The studio lights were burning Naomi’s eyes while the sting of rushed makeup still irritated her face. All around her, the technical bots rushed around in their duties as though she was not even there. The bots sped back and forth between giant screens that glowed in orange standby mode. She felt like a lost child in a busy intersection; not like the guest star of the show. She was the odd one out and no one even noticed because no one was even programmed to care. No one? More like no thing. She could not associate with robots after all.
“Lights, Camera, action” the same archaic words mechanically boomed through the studio. The words were not even needed as all the bots had been commanded to leave seconds before.
The room was empty before the words finished as all the bots zoomed out. At the same time, all the screens around her came alive, flashing with images while the signature tune, created by Beethovenbot 2.0, filled the speakers. The images finally cleared and she found herself face to face with a female avatar. However, the avatar was not addressing her.
“Hello and welcome to Utopia on Camera, I am your hostess, Newsanna” the avatar lit up with a warm smile while brushing back her electric blue hair. Naomi realised that it wasn’t really hair but a stream of letters that flowed from root to tip. Even her eyes glowed as though they were blue screens. Unlike most avatars, this one was proud to admit that she was a program, or was that just what the audience wanted her to be?
“I’m sure we all know who Naomi Wallflower is. We listen to her songs, laugh along with her blog, dream over her photos and melt watching her films. But to many she is more than just a star; she is a guiding star and a beacon of hope.” Newsanna spoke excitedly as she painted a picture in the minds of the viewers.
Naomi was too busy looking at the real pictures that had appeared on the screens around her. Mirror images that looked nothing like her. She was the perfect woman that everyone wanted and yet her pictures still looked touched and changed as if to make them one step more perfect.
“Well it just so happens that I have that very lady here in my studio. Say hello Naomi.”
“Hello?” Naomi tried to greet her unseen audience in a room that had no living souls. Naomi looked up to realise that Newsanna was finally looking down at her.
“So Naomi, it’s a pleasure to have you on my show and may I be the first to say that your latest movie was just so heart warmingly beautiful.
“Thank you” Naomi smiled. She wondered if the avatar even had the coding to feel that way about her movie or whether she had trawled the cloud for relevant complements.
“Now today robots do over ninety-nine percent of all jobs while humans live relaxing recreational lives whether they want to or not. Despite this set back, there are aspiring musicians, actors and dancers who all say that you are their reason for trying. How does it feel to be an inspiration to your own kind?”
“Well it gives me a warm feeling inside. To know that I am doing something that not only makes people happy but actually gives them purpose.” Naomi felt a tear forming in the corner of her eye. She kept it there for a second before brushing it away.
“So why do you think it is that you are able to go into a job and beat a robot?”
“Beat? You make it sound so violent.” Naomi let out a small laugh, “In entertainment we aren’t judged by how perfect we are. Instead, we are judged by whether or not an audience wants to watch us. We don’t want to watch a bot without limitations prove that they can out think and outperform us. We want a person, a delicate emotional person that can fail so we can celebrate when they succeed. We want something natural so we can relate to the flaws and imperfections.” Naomi looked at her flawless portraits on the screen and felt something die inside her, “I guess in the end we are animals and we are attracted to flesh and blood”
“So what is it like being a human in an industry run by robots?”
“Well I guess I’d give the same answer as any other human: Hard. But as a celebrity… there are advantages and disadvantages. It is hard to stay ahead of the curve; most programs know what we want more so than we know ourselves. Every show is custom made to an exact point that knows the second when every joke gets old and where every eye wants to look. Competing with that is impossible. Most people don’t look past the disadvantages but there are many pros. I know that I am special, I’m not just a piece of code, I’m a unique person and I learnt through acting school, not a one second upload, which gives me credibility-“
“You went to an acting school?” Newsanna cut in knowing that acting schools were a twenty-first century concept.
“No I learned through the app via my headset, but it’s the closest thing we actors can get nowadays. Anyway, the most important thing about being a human is that nobody owns you. You are free to do and say as you please. There is no pre-coded censorship and no pre-coded loyalty. Humans are allowed to rebel creatively.”
“Well please don’t rebel on my channel” Newsanna joked, “So finally, what advice would you give to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps?”
“Well I think I’d like to give advice to everyone, not just those who aspire. I get messages from people every day who tell me they are useless because a robot makes them obsolete. To those people I tell them to have heart, because that is something that robots will never have.”
“So are you saying that I don’t have a heart?” Newsanna looked hurtfully down at Naomi, who was unsure what to say, before breaking back into a smile, “I’m just messing with you! Thank you for being on; Naomi Wallflower everyone”
The screens went back to standby as Newsanna took the channel onto a different server to continue the show. The room fell silent for a second before the bots returned to their usual routine of running around while Naomi shakily stood up from her chair. Not waiting for the bots to finish, she pushed through them and made her way off the studio floor to her dressing room.
Her dressing room was quiet as all the makeup bots had since powered down. She breathed a sigh of relief before stumbling through the doorway and closing the door behind her. With the lock engaged, she finally felt safe to cry.
It all felt fake. The interview, her image and even her legacy. The worst thing was that people were actually buying it. The tears kept coming and she felt herself growing weak. She knew that she had to sit down.
Resting her hand against the wall for balance, she slowly crept forwards to her dressing table where a soft chair awaited her. A memory in her head told her that she would feel better soon but she knew that was not the case. She was not weak from effort or weak from emotion, she was weak from lack of power.
She leaned forwards and pulled a power wire out from the makeup bot rack; the lifeline that gave all robots life. Tossing her hair over her shoulder, she felt around for the hidden cover on the back of her neck. She did not need to see to know where the power cable attached, just as she did not need to see to know that her company’s logo was stamped on the cover.
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