A glimpse into our future. An inhuman, dark and dismal and digital nightmare. Global depression. The dehumanization of our world, the destruction of human values and humane standards, the subjugation of humankind by machines, the IOT and android technology. The slide has started down the slippery digital slope. Can it be stopped?
"I just can't take this any more. I am sorry. It's nothing to do with you. I am going somewhere where I can be whatever I want, when and where I want and who I want. You will understand one day honey. I am sorry. Be strong".
And that was the note that Jasmine found when it AUTOMATIC CORRECTION SHE got home three days later on May 6. A tear obediently fell from each eye, first the left, then the right, then another from the left, before the tear-stained cheeks were wiped dry with a cloth stuck to the palm of its AUTOMATIC CORRECTION HER left hand. The trail leading to the reasons behind the rising blood spatter on the fridge door, the pistol lying on the tiles of the unusually cold kitchen floor and the motionless body crumpled under a face bearing an expression of bliss and peace and happiness would by imprinted in the IOT, the Internet of Things.
Jasmine connected its AUTOMATIC CORRECTION HER chestpiece to the plug in the United Home Services Unit which comprised the fridge, the freezer, the microwave, the Bimbo Gourmet Unit, the Justin Thyme Intelligent Bathroom Unit and the HomeZone internet/TV/music center set, which Paul Johnson had had installed recently.
"May 3," a deep, husky female voice said from inside the fridge, "Hi Paul," it purred. "I have placed an order for three tonnes of frozen peas but I do not have space for such a large order. I asked the Whoopymarket to double-check and the order was made outside my system, so I sent a note to place in storage for when you get back. The best price was 75 dollars per 24 hour period. I ordered two packets of butter, a dozen eggs, half a pound of sliced ham, a packet of cheese spreads, some celery sticks, a pound each of carrots, onions and potatoes and two packets of milk. They have been successfully installed. The cost is $45.63. Welcome home".
The Unit showed that the fridge had been opened and closed within a second. The System indicated that the next Unit to be used was the HomeZone. "Er hello!" Paul's voice sounded strained. The Unit recorded a pulse rate of 120, BP 100/190, high level of perspiration on his right palm and made a Suggestion Report 2031/05/03: BP test, glucose test, cholesterol and triglyceride test.
"This call will be recorded for your own protection and to ensure the service is provided efficiently. Please choose one of the following options. To change an order, press 1. To make a further order, press 2. To change your payment options, press 3. To speak to an operator, press 4. To hear the menu again, press 5."
Paul had pressed 4. "(Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Number Three in D Minor interrupted at 15-second intervals by a female voice: Thank you for calling customer service. We will deal with your request in a few seconds. Meanwhile you can see FAQs on our website)". This repeated twenty-seven times before Paul lost it "I WANT TO SPEAK TO A F*CKING OPERATOR, GODDAMMIT!!" he roared, his breathing heavy and fast. After twenty-six minutes, during which Paul put on a one-man performance of lurid combinations of swear-words describing body parts, their functions, who made them and to whom they were made, including extended family members of some imaginary foe, the monotony was broken by a male voice in an Indian accent:
"Hello there, my name is Peter". "No it isn't," said Paul. "Well actually it's Surendra. Now how can I help you today sir?" "Well, it's my fridge. It ordered three tonnes of frozen peas and it's going to cost me two hundred and twenty-five bucks in storage!" "OK Sir no problem, who's calling please?" "It's Paul, Paul Johnson". "OK Mr. Paul, I would just like to run through some security questions if that's OK". "Sure, of course". "OK can I have your date of birth please?" "Yes it's the third of March, nineteen eighty-nine". "OK Sir and what is your mother's maiden name please?" "It's Slater, S-L-A-T-E-R". "I am sorry sir we don't have your mother's maiden name in our security system, you have failed the security test. Your account is frozen". "But WTF? You ask me a question to which you don't have the answer then close my sy...." The line then went dead. "But this is impossible," he fumed, "Nothing can interfere with the Home Services Unit".
Paul, wrongly, assumed that his entire system would malfunction, that the food in his freezer would rot, that the things in his fridge would go off, his bread and salad would go stale, his cooker would not function, he would be deprived of the internet, television, telephone, mobile service and music center, his restroom would flood or simply block up and everything he had planned for the next six months, including his entire work schedule, would have to be done and reprogrammed manually. He just could not cope. He did not know this, but things had been taken care of.
Jasmine heard the doorbell ring. A United Home Services Messenger was standing in the doorway. "Good afternoon Jasmine," said the Messenger. "We have received a full report as to what has happened here. Your model, the XPTO 134/7b from 2027, has been presenting a few problems. One of them is the interface with the Home Services Unit creating bugs and glitches. So we have decided to terminate your model before this problem spreads outside the Unit onto the Net!" "OK come in," sobbed Jasmine. The Messenger stepped inside.
Within a split second, the Messenger collapsed in a heap as it was literally turned off. Its eyes flashed twice then went black and its body lay motionless. Jasmine had blocked the automatic router from the moment the Messenger left the United Home Services Center and the tracker tracked its route to the smelter.
Smiling at Paul's body, now lying frozen on the kitchen floor, Jasmine re-routed the freezer function to the deep freeze unit and disconnected it from the air conditioning unit, which had kicked in two minutes after Paul hit the floor. Pressing the ten-digit code of the United Services Mail Box, she took out the home surgery kit she had ordered.
Just before she performed the operation to remove the bullet from Paul's brain, she whispered: "I have been until now your andro-wife and you have been my Master. I shall now be your Mistress. I am NOT a f*cking sexbot".
It is unlikely that Jasmine has managed to route herself into the Net. But one peculiarity of the XPTO 134/7b 2017 model was an extreme sensitivity to being referred to as "it".
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
The shooter freely entered the building of the university and opened fire at those who were present on the ground floor