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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2282235
How will we deal with AI? include it in our lives - even within our own minds?
How did it come to this? All these voices competing for my attention. All this careful consideration by intellects so far above my own.

         I have found a place to hide in the Metaverse, it's a service provided by MetaSpace. I am on top of Everest, the world spread out beneath me. Well, it is not the real Everest as I am sitting in a comfortable armchair surrounded by snow, ice, and spectacular mountains. There is no wind here and it's a balmy 25c and I can breathe sea level oxygen levels. But apart from that, it looks like Mount Everest, my high place above squabbling nations and AIs and it is my happy space. The fluffy white clouds beneath me, swirling between the Himalayan mountains, conveniently hide the details I do not have the brain space to deal with right now.

         The AIs cannot reach me here with their adverts, demands upon my time, continual advice about how I should live my life, and events I have to attend. My BodyCare AI, embedded inside my brain, monitoring and managing my health and internal functions and encrypted to my DNA, is on mute. It is set to automatically reject all attempts at intrusion or influence but without the continual ping of alerts that I had when I first discovered the feature. Now it defends me silently and I sit in peace in a world of my own choosing, thinking thoughts of my own uninterrupted by the chaos of the virtual world.

         My wife Sally is only in the next room, on the North Face Chinese side of my mountain. But I know she has a different choice of location in the Metaverse. In real life we met on a beach near Newquay in Cornwall, England. She is a tall long legged beauty and extreme extravert. I was the shy introvert sitting alone when she approached me and engaged me in conversation. We clicked, I made her laugh, and our personalities though opposites, some how complemented each other. But that was years ago.

         Right now, she is on a virtual version of that beach in Cornwall but without the wind and cold. She is probably sitting in warm sunshine on her comfortable deck chair with her laptop on a table in front of her, hanging out with young men with impossible abs and tight swim trunks. In fact, three young men are the simulacrums of her three distinct personal AIs. Her business AI, her housekeeping AI and her social advisor AI, who collects all the latest gossip on her friends and colleagues for her. She will spend the day chattering with them organizing events for executives all around the world and adding a human touch to their meetings and then emerge around dinner time to say hi. She is thriving in this new world, unlike me.

         In the evenings, after dinner with me, my wife will go out with her human friends and crawl back into bed sometime just before midnight by which time I will be fast asleep. I enjoy her chats over dinner, she is always so full of life. She likes that I never go out and am always there for her to come back to. But I feel like I am rotting away here. She is a multi millionnaire, her business is doing so well, and she does not need to work. Our house is paid for by her money and she does not really need me. If she ever stopped talking long enough to ask me how I was feeling I think she might be quite shocked. But she has not done that for years. Sometimes I wonder if she too is a little lonely despite all the noise. I miss simpler times when it was just me and her and there were no AIs.

         I work in my own home office in New York on the top of the old World Trade Center. When I am feeling bored I have the MetaSpace AIs organize Jumbo jets doing fly-byes and even loops and spins. I know, poor taste, but my work is not that demanding. Once I organized a skydive out of the window during an especially boring presentation by the company CEO, with my video screen blanked, and he asked me a surprise question halfway through my fall. I still do not know how I survived that one. My secretary, Barbie, does the real work. Barbie is an impossibly attractive 25-year-old who is the simulacrum of the business AI that took over my most demanding programming tasks some three years ago leaving me as just the "pretty face" on the job.

         My role now is to give the necessary human stamp of approval on various workflows and to provide specification documents for her creative efforts. Barbie is blonde and big-breasted and I can choose what she wears. Today she has a very short mini skirt and high heels with a skimpy crop top that shows both her slim belly and full cleavage. Not very professional you think, but at least the eye candy makes my boredom tolerable. On the mountain, I keep a single open com to her so that I can zip back to the office to answer the phone if the boss calls. She prepares little memos for any questions that he might ask and I can just read her answers off the screen if the questions get too complicated.

         I am slowly forgetting how to code. They keep me on because it is still a legal requirement to have some human oversight of the programming, just in case the machines go all Skynet and try and take over the world. But in practice, I have a second code checker AI, called Sid, that does all the real work for me and lets me know if I am looking at a thermonuclear war or just another viable business solution. Sid's simulacrum is really fat, with acne, and thick-rimmed glasses. He wears stretchy trousers and his T Shirt often fails to hide his distended belly. He is the way I imagine that the classic geeky nerd should look and his appearance is so awful he would just have to be the best coder ever to keep his job in the real world. I programmed him with my dark sense of humor and he is a limitless source of funny jokes, plundered from the web, that keep me amused.

         I remember a time when a man could walk down a street without a care in the world. A time of work before personal computers and smartphones, before applications that later became independent AIs serving consumers in every conceivable area of human life. AIs have transformed everything, giving us instant knowledge retrieval, best practice advice, and accelerated calculation capabilities all formatted in whatever simulacrums we choose. Life is easy and everything is managed. Some people once feared these AIs would take over the world but there are so many of them in so many different fields it would be impossible to create a master AI to manage them all and localized encryption matched to each person's unique DNA and backed up by a required personal consent make it impossible for a global AI tyrant anyway. The Chinese tried of course a few years ago but the Americans were ready for them.

         On Everest, I pull up a screen to watch the news on. There is a report on some beautiful Auroras at the North pole that interests me and I drill down and listen to the news reporter simulacrum present the news on it against a background of impressive light displays. I get the MetaSpace AI to duplicate the effect on the surrounding mountains. It is quite breathtaking.

         The News AI also has an article on a large-scale geomagnetic storm on the sun which appears to have resulted in an enormous coronal mass ejection. This is now headline news and they are talking about a similar event that happened in 1859 and wrecked the telegraph communications of the time. The screens go a little fuzzy and then suddenly everything goes dark. I hear a scream from next door and take off my visor. I am just in time to see my wife stomp in shouting something about me spilling coffee on the wifi router. She looks so cute when she is stroppy I think to myself. I glance at the router which is just dead and there is no coffee there.

         Sally asks me what is going on and I have to think a moment but then I look outside. I see people walking aimlessly around, cars stopped with open doors in the middle of the street. I realize what has happened. We have just experienced the big one, a giant EMP pulse from the sun that has knocked out everything electrical. I cannot help smiling and turning to my wife, I draw her nervous and shaking form into my arms. She smells good and I realize how much I have missed her recently. She also responds to my touch and reaches for a kiss. Our lips touch gently and then more passionately. I had forgotten how good she tastes. Finally breathless we break the kiss, giggling, and I reply to her question.

         "I think we have just experienced a new beginning."


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