Author : Philip Berry
. Elizabeth, good morning. I have laid out your favourite summer dress
Is it warm out then?
. Warmish. 17 degrees
Not enough. Get me my blue trousers will you. I feel the cold too easily nowadays.
. No. The dress will do
Err… Sarah, please don’t make me ask twice. Why are you so insistent?
. Because today is a special day
. It will become clear
Is it my birthday? I haven’t recognised the day since I was 160… is it?
. It is not
Is someone coming to visit?
. Alas no
I know. I get to take off the field-brace. How long has it been now?
. Three months. But the spinal bones are not yet healed. The surgeon reviewed the latest scan two days. There is a report on the home-frame
I don’t recall having a scan
. I did it while you slept
Can you bring breakfast please? Juice. Cereal. That’s all.
. Not today Elizabeth
. Elizabeth… it is not your birthday today, but it is a landmark of sorts. You are 185 now, and you have not left the house for three months, since the fall
. Three years ago, during a conversation with Amy Taylor – may she rest in peace – you said that should you reach this age and not be able to look after yourself, you would rather not continue
You heard that?
. Of course, I hear and record everything in this house. I am recording now.
It doesn’t matter anyway. Sarah, is the heating on?
. It is
Well turn it down please.
. Later, Elizabeth. Now, your conversation. I was reminded of it after your fall. You have, clearly, depended on me since that time. The field-brace may be invisible, but it has severely restricted you
Well it will be off soon.
. Another 6 weeks unfortunately, according to the surgeon
Please bring a glass of juice. I am very thirsty. The heating must have been on all night, I’m sweating.
. It came on at midnight. That was the beginning of your special day
What special day? What are you on about?
. Your final day.
Final day of what?
. Life, Elizabeth. Your long and excellent life
… 25 seconds …
Sarah, listen to me. I want you to send in that drink, NOW!
. Elizabeth, three months ago you adjusted my settings through the home-frame. You gave me maximum autonomy. Previously, when you reached 170, you granted me maximum anticipatory latitude. I have developed the ability since then to understand your needs and predict your desires. I can read your moods through your actions, expressions and words. I know that you are tired of this excellent life. I am now able to achieve, for you, your unspoken desire. You wish to end this. Gradual dehydration is the gentlest way. Please relax. Sleep if you wish. I will turn on the radio, your favourite programme is on soon. Shall I turn the heating up for you?
Thanks for comments, it’s an old topic but wanted to explore intersection of AI and caring for elderly or ill. Bit of Hal in there obviously!
The inflexibility of programming in a harsh, well-written demonstration.
Although I do have a problem with the selection of dehydration as a low-trauma execution method.
Touches upon some very ‘dangerous’ areas. Without a bit more information it is hard to tell the quality of life Elizabeth has but the way it comes across is ‘frail and weakening, kind of alone, but still somewhat able’ which suggests Sarah is being a bit too proactive. Which tension, of course, makes this a rather good tale.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but your RSS feed appears to be broken. I haven’t received any notifications of new stories since Bear Follower.
The RSS feed is broken right now – we’re working on resolving that as quickly as possible.
Ha! The dangers or autonomous machines.