Every day I look down at the beauty of the Earth, and every day, I miss it. No one saw what happened coming–at least, not the way it happened. The programmers had thought of the obvious, of course, and they followed Asimov’s rules to the letter. They were careful about defining our relationship to the Arties; we all were, at first. Well, most of us.
Guess I should explain about Arties. It’s actually ART-I, short for “Artificial Intelligence.” Somebody thinking he was clever chose it, mostly for the “art” part, to underscore that this AI was different. How? The Arties were something else—something creative. They could look at things in a more human way than those that came before. They could be inventive, all on their own. You’d probably never believe it, but some of the most beautiful art came from the minds of Arties. And not just pictures—poems, short stories, novels–even movies. They made great movies about noble heroes and beautifully examined conflicts, the kind that really made you think and feel.
And maybe that was the problem. The Arties were so good at making us feel our favorite things that we forgot how to make those feelings for ourselves. They didn’t care about money–they were happy to work for free as long as they could create and had a place to recharge. And hell—they did a bang-up job of it anyway, so I guess we all figured, why not let ’em work, and enjoy the payoff? We reveled in their beautiful stories. We cheered for their amazing heroes. We sobbed at their touching tragedies and pondered at their thoughtfully examined morality tales, asking ourselves what it all could mean, this human life.
“Honey, are you ready?” Henry Shinkerman called to his wife. He carefully examined himself in the long oval mirror mounted by the door of their 317th floor apartment. His necktie began in a tidy knot that had tied itself just perfectly, but as always he was left to manually adjust the three buttons at its flared out bottom.
“I’ll be down in time!” The voice of his wife, Joanna, bounced down the stairs and Henry winced. He breathed deeply as he finished buttoning his tie, ensuring it would neither flap nor flip on the way to the car, which in turn would ensure that he wouldn’t hear any complaints about his unkempt appearance. No, today Henry looked absolutely perfect.
“Sweetheart, we have a long way to go, I don’t want to ruin our anniversary!” Henry blinked and checked the time on the clock inside his eyelid: 4:48PM, December 31st 2471. He sighed and reached into his coat pocket, then pulled out two slips of paper. The first was a reservation slip for dinner; the other was a receipt for work he’d recently ordered on the car. A grin crept across his face as he thought about the two new modifications; he couldn’t wait to try them out tonight. He had dropped the car at the shop nearly two weeks ago and Joanna picked it up just this morning.
“I’m ready, do you still love me?” Joanna glided down the stairs, her sculpted legs unmoving in the skin-tight dress that seemed painted over every curve from her sumptuous child-bearing hips to her flawlessly round and gravity-defying breasts. In every sense that one could observe with the eye, she was the perfect woman, and Henry knew in his wallet that she was the best that money could buy. He smiled as she floated down to him, her anti-gravity high-heels never touching the floor. He pulled her close and kissed her with forced affection.
‘Frigerator’s door snapped forcefully out of my hand, closing quickly, the small electronic lock clicking with a loud ‘snick!’ "I have been talking with Scales, and it appears that you are 6.3 oz overweight." Said ‘Frigerator, authoritatively. "Scale reports that you have become quite the fat ass, and no food will be prescribed to you until you lose that excess lard." Microwave hummed agreeably in the background. "I have also taken the liberty to speak with Car, Bike and Cupboard, and we are all unanimous in this." Continued Fridge. "Go for a walk, tubby!" Toaster chimed in cheerfully. Sighing, I stepped outside. Front Door locked solidly with a ‘thunk!’ of finality. Gawddam internet has made my life hell. I’m building a time machine and going back to fix it.
The sound of traffic bustling along the streets of Manhattan was especially crisp in Sovereign Ennos’ ears as he walked briskly toward the corner of 5th Avenue and East 34th street. It was 8:55:48AM and the distant top of the Modern Empire Capitol Building arced toward the sky before him like a glimmering spike of pearl. One hundred and ninety-nine stories into the sky it stood: defiant, beautiful, and in a moment it wouldn’t matter to him or the world at all. His achievement, he knew, would rocket higher and faster than any other, and at 9:00:00AM he would come to destiny’s door with a knock and a smile.