I was silent a moment as I sat, legs and feet tucked under me, toes wiggling in their socks. I sat on a cushion, but my toes touched the bamboo floor as they wriggled.
Zoe was measuring green tea powder out carefully, eyes intently trained on the small, wooden spoon. She dumped the powder into the cup with a flick of her wrist.
I cleared my throat and she responded with a "Hmm?" But did not look up.
"Why do you do these ceremonies?"
"That's a silly question," she responded, reaching for her water scoop.
I watched her fingers curl around the scoop's handle. She dunked the scoop in a kettle of hot water and poured it into the cup.
She wiped the spout with a fabric cloth to prevent drips from landing on the floor or low table. Next she reached for her whisk.
"Humour me, then."
She shot me an annoyed glance before whisk met liquid.
"Humans are...complicated...far more complicated than my circuitry perhaps. The aspect of ritual in a tea ceremony satisfies my need for procedural generation. It's easy."
I was silent another moment, thinking about Zoe's answer. In many aspects, Zoe, or Z-01, was making a conscious decision to enact within her programming, despite having the option not to.
Zoe had begun to whisk the tea, creating a froth on the surface of the liquid.
"The Japanese, the creators of the tea ceremony, talk a lot about something called dō which means the way. Does it satisfy something in your code? Acting this way?"
She silently removed the whisk and wiped it, then took the cup, wiped the rim, turned it and presented it to me.
"I don't know," Zoe said, "It just feels good to do it this way."
I looked at the cup of green tea, turned so that the best angle was presented to me,
and thought of how she managed to act within her code while simultaneously breaking every barrier AI had and feeling anyway. I had to laugh.