Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Once and Future Kevin

Few things that Kevin did were unplanned. He thought he was the anchor to his flighty wife Suzanne, the person who smoothed the way, anticipated all of life’s little difficulties. But Kevin was aware that one day he would die. What would Suzanne do without his helpful guidance?

He had heard of email systems which would send a missive at a future date of your own choice. Why not send a note from beyond the grave, perhaps every year, on her birthday? Kevin immediately fired up Word and began to draft. But what could he write? Being dead, he would know nothing of the news, or Suzanne’s predicaments. Perhaps he should compose nostalgic text, recalling their life and times together?

Honestly, he couldn’t summon up the energy.

Instead, he downloaded the ‘Eliza’ program, renamed it ‘Kevin’, and began to improve it. After some months, ‘Kevin’, running on a Google server, could: - access Google News; apply Kevin’s unique take on the world (Kevin had coded himself into the rules engine); and could potentially send emails to Suzanne and even somewhat understand any replies (which was roughly Kevin’s own level of personal competence).

To be on the safe side, ‘Kevin’ sent monthly emails to Kevin, and if Kevin were to miss two replies in a row, ‘Kevin’ would presume him dead and immediately switch to sending timely and relevant messages to his grieving widow.

To his great surprise, Kevin died.

Suzanne was initially quite discombobulated by her husband’s demise. Freed from his smothering routines, she now had to think for herself. After a few weeks she pulled herself together and joined the local tennis club. There she met the handsome and charismatic coach with whom she rapidly developed a warm and affectionate relationship. Coincidentally, he was also called Kevin.

Suzanne never did look at her old email account, sharing her new partner’s instead. She had never got on with computers anyway. All is change in the world of the Internet and ‘Kevin’ was soon off-line in one of Google’s periodic efficiency drives, dumped into archival storage.

But Kevin had one consolation: at least Google never truly forgot him.

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(c) Nigel Seel, 2015.

Afterword: Eliza (a nondirectional psychotherapist) would be interested in why I keep returning to this theme. For evidence I point you to my earlier story, 'Dave declares'.