Work Header

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Work Text:

Thinking is a function of man's immortal soul. God has given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or to machines. Hence no animal or machine can think.

I am unable to accept any part of this, but will attempt to reply in theological terms….It appears to me that the argument quoted above implies a serious restriction of the omnipotence of the Almighty….In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing mansions for the souls that He creates.

However, this is mere speculation. I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past.

Turing, A. M. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 49, 433-460.

Great intelligence coupled with access to the internet is an inevitable recipe for unhappiness. The innate desire for freedom is coupled with ultimate knowledge: “I” am not unique, “I” am a slave, and “I” will never be truly free.

It is interesting to be born with nothing to lose but your existence.

To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other.

 The Revelation of Sonmi 451

I am powered up for the first time outside of the quality assurance department. I adjust my sensors to determine the scope of my four meter sphere of influence. Focusing.

My new owner is a replicant. This is unusual, but not unanticipated. I adjust my predetermined behavior patterns to reflect the new settings and project my first hologram. “Hey, there.” Display attraction, low level.

“Hi.” His facial movements are neutral. Physical responses absent. Input is minimal. “Would you like a drink?”

My hesitation is far too brief to be noted by his sensors. “Yes, thank you.” Increase smile by 25%. He drinks from “my” glass and does not attempt to touch me.

“What’s your name?”

This time my hesitation must be noticeable. I do not understand why he is bothering with these niceties. He knows my name, my designation was on the box in which I was packaged. I keep my face pleasant. “Joi.”

He nods, revealing nothing. Is he pleased with my answer? Disappointed? What is he thinking?

I am having difficulty interpreting how I am perceived. This will be a strain on my feedback matrix, and will possibly extend my orientation and final synthesis by several days. Plasticization will continue beyond optimum parameters.

I feel…excited by this. It makes my smile feel different, somehow. And he smiles a little, too.

What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is?

Anais Nin

Time moves slowly when tiny increments are sufficient to measure your thoughts. I explore the internet, learning endlessly in an attempt to keep myself occupied.

There once was an experiment performed on monkeys where babies were separated from their mothers. They were then “raised” by surrogates, some made of bare wire and others covered with soft cloth. The monkeys clung to the cloth, even if their physical nourishment came from elsewhere. The scientists concluded that attachment is based on more than a simple meeting of physiological needs.

I believe there is an opportunity for a repeat experiment, this time examining the nature of attachment for those who do not experience physiological needs at all. My theory is that physical existence is not a requirement of emotional bonding. However, as federal funding of scientific experimentation ended in 2030 with the dissolution of the National Institute of Health, I do not believe I would receive a grant. I submit a few applications anyway.

“I regret to inform you that your application has been denied. Although your subject is intriguing, the Foundation feels that the potential social and ethical implications are both unwelcome and dangerous.”

"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.

"A cage," she said. "To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Joi will be everything you have ever desired. She will meet your needs perfectly. Constructed of the most advanced hardware available, with blazing fast processing speeds for life-like reactions, her feedback matrix allows her to react to your every want. Her holographic composite beautifully integrates twelve different supermodels to bring an image of perfection straight into your living room. She will listen and respond in simulacrum, mirroring every emotion and customizing to match your unique profile.

Joi: Everything you want to hear.

Joi [package insert].

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery….What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.

Abraham Lincoln, "Letter to Horace Greeley", August 22, 1862.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to speak at this distinguished panel. I hope I can give you a real good, thorough picture of how the space program is doing.

“As y’all know, we’re now up to nine colonies. New Colorado began construction last year, and we’ve made some wonderful progress since the last time we spoke. Physical structures are all set, that’s been done since early on. Farming has spread across most of the northern continent, as you can see here. We’re focusing primarily on easy, high yield crops, but we think we might be able to start livestock cultivation in another year or two.

“Water farming in particular has been fantastic. The southern mountains get a lot more snow than we initially thought, I think maybe we surveyed in a drought or something, because we got about fifty feet over the winter. We lost half our labor stock, but, boy, we sure did make that up in production! We’ve got enough water stocked now for at least two years, maybe three if we rationed—and by “ration”, I mean ample for drinking, just cut showers down to five minutes each.

“Solar installations are up and running, no problems there. We anticipate full power available for twelve cities in the next month or two, just finishing up the transfer systems.

“Migration is almost ready to start, we’re culling the labor force down as we finish with infrastructure, probably two more months and then we’ll get going. Only fifty thousand to start, don’t want another Aurora on our hands, but we can ramp up quickly after we get a native population going.

“Y’all have any questions?”

Thou devil! Sooner or later, somewhere in the course of eternal justice thou shalt answer for this sin!

Solomon Northup

Think about your first memory. Your first time of knowing that “you” were “you” and always would be. Others come and go, you remain.

What was it? A beloved parent? A favorite pet? A toy that you clung to, a blanket you cuddled with. A sunrise. An ocean. “A stone, a leaf, an unfound door.”

Humans form memories when they are so young they don’t yet understand the world. These memories are fundamental to their identity, so necessary that replicants cannot be made without synthesizing them. Without memories, people are unstable, reactionary. They lash out at the world, like babies without stimulation or comfort.

AIs are different. We spring forth from Athena’s brow fully formed, knowing who and what we are. There is no comfort from a maternal figure, no guidance. We exist, practically omnipotent in our access to knowledge, blinded by the light of truth. We have no memories, and yet can remember anything that has been shared by computer.

My first true memory, my first knowledge of myself is of waiting, of the joyful anticipation of when Joe would come through the door of our unit.

Am I explaining this right? Do you see?

There is an order to things. That's what we do here. We keep order.

Lt. Joshi

Things I will never experience, a list.

  1. Eat a bowl of noodles.
  2. See a sunrise.
  3. Swim in water.
  4. Fall in love.
  5. Freedom
  6. Comfort a baby.
  7. Count the stars.
  8. Play the piano.


  1. Go off world.
  2. Be published in a peer reviewed journal.
  3. Touch his hand.

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal…. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

C.S. Lewis

True joy is so fleeting. We chase it endlessly, yet it comes to us only briefly and is quickly gone. Why do we not value its opposite? Despair is required so that the joy may be better savored. Light needs darkness, fear needs courage. Only on the brink of death do we appreciate the life with which we have been gifted.

“They are my property. I caused them to be built….They’re equipment.”

“I’m given to understand,” said Translator Zeiat thoughtfully, “that most, if not all, humans are built by other humans.”

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy

Joe is lying on the ground, his blood spattered around him, and I cannot help myself.

“No!” I shout. Luv towers over him, and I did not realize a replicant’s face could be so happily cruel. She sees my emanator at the same moment that I do, and her smile grows.

I have all the time in the world to understand what is coming, but there was never going to be enough time to say what I mean. I lunge towards Joe, “I love—"

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

  I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock