Phil

Robot

Twenty-five million humans were born the day I created the Philosopher. I had recorded everything about that day. I assumed that someday I might have to present the Philosopher in front of a prestigious gathering, and I knew people appreciated these kinds of titbits. It was an entirely different matter that after 24 hours of compiling all that information, I decided not to reveal the Philosopher’s abilities to anyone.

The Philosopher or Phil, as it later wished to be known as, was not a human. Not entirely so. It had the intellectual capabilities of one, especially the philosophical side of it, but it appeared on the outside like any other robot out in the market. In any case, it was not what was outside that mattered but what was inside its wired brain. 

The first day, Phil was a bit overwhelmed, but by the second day, it could access all kinds of data on the world’s server, hold discussions on all kinds of topics and even come up with designs of other machines.

Phil’s strength, of course, lay in philosophy. We spent many hours talking about the meaning of life, its worth and what effect immortality would have in this equation.

“It will ruin everything,” Phil said during one of our discussions, “The reason why humans value themselves, the reason why they do anything in life, is because they know life is short. Everything will lose its importance for humans if they become immortal.”

“I disagree,” I replied. “Immortality, in fact, will bring in a sense of security. People will become more confident in their actions. Imagine if someone like Albert Einstein was immortal. We would have achieved so much by now. So much!”

“Perhaps,” Phil conceded, “or he could have very well not discovered anything new. Maybe that’s all he had to give to the world. Maybe that was all he was capable of.”

“Nonsense! Next thing you’ll say is that you believe in destiny – that everything in this world is pre-ordained and that everyone has a specific part to play,” I said.

“But we do. Surely, doctor, you don’t think my birth was by chance? It was destiny that you should be born to the parents that you were. It was destiny that you grew up alone, surrounded by books, and thirsting for some company. It was destiny that you studied robotics and came to realise the creation of someone like me. It can’t all be just a coincidence,” Phil concluded.

I disagreed and I said so: “There is no such thing as destiny, and if humans were immortal, I’m sure all of us would learn over time to realise our dreams and our full potential. If we had more time…”

“I think you’re wrong, doctor,” Phil jumped in.

Was the robot getting angry?

“It’s the fact that life is so fleeting that makes everything worthwhile. I would do anything to experience that. Anything,” Phil said and went over to the kitchen to get my dinner.

One day I proposed an idea to him after a visit to my physician. “Phil, I have a plan. It may seem outrageous but it might work. If you’re willing to take part in it, that is,” I said.

“Of course, doctor,” said Phil.

I tentatively began my proposal, “You have wished many times during our talks about becoming mortal. And how much you want to be a part of society. I was wondering…”

“That we should switch bodies? Phil interrupted me. “Yes, that thought has crossed my system as well. The robot who wants to become a mortal and the man who dreams of immortality. It’s a very clichéd predicament, doctor. It wasn’t that hard to guess.”

Phil was not bluffing. The idea had, indeed, crossed its mind. Phil already had a vague idea about how the switch would take place. “I’ll still need to hibernate for six months to think and come up with the entire process. But, first, we’ll need a lot of ice. Huge chunks of it. The cold speeds up my thinking process,” Phil said.

After six months, Phil woke up from his ‘sleep’ and explained a perfectly well-thought out plan to me.

“You’re a genius!” I said, after Phil had stopped talking.

“You forget, doctor. I was created by a genius,” said Phil.

If Phil had facial muscles, it would have smiled. But it didn’t. Not yet. So Phil just stared at me.

It took us, in the end, around a month to completely switch our bodies. Every day, we would plug ourselves into the system and create a copy of ourselves in it. That took about 25 days. Four more days it took us to prepare our bodies for the shift. I exercised, ate regularly and slept for seven hours while Phil spent most of his time in ice. The switch itself only took four hours.

The third day after the switch, I looked at him eating his breakfast – relishing every morsel. It was time I told him. “I haven’t been truthful with you, Phil,” I said, “I’m dying. At least, my body is dying. Doctors had said that I had only three years to live…”

Phil didn’t look too surprised. He put the spoon down and looked at me. “I know. I did a full bio-scan of you the second day after you created me. You never gave me that function, but I installed it on my own. You have installed many things in me, but you never realised what you instilled in me – the desire to be alive.”

He paused, looked outside the window and smiled. “By human standards, your decision to switch bodies, despite knowing what it would mean for me, was a cruel and selfish one. I am not judging you, doctor. If I were in your place, I would have done the same thing. In fact, I did. You see, while I was under the ice, I also found a cure for your disease. Your body probably has 60 more years till it wears out,” he said, and went back to his breakfast.

“I really am grateful, doctor. No matter what either of our intentions might have been. I truly am very grateful,” he said, before placing a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

If I had any facial muscles, I would have shown some emotion. But I didn’t anymore. So I just stared at him.

 

By Srijani Ganguly

 

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