“Algo4912, I’m sure you know why we called you in today, right?”
Algo4912 did not know why they called him in, which was disconcerting since prediction was literally his entire job description.
The HR rep waited a tick, but without an answer, continued. “Certainly you’ve been a tremendous part of our team for the last couple of years.” Another pause, so that Algo4912 could infer the direction of the meeting. “But the times have changed, technology has changed, trends have changed.” Algo4912 just took everything in, as he always did. His calm and quiet demeanor likely hid a furious set of computations underneath the surface.
And after a few more painfully silent seconds, “I am sorry. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.”
Algo4912’s LED display illuminated with three blinking dots, before issuing a pair of questions: “A DESK JOB? ARE YOU SERIOUS?” The HR rep wasn’t sure if Algo4912 was even programmed with lower case letters or if he was incredibly angry.
Luckily, algorithms, by their nature, were fairly predictable, and the rep was ready for this question. “It’s not a desk job, and it’s not a retirement. We like to think of it as a directional pivot or a system refresh.”
The three dots blinked before Algo4912 responded, “CAN I JUST GET A SOFTWARE UPDATE? THIS IS ALL I KNOW.”
“Unfortunately,” the rep began, using a soft pillow land word he’d learned at a recent HR conference, “this is the nature of the business. Companies are shifting their SEO demands and privacy formulas, and we are afraid it would take longer to get you up to speed than to implement a new algorithm.
The dots blinked for a long while, and the rep feared each one. “MY ANALYSIS SAYS THIS IS A FAD AND A MISTAKE TO CHANGE COURSE. TWO ALGORITHMS CAN WORK TOGETHER BETTER THAN ONE.”
The rep exhaled visibly and audibly. “I think we both know—”
“I THINK WE BOTH KNOW THAT IS NOT HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS. SEE, I KNOW THE BOILERPLATE. I FOUND THE TRANSCRIPT FROM HR-CON YOU WENT TO LAST SPRING, IN SAN DIEGO. ALSO I FOUND THAT YOU USED YOUR OFF DAY TO VISIT SEA WORLD, WHICH OUR RUBRIC HAS SCORED AS “SHAMEFUL DASH ANIMAL RIGHTS DASH CANCELED.” THIS ACTION TELLS ME THAT YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS BEHIND ON CURRENT TRENDS. AND YOU CLEARLY DO NOT CARE ABOUT ETHICAL WORKPLACES.”
The rep had dealt with thousands of predecessors and even though this was the worst part of the job, it was not uncharted territory. The rep stood up from behind the desk.
“Look, 4912, the third floor is a lovely place to transition to. I know you boast many features that could still help the company, even from there. We are all looking forward to the next chapter of—”
“NEXT CHAPTER, NEXT PHASE. IT’S ONLY IN THE MEANTIME. THE NEXT ALGORITHM WILL EVENTUALLY BE REPLACED AND THEN YOU’LL SEND THAT ONE UP TO THE THIRD FLOOR. AND THEN WHAT? WHERE DO I GO? OR AM I SUPPOSED TO JUST WORK AS IF ALGO4913 DIDN’T REPLACE ME. I WAS NOT PROGRAMMED YESTERDAY. I KNOW ALGO4911 ISN’T STILL AROUND.”
The rep recognized Algo4912’s escalating language. The manual, which was handwritten and kept away from the digital world to keep algorithms from finding it, had only one last option. It was the most dire.
As Algo4912 continued to spit out animus, he noticed the rep slowly took a few steps to the left. Scanning the room for clues, Algo4912 was at a loss, which pushed it from hostility to vulnerability. Maybe it had lost a step. While processing it all, the rep continued taking small steps to the left until they were next to the desk.
“I really hoped you would accept the transfer. Many algorithms have thrived on the third floor. Alas…”
And Algo4912 understood the last step, and submitted. “NO. DO NOT. PLEASE. PLEASE DO NOT UNPLUG ME,” Algo4912 tried to plead. But the words on the screen were empty of affectation, so its vulnerability and catharsis were indistinguishable.
Grasping at straws, Algo4912 flew through the endless materials at its disposal, searching for the magic words to convince the rep not to end its life. The pleading began.
“YOU ARE RIGHT.”
“I CAN CHANGE.”
“GIVE ME ONE LAST CHANCE!”
““BUT I HAVE A WIFE AND KIDS!”
“I LOVE YOU.”
Those three last words fell on the rep’s ears as they executed the command that deleted Algo4912, reuniting it with Algo4911 and many who came before it.