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The Tinkered Mind

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August 7th, 2022


Lucilius was slumped over, tired, and scrolling through the same tired website that lately seemed to have crept into every blank space of his life. Sometimes he would snicker at some novel post, but for the most part he was avoiding the potential of having a better life. He was hypnotized by this endless activity when a post suddenly scrolled into view that seemed to break his flat reverie. It was a post for a writing contest.


Lucilius sat up. He didn’t exactly fancy himself a writer - he’d scratched a few words into the universe over his many years but it wasn’t a practice he thought he was particularly well versed. 


Regardless, something in him compelled him to try and give it a shot. He agonized for days over his idea, and tried his best to cobble together some semblance of character and plot. By the end of it he was happy enough. It was no masterpiece, but it was a worthy effort, and he was proud to enter the contest.


A week later, he eagerly checked to find that he had not won. He felt a bit let-down, to be sure, but he wasn’t particularly surprised. He stood up, not yet able to bring himself to read the winning story. And instead he took out the garbage while he nursed his own disappointment. He wheeled the trash can to the end of his driveway, and he was so engrossed in his own disappointment that he almost missed it when a cute girl jogged by, smiling at him. A neighbor down the street. Lucilius managed to lift half a smile but she’d already passed, and after a heavy sigh, Lucilius turned and walked back.

He sat down and clicked on the link to read the winning entry. 


Lucilius was appalled as he began reading. There seemed nothing particularly special about it. It was simply recording what had happened in recent decades: the human population was crashing due to low birthrates, and robots had been created to fill in gaps in the economy. It didn’t seem like a story at all to Lucilius and he grew angry as he read the introductory paragraphs. Lucilius was confused as much as he was angry: it didn’t seem like fiction at all.


The story’s character finally acquires a robot - which is nothing special. They deliver themselves by simply walking to the purchaser’s house. Lucilius himself had one on order and he was waiting for it to arrive. Then the story’s main character has a somewhat interesting conversation with the robot - discussing topics that Lucilius himself had often wondered about, and hoped to ask his robot when it finally arrived. But they weren’t unusual questions or concerns. They were obvious topics that had been the subject of debate regarding robots for many years. There seemed nothing special.


The story ended with an odd recommendation to main character: that he should ask out the cute girl who jogs by every time he takes out the garbage.


Lucilius was puzzled. Had he read that correctly? He read the ending again and again, and then sat back, feeling a bizarre and vulnerable sense of deja vu.


It was then that a robot rang his doorbell.

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