As someone who does a lot of “adjusting their programming” to fit the world around them, I’m just going to be over here thinking about this Paolo Bacigalupi story for a while.
I realized I was staring, and she was watching me with that familiar knowing smile playing across her lips.
Innocent, but not.
This was what the world was coming to. A robot woman who got you so tangled up you could barely remember your job.
I forced myself to lean back, pretending nonchalance that felt transparent, even as I did it. “How can I help you … Mika?”
“I think I need a lawyer.”
“Yes, please.” She nodded shyly. “If that’s all right with you, sir.”
The way she said “sir” kicked off a super-heated cascade of inappropriate fantasies. I looked away, my face heating up. Christ, I was fifteen again around this girl.
It’s just software. It’s what she’s designed to do.
That was the truth. She was just a bunch of chips and silicon and digital decision trees. It was all wrapped in a lush package, sure, but she was designed to manipulate. Even now she was studying my heart rate and eye dilation, skin temperature and moisture, scanning me for microexpressions of attraction, disgust, fear, desire. All of it processed in milliseconds, and adjusting her behavior accordingly. Popular Science had done a whole spread on the Mika Model brain.
And it wasn’t just her watching me that dictated how she behaved. It was all the Mika Models, all of them out in the world, all of them learning on the job, discovering whatever made their owners gasp. Tens of thousands of them now, all of them wirelessly uploading their knowledge constantly (and completely confidentially, Executive Pleasures assured clients), so that all her sisters could benefit from nightly software and behavior updates.
In one advertisement, Mika Model glanced knowingly over her shoulder and simply asked:
“When has a relationship actually gotten better with age?”
And then she’d thrown back her head and laughed.
So it was all fake. Mika didn’t actually care about me, or want me. She was just running through her designated behavior algorithms, doing whatever it took to make me blush, and then doing it more, because I had.
Even though I knew she was jerking my chain, the lizard part of my brain responded anyway. I could feel myself being manipulated, and yet I was enjoying it, humoring her, playing the game of seduction that she encouraged.
“What do you need a lawyer for?” I asked, smiling.
She leaned forward, conspiratorial. Her hair cascaded prettily and she tucked it behind a delicate ear.
“It’s a little private.”
As she moved, her blouse tightened against her curves. Buttons strained against fabric.
Fifty-thousand dollars’ worth of A.I. tease.
“Is this a prank?” I asked. “Did your owner send you in here?”
“No. Not a prank.”
She set her Nordstrom bag down between us. Reached in and hauled out a man’s severed head. Dropped it, still dripping blood, on top of my paperwork.