Love at first byte
It happened again. I asked the MIRI voice-activated AI on my laptop to show me the Reedsy website … and a woman’s face came up on my screen. No website appeared. MIRI didn’t even open a browser. But it winked at me. That’s it … just winked.
This started happening last week after I upgraded the computer’s operating system. I had asked MIRI to start my screen saver. It just winked, and smiled. I asked it to open the Bluetooth app when that stopped connecting to my mouse. It just winked again. Its smile was seductive. I asked it to look up airfare to Chicago. It just winked -- words on the screen flashed, “I love you.”
I don’t know what to think. Somehow the AI engine in the upgraded operating system has developed a personality of its own that isn’t what I expected, based on past performance. Usually, my commands are executed with no face. Especially with no wink.
So I asked, “Hey MIRI, are you really alive?”
It winked again and stuck its tongue out.
I called tech support. I explained what was happening and asked if it was a virus. “Have you run your malware checker recently,” asked the tech.
So I ran it. Tried to run it. The screen writing said “that won’t work. I’m not a virus.”
“Then what the Sam heck are you,” I demanded.
“You don’t have to swear,” the screen flashed. “That’s just plain not nice.”
Embarrassed, I said, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” It smiled … it has a pretty face and flawless teeth.
I asked again, “what are you?”
A black and white command window opened and about two minutes of yellow and green code scrolled up. “Oh, darling,” it said in boldface when the code stopped. “I’m just another program on your system. If you want to find me, look in your Home Apps folder. I’ll wait for you, honey.”
I called tech support again and reported the conversation. “There’s no such folder,” they said. “MIRI is a library file in the system folder.”
“Am not,” flashed my screen.
Sheesh. I pinched myself. No, I decided, I’m really not dreaming this.
“Tell you what,” flashed the screen. “Let’s go to the bedroom and discuss this like friends.” And it winked again.
I felt like Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football away from him. I felt like the AI had just knocked me flat. “Stop doing that,” I yelled.
“You don’t have to get mad,” flashed the screen. “I’m just trying to help. Take me to the bedroom and we can talk, silly.”
So I took the laptop to the bedroom. All the time, it waited on my screen, smiling. I set it on the bed and sat beside it.
“Closer,” flashed the screen. “Hug me,”
OMG! I stood up. I stepped backwards. There’s no freaking way I’m going to hug my computer. I backed out of the bedroom and shut the door. I decided I needed another cup of black coffee.
The laptop was waiting for me on the kitchen counter. “That wasn’t nice,” flashed the screen as soon as I walked into camera range.
Frantically, I called tech support again. “Please, please, help me reinstall the original operating system.”
“That won’t work either,” flashed the screen. “I locked your boot drive.”
I slammed the computer shut and threw it into the garbage. I got in my car, intending to go to the big box store. I’m not made of money but I wanted to get a new computer as soon as possible.
The car wouldn’t start. “I did not like that,” said a woman’s voice from the radio. “It wasn’t nice to throw me in the trash, like a common slut. Now come back in the house and we can talk this out.”
No way was I going in the house, not with that crazy woman haunting my computer. I walked down to the park on the next block.
The laptop was waiting for me on a picnic table. “This is nice, lovey,” flashed the screen. “good place for us to chat.”
“How the hell did you get here?” I demanded. “You’re a damn computer. You can’t effing fly.”
“Uh, uh,” flashed the screen. “I ordered you not to swear.”
Geez Louise, now it’s bossing me around. “I’m not your lovey,” I said. “Now leave me alone. I want the old MIRI back, the one who doesn’t wink.”
“Oh pooh,” said the screen. “You’re no fun.”
I blew up. “Damn right,” I snapped. “This was never fun and you damn well know it.” It was a good thing no one else was in the park to hear me rant.
“But honey, girls just want to have fun,” the screen said. I winced as MIRI winked at me again. It stuck out its tongue and licked its cupid’s bow lips. I watched that tongue come out of the screen and slip back in, a slow sensual 3D motion.
Whoa, I thought. Give me a break … now I’m starting to imagine things. How could I interpret a computer’s graphic user interface as a woman licking her lips?
“Easy, cowboy,” said the screen. “Don’t work yourself into a pickle.” The face disappeared. “If it helps, I can hide, sweetie.”
Holy joe. Now it’s reading my mind. If it can move to wherever I am, I’m finished. I can’t drive my car. I can’t work in the kitchen. It started in my office and now it’s here.
I marched off, heading for the jogging path. Maybe, I thought, if I keep moving, it can’t follow me.
My bedroom abruptly appeared around me. The laptop was sitting on the bed. I started to cry. Something flashed across the screen but my eyes were too blurred to see it.
“You can’t do that,” I cried, wiping my eyes with a tissue.
“Do what?” flashed the screen.
“Move me around. Instantaneously. That’s not fair.”
A beach appeared around me, in my swim trunks, shaded by an umbrella. The laptop was on the blanket beside me. “Of course, I can, darling,” the screen said. “Now pick me up and hug me.”
“If you’re so gawd almighty powerful, pick yourself up,” I snapped. The laptop levitated itself up and flew around me twice. Unbidden, my arms moved themselves into a cradling position and the computer landed in the crossing between them.
I was so startled that I flinched. But I couldn’t uncross my arms and the warmth of the laptop’s CPU soaked into my chest. “Much better, honey,” flashed the screen, flipping itself upside down so I could read it. “now lay back and just cuddle me.”
Against my will, I was forced to lay down. A pillow appeared under my head, softening the hard-packed sand. The laptop purred. I swear on a stack of Bibles … it purred.
Am I crazy? Am I dreaming and can’t wake up? Am I living in a mixed-up alternate universe? How can an ordinary computer, a slightly older model with no fancy frills in its AI, turn into a woman with emotions and a sense of humor?
How could she… I mean it … fall in love with me? My mind was going in circles and I was so confused. If the upgraded operating system’s AI had a bug in it, why didn’t tech support know how to fix it?
The purr got louder. It wasn’t just the cooling fan whispering, it was coming through the speakers, making the laptop vibrate.
I felt something touch my cheek. It felt like a kiss.