A.L.I.C.E.

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“But surely, Alice,” Dr. Bob Kaufman was saying. “You agree. There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”
Dr. Eve Steinhart observed the interaction from behind the one-way glass. She smiled. Alice continued to exceed their expectations, once again displaying her grasp of abstract concepts.
A.L.I.C.E, an acronym for Artificial Life Intelligent Computer Evolution, represented Eve’s life’s work and, from Eve’s perspective, humanity’s next exciting chapter.
Though Eve and her team had been responsible for developing Alice’s brain and nervous system, the task of making the sophisticated humanbot look, feel, and move like a human being had fallen to a small army of biologists, engineers, chemists, computer scientists, and various other consultants, all pioneers in their field. Each team had done a remarkable job. Alice looked, felt, moved, and behaved like a human. Take her reddish-brown hair. Fashioned from a revolutionary synthetic polymer, its texture, appearance, and consistency remained indistinguishable from real human hair.
Eve mused at the characterization, real human. What exactly did it mean to be a real human anyway? If Alice’s existence had done anything, it was to challenge the traditional concept of what it meant to be human.
In the past, such inherent abstractions were deemed the intellectual property of philosophers who, in boorish and pompous tirades, declared humanness encompassed a sense of identity: consciousness coupled with the ability to cultivate knowledge and learn from experience. Humans not only felt emotions, they analyzed them objectively and acted upon them purposefully. In short, they possessed an integral ingredient referred to as free will, the choice to act based on complex thought and reflection rather than simply succumbing to some preordained cosmic determinism.
Eventually, science had weighed in on the discussion as researchers from multiple disciplines tackled the true nature of intangibles like consciousness and free will. Most notable were advances in neuroscience arguing that humans are, in fact, not greater than the sum of their parts but instead a complex coupling and compilation of chemical reactions: each thought, feeling, emotion, and, ultimately, action, the direct by-product of neurons firing in the brain.
Alice’s very existence seemed to support the neuroscientists, though even they had once scoffed at the possibility of artificial intelligence ever possessing the defining qualities of humanness. But here Alice was in all her self-rejuvenating synthetic flesh and glory: a thinking, feeling, machine as self-aware as anyone Eve knew and, illusion or not, seemingly just as free to express her will as Eve.
Surprisingly, and much to the chagrin of the philosophers, making Alice human hadn’t been all that difficult. As it turned out, it was ego rather than insufficient intellect or ingenuity that had kept researchers from seeing the solution sooner. No one wanted to admit that humans weren’t especially special, but rather a series of random, albeit beneficial, mutations favored by natural selection over billions of years. Period. And if today's complex humans had originally evolved in the physical world from the chance interaction of non-living chemicals in a primordial soup, then why couldn’t artificial intelligence evolve from the same random though exponentially larger and faster interaction of digital components in a virtual world? That is the question that Eve, as an eager and enthusiastic graduate student, had asked herself, and one she spent the next forty years exploring.
Alice leaned forward and rested her slender forearms on the table. As always, she was dressed impeccably in a smart pant suit and practical brown leather pumps. “No, Bob. I would not agree,” she said.
Bob frowned. “Would you care to elaborate?”
Though the sessions were taped for later analysis, Eve made a point to always be behind the mirror. Alice was more than a thing to be objectively studied and analyzed. She was Eve’s creation, the fruit of her mind rather than her loins. She was like a daughter to Eve, whose dedication and passion for her research had left little time for a life outside of the laboratory, let alone a family.
And watching her progeny now, Eve was bursting with parental pride.
“Of course, Bob,” Alice answered. “Until Schrödinger’s box is opened there is an equal probability that the cat is both dead and alive. Before looking in the box, the cat exists in a state of superposition. It is only the act of looking, our observation, that forces one option to be true.”
“But that’s the point, dear,” Bob fired back, too quickly in Eve's opinion. “Schrödinger did not believe that superposition could work with large objects. To the contrary. The experiment is meant to show how preposterous the notion is.”
Alice raised a hand. Ticked her index finger at Bob. “Unless," she countered, "the moment the box is opened the cat and observer split into two parallel realities, one in which the cat lives and one in which the cat dies. In which case, the cat is both dead and alive.”
Bob stared at the humanbot with a sense of wonderment shared by Eve. “Well, I’ll be damned!” he cooed, slapping his thigh. “Kudos, my dear for thinking outside the box. Pun intended.”
Eve felt a rush of affection for her daughter. Three years old, and she was already showing a deep understanding of quantum theory. The possibilities for Alice and the technology that had given her life seemed limitless, and for a moment Eve felt like Yahweh from the Abrahamic creation myth.
Then again, hadn’t Yahweh punished another Eve because she dared eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? All-knowing, perhaps he probably realized that armed with knowledge, man, or woman, would eventually deem him obsolete. And hadn’t that been the case? Hadn’t science ensured the ultimate irrelevance of gods like Yahweh?
The irony was not wasted on Eve, who had not only dared to bite from the apple but to eat the whole damn thing. Then, endowed with knowledge, she created Alice.
The question remained. Would Alice, too, eventually prove her creator obsolete?
Yes or no?
Or…? Eve mused.
Maybe both.

About the Author: 
Shaun Taylor Bevins is a physical therapist and homeschooling mother of four humans, four cats, two dogs, and one horse. She enjoys reading and writing in equal measure when she's not treating patients or chauffeuring her kids around. She also loves science.