“I just want to shut down.”
There was a long silence in the room until the professor finally spoke, “I thought you’d be happy now that you’ve seen the outside world for yourself, Nina.”
Nina, to whom the professor was talking, avoided the professor’s gaze deliberately.
“It’s… It’s different from what I thought it would be,” Nina finally answered.
Nina was again silent, and she took a deep sigh before she finally continued,
“Well, humans… People weren’t like what I thought they would be. They’re… they’re just so… confusing.”
The professor did not say anything and retained his gaze on Nina.
“Well…,” Nina continued, noticing the professor was waiting for her to continue her sentences. “There were so many different types of people. Some were nice at first, and some were not. And I thought… Well, it wouldn’t be a problem, because then I’d just hangout with the nice ones. They were be very helpful at times too; whenever I was confused with something, they would help me. I mean, I read a lot of books–you programmed me that way, and I can’t help but to love reading books. And because of you, everything that I have read all these time is stored in my memory and they never left. I never forget a thing nor I miss a thing. So I know how to behave like humans. But there were also times when something confused me–simple things that even books sometimes forgot to describe, so I asked some people about it, and they kindly helped me.
“I made friends, too, Professor. Some were becoming closer while others took their distance, and we simply became acquaintances. But I enjoyed the whole experience up to that point.”
“So what went wrong, Nina?” The Professor asked.
Nina sighed again.
“Well…, it’s just that… Up to a certain point in their life, there would be a time of conflict and disagreement, and when that time happens… They just changed completely and turned against each other; only very shortly after previously showing their love and care for one another. Even the nice ones, too. And it got me really confused… How can they be so affectionate at one second, and so full of hatred the next second? If they genuinely love their friends, why would they speak so many bad things about them behind their backs instead of confronting them directly? Or if they hate their friends instead, why would they pretend to be so nice when they meet each other? Was there even an ounce of sincerity when they smile or was there real resentment when they speak ill of others? I just don’t understand them.”
The professor smiled.
“And the more I tried to understand it…, the more I don’t understand it. And now I’m not even sure I want to understand. The more I tried to understand, the more despicable they seemed to me, and the more I want to stay away from them. Why do they do that? Why can’t they just be honest and show their feelings to those they call friends? Or if they hate them instead, why still call them friends?
“And… when I finally got away from them, shut myself from them, doing just like what you did here, exiling myself, I… I found myself feeling depressed.”
The Professor, previously bowing his head while listening to Nina, now lifted up his head. His eyes showed grief and sadness.
“Why are you depressed, Nina? Those are the creatures, the very beings you’re very excited to meet with, aren’t they?” asked the Professor. He approached Nina slowly. “Don’t say you’re depressed, Nina. Please don’t say that,” he added.
“I don’t want to feel depressed anymore, Professor. Just shut me down.”
“Don’t take the easy way, Nina. Don’t you always aspire to be like one of those people that you love?” the Professor asked.
“Yes…, but that was before I met them and actually lived with them for some time,” answered Nina. She looked at the Professor and continued,
“Tell me the truth, Professor. Was that the reason why you live here all by yourself, with only your inventions–your robots to accompany you? Was that why you exile yourself so far away from other people?”
The Professor seemed to be at lost for words. He avoided Nina’s gaze this time.
“Tell me honestly, Professor,” Nina insisted.
The Professor still didn’t look at Nina.
“Professor. I’m right, am I?” asked Nina.
“Yes, Nina. You’re right,” the Professor finally answered. “I got scared. …and depressed, just like you right now. I felt so frustrated and also felt so much hatred seeing how people can be so full of love for others and the next second… they just seem to declare war against one another. I didn’t like that. Plus, there were other people–people who I disliked–who wanted me to invent something I didn’t want to invent to aid their war and dispute. I didn’t want to do it, but they were very persistent, so I ran away. I built this place as a place for my exile, to shelter myself from the outside world. And I cut the ties of communication with other human beings–I only met them or contacted them when necessary. I invented many, many things here, and built many robots. I perfected the imperfect ones, hoping that one day, each of my creation could do much good and be useful to other people who are in need. But I never got out. So they stayed here.”
“Why did you never get out of this place?” Nina asked.
“I… I got too comfortable inside here, and… And when I finally decided to go out, I got scared. What if the world out there has become an even scarier place? What if people become even more and more despicable? So… I stayed in. And so did all my inventions.”
“But Professor… does that not mean that you’re… you’re being a coward?” asked Nina.
The Professor didn’t answer right away. This time, he avoided Nina’s gaze, and after some time, he finally answered, “Yes, Nina. I am. I’m a coward.” Then he sighed, and turned his look back to Nina. “That’s why… That’s why, Nina… Don’t be like me. Don’t just choose the easy way. Don’t tell me you want to shut down.”
Nina was speechless for some time. “But… But weren’t you so strongly against me going out there, meeting people? Didn’t you oppose it in the first place?”
“I did. I did, Nina,” the Professor answered. “I was trying to protect you from harm. I didn’t want you to be disappointed, so… so I was afraid for you when you asked to be permitted to explore the outside world. But then… when I saw you returned and depressed… That’s not what I want for you, Nina. When you were gone, I was partially hoping that you would eventually return, telling me that going out there was a mistake, but at the same time… I hate to admit that deep down, I also wish that you’d find the outside world has become much a better place. That people have become kinder and more honest toward each other. I want you to return here, but not like this. I’d prefer you stay out there and be happy than returning here, sad and depressed. You always long to be one of the people you usually read in books. You want to be… You want to be one of us.“
“I did. It was before I finally see them for what they actually are.”
“Don’t give up hope, Nina.”
“Well, you did.”
“Yes, I did. Don’t be like me.”
“Professor, I’m no more than a mere creation of yours. Surely shutting me down shouldn’t be a big problem. I want to shut down and you could do that in a single click of a button.”
“Not like this. I created you because I got bored here, having no one to talk to. I didn’t create your brothers and sisters with the ability to think and feel like humans, so I created you. And when you aspire to become like real people, I was happy and afraid for you. I programmed you as my companion, and I become very protective toward you. But even that couldn’t stop you from going out there.”
“And I regret it so much,” said Nina bitterly.
The Professor sighed.
“You know, in reality, it’s not so easy for us humans to just shut down like you. In real life, we have to deal with it–I know, I didn’t deal with it very well, and I’m not proud of it, but shutting down could mean suicide. And it can be very, very painful.”
Nina didn’t say anything and stood still.
“And Nina…, you do realise that in life, there are more complicated problems than this. We humans are despicable–we can be so many times, but there are much more good in us as well, you know. And sometimes… Perhaps we’re just confused about choosing to do better things when we’re faced with reality. And that’s how we ended up doing something bad. That’s how hatred was sow and grew, Nina. But it doesn’t mean that the kindness and goodness altogether disappear.”
Nina looked at the Professor this time.
“Perhaps some of them were bad. Perhaps they were all confusing, but maybe that’s simply because they themselves were confused, you see. And that keeps happening all the time as long as we live. Eventually we did bad things, and we regret them–or not,” the Professor quickly added. “But remember, Nina, there are still more goodness out there.”
“If that is so, then how come you’re still afraid? And how come you’re still here?”
The Professor was silent for a while.
“Well, you know what? Maybe I’ve finally decided to go out,” he said.
Nina was stunned this time. She looked at the Professor, searching for signs of lies. But the Professor was looking at Nina resolutely.
“I’ve told you that there are still a lot more good out there. We just haven’t discovered it. And now that I think about it, at the same time, we also need to be good as well. That way, perhaps we could attract more goodness around us. It all need to start from ourselves as well. Who knows, perhaps that way, we could find new hope as well.”
“Yes, let’s go out there once again,” said Nina.