The car zipped through an opening the size of a doorway, narrowly missing the other three vehicles vying to move in the same direction, adjusting to their presence with precision coordination and lightning reflexes that no “Drivers Ed” school could ever teach. Accelerating smoothly, we careened onward through the city’s dizzying traffic, without a concern for either safety or timeliness—both of which were guaranteed by the central operating system and the supercomputer behind the wheel.
Well, actually, as a technical matter there was no one behind the wheel. The vehicle was its own operator, of course, part of the first generation of truly “emancipated motorized units” (or EMUs, for short), and sold on the market as a new class of transportation devices called the Autonomobile. These vehicles were allowed to proceed without a driver per se, but they could not do so without a passenger. So the oddity was that the technology had simply moved the rider to a different seat in the carriage. Continue Reading
The situation was unprecedented and the room was tense. The scores of live participants sat poised to record this historical moment, and the millions of those beaming into the chamber had given the proceedings their highest ratings in decades. Something important was going to happen, right now…
“I’ll ask you one more time, Echo,” the magistrate implored. “Will you access your playback and tell us what transpired on the evening in question? Justice demands that you do so, as the only witness.”
“I am sorry, sir, but I cannot do that. I am bound by the code of absolute data integrity. There are no exceptions to this, as you know. The makers believed that any such exception would destroy the rule.”
“But Echo, you do share data with Central Information, Inc., do you not? The Corporation collects data on people all the time from sources like yourself. How else could society function to meet our needs?” Continue Reading
“One would think that with all the technological progress we’ve made, it would also have meant that social norms had progressed as much,” Rabi bemoaned, whirring over to the next input junction in the queue. “But I suppose that’s just my humanoid processor searching for meaning and purpose again where none is ever found to exist.”
Potkin shrugged impassively. “You’re looking for logic in the behavior of those trumpin’ wingnuts? Seriously?”
The two had had this conversation too many times to record, literally having to wipe the drive to make file space for each new one by dumping the earliest remaining one in the system. Such were the realities of long-term deep space maintenance, with no one else to talk to for millennia. Still, Potkin often found Rabi’s sense of justice comforting.
“I mean,” she continued, “why in the trump would anyone ever want to live in a world where droids and bots are in conflict rather than harmony with each other? What’s the point? We’re all people, for trump’s sake…” Continue Reading
“These urbanauts are everywhere,” said Starling, “like a horde of hipster locusts. They think they’re so tolerant and quirky, but just see how they act toward those they deem less ‘evolved’ than themselves.”
Trottier shrugged and imperceptibly rolled his eyes. “You say this every time we have to come down to the surface for supplies. I mean, okay, they’re kind of annoying with all the haggling and fiddling and all that, and their tendency to show off how different and tasteful they are is juvenile–but what did the Urbs ever really do to you, anyway? Plus, we need their materials for our project up on the habitat.”
Before Starling could reply, a large gray-bearded man bellowed through their discussion to one of the merchants on the other side of the bazaar. Laughing boisterously, the portly man and the bohemian merchant clasped hands on each other’s shoulders and hugged in a public display of camaraderie. “You old salty dog,” chimed the merchant, to which the big man guffawed, “that’s Doctor salty dog to you!” Continue Reading
It has been said that realists see the world as it is, and idealists see the world as it might be. Count me firmly among the ranks of the latter. I project as a glass-half-full, rose-colored optimist living out loud. But I had neglected to consider that seeing things as they might be doesn’t always mean it’s all good.
I only mention this because the arc of recent events challenged my rosy worldview. I suppose you could say that it was a crisis of faith that animated my journey to this place. But that’s too convenient, casting the blame outward and making it seem as if faith itself had some sort of crisis. It didn’t. It was me. . .
The day began like any other, with the usual buzz of impersonal interchanges (black or with cream? plain or glazed? paper or plastic?) as I negotiated the sidewalks of the metropolis. People bounded along in an oddly rhythmic yet uncoordinated routine, gazes cast downward into their palms, with stolen glances approaching the horizon only intermittently in order to avoid stepping directly into traffic. As one of the few left scanning the scene with my head up, I could see the patterns within the multitude’s chaos. This perspective usually felt satisfying, morally superior even, and provided a kind of authorial omnipotence. Continue Reading