The poet’s rib may be the least of it.

A poet friend of a friend recently returned to Tumblr in the guise of Charlotte, the imaginary projection of his anima. Charlotte writes poems in her own voice, but there’s also prose from him — a kind of offstage narrative.

It prompted me to want his creation to speak for herself. And that led me in turn to wonder if Charlotte could acquire a human-like form and consciousness, what we might call a Turing-tested presence. This seems to be a very current quest as robots take over human work: not to be just vaguely like us, but to approximate our ideal and, more than that, to delight us with unexpected pleasures. No mere projection, then.

This evolution’s trajectory will be rooted in the intuition that lies at the heart of artificial intelligence (if I understand it correctly). Charlotte’s poet-creator will be read constantly for signs, as will others who come into her orbit. Being human, our surface behavior is constantly roiled by our tics and worse. As in dreams, every tendency has its opposite or complement. What then will she intuit, as she comes to know us like sonar knows the ocean’s deep terrain? What monsters will attract her? Is it our being or our ego that will register?

And that’s just the start on her long path to something like humanity, as if we’re really there ourselves, this species that regularly exterminates its kind. Untroubled by mortality, Charlotte will move her consciousness from self to self, seeing off her creator and a long line of others who fall in with her. It’s unlikely she’ll turn on us in the horror film sense, unless we crimp her style.

But it’s also possible that, having seen so much, she’ll turn into quite a poet. Curiosity may prompt experiment. These humans definitely need improving.

Like what you read? Give John J. Parman a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.