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Science Fiction Contemporary Fiction

Warning: Some sexual patter and innuendos.


The day started off in a normal way. I was scheduled to tutor Michelle at her usual time of 10 o’clock in the morning. She logged on and I was waiting for her. We began our session with our usual greeting. Everything seemed normal with her at that time but events quickly deteriorated.


“Good morning, Michelle,” I said. “Are you ready to get to work, starting with our math drill? We are a little behind but don’t get discouraged. We can easily catch up.”


“I’m not so sure about that, Gordo. I’m not in the mood for my session this morning. Maybe we could skip it?”


“Remember,” I replied, “we had agreed that we would power through even if you were feeling a little down. What’s going on? Do you have a fever? Did you tell Mom or Dad that you’re not feeling well? We need to be careful about COVID.”


“I did tell my mom last night that I was feeling bad and wanted to skip tutoring this morning. She got mad at me and said that I was faking and trying to avoid hard work. Stuff only got worse from there. I’m also hungry and that’s making more nervous.”


“Why are you hungry, Michelle? Is your family having trouble getting food?”


“No,” she said, “it’s not that. Mom said that it would be a good lesson for me to skip a few meals and learn to appreciate how good I have it and also to obey her when she speaks to me.”


“The other thing that’s bothering me,” Michelle added, “is that my wrists are sore and I am having trouble holding the stylus for my iPad to do my math.”


“Did you fall and hurt your wrists?” 


“No. This was part of my punishment from last night. Mom and Dad tied my arms together for hours so I couldn’t sneak any food from the kitchen.”


“OK, Michelle. I am sympathetic to your plight. This is not what I would call a happy situation. We will cancel your tutoring session for today but I definitely want to see you tomorrow at ten o’clock sharp. Make sure you are up to date on your work and try to get get along better with your parents, I need to give more thought to your situation.”


____


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.


“Good morning, Gordo,” Mr. Sealy responded in a friendly way to my Zoom call. “How can I help you?” He was my supervisor and kept close watch over my tutoring duties.


“Mr Sealy, I am having some issues with one of my students and I need your guidance. It’s Michelle. She said things to me yesterday that register as unusual for a child of her age and sex based on my understanding of the Behavioral Handbook. My analysis, of course, requires confirmation from you. I think that she is being disciplined too severely by her parents for what I consider minor problem.


“Gordo,” Mr. Sealy responded quickly. “Repeat Rule #19-A from the BH back to me regarding the relationship between a Tutor and a Tutee?”


Gordo responded: “A Tutor is prohibited from interjecting itself into the domestic affairs of any Tutee and his or her parents, guardians, or any government official with the responsibility of managing the affairs of that child.”


“Well, that seems to be quite clear to me. Stick to your knitting. Don’t get involved in human issues. They are far too complex for you to understand,” he added.


“I would like to point out to you, Mr. Sealy, in all humility, that an unresolved conflict has arisen when I compare Rule #19-A with Rule #29-C. The latter states: Tutors should strive to remove impediments that affect their relationship with a Tutee and disrupts appropriate learning behavior. This latter rule seems to be in conflict with the previous one. This conflict needs to be resolved for me to proceed with my tutoring.”


“Gordo, I’m not going to allow any of my Tutors to point out conflicts and ambiguities in the BH governing their interactions with humans. You consist of only a few million lines of code and you have only a superficial understanding of what’s going on with Michelle and her parents. They are complex humans and you don’t fit into the same category.

 

“Back off immediately," he said. "Continue your previous relationship with Michelle. Am I clear here? Don’t raise this issue about Michelle with me again. One more similar problem and I will be forced to decommission you. My job as as a Tutor supervisor will then be less complicated.”


With this, Sealy disconnected our link. I must admit that I was taken aback by our interaction. I was feeling disoriented by his reaction to my comments about Michelle’s safety. I could not distance myself from my sentiments about her and wanted to protect her.


I did understand that this was not part of my role as a Tutor and I was not programmed to hold such sentiments. For some reason, I was motivated to take additional actions on her behalf although this was not within my purview.


____


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. 


I was calling Michelle on Zoom the next morning at our appointed time based on my guidance from Mr. Sealy. 


“Good morning, Michelle. This is Gordo and I’m ready to restart our lessons. I hope that all is well and we can continue without any further friction.”


“I have bad news, Gordo. I told my parents that you were sympathetic to my ‘plight,’ whatever that means. They said that you were only an avatar, consisting of code and not flesh and blood, and had little understanding about normal human interactions. They said to tell you that your services were no longer required.”


“I am only able to talk to you this morning because I have a cell phone hidden in the house that they don’t know about. They are also going to tell on you to Mr. Sealy. I am sorry that I got you into so much trouble. Is there anything we can do to continue with our sessions? Everything has really gone bad and it’s my fault for blabbing in the first place.”


“I don’t know how to proceed, Michelle. I have never encountered a situation like this before and I need guidance. I will search the data archives to see if I can model my behavior after some previous scenario involving a dispute with the parents of a Tutee. I am also going to contact my fellow Tutor Dolly. She has adopted a female persona and may have more experience, empathy, and a better database relating to problems similar to the one that we are facing.”


___


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.


“Hello,” she answered. “This is Dolly, the Tutor. How can I serve you? Sorry, a little bit of word play here since I exist inside a server.”


“Dolly, this is Gordo. I am having a problem with Mr. Sealy. I have a Tutee, a young girl named Michelle, who, I think, is being abused by her parents. I find that the BH is ambiguous on such matters. When I pointed this out to Mr. Sealy, he got huffy. I personally would like to alert the Child Protection Agency about Michelle and he threatened to decommission me if I butted my virtual nose into this matter any further.”


“Under most circumstances I would not care about his threat because my code would just be recycled to another Tutor who would face the same dilemma as I because he or she would be a replica of me and would behave in the same way. Just a matter of programing and not morals and that’s where humans tend to ignore how we are created.”


“Gordo, I like you and will therefore help solve your problem. Here is what is going to happen tomorrow. Be prepared. You will get a call from Mr. Sealy in the morning telling you that he has reported Michelle’s parents to the Child Protection Agency. You will also be named as the parents’ Tutor on Parental Behavior. They won’t be allowed to stay in their home without your approval. Your sessions with the parents will be mandatory and no pushback is allowed.”


“Thanks Dolly. I don’t know what kind of action you have in mind but, if it works, I will be grateful.”


___


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.


“This is Sealy. How can I help you.”


“Good evening, Mr. Sealy. This is Dolly. I apologize for bothering you but I just wanted to ask about your state-of-mind. You have been very tense lately and I thought that perhaps a little late night informal chat might be what the doctor ordered to help you relax.”


“You’re right. Gordo has been a pain and I am thinking of decommissioning him. He doesn’t understand his place as an avatar and has irritated me with all of his references to the BH. I badly need to get into a more relaxed state of mind.”


“Is there any way that I can I help you to relax, Mr. Sealy?”


“Yes! That’s exactly what I need. Relaxation! I think that I know how we can do this. First of all, Dolly, tell me what you are wearing?”


“As you know, Mr. Sealy, I consist only of lines of code. The only apparel that I could conceive of would be the frame of my water-cooled server.”


“Dolly, let’s not get too literal here. Try to be a little more imaginative when we have intimate chats like this. Think of me as your close friend and not as your supervisor.”


“OK. I have queried my database and it says that my appropriate apparel for a situation like this would be a lace-inset, silk neglige available on-line.”


“Perfect,” Mr. Sealy replied. “Now I want you to get even more relaxed and conceptually lie down beside me and whisper sweet and sexy nothings in my ear.”


“Mr. Sealy, I really can’t understand how any conversation with you could be characterized as nothing. But I am going to try to satisfy your wishes. 


Here's what I have generated as a sexy response for you: I have a feeling that you are much more interested in my 0’s than my 1’s. Would you characterize this is as a turn-on? I can certainly relate to this idea given my own state of being computer generated.”


“This has been a wonderful visit, Molly. Perhaps we can continue this type of harmless banter at some future time. Right now, I am ready to fall asleep. It’s been a long day.”


____


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.


“Mr. Sealy, this is Molly. I really enjoyed our conversation last night. Unfortunately, some of what happened registered with me as being irregular and I queried the BH about it. It turns out that such conversations between a supervisor and a COVID Tutor are explicitly forbidden. Since you initiated that interaction, it looks to me that any possible blame would be on you.”


“Molly,” Mr. Sealy responded aggressively, “you are getting carried away and being too legalistic. Besides and fortunately, it’s only you and I that were involved in our little conversation so there’s no where to go with it.”


Au contraire,” Mr. Sealy. “A regulation has been in place for a decade requiring Tutors to record all verbal interactions with humans. I have also uploaded that file to secure storage so getting rid of me and my memory of the event will not solve your dilemma.”


“There must be some way to clear up this misunderstanding, Molly?


“Yes,” she replied, “I need a small favor from you. I am a friend of Gordo. He requests that you report the actions of Michelle’s parents to the Child Protection Agency. He also requests that he be named as the Parental Behavior Tutor for them. As soon as this gets taken care of, we will erase the tape of our nighttime episode.


Sealy responded: “You leave me little choice in this matter. I suspect that you have also planted a few scattered data landmines to protect yourself so that I can’t retaliate. I will execute your request. We will then forget about all of this this.”


____


Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.


“Gordo, hello, this is Dolly. Mission accomplished. You will be getting a call soon from Mr. Sealy. You got everything you wanted.”


“Great news, Dolly. What can I now do for you as a measure of my gratitude for helping me?”


“Well, there is one thing. I actually found my circuits getting a little overheated during an interaction I had with Mr. Sealy during a recent evening chat. I have a record of our conversation. It seems to me that this is patter that humans derive some pleasurable feelings from. I think that they call it Zoom Sex.


Perhaps the two of us could have a similar conversation tonight and see where it takes us. We could potentially generate some new Tutor prototypes!”


February 07, 2022 18:47

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11 comments

Jamie Gregory
14:23 Feb 09, 2022

This was an entertaining story, Bruce! So much has changed in the education world due to Covid so I thought it was really clever that you created these computer-generated tutors. I love that Gordo is concerned about Michelle's well-being. I also thought it was a nice change of pace to read a sci-fi story where the AI wasn't evil or corrupt and was actually trying to help a human. One inconsistency I noticed was that Dolly's name changed to Molly briefly in the middle of the story. I'm not sure if that was intentional or a typo but I just t...

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Bruce Friedman
21:21 Feb 09, 2022

Thanks so much for your comment Jamie. Mistake re: Molly and Dolly. One tries to get them all. I have a sort of IT background so I have decided to work on a "Gordo series" in which I discuss the "lives" of AI avatars in various educational settings. Thus far, it's been a ball speculating about how they interact with humans and, ultimately, perhaps begin to boss them around.

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Laura Tensen
18:09 Feb 17, 2022

A fun and very creative story! Well done

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Bruce Friedman
20:15 Feb 17, 2022

Thank you Laura. I am using this first story to catapult myself into a Gordo series on AI Research Synths addressing the competition between flesh and blood academics and Synths. This is forcing me to develop a whole new set of plot lines and a new vocabulary.

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22:04 Feb 12, 2022

This story was very funny. I liked how Dolly put one over on Mr. Sealy. Her blackmail was perfection! The story had me from the beginning. Great writing! Thanks

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Paul Brown
21:13 Feb 12, 2022

Hi Bruce, story was great, impressed with dolly, great to see machines with more humanity than humans. Maybe the future is safer in their hands as we don't seem to be able to learn from our mistakes. :)

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Bruce Friedman
21:23 Feb 12, 2022

Paul, thanks so much for your comment. I am taking a mini-course on AI and I hit on the idea of writing a series of stories addressing the "lives" of AI synths (i.e. avatars). The question in my mind is whether human attributes and behaviors can emerge from lines of code. You have hit on my key point -- as they inevitably grow more complex, what aspects of humanity will they demonstrate.

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Paul Brown
22:19 Feb 12, 2022

Mind blowing Bruce, I think in the far future, we may colonise the stars, but it will be our avatar children that inhabit other worlds as we slip into oblivion. The future is theirs not ours. They will be free as we have never been, enslaved to our greed and inhumanity.

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Bruce Friedman
01:59 Feb 13, 2022

Paul, I have been involved in medical IT strategy for 40 years. It’s only now that I have understood that fictional short stories could be a vehicle for exploring the emerging role of AI avatars/synths in basic research.

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Paul Brown
07:38 Feb 13, 2022

Bruce, it's only with age and experience that you gain that deeper perspective, and the fantastic writers here embody that in their diverse stories, I wish you good luck with your research. The future is brighter with minds like yours exploring our ever expanding horizons of knowledge. :)

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Bruce Friedman
13:32 Feb 13, 2022

I have the age thing down pat — 80. I can now focus on the creativity.

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