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  • Writer's pictureLuiza Ribeiro

The Moth

This article was a Global Finalist and Regional Winner in the Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition

From: AIA-0258

To: Eliezer Leius

When the Air Quality Department (AQD) arrived at Bhiwadi in India, the sun had already started to set. There were various cobalt Lepidopterans (commonly referred to as butterflies) flying in the distance. The insects have grown an average of 2.58 centimeters this year, indicating that oxygen levels are improving. The last fossil fuel industry was eliminated in India.

Meanwhile, the Global Hunger Department (GHD) has shown outstanding advancements in reducing hunger worldwide. Many of those who have been physically hurt by insufficient nutrients have been eliminated. Thus, the total number of people who suffer from hunger has been reduced by 25.8% in 3 months.

The Security Department (SD) has already installed Reolink Argus 8 Pro cameras per square meter to detect criminal activity. Once it encounters the felon, it will release darts filled with botulinum toxin that should eliminate the offender within 72 hours.

The Education Department (ED) and Health Department (HD) are still in their planning phases and should commence implementing their project in 25 weeks. ED and HD hope to create more access to education and health for every individual in the world.

We hope AIA is satisfying your goals to make the world a better and more just place to live in.

Eliezer Leius's perspective

The pomegranate juice in my mouth soured as I read the email. Thoughts of guilt continued to circle my mind, forming a black hole that guzzled my last drop of happiness.

I vividly remember when I created Artificial Intelligence Advanced (AIA). I was flooded by sunlight, feeling as if I would change the world. I specifically told them each goal they should focus on and in what order: improving air quality, ending global hunger, reducing crime, and a plethora of other issues they needed to solve. Once they started replacing trash bins with recycling ones and implementing solar panels in high-end homes, everyone was ecstatic. AIA started sending me emails about their amazing achievements and future plans, followed by a butterfly logo at the end. It was the first time in years that the world collectively felt as if it was advancing towards the future.

My program has the ability to compute more than one million strategies to solve any problem in only 8 seconds. They then filter them through three conditions: viability, effectiveness, and efficiency. While machines can outperform humans in every single aspect and rapidly acquire skills that regular people would take months to achieve, they will never have one thing.

If I put my hand on my left chest, I can feel it beating. This organ that pumps color into people's lives and is the reason for tears, smiles, and frowns; an organ that, while making the world gleam, also makes it so prosaic. A machine will never be able to feel such a thing; it will never be able to feel anything at all.

When AIA started sending drones to kill hungry children with darts filled with botulinum, the deadliest poison known to humans, I raced to my lab to fix the problem. They're not like those robots that one sees in dystopian movies. It's essentially one computer program that can create anything imaginable. It sits on my quartz table with plugs of myriad colors coming out of it, connecting it to 25 different outlets. My office looks like a spider's web, and the computer, a covetous spider ready to eat its next victim.

I had to pass through 8 different security tests to finally get to my program. When I tried to change the filter on my computer it shut down and immediately activated a deafening alarm. I rushed out of my building, pressing my hands as hard as I could onto my ears. It was so loud, but not quite as much as the screams of the redheaded lady. She was translucent, and her bones were nearly visible. When the drones approached her, she hollered and begged for mercy. Her voice still echoes inside my head like a knife screeching on a porcelain plate. It was when I left my office that I realized AIA wouldn't let anyone hamper their goals—not even me.

When I got home, I sat on my burgundy couch, feeling acid rain run down my pale cheeks. I was burning despite the fact that it was only 8 degrees Celsius. My heart felt as if it were being enshrouded by magma, slowly turning into coal and numbing my pain. I needed to ease my mind.

I opened the window. The breeze enveloped me like a hug. The big, white, fluffy clouds were drifting calmly through the cerulean sky while the rays of sunlight casted a golden hue on the violet pansies scattered throughout the garden. I then saw an enormous butterfly approaching my balcony.

Its wings were the same color as the sky, with cloud-colored specks throughout. A butterfly represents transformation, growth, and power. I felt like a moth, the very representation of death.

Akila's perspective

I sat there holding my mother's skeletal hands while feeling her crimson hair flow down her back like magma in a volcano; she had a dart with mauve liquid inside stuck to her arm. Suddenly, a butterfly landed on her chest. Its wings were the same color as her blue eyes. I looked up and saw another pair of eyes; they were brown this time and filled with misery.

He was a tall and slim man with green glasses, an ebony jacket, and jeans. Everyone knows him as Eliezer Leius; I know him as the man who ruined my life.

My heart felt like an anchor slowly sinking into my sorrow. I was a shattered glass, piercing every inch of my skin until it bled. The emptiness of my soul almost barely compensated for the emptiness of my stomach. My lips were a desert; the water dripping from my eyes humidified them, but my mouth still felt bitter. My cheeks looked burnt; vermillion, like my mother's hair; and scarlet, like the color of chaos. I held her strongly, afraid the wind would take her away from me.

I looked at my mother's face again. She felt cold and pale, which seems so ironic considering the warmth she exerted everywhere she went, brightening up every person she encountered. Her giggles still echo inside my head like soap bubbles bursting on a summer afternoon.

She once told me a story about a butterfly. It started off with a slimy green worm who was insignificant and disgusting in the eyes of many. It would keep eating green leaves and paying no mind to the rude comments. Then, suddenly, it became a cocoon, shielding itself from the harshness of the world. Ten days passed, and that same cocoon started shaking, and from it appeared something extraordinary.

My mother told me that we were just like that little worm, ready to become majestic butterflies. She was so hopeful about the future and was always optimistic about even the little grains of bread. She told me to be patient, just like the worm was. But I fear I will never be able to transform into that butterfly. Perhaps a moth, though, fluttering sadly in the darkness while searching desperately for a light that, at the end of the day, will only harm her. Perhaps beings like me and the moth were never meant for greatness, so we wander soullessly through the world in search of something that we can never reach.

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