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Alli

Photo by Alex Knight on Pexels.com

by Nicolas Lucente

I was walking down the street heading to work when I first saw one in person. I had seen advertisements and billboards, but I never thought I’d see one in person. I guess I thought it was for the wealthy or you just wouldn’t leave the house with one. But there it was, an Alli grocery shopping.

Not long after that, Allis were everywhere. Everyone had one. You would walk down the street and see grocery stores filled with robots shopping. They were just so convenient. People would go to work, realize they forgot to go grocery shopping and call their Alli to tell it to go to the store. Basically, if you had enough money, you could own a personal assistant that would cook, clean and do pretty much anything you want. Within reason of course. The thing doesn’t have feelings so having a conversation with it was miserable. Alli could talk back, but not with any kind of opinion. To keep it simple, Allis were like the Amazon Alexa thingy from like 30 years ago except it had a body.

I couldn’t afford one though. The concept of owning one also kind of creeped me out. It felt like owning a slave, which didn’t sit well with me. Nonetheless, people had them and I didn’t, until I did.

About three months ago, I came back to my apartment after a long day of work. The lights were out when I walked in and when I flipped them on, Alli was there. It was turned off. Startled, I walked up to it. There was a note taped to its chest. Keep up the good work, Delta Tech.

“Why would Delta Tech send me one of their robot slaves?” I said.

I shrugged. Looking at the Alli, I questioned what to do with it. I could’ve sold it, but I didn’t.

“I mean, they are incredibly helpful,” I said, trying to convince myself to keep it and get over my moral dilemma of owning one.

I reached around the back side of the Alli to push the only button on the whole body: the one that turned it on and off. The eyes of the Alli turned on and it moved its head back and forth. It stepped off of its charging station and made a weird stretching motion as if it had been asleep.

“Hi there, my name is Alli. What should I call you?” it said.

“Hi Alli, my name is Gary,” I told the Alli.

“Is there anything I can do for you Gary? It responded.

“Umm, why did Delta Tech send you to me?” I asked

“You have worked hard this year and Delta Tech believes you have earned an Alli. As a member of the Delta Tech family, we believe that loyal customers deserve to be rewarded from time to time,” Alli said.

I should also mention that Delta Tech is a huge tech company and I happen to have one of their phones. However, I never thought I was part of the “Delta Tech family” as Alli referred to it.

“Ok, cool. Sounds good to me. I have all the materials you need for chicken alfredo, do you mind whipping it up for me? I was gonna go shower,” I asked, making this Alli’s first official task.

That was three months ago, now I can’t see my life without Alli. She’s great to have around. She does all of my shopping, cleans my apartment, does my laundry and my favorite part is the cooking. Alli is a fantastic chef. I feel like I eat like a king every night. At this point, I don’t even tell Alli to do anything. She just knows the routine and goes. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even know what I am eating for dinner until I come home after work. She does the shopping and decides what to make. I didn’t know Allis could make decisions like that, but it’s been a treat.

“This is incredible! I love you Alli, I needed this,” I said with a mouthful of birria taco.

“Do you really?” Alli replied.

I paused, looking at her with a confused expression.

“Is everything ok Gary? You look confused,” Alli said.

“Well that’s because I am. What did you just say?” I asked.

“You said ‘I love you Alli’ so I asked, ‘Do you really?’” Alli answered.

“Yea but why’d you ask that?” I asked in a slightly frustrated tone.

“I just wanted to know if you loved me. That’s all,” she replied.

I dropped the conversation after that. After finishing my dinner, I grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat on the couch to watch a movie. Alli was sitting on the couch with me, which wasn’t always something she did now that I think about it. Whenever she wasn’t doing something for me, she would go stand on her charging station. Within the last month or so, she began to sit with me when I’m watching stuff.

I must have been searching for a movie for way too long because Alli noticed I was struggling to find something to watch.

“Having a hard time finding something?” she asked.

“There’s just nothing that’s catching my eye,” I said as I continued to scroll.

“I have an idea. What if we went out?” Alli said.

Now she had surprised me twice that night. “An idea?” I thought to myself. Allis aren’t supposed to come up with their own ideas, but I decided to roll with it.

“Ok, you got a place in mind?” I asked as I put the remote down and faced her on the couch.

“Well, I happen to have two tickets to a comedy show tonight that starts in an hour,” Alli said.

“Where’d you… did you buy those with my money?” I asked her in a confused tone. I was also curious as to why she would’ve done that and why it sounded like something that I’d be totally into.

“Yes. Based on the past few days, you have struggled to find a movie to watch and I knew that this would happen again. So, I went ahead and bought tickets to the show. I know how much you love stand-up comedy and would not refuse a chance to go to a show,” she answered.

I wanted to be mad so badly, but she had a point. My first thought was to tell her to return or sell the tickets, but she was right. I love comedy and hadn’t been to a show in forever.

“Valid point. Uh yea, screw it, let’s go,” I finally responded after processing what had just happened.

We were sitting at a table at this club watching the comedian kill it on stage. He was making me cry laughing. Then there was a joke that I didn’t find too funny so I didn’t laugh, but Alli found it funny and I noticed that she’d been laughing during the show. I didn’t notice since I was wrapped up in the show that Alli was enjoying the show too. I looked around and noticed that people were giving Alli weird looks. Looks that said, “Why is he here with an Alli?” and “Why is that Alli laughing?” I brushed it off.

“I guess my Alli is a little advanced,” I thought. “Should I address it? Eh, I’ll just rock with it. Kinda cool actually.”

I looked over at Alli and she looked back at me, we both smiled and turned back to the comedian. As we sat there, I felt a hand come over mine on the table. I looked down and it was Alli’s. I looked up to her to see what she was doing.

“I love you,” she said smiling.

And that’s what did it. That’s when I knew my Alli is not like other Allis. Not overly advanced like I originally thought. My Alli is alive. She feels emotions and makes her own decisions and does things without me asking. She is a being, not a robot. She is special.

I smiled back at her.

“I love you too.”

From the author:

This is definitely a strange story, but I wanted to write about the progression of AI. Mostly, how humans would react to AI developing its own thoughts and emotions. Some people will surely find it strange, but others may accept it and appreciate how an AI can positively impact their lives.

I read a few articles about the importance of artificial intelligence having a body and it made me think about what that might look like someday.

Sources:

https://theconversation.com/why-ai-cant-ever-reach-its-full-potential-without-a-physical-body-146870

https://qualitance.com/blog/embodied-enactive-artificial-intelligence/

https://www.analyticsinsight.net/importance-physical-body-artificial-intelligence/

About the author:

My name is Nicolas Lucente, I am a multiplatform journalism major with a creative writing minor at Duquesne University. I have always had a passion for writing, both journalistically and creatively, and I am excited to work with the D.U.Quark this semester. I intend to write fiction stories that are rooted in science, whether that is science of today or tomorrow. Hopefully, you find them interesting and educational.

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