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The Lorelei Signal


Four Tests of Being Human

Written by Henry McFarland / Artwork by Marge Simon

Since Professor Ryzhov was dead, the text from him was a surprise. True, his mind had been downloaded to a Nuself. But even though I wrote the will to arrange that, I hadn’t dared believe it would work.


Obviously the Nuself worked well enough to send messages. “Ms. Wade, you must help me. Doch is not doing her duty under the will. She keeps me downstairs in a closet. I cannot see my house, my things. You must stop this.”


I texted back. “Professor, I’m sorry to hear about the dispute with your daughter.”


“Why do you call it a dispute? It is a violation. She has taken away my rights, you must sue her at once.”


People who immediately want to sue do not know what they’re asking. “Litigation is costly and slow, Professor Ryzhov. Half the time, the result’s bad.” Actually more than half, a lot of lawsuits left both sides worse off. Disputes over wills were the worst. Someone who got a little more money but opened an incurable breach in their family hadn’t won.


“So you’re going to do nothing!”


“No, but we should try negotiation before litigation. I’ll come to your house today and talk to the two of you.”


“Come right away!” The professor liked giving orders.


So maybe the Nuself really did what its makers claimed. The implications of that were momentous, but rather than dwell on them I had to focus on my client’s problems. I hopped in a car and told it to drive to the Ryzhov’s.


I remembered my first visit to the professor’s house. Cancer had wasted his body. His face was ashen, and his cheeks were hollow. Still he sat up in bed and kept his voice strong. “Ms. Wade, welcome to my home.”


The house seemed somber and not at all homelike. The professor’s illness might explain the antiseptic odor and drawn curtains, but not the dark paneling or lack of decoration. The professor turned to his daughter, a sallow complexioned woman in a brown sweat suit. “Doch, bring our visitor a chair. And take notes. I don’t want you forgetting things.”


He turned back to me. “You must change my will. I found a better immortality than having my name on a building. Did you read the material I sent?”


“Yes, but some aspects of it are questionable. The Nuself was just introduced, and few people have used it. Many doubt it’s really able to replicate a human mind.”


He frowned and his voice hardened. “Ms. Wade, technology is not your concern. I am satisfied. My memories, my thoughts, my character can be downloaded to the Nuself, and I can use its circuits as I now use the synapses of my brain. My mind will live even though my body is gone.”


If the professor wanted to spend his money on this thing, it was his right. And I knew too well why he’d want to try the Nuself. Death cost so many years and caused such pain to those left behind. The Nuself promised to defeat it, and while I doubted its success, I admired the attempt. “Then let’s talk about the law. Legally the death of your body is the end of your life. The Nuself is an object, like a PC, part of your estate with no legal rights.”


“That is foolish. The mind is important, not the body. We must educate the law.”


“You’ll find it a slow learner. For now, the question is how to ensure that your wishes are carried out.”


 “Is not the Nuself contract sufficient?” The professor sounded impatient.


“As it pertains to the device, yes. They’re not responsible for the device’s treatment or surroundings.”


“I must continue to live here. Suppose I leave everything to my daughter and make her the executor of my estate. She can attend to my needs.”


That might work, but I feared it would not be sufficient. “You might want an outside executor to ensure the Nuself is handled the way you want it to be.”


“I will not pay a stranger to be executor. Doch, can you carry out these responsibilities, with my guidance of course?”


“With your guidance of course, Father. For the will, Ms. Wade, you’ll need my actual name. It’s Katrina. Doch is Russian for daughter—think of it as a generic term.” The words suggested a hint of bitterness, but her voice sounded flat and emotionless.


“Thank you, Katrina, and please call me Stacy.”


The professor’s voice took on a note of command. “It is settled. Be quick with the will, Ms. Wade. My body has little time.”


When I brought the new will for his signature, Professor Ryzhov’s mind was being downloaded. A technician sat near his bed and stared at readouts on a couple of screens. The professor wore a hairnet of wires connected to the Nuself, a black cylinder about two feet tall. Variations in the cylinder’s surface texture indicated the presence of sensors. Supposedly the Nuself would have sight, hearing, touch, and smell—every sense but taste.


The professor wasn’t interested when I tried to explain the provisions in the new will concerning care of the Nuself. He waived his hand dismissively. “I will instruct Doch in her duties. Doch, don’t just stand there staring, fetch a table so I can sign the will.”


She scurried off then returned with a small folding table. The professor signed his name, then lay back in the bed. “Ms. Wade, you may go.”


As the car drove back to my office, I thought about Katrina. How did she feel about the Nuself? It probably wouldn’t work, but suppose it did? She would still have her father, but would that be a good thing for her? Would a dead man dominate her life?


I thought of my own father, would I want him in a Nuself? When he died, I consoled myself that he had lived a long full life—a complete life. Still, it would be nice to be able to talk to him. He had always been a source of encouragement, and, when needed, consolation, including when I needed it most, when I lost Mark.


Mark—had there been a Nuself, would I still have him to confide in? To share joys and sorrows? How I ached to do that. Would he accept the Nuself? Mark had always been very physical, very active. He wouldn’t have wanted to survive without a body. And I wouldn’t be able to feel his arms around me. Yet to talk to him would be so much. I pushed those thoughts from my mind. No use dwelling on what I couldn’t have.


A few days later, Katrina called. Her voice showed no emotion when she said that her father had died, but she sounded eager when she asked how soon she could access her inheritance. She got the money as soon as possible.


~ * ~

Katrina opened the door to me, and I immediately knew she was a different woman. She wore white shorts and a flowered blouse. A whiff of lilac perfume hung in the air. She led me to an office brightened by sunlight streaming through large glass doors, directed me to a chair upholstered in dark brown cloth, and sat behind the large oaken desk that had once been her father’s. “What can I do for you, Stacy?”


I told her about the text. “Shouldn’t your father have better surroundings?”


She leaned back in her chair and smiled. “In his text, did he call me Katrina or Doch?”




“Figures. Do you like my perfume? Father said it made me smell like a stick of gum. The Nuself must work. It’s as nasty to me as Father was. I got sick of hearing him nag, so now he stays out of sight and out of mind.”


“He can be difficult, but if the Nuself really has replicated his mind, you’ve locked your father in a closet. Doesn’t that seem wrong?”


“Why? He can find lots of stuff to read online, and lots of people to argue with. What does he care about his surroundings? He said the mind was what mattered, remember?”


“He doesn’t sound happy.”


Katrina’s lip curled a little. “He never did.”


“The will requires you to keep proper care of the Nuself.”


“And I do. It’s in a clean dry place, where it can’t get bumped or broken. It’s as well cared for as my toaster, or any other appliance. And that’s all it is, an appliance. You yourself said the law doesn’t recognize the Nuself.”


Nothing like having your advice quoted to you. “Could I see him?”


“Sure.” She led me to a flight of steps. “When you get downstairs turn right, then open the first door on your left. Can’t miss him. I’ll be in the living room.”


When I opened the closet door, the professor’s voice boomed. “Ms. Wade, finally, take me from this closet at once.”


“OK, professor, let’s go see Katrina and try to work this out.”


Katrina was lounging on the living room couch and reading a book. The professor’s voice boomed from the Nuself. “You see, she reads trashy novels while I am locked away.”


Katrina gave me a little smile. “I think the closet downstairs is a good place for my father’s opinions, Stacy, but if you disagree, feel free to take him with you. He makes a nice paperweight.”


“Doch, I still have my mind.”


Katrina kept looking at me, not the Nuself. “True, an obnoxious paperweight.”


These two needed a cooling off period. “If the professor’s agreeable, he can stay with me for a while.” After all, he wouldn’t eat much, just a little electricity and some bandwidth.


“Fine by me, Stacy. By the way, as executor of the estate, I no longer wish you to do legal work on its behalf. Have a nice day.”


In the car, the professor went on and on about the unfairness of it all. “Doch has stolen my home.”


“Did you see what book she was reading?”


“How does that matter?”


Beloved by Morrison. Not trashy.”


The professor changed the subject. “So we are going to your home. How will your husband respond?”


“I live alone.”


“Why is that?”


“None of your business.”


He was silent, but only for a minute. “Your skirt is too short for professional wear. You would get more respect if you dressed more modestly.”


“Listen you self-important boor, I’ve practiced law for years, you don’t tell me how to do it.” Scolding a metal cylinder felt odd but satisfying.


“I was a distinguished professor who published. . .”


“Yeah and no one has to butter me up for high grades. I earn respect through my work, and you don’t have a clue. Any more comments like that and you’re back in Katrina’s closet.”


“No one has ever spoken to me in this manner, you are rude-”


“Yes I am. You respect me, or it’s back to the closet. Understand?”


After a few seconds, I heard a muffled yes.


When we got to my house, I put the Nuself on my desk. “Professor, the question is how to deal with Katrina.”


The professor sounded impatient. “The question is how to get Doch to do her duty under the will. You must file a lawsuit!”


I took a deep breath. “That might not work. As I explained, professor, because you’ve died, the court may decide you are not a legal person and have no right to bring suit.”


His tone went from impatient to angry. “I want to live in my house. Ms. Wade, you are an attorney, you must have a solution.”


“We can try to persuade the court that your lack of a body is just a handicap, like an amputation. It doesn’t affect your rights, including the right to sue Katrina. But establishing someone in a Nuself as a legal person is a new concept for the law. We could lose.”


“Excellent! I told you we will educate the law. Proceed at once.” He was so happy to be giving orders, he ignored the part about maybe losing.


“OK, but never rush into litigation. I’ll wait a few days to let Katrina cool off, then see if the threat of a suit makes her more reasonable.”


“She has never been reasonable, that one.”


“Maybe that will change. You should hope so.”


~ * ~

Katrina was in her front yard wearing short shorts and a red tee shirt and taking advantage of the warm spring day to plant azaleas. She seemed surprised to see me, but when she asked what I wanted, her voice was inquisitive, not unpleasant.


“Katrina, I’m representing your father, and I could ask a court to rule that your treatment of him represents breach of a contract, the will. But it’s better to avoid litigation. Can’t the two of you work things out?”


“He’s dead. How can a dead man sue?”


“You said yourself the Nuself worked. The court may rule that because his mind has been preserved, so have his legal rights.”


“At most you’ll show it’s an AI. An AI doesn’t have rights.”


“We’ll give evidence that he’s more than that.”


She laughed with no joy. “Evidence a metal cylinder is human? Good luck.”


“Katrina, can’t you remember good times with him?”


“Sure a few, a very few. Before Mom died.”


“How old were you when that happened?”


“Twelve, now you’re going to tell me he was both father and mother to me.”


“No, but I’ll tell you that it’s really hard to lose your spouse, harder than you know. Add the responsibility of raising a child, and a lot of people don’t cope as well as they should.”


She crossed her arms in front of herself. “You don’t have to tell me how hard he had it. He did that enough already. Particularly hard because I was such a disappointment. I often wonder what I would have done if he hadn’t always belittled me. He left me with so little confidence that I never even tried to go to college. I thought about going now, but a degree takes four years, and by then I’d be 35.”


“How old will you be in 4 years if you don’t go to college?”


She smiled a bit. “Good point.”


“I was the oldest person in my law school class. It’s not so bad.”


She thanked me for that, but still refused to talk to her father.


~ * ~

Persuading a court the professor lived in the Nuself would require expert testimony. Dr. Carlos Perez taught psychology at the local university and was an expert in AI. We met in his office. Unruly stacks of paper covered all of his desk and most of his floor. His curly hair looked perpetually messy, and he wore a rumpled tweed jacket. That was a good thing. Juries didn’t like experts who looked too slick.


He also loved explaining his field to others, another good thing. “Three tests may differentiate human from artificial intelligence: mirror awareness, Winograd schema challenge, and the Turing Test. Some AIs show mirror awareness, but it’s hard to program and not in the Nuself specifications. If we find it, it’s likely from the professor’s mind not the software. Some say the Winograd schema replaces the Turing Test, but we should do them both. Turing is the classic test, and the court may expect it. Unfortunately it’s also the most expensive. For statistical validity, we need at least 20 reviewers.”


“Tell you what, let’s do the first two. Favorable results may persuade the other side to settle. If not, we do the Turing.”


“Sure, we can do that.” Perez paused for a minute. “Stacy, have you thought about the implications of this work? Suppose we find the Nuself does offer immortality? What are the consequences?”


“The Nuself preserves only brain function. Your body’s still dead.”


“For now yes, but the company says it’s developing robotic extensions. What will the world be like if wealthy people can become robot zombies?”


“However you answer that question, you have to want to defeat death. It takes so many people too early.”


He hesitated for a moment then spoke slowly as if he were choosing his words carefully. “Yes, and I understand the pain of those left behind. But death also is the one thing we all have in common. Trying to be immortal seems so arrogant.”


I laughed. “Arrogant? Wait until you meet our client. Anyway this isn’t the time to consider long term consequences, our job is to focus on the client’s problems.”


A couple of days later, I brought the professor to Perez’s lab at the university. Perez took the Nuself into a small conference room with a mirror wall of one-way glass and put it on an old, scarred table. He showed me to an even smaller room on the other side of the glass wall, where I could observe the tests without influencing them.


When Perez got back to the conference room, he had a small red ball hidden in one hand, and he laid it on top of the Nuself, where there were no touch or visual sensors. The professor erupted. “Why have you put this ridiculous red thing on me. Take it off at once!”


Perez did as told. “How did you know it was there?”


“I saw it in the mirror of course.”


Perez kept his face expressionless as he began the Winograd schema test. “I am going to read a sentence and ask you what a pronoun in the sentence refers to. ‘The trophy doesn't fit into the brown suitcase because it is too large.’ What does it refer to?”


“That is a question for kindergarteners.”


“Bear with me please professor, what is your answer?”


“The trophy, of course.”


“The trophy doesn't fit into the brown suitcase because it is too small. What does it refer to?”


“The suitcase. Did you seriously think you could trick me with such a childish question?”


After running through 50 pairs of sentences, Perez excused himself and came to see me. “He’s a lot more obnoxious than any AI. More important, he showed immediate mirror awareness, and he got all 100 questions on the Winograd schema challenge correct, which implies a degree of common-sense reasoning not found in any known AI. I’d still like to run a Turing Test, but these results suggest the intelligence is equivalent to human.”


~ * ~


That was enough basis to file a complaint. Judge Tyrone Johnson called us to his courtroom for a scheduling conference. A tall, broad-shouldered man, he would have looked imposing in any circumstances but all the more so wearing his black robes and sitting on the judge’s bench, which put him two feet above us mere mortals. His reputation was no nonsense, no sympathy, no imagination. Not the kind of judge I wanted.


Katrina’s new attorney, Carter Davis III, a middle-aged man with a big reputation and an expensive pin striped suit, rose to file a motion to dismiss. “The suit supposedly is brought by a Nuself, your honor, a combination of a recording device and advanced software. The technology may be impressive, but it’s not a legal person, and it can’t bring suit.”


I rose. “In fact, your honor, Professor Konstantin Ryzhov brought this suit. The evidence will show that the professor lives within the Nuself, as it has preserved the functioning of his mind. His reliance on the device no more eliminates his legal rights than would reliance on a respirator or some other form of technology.”


The judge gave me a long stare. “Has any court found a Nuself, or anything like it, is a legal person?”


“It’s a new technology, your honor, and the law does not have experience with it.”


“So the answer to my question is no.”


“Not so far, your honor, you could make precedent with this case.”


The judge looked up at the ceiling with a mix of exasperation and disbelief. “And you want the court to believe that the professor can live forever in this device.”


Things were not going well. “The Nuself Corporation advertises immortality, that is true your honor, but for now our only concern is the professor’s current life, where he has certain rights.”


“Current life? He died.”


“And my daughter put me in hell.” That was my client.


Judge Johnson hated interruptions. “Turn that thing off!”


“I apologize your honor. It doesn’t have an off switch, but I will admonish my client.” I bent over to the cylinder. “Be quiet. I’m the one who speaks now.”


The judge still looked irritated. “I will take scheduling for this matter under consideration. Court time is scarce these days, which you all should keep in mind. Ms. Wade, Mr. Davis, you know the small conference room next to my chambers, why don’t you meet there and see if you can resolve this thing.”


The conference room had two chairs on each side of a rectangular table. I put the professor in one chair and sat next to him. Davis and Katrina sat across from us. Naturally, the professor spoke first. “Katrina, you’ve put on weight without me there to watch you.”


“I don’t need advice from an appliance.”


Davis used his stern voice. “Stacy, my client is not here to be insulted.”


“And it won’t happen again.” I bent down and whispered to the Nuself. “Insult her again, and I withdraw from the case.”


“Don’t you think I can find another lawyer?”


“Go ahead. Meanwhile, do you want to go back to Katrina’s closet?”


Surprisingly, he shut up and let me do the talking. “This case is ripe for settlement. Our needs are simple and reasonable: that the professor be treated humanely with a place in a room, not a closet.”


Davis took a hard line. No doubt the judge’s remarks made him confident. “You have a weak case, based on claiming that thing is a person, something no court even came close to finding. Our only offer is that we won’t bring a claim for frivolous litigation if you drop the case now.”


Maybe a direct appeal to the clients would work. “Katrina, professor, you’ve been fighting, things were said, but you’re father and daughter. Can’t you work things out?”


Katrina stood. “We’re not getting anywhere, and my lawyer and I are leaving.” At the door, she turned to me. “Why don’t you ask the paperweight where he got the Nuself idea?” Davis took her arm and hurried her out of the room.


As the car drove us home, the professor said, “I tried to be a good father, yet she is so angry.” For the first time he sounded sad rather than aggrieved.


“How did you get the idea for the Nuself?”


“From a magazine article. I realized its potential immediately.”


I needed the rest of the story, not his boasting. “How did you get the magazine?”


“It was in my room.” He sounded hesitant; that was a first. “It was a technology magazine, not something I subscribe to.”


“In your room because Katrina put it there?” Now I knew why Katrina wanted me to ask the question.


“Perhaps.” He hesitated, then said. “I did not receive many visitors in my illness so perhaps.”


“Katrina didn’t receive much in the old will, did she?” The old will had been written by a partner of mine who had retired.


“My university could make better use of the money.” He sounded defensive. The better use was putting his name on a building.


“Katrina planted the idea of the Nuself, so she’d inherit instead of your school. Clever.”


Silence from the professor—that was becoming more common. Maybe he was realizing he didn’t know it all.


~ * ~

Our second try at a settlement conference was in a rectangular conference room at Davis’s office. Pictures of the firm’s founding partners hung on the wall by the door, and oil paintings of wildlife hung on the other walls. An oval table with spaces for 20 filled the room. The four of us sat around the end by the door.


Katrina spoke first. “Father, I saw the last article we did in the university library, ‘Putin, His Successors, and the Orthodox Tradition.’ It was on the shelf gathering dust, like you.”


“Why do you say, ‘we did’? I wrote that article. You only helped with the footnotes.”


“I compiled all the footnotes and edited your incomprehensible prose, including totally rewriting the beginning.” She looked at me. “You could get to page 5 of his version and still not know what the article was about.”


The professor scoffed. “What were you doing in the university library, you with no brains.”


“Signing up for the second semester. First semester, I got straight As. Want to see?” Katrina pulled out a transcript and pushed it towards us.


“The simplest courses no doubt.”


“Like calculus and computer science—read it.”


Time to try to get these two back on track. “We're here to try to resolve our dispute. You two are a family. You’ve faced hard things together—the loss of a wife, the loss of a mother. Can’t you reconcile?”


The professor turned his anger on me. “Why should I listen to you about family, when you yourself cannot get a man.”


Katrina responded before I had a chance to. “You really don’t know anything do you! She not only got a man, as you put it, he was a hero.”


I got up and grabbed the Nuself. “I apologize Mr. Davis. We aren’t ready to pursue a settlement today.”


As soon as we were outside, the professor asked, “What did Doch mean, about a hero?”


“My husband was a police officer. He was killed while responding to a domestic violence call.” I got into the car and tossed the professor onto the seat next to me. “My private life is none of your business. Any more remarks about it, and you’re back in the closet.”


“But you told Doch about this.”


“I didn’t. The police web site has tributes to fallen officers. Katrina, that’s her name by the way, must have found it on the Internet. You didn’t care enough to do that.”


He paused, then said, “She was capable to find sources.”


Rather than respond, I let him think about that. His next words came slowly. “And she did help with the writing—to make it clearer—for the American audience.”


“She’s a very intelligent woman, and yet you drove her away.”


“She did not leave.”


“She put you in a closet because she couldn’t stand living with you.”


“Perhaps I underestimated her.” That sounded wistful, almost regretful. He was quiet the rest of the way home.


That night, as always, I looked at my husband’s picture before I went to sleep. It had been eighteen years since I heard his voice. At least Katrina could talk with her father. I just had to get her to want to.


~ * ~

Perez showed me the set-up for the Turing Test. “The professor will be alone in my conference room. We can observe through the one-way glass. He’ll exchange texts with 20 reviewers, who will not know a Nuself is involved in the test.”


“Could he use voice rather than text?”


“No, hearing a human sounding voice could bias the reviewers.”


“The Nuself can output voice and text at the same time. Could you set it up so the reviewers only see the texts, but the observers hear the voice? I’d like to hear the reviewers’ texts too. Could you use a voice synthesizer for them?”


“Sure, if you want to hear the test, we can do that.”


“Not just me, I’m going to ask Davis and Katrina to observe the test.”


If his eyebrows shot up any farther, they’d land in his hair. “Isn’t that, umm—unusual?”


“No, it’s unheard of. But I’ve got to take the risk. After the judge’s remarks, I’m unlikely to win at trial. And suppose I do win. My client would be left with a rift between him and his daughter, a rift that likely would never heal. They need to reconcile, and this test may make that happen. Can you include these questions among the ones the reviewers ask?”


I handed him a list, and he looked it over. “Sure, the test will still be valid, but suppose his answers aren’t helpful?”


“Another risk, but things have changed for the professor. Underneath that hard shell, he’s smart enough to realize that. It may change his attitude.”


“How about her? From your description, she’s very bitter.”


“She didn’t just happen to have her transcript in her pocket. She brought it to show him. She cares about what he thinks, and if he shows he respects her, she’ll respond.”


~ * ~

When I called Katrina’s attorney to invite them to watch the Turing Test, he sounded skeptical. “My client has no interest in being there—and why should she?”


“Because she might learn something about her father, and that might help them reconcile. Come on, Carter, I’m inviting you to watch me prepare evidence that might be central to my case. That could give you an enormous litigating advantage. It’s Christmas and your birthday combined. You can’t say no.”


“Since you put it that way, we’ll come.”


Carter, Katrina, and I got together in the observers’ room late the next afternoon. Katrina didn’t give me a chance to say more than hello before launching in. “There’s no point in our being here. You saw how he was. You want me to sympathize with him because he lost a spouse. So did you, and you don’t make it your excuse to be mean to everyone.”


“It’s not a question of sympathy. Just consider the possibility that he’s changed. After all he’s experienced things totally new to him.”


“Being dead?”


“More than that—your standing up to him, getting him to change the will, not just taking his insults, calling him out when he insulted me. Did you do that before?”


She spoke more slowly. “No, I never did.”


“Now you have, and that makes a lot of difference. Listen to the test Katrina, you may learn something about your father.”


We sat in the darkened observers’ room and watched the Nuself through the glass. The reviewers’ questions came through a speaker in the mechanical tones of a synthesized voice. The third one was, “Have you any children?”


“Only one, my daughter Katrina.” The professor’s voice sounded sonorous, but still regretful.


“Tell me about her?”


“Katrina is an intelligent woman, a strong woman, an independent woman.”


“How do you know that?”


“She contributed to my work, she went to college when she was older and it would be harder, and she is doing very well there.”


“Have you any regrets about her?”


“How I treated her. I did not respect her. I was unkind.”


“If you lived together again, how would you behave?”


“Tell her I loved her, be kinder, be respectful, show I am proud of her.”


When the test was over, Perez picked up the Nuself then joined us. “Of the 20 reviewers, 18 found him to be human. That’s statistically significant, and a powerful result.”


The professor remained silent. I looked at Katrina. “Dr. Perez did three tests of whether the Nuself, your father, acts like a human being. Suppose we stay proceedings for 30 days while you do a fourth test? A human can change. Test if he has. Take him back into your home, and not the closet, and see if he’s really different.”


“What if he isn’t?” Katrina’s tone was guarded, but not hostile.


“Professor, will you be different? If you stay with Katrina, will you treat her with respect?”


Immediately he said, “Yes, I will be different. Katrina, I promise.”


Katrina seemed to relax. She picked up the Nuself and smiled at it. “OK, come on Father, let’s go home.”


“Yes, Katrina, home for us both.” Katrina cradled the Nuself in her arms as they left.


Perez let me use his conference room, and Davis and I called the judge’s clerk to tell him about the stay. After the call, Davis looked at me quizzically. “Will they be able to live together?”


“It’ll work. They love each other as father and daughter, and they’ve both learned a lot. For us, this case is over.”


“I think you’re right. Until next time, Stacy.” He was smiling as he went out the door.


Time to say goodbye to Perez. “Doctor, thank you, you did great work on the case.”


He looked uneasy. “Truth is I was kind of hoping to find the Nuself is a fraud, and your client isn’t really in there. What do the results mean beyond this case? Is dying over?”


“The Nuself gives people an option. You live in a way, but at least for now, it’s without the physical. A lot of people won’t want that. I wouldn’t, but maybe that’ll change when I’m older. Someone close to me who died young wouldn’t have wanted it, but I would have wanted it for him.”


He leaned over and put his hand on my arm. “I know who you mean.”


“For a lot of people, it could be a chance to keep loved ones together, and sometimes a chance to put things right. That’s what it gives the professor, and I think he’ll use it well. As for me, no use wishing for a chance I never had.”


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Henry McFarland is an economist, community activist, and part-time short story writer. He is concerned with how society will change when artificial intelligences start thinking for themselves. Henry has published stories in Brain Games: Stories to Astonish, Page & Spine, Tree and Stone, After Dinner Conversation, the Starship Sofa podcast, Andromeda Spaceways, Every Day Fiction, and The Colored Lens.

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