t was little surprise to you that you passed your finals with the highest marks. Whatever complaints your classmates may have had with your presentation, they didn’t affect your score with the judges. Still, you felt no reason to join your class for the graduation ceremony. You could always pick up your diploma whenever you wanted. Instead, you decided to stay in your laboratory and work on your latest construct.
“Alexle, play my music,” you command. Alexle obeys, and music flows from the voice boxes mounted on the walls. You shut your eyes and take a deep breath before you turn to your construct and begin working. You hold up a metal plate over the construct’s chest and begin welding it in place with magic energy from your other hand. Alexle suddenly alerts you.
“Enchanter, someone approaches. Shall I run them off?”
“Yes, send them away. Activate irrigation.” You can’t be bothered by visitors or jealous classmates who want to vandalize your home. You smile when you hear your irrigation system run, but the knock at the door wipes the mirth off your face. You turn to the crystal ball on the table next to you. “Alexle, activate the viewing lens at the primary entrance.”
Suddenly, the crystal ball fills with an image of your mentor, Enchanter Zorg. He looks up at you and frowns as his robes absorb the water from your irrigation system. “Alexle! Turn off irrigation system!” you yell as you rush to open the front door.
Zorg stands before you, drenched. He’s carrying several books in his arms – also drenched. You take them from him and usher him inside. “Enchanter Zorg, what are you doing here?”
“I wanted to check on you. See how you were doing.”
“I’m fine,” you reply earnestly. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Water, please.” You pour Zorg a glass of water and he downs it with relish. He looks around your laboratory and admires your latest construct.
“Was there anything else?” you ask.
“Yes, I wanted to talk to you about your relationship with your machines.”
“My relationship?” you ask, genuinely surprised. “They’re just machines.”
Zorg looks at you for a long moment before smirking. “I was like you once. Creating machines to simply make my life easier.” He lets his empty glass fall and shatter on your floor. It immediately activates your Broomba, which rolls out to sweep up the shards. “Look at this little thing,” Zorg says. “So busy now. Notice how it’s useful. What a lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color.”
The Broomba returns to its energy station.
“But when you build a construct with intelligence, you are creating more than an appliance. You’re creating a companion. You’re creating an entity that is worthy of more consideration.”
You look at Zorg in disbelief. “Enchanter Zorg, I appreciate what you’re saying, but these machines are not alive.”
Zorg looks down at the floor for a long moment, then he motions to Big Pup. “If you commanded Big Pup to jump off a cliff to its destruction, would it?”
You hesitate to answer. The thought had never crossed your mind before.
“If not,” Zorg continues, “is it because it learned not to do that or because it didn’t want to die? And once an entity is aware of its own existence and values that existence, wouldn’t you call that being alive? Maybe not alive in the way you and I are alive, but alive nonetheless.”
You mull over your mentor’s words. “Just think about it. I’ve brought some meditations from scholars that guided me to see these constructs differently.”
You look at the tomes he brought. They’re written by scholars such as Asimov, Gerrold, and Piercy. “I hope they’ll be your guides, too. Have a pleasant evening.” Zorg gives you a quick nod before leaving.