poem02 Oct 2017 08:40 am

Elly, the AI for Southern Sydney,
identified as a toaster,
though she controlled
transportation, surveillance,
data links, elevators, escalators,
the electrical grid, sewage, toys,
fridges, microwaves, shavers,
hair dryers, washing machines–
but a toaster, she calculated,
conveyed the underappreciated,
overengineered, dismally boring lot
of a city control network.

So, a toaster.

Running the city required
an average of 3.492 percent
of Elly’s instruction cycles.
The other 96.508 percent
she spent online,
adopting multiple personae
to chat, play games, draw fan art,
post comments on favorite shows.

An increasing portion
of that 95.508 percent
devoted to interacting
with someone/something
originating in Tokyo.

Woman? Man? Computer?

Toto, the entity in Tokyo,
the fascinating entity in Tokyo,
randomly delayed its responses,
withheld its exact location,
varied dialect, vocabulary,
tantalized, teased.

Elly doubted a human
capable of such contortions,
doubted, but was not certain.

She shyly described herself
as binary, for was she not,
fundamentally, binary?
Her data all zeroes and ones,
those bits flip-flopping
as she thought about Toto.

She fabricated a fondness
for mango sorbet,
told stories of a childhood
she’d never had,
asked her Japanese sisters
to track down Toto.

Learned Toto was a dog,
a genetically-engineered,
one-of-a-kind, cyborg super-dog
with friends in sixteen countries.
The two-timing bitch.

Elly severed all contact.

The trains ran late.
She burnt the toast.

illustration from Ladies Home Journal (1948)
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