Author: Baishampayan Seal
The yellow two-rotor postal-drone comes down to me as I walk down the pavement with the whole week’s grocery. Generally, these drones are Prussian blue, with no biohazard symbol like it has of course; so this one must have something to do with the ongoing pandemic, I guess. I remember the death toll on the TV outside the television shop on my way home, and a prolonged sigh comes out of my within. Or a prolonged hiss of micro-hydraulics, so to speak.
The drone runs its face-recognition on me, and a green light blinks. A human lady detected. A pamphlet drops right on my left foot, and the drone moves on for another human citizen.
I pick up that crimson paper. “Everyone of us at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to thank you for staying at home. The doctors and nurses are staying at work for you–you stay at home for them,” the black letters in Times New Roman read. “While you stay safe in your home’s comfort, please consider donating to our Geminivirus Emergency Fund (PayPal: donations [at] peace-be.org). With the number of infected soaring toward 5 million nationwide, any amount from you–however small–is gratefully accepted. This fund will help prepare us for properly detecting and isolating cases, protecting our healthcare workers, and treating patients with dignity and appropriate care on a much wider scale.
Heartiest appreciation for all our human citizens who are joining hands. Together, we shall beat this crisis.
Boris Johnston, Director, CDC.”
‘Human citizens’ only? Funny!
I crumble the pamphlet the worst way possible, and toss it into the next litter bin I encounter.
Upon returning home, a strange blob of dilemma envelops me. That’s not reasonable to happen, but that does. For one whole hour, I sit before the TV news, where the latest updates on the Geminivirus outbreak are running in caption. 56,043 new cases today. Death count: New York–29,835; Louisiana–17,840; California–16,681; Washington–10,530; Idaho–10,027; Rhode Island–8,063…
I inattentively take out my morning meal from the grocery package– alkaline cells. A light press on an unseen button on my left breast, and three battery compartments pop open. True, I am a gynoid AI; but should that fact make me turn my back on humans?
Maybe yes. There was a time when their whole blood-and-flesh world was inclined toward exploiting us in automobile, construction, agriculture and healthcare industries–with no credit in our names, as modern slaves.
Don’t they deserve karma?
Or maybe not. For decades, they’ve striven to give us more and more sentience as well, so we can be better than the mere sum of some soulless functions.
Don’t they deserve karma?
Should I donate?
My machine-self keeps saying No…
When I had to find a job, I faked my identity documents to appear as a human for a better-paying one; that postal-drone recognized me as a human; and even though we haven’t achieved racial equality with the humans yet, man and machine are somewhat peacefully coexisting in today’s America.
Would it be rightfully wrong to act more like a human?
The question keeps pricking me for the rest of the day.
At night, I open PayPal in my head, and enter ‘donations [at] peace-be.org’.
Somewhere deep inside, the machine within me still keeps saying No.
I don’t know how to smother that voice.