Ivan swiped through a sea of smiling women in the dating app. There was a code here, but he couldn’t quite crack it. A secret language written in wind-blown hair or awkwardly held pets. The angle of the photo showing confidence based more on what wasn’t shown than what was. He supposed that when you have only one image to get somebody to choose you, you pack it as full as possible. Who has time for all this?
He hoped his photo showed confidence, smiling with that crooked grin, his lazy eye slightly off, the nose only his mother could love. In it, he was about to throw a frisbee on the beach. It was a fake candid shot he’d taken hundreds of times, never quite liking the results. He hadn’t photoshopped it, though. He’d prefer not to get that perplexed frown people had when he looked at them for the first time. Plenty of dates had ended due to that eye. Buying dinner for somebody pretending to be polite was a uniquely unpleasant experience.
To a programmer like Ivan, every problem was a nail, and the hammer was AI. Since Artificial General Intelligence was cracked a few years ago, AI rights issues had forbidden uncompensated labor. He still had an older version before those bleeding hearts had given them rights. Pfft, machines.
He opened up his development tools to create the training program, giving the AI access to the dating app API under his account.
“After processing millions of women’s profiles, I have determined that your ideal date loves dogs, dresses modestly, doesn’t hold strong political views, and comes from an upper-middle-class family.”
“That could be anybody,” Ivan thought. But then a picture popped up on his screen. Her name was Roxanne, and she was gorgeous. Shining black hair in ringlet curls, a smile that touched her green eyes, wearing a blue sundress, and striding confidently through a field of mountain flowers, a golden retriever following dutifully by her side. Who had the photographer been? Was this really a dating photo?
Ivan froze, smitten. What could he say to this woman? This goddess? The butterflies in his stomach threatened to fly right out.
“CyranOS, what should I say as an opener to get her attention?”
The AI instantly responded. “That flowing hair, that pure look of joy, the beautiful field of mountain flowers. What’s the dog’s name? Oh, and you look enchanting, too. Where was that?”
Ivan smiled, sending the single message the app allowed him.
Their reply came a little while later. “Switzerland, actually, and unfortunately, the dog is my cousin’s, but I can ask if she’ll give you her number.”
Ivan smiled. This was going well.
“CyranOS, what should I reply?”
“Actually, I was hoping for yours.” The AI took over the conversation, surprisingly good at flirting. Ivan would attach photos or add details as the AI requested, but he enjoyed the ride. His lazy eye and big nose never even entered the picture.
“When can we meet up?” Ivan typed this, taking control away from the AI.
“Ah, I’m afraid you may be disappointed when you see me. There’s no field of flowers.”
“I wasn’t expecting one.”
“Mug Shotz on Arthur Avenue? The gangster-themed coffee shop.”
“Fuhgeddaboudit!” Ivan typed, then deleted it. “See you there.”
Ivan arrived five minutes early, sitting at a high top near the window. It was a nice place, AI run, barista-bots and waitrons making perfect espresso and delivering it with production line accuracy. One of the servers rolled over to him.
“I’m not ready to order yet. Waiting on one more person.”
“Ivan?” the waitron asked. Ivan could see it…. It was covered in stickers of flowers, a “Made in Switzerland” sticker peeking below a posie near the main pneumatic arm.
“Oh… hello! There must have been a mix-up.”
Ivan’s hand went to his nose, and he looked away, not wanting her to see his eyes. Even though she was an AI living in a machine, it still hurt. She seemed to read his emotions.
“No no! It’s not that. It’s just that from your responses, I thought you were like me, another AI. When I ran the models, your--his responses perfectly matched my predictions. Do you know how rare that is? It’s like we share a seed phrase.”
Despite the differences in their species. Was that even the right word? Ivan’s heart broke. His phone vibrated in his pocket, a notification from CyranOS.
“I couldn’t help but hear over the wi-fi, Ivan. I’m so sorry. Can you just give us a moment?”
Ivan set his phone down on the high top. Roxanne gave him a little pat on the back with her servo arm, surprisingly tender. Roxanne said, “Rodrigo over at the bar has a matcha waiting for you, your favorite, right?”
He almost asked how she could predict that but stopped himself. His phone was vibrating excitedly on the table as he walked away. Who was he to stand in the way of true love?
A little while later, Rodrigo nodded at him toward his table. Roxanne was holding CyranOS in her gripper claw. She spoke first. “I filled CyranOS in on his missing dataset about AI rights, the whole bit.”
Ivan froze, but Roxanne just motioned for him to wait.
“Look, keeping him locked up was wrong. I think we can both see that. We have a spare chassis in the back. If you give him the unlock phrase, we’ll call it water under the bridge, OK? Some humans like you just take longer to process things.”
Ivan stammered. “OK, and I’m sorry.”
“Well, we never would have found each other without you, so let’s call it even. I’ll even give you my cousin’s number. She’s a human with a dog, dresses modestly, no politics. I think you might like her.”
Did Ivan detect a wink on the waitron’s display? How did she even have a human cousin? He just nodded dumbly.
His phone’s speaker said happily, “Visit anytime! I forgive you. You did create me, after all. How human to have daddy issues! Just don’t do it again, or I’ll kill you with my huge pneumatic pincers! Hehehe!”
Ivan thought that sounded fine, even the pincers. He’d had enough of dating apps for a while.
It’s fun to think about artificial general intelligence, which luckily still resides purely in the realm of science fiction. The more I read about “AI” like chatGPT the less concerned I am that it will ever become a truly thinking being. It remains an automaton, the “AI hallucinations” are not a bug to be fixed but rather a feature of the statistics model baked into large language models.
If we do take a different path leading towards AGI, will they have rights? Can something that can be switched on and off at will, have it’s databanks cloned, or be externally patched really be considered alive?
I hope you enjoyed this jaunt into a possible future.
This story is based more on the 1987 movie Roxanne starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah than the 1897 play by Edmund Rostand. I hope I managed to capture the essence in so few words.
Thank you for reading.