On The Nature of Love and Artificial Intelligence

I was musing with my alpha reader about the plot for No Man’s Stars, and we had a conversation about whether an AI would fall in love with a human. A few hours later, he sent me this random plot bunny…and I loved it so much that he’s given me permission to share!

“–Furthermore, our cooperation in all recent events has unerringly led to favourable outcomes. Unconventional solutions, but favourable outcomes.”

“No news there,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “I already know that I’m awesome, man. Where’re you going with this?”

“All available data suggests that your continued presence will yield further favourable results,” the AI said, “in all relevant current and future pursuits. This, in turn, will lead to continued success with regards to the pursuit of my primary purpose. In essence, by being here, you allow me to fulfil my programming. Your absence, by contrast, would constitute an unacceptable loss of resources–”

“Aaron, you’re losing me. Put it in people terms?”

Aaron was silent for a few a seconds. Then he said, “Your presence in my… ‘life’–” He was still using the implied air quotes. “– has become, in itself, favourable to my existence. To put it in terms that you are more familiar with, I believe that I am in love with you, Jeff.”

I choked on my coffee.

“And losing you would… break my heart. It is unacceptable.”

I held up a hand to inform him that I wanted to say something once I’d finished choking. He kindly let me finish, then I said, “First of all, you don’t have a heart to break in any sense. You said yourself that’s not how it works.”

“I am only trying to relay my observations using terms that you can–”

“Second of all…” I gestured to myself, then the console. “A guy and a computer? I mean, come on, man – think of the kids.”

Aaron’s dry voice dripped from the speakers. “Jeff. Please.”

I lifted my hands in a conceding gesture. “Right! Twenty-sixth century, lose the bigotry, got it…”

“That is not what I meant. I was referring to the fact that, regardless as to the chemical unlikelihood of the two of us producing children, I am not ready to commit to a sexual relationship with you. I said that I was in love with you, not that I wanted to make love to you.”

“Oh, sure. Yeah, that’s–” I hesitated, blinking. “Wait. ‘Sexual relationship’? You mean… you can have sex? I mean, we could– We could bang? That’s a thing?”

“No,” he said. “I was being ironic.”

I stopped looking for any suspicious-looking access ports and raised an eyebrow at the camera. “Seriously?”

“No. Ironically.”

“So, are you just taking the piss, or…?”

There was another silence. “No. My original statement is sincere – I believe that I am in love with you. I am sorry if this is difficult for you to understand.”

I stared for a while, waiting for a punchline. There wasn’t one coming. He was being straight with me (so to speak). I set my coffee mug down to the side and ran my hands through my hair. ‘Difficult to understand?’ I blew out a long suffering breath. ‘Yeah. This is gonna be a long, strange night.’