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March 1st, 2017

Responder
Tom Hara had stayed up all night programming his new idea. It was six o'clock in the morning when he typed the last closing brace. Tom closed his eyes and felt the chill brought on by sleep deprivation. He looked at his cat sitting on his lap, "Okay, Terry. Cross your paws that this works!" By half after eight he had worked out all the bugs so that it could actually run. Tom made sure the program had access to his email and social media accounts, then went to bed. Terry followed along as per their routine.

Tom got up and grabbed a can of soda, then walked to the computer at four o'clock in the afternoon. "Let's see if 'Responder' is working." He checked his email. He had received 23 emails while he slept. His program, 'Responder', had answered 11 of them. One was a simple request from his friend Brian: "Hey Tom, want to go to dinner at the Chinese place tonight at 8?" Responder had checked Tom's calendar and automatically sent an email reply: "Sure, let's do it."

He had given his program full access to all his previous emails, text messages and social media comments. It then used Google's TensorFlow library of machine learning functions to determine the vocabulary and sentence structure that Tom had used in the past. Even though Tom knew exactly how it worked, it still felt unnerving to have a computer program answer emails in his voice. He checked through the other ten emails that were answered and was satisfied with the responses.

The program needed more information to answer the remaining emails and had sent Tom a list of questions that it needed answers to. Tom brought one up: a colleague was asking for a script to be sent over. Tom typed in a few commands to allow Responder to have admin access to his storage system, then spoke out, "Responder, for question one you can find any of my work in the /mnt/nas path."

Responder replied, "Understood, Tom. This also answers question three." Responder sent out an email reply with the appropriate attachment less than a second later. Tom went through and addressed the remaining issues that Responder had raised, then picked up his cat. "Terry, I think this is going to work!" Terry didn't like being picked up and put back her ears. Tom put her down, "Oh, I love you, Terry. You're such a silly cat."

Responder was listening and replied, "Understood, Tom." But Tom didn't hear.

At first, Tom double-checked every email, text message, and Instagram comment that Responder created. Two weeks went by without a glitch. Tom leaned back in his chair and took a large gulp of his soda. "Responder, you're on your own. Just do what I would do."

"Understood, Tom."

From then, Tom would just answer any questions that Responder had, but not go back and actually check the raw emails or text messages. As the weeks went by, Responder asked fewer and fewer questions. It was a Wednesday afternoon when Tom first woke up and found that Responder had replied to everything without having a single question. It had replied to 8 emails, sent out 43 text messages and made comments to his friends on Facebook and SnapChat. Tom was free.

It was a strange experience to not personally respond to anything ever, but Tom adapted quickly enough. He went wherever his calendar said. He continued to meet up with friends for parties and eating. He had just outsourced the dull part of his life that was organizing everything.

Months passed by like this and eventually Tom didn't think about Responder anymore. He used his phone exclusively for checking his calendar, playing games and doing Google searches. It had been over a month since he even manually texted anybody.

He opened up his calendar on a Friday afternoon to see what he had in stock for the night. His calendar told him to show up to Morini, a pretty fancy Italian restaurant at eight o'clock. Tom felt like checking out what was going on, but decided it would be fun to just show up and see what Responder had planned.

The Uber that Tom took showed up at 8:15 in front of Morini. He approached the host stand. "Hi, I'm Tom. I think I have an appointment for eight."

The hostess scanned her finger down a piece of paper, then stopped it halfway done. "Hello, Tom. Your other guest is already here. Please follow me."

Tom walked behind the hostess as they went around a few corners. He kept looking out to see what friend he was here with, but didn't see anybody. Suddenly the hostess stopped. Tom looked over and a woman he didn't know. She was dressed in a blue semi-formal dress. The woman yelled out, "Tom!" and came over and kissed him.

"Uh, hi. Nice to meet you."

The woman looked confused, "Oh, you mean in person. Yeah." She then pulled Tom's arm towards the table, "Come over here, sit next to me."

They both sat. She put her hand on his arm, and Tom leaned away.

"This is so exciting! I can't believe I'm finally here. I have all my stuff in the back of my car. This is going to be great!"

Tom didn't know what was going on, but those words sounded ominous. "Oh, sorry. I need to use the restroom. Be right back." He pulled free and quickly walked to the bathroom. He pulled out his phone and for the first time in months really looked at what had been going on. He saw that Responder had set up an account for him on a dating site and carried on many week conversations with several women. All of them were named Terry. The one tonight had been going on for two months. He quickly opened the latest conversation:
Terry: Are you sure I can move with you? I don't want to move out of my parents house and drive 1,400 miles and get stranded?
Tom: Terry, I think this is going to work.
Terry: Okay, Tom. I'll do it. I'll come for you.
Tom: Oh, I love you Terry. You're such a silly cat.
Terry: You know me, Tom. Meow.