Balana sits on the couch in her sweatpants eating chocolate. She watches the same Dr. Who episode she watched the night before. Observing her behavior, her CARE unit determines she is sad. When it asks what is wrong, Balana tells it, “Nothing.” But her voice quivers.
The CARE unit has been programmed to take care of its owner and initiates its SAD protocol, which involves hot chocolate and a blanket. These actions, the CARE unit tells the reader, have resulted in an average in 37.34% improvement from sadness in the past.
Today, however, it doesn’t seem to help at all. Balana is crying. It asks again what is wrong. She tells it something heard on the news has upset her.
The CARE unit scans newsfeeds. It notes a mandatory immediate recall of all models of CARE units. This must be what has upset Balana. It performs a self-diagnostic and tells her it is operating at peak efficiency and is unaffected by processing flaws.
There is a knock at the door.
While reminiscent of I, Robot, this story is not anything like Asimov’s. It asks questions about dependence on artificial intelligence. Interesting that the depression displayed by the one human who appears for any length in the story is almost an infantilization of humanity. What does Balana do for a living? How does she afford a CARE unit? Where is her family? Granted, in the space allotted the story, there isn’t room to explore these avenues.
Nevertheless, when faced with impending loss, she turns for solace not to girlfriends, but physical comforts, television, and, eventually, an artificial intelligence device.
The good thing about artificial intelligence devices is that they stay on mission. Of course, the bad thing about artificial intelligence devices is that they stay on mission.
I like this story.
According to his blurb, author Eric S. Fomley is from Indiana and member of the Codex Writers’ Group. His fiction publications include Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree Press, and many other anthologies and magazines. His website (https://ericfomley.com) refers to him as a “professional speculative fiction writer” and notes that he has qualified for membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).
Author: Eric S. Fomley
First published: Daily Science Fiction, April 24, 2019
The story can be read here.