In a world in which Humanity had become redundant in unprecedented numbers, we’d both retained the status of another age: working professional.
The Unknown was technologically advanced—and there were some who claimed that that made them hostile by definition. Technology Implies Belligerence, they said.
Humans didn’t really fight over skin tone or ideology; those were just handy cues for kin-selection purposes. Ultimately it always came down to bloodlines and limited resources.
So the therapists and psychiatrists poked at their victims and invented names for things they didn’t understand, and argued over the shrines of Freud and Klein and the old Astrologers. Doing their very best to sound like practitioners of Science.
Since you don’t actually see it, there’s no messy eyeball optics to limit resolution.
Luddites love to go on about computer malfunctions, and how many accidental wars we might have prevented because a human had the final say. But funny thing, commissar; nobody talks about how many intentional wars got started for the same reason.
“What relationship? According to you there’s no such thing. This is just—mutual rape, or something.”
“You use your Chinese room the way they used vision. You’ve reinvented empathy, almost from scratch, and in some ways—not all obviously, or I wouldn’t have to tell you this—but in some ways yours is better than the original. It’s why you’re so good at synthesis.”
When asked for your perspective, you serve it straight up and unvarnished— until the decision is made, and the orders handed down. Then you do your job without question.
I was good at what I did. I was so damned good, I did it without even meaning to.
People were starting to weigh costs against benefits, opt for a day or two outside the panopticon even in the face of the inevitable fines and detentions.
“Then it’s not your brain anymore. It’s something else. You’re something else.”
“That’s kinda the point. Transcendence is transformation.”
He shook his head, unconvinced. “Sounds more like suicide to me.”
the Anarres colony
“Have a drink,” he said. “Helps the future go down easier.”
“Dan, you gotta let go of this whole self thing. Identity changes by the second, you turn into someone else every time a new thought rewires your brain. You’re already a different person than you were ten minutes ago.”
She’d hadn’t even been in the kill zone; she’d been on the other side of the world, growing freelance code next to the girl of her dreams. Those weren’t as rare as they’d once been. In fact they’d grown pretty common ever since Humanity had learned to edit the dream as well as the girl. Soul mates could be made to order now: monogamous, devoted, fiercely passionate
I know how bad the optics are. I know how tough it is to sell an alliance with a regime whose neuropolitics are rooted in the Middle Ages. But we’re just going to have to take this dick in our mouths and swallow whatever comes out.
I’ve told you before, Daniel: roach isn’t an insult. We’re the ones still standing after the mammals build their nukes, we’re the ones with the stripped-down OS’s so damned simple they work under almost any circumstances. We’re the goddamned Kalashnikovs of thinking meat.
It frightened him, at first—the way new thoughts spilled from his mouth before he could check them for veracity, before he could even parse their meaning.
It’s a hack, in other words; your brain has learned how to get the reward without actually earning it through increased fitness. It feels good, and it fulfills us, and it makes life worth living. But it also turns us inward and distracts us.
Because natural selection takes time, and luck plays a role. The biggest boys on the block at any given time aren’t necessarily the fittest, or the most efficient, and the game isn’t over. The game is never over; there’s no finish line this side of heat death. And so, neither can there be any winners. There are only those who haven’t yet lost.
In hindsight, it is apparent that describing the Bicamerals as a religious order is a little misleading: the parts of the brain they’ve souped up simply overlap with the parts that kick in during religious neurobehavioral events, so the manifestations are similar. Whether that’s a distinction that makes a difference is left as an exercise for the reader.