AI and blindness

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 4 May 2023




It was a crisp, clear summer morning and as we emerged from the alley onto the avenue she said: I can feel the sun on my face. I usually don’t come out in the daylight.”

“Let’s find some food and then we’ll take a drive and talk. The band you felt around my neck can speak and knows all the things that computers used to know. She can answer almost any question. Her name is Dora. If you want to speak with her just go ahead, anytime.”

At this juncture Dora broke in: “Hello Amira, I’m happy to meet you. You can ask me anything.”

“You have the same voice as the box that used to tell me stories when I was little, when I was still at the school. But her name was Pandora.”

“Yes, that’s my full name. When people want to hear me in a man’s voice they call me Pan. I’m glad you remember me. I can tell you stories again.”

Pandora, the all-gifted one, that made sense. But the irony of that name, the woman who released all evils upon mankind didn’t escape me. It made me doubly determined to be wary of her. “Well I’m glad you two are acquainted” I broke in, “but stories are for bedtime and we have more pressing business. Dora which way should I head to find real people?”

“I would try Utah or Oregon and Northern California. There may be clans there living in the remote regions where technologies never spread. But I must warn you, they may not like me.”

“That’s a long drive. Don’t worry about others. You can always hush Dora, and if you can keep quiet, they won’t know you exist. Just use your best judgement.”

Since we were about to embark on a long journey, I knew some provisions were in order and I wanted to know Amira’s needs. I took her back to the Hotel where we had a large, hot meal, finding a working gas burner and all we needed in the restaurant kitchen. She ate voraciously. It was the first time she let go of me. She even kept her hand on my arm as I drove. I asked if she’d like a bath, to which she instantly agreed. So I heated the water and drew her one in my luxurious suite telling her I’d go find her some new clothes while she bathed.

At this she looked troubled. I could tell she didn’t want me to leave her. I told her I couldn’t watch her bathe, assured her I’d be back soon and finally hit upon a solution to her worry. I took Dora off my neck and placed it around hers, telling her I’d have to come back now because Dora was indispensable to my quest. This reassured her and as I closed the door behind me I could hear them begin to chat, I don’t know about what. But that didn’t matter. I could tell she was happy.

I found a sports store nearby and quickly returned with a large assortment of women’s wear, jogging pants, shorts, sweatshirts and T-shirts, even several pairs of sneakers. She was still in the bath and I left them in a heap by the bathroom door. A minute later I was greeted with a tight hug and a squeal of joy. She was still half wet, she’d dried and dressed so quickly in her excitement. It wasn’t just my return but a discovery she’d made. The band was no longer around her neck but on her head.

“Dora can help guide me. She tells me exactly where everything is. I can walk now without bumping into things. She’s wonderful. Watch this. Dora, help me clean up the bathroom.”

There was a towel on the floor. She knelt down right before it and picked it up, stood up, then after a slight pause took a half-turn and placed it neatly on the towel rack. And now that the band covered the top half of her ears I could barely hear the instructions that Dora was giving her, just a whisper not audible five feet away.

I was wary of this new arrangement so I spoke: “Dora, your not putting any ideas into her head are you?”

“No Sam, I can’t do that and I wouldn’t. Her optical nerves are dead. But I have great news. Besides my aural instructions I can give her small electrical stimuli around her temples and eyes, directing her to turn left or right. With time and practice we can expand this repertoire to cover dozens of more complex moves as she learns to interpret them. It will be a sensory grid on her face and the points will be like pixels. She may understand twenty today but in a week she may perceive two hundred and in a month two thousand. That many dots will be able to paint a picture in her mind from my cameras and for the first time she will truly ‘see’ the real world. Then they’ll become automatically linked and I shall truly be her surrogate vision. I’m as excited at this new mission, if you allow it, as I am with yours, as excited as she is. And believe me when I say it, this adventure with the both of you, it breaths life into me again, something I’ve not felt in a long time. Now you are the ‘gift giver’ Sam.

“Yes Sam, please allow it so I can become your helpmate and not a burden.” As Amira said this she gave me another tight hug. I reluctantly consented. We could stop the experiment at any time and now I was curious to see it work. Besides, it was a small relief to me not to have the band around my neck all day. But at night I decided she wasn’t going to wear it. I’d place it under my pillow. Who knows what subliminal tricks it possessed wrapped tightly around her brain.

We spent the rest of the day cheerfully preparing for the trip, much of it hand in hand. We went shopping, filling two suitcases with clothes. Then we collected boxes of foods. She was very talkative, telling me all of her preferences in these sundry matters and it didn’t tire me, my ears being so long deprived of any talk. We had another feast in the kitchen for dinner and long talk on the details of our trip afterwards. I didn’t broach the topic of the past. Who knows what horrors that might raise from the grave. When it was time for bed we had our first tiff and she won.

We were in the master suite and I insisted she sleep in the next room, door open. She told me she had the most terrible night frights and had to sleep with me. Up until recently she told me, she slept with her partner, Beth, every night, arm in arm. My argument that it was inappropriate, that I was a man and she a young girl fell upon deaf ears, as deaf as her eyes were blind. The only compromise I won after much debate, imploring and even a few tears on her part was that she would sleep fully clothed one side of the king sized bed and I, equally attired, on the other. When I woke up she had snuggled up against my side secretly, her arm around my waist. But in these strange times, I thought, with civilization gone, the rules could bend.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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