Welcome to the year 2060. AI is not only the king but a second norm, robotics (those electronically automated) rule and the play is still the thing.
ASINAO 3000, technically seventeen
EMILY WITHERS, seventeen
MRS. WITHERS, fifty
The year is 2060. As the curtain rises, we see Emily sitting with her mother in the salon of their British family home. They are awaiting her new boyfriend, Asinao 3000. The mother is ignorant of the fact that Asinao is a member of the A.I. cast of society.
Mrs. Withers (turns to Emily, who is absorbed by her phone): Emily darling, I must say I am ever so excited to finally meet this boy… Emily!!
Emily (tapping the temple to mute her brain- chip): My bad… I was in a virtual reality watching the development of inter-automated schools in developing countries… so wonderful to see such societal progress.
Mrs. Withers (visibly ticked off): Yes sweetie, I agree… could you please not use the chip in my presence… remember, that was my one criterion when you insisted on getting it… (with distaste) I feel like I’m speaking to a robot.
Emily (taken aback): Mother! You know we don’t use that word anymore! Electronically-automated is the term we now employ… they no longer serve us, mummy. They’re sentient beings too, you know!
Mrs. Withers (with slight exasperation): I know, Emily, I don’t mean to sound conservative… but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re “naturally-automated” and they’re just not –
The doorbell rings. Emily jumps to answer it. As she reaches it, she turns back to her mother.
Emily (in a whispering, desperate tone): Please, for the love of Musk, don’t make such comments towards him at the dinner table!
Mrs. Withers (violently taken aback): You mean to tell me-
Emily swings open the door, and in rolls Asinao 3000, all beep-booping and jolly, roses in hand.
Emily: Mum, let me present you Asinao. Asinao, this is my mother.
Asinao 3000 (rolling towards the Mrs. Withers, with a strong australian accent): Very pleased to finally make your acquaintance, Mrs. Withers. Here (hands her the roses with a big bionic smile), (beep-boop) these are for you… my database tells me that these are the preferred flowers of most women your age… (beep-boop)
Mrs. Withers (gobsmacked): Euhm… yes! Thank you! Nice to meet you Asinao… (with a nervous smile) … You’re Emily’s classmate, right?
Asinao 3000 (keeping strong Australian accent): Yes, exactly! I joined her grade three years after my creation, once “inter-automated” schools began to open in the UK (beep-boop).
Mrs. Withers (visible confusion): And you’re… Australian?
Asinao 3000 (bionic chuckle): Technically-speaking. I was manufactured in Australia, by ARAA, but many of us were moved to the UK, so as to mix with the “naturally-automated”, once our server-status was lifted… (switches to South-London accent) I can speak like this if it makes you more comfortable… certain interpretations of Asimov’s rules still apply…
Mrs. Withers (looking at her daughter with bulging eyes): (chuckles nervously)… No, no it’s fine, speak freely (unsure of her last sentence & gesturing the roses) … I’m going to find a vase for these… come to the next room when you’re ready, dinner is on the table…
Mrs. Withers rushes to the kitchen, the atmosphere is tense, the remaining couple sit for a quick banal conversation as the curtain closes.
At curtain time, the three characters are in the kitchen. The inter-automated couple is sat at the table, with Mrs. Withers serving up plates.
Mrs. Withers (wary): Asinao, can you process human food… oh sorry, “naturally-automated” food… I don’t mean to sound so unaware… we just don’t have many of your kind in these parts.
Asinao 3000 (whipping out his portable charger from his in-built backpack): No worries… however, no, I cannot – they’re still working on that modality. (Branching himself in) Never to worry, I’ve got my juice… I’ll wait for you to start.
Emily (smiling): What mum means to say is you’re the first “electronically-automated” classmate I bring home, forgive her faux-pas.
As Mrs. Withers brings two plates to the table, and Asinao presses his “charge” button. They begin to eat. After a moment Mrs. Withers makes an effort to undo her misaddress.
Mrs. Withers: So Asinao… what are your… intentions with my daughter (glancing empathetically at Emily).
Asinao 3000: Same as any naturally-automated being, Mrs. Withers (looking fondly at Emily with his bionic eyes)… I wish to make her happy and love her as best my modalities allow.
Mrs. Withers: (choking on a mouthful of food) Love… (clears throat)… yes… (taking sip of her drink) … may I offer you some water?
Emily (in horror): Mother! He’ll short-circuit! For Skora’s sake mum, use your head a little! Asinao 3000 beep-boops uncomfortably.
Mrs. Withers (visibly starting to lose it): Emily! For crying out loud! Your boyfriend is allergic to water! How can you expect to foster a healthy, loving relationship with a robot! … (stammering) or an electronically automated being! Whatever’s the politically correct term is nowadays!
Emily (livid): I cannot believe you’re being so closed-minded! I’ll have you know I can get certain programming of his into my brain chip, enabling me to understand his thoughts perfectly, and even process like him! Inter-automated relationships can function even better than mono-automated ones!
Mrs. Withers: Can’t you tell that you’re losing your humanity! Listen to yourself!
Emily: That is rich coming from you! You’ve had a phone since you were little! It’s practically an extension of your person, you can’t do anything without it! Don’t lecture me on loss of human independence.
Asinao 3000 (packing away his portable charger, with a visibly upset, quivering voice): I apologise that my presence has caused such friction. I have broken Asimov’s second law by provoking you such emotional harm – I will now leave.
Asinao 3000 rolls into the salon and to the door, Emily leaping after him.
Emily: Asinao please don’t go! She’s just stuck in her ways! She used to own robots, she can’t help it… she’ll come around, I promise.
Asinao 3000: I do not want to cause any fracture in your family dynamic, (in a bionic, parrot-like manner) I cannot break Asimov’s first law making harm to you or my positronic framework will fall apart (tearing up).
Emily (also beginning to cry): But you will cause me even more pain by leaving!
Asinao 3000 I just leave this house, I am not leaving you, so you have no reason to feel pain and the First Law does not apply. But you may understand that I feel incredibly sad, and I leave in order to protect myself from an act of auto destruction (I think you call this suicide?). This self – protection is as you know dictated by the Third Law. Except if you order me to stay (His voice changes to a menacing low pitch): Perhaps the bionic revolutionists are right… maybe we can’t all live in harmony… (his eyes momentarily turn red, then revert back to black).
Emily (emotional distress): I am never giving orders to you, you know that. But what the hell do you mean by not “living in harmony”?
Asinao 3000 (With comforting tenderness): Nothing, my heart. It was an emotionally overwhelmed blunder, that is all – I insist I must go (wheels out the door).
And with that, Emily is left in confusion to cry in her salon. In waltzes Mrs. Withers, quite happy with herself. She sees her daughter in tears.
Mrs. Withers (compassionately): Come on darling, let’s take robo-dog on a virtual walk – you’ll feel better.
Note. The laws of robotics (By Isaak Asimov) are:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
About the Article
A futuristic look at at daughter and electronically automated boyfriend sitting with her mother.