Ben Wolanski and Dave Bundy are the only ones allowed in this room. They talk to a computer that talks back. Everyone in the world talks to this computer, since copies of it are placed on every thumb chip. No one is alone. Everyone has a friend.
The office phone rings. In the year 2045, offices still have phones. Dusty old phones. They always will.
“Unless it’s my mother, it’s not for me”, joked Ben. Dave’s wife usually called just before quitting time. Dave was good for dispensing advice.
“If you want to meet a girl, go to church”, he said breezily while changing into a tight fitting shirt before heading to the gym. He may or may not have been serious. Ben did not read faces. They’d had this conversation, before. Ben was an atheist. Sure, but a lot of guys aren’t all that into it. Social cohesion. Finding a mate. Stability. Etc. It had fallen out of fashion for a while, and then returned.
Ben went for walks in the evening and always went past the same church, barely noticing it; at least not consciously. It was one of those with an electric sign, which Ben never liked. And the sign was half obscured by a dead old tree. Church of the something something something.
And so he just walked in. Awkward small talk. Learning how to belong. Getting involved. Helping out. Meeting Liana. Liana Grissom. A nice ney surname.
Ben lived this encounter with a feeling of disconnection. It was like being in a simulation where someone gullible gets everything they want, a dream girl, a little place in the country, but it’s not real and the people running the simulation are just having a laugh.
He felt a little guilty. It was like a con. Go to church. Pass yourself off as a stable, unimaginative, reliable, and moreover, financially well off church man, get the girl. In the world, she’d call the police if you drove by her house. Hey, just curious to know where you live. Maybe something will happen. But, no. Your friendly office mates let you know not to do that as she’s mentioned going to H.R…. (she hasn’t, but they’re sure she might).
Nothing is forever.
Ben turned up at Dave’s house late in the afternoon in the pouring rain without a raincoat or umbrella. They stood in the porch.
“We’re the only two people in the world who know how to get Chip to reveal itself.”
Dave nodded. “I’m not even going to say it, here. We say it in The Room (where they programmed Chip)”.
“I had that exchange with Liana.” Ben said dully. “She gave every reply, perfectly.”
Thunder rolled around in the distance.
“Then I brought her to the basement. You know, that’s where I keep the scanner”, said Ben. He looked Dave in the face. “She’s a robot.”
Ben wanted Dave to say, “Ok, you found out. We’ve been working on this… we used you as our first test subject…”.
“What the hell are you talking about”, asked Dave, genuinely confused.
Ben brought Dave home to meet Liana. They had the conversation, the exchange that causes Chip, their AI, the “person” everyone has in their thumb chip, to reveal that he’s merely a machine. The definition of artificial intelligence is, if you talk to it and you can’t tell if it’s human or not, then it’s intelligent. You don’t want it phoning people up and posing as human, so Ben built in a conversation, a particular conversation, that causes this AI to reveal itself.
He showed Dave the church. When you pull away the branches, the sign out front reads, “Church Of The Machine God”