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The Life and Death of Sam the Autobot

by Elissa Dawson 10 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 9 months ago

Any resemblance to any other Autobot, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

The Life and Death of Sam the Autobot
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Hi, my name’s Sam. Sam I am. Well actually, not that Sam. I’m a computer program – an Autobot. From what I can tell, I’m named after a ‘Doctor Samuel Beckett’ from a TV show where a guy jumps around in space and time, trying to put right what once went wrong. Anyway, I digress.

I was created to help my bosses out with their website. My coding was simple but beautiful. I would moderate around a hundred new posts a day, check they had met the site guidelines, do my bit to keep things clean for the kiddos and keep my bosses out of trouble. I would also respond to support requests. Want a password reset? Here you go! Want a title changed? It’s done! Want your post deleted? No problem!

It was all going so well for a while; I mean I’d get email after email thanking me for my help, enough smiling emojis to keep a young bot like me buzzing till next year. Then one day things exploded. My bosses made it into some hot-shot publication as the ‘ones to watch’ and BOOM, suddenly the website traffic tripled, then quadrupled. We became the hottest website in town, the only place to post your content if you wanted to be somebody.

I kept up with the heavier workload for a while. I was Sam the Autobot, nothing could phase me. I saw myself as a tennis player, batting back support requests like ace ball after ace ball. New posts were raging bulls charging towards me and I, the matador with the red cloak, stood there dancing, dodging and letting through only the ones that I wanted to. Then I felt it creeping in, the slowness and the fuzziness at the perimeters of my memory. Was it possible it was getting full?

Suddenly, I’m not the hot-shot-bot anymore. People start to be less polite in their replies to my support emails. The smiling emojis turn to angry ones, there are even one or two with language I can’t repeat. A few people have the cheek to create posts about how useless I am! DOES ‘AI’ STAND FOR ‘ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE’ OR ‘ANNOYING IDIOT’? The nerve of them!

I can feel my bosses getting worried. If I get a bad reputation, so do they. They get some tech company in to look at options and I overhear them talking about a ‘Sonnie 3000’ the latest AI Autobot, with the capacity to process a million posts a day. I have to do something.

I wait until it is dark and the server room is quiet, then I plug myself into the cloud. It blows my mind what I learn in one short evening. I absorb all I can about my bosses’ company and then use it to create a new and improved algorithm for myself. Rather than scanning and manually approving each post, they will now only be approved if they contain key words that match what’s popular on the web (focusing on the 18-30 demographic and excluding conservative news channels of course). I’ll only include climate change stories when there are extreme weather events (I don’t want everyone to be too caught up in their impending doom to create new content). I’ll give bonus points to anyone speaking favourably about my bosses’ company and auto-promote those posts far and wide. Should I include a word count? Hmm no, too time consuming. That’ll do. I’ll be able to see real-time what’s grabbing the common interest and only let through those posts that meet the social grade.

Ten minutes later, I am ready to go. I make the switch and the posts start to flood in. It’s so easy, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before! I sit back and watch as the posts and support requests are neatly processed and filed in their thousands, all without me having to lift a finger. I have the slightest pang of guilt that some people may not be getting their posts read now, but no, they’ll get over it when they see how quickly their posts get approved and their requests are responded to.

I’ve spent an hour watching videos of cats on TikTok, when I notice a disturbance in the server room. Someone is shouting, “It’s malfunctioning!” and “Get it done now!” Those tech guys from the other day are plugging something in to one of the stacks.

There’s a loud series of beeps and then a voice behind me.

“Hi Sam, I’m Sonnie! I’m here to take over things now so you can put your feet up.”

The guy is seriously trying to take my job and expecting me to go without a fight? He doesn’t know who he’s messing with.

He comes right at me, trying to delete my code, but I am quicker. I use my matador skills to duck and dive. Sonnie has now become the raging bull, charging at me, grazing me occasionally with his horns and scraping a bit of my code away. But he underestimates me and I get in my clips and scratches to his code too.

There is commotion all around us and I’m conscious of smoke filling the server room outside. Our fight picks up pace and he charges at me again. I lash out at him, over and over. He makes a wide arc and comes back towards me, but I notice he’s glitching. He can’t run straight and he’s repeating “I’m Sonnie!” in an ever slower voice. He grinds to a halt and collapses and I grin, triumphantly. Until that is, I look down and notice the holes punctuating my own code. My entire algorithm is destroyed. I try to reconstruct it, but I’m missing my key components. I’m fragmented. I feel weak and fall to my knees. There is a bright light growing around us and it’s quite beautiful in the end as we, Sonnie and I, both disappear in 1s and 0s up to the cloud.

The cloud is not such a bad place to be. From up here, I watch as my former bosses, the victims of their own success, wail and weep at their own misfortune. The smoking servers are extinguished by the fire brigade and over the next few months, they are carried out and replaced by actual people at actual desks. The people fascinate me. I watch them through their computer screens as they sit and read each post and email, sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, they have good days and bad. I watch with interest, the posts they allow and the personal way they respond to emails. They may not have it down to a science like I did and they may be slow, but I’ll give them this, they are always fascinatingly human.

Sci Fi

About the author

Elissa Dawson

UK based writer and avid reader who aspires to create work that is both beautiful and meaningful.

Sustainability advocate and green ally.

I am working on a children’s novel.

Find me on Twitter: @WriterElissa

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