Two Unequal Friends – The World in A Hundred Years

by Simon Boehncke

“Can anyone tell me what the Unix command is that you need to create a directory?” asks the teacher.

Malte reports and spells: “mkdir”.

Isaac rolls his eyes. He hates general computing. The fact that his best friend Malte is a genius in the field doesn’t make it any better. The subject Isaak is best at is politics. It’s important to him because it determines social life and the everyday life of the individual. Anyway, anyone can program.

After the Computer science lessons begin sports

“Tell me, how many times a week do you actually go to the gym for such a body?” asks Isaak Malte in the dressing room. “Already now and then. Whenever I feel like it,” comes the vague reply. The football match is balanced, but Isaak’s team just beats Malte’s. Coordination is Malte’s weakness, so football is one of the few sports where he can’t fool Isaak.

The two met at the beginning of the upper school, shortly after Malte moved to the city. They share their passion for sports and have the same sense of humour. The friends are in the middle of A-Level stress, which is more bothering for Isaak than for Malte. Besides school, Isaak deals a lot with politics. He is a member of a youth party, works for these statements and organizes demonstrations against “absolute digitalization and the replacement of people in all areas of public life by AI; artificial intelligence”.

This afternoon, Isaak takes Malte for the first time to the old cellar of his youth party, which serves as a meeting place. There will be a debate on how the party positions itself with regard to the upcoming referendum on the use of humanoid robots as educational workers who can educate children or teach school classes. The young people sit in a circle around a small table with snacks, each of them holding a tray in his hand.

Malte enters the discussion with potential for conflict

“I think the use of robots would be good for the overburdened educational system. Besides, the AI is flawless, unlike the teachers whose mistakes we all know from our lessons.”

He seems to have convinced some of the older members, they agree with him nodding. Isaac, on the other hand, replies in a loaded voice, “How can you say something like that, Malte? Under no circumstances is a robot capable of replacing the value of a human pedagogue. Especially in social professions, such as the teaching or educating profession, human qualities such as empathy are absolutely necessary!”

The young adults cannot agree on a position due to a lack of a three-quarters majority and postpone the issue. Annoyed by Malte’s views, Isaak goes home without saying goodbye to him.

To recover from the nerve-wracking day, Isaak streams some episodes of his current favorite series onto his hologram. Between two episodes he is forced to watch a commercial about the brand new generation of sex robots, which are so similar to humans that it’s hard to mistake them. Stunned by the robots’ human appearance and behavior, Isaak googles the manufacturer. The manufacturer advertises that his sex robots can completely replace a human partner, because they not only look like humans, but also imitate their intellect. They can be individually calibrated to the owner and thus have a sense of humor and expertise in the areas in which the owner likes it. For a lot of money it is also possible to have individual bodies made, which differ from the standardized, perfect bodies of the exhibition models.

A absurd thought comes to Isaac’s mind

He drives him away and continues to watch his series. But when he later tries to fall asleep, the thought never leaves his mind. Like an itch that can’t be scratched, he sits in the back of his head. He gets up, turns on his PC and begins to research.

The next morning before school he meets Malte and they set off together on foot, despite the disagreement the day before. After a while Isaak asks him a question: “Malte, do you know the track worker dilemma?” Malte denied.

“Okay, watch out. The following scenario: You are a track worker and find yourself at a crossroads. A train gets out of control and races directly to a track on which there are 5 other track workers. you have the possibility to change the switch and move the train to another track on which there is only one worker. What would you do?”

Dryly, Malte replies, “I wouldn’t do anything.”

Isaac cherishs a suspicion

He makes a suggestion to Malte: “Let’s try a funny game, we play it in the youth party. Whenever we throw something not fragile and the other catches it, the thrower may give the catcher a little slap on the shoulder.”

Malte replies: “I don’t imagine that funny.”

“Oh, come on, give it a chance. It hardly hurts at all, just a light blow,” says Isaak and slaps Malte on the shoulder in an exemplary manner. “Come on, give it a try,” he asks him and gives him the shoulder. But Malte refuses: “No, I don’t want that.”

In Isaac’s head the pieces of the puzzle fit together. It all makes sense. The perfect body with little athletic effort, the poor physical coordination, the pronounced expertise in so many fields without any significant learning effort, the political views and Malte’s behaviour in general. How could he have overlooked all the signs for so long?

In a calm voice Isaac asks, “You can’t beat me at all, right?”

“Yes.”

“… because you’re an AI and that would violate your script.”

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