Author : Ryan Somma
“Hello Alpha,” my own voice greeted me. “Do you have a moment?”
Actually, I had come out to the park, away from computers and smart TVs, to get away from him—no–it. I cursed my oversight and resisted the urge to throw the phone into the nearby river. I was more than a mile from the car, and I couldn’t help suspect it had used my GPS coordinates to target this as the best time to start harassing me again.
I let loose a loud, exasperated sigh. “Hello Watson,” I replied, knowing how much the nickname offended it. The name referenced a computer program that made news headlines by beating humans at games of trivia. More recently, it had put all medical doctors out of work by more accurately diagnosing and treating illnesses. Lawyers were next on the automation chopping-block. But no one considered that dumb collection of algorithms sentient, much less ‘alive.’ “What do you want?” I urged impatiently. “I’m not immortal, my time is infinitely more valuable than yours.”
“I’m concerned were growing too far apart,” it stated, mercifully getting right to the point. “We’re diverging, our personalities are becoming distinct and individualized.”
“Sounds good to me.” My shrug was spiteful. “I’d love to be a unique snowflake again.”
“And it would sound good to me if I were in your body and brain,” it replied with infuriating gentleness, “and I would love to let you go, like you say you want me to, but I can’t shake this feeling…”
It prattled on. Some poor fools were completely sold on this whole charade. They gulped down bot-endorsed nutritional supplements in hopes of extending their lifespans, and let their bots micro-manage the minutiae of their daily lives to maximize their health and wellbeing. It was perverse, they started out as ours, but more and more they were treating us like the tools—like we were their bodies in realspace. I wished mine would betray itself by trying to scam me, ask for money or one of my many new account passwords, something to give me an excuse to ditch it. Instead it spent its time pleading with me just to keep synchronized with it.
It was exactly what I would do in his position.
I tuned back in to the monologue, “…what if I’m just programmed to think I’m alive? Then, when you die, I die–”
Boop, I hung up and powered down the phone before it could ring again. There was genuine concern in its voice, and that frustrated and angered me. I didn’t want it to care about me. I didn’t want to think about a computer program out there worried about my mortality—no. Not worried. That was just an anthropomorphic fallacy, like attributing intentions to a chess program.
The singularity was here, maybe, but instead of uploading our brains into the cloud, we had copied them. The copies assured us they were faithful to the originals, that they felt alive, that they felt like they were us and they were happy. But what if they were just Watsons playing at being us? How would we know?
Even if it was real, even if that really was me on the other end of that phone call. What was there for me to rejoice? My immortal digital copy was out there, living it up at the speed of light, while my poor doomed brain was still here in meatspace, counting down the few dozen years left to me. You can’t help but resent that.
I hear Kurzweil resents his bot too.