"Touching," micro-fiction by David Gill

Overt at 365 Tomorrows, my friend Dave Gill of the "Total Dick-Head" blog posted a very short science fiction story that I found quite, well, touching. In fact, that's what it's called. From Touching:
NewImageThe voice woke Phil from a sound sleep.

“There’s a problem, Phil.”

He found himself in the midst of saying, groggily, “What is it?”

“Supply pressure, Phil. It’s too high.”

Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Phil was at the console correcting the problem.

“Thanks, Alice,” he said without thinking, without considering the remark’s irrelevance.

“Sure thing, Phil,” the machine responded, before once again performing a partial shutdown to save power. The next day, on impulse, Phil asked, “Alice, do you get lonely?”

“Phil, I am never alone. I was created to assist you, and I have been in your presence for the entirety of my 18 months of existence.”

“But I mean, you’re all alone,” Phil paused, searching for the right words, “in there.”

“Distance is irrelevant to the networked machine. In fact my essence is forever changing as I integrate data and other systems into my memory banks.”

“But what about touching?” Phil asked.

Read the rest


  1. “Thanks” isn’t just a pleasantry. It is polite for a reason (I am just realizing this, or making it up.) It signals the end of the exchange and success. It isn’t too hard to imagine a more complicated message being simplified to this for the convenience of the human and the information of the computer. 

  2. Why exactly does the AI want to touch him? The human desire for physical contact is an evolutionary adaptation that an AI wouldn’t have unless it had been programmed in, which is implied not to be the case.

  3. What’s quoted above, I thought  was the entirety of the story. End it at “What about touching?” and you’ve got an excellent  micro-fiction story. It leaves an loaded open ended question rife with possibilities that the remaining half of the short failed, somehow, to fulfill.

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