I bowed and put the phone in my pocket. “No, it’s not.”

After a pause, she demanded, “Let me see that again.”

The second time around, his eyes travel across the screen, taking time to study the image. He notes my angular brows. A silver glow on my chest. My chin was lifted slightly. The effect of seeing your parents outside of their normal circumstances is like seeing them naked. Shame on everyone.

“Mother!” she finally cries, her voice equal parts surprised and disappointed. “It looks like you, but it no you.”

Well, she’s right. This is not the version of me that I show him. The version she’s seen in leggings with a stray hole in the seam, no make-up on, rushing to pack a peanut-free lunch while practicing a Vietnamese language lesson in the background. Mom listens intently to a story about playground politics. She drives cautiously and doesn’t complain when she turns on Jojo Siva hundreds of times. He couldn’t summon enough drama to be the hero in any story.

That version, to my child, is the only version of me that matters. And at her young age, that makes sense. She’s not ready to see me beyond me, much less my AI version.

But in another life, can’t I be an AI version? If I had made a different choice—not going to graduate school in Chicago, where I met her father; Devoted my life to kung fu; Born into a military family destined for greatness –can I became the hero of all stories, not my own story? The AI ​​hero filter is just a small glimpse of another offshoot in the multiverse where I’m a different, bolder version of myself. The pull of an alternate self is intoxicating and bewildering. This is the stuff of movies.

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in the film Everywhere all at onceA struggling, exhausted Evelyn Wang (my AI doppelgänger, played by Michelle Yeoh) learns Navigate the multiverse Through the step-jumping technique. His mission is to save the multiverse by defeating a chaotic, life-destroying creature called Jobu Tupaki, who fluidly travels between worlds. To do so, Evelyn must temporarily inhabit the lives of alternate Evelyns, acquiring their skills to reshape her reality. From an opera diva, she learns to reach the highest notes while distracting her enemies. From a kung fu fighter, she learns to shred the air with her powerful limbs. From a strange but lovable multiverse where she has hotdogs for fingers, Evelyn learns compassion and vulnerability.

Throughout the film, Evelyn asks, “Why me?” Asks many versions of Her guide, an alternate version of her husband Waymond, tells her that she thinks she is special, that, in fact, what makes her extraordinary is her utter ordinariness. It’s not stated outright, but the reason Evelyn is able to masterfully appropriate so many skills is because she’s a blank canvas, a sponge capable of soaking up multiple identities. Unless, of course, she isn’t. Until the underlying promise of heroism – tragic and inevitable martyrdom – catches up with him.


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