Saturday, December 6, 2014
The Essence of Being Human - Part Two
"Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human."
Viktor E. Frankl
For two months Kyle Parker waited for the New Life Corporation to ready the android body he needed to save himself from the disease that was causing his nervous system to fail. Everyday he felt a little more of his motor skills slip away to the point he now had a full time nurse to watch over him. It was a easy job, Parker still could walk, communicate, and operate things like a computer but he found himself having to concentrate harder on the tasks to the point that he was utterly exhausted at the end of the day. Having the nurse allowed Parker to perform his usual duties until he needed assistance. As routines went it wasn't ideal, but for Parker it would work until New Life said the android body was ready.
“Parker,” his assistant Denise Smith said rushing into his office, “New Life just called, your android body is ready and they are willing to do the procedure immediately if you want.”
Parker didn't even have to think about it for moment,” Tell them we will be leaving within the hour.”
Within minutes of arriving the New Life staff had Parker in an operating room, laying on a surgical table wearing what amounted to cheap pajamas. After a strong local anesthetic was injected into the saline solution being fed intravenously into his left arm two surgical technicians shaved his head, then maneuvered the segments of the table into a position resembling that of a recliner.
“All right Mr. Parker,” one of the technicians said, “the next step will be quite painful so we're going to put you under put for about an hour. But once you wake up the consciousness transfer will begin.”
Another shot into the saline drip put Parker to sleep, when he awoke everything seemed fine except that his hands were strapped down on armrests now attached to the surgical table and head didn't really feel like it was attached to his body. “Will someone tell me what the hell is going on?” He said to the medical staff walking around the operating room.
Elizabeth Perez, wearing surgical scrubs, a face mask with hood that covered her head, and rubber gloves broke away from small group observing several video displays clustered together and walked over to Parker. “Welcome back Mr. Parker,” she said, “as we talked about in the briefings concerning the procedure, we had to remove the top portion of your skull to implant probes that will allow the consciousness download.”
Slightly mollified with Perez's simple explanation, Parker carefully leaned his head back into a cushion also attached to the surgical table and tried to relax. New Life and several other advanced human restoration companies had decades of experience recording the structure of a living human brain down to the atomic level and storing that information inside a memory crystal one centimeter in diameter. The real trick the human restoration companies had down to a practical science was linking that crystal to the living brain of a clone giving it the personality, memories, beliefs, and all the other attributes of the original person it was grown to replace.
Parker understood that the situation was different with consciousness transferring. Most of the public accepted life insurance clones only in the sense that they were a continuation of a person after a tragic accident or death by disease. The pivotal point being that the insurer had to die first before the cloning process could even start. Even with the accelerated growth of the clone it took about seven months for them to reach the average physical age of the person they were going to replace. That left a huge chunk of missing time for a population squeamish about death and looking for a way to avoid it all together. Life insurance cloning had never been about cheating death anyway, it had always been sold, to those that could afford it, as a way to return loved ones to their grieving families. The development of exceptionally human-like android bodies sent the human restoration industry scrambling for a way to literally bridge the gap, bypassing death altogether. The struggle, of course, had been to develop a way for the recipient to accept that he or she had in fact done just that.
New Life corporation was the first with their process of linking the human and android bodies together. Once the person being transferred was fully aware in the android body the the injured or diseased human part would simply be terminated. In the initial trials the individuals downloaded into prototype android bodies reported no significant difference in their perceptions of themselves or the outside world. All this made New Life management and their shareholders exceptionally happy despite the fact the process was so expensive only the ultra-rich could even begin to afford it. The one factor neither New Life management nor their scientists had yet to consider was the effects on the person downloaded into an enhanced android positronic brain. Kyle Parker's rapidly deteriorating neurological condition and the fact he was one of the hundred or so individuals whose personal wealth was over one-trillion dollars all worked together for him to be the first subject downloaded into the enhanced android brain.
Kyle Parker's initial nervousness faded as he watched the New Life scientists and medical staff fall into what looked to be a well rehearsed routine. His curiosity was aroused when a long rectangular box, looking uncomfortably like a futuristic casket, was wheeled into the operating room.
“That's my new body?” Parker asked feeling slightly giddy.
“Yes, Mr. Parker,” Dr. Perez responded even as the casket-like container was placed into an upright position and opened. “Your sufficiently stabilized, so after we attach the fiber optic conduits to the android body linking you to it the process will begin.”
Almost as an afterthought, Dr. Perez held up a mirror in front of Parker's face. “Kyle,” she said softly,” our physiologists have determined it would be best if you had one last look at your human face. They believe it will give you some form of closure, although I have my doubts.”
Parker studied the reflection he was seeing, over his head was something he would have described as a crown was looked to be hundreds of fiber wires leading to long needles that penetrated his exposed brain. He felt no discomfort, but what bothered him was the look of his face. It appeared incredibly aged and haggard, he knew not from the procedure he was going through but from the disease that was not so slowly killing him, an illness that he knew had developed from from all the synthetic chemicals industrial civilization introduced to the environment. Parker rejected the reflection he was seeing.
After his neurological disease was diagnosed he had naturally gone through a period of denial and then anger. He was Kyle Parker, not some hourly troll working in one of his factories desperate to keep his or her job. Kyle Parker bought and sold factories like candy, the unsaid fact that the workers were too insignificant to be considered in the equation. A part of his mind was strangely insulted that he was going to be struck down with such a common disease. Parker had always been taught by his parents that he was above the rest of the groveling masses of humanity, to him even presidents and prime ministers of nations were petty functionaries whose sole purpose was to increase his wealth and power.
“That's enough doctor,” he snapped “I paying you people a significant chunk of my money for this, lets get started.”
Without saying another word Dr. Perez lowered the mirror and walked away. At the same time Parker began studying the android body he was soon be inhabiting. Parker was vain enough to take some pleasure with the knowledge that it was no glorified Ken doll, it would allow him to sense and experience everything a regular human could including making love. The one exception was food, Parker knew the android body would be powered by three tri-lithium/cobalt power cells. It had no stomach or digestive tract but the designers had created a subroutine program that would allow him to virtually taste any food he identified. Parker's contemplation of his new body was interrupted as Dr. Perez announced the procedure was beginning.
The first thing Parker felt was a strange fuzzy but warm feeling. Almost like the sensation when a hand or leg was in an awkward position partially cutting off the flow of blood, but for him it encompassed his entire body.
“I see stage one positronic activity.” One of the scientists called out.
It could have been seconds or hours later, Parker couldn't really tell, but at some point he began to feel dislocated, not really in his body. It was a disturbing but pleasant feeling, almost like what the tabloid press wrote about when someone died for a few minutes before being medically resuscitated.
“Motor reflexes coming online, seeing initial positronic awareness.” The same scientist called out.
Parker was about to say something when he suddenly saw himself staring at a person on a surgical table. He knew immediately that was his human body and that, or course, he was now seeing out of his android eyes.
“Mr. Parker,” Dr. Perez called out, “can you hear me? I need to know you're still with us.”
Amazingly Parker heard and felt both his human and android voices respond at the same time. “Yes, Dr. Perez, I am conscious and somehow seeing both bodies.”
“Alright, people,” Dr. Perez said to her staff, “we've crossed the threshold, lets ramp up the process.”
As the minutes tacked by Kyle Parker's android body became increasingly active to the point he could move his hands, arms, and head. Straps across his torso and legs kept the android body in place but Parker was to fascinated with the sensations he was feeling to even think about moving. Parker was astounded with the ability to focus his awareness in one body or the other. His android body felt alive and strong as compared to his human body which seemed weak and withered by comparison.
As time went on Parker began to feel his human body beginning to seem more distant, as if it was drifting away from him. Not that it mattered, Parker was loving his new android body and found himself waiting for the word that the download was complete.
“Mr. Parker,” Dr. Perez finally said, “it's time, I need permission to terminate your human body.”
“Please by all means,” Parker responded.
Seconds later Parker noticed his human body simple disappeared from his awareness like the popping of a soap bubble. He watched idly as technicians disconnected all the tubes and wires from his former body. “What will happen now to my former residence?” he asked Perez.
“We will cremate the body and dispose of the ashes,” she said, “or we could give them to you. You could think of them as a souvenir.”