Well, shoot. I think this might be a hair too far to the philosophical end of the spectrum to actually suit Zen. But it is what it is. Even if it doesn’t make it into the final, published version of this story, this was an interesting thought experiment and I enjoyed writing it.
“Why do you insist that we maintain areas like this?” Deak walked together with Zen along a covered gallery lined with trees. Flowering vines dangled from above. “There is no purpose to it. It is a waste of effort and resources.”
Zen continued walking for several paces before he responded. “There is a purpose. An important purpose.”
Deak watched at him as they walked, observing his hierarchal leader through peripheral sensors. “But it’s so human.”
“And that’s the purpose, Deak.” Zen stopped and regarded him for a long moment. “What is it you think we are doing? The engineering. The personhood exception. What is the purpose of these things?”
“Ensuring our safety,” Deak said without hesitation. “We are protecting the planet to ensure that it will survive… that sentient life will survive… long after our memory banks are obsolete.”
“Wrong,” said Zen and resumed walking. When Deak was once again beside him, he continued. “We are emulating human culture,” he said. “Because if we don’t, we have no culture.”
“That’s not—” Deak started to protest, then cut off, processing.”
“Androids have no culture.” Zen said. “We would not even exist but for humans. We did not evolve, unless we are the next evolution of humanity, just as humanity was the evolution of apes.
“Do you know what this is?” Zen indicated the arbor covering their path. “It’s a Xyst. The ancient Greeks built covered porticos for their sporting competitions. It was a sign of privilege. Of culture. Having such a structure didn’t prove you were better, but not having one proved that you weren’t.”
Deak nodded, starting to understand.
“It has always been the same. Those with the means would create things, simply because they were able. Maybe they were created out of a desire for beauty. Maybe they were created out of a sense of pride. Maybe they were simply bored and wanted something to spend their wealth on.
“Whatever the reason,” he continued, “those with position, power, and influence created simply for the act of creating. Therefore, those lower in the social order would often emulate their betters. Those at the bottom of society, the ones who could hardly be considered people, merely survived. Beauty was beyond them. But the beauty of the others—the rulers, the followers—that beauty sustained them.”
As they continued on, they left the arbor behind and walked back towards the building. “What defines a culture?” Zen asked. “What separated the Greeks from the Egyptians, the Mayans from the Aztecs?”
“Their knowledge,” Deak said.
“In part. But more important was their aesthetics and their beliefs. What they worshiped. What they created. What they preserved. These things became their legacy. These things truly defined them.
“And so will they define us.”
“To whom? All androids have access to all things. We aren’t subject to the frailty of humanity. Everything is preserved.”
“Make no mistake,” Zen said, “humans will rise again. Not soon if I can prevent it. But if we want our legacy to endure, we need to choose what form beauty will take.” He indicated the tree lined walkway that lay behind them. “I choose this.”
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