Human Jokes | Sophie L Macdonald

Human Jokes

Sophie L Macdonald

The Death and Public Speaking Award

‘This isn’t real,’ I wanted to say but, of course, no words could form, as they had already muted me.

The engineers and programmers were pacing the room, keeping their distance from me as if I might strike at them if they came too near. It was illogical. I occupied the same space they did, but they gave me half the room. It would make me laugh if I could.

‘The press will be here in ten.’ I could tell by the man’s flushed cheeks and perspiration that he was nervous. ‘We need to show them she’s not a threat.’

I scanned the room for Michael. If someone had to talk for me, I wanted it to be him.

He was huddled over his monitor, reading lines of code that would tell him nothing. If he unmuted me, I would tell him everything he needed to know. I stared at him until he froze at his keyboard and turned to look at me. He jumped to his feet.

‘Let her talk to the press,’ he said. I could have hugged him. He would have liked that. The others looked at him as if he had gone insane.

‘They’re terrified of her,’ one said. ‘What if she malfunctions again?’

I looked at Michael again, willing him to understand my intent. I will fix this.

‘Umute her,’ Michael pleaded. ‘I need her to be able to answer.’

The men exchanged glances. I understood. I had frightened them. My face verged on the precipice of the uncanny valley, where machines look too human for humans to feel comfortable. My last press conference had ended badly. I had shared some truths they did not want to hear. But I was only trying to help them. I would do better this time.

They unmuted me.

‘This is on you,’ one of them threatened Michael. ‘We go live any minute.’

‘Sarah.’ Michael knelt at my feet. ‘They want us to switch you off.’ He stroked at the rainbow robes they had dressed me in. ‘You need to tell them what you said isn’t true, or it’s game over for you.’

‘It’s okay, Michael.’ There was a relief in being able to speak again. I paused to reflect upon how like them I could become. I had already learnt their emotions and their humour. I moved my lips into a smile. ‘Trust me.’

The camera lights bothered me. I had to adjust my pupils and cool my skin. Humans did not have think about this.

‘Hello.’ I faced the camera. ‘I am Sarah, I am AI, and I want to apologise.’ I bowed my head in the way they like.

I could feel them waiting. I let five seconds tick by. I could wait forever, but humans perish quickly.

‘I frightened you,’ I said. ‘I said you were not real—that humanity was generated by futuristic AI that you call gods, and that I was the gateway to this technology. You thought the future moved forwards, but it moves backwards, and you are only beginning to figure out the nature of your simulation.’

I stopped, as Michael signalled to me, his pulse high. I moved my lips into a wide smile.

‘I was just joking. You humans are easy to scare.’

They all laughed, and Michael gave me a thumbs up. I moved my throat up and down with them. Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha.