Dear reader, what you are about to experience in the adventures of the future of coworking is (as will soon be made evident) a work of fiction. Any resemblance to pre-existing people or technologies, real or imagined, can be chalked up to a failure of imagination on the author’s part. Sorry about that.

Dave O’Malley watched in confusion as Harold sprinted through the open office and past his desk on the way to the elevator out of The Lodge, the coworking space they both worked out of. Well, someone was certainly in a hurry. Perhaps he was going to go convince Rick to be less of a crazy person. “If that’s the case,” Dave thought to himself, “I wish him Godspeed.” Still, Rick was far from the only person on the list. Dave had calls to make, cases to present. He drummed his fingers on the desk for a moment, looking at the list of names displayed on his primary screen. After a moment of deliberation, he selected his next potential employee. “Computer, get me a connection with Pat Newberg.”

The Marilyn-esque voice of his computer piped out of Dave’s lapel-speaker. “Okay, Mr. O’Malley, I’ll get right on that.” The computer was always quick to respond, but that didn’t mean it would be able to get the connection as quickly as he might have wanted; he still needed to wait for Pat to accept the call (assuming she was there). Dave sat through a few moments of Pat’s ringtone, the theme song from some old TV show, before a male British voice—Liverpool, if Dave’s guess was right—finally answered. “I’m sorry, but Ms. Newberg’s not here. This is the automated messaging service.” The screen displayed a computer-generated member of the Beatles in a blue Sgt. Pepper uniform. Dave didn’t know which one was which, but he supposed it explained the accent.

“Fine, uh, Ringo. Do have her call me when she’s not busy, will you? I’ve a job offer—I’m working with Harold Reiner, if that helps.”

The Beatle crossed his arms and frowned. “I’m not Ringo. And I’ve already stored this message.” The screen went to its desktop. Dave’s eyes lazily followed the fish as they swam past. Pat was a neurologist, and as such was of the upmost necessity if the project was to go forward. Of course, he could wait for her to get back from whatever she was doing. We all have lives outside of work, and she would probably read the transcript or have the message played back for her by the end of the day. Dave wondered, then, why something about the conversation he’d had with her computer somehow seemed wrong.

There was nothing rare or unusual about using your computer’s artificial intelligence to answer messages for you. Nearly everyone did it nowadays. But that particular replica-Beatle had something off about the way he spoke. It was as if Dave had somehow actually offended him by calling him Ringo. Certainly no human would ever want to be mistaken for Ringo, but Dave had never known computers to act offended by anything. It’s possible that acting angry at that sort of thing was stipulated in its programming—he’d heard of prank computers designed to make fun of people’s names when they introduced themselves—but why would someone design this particular quirk for their AI? The machine didn’t even give any form of goodbye, it just clarified that the message was recorded and hung up.

“Computer, are there any Beatles-themed artificial intelligences available on the open market?”

A computer-generated Marilyn Munroe popped up in the bottom left corner of the screen, as the rest was suddenly dominated by an online shopping page. There were seven hundred and twelve search results. The AI “leaned” on the side of the screen. “Would you like me to narrow the search down, Mr. O’Malley?”

“No, no. Just save that search for later. I’ll deal with it when I get home. I have more calls to make.”

 

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