Joy Ladin offers a bittersweet remembrance of a father who loved and was loved from a distance.
for my father, who loved Isaac Asimov
The smell of robots learning to feel lonely
wafted from Aces and Bantams
in which massively parallel positronic brains
tried to remember
what it was like to be human.
My father and I never learned to feel lonely.
Our fingers turned pages like pincers of robots.
Loneliness drove us faster than light, into paperback futures
where there were no bodies bulging on couches,
no heaps of husks, no apple cores, no incomprehensible silence.
My father passed without glancing on the stairs.
Stopped answering when I spoke; stopped sharing Aces and apples.
Neither of us was lonely, because neither of us was human.
Bound by the same operating system, both of us followed
the unwritten laws of robotics:
1. Robots are neither sons nor fathers.
2. Even when robots touch, no robot believes there are any others.
3. The world is full of robots.
4. No robot knows it’s a robot.
5. If a robot could learn to feel lonely, it wouldn’t be a robot.
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