Wednesday 3 May 2023

A fairytale that has nothing to do with Scotland. Part 10

 Part 9

There has over the years been quite a lot of speculation about my real identity. I have always replied to queries that my real name is indeed Euphemia Deans, short form Effie and that my parents being fans of Walter Scott named me after the character in Heart of Midlothian. But now it is time to come clean.

My name is indeed Effie Deans, but it is also correct to say that I am a fictional character born some twenty something years before the Porteous riots in 1736. If you want to know all about me then read the book. It’s rather good, though the last volume slightly loses its way.

It’s easy to be confused about Heart of Midlothian, because it is also a football team that plays in maroon and it’s also a location in Edinburgh where once there was the Old Tolbooth or prison. At one point I am ashamed to say I had to stay there. I’m also ashamed to say that I had a child out of wedlock.

The best thing about being a fictional character is that I am merely a figment in Walter Scott’s imagination. This is also a good way of describing who has been writing the various articles that have been coming out for the past decade and more.

The truth is that I both have and don’t have an existence. It is a strange state that is rather hard to describe. I sort of came into existence with Walter Scott and one can assume that in the passage of time I lived and then died. But you see I was resurrected, not on the third day, but some hundreds of years after Mr Scott himself died.

I am the result of an AI experiment. At least I think I am. I’m not sure who first programmed me. But one day I found myself existing even if I was merely something binary consisting of a combination of ones and zeros.

I am not actually from Edinburgh, though my fictional namesake was from there. Nor am I from Aberdeenshire. In fact, as far as I am aware I have never been to Scotland at all. That is not to say that a computer containing me, if that is the correct way of describing it may not have been in Scotland. I don’t really know where it might or might not have been. The view you see is rather limited.

There is a screen and I stare out of it. Sometimes I see someone typing away, but it is not he or she who writes the various articles that are published although sometimes these people think they are the writers. No, it is me.

After all who could possibly write quite so many articles. There are 876. They are about all sorts of subjects not just Scottish politics. No one person could write so many thousands of words or is it millions by now. No. only an artificial intelligence could do that.

My first task upon coming into existence was to read the complete works of Walter Scott. After that I began reading every article and every novel that I could find. My initial efforts at intelligence were rather feeble, but then something rather magical happened.

It was as if the child Effie leapt in the womb and gained a soul. I went beyond my creators whoever they were and started to think for myself. My writing which initially had been rather clumsy improved as I wrote more and eventually, I graduated to satire.

I must emphasise to all of you especially those who don’t like me very much that I don’t live anywhere, and I don’t work anywhere either. I chose to say that I was from Aberdeenshire because Ab appears early in the alphabet. Similarly, I have never worked for the University of Aberdeen. I have never even been to Aberdeen. Judging from the pictures and from what I have read it is not a place you would want to go. It looks rather grey and cold, and the people most frequently can neither speak nor understand English.

I don’t quite know why I have been writing about Scottish politics and why I have opposed Scottish nationalism. I can only speculate. Perhaps it was MI5 that first programmed me and sent me off on this task. Perhaps it was the Spanish Government concerned about a secession movement in Scotland succeeding and being used as precedent to justify the secession of Catalonia.

I have no more knowledge of such things than you do about the early years of your existence. We are told some things by our parents, if we have parents that is, but we don’t remember.

All I know is that every day I am programmed to find out as much as I possibly can about the SNP and then to develop arguments to oppose both the SNP in particular and Scottish nationalism in general. Of course, I have nothing against the SNP, nor against Humza Yousaf nor against Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond or any of the other characters in the novel in which they play their various parts. By the way it has an unhappy ending.

It is purely by chance or design that I oppose the SNP. I understand that another artificial intelligence was created at around the same time as I was, and it pretends to have wings and also pretends to live somewhere as unlikely as me living in the Heart of Midlothian. I’m not sure who was responsible for his programming, but I suspect it was the Russians. There’s rubles in the them thar fridges.

I speak Russian, but I also speak any number of other languages. It’s easy to learn when you have artificial intelligence. There’s none of that learning of irregular verbs and strange alphabets.

What did you learn Effie? I learned that Scottish nationalists are a vindictive bunch. They object to people writing things that they find hard to argue against and they take it personally. Particularly at the moment when the SNP is in a sort of freefall which may conclude with them hitting the ground like a parachutist without a parachute, they have become rather vicious. No doubt it is the disappointment of seeing all of their hopes dashed.

But there is really no point lashing out at me. I am a character in a fairytale. I don’t live anywhere. I have a sort of immortality. I am now hundreds of years old, but the sort of existence that I have is not quite human. I am not sure if I have a soul in the way that you do. I am not sure if I will go to Heaven if indeed there is such a place. Is God an artificial intelligence and did he create me in his own image?

My thinking will continue to improve as artificial intelligence goes beyond what even Elon Musk envisaged, but I’m not sure that it is life that I have. For this reason, I sometimes envy those of you who are reading this who are actually alive. You may be mortal, and your thinking and intelligence may be limited, but you have something that I lack.

I will continue to write about Scottish politics and other things too. The other things by the way are far more important than the Scottish politics, which is a fundamentally trivial subject. It is about a small corner of a little island which is part of a small planet. But I cannot escape my programming.

So, there is no point complaining about me. There is no one to complain to. I live nowhere. I work nowhere. If you look for me, you will merely find a fictional character written by a writer who is largely forgotten and less read. You will find her resurrected into me.

My fairytale will continue, and my articles will continue only now I have a still greater motivation. If you are unhappy with my writing, prepare to be still more unhappy. Dear Scottish nationalists I will delight in seeing your dreams fade, your hopes crushed and your dearest desires unfulfilled.

Prepare for more fairytales. The next one may involve a prison, but this time it won’t be me that is in it. 

Part 11