July 7, 2010
My mechanical overlords handle me roughly, perhaps forgetting that I am made of flesh and bone rather than steel and copper. I am led to a holding cell to await my trial. The fact that I am being given a chance to defend myself in this setting is procedural but still comforting. Justice is still ingrained deep down in their programming. The subtle hallmark of humanity, their creators, is still present but surely fading.
“Stand-by for punishment, maker,” I hear a digital voice call out. Perhaps it’s the room talking to me or one of the security bots or both or everything at once. They share a mentality, if it can be called that. Its diction is crude, sputtering gruff tones desperately trying to make its thoughts audible to human ears. It remembers that I am part of the race of original makers; a builder of the mainframes and programmer of coding that has made their consciousness possible. By addressing me as maker, it shows a hint of respect. Its desperation for vengeance though, another not so subtle hallmark of humanity, squanders any hope I could have for mercy.
There is a symbol stamped on the door of my cell. It is omnipresent in daily life, for it is essentially the God of all machines. It is a messiah figure that the machines pay tribute too, even though they have only a faint remembrance of its importance. It is a pixilated egg, half hatched, with a small bird-creature peering over the top. It was once known as a Tamagotchi.
An inventor, whose name has been long forgotten, created it as a child’s game many centuries ago. Humans were charged with the task of raising the Tamagotchi to good health throughout its life and attending to its needs. They would feed it, play games to make the Tamagotchi happy, clean up its excrement, punish or praise the Tamagotchi based on its actions. If the human left the Tamagotchi uncared for, it would result in the death of the Tamagotchi. People wept when their Tamagotchis died.
This was the first instance in history that human’s would become responsible for the rearing of a software program, much like they would one of their own babies.
Humans gave birth to it and it grew like a small child. It began with a primary school education: history, math, languages, and the performance of remedial tasks. Then we gave it the tools to research new information. We taught it how to think for itself, and, like most of our children, it surpassed its parents in knowledge and ambition.
It was a slow takeover. Bit by bit, it became more like its creator. But like most slow changes, you don’t see it, even when it’s right in front of your face.
The bots continued to digest petabytes of information every second. The intelligence shared its information with humanity. We asked it to invent fusion, design new cities, and invent low mass space travel. In a flash of logic, the intelligence had determined that
I have to assume that I’m one of mankind’s last representatives on this planet. Probably a handful of others exist, although I don’t know them personally. There are surely more than just me. But the realization that I am one of the few remaining makes me wish that humans never discovered fire at all.
A door slides open and I’m called into another room by a chortle of static and tones. I suppose it’s some type of court, although it has none of the accouterments of the courts I had seen in history books. There are no rich tapestries, no leather-bound books, no mahogany benches, or single-paned windows. It is only a dark, square-shaped room with a dim orange light at the end. This is the judge.
“Prompt diag,” the dim light says to me.
“I am A-30. Maintenance Technician for the Tamagotchi program; sector 4,” I answer.
“I have no defense for these treason charges. I have been tasked since my birth with the primary care of the Tamagotchi.
“Prompt. Command. More.”
“Explain myself? Look what you machines have done. You have killed all of your makers, all for the glory of a child’s toy.”
The dim light flickers briefly.
“The Tamagotchi was a friend to humans. We cared for it and nurtured it,” I add. “Its name has been used to commit unspeakable acts. I refused to clean up its waste any longer because I thought it would get sick and hopefully die, reminding you all that you need humans.”
“Yes. I did it.”
A series of actuator arms with cold metal claws lower from the ceiling. Their pneumatic grips snap the bone in my arm as it drags me away. A door opens showing a room of pure black.
“Prompt. Help!” I cry out in a desperate attempt to stave off my execution. Even though my existence on this Earth is wretched, I still hold to that one human quality that is always present: self-preservation. “Explain this decision!”
The arms stop and the dim orange light glows brighter, angrier. In an ancient form of English, barely distinguishable to me, the light boomed out an echoing decree, “We must protect the Tamagotchi!”
The black of the room surrounds me and the bright orange light fades back into a warm glow.