After being blown away by Chappie and Ex Machina (WOW YOU SHOULD SEE BOTH OF THOSE), as well as a replay of Mass Effect 2 (which leans HEAVILY on AI as a plot element between the characters of EDI and Legion), I felt I had to write a short story about a possible form AI might take in reality, and which explores themes that I feel fiction tends to dance around without really addressing.
It doesn’t have a title as of yet, but the basic plot is that Liam, the main character, buys a “Life Companion Droid” (which he names ‘Red’) after being frustrated by his chronic bachelor’s syndrome. In other words, he bought a custom tailored girlfriend the way that some guys today might buy a custom tailored RealDoll.
Each Life Companion Droid is custom built and programmed to perfectly match the buyer’s needs and specifications to be an off the shelf soulmate or brother/sister figure.
Part of what makes this work (in the story) is that each AI is not completed until the buyer’s brain has been scanned and mapped, and this data is fed into the partial AI to make it not only come alive, but in a way that it understands its partner and can empathize and sympathize as a human would (also, the original designer gave up trying to replicate certain aspects of the human body with technology, so Life Companions are about a third specially grown organic material, making them even more human, and I suppose technically cyborgs).
The end result is that they are “Droids” before being switched on, but afterwards, their legal standing changes to “Artificial Person”, and they have rights and privileges the same as “Natural Persons”.
Red in particular is very blunt and logical, but also compassionate, supportive, and loving. She cares deeply about Liam because she is built to do so, but in her own words: “I love Liam because I am meant to, but that doesn’t make it any less real for either of us.”
This is something that I really see as a potential application for AI in the real world marketplace if the technology ever got to that point. People in the real world fall in love with video game characters all the time, so it makes sense, if only from a certain market perspective: if single people fall in love with computer programs, why not make a computer program that is designed to fall in love right back?
Discounting that awful potential for robot “bunny boiler” girlfriend/boyfriends who get way too attached, or a completely detached and unempathetic one on the other end of the spectrum, if we created that right balance, and made an AI designed to be compassionate and empathetic, I think we could solve a great many problems beyond mere loneliness in a large segment of the upper middle class of the Western World.
In fact, humans may not learn to be compassionate as a species *until* our machines do (and teaching compassion to machines successfully may completely avert a Skynet/Ultron-like apocalypse, so… BONUS!).
After all, to quote Ellen Ripley in Alien Resurrection: “No Human being is that Humane.”