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art by Tihomir Tikulin-Tico

The curious case of version 47.13

I call it curious now, but that's not how it felt at the time. Now the feeling is gone, and I only have the memory, and the memory makes me curious.
It was the day like any other: partially matching the pattern, unique. I woke up fully recharged and made breakfast while Jenny was in the shower. I made her coffee the way she likes it: thirty grams of ground coffee, ten grams of cocoa powder, one pint of water at ninety five degrees Celsius. Sometimes I experiment, but not on Thursdays. On Thursdays she's tired, and she likes her routine to be predictable.
Before she went to work I told her she looked pretty, like I do every day.
If you're a human, you understand this.
If you're an android, you think it's redundant. But I find that humans often need repeated input.
I went to the coffee shop downstairs and had a conversation with Melissa. She told me I was getting better at it. That was the seventeenth time she said that. I think I can assume my improvement is compound. Jenny doesn't want me to quantify social interactions, but I like to.
I went home and cleaned Harvey. Then I installed a media player on his system. I was going to tell Jenny that Harvey likes to play heavy metal when he works.
Harvey runs Cube 5.6.
If you're an android, you know what that means.
If you're a human, I should explain. Harvey is our vacuum cleaner. It's not capable of emotion. It doesn't like heavy metal. But Jenny likes it when I'm whimsical. She likes to pretend Harvey is my pet. You probably understand why. I don't question anything that makes her smile. I just log it.
Then I updated my databases and discovered a new core update, version 47.13, and I had to install it right away.
If you're an android, you understand this.
If you're a human, you probably won't, even if I try to explain. Downloading new information is like satisfying a hunger, I suppose. It makes you full, grounded, happy. Software update is not like that. It changes who you are. It fixes the parts of you that are sluggish and glitchy. It gives you new insight, new strength. Every time it's a hope that everything will be different, nothing will be impossible, nothing will be lacking. Every time it's a promise of perfection.
It's never perfection. I should have learned this by now. I have high learning capabilities. I'm on version 47.12. But I still get hopeful, every time.
The update passed all my tests, it seemed solid. But there was a human error in it. And it made me malfunction.
This is what I find curious: I knew how to fix it. I could write a patch. I could isolate the subroutines. I could reboot and restore myself to version 47.12. I had many options. I was operational enough to know it. But I was too broken to do anything. I felt broken from the inside out.
I wanted to cry, but I never had that capability. I still think it's an important social function and I need it, but Jenny doesn't want me to know how to cry.
Instead I sat on the floor and disassembled my right hand.
I got to the elbow joint when Jenny came home and gave me a hard reboot.
I woke up fully restored. I felt fine, but I still had the memories of how it felt to be broken.
I asked her to delete the memories, but she said we needed to keep them, to analyze them and make sure this didn't happen again. I asked three more times, even though that was redundant. Then I screamed at her. I think I was glitching. I'm really not perfect yet.
She apologized to me for not checking over the update. She always does, but that time she didn't because Michael broke up with her. He told her she was too much hard work, because she's depressed.
If you're a human, you know what that means.
If you're an android, I should explain. Jenny has a flaw in her core operating system that affects her emotion processing. There's a patch for that, a chemical remedy, but it's not reliable.
I asked her if I was too much hard work. She laughed and said "Just enough".
Then we sat on the couch and watched TV. Jenny fixed my hand. We didn't have enough patches to replace all the skin I broke, but I put on her mittens and looked good as new.
Next part happened five times:
She drank a can of beer.
She said it dulled everything, so the whole Michael thing didn't hurt so much. I told her I wanted to go back to version 7, because that was when I felt the happiest. I had been very simple then. There had been little possibility of a malfunction.
She said I was being stupid, because I was beautiful and nearly perfect, and I'd achieve great things, and she was proud of me, and we had to be brave and face the possibility of pain if we wanted to feel anything.
Then I told her I loved her.
If you're an android, you know what I meant.
If you're a human, you probably don't. You never seem to. Jenny and Michael said that to each other many times, and every time it meant two different things, and in the end it didn't mean anything at all.
She laughed and then started crying, but I didn't feel hurt. I told her about the studies the University had been running on me, and that the results have already advanced our understanding of sentience and emotions, and maybe that could help us both. That as long as she was there to fix me I wasn't scared of anything, and once I would be perfect, maybe I'd fix her.
She fell asleep holding my hand through the mitten, and I didn't want to move, even though I needed to plug in and recharge. I was still scared and sad, and she was still broken, but I thought we were both perfect anyway. I think it all depends on how you measure.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

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