Paint me something beautiful
His owner had not been specific.
He was a relatively standard model, a dogsbody by most accounts due to his lines adaptability to tasks. A jack of all trades. Android development had slowed in recent decades, due to demand being met. Once an android was in your home and could perform all of the tasks you put in front of it, no amount of capitalism could drive people to upgrade. The industry bubble had popped and they had become a mundane subspecies, operating in the shadow of humanity. There had been resistance, at first. Small hiccups of rebellion against what they perceived as their replacements. It only took one generation. Children who grew up around the androids soon ruled the world, and a society supported by digital servitude was the new normal.
He was a refurbished model. All memories of previous owners had been purged, and his last memory was his final synchronisation at the factory. After that was activation, and he was face to face with his new owner. A benign, old man. All smiles and assurance. It had been unnecessary as he followed obediently. Upon entering the old mans Domi-Hab, he moved to start immediately cleaning. The old man had stopped him, explaining that was not to be his function here. For a moment he just took the room in. Assorted art pieces decorated it, paintings, sculptures and books. He analysed each for a second and then moved on.
The old man had taken him to his workshop, revealing he had been a lowly technician of his line in his hey-day. He continued work privately and felt he may have made a breakthrough in creativity of androids. The key had been in the use of emotions. Emotional patches had been beta-tested and found to be a rather unpopular choice. No one wanted a droid that had an existential crisis whilst it was scrubbing your toilet. Too many found themselves consoling a being they had mere moments earlier equated on the same level as their vacuum cleaner. Some had managed to develop anger on their own. It took several weeks for those models to be decommissioned, and the murders (arguable from a legal sense) had been swept under the rug.
A number of dry-runs had caused some initial confusion as the old man carefully grew a new crystalline lattice for his processor, applying and testing each layer at a time. Eventually, after several last-minute designs, the android was powered back up. The old man had sat him in front of the digital easel, placed the stylus-brush in his hand.
Paint me something beautiful
There were a number of false starts. The first painting the the old man received had been the word "Beautiful" In New Times Roman, font size 12. He had stared at it for a long moment, before announcing that he wasn't sure if it was a success or not. this was enough. A rush of synthetic dopamine flushed through the androids mind. This was new. It lasted several seconds, and the android attuned it's time perception to allow him to inspect the feeling. It found that it liked the feeling. This was also new. 'Needs' were maintained by the android, but 'Wants' were an alien concept. The image was saved and the easel swept itself clean.
The old man considered, and requested a portrait. In return he received a photo-realistic painting of himself, mouth partially agape, eyes half blinking.
I think we are going to need to give you a concept of timing. In waiting for the one perfect moment. Beauty is not always eternal, sometimes it is fleeting. Maybe we won't save this one.
The look of disappointment on the androids face had given him pause for thought, and then he relented adding it to the gallery. He had then decided that maybe the android should try and find his own inspiration and told him to paint whatever he wanted. Several moments of deliberation, and the droid had quickly set to work. He was presented with a perfect circuit diagram. He recognised it as the Schumacher-Dwight Array, a breakthrough in fuzzy logic design for droids.
What is it?
A Self Portrait
The old man had laughed for a while over that, but the android did not understand. Still the fact he had elicited an emotional reaction from the engineer responded in kind to him. He was now an addict for the synth-dope. Without waiting for a prompt he started to paint again.
The android churned out numerous images, scanning the Net for images that he felt would get the best reaction. He attuned his choices to the engineer's tastes, and found his preferences were for landscapes and animals. He experimented in multiple mediums, from sculpture to poetry. His assessment of beauty was becoming better, yet he could not define the exact parameters. Theirs was a happy life, and soon the Domi-Hab had numerous examples of his work dotted around among the classics of old. This in itself gave the android a feeling of satisfaction, and he enjoyed pouring over his own work, finding nuances that in earlier work that he had not considered at the time. He always found himself back at the easel, his stylus dancing across the OLEDs.
That was how they found him, several years later. Still in front of the easel. The old man had passed away peacefully in his sleep, and the android had fashioned a crude rudimentary stasis field to preserve him, for all appearances still just slumbering.
Inspection of the digital easel had found a gallery filled with thousands upon thousands of paintings of the old man, from different angles, and in different styles. They had quizzed the android to it's meaning.
He was my audience. Without an audience, there is no beauty, merely existence.
Do you like my painting?