I used to get recurring calls from a certain telemarketer. After saying “no thank you” and hanging up a few days in a row, I asked her to take me off her call list. It was quickly apparent that I was being called by a recording. “She” would respond when I said “yes” or “no,” but not when I said “take me off your call list” or “customer service” or “are you a recording?” These days it’s still fairly easy to tell when you are talking to a program. But…what if it wasn’t?
In this slightly chilling tale, telemarketer Amanda starts to wonder if she is a real person or if she is just a self-aware AI. Can memories be programmed? How far would someone go to gaslight a robot? The story is told from the point of view of Amanda’s supervisor, Turing, who assures her that “You’re as real as I am.”
Turing is a reference to Alan Turing and the Turing Test, which brings a whole other element to this story: Can you, the observer, tell which characters might be machine or human?
The writing style changes in the last section of this story in a way I found jarring; but at that point it is a short trip to the end, and the style change makes sense once you’ve read it. Throughout the piece Dixon creates a consistent mood which, together with excellently woven emotions, is why this is my favorite Daily SF story from this week.