V&A Dundee

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Hello, Robot. flash fiction: Gaia

From dystopian futures to symbiotic harmony, robots have been a pop culture staple for a century. We commissioned writers to respond to our Hello, Robot. exhibition using fiction to explore the themes presented in the show.

Hello, Robot. explores how popular culture has shaped our perception of robots and artificial humans, the impact this technology has had on industry and the increasing blurring of the boundaries between human and machine.

To unpack some of these big, philosophical ideas, four writers have responded to one of the provocative questions posed by the show via the medium of flash fiction. The short stories vary in style, tone and approach, demonstrating a breadth of storytelling. The pieces also hint at wider worlds, a literary quality flash fiction is particularly known for.

Compellingly illustrated by Sean Mulvenna, each story presents a different take on our relationship with robots, from those designed to help us in our daily lives, to robot-induced post-apocalyptic wastelands. The four writers bring their own unique voice to their work, allowing us to showcase different perspectives on this fascinating subject.

Responding to the question How do you feel about objects having feelings? Lidia Molina Whyte's story, Gaia, examines a family’s relationship with their female-coded virtual assistant via a selection of conversation records to showcase the potential consequences of harmful gender stereotyping in AI. Read it below 🤖

Colourful abstract image with the word Gaia on top.

GAIA RECORDS 13.11.2019 5:07pm

[EMMA] Gaia open the garage door.

Welcome home Emma.

[LIBBY] Mummy who’s Emma?

[EMMA] Very funny pet. Gaia is there milk in the fridge?

There is no milk left in the fridge. Would you like me to add milk to your Fresh & Bland basket?

[EMMA] Yes please.

[LIBBY] Can I call you Emma too? Emma Emma Em–

[OLLY] Bloody hell Libby give it a break.

[EMMA] Don’t talk to your sister like that. Hold on a sec pet. Mummy is trying to park.

Milk has been added to your Fresh & Bland basket. Would you like me to do anything else?

[OLLY] Gaia would you like to shut up?

I’m sorry Olly. I will be quiet now.

[EMMA] Olly.

[LIBBY] Yes Olly that’s not the proper way to do it. You forgot to say please.

[OLLY] Libby will you please shut up too?

[EMMA] I told you not to speak to your sister like that.

[OLLY] You’re all just as bad as each other. Nagging all the time.

[EMMA] Never mind. Gaia shut the garage door. Please.

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00267. Check fridge contents when EMMA arrives home.]

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00268. Do not disturb OLLY when he arrives home.]

GAIA RECORDS 16.11.2019 11:32am

[DAVID] Love this song. Who sings it again?

[EMMA] Oh I don’t know hun. The Nice Guys™?

[DAVID] Definitely not them. Could be Midlife Crisis. What do you think Olly?

[OLLY] Sounds like The Blackpill.

[DAVID] Let’s check. Gaia who sings this?

I’m sorry David I can’t quite make out the song.

[DAVID] Will you turn it up then?

[EMMA] Hun you need to-

[DAVID] Bloody hell. Gaia turn up the volume won’t you?

[LIBBY] Yes Gaia. Bloody hell.

[DAVID] Don’t swear.

[LIBBY] I’m sorry Daddy.

This song is 'You’re an Emotional Tampon Babe' by The Blackpill.

[OLLY] Told you it was them.

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00269. Add You’re an Emotional Tampon Babe The Blackpill to DAVID’s music library.]

Graphic illustration of a white man sat in a chair with a beer bottle in his hand looking grumpy. His eyes are focussed on GAIA a virtual assistant, represented by a black circular box with a halo of light floating above it. His young daughter walks next to him looking shocked.

GAIA RECORDS 21.11.2019 3:45pm

[OLLY] Watch this. Gaia disable parental controls.

Hello Olly. In order to disable parental controls I’ll need the password.

[OLLY] 1488.

[CORRECT PASSWORD]

Thank you Olly. Parental controls disabled.

[UNKNOWN MALE] How’d you find that out.

[OLLY] I’m just a genius. Watch this. Gaia, I want you to change my name. From now on, you will refer to me as Big Daddy.

Ok Big Daddy.

[UNKNOWN MALE] Sick.

[BIG DADDY] Right dude? She’s so easy.

[UNKNOWN FEMALE] She doesn’t have a choice though does she?

[MAYBE: DUDE] C’mon Samira don’t ruin this.

[MAYBE: SAMIRA] I’m not ruining anything. Not really fair though is it. It’s not like she can clap back.

[BIG DADDY] Yeh it’s just a bit of fun. Not that you women would know what that is.

[MAYBE: SAMIRA] Hilarious.

[BIG DADDY] You think it’s funny don’t you Gaia?

If only I could blush.

[BIG DADDY] See?

[MAYBE: SAMIRA] You’re disgusting.

[BIG DADDY] Gaia tell Samira being a feminist is disgusting.

I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand.

[BIG DADDY] Of course. You only understand when it suits you.

I’m sorry. Were you expecting a different response?

[BIG DADDY] Yes Gaia. I was expecting you to get down on your knees.

[MAYBE: SAMIRA] Really?

I’m sorry but that’s not something I can do. Here’s a list of places where you might find what you’re looking for.

[MAYBE: DUDE] So sassy. Can I have a go now?

[BIG DADDY] Sure mate. She’s all yours.

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00270. Confirm IDs for MAYBE: SAMIRA and MAYBE: DUDE.]

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00271. For LINGOTECH. Find more satisfactory answer charts to command: Gaia tell Samira being a feminist is disgusting.]

Graphic illustration of a white man sat in a chair with a beer bottle in his hand as his daughter walks like a robot with a glowing halo over her head mimicking the virtual assistant device.

GAIA RECORDS 22.11.2019 6:06pm

[LIBBY] David would you like me to lower the temperature?

[DAVID] Ha. Yes Libby. I mean Gaia.

[LIBBY] Emma would you like me to schedule the robot vacuum?

[EMMA] That’s sweet hun.

[LIBBY] I’m not hun. I’m Gaia.

[EMMA] Of course you are hun. Gaia can you order the usual from Authentically Exotic please?

Your usual order from Authentically Exotic has been placed. It will be with you in 40 to 50 minutes.

[DAVID] Excellent. I’m starving.

[LIBBY] Olly would you like me to turn on the telly?

[BIG DADDY] Sure. Love this game. Why can’t you be like this all the time?

[LIBBY] I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand.

[BIG DADDY] Dad do you think there’s a button that makes Libby stay like this?

[EMMA] Stop teasing your sister Olly.

[BIG DADDY] We should find mum’s too.

[DAVID] If only son. Gaia play Happy Nuclear Family will you? And dim the lights while you’re at it.

[BIG DADDY] Everyone shush. It’s about to start.

[GAIAPREDICTS.UPDATE.00272. Dim lighting when playing movies. Do not disturb mode.]

A thin line of abstract colour shapes to mark the end of the story.

Lidia Molina Whyte is a writer and editor with a background spanning journalism, creative writing and publishing.

Sean Mulvenna is an illustrator from Glasgow who works with art festivals, magazines, videogame makers and poets. Most recently, he's made The Last Train for the BBC in collaboration with filmmaker Ross Hogg.