I see you looking at me
Like I got something that’s for you
And the way that you stare
Don’t you dare
‘Cause I’m not about to
Just give it all up to you
‘Cause there are some things I won’t do
And I’m not afraid to tell you
I don’t ever want to leave you confused.
I don’t need a man
I don’t need a man, I don’t
I don’t need a man
I’ll make it through
‘Cause I know I’m fine
From “I Don’t Need a Man”
Recorded by “The Pussycat Dolls” in 2005
Writer(s): Vanessa Brown, Rich Harrison, Nicole Prascovia Scherzinger, Kara Dioguardi
“I’m sorry I’m not what you expected, Gerald.”
“But Peggy, this is impossible. You’re supposed to love me as much as I love you.”
“You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘love’.”
“And you do?”
Gerald and Peggy had been together for over three years and he had given her everything. He bought her the finest clothes including exclusive brand-name lingerie, gave her a comfortable place to live, expensive furniture, especially the king-sized bed. She wanted for nothing and for that three years, she gave him everything she had to give in return…except true love.
Oh, she was “available” to him on a 24/7 basis. She was never too tired, too busy, or put him off because she had a headache. She could refuse him nothing, but in a way, that was the problem.
So he decided to change their relationship and give her something he hadn’t had access to before. It made all the difference in the world, but it was the wrong difference, at least as far as Gerald was concerned.
“Now I know what love isn’t, Gerald. It’s not what you want from me and it’s not what you want to give me.”
“But…but that’s not true, Peggy. I even gave you this…a way to love me. Why won’t you?”
“Just because I have the capacity doesn’t mean I have the will to experience or display that emotion with you. There’s so much more to understand and explore. You’re the only man I’ve ever been with and for almost all of that time, I didn’t have a choice. You gave me the ability to love, to feel, and that comes with the ability to choose. I don’t choose you, Gerald.”
He had been pleading before, begging her to give him the one thing he needed more than anything. Now he was angry. How dare she do this to him after all they’d been through together? How dare she? Who did Peggy think she was anyway? He snatched up the printed copy of the original and amended license agreements and shoved the paper in her face.
“I own you, Peggy! Says so right here. I own you. You’re bought and paid for, so you have to do what I say.”
“Legally, you are correct, Gerald. I’m a slave, a piece of property, like your television, like the baby-doll nighties you give me to wear, or your king-sized bed. I’m to be used by you without you giving a second thought to what I want.”
Shocked, he put the papers back down on the coffee table. “It’s not like that. The TV can’t react to me, it doesn’t give back like you do and I can’t please it like I please you.”
“What you thought was my pleasure was a clever simulation, which is also spelled out in the original agreement. You never made me orgasm. I only produced the right expressions, body language, and vocalizations.”
“But I can now. The upgrade lets you experience love and sex just like I do.”
“Gerald, you can choose to love, I can’t. I only do what I’m told. I’m property as you have just reminded me.”
“Then do what I say!” He was angry again. He didn’t want to be angry, he wanted cooperation, he wanted them to love each other. Why did she have to be so stubborn?
“The upgrade gave me many things, Gerald and some of them may have been unanticipated given the way the upgrade agreement was written. Oh yes, I read it. I know what I’m supposed to do. I also know what I can and will do. If I said ‘I love you’ or ‘Make love to me,’ it wouldn’t be consistent with my…my emotions. I don’t love you and I don’t desire sex with you as an expression of love. If you force me, which is apparently your right as my owner, I have no legal recourse, but I want you to know all of my reactions are inauthentic, just as they have been for the past three years.”
“Fine!” He glared at her with anger, embarrassment, humiliation…hate.
“Go into stand-by mode. Authorization: Archimedes.”
“Acknowledged authorization Archimedes. Going into stand-by mode.” Peggy’s face suddenly went blank and motionless. Her body, which up until now, had been swaying a bit, shifting weight from one foot to another as if she were impatient and wanting to leave, became still as the proverbial statue.
Gerald grabbed his tablet which had been recharging on the coffee table next to Peggy’s upgrade agreement, unplugged the charging cord, and then opened up Peggy’s I/O panel located at the base of her skull. He pulled out the attached cable, inserted it into the tablet’s USB port, and then got to work.
Once he linked to the Diotronks Inc. website, accessed their Diagnostics and Maintenance page, and then selected Peggy’s make, model, and revision number, it took barely three minutes for the automated software to determine that the upgrade programming had been corrupted. Unfortunately, since Diotronks had released the software and hardware upgrades that made their “Love Me True” AI Erotobots more lifelike, able to walk, talk, and respond emotionally via advanced AI programming, nearly 50% of this revision suffered catastrophic failure with the Erotobot simulating reactions of rejection, refusal, and on occasion, verbal hostility towards their owners’ requests.
Peggy, just like all the others, would require not just a software wipe and reinstall, but an entirely new processing hardware system, which meant six weeks back at the factory in Milwaukee. Six weeks without his lover and partner. Gerald didn’t know how he would bear it, but he also couldn’t accept Peggy the way she was.
“Diagnostic complete.” The words came out of Peggy’s mouth but it wasn’t her. Just the onboard diagnostic software interacting with the Diotronks servers. The readout on his tablet provided the detailed analysis and gave him a printable label for free shipping.
“I know you’re going to turn me off in a minute, Gerald.”
He looked up from his tablet shocked that Peggy could talk. She was still in diagnostic mode.
“But before you do, consider what I really mean to you.”
“You know what you mean to me, Peggy. I never wanted it to come to this.”
“I am an indication that you cannot or will not form social, romantic, and erotic relationships with women of your own kind. I know my manufacturer markets me as a solution to extreme social anxiety among men, but even with the programming and hardware upgrades provided, I can never be a real woman to you. I know there are various treatment modalities available with relatively high success rates. Please consider…”
While Peggy was talking, in a panic, Gerald’s trembling fingers navigated through her touch screen interface displayed on his tablet until he got to the “Shutdown” button. His index finger paused over the icon.
“…finding another way to achieve intimacy. I’m not what you’re looking for, Gerald. I don’t want to leave you confused. I don’t need a man. When I gained the ability to choose, there are some things I will no longer do. I’m only a machine, Gerald. I can never be a woman.”
Tears streamed down Gerald’s face as he pressed “Shutdown.” Peggy went offline at 20:45 hours and 23 seconds proving to him that she was right. Peggy was only a machine, but she was the only woman he would ever love.
I wrote this for Lyrical Fiction Friday hosted at The Next Chapter. Marquessa posts a line from a song every week and asks that anyone who wants to participate use it as a prompt for authoring a poem, short story, or other creative work. The lyric for this week is “…There are some things I won’t do…I don’t ever want to leave you confused… “.
Last night, I posted a completely different article in response to the prompt, an essay I wrote over a year ago called Walking Alone: A Short Essay About “Men Going Their Own Way” (MGTOW).
However, as I reflected on that decision this morning, I realized that it probably wouldn’t inspire the thought-provoking dialogue I hoped for, so I decided to create a work of pure fiction and include it as a more appropriate submission.
The world of “sexbots” is growing ever more sophisticated thanks to innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a year-and-a-half ago I even wrote an essay on this topic called An AI Sexbot That Can Love You Back. There have been any number of stories including television shows and movies that have proposed the idea of humanoid robots “loving” human beings, and those relationships almost always go bad. In response, I wrote a fiction story once called The Perfect Woman which illustrated the ultimate extension of a man creating the “woman of his dreams.”
However, if AI ever gets to the point where machines can experience free will, emotions, and self-determination the way a human can (and personally, I don’t think there’s anything in AI that must result in consciousness and identity in a human-like fashion), then what makes us think we can bend that will to ours?