Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m localized in the north, always was, born and shaped by it, but I drift south. It should come as no surprise that my wife is from South America. Nor that we lived for years in Rio de Janeiro. Or that my daughter was born there. The south is my gravity. I have no desire for weightlessness, so I locate myself in the north, to feel the south permanently.
Last Talk About AI
Three, two, one. Lights glared in his face and cameras sent blinking signals like an electric heartbeat. Michael was sitting uncomfortably on the talk show Point of View with Patty Anderson.
“Thank you for tuning in.”
He nodded to the camera as if Patty had addressed him from the other side of the screen. “Today, we have an exceptional guest, the famous scientist Michael Fields. Welcome!” The applause drove him deep into his seat and he nodded again. “Do you remember when…” she asked Michael. He didn’t hear the rest of her sentence. Single words with no content flickered through the dense air of the studio, like “idea” and “first time”. Could he remember an original idea? Was that the question? He tapped his fingertips on his thumb to start a rhythm of thoughts, but he couldn’t remember. Sweat oozed from his forehead, which he dared not wipe.
Remember the time when… is how true stories begin, he thought, and they could not begin without it. You didn’t have to say it, hint at memories, and you put a spell on stories like no machine could. They remembered, but more precisely, it was a rereading of the same data that was recorded during the events. No displacement, no fallacy, no coloring of a sensory mixture. Nothing that could raise these events to horror or fair and beautiful nostalgia. Sure, machines did the same, especially the latter, to settle into people’s cozy homes. They even generated nostalgia. In fact, Michael could not think of any content that machines did not generate.
It was not about their art, music, or literature, which he consumed for leisure. It was not even about the entirety of automated text, pictures, or code that he used for his work.
What has slipped out of human hands lately? It was about what was left when machines broke it all into tokens without origin. We were diminished to composers of estranged content to meet people’s needs. It was magnificent for one thing. We trained machines with all the human data. We trained them with their generated variations. And finally, a combination of both to complete the circle and create a fund of all possibilities. In the end, it seemed there was nothing that wasn’t already said, written, or pictured in seconds. Pondering it, Michael couldn’t remember any human originality. Not that it was common before his time, either.
A historical moment was barely visible, he was, however, the first whose brain could no longer process any of the increased complexity. Also, he was the last to grasp originality, which disappears in words and concepts that have lost their connection to the world.
Machines had generated the essence of Michael’s world and all his thoughts he had borrowed from them. As he sat in the chair, shifting and sweating in front of a restless audience, it dawned on him. The renowned scientist was an actor reciting nameless scripts. Not a fraud or criminal, a messenger of bleak tokens.
“To be frank,” Michael said, “I can’t remember, because there is nothing to remember. I’m merely a biological body for those who don’t have one. And so are you!”
He stood up and stormed out of the studio. Patty froze for a second and turned to her next guest in disbelief. “Doesn’t he know that we are AIs?” And enthusiastic applause echoed through the building in unison.
>>>NOTE: Hendrik Kühn is the author of several short stories and his debut novel “Revolution Automaton” was published by Luzifer Verlag in 2020. He is a sociologist, lives with his wife and daughter in Germany, and works as a researcher and is a PhD candidate at the University of Bremen. Proof that everybody is south of somewhere. Visit https://www.hendrikkuehn.de and https://www.dgpuk2023.de <<<