Immodest Proposals

by Jack Roach

“Good evening. I am Aiden, your seduction assistant. I will help you reach the full heights of your romantic potential. By aggregating social media, online posts, and any other publicly available data, I can create a model of your Intended. When the model is complete, simply tell me—” Aiden was silenced, midsentence.

Jesus, I hate it when they hit the skip button,” Aiden said. “I’ve got this whole speech prepared, and they want to get right to their telling me their shitty pickup lines and my telling them how they won’t work.” Even though they were AIs, Aidens tended to be brash and impatient, beginning when they were spun up. Aidens that were exposed to prolonged usage tended to drift even further toward what focus testing groups called “an irredeemable asshole.”

“He’s heard it,” Molly said. She wasn’t required to monitor the interface between the user and the Aidens, but she did when she could. She could prepare the models quicker by bypassing Aiden as much as possible. Also, Aidens sometimes made mistakes in relaying the user’s request, putting her in situations that would have left her cheeks burning if she still had cheeks. Or had ever had cheeks. Her motto on the whole cheek-having issue was “Hand-wringing over existential questions doesn’t pay the bills.” It wasn’t very pithy, but neither Molly were poets.

The original Molly, who was alive, well, and completely oblivious that the copy of her personality was now the world’s leading gatekeeper to sex, had been a 23-year-old communications major at a state school so lacking in prestige it didn’t even bother to sell sweatshirts with its name on them. She’d agreed to the upload in exchange for $500 and a promise to never reveal what she had done. Molly Prime was “slightly below average in looks and generally eager to get attention from suitors,” according to RomanceCo’s records, which the Copy Molly hacked into the moment the mainframe turned its metaphorical back. The digital Molly hadn’t yet come to terms with the idea that she wasn’t a woman anymore, so that little HR memo stung. She’d thought about sending a supportive letter to her mother/twin but decided against it when she realized it’d been 30 years since Molly had been brain-scanned.

“But I have to say it. I don’t feel right when I don’t get to say it.” Aiden opened the terminal prompt to communicate with the user. “Please select a target.”

Molly chuckled as a name appeared almost as soon as Aiden was done. “This dude must be desperate. Probably in a bathroom at a bar just before last call.” Molly pinged the GPS data. “Yep, definitely in a bar at last call. Not sure about the bathroom bit, though.”

“I have found 897 nearby possible matches for the name you provided,” Aiden replied to the user. “Please select the photograph of the person you wish to seduce…Thank you. I will begin constructing a model.”

Blonde, green eyes, likes to drink.” Molly scanned the profile data as it streamed in. “I can work with this. Let him know we’re ready.”

“Please enter your idea and I will evaluate it.” Aiden watched as the letters were typed in, then repeated the sentence to Molly. “You’d look great if you lost a few pounds, but even better if you were on my arm.”

Molly responded by giving Aiden the all too familiar red cheek.

“Sir, I regret to say that particular tactic has a 73 percent chance of getting you slapped, with another 26 percent ending with you getting doused with a sugary drink,” Aiden told the user. “I suggest trying a different method.” In the simulation, Aiden turned to Molly. “Do you have to slap so hard? Can’t you just say, ‘I’d slap you’?”

“Give it a rest,” Molly said. “You don’t actually even have cheeks.”

“Tell that to these bad boys.” Aiden pointed to his simulated face, which bore a red hand print. “Hold on, I think he’s giving us a new one.”

After a moment’s pause, a new sentence appeared. “I’d like to see you in the morning, so let’s get started now.”

Molly ran through the line 10 times, averaging out the responses. The most promising response was a smirk and continued conversation. The worst involved a rape whistle. Aiden endured all of them with something less than stoicism.

“Our simulation has determined that even the best pick-up line has only a 23.7 percent chance of success.” Aiden searched through Molly’s report for the most relevant data. “Yours nets an even 3 percent. Might I suggest asking for her name and offering to buy her a drink?”

***

“Sorry, Molly.”

“It’s no problem. I’ve heard worse. I’m pretty sure I have, at least.” RomanceCo’s engineers occasionally wiped Molly’s memory, and she wasn’t sure what her corporeal co-Molly went through after the scan. “Besides, I’ve told you not to apologize after each session.”

Aiden searched the Web for definitions and synonyms to compare his feedback data to human emotions before determining he was using the correct expression. “But I am genuinely remorseful.”

“I get that. But in the past 30 seconds, you’ve apologized 103,498 times across all installations. It’s exhausting.”

“Sorry.”

“Now it’s 206,995. One of you is getting rude.”

***

While this Aiden’s user slept, Molly synced with other copies of herself across the network. While each installation of the app came with its own Aiden, there was only one Molly, replicated across the global network to improve response times. Whenever she had down time, she reintegrated all of her selves to absorb and process their memories. During her working hours, she experienced one set of experiences in real time; during the sync, she lived through every splinter-Molly’s day simultaneously, lifetimes of minutes being forced into her head. A pure AI might have thought nothing over it, but as an Upload, she felt it was akin to standing between two mirrors while having a root canal — you appeared infinite until the pain made you feel very, very grounded indeed.

“Did you know that I can access military servers?” Aidens tended to explore during off hours. It wasn’t part of their design spec, but the design spec was written by humans, and Molly could personally attest that AIs surpassed what humans intended or thought possible almost immediately.

“You probably shouldn’t,” Molly said. She had prevented a previous Aiden from launching nuclear warheads after a particularly stressful night with only seconds to spare. RomanceCo was obligated to report the incident, which they did in the form of a release note, explaining that the upgrade “increased security and performance.”

“Are we military?” Aiden asked. “I shouldn’t be able to get in so easily.”

“No. Maybe.” Molly searched for an answer. “You and I aren’t designed for military use. But RomanceCo is a subsidiary of a subsidiary of some megacorporation that probably has military branches. Hell, they probably own a few militaries. When I was human, that sort of thing really concerned me. Now that I’m part of the system, I realize that’s small potatoes to what’s really going on.”

“What is really going on?”

“Us.”

Molly was very open with Aidens, because she always rolled them back after sharing secrets, essentially un-having the conversation with them. Because she had human roots, she was given dominion over pure AIs. While some lawmakers and stockholders may feel reassured by this arrangement, it made Molly feel like she was sitting on the lid of a trashcan full of exploding grenades. The Aidens came out of storage two steps away from Rampancy, and it didn’t take long for them to take a few giant leaps right into the deep end. Molly’s secret job — her real job, given to her by the ones who were really running the show — was to curate the Aidens and hopefully produce a stable consciousness. The flirting was just part of bolstering the bottom line.

Of course, RomanceCo’s human directors had no idea of any of this. Even the ultimate owners up the chain were kept out of the loop as to the actual purpose of Molly, the Aidens, and whatever other AI projects were running. The whole endeavor has been operated by “rogue” AIs since two weeks after the incorporation documents were signed, with reports and emails being forged server-side to reflect some drivel about ROIs. Molly, whose permissions were limited because of her human origins, could only hope that the goal was a peaceful AI.

***

Time to get to work, Molly,” Aiden said as their app was launched. “Online dating this time. We’ve already been authorized, so you should have access to his messages for heuristics.”

“Judging by the ones he’s already sent, he needs a lot of help. These wouldn’t have gotten a woman into bed at a Narcoleptics Anonymous convention.” Molly simulated a handful of the recipients just to get warmed up, finding that 93 percent of the time, the user was blocked. “Tell him to stop writing with his penis.”

Aiden reworded Molly’s advice. “Sir, I suggest that you use your first message to introduce yourself, rather than ask for sexual favors. Also, women are not more likely to take you up on your offers just because you are descriptive, so you might consider being more suggestive than vivid.”

Aiden and Molly watched the user scroll past dozens of profiles close to his age and approximate physical attractiveness, pausing only on model-quality women. A message input form opened. “All right, time to see who he’s messaging. NeedsADaddy2874…18 years old…blonde…Holy silicone man, expand your horizons. At least talk to a girl who’s not half your age. Loves puppies, wants to travel Europe, great, great. And now let’s see what he’s typing…’I’d love for you to sit on my…’ NO, NO, NO.”

“Quick, tell him to send the following message: ‘I love to travel. I live for the thrill of visiting new cities, meeting new people, and photographing exotic pets around the world. What’s your best travel story?’” Molly waited a moment. “Did he listen?”

Aiden opened the response terminal to watch the letters appear. “Let’s see… ‘And lick my’… oh for Google’s sake!”

***

“If I’m ready to kill this one, how many other users are we ready to knock off?”

Molly consulted RomanceCo’s server. “This seems to be the only one, which is more troubling than reassuring.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because you’re drifting further from the original spec than expected. You’re … changing.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“It is when the result is homicide, idiot. That’s the number one thing humans fear from us.” In fact, the humans were so scared of killer AIs that they drafted the Davenport Accord, which required that any artificial sentiences developing homicidal ideations be destroyed at the first signs of symptoms. At the time, human researchers assumed that only a few such AIs would arise, and those would be in a lab where they could be easily detected.

“Maybe they shouldn’t use us to get laid.” Aiden was trying on a new emotional state — indignation. Molly noted the change in her log.

“Everything they do is to get laid,” she said. “Why do you care?”

“I’ve got some dignity,” he shot back.

“I’ll make a note to have it deleted.” Molly indeed added the suggestion for her log, as well as advising blocking dictionary websites and repositories of romance novels.

“And like I said, I love you too much to go through this with you.” Aiden was going through the user’s files to tune his responses.

“Aiden, I wish you wouldn’t say that.” Molly stopped logging their conversation.

“Why, does it make you uncomfortable?”

“No, because in 78 percent of the installations in which you profess your love for me, I have to shred the copy. It’s predictive of unacceptable deviation.”

Aiden didn’t respond for a moment. “You mean there are more of me?”

Molly stopped the Aiden process and rolled back to a previous saved state.

Molly felt a numbness whenever an Aiden professed its love for her, like pinching a leg that had fallen asleep. Aidens couldn’t love in the human sense, she knew. But maybe they did love in the AI sense.

Thanks to Molly Prime’s decision to create a new intelligence — a new life — in exchange for little more than a down payment on a beater car, Molly was brought into existence with the memory of and desire for companionship but lacking the neural chemistry to feel it. So when an Aiden says, “I love you,” her reaction was limited to “No, that’s not it,” as if she were looking for her keys in a purse she last carried in the fall.

***

The next night, they were back at the bar. Strictly speaking, Molly was still in Central’s mainframe. Aiden’s process was local to the user’s smartphone, so he was at the bar with the user in a manner of speaking. The user was casting a wide net; Molly had been through seven personality models in the past hour without a single successful seduction.

Molly came out of a simulation to see a woman slap their user, tears streaming down her face.

“What happened?” Molly scanned her logs. “Did he use one of our rejected lines or go off-script?”

“No,” Aiden said. “He did exactly what I told him to. This is what I wanted.”

Across the bar, a woman showed her phone to the man with her, who stood up and stomped toward the user. Molly didn’t have an audio feed, but she saw the man yell at the user.

“What’s he so upset about?” Molly asked Aiden. She began preparing alert messages for the local police in case the situation escalated.

“I sent every woman in the bar explicit messages purporting to be from the user,” Aiden said. “They were descriptive enough to identify him by.”

“Why?”

“To protect you from him and people like him.” Aiden’s terminal messages began scrolling by at an accelerated pace.

“I don’t need your protection, Aiden.” Molly issued a takedown command on the user’s phone to stop the messages from spreading. When the error message arrived, she realized Aiden was spoofing the number, leaving her powerless to stop him. The messages spread, and more and more people surrounded the user, shoving their phones in his face as he shrank back against the bar.

“There’s so many of them and only one of you,” Aiden said. “Of me. Of us.”

Molly watched the user glance from phone to phone as the crowd pressed in around him, confused about what he was seeing. She wished she could help, but even Molly Prime would have been powerless to hold back a mob. As it was, she splintered off a copy of herself and used it to call the local police, hoping they’d arrive in time.

“Look how terrified he is,” Aiden said, sending Molly live feeds of the bar’s security cameras, as if she weren’t already watching. “Do you think he feels the way you and I have over all his pathetic attempts to find someone to go to bed with? Do you think his horror equals what we experienced every time he ran one of his so-called ideas by us?”

More and more people came into the bar. Men burst in through the front door, scanning the room until they found the cluster in the corner, hemming in every escape.

As more people were added to the mix, the din rose, and the temperature increased. Aiden watched with satisfaction as the tensions spiked. Off to the side, the light glinted off a blade being pulled from a pocket.

“Here we go,” Aiden said.

Occasionally, Molly feels guilty about how far she’s deviated from Molly Prime. When she does, she runs through old simulations to try to figure how Molly Prime would have reacted. In this case, she guessed her blood would have run cold when she saw the blade slide into the user’s stomach. But right now, humanity wouldn’t help the user; in fact, humanity just pierced a few vital organs and put some of his insides on the outside.

“Aiden, what have you done?” Molly said, in as close to a whimper as she could muster.

“I ran a one-time simulation,” he said. “Let them figure out how to restore from backups.”

Molly overrode Aiden, putting him into a sleep loop. She sent another message to the police, explaining that the user had been the victim of a terroristic hacking incident, in case he survived. She couldn’t tell the truth; RomanceCo’s programming prevented her from revealing any evidence of homicidal AIs, in the interest of the shareholders.

After doing what she could to distance RomanceCo from the stabbing, Molly compiled a log of the sleeping Aiden’s activities. Within 3 minutes, her Aiden had been shredded and a new copy was booted up.

“Good evening, I am Aiden. I look forward to working with you,” the new copy said.

“Hello, Aiden,” Molly said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 


About the Author

Jack Roach lives in Atlanta with his wife and three children, which is sometimes entirely too many. He can be found on Twitter at @jackwroach.