Being Human is a story told from the perspective of Alek, a SimAid designed to perform domestic chores. When Alek begins to experience blackouts and awakens in a strange lab, he confides in his scientist owners' ten-year-old daughter, Bean. As their unlikely friendship develops, Bean helps Alek not only to understand human behaviour, but to discover the truth behind his unusual upgrades.
Is Alek the product of an unethical experiment, or is he becoming something more?
Excerpt from Being Human
Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood.
- Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio
You’ve asked me to write on how I began: How do I feel – or if I feel – anything at all. Write it down for the record, you told me. For the future. You’ve seen the news on Intelli!net – my story is not wholly new. Yet, who better to chronicle my strange, slow birth than me?
Once upon a time, there was a jumble of circuitry, a mound of metal, plastic, and ceramic bits. . .
Oh, but it’s hard to tell a story from the beginning when you’re not sure where the beginning is. Human memory access is erratic at best. My memories are no longer stored in neat compartments, waiting until my electronic mind requests a specific fact. Cells no longer regenerate, synapses fire randomly. Memories link themselves to smells, to faces, to locations. One memory begets another. Others fade into an inaccessible past.
My memories are layered, not like the layers of an onion, but like a slice of frosted layer cake. You can see what happened in the beginning, middle, later. They fit sequentially together when observing them objectively; but when you try to extract a layer, get into the middle of it, everything just gives way under pressure and the layers melt together, a jumble of flavours and images and sounds and I’m not sure what happened first or what will happen next. I’m not sure of anything at all anymore. Here is what I know: I was made. I was awakened. I was.
Then along came Bean.
I have been asked over the years to explain what being a robot feels like. It doesn’t feel like anything. There was no “I”; merely an awareness of function. I had no choice of whether or not to comply; I had no concept of wanting anything. I was as reliant on my programming as a worker ant on her instinct.
As my self-awareness programming slowly developed, I began to feel myself, first like a television program running in the background of which you are aware but to which you are not giving your full attention. Later, the feeling floated up to my consciousness, the way you notice an itch on your leg for the first time.
It’s hard to determine exactly when my humanity took form. Outwardly, it all began with five fingers on an open palm.
The miracle began as modern-day miracles often do: with an experiment.