Preserved Recordings

Dearest Rachel –

It’s really quite strange, some of the documentation you left behind. Now, I understand that you weren’t the kind to throw out anything, but it has surprised me as to what papers you kept closest to you, the stuff you (apparently) considered to be important.

Such as voicemail messages. Occasionally, you would call me at work, and (if I were in conference with my boss over one failing or another), you would leave behind a cheery message that the company voicemail system would attempt to transcribe and turn into an email, which it would then send to me, like so:

Now, I didn’t always print them out and bring them home. But when the transcription program got one of your messages egregiously wrong, I would make sure you saw what the system thought you said, and hopefully – after getting a laugh out of what the system thought you said – you would be able to let me know what you really said. Generally, it wasn’t much of any great importance – maybe something for me to pick up on the way home (which, since I couldn’t understand what came out, I rarely managed to figure out and do – not that you minded hopping in the car and going out with me to remedy the situation), maybe a reminder of what plans we had for the evening to prepare for, that sort of ephemeral thing. They were the sort of messages that were meant to be dealt with at the time, and discarded.

Of course, now I’m stuck puzzling over what this actually said, and wishing I at least had a copy of the recording of your voice, since I’ll never hear it again outside of recordings, and I have so few of those left to listen to.

I mean, it’s not like I don’t have anything in the way of preserved recordings; I just can’t imagine it’s ever going to be enough. I’ve just gotten around to setting up the conversion process on those mini-DV tapes after several weeks of fiddling around with the hookup at the ‘office.’ As I observed previously, it’s amazing as to how much I focused on the performances around us, and so little on us ourselves.

Lily Tomlin, in her one-woman show “The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” used an analogy of Warhol’s painting of a Campbell’s soup can against an actual can of Campbell’s soup – the question being, which is soup, and which is art? In the show, her character’s alien friends observed of her stage show that “the performance was [the] soup; the audience was art.”

It pains me to observe that I neglected the true art in my life for so many bowls of soup, like some modern-day Esau. And, like any true art, you never realize its value until the artist passes, and you realize there will be no more art forthcoming from them.

But with regard to whether that would be enough, a few weeks ago, I came across an article in Not the Bee, the (alleged) non-satire sister site of the Babylon Bee.

Apparently, there’s been a patent issued to someone that would allow them to take social media and other recordings of an individual and generate a chatbot based on said individual. You’d probably told me about the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back” that covered this premise, only now, it’s on the verge of reality. And no, I still haven’t watched the episode (or any of them, in all honesty); come on, honey, I just mentioned the other day about how I hadn’t done anything with the bedroom computer since the accident.

Now, as I’ve come to expect from the folks at the Bee, this is not done without editorializing, and this is no exception. Basically, the writer sarcastically opines that “I am totally comfortable with this and it in no way makes me want to run screaming down the street,” which is to say that he absolutely finds the concept creepy as all get-out. And maybe I would have agreed with him, had I seen the article before your accident.

As it is, I find myself wondering, do I have enough footage of your voice, and enough of what you’ve written down, that I could have an AI of you made that I could interact with? Anything would be better than the nothing I feel like I’ve been left with.

Maybe I should watch the episode first, though. What do you think, honey?

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

2 thoughts on “Preserved Recordings

  1. I suspect Rachel, being a Doctor Who fan, might point you in the direction of a couple of episodes – a two-part story, “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. It captures some of the difficulties/issues with copies of a person’s personality. She would probably then tell you to be sure to stay in the light, count the shadows, and have your sonic screwdriver handy.


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