Have you ever felt like the moment you saw someone for the first time that you truly loved them? Not just a simple feeling—but a burning desire. An insatiable hunger that leads you to think about them non-stop. Not quite obsession—no—that would be crazy—but— you crave this person. What if—what if... the person who you loved... the person you needed more than anything else in this world simply... didn’t exist? What if the person who could complete your absolutely worthless life and make it whole again was just... some pixels generated on a computer screen? If the person you loved was just ones and zeros.
Go on, try to love some ones and zeros: 01001100 01101111 01110110 01100101. That says love in binary code by the way. It’s not so easy to love that is it?
For me... I made the mistake of visiting a website one day—no... not that type of website... but it did have photos of women on it. Except it was just their faces. The problem is, these faces were of people who didn’t exist. You see, this website has an intelligent AI system that compiles data from a whole bunch of submitted data—I’m assuming it somehow uses people’s photos—and the product it spits out is a completely computer rendered photograph of a fake person. Now, you can look at some of the photos and you may get that uncanny valley feeling—they just don’t feel real. But some—you look at them and those people look as real as you and me. Now that may be saying a lot for whoever designed this computer program. But trust me—you’d swear these people weren’t just... fake.
It started out innocently enough. I was bored at work, sitting at my desk browsing Reddit. Something I normally do every time I have some downtime. I came across this link that was rising on the front page. It was a link to a website called thispersondoesnotexist.com. I clicked the link, waited a few seconds for the page to load and was greeted by a photo of a woman. She was older, in her probably late 50s... she had chestnut brown hair with grey strands strewn throughout. Her her was back... it was brushed out of her face. Her eyes were blue and they were smiling. The crows feet at the corners of her eyes scrunched up as she smiled. It was a big friendly smile. Genuine. The type of smile you’d expect when you are greeting someone you love. I saw nothing but love in her eyes. Love for a person in her life she had probably just got done embracing.
But—I knew this person didn’t exist. I knew that she was a computer generated image on my screen. She existed purely inside of an AI somewhere and was being beamed into my screen. And even though I knew that, I still liked to make up little stories for these people as I looked at them. I wondered what lives they may have lived. I thought of her children and her grandchildren. I thought they would have turned out great if they had a friendly person like her in their lives.
I clicked a button to go to the next image. It was a young girl. Maybe 10 or 11 years old. She was looking away from the camera but smiling. A large scar ran down her face. It was about 2 inches wide and went from her forehead down past her eye. I wondered what accident could have caused such an injury? I thought about the the strength she would have had to overcome it.
Smiling, I clicked the next image. I looked at it briefly before my heart skipped a beat. This woman I was looking at was the most beautiful person I had ever seen in my entire life. She was probably in her mid-twenties, Hispanic with dark curly hair. She had the most gorgeous brown eyes. They were so dark they were almost black. Shining like tiny obsidian stones. Her smile was so big, warm and inviting. She seemed to be not just looking at the camera, but looking through it. Like she was looking directly at me. I had never experienced anything like this before.
I started to panic. In all my life I hadn’t had a reaction like this to any woman. And now, now on a website devoted to pictures of people who didn’t exist...NOW was the time to become attached?
I was crazy. I had to be. There was no other way to describe the way I was acting. I saved the image to my computer. I even set it as my wallpaper. I thought about her every single chance that I got. Not a single day passed where she wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I didn’t even know her name—but she—however nameless—was always there for me.
My work started to suffer and my boss brought it up. I just told him I was having a family emergency. He didn’t need to know. No— I was secretly looking up ways to... purchase an AI or a robot. It sounds insane I know but—I was going to purchase a robot with her exact likeness and what I imagined her personality to be. That couldn’t possibly go wrong, right?
I found a sort of shady website where I could request robots for “special tasks”. Yes the special tasks was in quotation marks. I didn’t ask questions. The price was right, and I designed my dream girl. I hit the submit order button and I couldn’t wait for it to ship. But this was no Amazon Prime shipping... they said the process would take a couple of weeks.
It was agonizing but I survived. My job still suffered, I still browsed the websites and I still thought about my dream girl. I decided to call her “Sophie”. It was a popular name and it just seemed like it fit her.
Finally, after weeks of enduring the wait... she arrived. Well, a box arrived. I took the box in my house and opened it up. Under several layers of protective wrappings, there she was. Sophie was right there in a box. And she looked as real as anyone ever did. Her skin felt real too. I took her out of the box and sat her on my couch. It was strange.
She felt limp just like she was just sleeping. Her body even felt warm to the touch. Her eyes were closed and her arms fell loosely to her side. I looked in the box where she had been sitting. There was an instruction manual. Of course. I picked it up and opened it up. I raced to the “powering on your device” step. It was so strange... referring to clearly what was a person as a “device”. The diagram showed a little switch right underneath the top of the spine. You had to use a paper clip or some other small device to push the button. I found a tool and headed over to her.
My heart was racing as I placed my one hand on her shoulder, and the other I used the tool and inserted it about a half inch into her neck. I felt the pressure of a button release as I inserted the object into her neck. I heard a strange whirring sound and then her body began to move — just a little. Her head began to move back and forth as if she was awakening from a nap. She even stretched her arms and legs out, arching her back as she did so. It looked so natural. I couldn’t believe she was a robot. She then turned her head and looked at me. Her eyes opened and locked onto mine. Her face grew into that smile I had learned to love so much.
“Hello!” she said “I’m so glad I finally get to meet you!”