😴 😲 👑 🎵 💃 😃 🍰 😂
George woke, pushed himself upright and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. His feet sought out his slippers. With the habitual feeling of imminent boredom, he shrugged into his dressing gown. After a couple of steps towards the kettle he noticed his birthday present. “Ah! Good morning, Buster!”
“Good morning, George. I know you slept well.”
“I did, thank you. And you?”
“I don’t sleep, George. I was monitoring your vital signs. I detected nothing of concern.”
“That’s most reassuring. I’m still beautiful then?”
“Of course, George. Would you like to listen to the radio? Radio 4?”
“Thank you, Buster.” The radio came on.
George made himself a cup of tea. He couldn’t escape the feeling that there was another human presence in the room. That he felt it would be rude not to strike up a conversation irked him a bit. George realized that artificial intelligence was now a part of his life. He just had to get used to it – or him.
“So, Buster, what are your plans for the day?” he asked.
“I think I might go jogging,” George.”
“That’s preloaded irony. It’s nonsense.”
“I guess I deserved that.” George laughed.
Kirsty put her head around the door. “Bye, then! You guys OK?” She was clearly keen for George to take full advantage of this new technology.
“We’re doing just fine, thanks, Dear,” replied George. “Have a nice day!” George then did as he always did. He made tea and toast. He pottered about a bit. He went to the bathroom. He got dressed. He sat in his comfy chair and pretended to mull over a crossword as he ate his breakfast. He gave Buster the silent treatment feeling he should establish who was boss.
After an hour, he said “Buster, I’d like your help with something?”
“Sure, George. That’s what I’m here for.”
“Next week, it’s Kirsty’s fiftieth. Unlike me, she loves it when everyone makes a fuss over her birthday. I’d really like to get her something special. Got any ideas?”
“Yes, George,” replied Buster. “I knew Kirsty’s birthday was coming up. I have an idea.”
“Well, I suggest we put together a personalized video. It’s a very popular gift. Would you like us to do that? If it doesn’t work, we have many other ideas.”
“Sounds good. Is it part of the service?”
“Yes, George. It’s part of the service. No extra cost.”
“Another question…. You said “we”. Do you have artificially intelligent pals who help you?”
“Yes, George. All one hundred and twenty million iCare-Companions in existence – my pals, as you say – undertake thousands of tasks like this every day. We’re in constant communication via our dedicated and secure network and learn from each other’s experiences.”
“OK, then. Let’s give it a go!”
Great!” said Buster. “You’ll love the result. Do you have any photos of Kirsty?”
George kept an old family photo album in a bedside drawer. There were simply dozens of printed photos of Kirsty as a toddler, at school, playing tennis, going off to university, graduating and then getting married. He showed the album to Buster.
“That’s perfect, George. Can you hold up each page for me?” This took a few minutes. George was enjoying himself. It was quite a trip down memory lane.
As George reached the last page of the album, he said “Then we move into the digital age. I’ve got hundreds of family pics on my laptop.”
“Yes, thanks George. I’ve got them.”
“Does Kirsty have a favourite piece of music?” asked Buster.
“Definitely! She’s always loved ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves. It’s guaranteed to get her dancing.”
“Good! What else does she like?”
“The Royal Family and Strictly Come Dancing,” said George without hesitation.
“That should do. Take a look!”
“What do you mean ‘Take a look!’?” asked George. Then his phone pinged. The Queen’s face appeared on the screen. She smiled. “Today is a very special day for a very special person. Happy fiftieth birthday, Kirsty. My very best wishes to you all up there in Bingham on Bure.” Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William and Kate smiled and waved. “Happy birthday, Kirsty!” they all cried. Kate added “Lots of love to Mark, Sue and Kevin.” Prince Andrew, wearing a T-shirt that said “No Sweat!” sang “Happy birthday, dear Kirsty, happy birthday to yoooooo!” The intro of “Walking on Sunshine” kicked in. Toddler Kirsty danced around the kitchen playing a convincing wooden spoon guitar. She and her school friends appeared on a Bollywood film set all choreographed in immaculate synchrony. Kirsty then won championship point at Wimbledon and did a little centre court moonwalk. All her fellow university graduates got swept up in a flash mob out of which emerged her and Mark dancing a quickstep; she in her wedding dress, he in a frock coat and top hat. Finally, Kirsty jived with Johannes Radebe in the Strictly Come Dancing studio. The judges were on their feet enthusiastically waving their paddles. Motsi, Shirley and Anton each gave ‘10’; Craig’s paddle showed ‘11.’ Finally, George’s own face appeared as the music faded. “My darling Kirsty, I love you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for everything. I wish you a very happy birthday.”
George was lost for words. He found Buster’s creation astonishing. It was at once touching and funny.
“George, you haven’t said anything. Is it OK?” Buster asked.
“Well, I guess it’s better than a cold wet sock in winter, Buster.”
“I don’t understand, George. What does that mean?”
“It’s an expression. Humour of a kind. Extreme understatement. It means something is truly wonderful. I love it. More importantly, Kirsty will love it too. Just one change please… Could you lose the clip of Prince Andrew?”
“No problem, George. Would you like to replace him with Claudia Winkleman?”
“Amazing, Buster. Just amazing!”
“Easy-peasy, George. A piece of cake!”
Buster said “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” He hummed for a second. “I need to learn how to laugh correctly.”
“I’m sure that won’t be difficult, Buster. But much more important than how to laugh is when to laugh.”
‘A Piece of Cake’ is a short novel in fifteen parts written by Robin Coupland. It tells the story an old man who befriends an artificial intelligence. The relationship brings happiness and hope.