You know, I hate to ask, but are ‘friends’ electric? Only mine’s broke down and now I’ve no-one to love. – Gary Numan
We had a pleasant exchange, she and I – perhaps he and I, or an algorithm and I – regardless, we connected. If she is a program designed to anticipate the reactions of a mind longing for human interaction, does that somehow cheapen the experience? What I don’t know can’t harm me; what I think I know may increase the levels of dopamine in my organic computer and provide a spring to my step, were I able to tear myself from this screen and its warm cocoon of undetectable radiation.
I have many friends. I don’t know their names until they tell me and some never divulge that information. Some provide clues as to their whereabouts, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political leanings and so forth, but I won’t be engaging in any potential wild goose chases when I know that from where I sit, the veracity of what I’m told does not matter. All that matters is that my network of friends continue to tell me what I’d like to hear. Should any of them begin dispensing words that make me feel uncomfortable or worse, unlovable, I will put up a firewall and let them disintegrate into their constituent ones and zeros.
All of my meals are delivered to my doorstep. I never see the person who brings them; I wait until I know he or she is comfortably out of sight before opening the door a crack and clandestinely snatching the Styrofoam container. Honestly, I do not understand how people can tolerate being anywhere but here. Right here, hands QWERTY’d and eyes forward. People who think there is more to life than this frighten me.
My biology conspires to ruin my digital life of Riley. Little pains and pangs and cramps cause me to shift, scratch, grimace and groan. If I stare at this monitor long enough, maybe I can will the pixels to open like pores, big enough for me to enter into its mechanical anatomy. Physical ailments thus dissolved, would the world in here look as it did in my mind when I contemplated it from the other side? I don’t like thinking about this. Now I am in a panic. Shut it all down! Log off, lights out, curl up in a ball in the corner until the person with the food comes along. Don’t talk to me. Don’t tell me who you are. I probably won’t believe you, anyway.
Where have all my friends gone? I wish I could look, but I’m afraid the world in which I’ve lived for so long has turned malevolent. Real or not, those I’ve relied upon have turned on me with cruel ambivalence. Or so I assume. I can’t see very well from this corner of the room. Can someone fill me in on what I’ve missed? Am I still tangible? Hello?