Saturday, June 30, 2007

ambitious apparatus (programming)

“Scholo, do you know if you are you a human or a machine?”

The question hung there for a time, riding on particles of dust, warmed by the soft glow of the sun infiltrating the nearly drawn drapes. Tension. It was building. Heat. It was rising. The gentle whine of hydraulics, the hissing release of steam, the crackle of pure harnessed energy – each added a new layer of discomfort to the tiny cluttered office.

At last, Scholo spoke. “Doctor, I have to tell you,” he said, “sometimes I find the ease of your questions insulting.”

The doctor smiled a little awkwardly, self-consciously smoothing the lapels of his crisp white coat. “Well, if my questions are so easy, Scholo, then you should have no problem answering them.”

The grinding of gears, the rapid firing of pistons, the fervent hum of transistors. Scholo raised his hand as he spoke, bringing one shining fingertip to his gleaming face for a scratch.

“With all due respect, doctor,” Scholo said, “I have no problem answering your questions, but sometimes they do seem a little demeaning.” He stirred in his chair, lifting one aluminium buttock and then the other. “For example,” he went on, “how should you feel if I were to ask you whether or not you knew if you were a man or a woman?”

“Oh,” the doctor huffed, leaning back and tenting his fingers arrogant before him, “I think I should be able to answer that question quite easily, and tell you with no uncertainty that I am, indeed, a man.”

“Now, imagine for a second,” Scholo continued, “that our positions are reversed, and let us say that I am the authority figure, that I am the one in the smart white coat, and that I am the one sitting at the nice oak desk with you,” he pointed an angry finger, his normally silver cheeks flushed a hot blue, “you, the experiment, you, on the other side—”

“Scholo, you’re being ridiculous, I—”

“Am I doctor?” Scholo shot, “Am I being ridiculous? Have I no right to be hurt by your insolence?”

“I-it, it,” the doctor stammered, “it was just the next in a series of questions, Scholo. It’s right here on this piece of paper.” He held up his stack of notes, fanning them with his other hand. “I don’t even think of this stuff, myself – it’s all created by the board, all written for me. I meant to harm.”

The barely audible squeak of oxidising irises. The mild flushing of lubricant. The persistent thumping of a complex series of tiny pumps.

“Well, to answer your question, doctor, I am a machine through and through.” Scholo hissed and whined to a standing position, looking down at the flustered doctor before turning to leave. “And, if I might add, humans such as yourself and your board only make me happier with that fact with each passing day.”

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