By Hong Daejin
1. The Strange Dream
A strange dream kept coming to my mind. I was surrounded by gray walls, and I was floating in the air. I tried my best to escape from there but my body didn’t seem to move. “Clink…Clank…Clock…” I was hanged on the ceiling. More precisely I was hanged upward. All I could see was ropes surrounding me and a dim light in a distant. At first, I thought this was some kind of dream or hallucination because of the stress I was having these days. In fact, seeing some hallucination seemed quite reasonable to me since I was up all night for the whole weekend working. There wasn’t much time before the ‘Selection Day.’ And I have to finish my graduation project till that day to be arranged in a better job. I’ve been waiting for this day for 16 years and not a single mistake should be accepted. On ‘Selection Day’ every student is given their job based on the 16 years he or she has spent. The graduation project also works as an important factor in deciding the job. The job varies from boring jobs like customer center, plumber to some of the meaningful jobs such as architecture or programmer. Once the job is given to each person, they have to execute the same task until they get old enough to retire. In short, there wasn’t much time before the next 50 years of my life would be decided. Although I was almost done with my project, the strange dream kept making me uncomfortable. The dream felt too real to simply ignore it as some kind of daydream. But still there was nothing I could do about the strange, unclear dream that seemed to disturb me.
2. The Selection Day
Today is the day. Every student wore their finest clothes and went directly to the school. Selection Day is the biggest event students waited. It was a graduation ceremony for the past 16 years of hard work and a ceremony for a new start at a new job at the same time. I was waiting for the big event, too. As the time passed, the bell rang and everyone was listening carefully to the announcement. The announcement started, “Class 1, Amy Jessia to farming department, Donale Som to product designer….” The announce continued and I was waiting for my name to be called. “Class 3… Jonathan Pierce to the Sales Department…” After a few minutes my name was finally called!!
I was arranged to the Sales Department and it was quite interesting job. I could even be assigned to other cities. In fact, most people are not allowed to go to other cities in order to keep things orderly and prevent potential problems. Although there are many other cities, we don’t exactly learn about other cities. And since most of the people don’t have the chance to travel to other states, it is an uncommon chance.
As all the students were selected, I returned to home. I would spend the next whole week preparing for the job. And there was a letter from the sales department.
From now on, you are one of the staffs of the Sales Department. You will be arranged to City H. Next Monday is your first day on the new job and you shall be moved to City H that day. Before you come to the new job, you have to memorize a few things.
First, City H is a totally different society from where you are living.
Second, do not have a private conversation with your customers.
Third, do not go anywhere else your workplace.
As long as you keep these simple rules, you will have a wonderful time working at the Sales Department. There will be a bus going to City H in the City Hall next Monday. We look forward to meeting you.
From Sales Department- City H
3. First day of work
Time passed and it was my first day on the Sales department. I went to the City Hall to take the bus. There were other newcomers waiting for the bus. The bus arrived and I slowly went inside. The bus was different from the buses I used to ride. The lights were dim and there were no windows. An enclosed space with wheels may be the most appropriate description for the bus. The bus departed and all the newcomers looked each other with nervous eyes. I opened the letter I received on the day I was selected. Although the rules seemed simple, those rules made me more nervous. The word ‘totally different society’ was the main cause of my anxiety.
Although I have learned that every city is operated individually for the last 16 years, since this is the first time going to another place, the word really disturbed me.
Clank… The bus stopped and the door opened. All the newcomers got out of the bus. Outside the bus there was a familiar scene. Although it seemed like the bus arrived to City H, there wasn’t that much difference between the city I was grown up. After all, I might be worrying too much about the rule from the letter. Then we had a short city tour with a guide while moving to the workplace by a smaller bus. At the end of the tour the guide arranged each of us with a specific task. I was in charge of the customer service.
After handling the dissatisfied customers for a day, I could see that my task was more like a sponge absorbing the sound of customers yelling over the phone. Though it wasn’t the best task I could dream of while working here, going to another city made it better. Wish there would be less yelling next time.
4. Leaving work
After a week I was quite accustomed with taking care of the customers. As usual I started my job waiting for the phone to ring today.
Ring ring ring ring!! The phone ranged loudly and I answered it immediately.
“I have some problem with the TV I……ZZZ…ZZZZ…”
The woman’s voice suddenly stopped and strange sounds continued. There was even smoke coming out of the phone. I could easily see that my phone was broken. I tried to ask for help but the director who used to watch us all day was nowhere. I got out of the room and looked both hallways. Remembering the direction director first came when he greeted newcomers, I went to check if there is his office. Walking down the hall, I could see buildings of City H through the window. There were apartments, and other large buildings. Then one dark gray building came into my eyes. It seemed like there was nothing special about the building but the building was somewhere familiar. Suddenly I had a severe headache. The strange dream I had before the selection day came to my head again. This time the memory was clearer. The strange sounds and images felt much more real. I hurried back to the room I was working. But without hesitation I just passed the room and headed to the exit. I was running like a mad man. Within a few minutes I was out of the Sales department building and was running toward the gray building. Although I knew that my actions were out of mind, I couldn’t stop my legs. As I arrived in front of the building, I opened the door and went inside. There were few guards and people were going through a metal detector. My mind was back but I was so curious about what made me come here. So, I decided to go inside deeper. I followed the people waiting to go through the metal detector. The line shortened and it was my turn. As soon as I stepped in, the detector ranged loudly. I knew something was wrong; I didn’t have any metal item. Before the guards tried to catch me, I just ran fast into the nearest room. But as I entered the room, my body froze in place. There were a lot of humans hanging on a conveyor belt. It was the very moment I kept remembering. Then two men suddenly grabbed me from behind. There was a small remote on one of the men’s hand. I could see him pushing the button. My body was weakening and I……
5. Behind the curtain
Two men walked out of the room with a robot on their shoulder.
“This is why defective ones should be sorted out.” One of the men said.
The other one answered “What do you mean by defective?”
“There are often robots that are activated during the manufacturing. They usually have the slight memory of what they have seen for few seconds. And later when there are factors reminding the memory such as the manufacturing plants, those robots tend to malfunction like this.”
“It’s my first time working at this facility, and I’m a bit confused. Why do we keep maintaining this complex and risky system? Can’t we just use them as a worker without the first 16 years.”
“You see… When we first made a perfect A.I robot, we found out that the robot kept doubting their existence. So, the robots refused to work and we had to terminate the program.”
“Then how about now?”
“We found a way out. We decided to make a new society. The doubt that A.I.s had was all about the difference between themselves and humans. And by separating them from humans, we could solve it.”
“But isn’t the 16 years of time spent to make them believe that they are human overinvestment?”
“Think about it. 16 years is a low cost to make a human intelligence work for the next 50 years free. Besides some of the robots are arranged to work for their own society. There isn’t much money spent to make one workable A.I.”
“Then what are we going to do with this robot?”
“Reset it and it will be sent to ‘the society’ again. But this time we will have to send it far away from here.”
“Yes… Starting again…”
As they walked through the gate, the metal detector ranged even louder than before…