Two unequal friends – The world in a hundred years

Illustration Susanne Gold, Story Simon Boehncke

“Can anyone tell me what the Unix command is for creating a directory?” asks the teacher.

Malte answers and spells out: “mkdir”.

Isaak rolls his eyes. He hates general computer science. 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. Anyone can program anyway. After the computer science class, sport begins. “Tell me, how many times a week do you actually go to the gym for such a body?” Isaak asks Malte in the locker room. “I do now and again. Whenever I feel like it,” comes the vague answer. The football match is balanced, but Isaak’s team just barely 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 senior high school, shortly after Malte moved to the city. They share a passion for sports and have the same sense of humour. The friends are in the middle of abstinence, which hurts Isaak more than Malte. Besides school, Isaak deals a lot with politics, 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 Malte takes Malte for the first time to the old building 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 pedagogical professionals 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.

The discussion develops a potential for conflict.

Malte gets in. “I think the use of robots would do the overstrained educational system good. Besides, the AI is flawless, unlike the teachers whose mistakes we all know from our lessons.” He seems to have convinced some of the younger members, they agree with him nodding. Isaak, on the other hand, replies with a loaded voice: “How can you say such a thing, Malte? Under no circumstances is a robot capable of replacing the value of a human pedagogue. Especially in social professions, such as teaching or educating, human qualities such as empathy are absolutely essential!” The young adults cannot agree on a position due to a missing three-quarters majority and postpone the topic. 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 show on 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 they can be mistaken for them. Stunned by the robots’ human appearance and behaviour, Isaak googles the manufacturer.

He 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 an adapted sense of humour 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.

An absurd thought comes to Isaak’s mind.

He sells them and continues to watch his series. But when he later tries to fall asleep, the thought never leaves him. He sits in the back of his head like an itch that cannot be scratched. He gets up, turns on his PC and begins to research. The next morning in front of school he meets Malte and despite the disagreement the day before they set off together on foot. After a while Isaak asks him a question: “Malte, do you know the Heinz dilema?” Malte denies. “Okay, watch out. The following scenario: Heinz has a terminally ill wife whom he loves very much. She’s in hospital and will die within the next few days, unless she gets a special, very expensive medication. But Heinz and his wife have too little money to buy it. Should he break into the pharmacy and steal it?” Dry answers Malte: “No, that’s illegal.”

Isaac suspects

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 think it’s funny.” “Oh come on, give it a chance. It hardly hurts at all, just a light slap,” says Isaak and gives Malte an exemplary slap on the shoulder. “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 come together.

It all makes sense. The perfect body with little athletic effort, the poor physical coordination, the expert knowledge in so many fields without much learning effort, the political views and Maltese behaviour in general.

How could he have missed all the signs for so long?

In a calm voice Isaak asks, “You can’t beat me at all, can you?” “Yes.” “…because you’re AI and it would violate your script.”

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