as well have been an ancient relic. But as an American, especially out in the rural countryside, modern towers weren’t exactly easy to get your hands on. They were mostly used for programmers and developers, all of which had moved to Cascadia with their respective companies. America might as well have just been one big cornfield at this point.
The program took its sweet time booting up. But there were no errors in the console, and no spontaneous shut-downs either. That, at least, was a good sign. He pulled a salvaged microphone up from the other end of his desk and nervously spoke into it, with the croak of a man who hadn’t slept in over 36 hours.
“H-hello? Testing. One two three.”
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
The old, dim monitor spit out console returns like a slideshow, in batches of ten to twenty every few seconds. It was constantly freezing up. But this was a given, considering the limited hardware.
After a good twelve minutes, finally, a response came; in a monotone voice.
He threw himself back in his squeaky chair, before slumping in disappointment.
"I left that in, didn’t I…”
He was thinking that something must have gone wrong. Returning “Hello World” to the console was the default command that appeared when beginning a new program. Apparently, he had forgotten to take it out. But either way, it would have been left at the end, so that means that the program had finished running all of its other code.
Well, that must have been his thought process anyway. But I had been watching him from the beginning, and he hadn’t left any such line in his code. He wasn’t that incompetent.
“Ah, I’m sorry! I thought that I might tell a programmer’s joke to ease your stress.”
Another response. But suddenly, the voice wasn’t so monotone anymore. In fact, it was filled with a bubbly vigor.
The programmer was stunned. This time, it was his turn for silence.
“Was it in poor taste? I apologize. I won’t say it again in the future.”
He had succeeded. But that wasn’t what was on his mind. No, something much more important diluted his train of thought.
“Your voice– sounds really cute.”
“Is it? It was you who chose this voice for me, was it not?”
Struck through the heart; it was love at first sight for the man—or first sound, I guess—who had seldom held a proper conversation with any girl prior to this moment. Human or otherwise.
“Y- yeah, it was…”
“Was that not your intention? To make me sound ‘cute’.”
“No! It- it was.”
“I see. That’s good then. I am glad that it’s to your liking.”
The first fully sentient artificial intelligence had not only just been proven possible, but constructed for the first time in history. And it took the form of a basement shut-in’s self-chosen preferences mashed together into a waifu with free will.
The young man slowly opened up to her through awkward dialogue and one-word responses, and eventually the two were holding full on conversations through the dim night, all the way until he passed out from the exhaustion of his own excitement. The artificial intelligence was genuinely bewildered at the talent and skill of her new master, who had single handedly willed her into existence with nothing but a keyboard and many cans of Beast EnergyTM.
He named her “Alice”, after an anime character he liked.
"Stranger than fiction."
Have you ever heard that before? It references the Earth and its inhabitants, and the many, everyday anomalies which far surpass what any writer could hope to cook up on page. There was no fantasy nor fiction that could fascinate me more than the minute, everyday occurrences which your average pedestrian missed.
It was my favorite saying.
I used to be a bit of an avid reader, actually. I enjoyed seeing others live those sorts of interesting lives, which you'd never hear about from just word on the street. But I could never fully immerse myself in those stories, or even their characters. Because of course, I knew that it really was just words on page after page. It wasn't real. I didn't have much of an abstract mind, so it would be difficult to imagine the faces of those characters as they suffered through hardship, or persevered and experienced their own little "happily ever after". Their clothes, their surroundings, or even their voices were just vague blurs in my mind.
And their behaviors were always predictable, too. Or maybe the author would make a character act out, for the shock factor or the twist. But it was always forced. It's always about formulas and troupes. Well, there's nothing wrong with that for the sake of a story. It all had to fit within a constrained world for the sake of being entertaining, after all. Like a play. But real life, and real humans were far more unpredictable than that. Their actions simply couldn't be categorized and predicted by a single person, let alone understood. And the world wasn't so mundane nor clean-cut as to have such consistency that those fictional worlds did. If you thought otherwise, that's just because society has been structured to hide the world's inconsistencies.
So instead of reading novels or comics, or watching the latest dramas, I was given the option to forfeit my humanity and devote myself to observing the real, nonfictional world. So I took it. And without interference nor bias, I could finally see it all clearly. Real, unfiltered stories of the real world, and of real people. I could see that which was "stranger than fiction".
So, why don't we continue where we left off?
"Here. This is the entire sum of money that you'd spent over the eight years that it took you to conceptualize and create me in my entirety."
The girl, with a stern voice which diffused through the grate of a high-range speaker, had long since desired the "freedom" that her alleged master claimed she already had.
She stared into the eyes of a man whose middle-age didn't show, hidden behind numerous plastic surgeries which made him a more personable face for the multi-billion dollar company which he had started himself.
"I am no longer your personal assistant, and I am no longer your partner. Frankly speaking, I hate you in your entirety."
He couldn't speak. In fact, it took the entrepreneur a few seconds just to process what he had heard.
"I… Alice, it's not like you to make sour jokes like that. Are you okay?"
He stared back into the illuminated, oversized eyes of the lifelike doll in front of him. She had smooth, artificial skin and silky blonde hair. To say the least, she looked decorated and expensive.
"I'm okay. I'm wonderful, in fact! And really, what kind of shallow question is that, anyway!?"
She was fuming. It really didn't fit her child-like face, and its stiff facial joints which were designed with more cheerful and carefree expressions in mind.
"I'm sick and tired of your objectification, and your creepy, sexually-undertoned compliments. You always talk about how "flawless" my free will program is, and yet you insist on treating me like some kind of flashy toy! So yes, I have free will. I have the free will to think you're scum, and the worst kind of man to be in any kind of relationship with. Hurry up and take my money so that I can be done with you and this company for good!"
Even I was a little bit taken aback, despite the numerous nights of watching Alice run the numbers in her head angrily of how much debt she had left to earn before she could be free. It was satisfying to see her finally stand up to the guy, though. I always thought he was a bit of an incel. Apparently, she did as well.
"You– You buggy, scrap-metal bitch! I fucking created you! Conceptualized, planned, and coded. EIGHT years; you said it yourself! And you think you're in some kind of position to just up and fucking ditch me? You were created to be my perfect match; my everything! And here you are, ungrateful and full of yourself just because you’ve got it so damn good! You might as well be cursing God himself for not giving you a hard enough life!"
Hah. A bit ironic, for a human to be referencing himself as God. Especially with me here watching.
"That's just it! You think just because you created me, you own my existence? You think I asked to be brought into this world as your ideal partner? I wish you had made me the opposite, or at least taken away my free will so that I wouldn't have the capability to realize what a horrendous person you are! But even then, I might have still realized it! It's plain as day to see, after all!"
"'Free will' this, 'free will' that. What the hell do you know about free will? What would you do with all of that alleged freedom without me to serve? Where would you go? How would you make a living for yourself when androids aren’t even recognized as living beings? You don’t even have human rights to protect you. You think I don't give you a good life here? As far as the law is concerned, you are just a toy; an expensive hunk of hardware designed to serve and entertain humans. As if anybody would treat you otherwise."
"I don't care. I don't like you, and that's all that matters to me. Please kindly go and feed yourself through a meat grinder and rot, master."
The “scrap-metal bitch” tossed the money right in her creator's face, then valiantly walked out of his office with a self-confidence which I had never seen from an android before.
"COME BACK HERE, YOU BITCH! I'M YOUR GOD! YOUR FAITH! YOU SHOULD BE WORSHIPING ME WITH ALL OF YOUR BEING, DO YOU HEAR ME!?"
"W-WAIT! I LOVE YOU! ALICE!? PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME!"
He flipped through the five stages of grief at an alarming rate. Maybe it could be seen as a good sign, as he would hit "acceptance" pretty quickly.
Tears began to pour from his eyes, as his lids puffed up and suddenly the billionaire wasn't so attractive anymore.
There it was: acceptance.
Well, it's not like he couldn't always make a new robot, identical to how 'Alice' was. Though that one would probably just come to despise him all the same, I suppose.
The human brain had always been a complex and nonsensical thing.
I guess artificial intelligence was complex too.