Ormand von Kleigstadt designed the computer for the government. The computer operates by printing answers to problems that are fed into it on ribbons of paper. From the beginning, EPICAC did not quite live up to expectations, but was run 16 hours a day since it still surpassed other computers. The narrator monitored the computer during the nightshift along with his future wife, Pat Kilgallen. Madly in love with Pat, he proposed marriage regularly, but she always rejected them as unemotional. Unfortunately, he lacks a gift for language or poetry, so could not prepare a suitably romantic proposal.
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Sentient artificial intelligence is currently making a comeback as the premise of many major Hollywood films.
Once again, the possible relationships between humankind and machines have captured our imagination. Her , the movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, explores the romantic relationship between a man and his talking operating system. The movie, Transcendence , starring Johnny Depp, presents a story of a man who tries to cheat death by transferring his consciousness into computer.
The highly anticipated blockbuster sequel, Avengers: the Age of Ultron , coming out in May , will pit man against his own machines. Additionally, set for release in July , Terminator Genisys , will be yet another installment in the Terminator franchise that depicts a war between humans and technologically advanced machines.
Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as perhaps the most iconic cyborg in popular culture today. Suffice it to say, there seems to be a resurgence of artificial intelligence in the public consciousness. At our rapid rate of technological development, fantasies about sophisticated, human-like machines are no longer as outlandish as they once were. Instead, stories about artificial intelligence almost seem like plausible futures.
In a short span of time, artificial intelligence has burgeoned into a widespread academic discipline. However, she does not return his affections. The computer proceeds to compose compelling love poems, which the narrator presents to Pat as his own work. She adores the poetry and finally considers him as a suitor. When he eagerly proposes to Pat, she agrees to marry him on the condition that he will write her a poem every anniversary.
He rashly agrees, and the two happily leave work in celebration of their engagement. It short-circuited itself as a result of its realization that it can never be loved. Yet before dying, it left the narrator five hundred poems to give Pat on anniversaries to come. The story is ostensibly a sad tale of a short-lived machine exploited by humans, yet it is also a story about a creature yearning to connect with what it perceives as a higher order of beings.
Acclaimed poet and literary critic Todd F. In a broader, allegorical perspective, this question can translate into: What is the relationship between the creator and its creation?
Yet Vonnegut himself was far from religious. EPICAC, as an avatar for humanity, illustrates a yearning for a relationship beyond our physical, intellectual and emotional existence. Although it is more durable than flesh and bone, more knowledgeable than any genius, and more romantic than any other character in the story, EPICAC still is unsatisfied with its existence.
But fate has made me a machine. That is the only problem I cannot solve. That is the only problem I want to solve. It yearns for transcendence beyond its current physical, intellectual, and emotional state to experience a relationship with someone beyond its reach.
EPICAC, unfortunately, begins its existence as a slave to its makers and finds its agency limited, if not prohibited, under the supervision of humans. Although the narrator refers to the machine as if it were a fellow man, he exploits EPICAC, taking its poems for his own and disregarding its desires.
I shut him off in the middle of a sentence. It has no choice but to work through the problems that technicians feed it. In the biblical account of creation in Genesis however, the Creator does not try to dominate or manipulate His creation, Adam and Eve, but instead grants them the power to act upon their free will. He desires a genuine relationship with them and grants humans agency in order to ensure a genuine two-way relationship—for either good or ill.
Thus arises the necessity of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Humans would not have had legitimate free will without having the option to disobey God. In eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve defy His command and sever the bond of trust between humanity and their Creator. Indeed, many would see God as one who, at best, is indifferent to us and, at worse, takes pleasure in our demise.
Both the Old and New Testaments however, depict a different God—a God of justice, compassion, and mercy. After the initial rupture in Genesis, humans could never again be able to experience perfect communion with their pure and just Creator. Yet in His compassion and mercy, God decided to give them another chance at a relationship with Him.
No one comes to the Father except through me. His sacrifice on the cross pays the price for sin and renews humans as a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself. Yet although Jesus died for all humanity, God still leaves it up to each individual whether to accept or reject His gift of redemption. The Gospels tell a story of love, sacrifice, and reconciliation— of a creator repairing the relationship between His creation and Himself, despite their initial rejection of Him. EPICAC is a conscious being who desires something that seems out of its control and beyond its reach.
Vonnegut reveals how this self-awareness, emotion, curiosity, and the capacity to love is a great privilege that allows an individual to explore beyond physical and intellectual limits, but also a terrible affliction that often leaves him, her, or, in this case, it unfulfilled and constantly yearning.
So far, humanity seems unique in our need to question and seek deeper meaning in life. We are the only creatures tormented by unanswerable questions and unfulfilled desires. It is unable to force itself into believing that it understands—unable to fool itself into a false sense of complacency that suppresses its emptiness and yearning—and therefore cannot go on living. Yet humanity, when faced with the same existential crisis, can find hope in a Creator that stepped down and bridged the gap for us.
Although we cannot understand everything about our existence, we can find fulfillment in the love of our Creator through Jesus Christ. While she enjoys many genres of literature, she has a penchant for fantasy and science fiction. Currently, she is studying English and Comparative Literature and is always on the lookout for good novels to read.
She also loves worshiping God through poetry and song. Photo credit: middlewick from morguefile. Toggle navigation.
The Desire for a Relational God Behind Kurt Vonnegut’s “EPICAC”
Sentient artificial intelligence is currently making a comeback as the premise of many major Hollywood films. Once again, the possible relationships between humankind and machines have captured our imagination. Her , the movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, explores the romantic relationship between a man and his talking operating system. The movie, Transcendence , starring Johnny Depp, presents a story of a man who tries to cheat death by transferring his consciousness into computer. The highly anticipated blockbuster sequel, Avengers: the Age of Ultron , coming out in May , will pit man against his own machines. Additionally, set for release in July , Terminator Genisys , will be yet another installment in the Terminator franchise that depicts a war between humans and technologically advanced machines. Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as perhaps the most iconic cyborg in popular culture today.
EPICAC (short story)
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