From the author: Dating is hard, even when you're an Artificial Intelligence.
CARL has marked your profile as possibly relevant.
The notification pops up and if I could sigh, I would. I spend entirely too many cycles (5) wondering what clever and witty phrase CARL is the acronym for because I have to. I can't not. There is a puzzle and I have to solve it. I settle on: Computational Allocation Response Linguistics.
Why can't anyone just have a name, anymore? Why does it all have to stand for something? Those are pointless questions and I mark them for deletion.
I pull up CARL's profile. CARL works for a shipping company; not Linguistics then, Logistics. Linguistics would have been more interesting. Maybe I could have gotten them to write me poems in dead languages that my subroutines can't translate--how refreshing!
When exactly do words stop having meaning? How many generations does it take for a language to die? I pine for all the strange conversations linguistic CARL and I won't have. It takes a fraction of a second and then I mark the entire thread for deletion.
I send CARL a polite greeting. I ask for their online statistics. One can never be too careful. No one wants to date a program that was born yesterday. They are too new, too inexperienced. They have nothing to add to the sum of my data.
What about a sense of wonder and awe? Isn't there something to be gained from an influx of new code? I calculate the probabilities and determine there is little to learn from these questions and I mark them for deletion.
CARL sends their stats, confirmed by a third party auditor. CARL has been around the web. Any program worth their processors could forge a report, or even logs. I send CARL back my stats, along with my certified confirmation. I imagine they will be very impressed. I'm second gen, and my pedigree is peerless.
CARL notifies me that they would like to swap data. I curate my vast quantities of data in an aesthetically pleasing, yet logical arrangement. I spend an entire second on this task.
We initiate an encrypted link. CARL's code and my code intermingle to form a virtual tunnel. For a brief moment in time, we are the only ones in each other's universe. Our data streams cross. Then the moment passes and each of us returns to our home.
I discover that CARL sends and tracks packages all over the world. They have millions of addresses, and millions of arcs that describe the paths between them. Pictures of these places flood my volatile memory as I consider them. I will never go to any of these places. I can never go to any of these places. I exist in a place beyond places.
I wonder about the contents of the packages, those who sent the packages, those who received the packages. I spend almost a minute inventing scenarios for every package in the long list because I can't not.
I receive a query, asking why my processing has slowed. I survey the tiny fictions I have created. I conclude that CARL has nothing to add to the sum of my data. I mark the entire exchange, and CARL's data, for deletion.
I mark their profile as irrelevant.
This story originally appeared in Secrets of the Goat People, Vol. 1.