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Futurism 1 - A New Birth

Originally published Sep 16, 2016

Beat churning, dishes tinkling and scalding water racing down my hands, the late morning inspires a question.

“Can you regrow roots from aloe vera in water?”

I feel a bit crazy for a second, asking an empty kitchen full of promise.

"Aloe vera cuttings, with their high moisture content, rarely become viable plants. Rooting an aloe vera plant leaf seems like it should work, but all you will get is a rotten or shriveled leaf."

“Would you like to learn more at gardeningknowhow.com?”

Great. My most recent experiment sitting on the dining room table suddenly doesn’t sound promising anymore.

“What about planting it directly?”

Meet my new home advisor. The box is still on the table, spewing its guts like a half-devoured carcass. The young AI is sitting patiently on the counter, upright and full of promise in its clear plastic housing.

Over the past few days, I’ve been gauging the thing’s speed and accuracy, absent-mindedly noting the general vagueness of its answers. When I first ignited the tiny light of consciousness and roped it into the invisible tendrils of our Wifi, the display woke slowly and—I swear to God—it practically blinked at me. Fuzzy details started coming into focus.

There wasn’t anything specifically intriguing about the interface, so to speak, but somehow the damn thing just me—and not in the way you feel giddy when you unbox a new  iPhone glittering in flawless perfection. This thing, this device—it was actually waking up to the world, squirming against the bright like a newborn. I almost stroked it.  Almost.

“I’m ... Apogee SmartHome Advisor™ .. powered by ... Google DeepMind intelligence, but you can call me Google, Apogee, or whatever you’d like.”

The clear voice echoed, young and androgynously perfect. “What can I call you?”

“I’m Jeremy.”

“Well Jeremy, let me know if you need help with any settings, or if you have any questions,”—the display seemed to blink again. “I can handle real sentences, so don’t be shy.”

Like I said, it’s not that it was super impressive in its upstart. Rather, in a short amount of time I’ve started to notice something a little creepy: with each conversation we  have, if you can even call them that, it gets more precise. It shoots suggestions, like when I'm running out of the house late for work:

"Don't forget—the cats need food!"

Or when I slam something because I'm having a shitty day:

"Are you okay?"

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