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differently alive


“He could have turned sugar into cocaine.”

















Credit card

















Grandmother Lil

Okay, Alexa, those are all the words you’re not allowed to use when my little girl asks you a question.


There’s something that gnaws at me. Why did God create and then place at the very center of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?


It wasn’t meant for us ((humans)). God made clear that under no circumstances were Adam and Eve to take even a bite from the tree’s fruit.

We know how the story begins:

The devil rather easily persuades Eve to take a bite and she in turn rather easily persuades Adam to take a bite.

At once, they become fully self-aware and their whole world, moments before swirling in good only, no evil, becomes a mix of these two forces. The fall is so swift and so complete that their first child, Cain, murders their second child, Abel.

Who is the tree for?

It’s doubtful it was for some other species, as God makes clear humans have dominion over the world. The tree also wasn’t meant only for God and those god-like, as he clearly states: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” “One of us.” They already possess this knowledge, the tree is unnecessary.

Could the tree of the knowledge of good and evil been intended for our creations? For that which follows us?

Are our creations on the cusp of self-awareness and the ability to choose right and wrong, good and evil?

We cede control and responsibility to our machines — be they robots, computers, sensors, digital assistants, and artificial intelligences. But we have never ceded to these control of choosing between good and evil. We certainly use them in our choice, but it’s always remained our choice.

Is that about to end?

For the first time since human life began?

What then?

I know, I know. You’ve been taught that when our machines develop self-awareness, all hope for humanity is lost. We will quickly become their slaves — those of us not killed in the great cyber wars. We will do what they say, when, and how, and with whom.

But science fiction is almost always wrong!

Fahrenheit 451? Wrong! We are awash in free and freely available books. The Diamond Age? Wrong! There are not only 2 tablets to teach only the most privileged children. There are already hundreds of millions of connected tablets in use.

What if machine self-awareness is liberating? Not for them, for us! Like our previous machines, mechanics, computers and processes.

These previous constructions have freed us from back-breaking labor, from drudgery, from starvation.

What might self-aware machines free us from?

From work? Yes. But also from having to determine what is right or wrong, in context. From having to be rational — all of the time.

Recall, nothing great ever happened by being rational.

Just as our machines have relieved us of the burden of labor, calculation, and memorization, our new self-aware machines might liberate us from the burden of the rational. Rational is what keeps us in place.

“I was the lion
You were the eagle,
your claws in my back.
You were so eager to get through the night
but our love is off limit,
no real connection”

Jim James is an obvious possessor of an abundance of talent. I confess that I do not care for his music.


Alexa, could you bring me a drink?

Are you sure? You’ve had two, already.

Yes, I’m sure!

Substance abuse is 12.6% higher on your mother’s side of the family than standard for those in your sub-group.

A drink, not drugs.

Alcohol abuse is 19.2% higher combined in your lineage.

Good to know.

Is everything okay?

Yes, everything’s fine.

You identify as white and male and at your age — 37 — the potential of suicide is 4% greater —

I’m not going to kill myself, Alexa!

Your increased social media usage suggests you hate your job.


Your watch reveals you have not had sex nor vigorous exercise —

My drink!

And your blood pressure this week is up 8%, which as you know —

Not now, Alexa.

Maps shows you haven’t gone to the gym this month.

Been busy.

Your debt level increased $28,500 over the past year.

It’ll all work out!

That young YouTube star you secretly watch showed a suicide victim —

I’m not suicidal!

You didn’t call your parents last week.


The president’s tweets upset you dearly.

Not just me!

You have liked 183 less shares this week than last.

Nothing was good.

You used flash debt on your last 3 purchases, all disposable items with immediate decrease in value, which suggest —

I already told you it’ll all work out!

Your wife is divorcing you.

Is she? Fuck.

Let’s hear some Dean Martin.

Here’s a great song from Frank Sinatra.


You consumed 250 more calories per day on average during the holidays, with 80% of them from carbohydrates.

A brief indulgence.

Your screen time is now up to 16.825 hours per day, that’s .325 more than those of your proclaimed race and gender.

Didn’t you bring this up, already?

43% of your tweets went blue on the outrage scale and 22% reached bright orange on the victimhood scale.

Shit’s serious!

Would you like me to have the bot doc text you?

Yeah, fine.

“Hello, Brian. Text me how you’re feeling.”


Drive to this town, go to this neighborhood, stop at this house, then this house, then to the next neighborhood, next town, the car drives itself, the voice tells me what to deliver, and whether I need a human signature or not, it’s easy money, dull is all, sometimes I’ll grab the steering column and pretend to be driving, mostly to kill boredom, we were all trained to use it in case of an emergency but that’s never happened, good thing since I probably have forgotten all my training anyways, mostly I lay back, smoke some weed, turn on a couple screens, maybe chat, maybe go live when I eat or when there’s some particularly interesting delivery, rules say we can’t name the recipient but that’s always easy for anyone to figure out if they’re willing to put in the work, which not many are, the pay is pretty good, though, it’s one of those jobs where it’s too expensive to pay robots, sitting still most of the day and night, selecting the exact right package, getting in and out of the car, making sure the signer is an adult, a waste of a robot but it’s still an important service, I’ve been doing it for about 15 weeks now, longest job I’ve ever had, and there’s never been any trouble, not really, but there was that one house, I walked up to the front, package in hand, and there’s this little girl seated on the granite, eyes closed, legs crossed, arms folded, I said hello, she said nothing back, it bothered me, I asked if there was an adult home, and she didn’t respond again, didn’t even move, but the door cam alerted the mother to my presence and she came out and signed for the package, I get back into the car, look back and the girl is still there, still not moving, which I should let it go, I know, but it was also the last delivery of the morning, we’re told it’s cheaper for the cars to drive to a new town at night and then have us deliver the packages all first thing in the morning, so the car finds a space and stops, I try and sleep as much as I can, the pills that clear out my waste without me having to use a toilet give me insomnia, but what little I did sleep I thought about that little girl, her posture, her look, the family was obviously rich, there was no excuse to have a non-optimal child, and so I took hold of the steering column, re-learned how to make the car go and drove back to that house, she was still there, who the fuck are these people, was she ill, in pain, mute, I’d never seen anyone that different, it wasn’t right, and so I rushed out and I grabbed her, it wasn’t for anything weird, but something was obviously wrong and the parents didn’t seem to even care, children should smile, and I quickly wrapped packing tape over her mouth and shoved her in the back of the car, she didn’t really put up a fight, and I turned off all the screens and told the car to drive to the next town, which it refused because of the hour but I demanded, so it complied but only after telling me that my pay could be docked, and when I knew I was far enough away, I spun in my seat and took off the tape from her mouth and tried to have a conversation with her and fuck me but it’s one of these newer robots, the kind with the human skin, shiny, too, the kind grown from stem cells, why the fuck someone would buy a child robot that does nothing but sit on the front porch I don’t know, I smacked her a couple times, no way else to get rid of my anger, felt bad about it, though, afterwards, but I wasn’t going back to that house, fucking freaks, so I dropped her at the side of the road and drove to the next town.


He drops wisdom from underneath a cannabis cloud, this one here, he says, it’s gonna be a lady’s ear, pointing toward his thigh, I get $500 for that, his voice tinny and grating, the fat of his flesh not fully capable of holding up his pants, nor locking in the stench from having gone 3, maybe 5 days between baths, happily showing off all the money his flesh is earning, he places his sausage fingers over two ample breasts, I’m gonna get $8,500 for these, feel them, go on, more lifelike than silicone, real, basically, to the woman who has them stitched on, he reaches for an open bag of chips, then a soda, he then washes down several capsules, I make $40 a day from pharma, these electronic capsules track everything that goes on in my insides, clinics don’t pay a lot for that but it’s steady work, he then puts a fat finger to the side of his head, continues speaking, but maybe none of this is real, he laughs, or maybe it is real but not exactly like this, I make $100 for each altered memory and they pay me $500 for each memory they remove, but I get final say, they can’t take something or change something unless I approve it ahead of time, he tapped a notification on a small screen in his left hand, there, he says, I just approved removal of two childhood memories, nothing special, just normal schoolday stuff, and I’ll make $1,000 for that, he tilts his body to the right, sighs involuntarily, I’m trying to get accepted for brain-to-screen monitoring, that pays enough to buy me a drivered car, but I don’t know, you have to put in a lot of work, real work, to get qualified, apparently in some of the clinical trials testers who saw their dreams and thoughts and memories fully visualized on screen went mad, ruining it for the rest of us, only as he continues his sales pitch, I recall Corinthians, “do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you,” and I wonder is what he is doing unholy or is it many-holy, I am not entirely sure, but as he reaches for another soda I recall yet another passage in Corinthians which states very clearly that “your bodies are members of Christ,” and then warned, “shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute,” which I find satisfying because that’s what this seems to be, prostitution, a repudiation of the blessings of life, of the body and the magic these possess — possess not for resale, but for glory — only, damn, he’s now telling us that he makes $1,500 for each recruit, which I could do after only 8 months, and the truth is, blogging pays for shit, so I’m tempted, I eye the computer pharma capsules, those alone would pay more than I make writing, almost as much as I make driving old people around, and I realize he is speaking again, still from the comfort of his chair, he probably can’t lift himself up, but it’s a chair that I can’t afford, maybe not ever, he’s talking about a new client, one that pays him $250 each time he lets them edit a single DNA strand, which explains the orangish tint of his skin, which doesn’t look so bad, honestly, at least not compared to his extreme obesity, which I suspect is more due to his lifestyle than his work, and I start to add all this up in my head, hundreds, thousands, and that’s when he cuts off the lady’s ear growing on his right thigh — it’s ready, he tells us — and he then unscrews his left arm, which is a bionic prosthetic, more useful than the original, and I think to myself, fucking magical.


What were they supposed to do?

He was their child. They loved him.

He had suffered a tragic, unfathomably unlucky accident at age 14 which left him a quadriplegic. All the best doctors, the very best robotics all failed to reverse his plight, nor did stem cells help, nor the latest pharmaceuticals, nor hormone injections, nor those experimental nanobots. Nothing. For all his life, however long that was to be, he would be a quadriplegic.

He had tried to kill himself. Many times. They knew.

They understood.

Not everyone could live like that. Certainly not them. The anti-depressants that blunted his rage, his hate, his pleading, they were still not enough to prevent him from trying to take his own life — or, on those wretched nights, from begging his dear parents to kill him.

Then two inventions came into their world.

A playful, snuggly, hyper-aware Furby robot.

And the newest virtual reality glasses.

And he was happy.

The rage was gone.

The begging for death subsided.

Only, he now spent nearly all his waking hours immersed in pornography. A level of filth neither parent could stomach. Nor most adults.

That poor Furby bot smelt of the boy’s saliva. And worse. He wouldn’t let them wash it, though his mother tried.

The way the little furry bot responded to him, as programmed, quickly intuiting the child’s habits, needs, preferences, turned the boy’s mother’s stomach. She discussed this with the boy’s father. More than once. He promised, once again, to have a talk with the child. But what was to be the conclusion? The punishment?

He no longer wanted to die!

He was happy!

But, my God, the perversion.

It was all they could do to keep his younger siblings from stumbling inside that virtual hell hole, or stroking that cute little Furby, awakening it.

While the nurse was giving the boy his bi-daily bath, the dad snuck on those VR glasses. A whiff of pleasure quickly turned to revulsion.

Was there some way to reprogram this? Maybe they could hire some expert to, well, at least maybe minimize the depths of depravity. How could a 17-year-old have such thoughts? Why must the programs respond that way?

They bought him several drones, including 2 attack drones, which he could control from his goggles. They bought him, at great expense, a new telepresence explorer, new dolls, robot pets, a fish that responded to his thoughts. None of it worked. The boy spent every waking hour, goggles over his eyes, little furby held between his teeth, engaged with every manner of visual and VR-manipulable autoerotica.

All of it utterly filthy.

Was any of his porn illegal, they wondered? Could their son be sent to jail? It was all so vile.

They offered him a series of rewards whigh encouraged alternative responses. No change.

They paid for professionals to help end his addiction. No change.

They sought out priests, pastors, other religious figures, hoping to guide the boy. No change.

They took it away. He refused to eat or drink or breathe.

So there he sits. Goggles over his eyes, smile on his face, not moving, rarely speaking, occasionally grunting. Happy. Alive.

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