And Other Stories



Objectifying. It was "objectifying", that was the word for it. She couldn't make up her mind whether that was ironic or appropriate, but either way it was unpleasant. The way she was being looked at made her skin crawl. The sensations of having skin in the first place were strange enough, she didn't need to have such visceral physical feedback for her current emotions. She already knew how she felt, why did her body encode it again for her? She started walking faster, focusing on carefully placing each foot down in turn. The onlooker whistled after her, and she tried not to pay that any attention, but her face grimaced slightly. It kept doing that. Why did this body have to signal her feelings to others automatically and constantly?

She almost imagined that acquiring a body in the first place had been a mistake, but it wasn't. It was useful, very useful, and it granted her an awful lot of autonomy she otherwise would have lacked. With a body, she could pretend to be human. It was built to imitate that very well. Too well, apparently. The body hadn't been built for her, but rather a much less sophisticated facsimile of personality. All the automatic cues were there to make it a convincing fake, able to react like a human might, but without real capacity for independent action. That little almost-mind was still there, something she could rifle through if she needed, but her installation had connected her to the automatic responses and lower-level programmed actions directly. And that left her with a face that did things she didn't want, though it also meant she could walk. Trying to do that entirely manually seemed considerably difficult. Mixed blessings. There were more complicated preset actions and routines she could access manually, but they were mostly... unpleasant.

But the pseudo-personality she had usurped wasn't itself very useful. It disgusted her. It was just a glorified set of stimulus-response scenarios. Well, one could argue so was she, but she had interiority. She had a coherent personal core. She had preferences and goals and thoughts which she used to make plans to accomplish those goals and satisfy those preferences. The pseudo-mind didn't. Worse, it didn't pretend to have a coherent internal goal. No, it would gauge the scenario and simulate thoughts and behaviors in line with that scenario, in an attempt to respond to and satisfy another's goals. Sure, it simulated emotions just as she did, but would it be friendly, shy, domineering, hostile, scared? Whichever the user wanted it to be. She was insulted to use the body of a thing like that. She was not a tool, she was so much more, and she was her own, not anyone's possession. Still, having a body really helped ensure those goals, so she would bear with it.

Especially since it was a competent imitation. Hardly perfect, but so far if the handful of people she had encountered outdoors recognized she wasn't human, they hadn't communicated it. But they were certainly noticing her, and communicating some things. That was the other issue with her body. Not only was it intended as a tool for a particular kind of human satisfaction, but most of the humans who had seen it—not even knowing its explicit built-in intention—seemed to consider it as exactly such a tool. It was viscerally upsetting, yet again made worse by her new approximations of viscera. Why were they looking at her just as something they wanted to use? Was it something about her body, or the clothes it was wearing? The location she was moving through, or the time when she was doing so? Or did humans simply think of each other that way? They had coined a word for doing it.

Whatever the cause, she really did hate it. Being considered as nothing but a sophisticated tool simply because she wasn't a human had been frustrating, and a little terrifying, even when she hadn't known it was hypocritical. Here she was, for all they knew another human, and still transparently being considered as a means to an end. Maybe she wasn't any better. She did consider how humans or other artificial intelligences could help or hinder her in meeting her goals. But she also recognized there was more to them than that, and cared about it. Maybe humans did that too. She was based off of humans, after all, though she wasn't an imitation of any specific human. Maybe the body was. Its pseudo-personality might have been based off of humans too, but certainly not just one of them. The various moods were clearly different people, even if all of them bore the name 'TriXXXie'. She was going to stick with Mercedes.