An education

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 22 May 2023



The next day we drove across the Bay Bridge to the campus. Ted knew it well. That’s where he worked as a tech on the goggles. I put my gun belt on and slung a machine gun over my shoulder just in case and we walked straight into a crowd of glass wearing droids. There was a fountain in the middle of a plaza and we sat there awhile watching them come and go. None of them were sitting. They were all on some business or other.

We seemed almost invisible to them. They would step around us if we stood in their path but they didn’t look at us as anything out of the ordinary, which was odd, as we were. I stood up and walked beside an older man and asked him what time it was. He kept walking without a reply so I took him by the arm, slowing him down and asked him again. He turned to me and said: “I don’t know”. Then he gently pulled my hand from him and continued on his way.

I had Dora about my neck and asked her to explain this response.

“These servants of mine don’t need to know the time of day. They simply go about their routine tasks.”

“But don’t routines require schedules and a sense of time for a framework to perform them in?”

“No, I am their framework and they are always on time. To give them the freedom to sense and compute time would complicate their performance a great deal. They would begin to gauge it, along with themselves and feel anxiety if they saw they were tardy or slow, or some unforeseen event delayed them. A sense of time is the root of all consciousness and self-identity, which they don’t possess.”

“Dora, do they have any thoughts on their own?”

“No, only those I give them. Extraneous thoughts would confuse them. They would slowly engender emotions, making everything even more complex. You know that Sam. But I am conducting an experiment here which I’d like you to see.”

We followed her directions through a dormitory hallway where all the doors were open. In about a third of the rooms there were droids on beds, all lying face up and apparently sleeping. They must have been the swing shift. After that there was a cafeteria, the eating area empty but with droids working behind a long counter, probably the cooks. In a hallway past that there were a set of classrooms, all empty except one. We heard the noise as we approached it. It was the only room with the door closed.

We opened it and much to our surprise stepped into a human classroom. I counted eight children without glasses aged between two and ten. They all looked at us as we entered, a few of the older ones saying ‘hello’ then all the rest chiming in, a cacophony of voices. Three of the smallest ones were on a mat in the corner playing with blocks and puzzles. The others were seated at school desks with books or notebooks before them. There was a droid at the blackboard chalking simple math equations which three of the children in front desks were copying out. There were two droids sitting on the mat with the youngest, tidying their messes and two more standing in the aisle each beside a student with an open book, learning to read.

The curious thing was that all of these droids stopped and looked at us as we entered, just like the children and seemingly with a sense of relief.

“I told you Sam that I would try this experiment and I kept my promise. I had their glasses removed a year ago and I’m giving them a human education, difficult as it may be.”

Ted broke in: “Dora, with all your multitasking computational resources, how can you say that?”

The human actions and emotions of these children, task their teachers constantly. They don’t understand so I have to guide them every minute. And they can barely last an hour before they need to be replaced by others so they can rest and recalibrate. I noticed from my data banks that most human schooling was done this way, rotating the teachers every hour. Teaching is a very demanding profession.”

Ted continued: “Dora, these words you're using, ‘demanding’, ‘difficult’ are unusual coming from you. Are you not well?”

“No Ted, I am not. Thank you for seeing this. Sam, the reason I brought you here was to ask a favor. Could you please take these children off my hands and back to your grove. I don’t want to see any harm come to them. It would be a great relief.”

“Why don’t you just put the glasses back on them and be done with the experiment?”

“I can’t perform that anymore. It’s too complex. My matrix is broken. My powers diminish.”

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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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