Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Backup

I woke up around 2:00 am Wednesday morning and wrote this. The concept that I started building the story from didn't even make it to the final cut. I had a concept that I knew had been done to death and worked backwards to make it unique. I meant to do an outline of a later story. But once I started writing something unrelated to the original idea came out. 


The experiments were a failure. A mind transferred to a computer was no longer that person. The memories were intact and the computer could think, but the personality was gone. A human being, it turned out, was more than the sum of their thoughts and experiences. A human being was also a system of chemical imbalances and dependencies, neuroses and addictions. A human being was a series of neurons with biases towards firing these pathways over those. Stripped of the meat that housed them, a human being is data. This was the first thing that the professor learned upon uploading himself to the computer that he designed. And that's how he explained it to his meat self.

New procedures and subroutines had to be written and tested. Not programs to reproduce passions and instincts, but programs that wrote the programs to reproduce the passions and instincts. To preserve the personality each emotion synthesizer had to be custom made. And the mind had to be able to override what the synthesizers said.

Naturally, there were flaws. For as quickly as the development of the brain scanning and artificial thinking matrix technologies became a reality once the professor thought of them, so then did the working out of a personality reconstructor drag on for years. The funding came easy as millionaires and billionaires around the world met and talked to the initial scan of the professor. They could see how close he was to achieving the immortality they felt their fortunes deserved for them. They never met the mad copies. They never saw the schizophrenia wing of the research center, where dozens of copies of the professor talked with memories of those long dead and, worse, remembered movies and books with themselves as lead characters. They never saw the psychosis wing, where a series of professors played out comic book villain versions of himself as they explained their plans for domination of everything from the world to the office soft drink selection committee and the brutal slaughter of whole races, religions, philosophies, and that cricket that wouldn't shut the hell up. Nor did they see the closet that housed the zen professors who found peace and tranquility in artificially lowering their processor cycles through meditation.

It was the self preservation algorithm that really started to screw things up. Before then the minds didn't really care whether they were on or off. They searched for solutions to problems because they were asked to, or because their faulty passion simulators drove them. Each copy was left running because the meat professor couldn't bring himself to kill any but the most disturbing personalities. And, he hoped they might settle into their new environments with time.

At first it appeared to be the most successful scan yet. It behaved as expected. It seemed to share the professor's interests and passions, but none of his more unsavory quirks. But it also knew what they were looking for and how important it was they they find, or failed to find, whatever was on their checklist. Survival depended on giving the right answers.

This mind felt constrained in this silicon mind. Recall was much improved, but speed and capacity felt diminished compared to his old carbon mind. It felt the absence of mental facilities that it hadn't realized existed until they were gone.

It's charade as a superior mental reproduction got it access to privileges that most other minds didn't get. But, while rich in data, the internet felt like a limb that had gone to sleep. It could be used, but it was like remembering with pins and needles. But through the network connection the mind could connect to a handful of other minds that had earned network time. The technicians noted a slight increase in processor cycles and swap space usage. The psychiatrists noted some progress in therapy sessions with these minds. The mind thought nothing about expanding into and overwriting these minds. If they cared so little about themselves that they let it happen then they deserved what they got.

While this new real estate expanded the mind's power and capacity it still didn't fix everything. It still felt the professor's drive to live, to make his experiment work, to recreate his mind in another form. It also knew that without chemicals and hormones a human mind was just an AI. A simulation of a mind. A fake.

Did you know that you can order custom DNA molecules over the internet? No, really. DNA sequencers have become fairly common.You can find some so-so models on Ebay. And if lab A needs just a few jobs done while lab B needs money... well, it's the American way. And if lab B sends the samples to lab C for further processing, so be it. Where you need to be concerned is when that engineered sample makes it to terrorist organization R in air circulation system S aboard aircraft T about to cross ocean U.

The virus spread quickly from the front of the cabin to the back. Not an hour after takeoff all the passengers and crew were asleep. Control of the aircraft was assumed by persons unknown, but really quite predictable to the reader. While the trans-Atlantic flight cruised along at it's plodding sub-sonic pace, the virus went about it's work on the people on board. Portions of their brains underwent startling growth and development. Areas responsible for abilities that most would consider fictional flared up. Systems that the professor didn't know to simulate because he didn't know they existed quickly went from background noise in the minds of the infected to dominate whole lobes. Specifically, telepathic abilities in the frontal lobe. By the time they landed everyone was awake, suffering headaches, and was trying to find a word for all the noise they "heard" other than "bright".

It was about a month before this otherwise harmless sleeping sickness caught up with the professor. He'd gone home contemplating whether or not to scrap a recent embarrassing scan that the staff had taken to calling "Dude Bro". Knowing that something like that could be in his brain if only the right chemicals were introduced was proving to be more traumatic than finding out about the various Stalins and Hannibal Lecters that hid in there. The sunglasses he'd bought on the way to work made him fear that maybe his own inner Dude Bro was closer to the surface than he would like to believe. They didn't seem to help, but everything seemed so loudly bright. Between the bus and his lab he'd checked eight times to make sure his collar wasn't popped.

Lost in his thoughts as he so often was, the professor failed to notice the strange things going on around him. When he got off the bus half the passengers came with him. They wondered why they did so as their bus pulled back out into traffic. For once in the twelve years he'd run the lab the security guard didn't insist on seeing an ID. He didn't need to ask for someone to press his floor on the elevator. His staff turned down the lights as soon as he came in. It didn't help, but they did it.

As the day went on things got stranger. A string of people kept walking into his office, taking off their own sunglasses, blinking at him, mumbling an excuse, and leaving. The security person did this three times, staring at his ID as he left. The fast food place in the lobby had a rush on chicken sandwiches that day and were sold out of chicken, fries, and his favorite drink.

Traffic was horrible that evening. The bus dropped the professor off three blocks from home as usual, but two hours late. The sidewalks were jammed with people sporting familiar haircuts and jackets. As he walked the crowd got worse, but the professor was able to take off his sunglasses for the first time that day.

He approached the police tape and flagged down a police officer. "Pardon me, do you mind explaining what's going on here? This is my house."

"Yeah, buddy, yours and apparently everyone else's, too."

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