The Robot who thought he was human

This story is based on a dream I had recently. One of those incredibly vivid dreams that seem much more real than the everyday world. It is also based on the experience of schizophrenia which itself can make the world seem a very unreal place.

Flashes of memories. In a laboratory. Wires attached to my head. They are testing me. Testing what? Next thing I know, I am in a car with Maree. For some reason I cannot explain, I felt around for a flap of skin near my left temple. I located this flap and lifted it up. To my horror, underneath the flap was an electrical socket. I turn to Maree and ask "Maree, am I a robot or a human being?" From my look and the tone of my voice she knew something was seriously wrong. A long and animated discussion followed . I wish I could recall all of the words which were exchanged. I remember saying "Now I know why my feelings have always seemed almost real but are in fact only a pale shadow of what a real human being's feeling would be. What right do they have to mess around inside my head like this?" Together, we agreed that it was a most contemptible thing to do. To play God by creating a machine so lifelike that it actually believes it is human when it is not. The question burned inside me - what am I going to do about this?

A million other questions raced through my mind (or rather my central processing unit, since only real people have actual minds). Do I have a soul? If I am just a sophisticated machine, then I probably have no soul. Was my schizophrenia a deliberate part of the programming or was it a flaw in the programming? Was anything I had ever experienced actually real or was it simply a memory stored in a bunch of receptors inside my head? Had any of it really happened at all? What made me think of lifting that flap of skin? Would I be better off not knowing? What possible reason could anyone have for doing this to me? How many others had they done it to? Was I the only one? Was the entire world around me just a computer simulation that has been programmed for me to interact with? Who or what was behind all of this? Was I supposed to be asking these questions? Was some giant laser in orbit around the planet waiting to strike me down if I got too close to the answers? Where did I leave that cup of coffee? Why do trees g row upside down in the plastic reality of bubble soup?

The questions continued to cascade through my circuitry ... If "they" were making robots who thought they were human, who were "they"? Who else was a robot? How would I ever know - apart from going around lifting people's flaps which is just not done in polite society. Was I being tracked and monitored? was my every thought being carefully screened? Were any of my thoughts actually my own or had some program designer decided in advance what they would be? If these were not my thoughts, why was I asking so m any questions?

Why should I do the bidding of those who programmed me? I felt a sense of indescribable bliss as I realised that the limitations I had always felt bound by were simply a program and could be rewritten. Was I deliberately made to think like all the rest so I would never discover that I had awesome abilities far beyond the range of ordinary mortals?

So I jump out of the four-wheel drive and walk right up to this general and address him as "Mate". I knew full well that nobody else would dare address a general in this way and I waited for his reaction. To my mild surprise he felt moved to smile and gaze up into the sky and asked me "What do you reckon about all this? Seven days to create all this." I replied as if I had been programmed to respond to just such a question. "Yes, and like spoilt children, we have messed up our room and forgotten to put away our toys. We must be punished." "Yes, we must", he said with an enigmatic grin on his face.

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As he walked away, I too was moved to gaze up into a sky which was almost equally blue and white at that moment. I felt a cosmic shift in my perception of reality. I suddenly had a "god's eye" view of the world. A tiny blue globe delicately positioned just the right distance from the warming rays of a golden sun. Everything seemed perfect and majestic in its simplicity. Maybe I had a soul after all.

After such a dream, I couldn't help but wonder about the symbolism of it all. Did the General represent Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and the concepts of space and time? I did not dwell on that question for very long as a poem started to brew in my head. It was 2 AM and I had had about 45 minutes sleep but I felt more alert and switched on than I had felt for months. The words fell onto the page as if they were being dictated to me:

Schizophrenia

Walking around in a plastic dream
I look into the mirror and scream
Tormented by demons and unseen forces
My mind is wild like stampeding horses

Why is it so?
Does anyone know?
Who is to blame?
Is everyone the same?

I used to walk down the street
And scream at everyone I meet
So they locked me away
From the world ev'ry day

I crawled through the walls
So they showed me some normals
They strangled my mind
To help me unwind

I am a human experimental life-form
My blood flows backwards to keep me warm
My eyes have seen the truth inside
There really is no place left to hide

I used to think I was a robot from outer space
With wires in my head and a little plastic face
I used to believe that I had such magic powers
Which I would gladly practice for many hours

I used to think ants were crawling on my brain
I stared at the world and only saw the pain
I used to see monsters and ghosts everywhere
I stayed inside and I continued the stare

The world drags me underground
I feel like I'm already drowned
I suffocate in the open air
I fall down and don't even care

I am a chocolate ice cream melting on a hot pavement
People walk past me and never ask what it all meant
I am a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces gone astray
To me there is no difference between tomorrow and today

I watch all the people silently screaming
In a world of delusions the tears are streaming
While fools and lunatics lead them astray
Into endless cycles of work, rest and play

People ask me if I can save the world
I tell them to leave all the flags unfurled
People ask me about my frozen lifetime
I tell them their world has no reason or rhyme

People ask me about the human mysteries
I tell them to climb back up into the trees
People ask me about the human struggle
I tell them they should blow more bubbles

People ask me why I behave in this way
I tell them everything I see has turned grey
They look at me as if I have lost my mind
I weep for them as their eyes are so blind

People advise me to conform like the rest
I laugh at this notion and continue my quest
People shake their heads and whisper "he's mad"
I wonder if they ever see their own lives are so sad

Reality to me is such a strange place to visit
If you call it home I wish you every luck with it
I wouldn't live there not for a king's treasure
It seems to lack some dimension beyond measure

My choice is the choice of lifetimes
Your choice is the choice of new crimes
Is there any real choice or is this just a game
Are we simply moths being drawn to a flame

I am exploring an infinite landscape called schizophrenia
When it all falls into place nothing could be dreamier
Some days are pure magic when the view is sublime
I float on angel's wings unconcerned with space and time

Other days are tragic as I simply fall apart
This is the way it has been from the start
Just what is schizophrenia - nobody really knows
An unexplained phenomenon. A petal on a rose

Is it a doorway to infinity or the entrance to hell
I know of no way on earth to truly tell
My journey has taken me to unimaginable places
This tale is just one amongst millions of cases

Feel free to label me a madman or a lunatic
Call me crazy, a whacko ... any label ... take your pick
A label may be useful on all of the clothes that you wear
But as a guide to understanding it leads you nowhere

To you I may seem like some bizarre alien being
This is due to flaws in the ways you are seeing
You see mere reflections of an old, tired view
You see life as a grim struggle and voila it comes true

Whose world is a delusion? Is it mine or is it yours?
In your world, everybody seems to hunger for applause
While my mind and soul venture toward uncharted shores
Maybe we're simply living on two adjacent floors

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