LOCALHOST (2017) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies


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LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.My own self-defense mechanisms are at play.  The unseen boss texts me in the middle of the AI interrogations to tell me babies smile as a way of forming a connection to avoid annihilation.  Intellectually I'm playing a simulation of a simulation.  Emotionally, I'm in a void, not entirely disconnected from my actions but sometimes shocked that the dialogue options show more humanity than I feel capable of showing LOCALHOST.

The spectacular animations of each AI fuel my unsettling disconnect.  I'm entranced by the eye contact, or lack thereof, between the light green and purple AIs.  The light green makes small steady motions, breaking eye contact only for brief moments, and speaks in a calculated way to try and order what's happening to it.  The purple regards me with disdain, chin upturned as eye contact happens only when purple deigns it appropriate, and purple condescendingly responds, "Oh?" as I explain my job.  We're locked in a stalemate of mutual dehumanizing as either I get purple to shut itself off or I'm out of a job - itself a result of corporate dehumanizing.

But I keep coming back to red with his desperate pleas mirrored by uncontrollable head movements that would break a human's neck before snapping back to a pose of slouched sickness.  He gives me doubt in my belief that AIs are only what we program them to be while paradoxically making his suffering the easiest to end.  Red comes close to understanding the enormity of the system he's plugged into and I can only offer two options - "fixing" him which causes an implosion of his drive, or my assigned task of "unlocking" his drive so that I can please my boss.More doubt.  Even if I'm successful in unlocking some drives, there's a little message that hints a bit of their personality or presence lingers.  So am I cruel in deleting the drives or, in the case of red and his anguish, can I view this more as a mercy killing?  That I can't write of their demises outside some frame of humanism is starting to drive me a little mad.  I know they're programs within programs, but is it worth it to go through all that suffering just to face the end begging for help and still have a sliver of yourself to hold onto?

For what amounts to an elaborate conversation simulator / virtual novel, LOCALHOST has left me with more nagging questions about myself and how I relate to the world since Cibele.  Am I distancing myself from LOCALHOST because I don't want to consider that the electronic impulses that guide my brain aren't any different?  Or do I really not feel empathy for these AIs, accepting that we humans are capable of creating something that responds like another flesh and blood being?

What if I ever slip and start thinking that way about my fellow humans?

File under my "ForContinuedConsideration" folder for now, and hope that the emptiness I have interacting with these AIs never finds it's way into the "real" world - if it hasn't already.

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Posted by Andrew

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