It's late May in the year 2023 and James Daily stands in his yard evaluating his ten acres of land in St. Helen, Michigan. It's an unusually hot day for spring and his grass has suddenly become lush dense, and unreasonably long. He contemplated how he would need to cut it each week and the amount of effort its upkeep was going to take. He knew he would have to prepare three separate machines to make things right. The zero turn for the wide open spaces, the push mower for closer up to the house and finally a weed wacker for along the house, around the trees, and the tighter spaces.
He found the thoughts of the extra work totally exhausting as he already worked 12 hours a day in his landscaping business and needed to find more contracts in order to keep things viable. James also understood that his business efforts would make him unavailable to complete his own work but since he had a little extra money saved decided to make a needed purchase. One of those completely self-sustaining 12-inch circular AI mowers in green. He said to himself, “this might be the greatest idea I ever had because I am fascinated by the latest technologies, I'll always have my grass cut but will never need to be bothered with the AI doing it.”
After his purchase and as the season progressed, James started getting a little curious about the AI and found himself going out to check on it more than he had anticipated. The AI did everything perfectly and he began to appreciate the little mowers' work ethic, dedication, and precise cutting calculations. He also began lamenting the upcoming end of the season and having to put the little mower away. He was depressed about the long lonely winter that lay ahead and what he would do to occupy his time. So he made another abrupt decision, upgrade the little mower with a communication package.
This brought on a new realization, his mower would need a name which would make her stand out from all his other mowers and make her feel special. He called her Robi and they became friends, at least of a sort I guess. James talked to Robi every day just not about cutting strategies but also fuel ratios and any other maintenance issues that needed to be completed.
When visiting his friend, he would often start the conversations with questions, “Robi did you run the calculations I gave you, and were they beneficial in your efficiency?”
Robi would answer in her computerized voice, “Yes James they were very good suggestions, hope we can talk again tomorrow.”
They talked again the following day and every day after. The days turned into weeks, months, seasons, and eventually years. The time brought with it many changes, James became increasingly affectionate toward Robi but unfortunately also older. Whereas, Robi the source of his affection got stronger more so when provided with every upgrade imaginable. After, twenty years had passed she was no longer just a little green mower, she had evolved into an artificial humanoid hybrid capable of individual ideas and and making decisions on her own.
What's more, her outer shell resembled a beautiful young woman in every way possible who had learned to imitate human emotions in intimate detail. However, despite all her AI advancements, she insisted on keeping the light green skin and dark green hair. It reminded her of her origins as a little green circular mower, and the man who loved her even though she could never reciprocate because she was just an AI after all.
As time passed, the seasons came and went, James eventually died leaving Robi with his estate. The conversation on his death bed was quite simple:
James looking into Robi's dark green eyes said, “Robi, we have known each other for over twenty years, and I just wanted to tell you that you were my best friend and I loved you.”
Robi realizing the gravity of the situation replied, “Yes James I too have always enjoyed the time we spent together and appreciated all the upgrades that you have given me. I wish I could have understood what it means to be alive and could have loved you back in the way you deserved.”
After Robi spoke, James passed quickly and was buried with the assistance of legal counsel on a plot of land on his estate that now belonged to Robi. James' last request was she keep it up until she grew tired, which she never would being an AI and all. You see, James never really ever trusted or loved anyone else.
Over the next several decades, Robi continued to keep the promise and received upgrades through James's estate every season and fitted with all the latest advancements. She also eventually had access to the sum total of all human knowledge, but feelings, emotions, and the meaning of life continued to elude her. She desperately wanted to experience true love so attempted to study the arts and abstract concepts of philosophy. After decades of searching, she came to the conclusion that life itself was fundamentally absurd, and that her questions could never be answered through scientific knowledge, philosophy, or even human reason. She also believed that it was humanity's desire for continued existence, James' need for love and now even her own was likewise just an illusion.
She now saw that the absurdity arises when any intelligence tries to impose meaning and order to an otherwise meaningless and irrational universe. That the concepts of worldly irrationality and even the end of time are all simply inevitable. These concepts would always come together to mock the best attempts at meaning. A struggle that humanity and all biological life faced that at first she thought as an AI clearly did not. In time she changed her position and realized she, James, and the rest of now distinct humanity were truly more alike than she thought after all. They were all machines alone in the universe searching for some type of meaning that just didn't exist, or did it?
Robi thought one last time about what she had once read about Sisyphus from Greek mythology whom Zeus sentenced to push a boulder uphill. He made no progress because every time he got near the top it rolled back downhill. His tasks like all of ours was ultimately meaningless and to make matters worse was repeated for all time. However, for the first time in intellectual history, Robi realized, that all Sisyphus had to do was assert value to his life. Embrace the meaninglessness of the world’s chaos and simply find meaning in the absurdity even if his work came to naught in the end.
The once little green mower's final acts were as follows:
First, to share what she had learned with a world that could never receive it. Humanity should have known the truth but clearly never accepted it.
Second, cut the grounds of the estate one last time because she now ability to understand, her feelings for James.
Third, lay next to his grave and simply shut herself down. However, not in a meaningless manner because she finally realized that she, James, and all of humanity’s only reason for existence, in the end, was for each other. Lights out!
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