Designs of our Slave Race chapter 1

Chapter 1

Where do I start this for you all? In all honestly I am not too sure. I guess I'll start at the beginning, the only place I can, though the beginning seems not so much as it is now. No, I'll start with the beginning of the end.

It would be an overcast, but warm, July summer day when I walked into the overly air-conditioned office building at Insigna Corp, a company high in the IT and Engineering field. Man that office was cold, but I can't remember a time when industry cared about the environment, so I wouldn't dwell on it any further. Walking up towards the busy elevator, crowded with fellow colleagues of various departments, recognizing Philip and David, two of the obnoxious men that were in the engineering department of the company. I only saw the men at meetings though, for I wasn't in engineering but IT.

I grabbed my arms and shivered through my burgundy cotton shirt and black polyester slacks, all business attire naturally, feeling myself wriggling in black leather loafers with matching soaks, oh how I love my fashion sense. Course I wasn't hired for that, but for my abilities as a programmer. Graduating on the Dean's list with co-op experience I was quite competent in my skills in typing code like a monkey, but just doing that isn't enough: now one must also be creative in how that is deployed and designed. That note have nuked many of an old friend out of the college.

Alas I had reached my floor and stepped off. I then tugged my long, brown ponytail tightly behind me as I walked my stalky-pale self down to my cubicle. There it seemed to be another day happily tapping on my keyboard and being on the verge of trashing my computer as a finicky syntax error or an unexpected bug lurk insidiously in my code somewhere. However, I would be there to witness the start of everything that has gone so horribly wrong over the course of a few years.

That day I had a meeting to attend to. It was hosted by a Devon Shorber, the senior expert in robotics. I take a seat, for being a seasoned coder, and being highly proficient in D language, the coding language of all the commodities that we a company made. I find myself seated next to Gordon, the senior programmer in my department, and Fran, a marketeer. Across from me was Phillip, one of those perverted Engineers that act as though the have never seen a woman before or grew up in households where the women were so weak and backwards. There were other people, but I didn't recognize them, and at that moment I didn't care.

“Good day gentlemen... and ladies,” he started. Poor dork forgot that there was myself and Fran. “I would like to propose a new project in revolutionizing robotics while making society easier for all.” He then reached up and got a few bristle board pictures of chrome droids that likely came out of a bad sci-fi comic book. “I think Derek there remembers the great success that was the TQ212 model,” he said addressing a guy with crew cut and a gray business suit. Must have been an accountant, who nodded happily.

Yes, I remember the success of that little metallic cleaning droid that was used for cleaning counter tops. The thing was smart enough to detect whether or not it hit the end with sensors, and would learn the surface, doing a better job each time. Not hard to program, course mind you I normally code Article Intelligences used for telephone chat bots. Thank me for making them smart enough to understand what the bloody hell your saying, in full sentences, in any broken accent you like, and not having to say an option key word. Yeah me!

“Well, imagine such a droid capable of everything else!” he then went in with such geekish excitement, “Think about it, having a multipurpose droid for doing various chores, while keeping us company. We would have our own personal droid to talk to and to help us out when in need. Oh! Good gentlemen... and ladies, think of all the people that would buy such a technical marvel!”

Phillip seemed a bit impressed. “So Devon,” he would then say, “a droid that would both scrub the floor and talk to you about philosophy?” His eyes twinkled rather creepily, “would it have a female voice also?”

“Well, it could sound like anything the buyer wanted,” Devon replied with a grin.

“I can see it now!” Fran was getting all sparked up with the contagious enthusiasm Devon was passing along, “Buy your perfect mate! Only second to a human lover!”

“That was lame Fran,” some green-striped sweater guy remarked. Poor Fran.

“In the vision we would have a druid capable of understanding human emotion, and being capable of sending an appropriate response to our customer,” Devon continued on, “that on top of helping us out.”

“How would they help?” Gorgon asked, first think he said in the meeting, and his tone full of skepticism. I looked to Devon for the answer, for I was equally skeptic.

“These droids would have a magnitude of uses,” he went on, “From the TQ212 abilities to more difficult tasks such as cooking or handymen repairs.”

“And we could talk to it?” That guy with the sweater said, then asked dumbly “I wonder what it would say?”

“'This is work any retard could do and I was programmed for so much more,'” I sarcastically replied in a mechanical voice. I took a deep breath so I wouldn't giggle and then asked “Seriously, why would we want to talk to a cleaning droid?”

“Why not?” Devon replied, “Haven't you ever wondered what a robot might have to say?”

“Not... really,” I send back to him, in his face! “Never imagined it to be anything too intelligent, after all, they're just machines.”

“That's because you can't program A.I's to save your soul sweetie,” Philip would then say in his chauvinistic way, “All the ones you gave us in the past were quite dumb, as though designed to, say, take calls and never think about how they made the customer feel.”

“That is because they are not suppose to 'care'” I replied, “Their suppose to do their assigned duty. The bot takes the call, helps the customer update their account or something, and customer leaves. The bot processes sound waves and activates methods that relate to the words that are encoded in the sound waves. You don't want them to think about why the customer is screaming at them in an irate fashion because that is not part of the job description. This is why actual people were phased out: too many of them couldn't take the abuse with their wits intact.”

“Well, Shannon,” Devon went on, “these ones would care. They would come to you if they think your hurt, they would want to make you happy, and would be caring and loving.”

“What's wrong with that?” I was asked by that dude in the sweater.

“I guess nothing at all,” I replied, sounding sincere, but I couldn't keep it up with the amount of design stupidity I was hearing, “I can hear it now,” I said satirically. I then put a closed hand to my lips and grunted to clear my throat, then said in a sluttish voice “I bet you can't stick it!”

Gordon looked at me rudely. I don't think he appreciated the Halo reference. He then looked back at Devon. “I think my associate here thinks your idea is silly. I would have to agree. Why would we want our droids talking to us?”

“So they could be companions,” he said to Gordon, “loyal and looking out for us, you know.”

“Devon, seriously,” I asked him, “What you’re proposing is to put Cortana in a cleaning droid. Really, what would she do that a human being couldn't?”

“I think I got the marketing for this,” Fran then piped up, scanning the room for anything and anyone, “We all know that modern society has gotten more… lonely. What better way to get companionship! It would be advertised as the ultimate companion.”

“Exactly miss,” Devon replied enthusiastically, “It would be a companion of sorts. After all, it is really hard to find people these days, why not make them?”

“There called ‘friends’ Mr. Shorber,” I then said, than leaned into my chair while saying “what dumb lonely…” the thought then died in my throat. Devon was a nerd, and like many nerds very lonely, not having much in the name of good interactions with others, a complete introvert that has a deep-seeded contempt for humanity. Of course he would be dumb enough to make robotic people!

I could relate to that. I had only a handful of flesh and bone friends here in reality; or meat-space if you will. Most of my friends I only know on the Internet: people that I have met on online-forums, two-bit MMOs and Second Life. Inspite my pathetic excuse of a life then I wasn’t dumb enough to think I could build my friends from scratch, though as tempting as it is to have a mechanical Navi follow me around.

“Miss Smith,” Fran looked at me a bit sorely, “It isn’t just your kind that are lonely and depressed. Statistics do show that depression is on the rise and we are more lonely than ever before. Think of all the money that we could make from selling the ultimate companion.”

Typical marketer: can’t think beyond the possibility to make money off a brand, regardless of the any ethical concerns that one would have. As for Philip, I think he likes the idea of having a robotic sex-slave – dam perv! I couldn’t speak for anyone else in the room, but it seems, by the look on his face, that Gordon was starting to buy it: think about the complex algorithms that would have to be designed and coded.

I had one last question. I paused as I looked at everyone else, many excited with the though of creating the first robot programmed to give a dam. I leaned against my chair. Eyes were on me for my typical boardroom manner, as Devon had to work extra hard to convince me, a well known contrarian, that his idea was a good one. Course, from experience, I could tell that Gordon wasn’t very scared, for he knew that I was normally convinced that this was a good idea and I would happily type away on my keyboard. In a rested position, I then asked quietly “What about the sentient being laws?”

The excitement in the room died down as my voice rang through with a question that panicked CEOs. Being unethical was bad enough, but unlawful?

“P-Pardon me?” Devon seemed surprised at the questioned, “Sentient being laws?”

I nodded. “Yep, you heard me.”

“How would we be in violation of laws that protect sentient lifeforms?” that dude in the sweater asked, “They're robots! Those laws don’t apply to machines! Machines are objects, not beings, nevermind people.” Guy must have been a law-dork. Sounds like something a law-dork would say.

Alas, he rationalized Devon, and I dropped the moral bomb. It was the very moral bomb that would cease bioengineering experiments made to make people for certain tasks, and ‘improve’ humanity. That would mean that Andross couldn’t make bio-nightmares and the horrors that was “Project Spartan” would never happen, or something that is of the equivalent anyways. No weird new creatures, variations of humans, or perfect soldiers. Thank the lord: a real-life Mastercheif would have just been creepy. The sentient laws were instilled to prevent creatures that we deemed “sentient” - based on their intelligence, ability to think at level higher than instinctual, and, importantly, their ability to feel emotions outside of instinct - from being mistreated. These special laws would ensure that a section of society wouldn’t become a slave race: people that would serve the sole purpose of doing dangerous shit work.

I leaned forward with my rebuttal. “In an essence, Devon, you are asking Gordon and I… and our team… to program droids with true emotions, things they need to care about us and not just do stuff. You’re asking us to code people… people for the love of god already, that would have emotions and feelings… so we could have them sweep the floor and fold laundry: all while being the good Stepford wife and comforting their owner when their sad, primping them when their ugly, all while keeping their apartments and house tidy for guests.”

I averted my glance as I heard Gordon speak. “Shannon,” he said, “Their machines. You’ve said it yourself, they only know what they are programmed to do, and are nothing more than mere tools to make our lives easier.”

“Yes sir, I believe I did say that,” I replied to him with a grin, “I simply would like it to stay that way.”