Author : Ryan Somma

Ng’s eyes were straining as far as they could go in their sockets to get a look at the brand new shiny avataris sapiens parked at the end of the conference room table. His client’s attention was on the current speaker, a real-life sales person local to the building who was selling some sort of recently evolved market indexing algorithm. Ng was a real-life person also, but not in the context of this meeting. The avataris sapiens was not real-life in any context.

Ng had gotten a good look at it coming into the room thanks to his client lingering on it for what seemed like an eternity before greeting the other meeting members. The avataris sapiens was elegant in design and motion as it stood to greet everyone as they arrived, mimicking the motions of it user.

Ng’s suit was impeccable; his makeup and hair stylized so much as to render him almost artificial to everyone in the room, but the avataris sapiens was even less human. No matter how much Ng sculpted his body at the gym, lasered and tattooed his eyebrows into perfection, or whitened his teeth, the avataris was truly artificial.

Ng stifled a yawn, pursing his lips together tightly with a long, deep inhale so as not to draw any attention to himself. The client had brought him online at four this morning, which was four in the afternoon Eastern Standard time. This six am conference meeting was a natural compromise between timezones, but so was the six pm meeting Ng had attended for another client the previous night. He was fatigued and his stomach was grumbling for missing breakfast, but suppressing these human needs were what made him such a good avatar. Besides, the avataris did not need food or sleep at all.

“What are the metrics on this AI?” Ng came alert as his user’s voice came through his speaker, questioning the sales rep “What kind of return can we expect from its investment choices?”

“The best,” the sales rep answered confidently. “In simulation, our AI can outperform the greatest stockbrokers in the world. We are even planning a public demonstration of its superiority. It will be like when Deep Blue beat Kasparov at chess, historic.”

“And so another human chore will be automated,” a voice to Ng’s left said.

Ng’s visor-harness flashed, and Ng turned his head as his user’s attention was drawn to the speaker. It was the avataris, beautifully artificial, replicating its user’s speech and movement with more grace and elegance than any real human could perform.

The sales rep replied with a jovial quip that Ng did not hear because his user was focused on the avataris. Ng’s breath caught in his throat as he imagined his user admiring it, as if admiring a private jet or corner office. Ng knew he was to the avataris sapiens as renting was to owning, and he was the medium through which his client was seeing the next best thing.

Then, to his horror, the avataris turned its head slightly, noticing his stare, and it smiled at him with otherworldly perfection. Was it acknowledging the unspoken compliment in Ng’s user’s fascination? Or was it a knowing smile, intended for Ng and his obsolescence?

Ng’s heart pounded in his throat, and his stomach grumbled.


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