Posted in flash fiction

A room full of emptiness

“I’m going to miss you guys.”

The final session of my online class had just ended. It was a group of guys who hailed from different states and a few who lived in other countries. Over the course of thirty weeks, we had gotten to know each other well, spending an hour together each week.

One by one each logged off. When the room was down to just me and one other person, I said, “The next time I’m up your way, I’ll reach out. Maybe I can stop by and we can grab a cup of coffee.”

He said “That sounds great.” And then I was there in the virtual room alone.

About an hour later, I got an email from the group leader discouraging me from trying to meet anyone from the group in person. When I asked why, he explained, “None of the people in this group actually exist. Everyone but you and I were generated and animated by artificial intelligence. It’s just a virtual group of guys.”

I read the email over and over. How could that be? When I signed up for a “virtual” class, I thought I’d learn with living, breathing people sitting at laptops just like me. There is no way that AI has come this far this fast!

I went back to the website where I signed up for the class. I read carefully through the terms and conditions until I reached a disclaimer that I had quickly skimmed and agreed to. “Augmented reality may be used to enhance discussion rooms.”

So none of this was real? None of the students exist? My classmates – and friends – were nothing more than sophisticated code and creative algorithms? On the one hand, the room was filled with some of the best friends I’ve ever had. On the other hand, it was an empty room.

I really am going to miss those guys.

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