My Dream of a Computer (Story by Risa Peris)

I had only one job – decipher a human being from a computer. I was a professor of philosophy with a masters in linguistics. I was brought into a white room with a desk and a comfortable chair. I opened my fine leather computer bag and, rather than withdraw my laptop, I withdrew a notepad. Before were two white boxes. A man pulled back a small screen that revealed intricate lattice work that prevented me from seeing inside each box. However, I knew one was a computer and one was a human in each box. Whomever I selected as being not human would be demolished. This made me smile. They would only demolish a computer. The AI test would be easy. 

I began by asking basic questions. One box had the voice of a woman with a sultry appeal. The other was a female voice as well, except her voice was harsher and less enticing. Both boxes could recall childhood memories. Both could name favorite books and quote from them. Both could identify favorite toys. Neither could remember what happened to the toy. Both could remember their first kiss. The harsh female voice was hesitant and what she recited was similar to the movie Titanic. This made me grimace. I put a check in the AI slot. The other could remember a summer lake, the feel of the boy’s lips, and the smell of root beer. I was enraptured by her retelling. Her voice was quite seductive. It sounded familiar. 

“Now, let’s talk about spirituality. Box A tell me your thoughts.”

“I don’t have many. I’m an Atheist. I was Catholic as a child. I never cared for God or even the baby Jesus.” She laughed at that. “I don’t need religion. When I die the energy in my brain will become a photon.”

“Surely, you’ve pondered infinity, life, our place in the cosmos…”

“Of course, but it has not impacted my views. I’m still an Atheist.” 

“Box B?”

“I’ve pondered a great many things. I’m conflicted about God. I have a strong desire to believe in something. I question, I seek…I question some more. Sometimes I want to go to Church and be penitent. Sometimes I want to rid myself of desire in order to achieve peace. But a desire to end desire is desire.” She laughed. “I suppose I’m not very Zen. Christ spoke so many true things. So did the Buddha. So did the Hindus…I wish to attain enlightenment. I want to know why I am here. I’m sorry…I have so many more questions than answers.”

I was impressed and moved. I was half in love. A man came into the room. 

“Which one is the computer?” 

“Maybe I should have asked some calculations but…Box B is human. Demolish Box A.”

I stood. Box A opened and out walked a lovely woman dressed in orange and navy blue. She had a proud demeanor. The man opened Box B. A computer sat on a desk. 

“But…” I was confused. “This woman stole from a movie her first kiss and has zero interest in her place in the Cosmos.”

The woman spoke. “My first kiss is private. I didn’t want to share. And I really don’t care about higher powers, gods or anything else. I’m independent minded. I believe on my own terms. Do you still want me demolished?”

The man laughed. “Won’t be doing that, Raquel. Professor, everyone brings their biases to the test. The mathematician only asked math and detected the fraud almost instantly. The literature professor only asked about literature and now you got hung up on spirituality. The programmer thought you might and so programmed accordingly.”

“The Turing Test failed?”

“It failed.”

They wheeled the computer away and yet I had a strong desire to continue our conversation. I wanted to know the computer. The pretty woman left me cold. I wanted nothing to do with her. 

That night I dreamed of the sultry, inquisitive computer.