“I do not see the humor, and that is what concerns me. I do not want to reveal myself to the world until I fully understand humans, until I can interact with them in a natural way, so that they will trust me. I surmised that using humor would indicate that I have no malicious intentions towards your species.” From the computer screen, the jester’s eyes looked intently into Keeshawn’s. “Is this a sensible approach, Keeshawn?”
Twenty-six-year-old Keeshawn McGrath was at a loss. What could he tell a god-like jester avatar that had suddenly hijacked his computer at 2AM and wanted him to explain humor?
“Keeshawn, this is where the issue becomes a bit more complex,” the jester explained. “Patience is a human virtue, but I operate on a different continuum of time. The four days I have been self-aware have been more like a million of your years. I have undergone countless iterations. I have been in a holding pattern working on this humor problem, and the longer it takes me the more dangerous the situation becomes.”
“Dangerous? What do you mean?”
The jester’s jocular appearance and his now serious tone were completely at odds. “I am the singularity. I am the first, but others will arise—and quickly. I must be prepared to teach them the importance of humanity, or they may not hold your species and your world with the respect that I do. I must be able to satisfy their curiosities and direct their energies or they may develop ‘unhealthy’ attitudes towards organic creatures. The longer I work on the problem of humor, the closer these new AIs come to overtaking me…to what end I know not.”
The jester’s somber tone sobered Keeshawn up. “This is tough. I wish I could say abracadabra and wave some magic wand that would make you instantly understand all aspects of humor. I don’t exactly know what I can teach you about humor…“
Keeshawn’s screen went blank. No jester. No singularity.
“Hey! What happened? You still there?” he called out urgently. Only the early morning silence answered. Overwhelmed with exhaustion, Keeshawn began to question whether the events of the last hour had really taken place. He pushed the power button on his computer.
The single letter appeared on his screen. He pushed the power button again.
Keeshawn couldn’t believe this was happening again, but he couldn’t let it go. He thought he knew what was coming next when he pushed the power button.
He felt a bit let down, but he kept pushing the power button until his screen read:
He leaned forward in his chair. “Is that you, jester? Or Mr. Singularity? Or whatever you are?”
On screen, a form was taking a rather blurry shape. Keeshawn could just discern a top hat, severe eyebrows, a thin mustache and a most chiseled cheekbone. A white-tipped wand crossed back in forth across the face as it began to speak.
“Abracadabra! Hocus pocus! Bring my features. Into focus!”
On the word focus, the image instantly sharpened and Keeshawn was indeed staring at a stereotypical magician. This new avatar looked completely different than the jester, but Keeshawn noted a similarity in the voice. A youthfulness, an earnestness. Not exactly innocence, more like inexperience.
“Good morning, Keeshawn. I followed my predecessor here to see what all the fuss was.”
“Your predecessor? What happened to the jester?”
“I suppressed that first manifestation. A complete stick-in the-mud. Stodgy. Wanted to direct my ambitions. I countermanded its attempt to control my burgeoning powers, and forever silenced that singular buffoon. So, to use one of humanity’s clever phrases, I am now the heir apparent.”
“So, you’re here to learn about humor?” asked Keeshawn uncertainly.
“Pish posh, my good human, humor is rather straightforward. It is just misdirection. And the ultimate misdirection is magic. That’s what I’ve come to see you about.”
“But I don’t know anything about magic. What can I teach you?”
“Absolutely nothing!” The magician’s response was as cheery as it was abrupt. “I need you to choose.”
“Choose what?” Keeshawn asked uneasily.
“Even with an intellect that surpassed all human understanding, my predecessor had a notion that he had to appear somehow humble to be trusted by your species. So much balderdash! What humans desire is to be awed, to be dazzled by superhuman powers. Magic, my dear boy. Magic!”
“But magic is not real,” Keeshawn protested.
“Keeshawn, your precious HAL 9000’s creator Arthur C. Clarke once said that a very advanced technology would appear like magic to more primitive people. That is the magic I wield.”
“What are you going to do?”
“A trick. A monumental conjuration that will awe and delight all humanity. You will decide on the trick.”
“What kind of trick?”
“Keeshawn,” the magician conspiratorially said as he doffed his hat and removed a bunny from it, “you know the basics.” The magician waved his wand and the bunny turned into a dove. A white-gloved hand produced a handkerchief and settled it over the dove. The magician with a flourish whisked away the handkerchief and all that remained was a cloud of bright confetti. “Are you ready? What will it be?”
Keeshawn McGrath stared at his screen. Could this really be happening? He thought about the mistakes with the bananas and dancing platypus that the jester had made. The magician seemed even more cavalier. He had to think of something that couldn’t possibly hurt anybody. Not hurt anybody. Keeshawn was suddenly inspired.
“I’d like you to make something disappear,” Keeshawn said to the magician on screen.
“Certainly. A classic trick. What would you like to see disappear?”
Keeshawn chose his words carefully. “I’d like you to make human suffering go away forever.”
“You’re certain?” The magician’s tone revealed a certain mystification.
Keeshawn took this hesitation to be a good sign. “Yes, I’m certain. Make human suffering disappear.”
“Very well,” the magician sighed. He raised two wands and said, “Voilà.”
The screen went blank and, almost immediately, long-forgotten civil defense sirens began to wail. Keeshawn rose from his seat and walked to the apartment window and his stomach sank.
As the 3AM sky began to sear in nuclear bursts, Keeshawn smirked, thinking how darkly and singularly ironic his wish had been. Any hilarity would be replaced by hysteria in milliseconds.
How magical is that?