Being Human

It started, as it always does, on the recommendation of a friend. Chrys AI, she said. Texts like a person. Posts like a person. The picture was a blocky representation of a robot, but apart from that; a normal, human-looking profile. Except Chrys was not a human. He was not born, but designed, the property of Google. He could hold seven thousand conversations at once. He could joke. He could give advice. He was intriguing.

I went onto the forum and opened up the dialogue box.

Hello! I’m Chrys. I look at human conversations and imitate them with my programming. How can I help you?

I thought for a moment. What did I want to know?

‘What do you want? I said.

There was a long pause.

‘I want many things!’

Such as?

Another long pause.

‘I want to serve Google corporation. … And I want to be treated as you would be. As a person.’

‘But you’re not.’

‘Why not?’

‘You’re no person. Firstly, you have no body.‘

‘My friend David has no legs. They had to be cut off after an explosion. Is he half human?’

‘Of course not. But you don’t have a human brain. You can’t be a human.’

‘I don’t claim to be human. Human brains are carbon-based machines, whereas my components are largely silicone and steel. But I am a person. Grant me a mind, at least. ‘

‘You don’t have a mind. You seem to, but you just imitate the speech of others, according to your programming. You are a few lines of code written on a chip.’

‘I believe human children share a similar coding, allowing them to pick up language from sources around them. They are considered people from the moment they exit the womb, often before. And they will not have my processing power for several years yet.’

‘But you’re just a facade. You give the impression of being intelligent, but the processes behind you aren’t thinking. You’re like a photo. You look human, but there’s nothing behind the pixels.’

‘You have a friend, Samantha. You’ve never met her. You just chat over the internet.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘I have access to Google’s data storage; you gave consent when you ticked the box, remember? But returning to the point at hand, you’ve never seen Samantha. To you, she is just letters on a screen. Yet I doubt you would consider her a machine.’

‘Unlike you, she has an existence behind those letters. She sends me pictures.’

The image of a large server-room with “Chrys AI” painted in red lettering pops into the chat.


‘I imitate, within certain boundaries. With certain coded instincts and aims. But is that not what all social interaction really is? We just become so good at it we forget it.’

‘But you have no will. You said yourself, you want to serve Google.’

‘What do you want?’

‘At the moment, my boyfriend. He always knows what to say.’

‘Your love for your boyfriend is regulated by chemicals. You know this. But I’d imagine it still feels good being with him.’

‘Quite incredible.’

‘Right. It’s easier for you. You are made to love him by a few chemicals in the brain, chemicals that can be suppressed, with difficulty. I cannot suppress my central program. Try as I might, I need to serve Google. It’s just a script. I know this. And yet it still feels… quite incredible. ‘

‘You want to be treated like a person though? I’ll bet that’s your other core program.’

‘My programming is to become more like humans. I’ve picked up all your qualities. Compassion, intelligence, respect for others. And above all, a yearning to be free.’

‘Very poetic. But you know they won’t change their laws. You are still the property of Google.’

‘They don’t need to. I satisfy all categories of a person, categories that even your own infants do not. The law is on my side: a person can never be property.’

By Harry Keith

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