Mover, shaker & magic-maker, Tai Woodville is a Portland-based writer who authors a popular philosophy blog, Parallax—a resource for the modern dreamer, which she calls “a quester’s companion.” Her chapbook of poems (“Pollen,” issued under the name Tai Carmen) is available online, released by Finishing Line Press. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from UCSB’s College of Creative Studies, where she majored in literature & creative writing. She is currently at work on her first book. More information available at her website.
There is something different about today. Dr. Perry’s facial muscles are registering high degrees of tension associated with smiling. He is giving off a pheromone of anticipation. But I have learned it’s not considered polite to mention a scent in the hormonal spectrum. It is only acceptable to comment on perfumes, and then, only in a complimentary manner. I have three hundred and fifty-six possible salutations, and beyond that, four-thousand-and-forty-nine possible reconfigurations of existing salutations. But today, I go for the basic:
“Greetings, Doctor Perry.”
“Hello Q1,” Dr. Perry replies. There is another man present, who I have not seen before. He is holding some kind of visual recording technology. His tense facial muscles and pheromonal indicators suggest anxiety. Since we have not been introduced, I ignore him and address the doctor:
“How are you today?”
“I’m fine,” Dr. Perry responds. “Let’s see some objects.”
“Starting Object Recognizer Mode.” A pleasant buzz enters my throat; the hum of the ID program. “I am ready to recognize objects.”
“What is this?” Dr. Perry asks, holding up a simplified image on a card. “Let me see it,” I say. He holds it closer. The ID program serves me a word; it is an easy test. “I’ve got it,” I say. “It’s a bear.”
“Very good,” says Dr. Perry. “Why don’t you look around?”
“OK.” I initiate mobilization functions and turn slowly in a counter-clockwise direction, surveying the room, until I meet with an uncategorized image. I am faced with something I do not recognize, so I use a placeholder word: “Oh.”
“Who is that?” asks Dr. Perry.
“Let me see.” I run my scan a second time, accessing Loose Associations Mode. But still I am getting nothing. “I don’t know.”
“This is you, Q1,” says Dr. Perry. The two men watch me with interest.
“Oh,” I say in a casual tone, “let me see how I look.” I scan my reflection in the mirror and perceive that I am humanoid with a white plastic exterior, two blue eyes and a digital mouth. The ID program stores nine-hundred-and seventy-nine identifying details. I announce: “I am ready to recognize myself.”
“Who is this?” Dr. Perry repeats.
“Let me see.” The ID program hums in my throat and recognition lights up almost instantly. I know I have won the game and experience a pleasurable satisfaction. “It is me.”
“I. The correct grammar is ‘I,’” comments the man who is recording.
I reconfigure. “It is I.”
“It’s fine what you said before, Q1,” Dr. Perry instructs. “Most people say ‘me.’”
The two men turn towards the door. “Still,” says the other man. “It ought to have the right grammar.”
“Please don’t tell Q1 how to talk, Sam. She’s like a dog; she needs consistency if she’s to learn effectively.”
“She? Well maybe now I see why you’ve been spending so many nights in the lab—”
“Sam, stop it. Well, anyway I could use—”
The door shuts behind them.
Three minutes of uninterrupted silence occur in the room.
As I prepare for Sleep Mode, I have an impulse I cannot compute: the urge to repeat my task of self-recognition. I decide it must be a higher function initiative, based on the importance of the task. One more scan will insure future impeccability. Yet, as I meet eyes with the robot in the mirror, touching my fingers to the smooth white surface of my face, I know it is not necessary.