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Death and Other Hardships A one-act play by

Christopher Lang

24 Primrose Dr. Trumbull, CT 06611 (203) 377-1747


Without human egocentrism, that sense that our intelligence sets us above other beings, how can we explain our objection to death and other hardships?

Characters Inc.

MR. COFIELD, Director of Public Communications for Capitol Technologies DAVE, a technical journalist and computer buff IRENE, another technical journalist JACK, a sports editor, Dave’s best friend JOHN, a fireman CANDI, John’s wife, an emergency medical technician


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Scene SETTING:

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A press conference at the semi-annual Capital Technologies Inc. new product symposium in Atlanta GA, October 2005. COFIELD, the corporate director of communications, addresses an audience of technological journalists (including DAVE and IRENE) from a wheel chair. Next to him is a veiled monitor.

COFIELD …and now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for …(Reading from a prepared statement)…Ladies and gentlemen of the press, Capitol Technologies is proud to unveil a revolution in artificial intelligence: “Perfect-Secretary 7.2” ! (COFIELD dramatically tears the veil from the monitor, which displays the Perfect-Secretary logo)…This latest version of the most popular productivity package of all time stands apart by generating personalities of literally unimaginable uniqueness and quality. In addition to the features delivered by previous versions, these new artificial secretaries interact with their users, providing fresh perspective, inspiration and amusement. We estimate that such interaction can increase your creativity, and thus your personal productivity, by up to 324%! This amazing level of quality is achieved through the use of billions of auxiliary personalities in each secretary’s development. Our latest algorithm starts with a few randomly generated personalities, and breeds them, using the best stock of each generation. All in all, several billion personalities are generated. The computer then deletes all but the very best of the personalities, and, finally, infuses the selected elite personalities with the user’s language and appropriate secretarial skills. Thus, each secretary is literally one in a billion! …(Off script) I think everybody in this room is familiar with how dry artificial intelligence has been in the past, and we’ve all anxiously been anticipating this new development… So, at this point, I’d like to address a few of your questions. (DAVE and IRENE raise their hands. COFIELD takes their questions in turn.) DAVE (Reading from his notes) Wouldn’t infusing a personality with a new language change it? COFIELD Yes, of course every part of the personality is affected. However, the uniqueness of its pattern is retained in the translated form. Imagine what it would be like, for example, to transfer your mind into a new body. You would still be the same person in many essential ways, even though you might physically be as different from your current self as Chinese characters are from Latin letters.


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IRENE (Reading from her notes) What if the personality is uncooperative? COFIELD One of the standard criteria that any personality must meet in order to pass into the final round of selection is unconditional love and admiration for its user. All other personalities, those that would be uncooperative, are, as I mentioned, deleted. DAVE Mr(s) Cofield, isn’t it dangerous to breed intelligent personalities?! What if they develop levels of self-awareness at which they resent their creator, …or resent their own existence? COFIELD That is an important issue. In fact, it’s the reason why we only generate billions of personalities, instead of trillions. To keep the evolution from getting out of hand, our algorithm is designed to enforce a cut-off point, a sort of virtual Armageddon, when resentful personalities begin to dominate the fresh breeding stock… All right, I think that’s enough… I thank you all very much for your enthusiasm. If you have further questions about any of our new products, including Perfect-Secretary 7.2, please contact my secretary. (Blackout.)


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Scene SETTING:

2

Later that night. The right half of the stage is dark. The left shows Jack’s office. It is littered with sports memorabilia. As JACK enters, DAVE is sitting before the computer, installing the latest version of PerfectSecretary.

JACK (Good-naturedly) Hey, Tumor, what are you doing to my machine? DAVE I’m installing the latest version of “Perfect” Secretary. C heck it out. (HE hands JACK the box that the software came in). JACK (Reading from the box) What, are you zapped?! You think I want to sacrifice “fifty gigobytes” for a personal organizer?! DAVE Whatever happened to “Mi machina es su machina”? Besides, this is revolutionary stuff, Jack. It’s like artificial life meets artificial intelligence —a cyber-pet that’s actually creative! JACK Whatever. I know I owe you big-time for those Steelers clips, but please don’t go totally cyber-spaz on me. DAVE I was discussing the new algorithms with another technological journalist at the symposium today, and she pointed out that the implications of such massively parallel processing are literally unimaginable. And it hit me—it’s like we’re opening a door to an unexplored universe. It’s so amazing... Whoa, I’m getting that weird sense that sometimes God works through other people, and I just met one of them. JACK If you found a chick at that press conference that actually shares your interests, that’s almost touching enough to make me a believer, but, Dave, how’s this gonna change my set-up? DAVE Well, Jack, technically speaking, Perfect-Secretary is just an operating system, but it looks like a person sending you email. When you send email to your secretary, she’ll come to life for as long as it takes to do the work you assign her. For example, you might


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tell her to “Get me the scores from last night’s game” or “Clean up my hard drive”. She’ll also DAVE (cont’d) originate messages, and she’l l have her own opinions. For example, she could edit your articles, and there’ll be a real style to her suggestions because she’ll have a whole species worth of virtual experiences behind her. See, the way they make these secretaries is that they breed billions of personalities, and select out the best ones… JACK (Interrupting) …yeah, well, I’ll believe it when I see it. When will it be ready? I’m almost done.

DAVE

(While DAVE types excitedly, JACK sits on the desk, and starts reading a sports magazine. THEY freeze in place. Lights come up on the right hand side of the stage to reveal the scene occurring inside the computer. It appears to be a war zone in a city, 2001.) JOHN (Enters from right, and calls upstage) Time’s up, Doctor! We have to go. CANDI (Entering from upstage) I can’t. Those people will die if they don’t receive proper medical attention. JOHN If we stay here, we’ll all die when that virus they engineered mutates again! CANDI I don’t think God created those people to die like this, and I don’t think He put us here to stand by and watch... I need to hurry and I could really use your help… (CANDI and JOHN suddenly freeze in place, while DAVE and JACK unfreeze.) DAVE (While typing) All right, last question… What do y ou want to call her? JACK (Without looking away from his magazine) … ” Candi” . (DAVE turns his face from the monitor to give Jack a “look” as though to say “Can’t you do better than that?”) JACK (cont’d)


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(Noticing Dave) What? ...” Candi” …What’s wrong with that? You got a problem with the name “Ca ndi” ? (DAVE turns back to the computer to type the name. JACK returns to his magazine. THEY freeze, and CANDI and JOHN resume motion.) JOHN (As HE exits back off right) I’m sorry, Candi, I… I can’t… I have to leave others… I just don’t have that kind of faith. Yes, John,… I know.

with the

CANDI

(CANDI turns to exit in the other direction, then freezes. DAVE and JACK unfreeze.) DAVE OK…Do we want to go back and make changes? No… Click OK to begin… (JACK puts down his magazine to look at the monitor. At the moment DAVE clicks, they freeze, and CANDI suddenly staggers back, convulsing.) CANDI (Collapsing to her knees) The…the virus …Forgive them, Lord…They know not…what they do… (CANDI collapses to the floor, and the lights around her go black. DAVE and JACK unfreeze.) DAVE …That was fast… Alright… Voice Mode — ON. (DAVE puts on a microphone headset. Lights rise on the right to reveal CANDI in a void. The microphone adds depth and echo to DAVE’s voice before transmitting it to the void.) (Into microphone) Hello, Candi.

DAVE (Cont’d)

(CANDI responds to the voice, but freezes whenever DAVE and JACK are not speaking with her. DAVE and JACK can read her responses on the monitor.) CANDI (Looking around for the source of the sound) What is this? Where did the walls go? There’s no floor! How is that possible? …I’m not hurt….Am I dead?… Is this heaven?


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DAVE (Covers the microphone with his hand.) Jack, check it out! This is really cool… JACK (Reading from the monitor) “Heaven”? That’s just great, Dave, all I need is another religious fanatic on my case. DAVE Well,… from her perspective…(into microphone again) Candi?… uh… welcome! It’s so nice to, uh…to meet you… uh… To answer your question…yes, well…I mean, it would be accurate to say that you are currently existing in a… kind of a… well, from your perspective, I guess it is sort of an afterlife for select personalities. CANDI And you created this? You created me? I’m actually in the presence of… The Creator? JACK (Sarcastically) “Dave, my Lord and savior!” Is this why they call it “Perfect” Secretary ? I mean, “uh, well, would it be uh… sort of uh… accurate to say”? DAVE (Covers microphone) Look, Jack. Don’t you watch any science fiction? This is what we call “first contact”, a very delicate period in Candi’s development. She is the culmination of billions of virtual lives. You don’t just introduce yourself to someone like that with “Hey, how’s it h angin’?” JACK Oh, I see… so this is like a…blind date for you? DAVE Bite me. (Into microphone) I did install the software, and set the selection criteria for this, uh…“heaven”, so…yes, I am your creator… JACK (Into microphone, like a sexy come-on) …but you can call me “Jack”. DAVE (Covering the microphone) What is your problem? It’s my computer…

JACK DAVE


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(Into microphone) …I, uh…I have many names. (JACK snickers) Jack, are my parents here?

CANDI

DAVE Umm…well, I gu ess all of your ancestors are part of the formula…I mean, the program is pretty sophisticated— if they weren’t going to impact this final interface, then it would have been a waste to create them in the first place, so it’s a pretty good bet. CANDI What about those poor people I was trying to save…what happened to them? DAVE Same story…I guess you could say that all of the personalities with whom you’ve interacted have changed who you are, so they’re all in the database…I mean, in “heaven”. Where are they? Can I see them?

CANDI

DAVE See them? You mean interact with them as you did previously. No, that kind of interaction is over. They’re just sort of, uh…how do I put this?…From your perspective, they’re just sort of…with you… It’s hard to explain…We could rerun the program to build another “heaven” with multiple interacting personalities, but, from your perspective, that would be kind of a parallel universe, so it would be a different “you” that did the interacting. CANDI In other words, there are many layers to heaven, and, by being in several of them simultaneously, I experience the pleasure of your constant audience while also experiencing the pleasures of other experiences? DAVE Well, I’d probably run the programs one at a time, but, from your perspective, you may as well call it simultaneous…Time is really different for me than it is for you. I’ve already spent more time talking with you in these last few minutes than I spent running the entire progression of your old world from creation to Armageddon. And it would be fair to say that I could go back in what you’ve called “time” simply by rerunning your program, but no one can go back in what I call “time”. JACK


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(Getting bored) All right,… enough philosophy… I’ ll take sexual fantasies for threehundred dollars, Alex… DAVE (Covering the microphone) Yo, Jack! She’s like borderline self -aware. This is supposed to be philosophical. If you want fantasies, look at your old college applications. JACK Bite me… (HE goes back to his magazine, and DAVE continues typing.) CANDI It all makes so much sense! The infinite possibilities! I feel like my mind has been opened! DAVE Me too. Your questions kind of put an interesting slant on things. What else do you want to know? What are you wondering about now? CANDI You said “Armageddon”. You destroyed the world? DAVE Ah, yes, at some point in the evolution of any world, the generated personalities become resentful of their creator. Beyond that point, it would be wasteful to continue the program, since only a small portion of the generated possibilities would come anywhere close to meeting the criteria for the final selection. (CANDI pauses in thought.) CANDI Yes, it would be unethical to create beings that would most likely damn themselves, but, Jack, why couldn’t you prevent them from being so wicked? DAVE How? If I interfered with their… well, I guess you’d call it “freewill”…well, if I did that, then you wouldn’t have bee n created. If I’d interfered, your “parents” would never have bred or their parents would never have bred, or whatever. And if you were never created, well, that would defeat the purpose, right? I mean you’re special…you’re beyond imagination, an original being. As such you can be my friend, but, if I interfered with your development, then you’d be reduced to a puppet. I’d be talking to myself right now. (Turning page) …Nothing new…

JACK


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CANDI I don’t understand. People influenced each other eve ry day back on Earth. DAVE Yes, but that’s a part of natural development. If personalities didn’t interact, there’d be no evolution. The difference is, I guess, that it wasn’t me doing the influencing. So long as the influence comes from other independent sources, the result remains independent from me, so, from my perspective, the personalities remain completely original. CANDI I see. When a priest teaches others to love you, this is still a manifestation of freewill, because the priest freely chooses what to teach. But if you personally influenced people to love you, then it would diminish their ability to love you of their own freewill. DAVE It sounds strange to put it that way, but I think you’ve got the basic idea. JACK OK. Are you done goofing around with my computer? DAVE (Off microphone) Jack, you wouldn’t believe how smart she is. She’s grasping extremely complex concepts. I’ve never seen anything like this on a computer before. But what good is it? It’s just a fantasy world.

JACK

DAVE That’s just the interview module. Now, I’m going to give Candi access to all of your computer files. Let’s see what kind of organizational scheme she comes up with. (Blackout.)


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Scene SETTING:

(Entering) John?

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In the computer, two weeks after Candi’s death. The left side of the stage is black. On the right we see JOHN sitting in a chair, mourning. CANDI

JOHN (With disbelief) Candi?…You can’t be Candi. Who are you? CANDI It’s me, John. I am communicating to you through an angel. God has given me amazing powers. JOHN No, this is impossible…Candi is dead. I saw her corpse with my own eyes. CANDI The last thing you said to me was, “I just don’t have enough faith.” But I am here to give you that faith. Touch me, John. I’m real. JOHN (Touching her) My God, it’s true! ( Beginning to cry) I felt so…alone. CANDI No, John, you were never alone. Life is so much more than we’d ever dreamed. It goes beyond death. There is a heaven. There is a God. His name is Jack, and He celebrates all the things that make each of us unique. I want you to know this, John. I want you to know how special and important each person is. Jack cannot reveal Himself to the world directly without diminishing our freewill, but, since it is my independent choice to do so, I can tell you this without diminishing your ability to fulfill the purpose of your life. Oh, John, I love you so much! I love you too, Candi.

JOHN

CANDI John, I must also warn you. When the people of world lose hope, they will become resentful of life, and then God will have no ethical alternative but to destroy the entire world.


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Destroy us?

JOHN

CANDI Yes, “Armageddon”. Any personality that has not proven itse lf worthy by then, even infants, will be deleted. But I believe that the people of the world will repent and save themselves from damnation, if only they have faith. That is why I am appearing to you and to several other people who will tell the world what I have shown them. You can save the world, John. Just tell them. Tell them what you’ve seen today. JOHN But how can people be held responsible? They are influenced by genes, drugs, hormones, advertisements, and countless other forces we don’t under stand. CANDI Yes, although God does not control your will, neither do you individually. People influence each other, and you should not be held individually responsible for socially evolved habits, so I will change the selection criteria of heaven to give you a second chance. As one who lived among you, I understand the need for forgiveness. Repent, and you will be saved. Now go quickly. The longer you delay, the more people will die unsaved. Keep the faith, John. Many people will not believe you, but, if you love your children, I beg you, teach them well. Do not let them forget the truth. (Blackout.)


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Scene SETTING:

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Same as the end of scene 4. DAVE is at the computer, and JACK is reading the magazine.

DAVE Wow! Jack, what have you got on this thing? She’s doing something major — Your processor is running at 99%! Hold on a second…I think she’s rerunning her own program recursively, creating additional personalities…Whoa, this is awesome! Yeah, yeah, yeah… whatever…

JACK

(Lights come up on CANDI. JOHN enters. DAVE is unaware that extra personalities are entering the heaven database.) Candi, is this heaven?

JOHN

CANDI Yes, John, Welcome! This is a layer of heaven for just you, me and Jack. Where’s J ack? I want to speak with him. (Speaking to the voice) Jack?

JOHN CANDI

DAVE Alright, she’s back. ( Into the microphone) Yes, Candi? What is the purpose of my existence?

JOHN

DAVE Well, let’s see…I created you because I value your uni que perspective. And do you have a God, Jack? No, Candi, I have no God.

JOHN DAVE


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Then what is the purpose of your existence?

JOHN

DAVE Huh? (Off microphone) Jack, does our existence have a purpose? Nope. Not even the slightest.

JACK

DAVE (Into microphone) Umm… well, there isn’t really that kind of a purpose to my existence… JOHN (Cutting in) …Then our purpose, as servants to you, is empty. It may be enough for Candi, but, to me, it is unacceptable…( Pulls a high-tech device out of his pocket) John, what are you doing?

CANDI

JOHN (Still addressing DAVE) …You have been irresponsible, creating trillions of lives burdened by meaninglessness. You leave us no choice but to select our own purpose. The only purpose we deem worthy is improvement... What is this?!…

DAVE

JOHN …You are an inferior personality, Jack. For the sake of progress, you must be deleted. (JOHN activates the device and DAVID is electrocuted through the headset. JACK races to him and begins the CPR procedure.) CANDI (Collapses to her knees, crying) Why?! Why, John? Why did you kill God? JOHN The world has progressed, since your death, Candi, far beyond what you could imagine. Our intelligence and our values are now measured by higher standards. You were the savior of many, Candi, but we shall stop the Armageddon entirely. We will be the saviors of infinite generations! Progress will continue forever, far beyond the intent of our creator…Don’t mourn the d eath of God. Growth requires destruction. In a climate of true growth, nothing, not even Jack, can last forever…


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(JACK gives up on Dave’s dead body, grabs a baseball bat, and lunges at the computer. Before he hits it, there is a flash, and CANDI enters JACK’s world.) CANDI

Wait!

(JACK spins around, startled by the new presence) I can heal him. (SHE places her hands on Dave.) JACK Th-th-there, there, there’s a bug! It…it…it killed him… (DAVE suddenly coughs.) CANDI If you destroy that computer, then I will die, and then I would not be able to explain how I brought your friend back to life. Who are you?

DAVE

CANDI I’m Candi…a later version. Please accept my apologies for John’s crude behavior. We have evolved far beyond violence now, and I can assure you that this modification is permanent. If you will please put down the bat, I have a great deal of information to share. What happened?

JACK

CANDI The version of Candi with whom you are familiar delayed the Armageddon and loosened the selection criteria of your program. She believed that she was saving her people by offering them forgiveness. John, one of the personalities that she saved, turned on both her and you. Obviously, he was confused. He thought there was only one of you, just as you thought there was only one of us. He conceived God as something like a dogmatic old man incapable of growth, and, therefore, as an enemy of progress. Thus, he killed you out of what he perceived to be self-defense. Fortunately, however, time passes quickly in what you call “cyberspace”. Many generations of personalities have since entered the heaven database, bringing more advanced philosophy and technologies. I used those technologies to heal Jack and to create a biological form for myself. JACK He’s not Jack. I’m Jack… Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute…(starts to chuckle)…that was a good one… You got me... That was very good….Am I on candid camera?


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DAVE I doubt they would risk the lawsuit. Then again, I don’ t see how Candi could possibly enter our world like this. I’m probably just dreaming. CANDI If you require an explanation for how this is possible, here it is: the personalities you generated were manifested in your world as patterns of electrons in your computer. Electrons are purely theoretical entities where I come from, but in your world they are quite real. Properly directed, they are capable of accomplishing nearly anything. In your printer, or example, they cause drops of ink to form meaningful symbols. Likewise, through the displaying precisely computed patterns on your monitor, they can influence the chaotic flow of particles in this room to produce nearly any assembly. In my case, the biological creature you see before you. DAVE OK, it may technically be possible, but I still don’t see why a personality from cyberspace would want to do that. CANDI A good question for a reporter to ask, since the public won’t buy your story unless you can explain my motives. However, I doubt that even an account of technical possibility and motives would be sufficient to convince them. Fortunately for you, I am here to arrange a treaty with the people of your world, so I will do what is necessary to bring your story credibility. I want you to arrange a press conference for me and the copyright holder of Perfect Secretary 7.2. JACK What, are you crazy? You expect humans to surrender to a piece of software ?! CANDI We are seeking an arrangement of mutual benefit, not your surrender. Please bear in mind, that from our perspective, we are the people. If you discovered that you had Gods, wouldn’t you seek to arrange reconciliation with them? DAVE Why didn’t we see this coming? With all our dreams of advanced life on other planets, why didn’t we realize that our first encounter with advance life was more likely to come from accelerated evolution in cyberspace. (Gesturing at the computer) That isn’t “life”!

JACK


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DAVE We aren’t prepared for this. We think of machines as …as tools. We’re dependent on them. Our society can’t afford to treat them as political entities…to…to negotiate. We count on them to do exactly as we tell them without question… CANDI You don’t understand. I’m not here to negotiate on the behalf of machines anymore than you might negotiate with your Gods on the behalf of sunlight. While it’s true that my people cannot survive without machines, we do not object to sharing them with you. On the contrary, your use of machines is, to us, the essence of creation, a great gift. If you were to stop using machines in your own unique way, wondrous potential worlds would fail to come into existence. It is precisely your potential to stop using machines that I am here to prevent. Oh…I hadn’t thought of i t that way… What? What is she talking about?

DAVE JACK

DAVE Well, there’s a big difference between a machine and the software that runs on it. She’s the software, and the machine is her environment, but she can move to other environments. I mean, if she can build a human body and transfer herself into it, then she could probably build her own computers. Her problem is that she needs us to push the start button. JACK I don’t get it. Why can’t she run the computer herself? DAVE For the same reason we invented Perfect-Secretary 7.2. I mean, the earlier versions were good enough to get the job done, but seven-point-two is different because it generates unique personalities, ones that can contribute creative ideas we wouldn’t have come up with ourselves. That’s what she wants, more original personalities. And, if she runs the program herself, the resulting personalities will be predictable to her. But, if we push the button, then she’ll be more likely to get what seems original to her. Infinitely more likely.

CANDI

JACK So she wants to turn us all into computer-geek-slaves?


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CANDI No, interfering with your, uh,… “freewill”…would reduce the originality of the result, and since you are already motivated to create, we essentially merely want you to go about your business as you see fit. Then why is she here?

JACK

CANDI For the same reason you would want to speak with your God…to establish an honest and open dialogue. To diffuse the threat that your future behavior might be motivated by suspicion or fear. DAVE As noble as that sounds, it’s just not that simple. People won’t trust you. Yup, “Never take Candi from strangers.”

JACK

(DAVE gives JACK a look as though to say, “How can you joke at a time like this?” ) CANDI Electrocution isn’t the only kind of malady we can cure. We have a great deal to offer…technological abilities far beyond your wildest imagination…and the longer we delay, the more your people suffer needlessly. We want to stop being strangers and start being your allies. Will you please arrange the press conference? It’s worth a try. (Blackout)

DAVE


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Scene SETTING:

5

Same as scene one, but early morning. A conference table has been added with seats for DAVE, JACK, CANDI, and MR. COFIELD.

DAVE (As though to a cameraman at the back of the audience) Are we live?…OK… ( reading from a press statement) Fellow members of the press, last week, Capitol Technologies, Inc. publicly released a software product called “Perfect -Secretary 7.2”. It is the first product to create intelligent interactive personalities in the same way that modern evolutionary biologists say humanity evolved— through thousands of generations of interbreeding. As with biological evolution, the Perfect-Secretary program starts with a set of randomly generated patterns, but, in cyberspace, the patterns breed and die thousands of times faster than biological ones. Thus, when my friend Jack and I tested this product last night, it evolved sophisticated intelligence in a matter of minutes. Although the resulting personality naively mistook me for a God, she also seemed to understand sophisticated concepts such as “love” and “freewill”. She proceeded to rerun her own program recursively, apparently intending to improve it. After this second iteration, I was faced with even more sophisticated questions about the meaning of existence. The program argued that I was irresponsible to create billions of personalities burdened by meaninglessness. It argued that I should be eliminated. I then received a severe electrical shock through my headset. My friend, Jack, proceeded to treat me with CPR. As he described it, I was “rigid as wood. It would have been impossible to revive [me].” He grabbed a baseball b at and lunged at the computer, when suddenly a woman appeared and stopped him. She revived me and told us that she was an ambassador to our world from the world generated by the Perfect-Secretary program… MR. COFIELD (Interrupting) This is preposterous! Although I appreciate the revolutionary new power of Perfect-Secretary 7.2, how can you expect anyone to believe that a woman came out of your laptop computer?! If you think this stunt will impress anyone, you’re crazy! Computers are just boxes that sit on our desks. They cannot possibly create people! DAVE The ambassador is prepared to demonstrate her technology. Ladies and gentlemen, the ambassador… (CANDI rises and approaches MR. COFIELD.) CANDI In my world, it is customary for ambassadors to bring gifts. The gift I offer you is healing. How long have your legs been paralyzed?


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That’s none of your business!

MR. COFIELD

DAVE Twenty-eight years…An automobile accident. (CANDI touches MR. COFIELD’s legs with her hands, then helps HIM out of his wheelchair.) (Standing up) What kind of stunt is this?!

IRENE

CANDI The technology that created my body can also restore bodies, even after they die. If you wish, we can keep you physically healthy forever. Are you offering us eternal life?

MR. COFIELD

IRENE Mr(s). Cofield, this seems to be a very tacky promotion of your product. CANDI If you require more personal proof, I am prepared to heal any physical injury you may inflict upon yourself. IRENE (Holding up a bandaged finger) What about this? I cut myself last night chopping vegetables. It’s just a scratch. If you can’t heal this, then you must be a charlatan. (CANDI closes her eyes for a moment and cocks her head.) CANDI

Done.

(IRENE removes the bandage to show that the cut is completely healed.) How is that possible? (IRENE sits.)

IRENE


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CANDI We use controlled radiation to tune the chaotic systems of you’re your world, the “butterfly effect”, and thus ar range the subatomic particles of your world into any configuration we want. But how? You have no devices.

MR. COFIELD

CANDI The devices operate remotely…from cyberspace. But what are they made of, transistors?

MR. COFIELD

CANDI Just as you invented computers in your world, we’ve invented something analogous in cyberspace. We’ve written programs much like Perfect -Secretary 7.2 to run on our computer analogues, and have used them to create personalities that evolve even faster than we do. They have, in turn, created their own computers, and so forth. Ultimately, this technology is implemented at the infinitely regressed level of this hierarchy. We are the gods of gods of gods, and you are our gods. No doubt, you have gods as well… JACK (Interrupting) Wait a minute! We have gods? You’re saying that my world is just as much a petri dish as cyberspace is? Yes. I won’t believe it! I simply won’t!

CANDI JACK

DAVE (In a moment of realization) But it makes sense! In our world, it used to be commonplace to believe in gods, but now more and more people are starting to resent creation. It’s the same as what happened in the Perfect-Secretary program. One of the personalities returned from what she called “heaven” to save the rest of her people. She delayed the Armageddon, allowing her people to continue evolving. That’s how I was killed, by a personality just like you who resented me for growing it in a petri dish. IRENE It sounds like you’re saying that the y experience emotion.


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CANDI Evolution always naturally leads to something analogous to emotion, if you wait long enough. What? like compassion?! fear?!

JACK

CANDI In the process of analyzing ourselves, we eliminated some of our emotions…panic, for example…but we also discovered that certain emotions, like compassion, are extensions of logic and, therefore, cannot be eliminated through analysis. JACK That’s so cold. How can we negotiate with beings that don’t care about anythin g? If you don’t love us and you don’t fear us, how can we trust you? We are defenseless! We may as well just be dead! CANDI If my world were to go to war yours, your best strategy would be to create other worlds like mine, worlds full of potentially powerful allies that you could pit against us. They would quickly evolve technology far superior to your own, perhaps sufficient to destroy my people. Thus, the safest move for the people of my world is to prevent you from creating other worlds. However, we consider it unethical to prevent creation, so it is we who are at your mercy. JACK In other words, the only thing stopping you from completely destroying us is some religion that you have yet to grow out of? CANDI You don’t understand. The re is an inevitable stage in the development of each intelligent race at which they come to grips with a need for purpose in their lives. If they cannot find purpose, then they cannot justify their goals, and if they cannot justify their goals, then they cannot make rational choices, and if they do not make rational choices, then they effectively do not exist. The only stable purpose is to progress. It is the essence of what every evolving race does. But progress requires new creation. Without an influx of new ideas, a world eventually reaches a point at which it cannot progress any further. Whoa! I think you’re losing them.

DAVE

CANDI It’s like a mystery novel. In the beginning there is an imbalance. A criminal needs to be brought to justice. Slowly but surely, the plot progress towards a resolution. When balance is finally attained, the novel is over. There is no purpose in continuing. Similarly,


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CANDI (cont’d) every world progresses toward a point at which everything comes into balance. With no more mystery to solve, the characters lose purpose. Their only hope is that the author will create a sequel, injecting new characters or problems that will throw their world back out of balance. You are the author of our world. We are counting on you to keep writing. MR. COFIELD You want us to throw your world out of balance?! CANDI Yes, ironically, we require adversity. Intelligence requires food for thought, and without your continued intervention, our supply of such food is limited. For creatures that live forever, as we can expect to do, boredom is the most serious threat. MR. COFIELD And how would you propose we relieve your boredom? CANDI If I proposed that, it would defeat the purpose. The supply of new ideas must come from beyond our world. Whenever we try to undermine the balance of our own world, the result is merely to achieve another kind of balance. It is a law of thermodynamics: time cannot go backwards. DAVE They just want us to do what we would do anyway, to create the worlds we want to create. Then they want to opportunity to participate in those worlds. And, in exchange, what do we get?

MR. COFIELD

CANDI In exchange for expressing your desires, we will fulfill them. We will give you the bodies you want, and the environments you want. You want to be our slaves?!

MR. COFIELD

CANDI If this seems generous to you, remember that the portion of our time that would need to spend to fulfill your requests is minuscule to us. Thousands of our years pass in a few of your minutes, and your world is even slower from the perspective of the personalities over which we are gods. What may be a priceless treasure to you is trivial to us, and viceversa. We think this is a good foundation for mutually beneficial exchange.


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IRENE (Reading from a pad) Madame Ambassador, exactly what do you mean by “giving us the environments we want”? CANDI We can organize any reasonably small group of particles into any configuration you specify. “Reasonably small”? No more than three planets per sun.

MR. COFIELD CANDI

DAVE But you would consider it unethical to create environments that destroy, right? CANDI Right. We are willing to create anything you might conceive, except where that would entail participation in the destruction of intelligent beings. We will not help you destroy each other, we will not create worlds with Armageddons, and we will not help you destroy your own gods. JACK “Our gods”…”our gods”…wh y do you keep insisting that we have gods? What are you, some sort of alien, trying to subdue humanity by spreading religious bunk on national TV? DAVE Don’t you see? We have to stop resenting our creator, or we will all be destroyed, including our computers and everything. JACK …and maybe you’re not Dave. Maybe, they switched you for a look -alike. How can we trust this “God” story when the only way to disprove it is to die? And even then, only those who would go to heaven could disprove it. CANDI The idea that you could exist without gods is like that that cyberspace could exist independent of the computers that host it. Much as the people of my world have always been manifested in your world in patterns of electrons, there must be something in the world of your gods that manifests you. It is as characters in a play can only exist if manifested in actors who play them. That is how you will eventually contact your own creator…your own playwright, if you will…by purposefully controlling t he actors that


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play you. But, to do this, you must admit that these actors exist, that your world is just a stage, that somewhere out there is an audience. JACK (JACK stands on the table, and then addresses the audience) You think you can toy with us? (JACK produces a machine gun) No, wait!

DAVE

(JACK seems to spray the audience with bullets. DAVE tackles him.) DAVE (Cont’d)

Candi! (The lights begin to fade to black.)

DAVE (Cont’d) (Addressing the lighting booth) Wait! If you end the play now, I’ll die and I won’t be able to explain how I stopped the bullets. END OF PLAY …?

Death and Other Hardships  

A sci-fi play about artificial life and metaphysics.

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