A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley


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Post January 03, 2012, 01:40:55 PM

A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley

Honestly – I didn’t like the choppy style the author used in this story. It was too staccato and many of the sentences would have been easier to understand if they had been compound sentences. Use the words: and, but, or. Towards the middle of the story the father is told he can talk with what’s left of his daughter: “Notification had been terse: show up here, do not bring these items. Come alone. Keep your expectations modest.” A choppy style works in this paragraph, but not in the entire story.

The subject matter is emotionally complicated: a child’s death after a difficult life, resulting in a father left behind, alone. I dealt with this subject, in fact, in my story Two Days Lightspeed from Sol – so I can identify with the father’s desire to seek out whatever might be left of his child.

I’m unsure about the premise of the Benefactors because – if it’s possible to have A.I.s with such amazing abilities that they are controlling human affairs, then it should be possible to download human brains onto virtual databases – eliminating the ‘3 pounds of gray meat’ . Obviously the A.I.s – the Benefactors - are virtual personalities in digitized form, so the whole ‘bubble head’ thing doesn’t work. It’s not like ‘Futurerama’ is a viable source of data for this discussion (reference to the president’s heads being held in Bubble-head containers).

Perhaps the author should have taken it one step further and had the father decide to upload himself into the daughter’s digital matrix, perhaps.

I keep coming back in my mind to the 1950s movie about a scientist who saves his wife’s head on a coffee table after she is decapitated in an automobile accident. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, 1959. http://www.bmoviecentral.com/bmc/review ... nutes.html
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Post January 03, 2012, 03:10:00 PM

Re: A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley

It's called VAT IN A BRAIN.

Look it up. There are lots of philosophical and sci-fi (THE MATRIX being one example) writings on that subject.

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Post January 03, 2012, 03:14:22 PM

Re: A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley

I mean BRAIN IN A VAT, mine has been into VAT 69 or so it appears.


WIKI:

In philosophy, the brain in a vat is an element used in a variety of thought experiments intended to draw out certain features of our ideas of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, and meaning. It is drawn from the idea, common to many science fiction stories, that a mad scientist, machine or other entity might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives. According to such stories, the computer would then be simulating reality (including appropriate responses to the brain's own output) and the person with the "disembodied" brain would continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences without these being related to objects or events in the real world.

The simplest use of brain-in-a-vat scenarios is as an argument for philosophical skepticism and solipsism. A simple version of this runs as follows: Since the brain in a vat gives and receives exactly the same impulses as it would if it were in a skull, and since these are its only way of interacting with its environment, then it is not possible to tell, from the perspective of that brain, whether it is in a skull or a vat. Yet in the first case most of the person's beliefs may be true (if he believes, say, that he is walking down the street, or eating ice-cream); in the latter case they are false. Since the argument says one cannot know whether he or she is a brain in a vat, then he or she cannot know whether most of his or her beliefs might be completely false. Since, in principle, it is impossible to rule out oneself being a brain in a vat, there cannot be good grounds for believing any of the things one believes; a skeptical argument would contend that one certainly cannot know them, raising issues with the definition of knowledge.

The brain-in-a-vat is a contemporary version of the argument given in Buddhist Maya illusion, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", and the evil demon in René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy.

I add THE MATRIX as one more example.
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Post January 03, 2012, 03:59:14 PM

Re: A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley

I don't need to look it up - I understand 'The Brain that Would Not Die' and Brain in a Vat idea. My point is that the Benefactors, as uploaded digital beings, would want their 'children' to be uploaded, cyber-beings as well. Harvest the brain patterns and throw the meat away. The whole 'bubble head' thing is too 1950s/futurerama simple.
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Post January 03, 2012, 04:57:57 PM

Re: A Traveler Returns by Ian Cordingley

And let us not forget such classics as "They Saved Hitler's Brain!" or the in vivo variants like "The Thing With Two Heads"; the "Re-Animator" series; and the Steve Martin spoof "The Man With Two Brains"!

(The "Dean Koontz's 'Frankenstein'" series also featured at least one disembodied brain in a vat, if I recall correctly -- a bio-engineered, never-human brain, but still a ball of grey-pink jello in aspic.)

I thought the more intriguing aspects of the story lay in the varying definitions of humanity -- the girl with half a brain; the disembodied repaired and expanded portion of that brain, now an independent entity; the many upgraded minds merged into some kind of shared consciousness. Which, if any, would qualify as fully 'human'? (We have insufficient information about the half-brained (but not half-alive) girl -- did she have the full gamut of emotions, creativity, etc.? If not, did that make her less human than her father, who spent much of his time in virtual reality?)

Moral of the story: a brain in a jar is worth two dicks in a box, even if one of the dicks belongs to Justin Timberlake. (Or maybe ESPECIALLY if...)

Also worth thinking about: the option to discard unwanted memories, which I think included REAL-WORLD memories as well as virtual-world memories (see also "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" ... or Scientology). If we are the sum (product, or other function of) our genetic potential, physical environment (nutrition, etc.), and experiences, would we become someone else if we deleted some of the experiences that contributed to our current state?
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