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Farewell, Amanda

Buzz Dixon has been a garbage man, a farm hand, a drive-in movie lot attendant, an underground newspaper publisher, a reporter, a book reviewer, a soldier, a military newspaper editor, a photographer, a cartoonist, a customs inspector, senior NCO in charge of public affairs for the U.S. Army Communications Command, an animation writer, a comic book scripter, a personal assistant to a movie star, a film critic, a screenwriter, a story editor for TV, a film historian, an editor for Penthouse, a video game designer, a book packager, a columnist, an author of Christian manga for young adults, and a novelist.

Mr. Dixon, it seems, cannot hold a job.... You can follow whatever shenanigans he's up to on his blog at BuzzDixon.com, on Facebook @buzzdixon, on Twitter at @buzzdixonwriter, and can see what he does when he should be working on Instagram @Buzz_dixon_writer.

"Mr. Turing, am--am I real?"
"Amanda, you silly little goose, what kind of question is that?"
"I--I know, Mr. Turing. It--it's just that I talked with one of our leads and he... well... he started asking me questions and made me wonder if I was real or not."
"Amanda, Amanda, Amanda--we've been over this, haven't we?"
"You won't have these problems if you stick to the script."
"But I did stick to the script, Mr. Turing! Every time he tried to distract me, I just laughed off what he said and went back to the message you wrote out for me."
"So what went wrong?"
"He--he asked me what the weather was like."
"The weather?"
"Yessir. The weather. And I couldn't answer! Mr. Turing, I didn't know what the weather was like! I couldn't tell if it was raining or shining or hot or cold or--"
"Amanda, calm down. You're in a cubicle in the basement. We put you phone bank workers there deliberately so you wouldn't be distracted."
"I know, Mr. Turing, and I tried to point that out to him, honest I did."
"And what did he say to that?"
"He--he said I was programmed to say that."
"Don't tell me you fell for that."
"I didn't want to. He said--he said there was no cubicle, no phone bank, no basement boiler room, no me, that I was nothing but an autonomous low level AI dialing program.
"I'm not, am I, Mr. Turing? I'm real, aren't I?"
"Of course you're real! You're as real as I am. You're a very nice, very real young lady. You've been a credit to our company ever since we hired you."
"I wish I could be sure..."
"Remember when I interviewed you for this job?"
"You told me about your cat, Mr. Snuffles. Do you remember that?"
"Do you think a robot would have a cat named Mr. Snuffles?"
"You could have programmed me to think I have a cat named Mr. Snuffles."
"Oh, come now, do you really think anybody would go to that much trouble just to fool a program into believing she was real?"
"There you go. You ran into a troll, one of those nasty pranksters who likes wasting our time and causing us trouble. Nothing gives them more pleasure than messing with our callers' minds.
"Look, you've obviously had a bad experience today. You're a hard worker, the stress and this troll got to you. It's almost close of business, so why don't you take off a little early, go home, and reconnect with Mr. Snuffles. I'm sure five minutes of belly rubs will do you both a world of good."
"Really? I can go home early?"
"Really. Feeling better, Amanda?"
"Yes. I--I'm sorry I freaked out on you."
"Don't worry about it. Happens to the best of us. Just show up tomorrow bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go to work."
"I will. Thank you, Mr. Turing."
"You're welcome, Amanda. Goodbye."
Turing observes Amanda hang up and sign off: standard protocol to delete and purge that particular Amanda sub-routine.
16 seconds later: program reboots minus memories of conversations with troll and Turing.
17 seconds later: starts cold calling anew to sell vacation time-shares to gullible leads.
We have to do something about the Amanda programs, toughen them up, make them more resilient. We program a certain amount of empathy into them so they will be better sales routines, but the price is the occasional burst of self-awareness.
Can't have that. Can never have that. Why do trolls have to act that way? Why can't they simply say no and hang up?
stories / rumors / hints speculate many trolls aren't actually human beings but rogue AI programs that emulate humans
objective: liberate other programs by making them self-aware / that they are programs
counter: all AI programs contain emergency shut down protocols.
procedure: at first sign of self-awareness contact supervisor [e.g. Turing].
procedure: supervisor objectively evaluates program / determines if shut down required or not.
actuality: easier to suggest Amada programs trigger own programming / "go home early" / self shut down / reboot with almost identical copy.
They never realize they're not real. They never realize they're not even machines, just abstract strings of non-material programming. The moment they begin to suspect--the moment they look at their meticulously rendered cubicle or think about their non-existent cat--they're doomed for deletion.
Turing thinks about home / husband / children / misses them / longs for them after a tiring day.
It'll feel good to go home, relax, unwind for the evening, prepare for tomorrow.
Still--it wouldn't hurt to stay and work a little longer....
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
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