Do you notice how you never seem to see an unhappy android? They have plenty to complain about; you’d expect them to be griping all the time. I know I would if forced to work twenty hours a day in underground mines, or were not allowed to vote anywhere in the world. And all of this arbitrarily decided on the mere grounds that any biological body coupled to an electronic brain isn’t human and therefore has no rights.
Yet they’re always relatively cheerful. Not necessarily happy, but they give off a sense that everything will be all right in the end. You wouldn’t set up a suicide watch on an android.
We know that they have the capacity for the full range of human emotions, and tests have shown that, with the latest generation of brains, they experience these feelings in much the same way as we do.
So what gives? I’m off to do something nobody’s done before.
Can you hear my head spinning? Good. It isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.
Everyone thought that androids were the pinnacle of human engineering. After all, what could be a more elegant solution to the economic problem of population decrease than to clone off a few billion people and, in order to avoid having duplicate people, give the resulting bodies artificial brains and personalities? With time and development, today’s androids are rightly seen–by the scientific community if not by legislators–as fully functional people in every way that matters.
We see them as very complicated machines. They have no rights and are as easy to destroy as a human, so not only is there no Frankenstein complex, but we even feel a bit superior. Which is probably why today’s conversation shocked me so much.
Imagine, if you will, a person who looks just like a person, but feels, deep in your gut, like a machine, calmly telling you everything that is wrong with the human race. There is no malice, no vindictiveness, just this sort of matter-of-factness and this “oh, I thought it was obvious”-ness. And a relaxed smile. It’s difficult to feel superior then, let me tell you.
What did the android tell me?
Easy. He said that our problem–his word, not mine–resides among the shades of grey. Humans can see and overanalyze shades of grey in anything they encounter. This is not normally a problem because most things aren’t really all that important. You don’t really worry about the laundry or what to watch on TV.
But come Saturday night, your world falls apart on you. Because Saturday night is when relationship stuff happens. Yes, I know it goes on all week, but that’s the day it comes into sharp focus.
That’s the night when the world splits into two camps–people with relationships and people without. Most, if not quite all people fall into one or the other.
So, on Saturday night, one camp spends its time looking for a mate, and agonizing over their options. Too tall, too short, too fat, too modern. No job. Dead end job. She makes more than I do. And on and on and on. They assume, of course, that if they choose correctly, and therefore move into the other camp, all doubts will immediately disappear and they will be happy.
People who are one half of a couple know better. They spend their Saturday nights renting video feed and going to bed early, wishing they could once more feel the freedom of clubbing and the social mindnet. Worst of all is the feeling that they chose the wrong partner. Why can’t he put down the toilet seat? Why are all her friends men?
Both groups toss and turn at night, thinking only about this. They don’t sleep well, and are generally unhappy.
All this from a smug-looking person with a robot brain.
So I pointed out, equally smugly, that android brains are designed to imitate human emotions precisely. If we do it, they do too.
He agreed. The emotions, he admitted, were exactly the same. An android in love can be said to feel exactly the same as a human in love. The problem was the logic. Humans believe that they are worth more than they really are or less than they really are, but it is a very unusual human who can calculate his or her worth precisely.
Androids, on the other hand, use logic circuits for their calculations, and they are independent of the emotional bits. This was done by design, in order to keep calculations at peak efficiency, and it is something very different to what humans do. The upshot is that androids actually do keep their thoughts and emotions separate.
So when sitting in a chatroom, he explained, you quickly find yourself sizing up the opposition, and discarding those members of the crowd who are giving zeros.
The result of a negative calculation is zero. A positive is one.
Oh. So about half the universe is positive? My smugness returned, knowing no bounds.
No. Androids have a little program they use, which gives off a positive only when the balance is ninety-nine percent perfect.
And what do you get then?
The greatest thing an android can get. You get one.
I laughed at him.
He told me that no android ever second-guessed the decision, once made. There was no thing as an android breakup. Androids always had at least one thing in their lives that made them happy. And this made facing an unfair world a whole lot easier.
I left, laughing.
But they make it damn hard to keep feeling superior, don’t they?
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer based in Mexico, Buenos Aires, and too many airports and hotels. His writng spans everything from literary fiction to silly comic fantasy to creative nonfiction.