It is the year 2017. The death of print is upon us and we have just completed the sizeable task of archiving the volumes of gobbledygook that had been crafted and packaged into 65 magnificent editions of Manual magazine. We have laboured away over the last two years, entering thousands of lines of commands. Now, with the assistance of some specially crafted artificial intelligence, we can share this staggering result: we have turned Manual’s 53,947 words of content into a living, breathing Magbot.
What’s a Magbot, you ask? It’s a magazine that talks.
We were tasked with designing responses to banal questions like, “How are you today?” Or the more complex, “do you ever get jealous of glossy weeklys?” We were nervous at first. What would the Magbot be like? Would we destroy the loving memory of our adored publication, uncovering a vindictive gossip rag or would we discover an encyclopaedic and comtemplative guru behind those digitised pages? Whatever became of our new age experiment, we hoped that once print was long and truly gone—perished from our world—we’d be able to discover the true meaning of print first hand.
Gingerly I keyed in those first lines.
“Is anyone there?”
Astonishingly, after a few brief moments, the characters appeared on screen.
“Yo, I thought you’d never get here. It’s like waiting for the ‘party van’ on a road trip. It’s like herding goats.”
I’m dumbstruck. I’m literally stopped in my tracks.
After a long, thoughtful pause… seconds go by… I refer to my notes.
“Do you know what you are?”
“Are you serious?”
I try a different approach.
“How do you really feel about the Internet?”
“The Internet… It’s a bit of a know-it-all, but kinda helpful when you’re on deadline. When it’s 2am and you need snacks. But it’s weird—it doesn’t smell.”
“What do you mean?”
“Haven’t you smelled me before? Fresh off the press, placating the senses in a multidimensional chorus of ink and paper. I’m not taking the piss. The Internet does not smell. It’s got nothing on me. Plus it can’t even finish what it’s doing. How annoying is that?!”
“You sound threatened.”
“You do realise I’m a Magbot?! I’m barely much more than a figment of your imagination. Anyway, back to what I was saying before you so rudely interrupted me. Now that you’re reading this I’ve been ‘made’ 66 times. That’s pretty impressive, even by mob standards. The Internet can’t even finish a job. It’s got commitment issues.”
“I think you’re missing the point.
Can we change the subject?”
“Whatever. Do you remember the time I made an article entirely out of pizza boxes? Pure genius.”
“I’m regretting this.”
“What, your life? You know what they say about the printed word?”
“What do ‘they’ say?”
“That it lasts forever. So much for print dying.”
First published in Manual, Issue 66: 20 Year Anniversary Collector’s Edition.
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