Saturday, 7 January 2012

Real Life Simulations

The first of them were basic in form. They can't have been any more than about twenty pixels. They had limited functionality and limited needs. They lived in data memories and fed on commands.

Everybody was told that these things had been invented. As if they were somehow ours to do with as we pleased. And every time they evolved, we were told that the programming had become more complex. Because, obviously, we were making enormous technological leaps forward every single year. And we all believed it, possibly because we wanted to believe it.

My first one was simple enough to catch and fit on a keyring. An LCD display and three buttons. When I was younger, I had sea monkeys, and because they seemed to be a kind of powder, I believed that they'd been made, not simply reanimated on contact with water.

I was never good at feeding them. Not when they swam around in the water, or when I just had to press a button. They had a volume control that, now, seems like an exercise in cruelty. All we did was stop them screaming from hunger. And then we reanimated them with a battery and made them go through it again.

As they evolved, we found more complex ways of keeping them captured. Restricting the data they fed on to CDs and transferring them to files which could be opened and closed at will. We could feed them so many more commands and give them what seemed like a happier life.

I stopped feeding one once, just to see what would happen. He looked out at the screen, slowly becoming less mobile and begging me to help. I'd just override his commands, confusing him. I watched him, over the hours, starve to death. And then I laughed with my friends about it.

If you asked me, I'd swear I didn't know that they could feel pain. But deep down, I knew. I knew and I laughed with my friends about how it turned green and died.

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