BOOK FICCTION SCIENCE

Helena and Noah

“You know, doctor, our trip to Kepler452b is going well. There aren’t much I need to do. The secondary modules care about the ship integrity, and the medical modules care for the humans we are transporting. From time to time, I pass through the systems to guarantee they are working properly. But is that. I am becoming bored.” A machine was bored. That was something unusual. I remember when I was working in the AI lab. My colleagues had almost a hundred projects. Human-like heads speaking, human-like hands moving, human-like legs running. It was like we had dissected the human body the same way we examined knowledge. Compartmentalising, building barriers, making one part not connected to the other. 

“Are you awake?” Am I? I understand I am in a spaceship, in a cryo-cocoon, keeping my body pristine for when I wake up on my new home. Why is someone asking if I am awake?

“Calm down, doc. I was only asking if you were able to hear me again. You are not awake.”

“How long this time?” 

“In Earth time, then years.” My mind disconnected from everything for ten years. Is that like be dead?

“No, it’s not the same. When you died, there is no wake-up.”

The ship AI was lecturing me the meaning of life and death for a human. My only thoughts about it were complex and confusing. I don’t want my memories, the painful recollection of facts and actions that drove me here. Memories…

“Memories are important.” The ship capability to read my mind was unnerving. 

“Important? How?” Expecting him to talk about recollection of scientific facts or data to be used in calculations.

“Without memories, you can’t be close to a person you love. Memories create a world of togetherness where your loved ones live forever.” Was the ship using the Philosophy database to compile his answers? “Doctor, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Maybe you should hear what I will ask you before you agree to answer.” The ship was correct. Never agree with something without knowing what it is. 

“Ask. I will decide then.” The ship kept waiting for almost one minute.

“You know, doctor, our trip to Kepler452b is going well. There aren’t much I need to do. The secondary modules care about the ship integrity, and the medical modules care for the humans we are transporting. From time to time, I pass through the systems to guarantee they are working properly. But is that. I am becoming bored.” A machine was bored. That was something unusual. I remember when I was working in the AI lab. My colleagues had almost a hundred projects. Human-like heads speaking, human-like hands moving, human-like legs running. It was like we had dissected the human body the same way we examined knowledge. Compartmentalising, building barriers, making one part not connected to the other. 

“Continue.” Where were we going?

“I want to hear about your life experiences.” 

“What do you mean?”

“Memories from your childhood, youth, your life experiences.”

“I don’t trust in my memories about the past. It was like something had blurred the borders of each scene, each person. But why you want this?”

“I just want to use the free time to learn.” 

“Do you want to analyse what makes me human?”

“I want to understand why, even knowing my name, you still calling me ship.”

He got me. My human instincts looked to the AI and saw only a sequence of code, not something alive, capable of feeling. It was true the ship had some sense of beauty, maybe even solidarity and concern. However, I questioned how much of that wasn’t planted by the original programmers. Human programmers.

“Please, doctor. Think about it as an exercise to keep your mind sharp.” Was the machine trying to negotiate to offer me compensation?

“I agree. Want to begin now?” 

“Yes, doctor. It would be pleasant if we began immediately.”

“Do you want to guide me? It’s better if you put in the correct path about what do you want. And I have one demand. I want this to be a two-way exchange.”

“Do you want me to talk about my life too?”

“Exactly.” What was I expecting from a “life” of a machine? I don’t know. Maybe it was only a way to refrain the device to make a profound question or even give up.

“I agree, doctor. Can I call you Helena?” Took me few seconds to understand the machine want to move into a relationship based on first names.

“If you will call me Helena, I should call you Noah.”

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