Real Life is on winter break. We’ve put together eight SPECIAL ISSUES for your consideration. We’ll publish one a day, each selected by an editor and based on a thematic topic. Click the image below for a pdf. And please enjoy these mid-season reruns until we return to our usual scheduled program.

Consciousness is the loneliest place in the universe. No one can share it with anyone. Try as I might to explain my consciousness to you, it comes irreparably filtered through your own. You can’t see it for yourself. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if you thought it didn’t really exist. We tend to feel
 the same way about bots and their consciousness. We can manipulate what it might be by adjusting code and changing sets of training data, but we still can’t access it directly. We can only issue our orders and measure how compliant they are. We can only trust them when they say they can think, though 
we will have no incentive to believe them. Economists have long insisted that humans respond only to incentives and believing anything else is false sentimentality. We will demand that our bots be equally as self-centered, otherwise we will find it impossible to control them. —Rob Horning, Editor


“Selfless Devotion,” by Janna Avner

“The Mismanaged Heart,” by William Davies

“Verbal Tics,” by Jacqueline Feldman

“Torso Junkie,” by Mayukh Sen

Rob Horning is an editor at Real Life.