04 September 2009

"Newbody Does It Better"

By Curtis C. Chen

Two men in a bar.

"Why don't you like talking to Lisa?"
    "Come on, man."
"No, really, tell me why you don't like talking to my wife."
    "Dude. It's not your wife. It's a computer simulation running inside a robot."
"It's not a simulation. It's her mind—all the same thoughts, feelings, and memories—just running on a different substrate."
    "Wow. Is that straight out of the brochure?"
"This is a common misconception. We don't make a copy, we perform a transfer."
    "Are we going to have this argument, too? It's information. There isn't some magical brain energy that gets siphoned off and deposited into the newbody. You scan someone's skull for activity patterns and program the newbody's main computer to replay those patterns. Hell, that's not even a copy. That's mimicry."
"Look, I can't talk about it in detail, but—we know it works. One hundred percent, no doubt, it's a perfect transfer."
    "And I should just take your word for it?"
"You'll just have to trust me. It's a big deal. We've been working on this problem for a long time, but we're not ready to tell the public yet."
    "Wait. You said 'problem.'"
"No. Sorry. Poor choice of words. It's... an issue we have to resolve."
    "What's going on?"
"You are not getting a story out of this."
    "Wouldn't dream of it. Come on. Off the record."
"I can't."
    "Will this big secret convince me that Lisa is not a robot?"
Laughter. "If this doesn't, then nothing will."
    "Jeff. You can trust me."
A pause. "We can't talk in here."


Two men in a taxicab.
    "I swear. On the graves of all my forefathers, I swear. I will die before repeating any of this."
A deep breath. "Okay. You're right about how we initialize the newbrains. We scan the biological brain to reverse-engineer the physical neuron structure. Once we have that information, we manufacture the newbrain, imprint it, and power up the newbody."
    "I'm not hearing any secrets so far."
"You were wrong about one thing. We can be certain that the newbrain is an exact duplicate of the original. We know when it works, because the old brain stops functioning."
    A pause. "What?"
"When we power up the newbrain, the old, biological, human brain stops working."
    "Because you destroy the old body."
"No. This is what I'm telling you. The old brain just dies. Immediately. We don't know how—"
    "Wait. Wait! What do you mean, it dies? You're just making a copy of some energy patterns!"
"We're duplicating a mind at the quantum level. Apparently the universe won't allow two identical minds to exist simultaneously, and the newbrain supersedes the old one because it's more durable. This is our current theory, anyway."
    "Christ. If you're right, then you could kidnap someone—anyone—just by scanning them and imprinting a newbrain somewhere? Fuck, you wouldn't even need a body!"
"Yeah. You see why you can't tell anyone?"
    "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Well, you did have a lot to drink."
    "That's fucking hilarious."


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