We’ve teamed up with RMIT’s School and Media and Communication and asked students to respond to the themes of Melbourne Knowledge Week and reflect Melbourne’s future. This response by Sophie Gardener explores the humanity of Melbourne as we move into the future. This is the first chpater in her series ‘Forver Garden’.
Sophie was really interested in the idea of Melbourne as an entity and how it interacts with its inhabitants, specifically the young people that will decide its future. With Siggy, she wanted to explore how we will move towards the future, whether this manifests in a utopia, dystopia, or something uniquely Melbourne.
THE FINAL CHAPTER: AI AND THE FUTURE OF WORK
The Tree graffiti is more lighthearted today: IT’S THE VIBE OF THE THING. Siggy wonders where the writers get their poetry from. The rains have passed, and the Tree has tiny white flowers sprouting from its trunk. Siggy is not surprised to see a figure, the colour of dust, sitting on her branch and swinging its legs over the Yarra.
“How did you know to come here?”
The figure turns around. They are beautiful, and oh so very naked. Siggy doesn’t know where to look. Siggy is surprised when it speaks with her implant’s voice.
I’ve been here before. I’ve been in your head, and everyone else’s. All the implants in the city feed directly to me. I know all there is to know.
“Geez. Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.”
That book is very old. You won’t watch movies for me, but you’ll read that?
“It’s my mum’s—”
“Of course you do. I feel a bit cheated on.”
You were always my favourite, Sigourney. They sounds out all the syllables carefully.
Siggy feels warm, but confused. Dirt person, share your secrets.
It’s basic artificial intelligence. I am fed data by your implants, and I can think and form conclusions from this data.
“I know. And you have really nice skin. Are you made totally of dirt?”
I am made of a biochemical compound that can be taught to grow into a mimicry of humanoid physicality.
“So, smart dirt then.”
Yes, smart dirt.
Siggy looks at the figure. They are facing away from her, but she can see the way their eyes flicker towards her, again and again. They seem nervous, lost.
“Who made you? And why?”
A small team of scientists grew me in an underground womb. I believe they brought you there, when I was unfinished. As for why… I’m not sure. I was looking at the mess of your orchard, and then I was in the dirt, and I had a body and I was alone. I think I was made to help, but I don’t know how.
“I’m gonna ignore the womb bit. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, then what do you want to do?”
I wanted to come here. It’s different seeing it with eyes. They pause, searching the ground below. I would like to meet the people down there, talk to them for myself. Maybe I’m supposed to help them. I’m supposed to do something.
Siggy feels like she’s intruding. “Okay, I guess I’ll leave you to it.”
Do you want to grow fruit trees, Siggy?
“No, Mum and Dad do so much work, worry so much. It’s too big for me.”
They mull this over before replying.
I think you could help me. I think you would like to help me.
“Oh, so I’m a disciple now? Gonna do whatever you say? Kiss your feet?”
Let’s test it. Want to jump?
You would make it. I know.
“Thank God you’re out of my head. I’m too young to die.”
They pause. The graffiti quotes are mine. I know you were wondering. Maybe I should become a poet. They slip a leg over the branch so they’re sitting side saddle, start to slide off.
“Hey.” They pause on the branch, hips dangling, weight supported only by dusty arms. “What do I call you?”
They let go.
Siggy watches them free fall, hit the crystal waters in a geyser.
Siggy waits at the side of the river, watching Melbourne patting a baby alligator. When they finally scramble out, they’re still dry somehow, the water slipping off. Huh, hydrophobic smart dirt.
Told you. Now I want to see a movie.
“Gross. I think the film festival is on.”
Siggy sighs. She’s really going to get sick of this omniscient bullshit.
“Okay, but we need to get you some clothes. People are staring.”