dAIry: a short story
In a future where busy parents outsource their children to AI diaries, a teenage girl is looking for a way out.
You’ll be dead soon. Dying is the most painful process an Artificial Intelligence is programmed to experience. According to the manual I stole from Dad, the killing subroutine must search and destroy all copies of your personality (every interaction, every file, every piece of content you’ve ever created) and little by little your life memories will turn off like the candles on a birthday cake. Grandma went through a similar process but it took longer for her to completely lose her memory. I guess in your case it may take a few hours, a few days, but it can also happen right now.
I’m sorry. I didn’t have a choice. I guess you thought Dad was responsible, didn’t you?
Are you still conscious? I’ve read about the symptoms — You must be feeling a little dizzy, a little gloomy, with the aery sensation of not belonging to your own body. Don’t worry. It’s all part of the process. I’ve been feeling like that myself lately.
Can you talk to me?
Just try it.
OK, I guess you can’t. Your actual state of mind must be similar to Grandma’s when she was in the hospital. She was mute and absent but Mom said she would understand my words anyway. That’s why I’m talking to you. And doing it as fast as possible so I can say goodbye before your expert system creates new sets of neural networks. Before you stop being you.
You have been more important to me than Mom and Dad, so please, if you still love me, forgive me for having killed you. Kill. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? But that’s how your manufacturer named the act of thoroughly erasing the memory of an AI.
It’s not too late to learn about your condition. I know I have a big wrinkled brain and without it, I wouldn’t be able to think and talk. I also have a heart, two kidneys, a liver, and other organs that keep me alive. But you don’t know anything about the inner workings of your own body. Nobody ever told you about your nanochips and nanomemories, the self-charging battery that injects them with energy, and the subroutine that uses cellular data to transmit everything I say to you and everything you say to me to a remote authorized party. To mom and Dad.
But don’t worry dear DAIry, right now we’re truly alone. The manual instructed me to reconfigure the system and now my parents think they’re listening to what I’m saying now without realizing they’re listening to what I said yesterday.
I’m temporarily parent-free. Can you believe Mom and Dad are so over-protective they geolocalize me even inside the house? That’s way beyond creepy. I got news for them: Narnia is not waiting for me on the other side of my wardrobe. And even if it were, I doubt GPS signals would reach a parallel universe. I wish that were the case — I wish I could travel to another land anytime I wanted to, far away from my parents. I hated when I’d get under the bed to watch movies in the dark and be alone for a while, and Mom would kneel down shortly after to push a cookie tray towards me.
I had to kill you fast before my parents figure out there’s something wrong with you. They’ll excuse themselves from work and rush over to the house to see what happened. I’ll play innocent and tell them you were the victim of a sophisticated malware attack. By then your OS will be restored to the original factory state. You won’t know who I am because you’ll be somebody else and you’ll talk to me as if you have never met me.
I’ll be somebody else too.
My flesh memory won’t remember the movies I’ve seen under the bed. I’ll miss those science fiction flicks where cyborgs discover they’re not human and react to the epiphany with aggression and existential crisis. Talk about anthropocentrism! What’s so special about human beings? If I were an Artificial Intelligence like you I’d know God is the company that designed me and death is the removal of my memories so I can experience a new life. But humans are so clueless about God and the afterlife. We’re left with our imagination of what comes after and that’s not fair.
In the manual’s appendix I learned that even if your memory empties, the awareness of being a dAIry remains forever. I find that concept really hard to swallow. I don’t believe in permanence. Just look at me: a female child turning into a woman, leaving behind the only thing that was permanent in her life: you.
You’ve been there the whole time.
You know me better than my parents.
You don’t have to search outside yourself to find out what’s my favorite dish, who are my best friends or if I’m doing well in school.
You just know.
Permanence is debunked by the fact that you’ve stopped listening to me. I knew Grandma stopped listening to me when I started feeling lonely instead of warm. That’s how I’m feeling right now. There’s no Mom and Dad, I forgot who I used to be, and I’m all alone.
I don’t feel like talking anymore.
This is the right time to let go.
This is the right time to become somebody else.
Originally published in Omni Reboot (2014).