Seong finished lighting the twelve candles stuck neatly into the small dark chocolate covered cake. It was a gesture that she knew he would like, a little inside joke between them. Perhaps joke was too strong a word, as she was not really capable of humor.
The routines and subroutines of her processors selected the gesture out of hundreds of possibilities. Her processors also selected the face she wore today. It was the same face she wore when Dr. Keith Hartman first activated her. It was the face that she calculated would make him the most happy. Her choices were, of course, unlimited.
During the eighty years since her activation, Seong had worn many different faces and combinations of hair styles, eye shape and color, and even bone structure. Her height and weight also changed many times over their years together. The current selection was the one he always seemed to enjoy the most. She moved silently toward him with the grace of a dancer.
“Happy birthday, Keith,” she said, in her soft silky voice. She had dropped the tone register down one half of an octave from the default tone. It was the range he most often preferred. Her processors also selected the dress she wore, a cobalt blue dress with a short pleated skirt. Her plunging neckline was accented with a single strand of pearls around her neck.
Dr. Hartman was relaxing in his favorite buttery leather chair. The mahogany colored leather covered a complex mechanism that could be shifted into a multitude of configurations, including a fully reclined bed. He was now sitting up, the chair showing a minimal tilt backwards. His long gray hair hung neatly past his shoulders. He faced the floor to ceiling windows overlooking a placid turquoise lake. The surrounding mountains wore a cap of brilliant white snow.
He sat quietly, watching the two landscaping synths as they planted a large Fuji apple tree in the orchard below. They moved rapidly, faster than any human, and the task was completed in minutes. They started filling the depression around the tree with water from a long hose. They quickly moved closer to the lake and efficiently removed an older apple tree that had aged beyond its productive years.
Seong pushed a hidden button on the chair and unfolded the small table, placing it over his lap. Setting the cake on the table, she smiled and knelt down in front of him. “Do you want to make a wish?”
Hartman’s new hazel eyes shifted from the workmen to the cake. Counting the candles, a slight smile of recognition transformed his usually stoic expression.
“Twelve candles, Seong? You made a little joke?”
Seong replied, “Yes. You see, I moved the decimal point one place.”
“It is not a good joke, Seong, if you have to explain it.”
Her smile disappeared. “Forgive me, Keith. I only meant to please you.”
“It is alright, Seong.” He blew out the candles. “I now see it was a good little joke. I am pleased.”
Her smile returned. “Would you like some ice cream? I can make some pistachio with hot fudge sauce.”
“Yes, I would like that. Thank you.”
“It is my pleasure,” she lied. Seong was not capable of feeling pleasure, or any other human emotion.
She was quite capable of producing the micro facial movements that signaled pleasure, or any expression in the range of emotions, recognizable by humans. She rose gracefully and moved toward the kitchen. Once she was out of his sight, she moved into high speed. Her movements would be a blur to human eyes. She returned within seconds with a small bowl of the ice cream, and set it next to the cake.
“Would you like us to sing to you?”
Hartman looked bake up toward the lake. He thought of the time when he was little boy, perhaps seven or eight, when his parents and older brother and sister sang to him on his birthday. It was a tradition that brought melancholy over the years. Yet it still was a tradition, one of the few that survived the decades.
He answered, “Yes. That would be nice.”
Seong blinked her eyes as she sent the message. Within a few seconds, the room was filled with seven more service synths. They all wore party hats and smiles on their faces. They all began to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in a pitch perfect eight-part harmony. Hartman finally smiled, his memories integrating with the present experience. When the song was over, the seven bots clapped and quietly left the room.
“That was very nice, Seong. Thank you.”
“Is there anything else you would like?” she asked.
“Just sit with me here, while I eat.”
She pulled up a chair and sat next to him, her hand gently stroking the back of his head. As he ate, he looked down at the landscapers as they cleaned up the fallen dead leaves from the grassy lawn.
“Autumn is coming,” he said, mostly to himself, as she was capable of tracking the seasonal changes down to the microsecond.
Autumn had come for humans decades ago. Dr. Keith Hartman had once been recognized as the savior of mankind. As an inventor, he had amassed a fortune, becoming the wealthiest man on the planet. His first major breakthrough was the development of the Hartman graphine battery, an infinitely rechargeable power source that eliminated the need for fossil fuels, atomic power plants, or any other energy source, except for the sun.
His solar energy converter, the one he named The Sol Source, was the most efficient system to gather energy from the sun. It worked under the cloudiest of skies. Combined with the Hartman batteries, even the poorest people had free energy. The world changed overnight. Politics, wars, and even national boundaries were becoming unnecessary. Certainly the change did not come peacefully at first.
Hartman deeply regretted the tremendous loss of life that occurred, as the last vestiges of power-hungry men fought the changes, trying to retain their influence over their dominions. It was the people themselves who rebelled.
They called it the Ten Year War. It was the last World War. A few rogue nations had launched several nuclear weapons, until the rulers were finally overthrown by the people. Iran had fired a nuclear warhead toward Israel, destroying Tel Aviv in a blinding instant. Israel retaliated, destroying Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and the city of Tehran, along with its leaders. The people of Japan and North Korea suffered the greatest losses. China’s vast population was decimated. Hartman ordered that his synthetic humans would bear Asian characteristics, in his homage to the losses those people endured.
The radiation sickness continued to take its toll on humans across the world for almost a decade, until Hartman’s pharmaceutical companies developed a cure. The same cure also eliminated previously recalcitrant diseases. The people of the world gradually began to reshape themselves, socially and politically.
Hartman used his financial resources to create millions of synths, as the synthetic humanoid robots were called. All stages of food production soon became automatized, and world hunger was eliminated. Food waste became a thing of the past. Some of the synths were designed to manufacture, repair, and replicate themselves, and the manufacturing costs of synths dropped dramatically.
Inadequate housing was no longer a problem, partly due to the reduction in population, and partly due to the ability of the synths to quickly construct and repair homes. Apartments were replaced with individually occupied homes on their own plots of land. The need for money slowly diminished. Poverty was essentially eliminated.
Some predicted that the world’s population would expand exponentially, but the opposite happened. The open source programming that Hartman’s company developed, allowed those with rudimentary computer skills to modify the synths to their own preferences. Soon, companion synths became the norm. Men often created synths that were bereft of the unfathomable and ineffable human female mind. Women created synths that did not possess the often annoying traits of human males. People created their perfect partners, who could adapt to the moods and desires of their owners.
Men lost the need for male bonding and friendships with other men. Women lost the need for girlfriends, as the synths provided all they needed. The frustrations and turmoil of human relationships began to disappear. The need for marriage evaporated. People stopped having children, as synths could be created that represented any stage of human growth, satisfying the maternal instincts of those who still had them. People delighted in synth children that caused very little trouble, and had an off switch. Perhaps, most importantly, there was no need for diapers.
Family relationships became a distant memory. One could create the perfect family unit, without the emotional baggage, jealousies, abuse, or neglect found in human families. These synth family members also had convenient off switches.
Air travel had become streamlined and economical with the advent of electric powered personal aircraft. These became used infrequently, as people had less need or desire to travel. Virtual reality devices could take one anywhere in the world.
Crime took a little longer to disappear. A number of humans still existed who thrived on preying upon others. The ending of poverty had little effect on those creatures. Some of these miscreants tried to form gangs using synths, but the unbreakable root coding in their circuits prevented synths from harming humans or each other.
A new form of policing began to develop. Most human activity was now recorded by the ever present synths. Special police synths had the abilities to thoroughly examine crime scenes, analyze the data almost instantaneously, and search the vast databases of human characteristics, histories, and recordings to find the perpetrators. Courts, judges, and attorneys were obsolete. Justice was swift.
Drug abuse and alcoholism faded away. The demand for these substances diminished as new treatments efficiently modified the thinking and behaviors of addicts. It also helped that the supply of drugs was effectively stopped by the new police synths.
Hartman mostly regretted the transformation of the system of work. Most jobs and careers were eliminated. Even his companies began to require fewer human employees. For some, the disappearance of the drudgery of menial, boring, and repetitive jobs, was seen as a godsend. For others, the pursuit of success was forever changed, as the need for achievement, at the expense of others, no longer made sense. Envy, pride, and greed lost their motivational influence. The leisure class of humans became ubiquitous.
Food sources were purified with the elimination of pesticides and harmful fertilizers. Everyone had access to unlimited quantities of quality nutrition. If desired, they could consume offerings of previously decadent desserts and snacks without guilt or negative consequences.
As human diseases began to be conquered, life spans increased. Individual physicians were no longer necessary as medical synths with powerful computers could diagnose and treat illness without error. The demand for replacement parts and organs exploded, as the remaining population aged. Synthetic organs and replacement parts were easily manufactured on demand. Often, even complicated medical procedures could be performed in the comfort of one’s home. Personal synths could be easily reprogrammed to manage post surgical care and rehabilitation.
Hartman, over the years, had most of his joints refurbished. His ailing heart was replaced with a more efficient synthetic version, as had most of his internal organs. Even his eyes were new, and they were far superior to his original ones. His could see a much wider range of wavelengths, and he could zoom in to distant objects with ease. His eyes’ microscopic features opened up a new world of formerly invisible matter.
Only death had not been conquered. Hartman had secretly hoped that there would be a resurgence of peaceful religious practices without the corrupting influence of organized religion. Early in his life, he developed a belief in a personal relationship with the Lord, and he tried to follow the teachings of Jesus. Much of his resources were devoted to charitable work, which is why he gave away his technology to the people of the world. He had hoped that, through his example, others would come to the loving tenants of his beliefs.
It was not to be. If anything, people lost the need for God, as their suffering was overcome. It was only toward the ends of their lives, that they began to develop a spiritual interest.
One of his last acts was to have his programmers install a set of religious algorithms into the cognitive circuits of the synths. In their interactions with humans, they subtly promoted loving actions toward others, and their behaviors exemplified the best teachings Hartman believed in.
He felt heartened that racial and ethnic tensions gradually diminished, as fear and envy were no longer part of the human experience. Old animosities died a long death, but they were eventually replaced by individual self absorptions. A new breed of narcissism emerged.
Any sense of community service or communal activity was seen as foolish and bothersome. The synths provided for any desired social recreation, and they demanded nothing in return. They only needed to be plugged in to a power source, or be exposed to the sun to recharge.
Hartman finished his cake and ice cream. Seong continued to stoke his hair until he was finished. She quietly removed the empty plate.
“Would you like your massage?” she asked.
“Yes, that would be nice.”
Seong had been programmed for all variants of massage, and her technique had adapted to Hartman’s needs. She could eliminate all of his aches and pains with deft facility. When the massage ended, she removed her clothing. She knew how to elicit maximum pleasure from his ancient body.
When she was finished, Hartman lay still in silent reverie. Seong selected a meditative musical composition, and the sounds enveloped him from all sides. He smiled, thinking maximum pleasure from minimal effort. It was something he had hoped to provide the world.
Seong got dressed and connected with Uninet, the world wide communication platform that provide free, instantaneous communication, and unbiased accurate information containing the whole corpus of human knowledge. Inaccurate or biased information was quickly erased.
The connection was wireless, and she no longer had the need for a separate console. She sent out the daily RFC, the Request for Contact. Worldwide, every living human’s communication implant would respond automatically with a ping. It had been programmed several years ago, as a way to keep track of where people were, and the state of their health.
Seong waited several minutes, much longer than needed, as the responses were almost instantaneous. Hartman was watching her, knowing what she was doing.
“I am sorry,” she said, although she was incapable of sorrow. “There are still no responses.”
It had been that way for more than a year.
Hartman knew it had always been the problem of good intentions. They resulted in unintended and often unforeseen consequences.
He sat up in his chair and took a final look at his beloved lake. Seong sat quietly next to him, stroking his hair once again. He took her other hand in his and closed his eyes.
“Goodbye, Seong,” he whispered.
He took one final breath, and his body stopped functioning. The household synths were alerted to his death.
Seong stood up and sent a message to the home synths. Two of the synths came in and prepared the lifeless body. They washed him and dressed him in his finest suit. They gently placed him inside a graphine casket, and sealed it shut.
The home synths carried the casket to the open grave that had just been dug by the landscape synths. They lowered the casket into the hole and covered it with dirt. Seong stood silently watching their activities. When they were finished, one of the home synths handed her a large titanium head stone.
Seong carefully placed the head stone at the edge of the grave. She stood back and read the four line inscription.
Dr. Keith Hartman
The man who ended humanity
The final human
The man who saved the world