Monday, August 17

#33 - fictional dinner companion

Though it has been some time since it first captured the public imagination, one afternoon you find yourself daydreaming about virtual reality. You are curious as to the technology's current status, figuring that significant strides must have been made since its polygonal beginnings. This assumption leads to you enter a virtual reality-themed contest when you happen upon a mail-in form in a monthly periodical.

The description of the contest is very vague and as the weeks pass you forget about it altogether. That is until one day when you are notified by e-mail that you are the winner.

Your prize is described as follows. It seems that a small start up company has teamed with a consortium of authors and literary scholars to develop a cutting edge example of immersion technology. Their software will allow the user to have dinner with a literary character of their choice, and you are to be the first to have the chance to test the program. The company hopes to eventually allow users to interact with multiple characters (who would also interact with each other), but these algorithms are understandably much more complex. For the time being, they are working within the framework of a single dinner companion.

The company's technology is such that the situation will to you seem entirely real. The food, the conversation, everything. It will seem as though you are dining with an actual human being (your selection is somewhat limited in that the designers have asked that you choose a person rather than some other anthropomorphic creature). The character will be able to learn and adapt during the exchange, but will otherwise act in ways fully consistent with how he or she was originally written. You have only to select the character from any work of fiction, and if applicable, provide a specific point in the character's development that the designers will draw from in their preparations. The entire experience will last around two hours.

With whom do you choose to dine?


Chris said...

I have been trying all week to come up with an answer other than Harry Potter (or any other character from that series, really), but I can't do it. So, as prosaic as it may seem, I choose Harry Potter. Let's say around Order of the Phoenix time.

Matt said...

In thinking about this one, I realized that there are a lot of interesting characters that I wouldn't necessarily want to have a long conversation with.

I think I would choose John Ames, the main character in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead (a 76 year old preacher in Iowa). The character is so well written and just struck me as an amazing person (kind, honest, self-aware). I feel like it would be a very enriching conversation.

Now, when the program can incorporate multiple characters, definitely the brothers Karamazov!

Holly said...

This is an interesting question because it seems one beauty of literature is that you feel as if you know a character without actually interacting with him/her (much like being invisible in their world). Like Chris, I think I would choose a rather familiar character/series. Gandalf has always been an intriguing character to me because of his wisdom, kindness, and humility (despite being a wizard). I think one could learn a lot from a 2-hour conversation with him if he didn't speak in riddles too much.