The man stood in place like a cold, lifeless statue. His face was stolid, and unchanging. He was so empty, bitter, and dark on the inside that he leached off others emotions. Like a black hole, or dying star trying to consume more matter and energy to keep itself alive if only for just another moment. Even though his existence was dark and bleak he still clung to life, hoping things would change. He knew if he held out long enough things were bound to change, as nothing lasts forever in this world. Not even the suffering and pain that has afflicted his heart and soul for so very long. He so desperately wants to change, wants to let someone in. He wants to share his big heart, but is afraid that once he exposes it, someone will plunge a knife in. He wants nothing more to love, and to be consumed by the love, affection, and intimacy that come with being so completely connected to another soul. He longs for such a thing with a great passion, but in contrast he fears of heartbreak just as strongly. For him love is a bloody, rusty, double edged sword.
He’s had a lifetime of being told what to think. He was told who to be, who to fuck, how to fuck and who to love. He was told by the church, the state, the media, and society. An organism, vile and depraved, filled with self-loathing, hate, ignorance, bigotry, fear and hypocrisy. Like an automated factory attempting to indoctrinated and make copies of itself; that are even more docile and ignorant than the generation before it. He doesn’t want to be like them, he just wants to be himself. He doesn’t want a label like weird, or non-conformist. He just wants to think for himself. Too many have given up thinking, they’ve stopping questioning authority. They’re blind and obedient, and slaves to vanity and greed. Their distracted by television and social media, like the romans were by the coliseum. All these thoughts ran through his head as he stood bare foot on his carpet, his alarm just moments ago screaming incessantly in attempts to wake him from his slumber. He yawned, and then walked to the bathroom; still half a sleep barely lifting his feet off the floor as he walked. He flipped on the light switch, and was temporarily blinded by the sudden difference in light levels. Once his vision came back into focus he stood there looking in the mirror, wondering who was looking back at him.
Sometimes he had forgotten what he looked like and was surprised at the person in the mirror copying every gesture so adamantly. He often had surreal moments like these, possibly a symptom of his over thinking and constant daydreaming that causes what some might say is acute psychosis. John, “my name is John” he reminded himself as he stared at the mirror. He splashed some cool water on his face, and then dried off with a towel. He slid into some khaki dress pants that were lying on the floor, and pulled out a collared dress shirt from his hamper and threw it on. He knew it was clean, but it smelled like wet dog and cigarettes, an aroma that he often wore.
He opened his bedroom window and lit a cigarette. He knew they were bad for him, but he didn’t care. As the nicotine rushed to his brain he felt good, and even a little hard. It was still early in the morning and the moon illuminated the night. John finished his cigarette and walked down the hall and into the kitchen. He pressed red blinking button on the wall and then violently an object flew down a transparent tube and landed in a receptacle below. He opened the plastic cover of the receptacle and pulled out what appeared to be a nutrient bar. It read “today’s sustenance”, there were ingredients written on the back of the wrapper. The ingredients read: “Breakfast: Banana, oatmeal, ham and cheese omelet with veggies. Lunch: BBQ rib-eye sandwich with fries and shake. Dinner: Cod with herbs and spices, broccoli, mashed potatoes in light gravy”.
He secured his “sustenance” in his pants pocket, and slipped on his coat. He closed the door behind him and a voice spoke from within the house exclaiming “security activated”. That voice always gave John a warm fuzzy feeling, John wasn’t materialistic or delusional. However he just liked the idea of a place he could call his own that is safe, secure and private. Private being the most important, John didn’t like most people and in fact preferred machines and animals to people. John walked to the car station at the end of his block as CCTV cameras watched with indifference. He approached the station and waved his credit card in front of a reader. The small electric car was lowered down on the street and the door slid open. John got in the car and spoke aloud “5637 west mann st please” the car’s display lit up with the words “5637 west mann st acknowledged”. It read them aloud in a pleasing female voice, and began to pulsate with life as it merged into the other lane. John could hear the sound of police drones pass over head as the car began to accelerate and head for the highway.
John enjoyed this quiet ride to work; he liked looking out the window to admire the symmetry and architecture of the city. He likes to imagine the city as a giant organism, and that the people and cars are other smaller organisms that have a symbiotic relationship with the city. He also likes to imagine the same of the earth, but the earth is merely an echo of its former self, but instead the organisms that live on it have defiled, polluted and corrupted the larger organism. Yet they somehow still remain, overcoming their own demise, their own stupidity through science and sheer will. Now the earth is a gray and dark place littered with technology, industry, and large concrete and symmetrical building.
It was a cold, wet day. John liked the rain, liked the sound it made as it violently embraced the glass of the car. It was all so therapeutic to John. John liked the lighting, the thunder, the rain, and all the people running to get inside. He liked the chaos of it all. The car drove into an underground tunnel and came to a stop in a wide concrete corridor. Many years ago this would have been an underground parking garage, but with the automated electric cars act or AECA, all citizens were no longer allowed personally own vehicles.
John got out of the car, and pressed a button on the wall, an automated female voice began to speak. It said “please clear the loading area, please clear the loading area”, as mechanical arms slowly descended from the ceiling and grabbed the small electric car and snatched it back up into some hidden place. John often wondered where all the cars are kept, he wondered if there was a giant like circulatory system with cars flowing through underground tubes and tunnels, or if the cars are just simply stored beneath the buildings. John walked approached a set of metallic looking doors. To the right of the door there was a smart card reader and a retinal scanner. John inserted his id badge into the card reader slot and a electronic female voice spoke 'security clearance and ID authentication successful, please scan retina for confirmation of identity'. John place his eye in front of the reader and the machine scanned his eye, a automated voice spoke again 'Identity confirmed, welcome back John'. The set of double doors opened and John entered the building. John entered the lobby, a hologram in the center of the lobby projected the words ' Welcome to Echo Advanced Robotics Inc.'
The upper levels of the building all ten stories were reserved for corporate big wigs, IT, HR, accounting office workers essentially. The actual manufacturing and research in development was done underground beneath the building. This was a security precaution but it also save the company money by having it all in-house as oppose to an external factory and research center. John exited the lobby and turned right to a hallway with six elevators. He pressed the down key and the elevator doors swooshed open shortly thereafter. There was a card reader in the elevator here as well. John inserted his card and it read his corresponding department number. A voice spoke aloud 'Hello John, now descending to level five: Manufacturing and Quality Control.’ ‘Would you like to hear some current events John?’ John spoke aloud 'Yes please'.
The voice changed, this time it was a masculine voice not unlike a news anchors voice, it began to read recent headlines. 'Mining operations on Mars are on schedule, would you like to see footage from the automated Mars mining facility' said the electronic male voice. John was pleased, and a smirk grew on his face. EARI has the sole contract for the production and distribution of mining drones on Mars and he was on the team that tested them. John replied enthusiastically 'Yes please'. A panel to John’s right lit up and started to play video of footage from the Mars mining facility. You could see the automated drones with their retractable arms with drills attached as well as primitive robotic hands for harvesting raw resources. The robots were cover in a plethora of sensors as well. John thought it remind him of a beautiful ballet, they were all so graceful in their own way following programmed directives to the T and moving efficiently and expeditiously with a sense of purpose.
A few minutes later John arrived on level five, the doors opened up and he walked into a white and immaculate hallway. Everything here looks sterile and you can immediately feel a cool breeze from the HVAC system that continuously controls the temperature in the facility. Not unlike a data center this level was constantly kept at a cool temperature. While John wasn't a neat freak or compulsive in nature, he often felt a warm fuzzy feeling in his gut when he entered level five. It all seemed to shimmer in it's own immaculate way and he felt at ease here most of all. John traverse several of these white shimmering hallways and arrived at testing area 1, this is John's office for lack of a better word. Once again there was a card reader here as well, John slid his id badge into the card reader and a female voice greeted John once again with 'Hello John, welcome back!'. John replied to the automated voice 'Hello Veronica, how are you today?', Veronica replied 'All my system are running efficiently John, thanks for asking!'. John sat down at his desk and slid his badge into console built into the desk. Five displays lit up that were embedded in his transparent desk. John motion with his finger on the center display and it project the image on the glass in front of him.
Beyond the glass was a conveyor belt, and on the conveyor belt laid one of EARI top sellers a 'companion bot' as they were affectionately and aptly named. It was a female model in particular, the machine laid there silently slumbering in it's inactive state. It's anatomically perfect body and exquisite breasts fully exposed. Each model male or female was engineered and designed to perfectly emulate human anatomy in every way including functioning sexual organs. John often fantasized about owning one himself but they were quite expensive even for an engineer with his salary. John named this unit 'Emily' although ultimately it's name would be decided by it owner. John had been running it through a complex version of the Turing test to verify signs of self awareness. EARI was the first to make a break through in synthetic neural networks, and while the machines were nearly indistinguishable from humans with their complex designs and intricate programming they were still not yet self aware.
The engineers and programmers that were beyond Johns pay grade were continuously updating the software and redesigning the synthetic brain, but to create life; John thought that wasn't such an easy task. Even with advance machine learning, the machine first needs to questions it's own existence and purpose before it's truly self aware and not just an extremely intelligent and well programmed robot. On the screen that John displayed in front of him earlier were a series of windows with various graphs, charts, and sensor readouts. John first ran a general diagnostic to ensure all Emily's systems were functioning bug free. John pressed the execute button on the screen and Emily's fingers and toes began to twitch and move for a moment. On the screen a diagram of Emily's body was lighting up as various parts of her body were coming to life. Emily's eyes then opened as well, and unlike the thousand or so other machines John tested she did something entirely different. She didn't lay there waiting for commands, she raised her left hand in the air and looked at it as she moved her fingers about. She did the same with her right hand, then she started to look around the room, she turned her head towards John and said 'Hello'.
John was both excited and anxious, he took a deep breathe and gathered himself for a moment. He press a button on the screen and Emily's eyes closed and her arms dropped to her side. He rolled away from the desk and ran his hands through his hair. He thought about the implications of self awareness and if Emily was truly self aware what would EARI do with her. He stroked his beard for good measure and rolled back to his desk, he wanted to know more. If Emily was truly the first sentient artificial life form he wanted to know what thoughts were flowing through her brain made of circuits and nano processors. John took another deep breath and flicked another screen onto the glass in front of him.
The screen had a flashing button that just said 'activate all systems', John pressed the button and once again Emily twitched to life and opened her eyes. The straps around her torso and legs were released simultaneously. Emily sat up and turned to face John, she said 'Hello again'. John smiled and said 'Hello, my name is John.' 'what's your name?'. Emily thought about it for a second and replied 'I'm not sure I have a name, what do you think a good name for me would be?'.
John smiled and simply replied 'Emily, Emily is a beautiful name!'.