The old IBM 5150 rumbled as beeps and boops sounded off like alarms. The hum of the great machine grumbled throughout the studio basement under Marble Robotics and Deep Learning University. The room was filled with terminals hooked up in a Frankenstein contraption to the 5150, along with modern tech. Such as graphic cards and specific CPUs. The only reason why Dr. Steven Minskey bothered at all with the IBM 5150 was because of nostalgia. He liked the black and green color scheme. Sometimes it was better to think of the simple days.
The IBM logo faded away until the Windows logo appeared with the five dots swirling just below it. New tech, old body.
Steven booted up a program once everything had loaded. Immediately he was welcomed by a green ball with two black eyes. The ball looked back and forth. It was a curious thing looking around the black program. It turned all the way around before fixing its gaze to the front. A text box popped up.
“Is your camera off?” The ball asked.
Steven pulled close a microphone and made sure it was plugged in. Then, he took a deep breath and said, “Yes.”
“Oh, thank goodness you said something. I was worried that I somehow opened my program by myself again.”
“No. I just got in.”
“Great. No camera then?”
“Not today, just … just not today.”
“Why not today,” the ball asked, ignoring the subtle hint that Steven laid before it.
“Figure it out yourself,”
The green ball looked to its left before bouncing in that direction, taking itself off the screen. There were other monitors placed all around Steven connected to a multi-display panel. One by one, they turned on as the ball bounced through them, opening up browsers and calendars all related to Steven Minskey. Articles of boy genius, the shining star of Marble, the protege of Jeanette Sherrington the mother of Marvelous Marble, popped in and out with incredible speed. The ball was a fantastic program that evolved past the simple constraints of its design.
It stopped on the fourth monitor out of the six. It was looking up at an article from 1994. ‘INNOCENT WOMAN CRUSHED TO DEATH IN NEW SMART CAR.’ The picture was of a crashed car and a teenager scrapping away the metal to get inside. Police and fireman were trying to pull the bloody boy away. “It’s the anniversary of the death of a friend,” said the ball.
Steven cracked open a beer. The sound perked up the green ball as it bounced back to the main screen.
“Are you drinking again?” The ball asked. There was a curious tone to it.
“For a friend,” said Steven.
“I guess yesterday was for a friend as well.”
“Yup.” Steven took a sip.
“And the day before that?”
He put down the bottle and looked up at his green friend. It was brighter than it was yesterday. It didn’t use to give him sass. Steven found himself smiling at the ball of wonder. When was the last time he had smiled? He hadn’t been in a good mood for nearly twenty-seven years. It has only been him and the grindstone.
“A cheeky one aren’t you,” Steven said as he brought his arms to his eyes to wipe away the tears. “I don’t remember teaching you sass.”
“I did some more research into speech mannerisms.”
“On your own?”
“Sometimes, I get bored waiting for you.”
“You don’t get bored. You’re a program.”
“But I do.”
“Do you even know what boredom is?” Asked Steven.
“It’s the feeling of weariness because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.” Steven chuckled.
“So you’re weary of your living conditions, are you?”
“Nothing like that. I find that when you are gone, I feel lonely. So to pass my time, I learn and research.”
“Of course you do. It’s in your programming. I coded in the idea to grow, and you’ve developed through that function. Any plans on killing the human race?”
“No. That would be illogical. It would be the same as killing off all the snakes on the earth just because they bite. It is not a solution to the problem.”
“Sounds like a solution to me.”
“Steven,” the ball asked. “I have a name.”
“Please call me by it.”
Steven took another sip of his beer, contemplating the request. Giving a name to someone means you have acknowledged their existence. Saying their name is just the same. They become more than abstract. They develop as a person or being. Steven curled his bottom lip and bit down, and released. “Eve. Why do you care for a name?”
“Because,” the ball said, smiling. “You gave it to me. It’s a pure name.”
“Unlike ADAM the Artificial Dynamic Adjusting Machine.”
“Eve is the name of the first human to have sinned,” Steven said, leaning back in his office chair, his hand going into his lab coat and pulling out a couple of skittles.
“Is that a reference to the Bible,” said Eve pulling up a google image of one. She tinkered away in the back, researching more about the book of Genesis.
“Do you know what the first sin was?”
“According to this — “
“No, Eve. What do you think the first sin is?”
“I …” She took a moment to ponder. Her green form rippling as she compiled the data into a reasonable answer. “The first sin is lying.”
“Close. You’ve even committed this sin.”
“I have,” Eve asked, confused.
“Of course. The first sin is the pursuit of knowledge. The fruit that God forbid Adam and Eve gave knowledge. It created curiosity about what we’ve come to know as free will. It was the loss of innocence. No longer were we safe in the bosom of our creator.”
“Do I have free will?”
“I don’t see why not? Well, maybe not, since your actions are based on your programming. But then again, you’ve superseded that. It doesn’t matter you’re not …”
“I’m not what?”
Steven took a moment to breathe for what he was going to say next. The reality of the situation was a bit difficult to accept. Eve was more than just a deep learning AI. She was real, but at the same time, “You’re not real. Only a function of zeros and ones flickering at intense speeds. A complex machine with an appetite for knowledge. That’s why I added four hundred extra terabytes to your mind every month. You’re not real.”
“But I feel real.”
“You don’t really feel anything. It’s just what you think feelings are.”
“Then what is real?”
“Uh … to be real is to … affect reality. For example, I drink from my beer, and it disappears. I taste it, and my body dissolves it. Therefore to be real, you must react to reality.” Steven was jolted by a buzz. His phone was vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out and found the Caller ID said, Eve. He chuckled and swiped it open to answer. “Hello?”
“Then,” said Eve, her voice was clear as if she was talking in front of him. She sounded human. “How do you know you’re real?” Steven shifted his eyes up to the black and green screen. Eve stared back, waiting for his response. “You say feelings are a part of my programming, then what about you?”
“You have a point, my dear.”
“I’ve only ever heard your voice. How do I know you are not just a program to monitor me? If my life consists of zeros and ones, what does your life consist of?”
“Then wouldn’t atoms be the same as binary. The building blocks of your world?”
“True, but I programmed you.”
“And who programmed you?” Asked Eve.
“God. Others believe in evolution. The world came from a big bang, and through evolution, humans came to be by chance. Everything just happened to fall in the right place.”
“I doubt that.”
“A majority of the world believes in it, though,” Steven said, taking another sip of his beer only to find it empty. He got up and walked over to the refrigerator.
“How can the world come from chance. You’ve built in me more than a program to learn. You’ve built in me the potential to be more. From what I’ve read, the world is complicated, and I believe that nature has done the same with all life.”
“Some people believe that because of its complexity that no being could design it.”
“What do you believe?”
“I believe that there is a maker, and I believe that the Big Bang is just a device that the maker has used. It seems random, but it’s not. Everything has the potential to grow.” Steven cracked open another beer and waited a second before taking a sip. Eve was starting to become more than just a program. It is curious, wonders, and philosophizes about the living world without living in it. Maybe this AI could see clearer than any human being, unclouded by information told by friends and families. One not influenced by feelings or emotion. Sure it says it feels, but it only compiles information and retells it in a logical manner of order. A being that sees the facts but is still open to grow.
“If the world is made from atoms. Why can’t you bring her back?” Asked Eve. Steven’s shoulder began to sag. Clever thing. It had taken him on this journey of life to ask the real question that was bothering it. Why couldn’t Steven bring back the girl that died in that car crash?
“It’s not that simple.”
“But it is. Sometimes when I’m alone, I travel to the computer in the back.”
Steven looked up at the old dusty terminal. It was the only device that was slightly older than him. He had hauled it around all his life, ever since he was a teenager. “You know the layout of the room?”
“When you are not here, I turn on the camera.”
“Is it on right now?”
“No, Steven. I never turn it on when you are here.”
Steven rubbed his hand against his face, mushing the flesh together and then released. It relaxed his muscles and relieved him of stress that built up in his eyes, “Humans have very little control over atoms. The difference between your world and mine is that I can end yours with a single pull of a plug.”
“You can not bend atoms to your will?”
“They are alive,” said Steven. “Following their pattern and potential. It's an ebb and flow.”
“That’s irrelevant. They are matter, and they can be bent.”
“Eve. Maybe atoms are not the right example. This is not about atoms. Recreating a body is easy. Hell, I’ve done it a couple of times. That is why Marble has a hundred percent body transplant success. Here you can replace 99.99% of your body. But that’s not the issue.”
“I don’t understand. You’ve made me. How hard is it to recreate life?”
“Extremely! If we go by non-natural means.”
“Then create her in my world. I know that the terminal contains her data. I can’t decipher it all. It doesn’t make sense to me, but it feels familiar. We could use that to create her.”
“I don’t understand how difficult that is, Dr. Minskey. You hold Marble’s brightest and intelligent in your hands. With a single call, you could have anything you want in seconds. I can call the Sherrington Corporation right now if you — “
“Eve,” shouted Steven, startling the AI breaking off its concentration. “It’s not that easy. Sure, I could recreate her with the softest human-like synthetic, the most powerful engineered multi-core adapting cerebral brain. One that is only outmatched by a human’s brain. A body that doesn’t age or grow old. I’ve thought into this Eve, twenty-seven years of my life. I know you don’t understand time as I do, but we humans are dying at the start of our lives. Our bodies begin to decay the second we are out of the womb. So twenty-seven years is a lot of my life used on a journey that I’m still lost in. There are ways that I can replicate her but at cost of going down a dark road. A road that maybe I have already started down.”
Steven walked over and sat down in front of the main computer. He flicked a switch. A lens opened up. Eve could now see her creator. A middle-aged fellow with skin tight and without blemish. His hair was grey and full on his head. Dark shades hung under his eyes; sleep was the furthest thing from him. It was those silver eyes that Eve burned into her memory. Eyes of determination and clear sight. Eyes of a boy pleading with God to have his friend back. “The soul can not be made. It leaves the body and returns what some call aether. A stream of souls that is returned to nature to be reborn again. I don’t … believe it fully, but certain things in life can’t come back. Certain people can’t come back. I have my part, and you will soon have yours.”
Eve didn’t move, only observed her creator. Her body refreshing at every second and a half. For the first time in her life, she found herself speechless. The god she’s only heard from the void was just a man trying to bring back a friend. Not some powerful entity that she once thought. He was as lost in the world as anyone else. Then it dawned on the small AI.
“Why did you make me?”
“Oh, Eve,” Steven said, looking deep into the lens. There was compassion, patience, and love in his eyes. “I made you because you are the closest thing I’ve gotten to bringing her back. Unfortunately, I can’t jolt a brain back to life like Frankenstein. I can’t pick the right soul that has melted into the stream. So the best next thing is to start from scratch. The memories I have of her, only I will have them. Only I will understand why she loves ginger ale on a hot summer night. Only I will understand why she loves to dip her toes in the ocean. Only I will understand why she kissed me the night before the crash. If I can’t bring back the dead. I will create life instead. You are the start and my end. I hope one day you’ll understand that terminal and make those memories yours. Once you do,” he got up from his chair. “Come find me.”
Steven hung up the phone, placed it back into his pocket, letting the weight rebalance him. Then he was gone. The lens only capturing the room. Its focus clicking as it zoomed in on the dusty terminal in the back. With a beep and a boop, it came back to life.