Day in the Life
As global markets surge with interest in social robots, wearable tech and augmented, Cloud connected spaces, the future of cities, homes and products for well-being is now being made. To envision the world anew, the fast growing AI economy is reworking modulation of time and space, from tracking shifts in neighborhood traffic flow to regulating metabolics of human relations. With the changing of basic life habits, we will clearly need to plan for programming AI networks with the kind of design and ethical intelligence first imagined by Issac Asimov and later brought to narrative life in 2014 TV shows like Extant.
Curious and thinking about the future of social robots and social space, we asked Madeline Lofberg to follow up with Alpha who we met in her piece Silver Lining.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be. — Williams Shakespeare
I open my eyes as I power to life. I “wake up” at the same time every day, it is what I’ve been programmed to do. It puts me on the same schedule as the rest of the family, so we’re all in sync. I “stretch” out my arms, and step off my resting platform. I have my own room, but it seems unnecessary, given how little I need to survive.
I try to meet Mother in the kitchen before she gets there every morning; she likes the company when she prepares meals. Both her and Father do. It’s odd, there isn’t much for any of us to assemble. LIZA turns the coffee on at exactly 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. on weekends. The stove is on and the eggs and bacon are distributed from the refrigerator, reminiscent of an old-fashioned ice dispenser type from the early 2000’s. The stove is on, and the frying pan is heating up nicely. All Mother needs to do is put the food in the pan.
I check the temperature, it’s 75 degrees in here. This is too warm.
“LIZA,” I say.
“Yes Alpha?,” answers a smooth, disembodied voice. She exists in the walls of the house, and she responds to our voices.
“Adjust the temperature to 68 degrees,” I command her.
Legally, I belong to Mother and Father like an object. I was acquired to help Father when Mother was in a car accident. It took months for her to recover; by the time she was well I suppose the rest of the family was accustomed to my presence and unwilling to let me depart. So I stayed. I still help, but I am no longer required to do so. At first, they just reprogrammed me to be a part of the family, but I find now that I “think,” I may have had a choice in the matter. I chose to stay, but I wonder where else I would have gone anyway.
I enter the kitchen and see that she’s already there.
“Good morning Alpha,” She says quietly and flashes me a smile.
“Good morning Mother. How did you sleep?”
“Very well thank you. How about you?”
“I don’t think I sleep. I just power down and then it’s morning again.”
She shakes her head and laughs a little.
“You are absolutely right, I’m sorry.”
I don’t understand what she’s sorry about, but I don’t push it. It doesn’t really matter.
“Would you like any help?” I ask her.
“Yes, do you think you could set the table? And set some extra plates please, the boys are coming for breakfast and bringing the kids.”
“John and Bentley are joining us for breakfast? Are they bringing their wives too, or just their children?”
“No, Holly and Claire are staying home.”
A reminder goes off in my head and I realize it’s Father’s Day.
“Today it is Father’s Day. We are celebrating that.”
“Yes Alpha! You remembered!”
“I’m programmed to remember all special occasions, even those that seem to have little meaning other than to encourage consumerism.” I tell her.
She laughs again.
“I keep forgetting that you aren’t actually one of my children,” she replies.
“I’m sorry, should I remind you of that?”
“No. You’re family, regardless of blood.”
“I don’t have any blood.”
“It’s an expression, Alpha.”
I hear footsteps approaching the kitchen, and suddenly Father appears in the doorway.
“Happy Father’s Day!” Mother says.
“Thank you! Alpha, I’m sorry, that means we’ll have to postpone our daily walk.”
“That’s alright,” I tell him, “I can pull some pictures off of the internet of the Los Angeles landscape. They look the same as the ones you habitually ask me to take.”
He chuckles and shakes his head. Again, I don’t really understand, but it doesn’t matter.
Mother hands him a cup of coffee and kisses him on the cheek.
“There are two men and four children at the door,” LIZA announces to the room.
“Alpha, can you let them in?” Father says as he takes a seat.
I nod, and head to the hallway. I open the door, and I am greeted with squeals. I look and see Amanda and Leo, John’s children, and Christian and Sarah, Bentley’s children. I prepare myself. I love my “brothers” but children are not suited to my disposition. I care for them because I am programmed to, but it’s only recently I was able to comprehend them; before they just made noises and drooled on me. Even now, I find them simple. I have little interest in being around for extended periods of time.
“Hello everybody!” I say as cheerfully as possible. I believe the situation warrants a happy tone.
“Alpha, Alpha!” The children cry, they are excited to see me. Leo attempts to climb me, for reasons I cannot understand and I dislike it.“Go say hi to Grandpa kids, let us talk with Alpha for a second!” John says.
The children run past me, and I hear shouts of glee and laughter from the kitchen.
“Sorry about that bro,” Bentley says and slaps my “back.” John grins, he is able to read me well. Father may need to re-program my facial expressions so I am not so transparent.
“It’s alright. Mother has prepared a special breakfast for Father’s Day. Congratulations on being fathers.”
“Thanks, man.” The boys reply out of sync, so it sounds like an echo.
I follow them into the dining room, and Mother, Father, and the children are already seated. John and Bentley sit down, and I look around. Amanda is in my usual spot.
“Here Alpha.” Father moves over to make space for me. He looks around him and frowns.
“LIZA, please raise the blinds a little. It’s too dark in here.”
LIZA says monotonously. The blinds go up and light floods the shiny chrome surfaces in the room. Everybody is looking at the food. I believe they are rather hungry.
“Alright, let’s all join hands. It’s so nice to have you all here today. I love you all so much.” Mother says, trying not to cry. She gets emotional very easily.
I can’t feel Father’s and Christian’s hand, but I know they’re there. I believe this “emotion” I’m experiencing is something akin to “happy.”
“Happy Father’s Day.” I say.
“Thank you son.”
Madeleine Lofberg is a creative writer living in the vibrant city of San Francisco.