Excerpts from Sandy’s new book, MECHINA EX DEUS …
MECHINA EX DEUS
Preview Chapter: Electra’s Birth
Sherry awoke with a start when the alarm went off. She turned off the alarm, made her bed for the last time and dressed for her appointment at the hospital. She felt a certain unreality to all that was about to happen. And everything seemed to be moving in slow motion.
She left her apartment in the arcology called Calumet. The vast structure housed six million people and was a few kilometers south of the larger sprawl that Chicago had become. Calumet was one hundred and fifty floors tall with structural support that would allow it to be extended an additional one hundred stories.
She took the elevator down to the fiftieth floor to the quadrant hospital. Sherry had lived and worked in Calumet for many years and had rarely left the mega-structure. As an arcology, Calumet was a virtually closed environment with living quarters, shopping and entertainment facilities through out the complex. Food, in the form of basic elements of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen was piped in or manufactured from recycling. These elements and additional trace elements could produce all the nutritional needs of the occupants of the vast structure. It was often referred to as CHON food and could be created to replicate food that was previously grown or raised.
She entered the hospital and thumbed into the admissions desk and her schedule was presented to the AI that was the administration for the hospital.
“Good morning, Ms Broase.” Said the AI.
“Good morning, Jane. I’m here for my procedure.” Sherry said unnecessarily. Her procedure had been scheduled for weeks. The AI knew why she was there and knew everything about her.
“Yes, Ms Broase. Please go to examination room 23.”
Sherry went down the hall to the indicated room. Once there, the disembodied voice of the AI said “Please disrobe and place your clothes in the locker basket. You may put on a tunic from the dispenser. The basket will be returned to you or your next of kin when called for.”
She said, “There’s nothing in my clothes I need, please dispose of it. I either roll out of here or they’ll take me out in a bucket. Either way I don’t need any of that stuff.”
“As you wish.” Said the AI.
Sherry undressed, put her clothes in the basket, and put on the tunic.
“The physician will be with your presently. If you are thirsty or wish to perform any last bodily functions or religious rituals you may perform them now.”
“I am thirsty, may I have some juice?”
“Certainly, please select what you would want”
“Orange juice, please.”
“The cup on the counter dispenser has your request”
A cup popped up in the drink dispenser. Sherry took the cup and sips from it and placed it back on the counter. She then sat on the examination table facing the door. A growing sense of anticipation and dread rose in her. She was about to die, but she would live indefinitely.
After a few minutes of waiting and starting to feel a bit chill, she got off the table and said, “Jane, I have to pee”
“There is a convenience room at the end of the hall”
Sherry left the room and went to the WC. As she sat and urinated, it struck her that this was the last time her body will ever do this. She wiped and flushed and returned to the room and sat on the table.
After a few minutes, the physician rolled into the room. His treads made no more sound on the floor as the human nurses shoes did.
The physician was also a transcribed, having spent 70 years in his corporeal, flesh and blood form, and then moved to machine existence.
“Good morning Sherry! How are you feeling today?”
“I’m feeling a bit ill. The anticipation and the cancer are killing me.”
Gallows humor she thought. Of course the doctor knew how she felt, he could see her bodily readouts displayed in his visual field. As part of her diagnosis and preparation for transcription, implants had been placed in her body and brain to monitor her health status.
“Well let’s kill two birds with one stone shall we? Are you ready?”
“Very good. Jane, the AI, will instruct you on what you are to do next. I will go prepare myself for your transcription.”
With that the doctor spun in place and exits the room.
The hospital AI, Jane, said, “Please exit the room and turn left and follow the signs to the third preparation room. It has your name flashing on it”
Sherry went down the hall to the prep room. There she found a shower cubical and a counter with two jars on it.
“Please use the jar marked depilatory and apply it to your head, armpits, and pubic area. Then wait approximately ten minutes and proceed to take a complete shower and rinse off all hair and depilatory. Then wash all skin and body cavities with the soap provided in the second jar.”
She performed as directed and as Sherry rinsed she watched all her dark hair go down the drain. She was slightly dismayed to find her head and pubis completely hair free.
“Oh well.” She thought, “At least I don’t have to worry about it itching as it grows back.”
She finished washing. The soap was a harsh disinfectant and dried her skin almost painfully.
She dried herself and wrapped the towel around herself for warmth. She felt it odd that such strict disinfectant procedures would be required since soon her body and brain would end up in recycling.
A nurse in surgical scrubs came in wheeling a gurney and said “Sherry? Hi, I’m Roger and if you’re ready we’ll prepare you for surgery. Would you please get on the table?”
She dropped the towel and got on the table. The nurse covered her with a sheet.
He then wheeled her through another door at the back of the shower room and down a different hallway and into the surgical suite.
The suite looked much like others, bright lights and sterile walls and odd-looking machinery with lights and displays. There was a table in the middle with the head end connected to a large machine with several arms and probes placed around it.
Rodger moved the gurney to the side of the operating table and asked Sherry to move to the over to the other table. She slid herself awkwardly over.
They spent a few minutes adjusting her so she was placed with her head on a cushion at the end of the table near the multi-armed machine. The doctor was nowhere in sight.
Once she was in place the disembodied voice of the doctor is heard.
“Very good, Sherry. I’m just about ready to start the operation. I’ve mated to this machine to perform the operation.” The machine waved one of its arms to show that the doctor was in.
“Now before we begin, as you know, there are certain legal issues that must be followed. The representative from the department of records will now take your statement.”
Another person in scrubs walked up with a tablet in his hand.
“Hello, Sherry. I’m Dean Farley from the Illinois department of records and I’m going to take your statement of discorporation and transcription now. I’ll be your witness to your procedure. I’ll be asking you some questions and I need to inform you that you will be under oath and you must answer truthfully. Do you understand?”
“Please state your name for the record.”
“Sherry Jane Broase”
“What is your date of birth?”
“April 27, 2052”
“Are you aware that the process you are about to undergo will destroy your brain and cause your body to die?”
“Do you know that your consciousness will be transferred to an autonomous computer system that will create an exact synthesis of your thoughts and memories?”
“Are you taking this action of your own free will without reservation or coercion?”
“Why are you having this procedure performed?”
“I have an aggressive form of cancer that is destroying my body faster than it can be repaired by other medical procedures. I have been informed that it has now metastasized to my brain and I will become a vegetable and die if I do not take this action. And taking anti-aging medication aggravates my condition and will make my death occur sooner.”
“Have you made a last will and testament?”
“Do you wish it executed at this time?”
“Because I am not going to die. My body may die, but I as a conscious entity will continue to exist.”
“Are you assigning your corporeal assets to the computing platform to which you will be transcribed?”
She thought, “Such as they are. I’ll be broke for decades paying off the mortgage on this thing.”
“As one of the final acts as a flesh and blood corporeal human, I require you to indicate your acceptance to the procedure by placing your thumbprint on the form.”
The record keeper presented the tablet to her, which had the transcript of their conversation, and Sherry thumbed the tablet.
“Doctor, I require your statement now.” Said the record keeper.
“I am doctor Herman Kane, medical registration number 136582-H-271B, transcription registration number A27682-K47-285. Today, I will be performing a radical craniotomy, and excision of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, grey and white matter, cerebrum, cerebellum, cerebral cortex, brain stem, optical and aural nerves, cochlea, and retina, and spinal cord down to the L3 vertebrae. In the process of excision each neuron and neuron cluster will be examined and functionally replaced with an identical equivalent in the Walthers computing platform, model A22, serial number 347289-7, firmware level 17.9, running software BrainTran Pro release 7. Each replaced neuron will perform the same identical function as the original neuron excised. The total effect will be to move, or transcribe, Ms. Broase’s consciousness from her flesh and blood body to the aforesaid computing platform. Whereupon that platform will be placed in the mobile autonomous housing she has chosen.”
“Doctor, are you taking this action of your own free will without reservation or coercion?”
“Why is this procedure being performed at this time?”
“The patient has an aggressive form of lymphoma that has metastasized to her cerebellum, and will render it useless and kill her within the next six months without this intervention. It is being performed at this time to preserve as much functionality as possible from the existing tissue, and transcribe it to the computing platform.”
“Very good, doctor, please send your legal signature to the pad.”
The doctor’s signature appeared on the pad.
“Thank you doctor. Now as legal representative and witness I, Dean Farley, will observe the transcription of one Sherry Broase to the aforementioned computing platform and upon it’s completion will attest and certify that the personality, consciousness and legal entity known as Sherry Broase has been transcribed to the aforementioned computing platform.”
By law, the witness had to be a flesh and blood human. The idea was to prevent a conspiracy of robots from creating a robot take over of humanity. Which was a reaction to the mammalian’s basic fear of change. The Transcribed thought it was ridiculous.
“If I cannot attest that the transcription was successful, and if the corporeal remains of Sherry Broase are no longer viable, I will attest to the death of Sherry Broase and rescind the temporary license of transcription and all software execution will be stopped and hardware turned off.”
“Do you all agree to these terms and conditions?”
All in the operating room gave their ascent.
“Thank you, all. Doctor, you may begin. I will take a seat at the rear of the operating room. Note that this procedure is being recorded.”
The doctor said “OK, Sherry, are you ready to begin?” “Yes, doctor.”
“As you know you must remain conscious throughout the procedure. We will be testing your transcription for accuracy.”
“We have given you a local anesthetic on your scalp so you will feel no pain. However, realize that we will need to test your pain sensations with the artificial neurons. The pain will be minor, but we will have to test all parts of your sensorium.”
“Are you in any pain now?”
“Other than a slight persistent headache, no doctor.”
“Alright, let’s begin.”
With that the doctor proceeded to mark an area around the skull just above the ears and above the eyebrows.
With practiced skill the surgeon cut on the line with a scalpel and pulled the skin off the top of her head.
Then using a bone saw he removed the top of her skull exposing her brain.
Sherry could hear the whine of the saw and feel the pressure of it as it pressed against her scalp. She could hear the whine modulate as it started to dig into her skull. She could see shadows of the saw and smoke rise from her head as the saw cut through the bone. The smell of the smoke was acrid and bitter. Her realization of what was about to occur started to terrify her. The feeling of impending doom was overwhelming. She gripped the sheets in terror, but refused to say anything. She knew that this was the only option available to her. She was choosing between death and a life that would be forever changed.
“Sherry,” the doctor said, “my monitors tell me that you are feeling anxious. Do you want some medication for the anxiety? It will not affect the transcription.”
“No doctor, I’m alright. I am feeling anxious, but I can stand it for now.”
“Alright, but it would be easier now. I can administer a drug that can help. But later in the process I would have to use a combination of drug and software modifications. Let me know if you need anything.
“Thank you, doctor, but I’ll hold off for now.”
After removing the sheet that covered the brain, the surgeon got ready to begin the actual process of transcription.
He took out what looked like a thick flexible gray mat that had a fat bundle of filaments that lead back into the surgeon’s machine.
He carefully placed the mat on top of Sherry’s brain. It formed itself on top of the brain and appeared to ooze into each crack and crevice of the exposed brain tissue.
The mat actually looked like grey goo, but it was actually an almost solid mat consisting of millions of active nano-machines that would perform the actual process of transcription.
The doctor’s role in the procedure became one more related to a project director. Most of the work was going to be done by the nano-machines and the doctor’s role would be one of directing the operation and overseeing the action of the process. He would also be able to intervene in case there was a problem in the process or if the nanos encountered a problem. He was expecting problems to occur as Ms. Broase’s brain cancer was getting to be more advanced and would interfere with the transcription. He would have to direct the nanos around the cancerous cells and try to maintain as much brain functionality as possible. Ms Broase would not have an error free transcription, but not all were. Those areas of the brain that had been destroyed by the cancer would be replaced by similar functions from the library of brain neurons that he had available. Most functionality had to do with the autonomous functions of the brain and body so would have little need in the transcription, but it is required to replicate the original functions as much as possible.
Following the transcription would be days to weeks of integration of the mind to the new brain and then mating the new person to their new mobile platform.
The transcription process would take hours and at several points throughout the operation, the doctor would test her reaction to various stimuli to verify that the transcription process was going according to plan.
First would be a baseline set of tests that would be matched with the tests taken during the operation. If there were any deviations, they would be identified and corrected.
The end result would be a functioning human being who could still recite Shakespeare but would not suffer from tinnitus, though that is hardly a reason to be transcribed. From the patient’s point of view, nothing should change. Except of course the tinnitus.
As the procedure continued to eat the brain tissue and replace it with artificial neurons, the patient should notice no real difference. Except when sensorium issues, such as sight, sound, taste and touch, were involved. Each of these would be replaced with functional artificial equivalents.
“Now, Sherry, we’re going to transfer your auditory sensorium to the augmented equivalent. We will take one side at a time starting with your right side. You will experience a period of deafness as the interface digests your cochlea and auditory canal and bones. When they have been decoded they will be re-integrated with your sensorium and adjusted to match your left side auditory sensorium. Are you ready?”
“Ok we will start.”
Sherry felt nothing but it sounded like the volume was being turned down on her right ear. Then as the doctor said all sound from her ear stopped. After a few minutes she started hearing scratches and tones. Then there was a piercing high-pitched tone and she screamed. “Turn it off! That sound is too damn loud!”
Immediately the sound stopped. From her other ear she could hear the doctor say, “Sorry about that but that was part of the testing. We had to find the highest parts of your auditory sensorium. It won’t be that piercing again.”
“I hope not! That hurt!” she wished she could move her arms and rub the side of her head. It was like a hot needle in her ear.
“Now we’ll test the auditory transcription to make sure it has been accurate.”
“We’ll play a series of tones and we’ll want to tell us if the tone we play is higher or lower than the previous tone.”
“Ok, will this take long?”
“You have somewhere else to go today?” joked the doctor.
“No, but it sounds tedious.”
“Don’t worry, it will be. Now here is the first tone.” A simple sine wave tone played and it sounded like a middle tone.
Then another tone played, “Is that last tone higher or lower than the previous tone?”
“Good, now here is other.”
“Good now another.”
This went on for about fifteen minutes some tones were so close together that it was difficult to tell the difference. Sherry was getting bored and was hoping that she would be able to hear soon.
After several more tests such as these, the doctor said, “Ok, lets bring on the ambient sound shall we?”
With that she could hear. But it was so very soft she could barely make out any sound at all but it felt like she could hear. The blocked feeling she had out of her ear was gone and there seemed like there was something going on.
“I hear something, but it is so soft”
“Yes, that is intentional. Naturally we don’t want to deafen you with the sound being too high like we did when we started. Human hearing is much more complex than hooking your brain to a microphone. So it’s important that we get the connections right. We’ll start increasing the volume slowly. Please tell us when it seems to match the sound coming in your left ear.”
After a period of adjustment, the sound seemed about right, “Ok, I think that’s it.”
“Good, now we’ll play some sounds through both ears to make sure that your hearing are properly connected. You should like this as we’ll be using music to do the testing.”
“Great. That’s better than those damn tones!”
“Ok here we go.”
Then there were several minutes of music of various types. The sound seemed to move between her left and right ears then play in full stereophonic splendor.
As the music proceeded Sherry was interrogated as to the music’s strength and location. The only discernible difference she could tell was the complete lack of background tinnitus whine. This, she thought, was something of an improvement.
At the conclusion of the testing, the doctor declared “Well everything seems to be well connected. We will now have you hear completely out of your augmented right ear as we proceed to the left one. Are you ready? “Yes, doctor.”
And with that the same procedure was repeated for her left side hearing, but without the piercing tone she experienced with her right. The parameters of auditory neurons and cochlea were established from her right hear and replicated on her left. As a result, fortunately, the testing and integration of her left side auditory nerves when much faster and the tone testing was quite abbreviated.
After her left side auditory sensorium was integrated into her overall sensorium, the doctor said, “Very good, Sherry, we have accomplish quite a significant part of transcription process. The auditory nerves are almost as complex as the visual nerves. We have transcribed about one third of the total brain mass. It is quite impressive. Do you feel any different now that you are partly transcribed?”
“Not really. Though my sense of dread is still there.”
“That would be normal for the seriousness of the procedure you are going through. But it should pass. Please be sure to mention this to your counselor when you go through therapy. Many of those who are transcribed feel post-operative anxiety or depression. But just to let you know the operation is proceeding quite well and we don’t anticipate any problems.”
“Thank you doctor.”
Sherry could only imagine what that must look like, her immobile form on the operating table and a huge chunk of her brain missing with cables running out of the top of her head.
And while the gruesome image was in her mind, she didn’t feel any different.
“The next part we will be working on will be your sense of taste.”
“Not my vision?”
“Your visual cortex is extremely complex and will take quite a while. We will be taking that on after we take on other easier sensorium components.”
“Will you also take my tongue too?”
“Yes, which means that you will lose the ability to speak. You will communicate with us by using hand signals until we process your tongue and vocal cords.”
The process continued like this for several hours. While the surgery approached the transcription process from a component level, the brain is not so easily transcribed. Much of the integration of the sensorium is combined to make a model of the world inside the brain.
After a number of hours of tedious effort, and nearly constant testing and synchronization in which Sherry saw little difference, the doctor finally declared that he was finished.
While Sherry did notice a significant change when her visual cortex and retinas were transcribed, she felt little difference. While her vision had changed and see seemed to be able to see richer colors than before, she still felt like herself. She could still feel her fingers and the doctor tested her sensitivity to pain and heat. She found she could still move her legs when requested and even felt each of her toes when touched.
What she found odd was that all she really felt was the change to her body. Her sense of “I” never wavered. She saw through different eyes, and heard through different ears, but she felt unchanged. Her sense of self did not change. This, she felt, was the heart of transcription and becoming one of the Transcribed.
Nevertheless, Sherry found it was disquieting to know that while she didn’t feel any different; her brain no longer existed except as so much puree in the medical waste bucket. Looking down at her body she could still recognize it, and feel it, but knew that she was in fact, legally, and physically, dead.
Instead of seeing through her eyes, she was now viewing the world through artificial retinas composed of quantum computers that were tuned to respond to visual stimulation. Instead of hearing through her ears, she experienced sound through augmented microphones that stimulated her artificial cochlea. And the sound of her voice came out of speakers that were generated by a virtual voice box from within her, now silicon, brain.
Once they pulled her synthetic brain out of the loop with her body, it would expire, never to be seen again. It too would end up in the compost heap that would also be the final resting place for her brain. She had no religious convictions to speak of and memorializing her body made about as much sense as memorializing a lost tooth.
She, as a thinking, living being was given a prosthetic brain that replicated all functions of her previous flesh and blood brain, but without the whine of tinnitus or headache of brain cancer. Also, her life expectancy just shot off the top of the actuary charts. Basically as long as she could have support and maintenance, and baring any accidents, she could live to any age she chose.
After some final tests, the doctor said, “Ok, Sherry, how do you feel?”
“Fine, no more headache and my hearing seems to be much more acute.”
“Do you find anything different or out of the ordinary?”
“You mean about that purple color I’m tasting at the back of my throat?”
“Please tell me you’re joking.” Says the doctor with little humor. If Sherry was experiencing synesthesia, the brain confusing one type of stimulation for another, there could have been some serious problems with her transcription.
“Yes, Doctor, I am joking. I feel fine. Though I seem to be able to recall just about everything you did from the time you started on my visual cortex. It is a very tedious memory.”
“That is to be expected. Once your visual cortex was transcribed, your memory became much more discreet. You will, with a little bit of training, be able to recall a particular memory based on time and date.”
“You mean, I’m like a video recorder now?”
“To a certain degree, but more under conscious control.”
“Yes, you’ll receive training about this and other features of your new brain in VR rehab and group therapy.”
“I look forward to it. It sounds exciting!”
“It is, trust me. But now, Sherry, we have to complete the operation. As the final legal steps of the transcription, we will now disconnect your new brain from your body. Once that occurs, then your body will expire. Are you ready for that?”
After a moment of reflection, she said, “I guess so.”
“Ok, Mr. Farley, will you now witness the disconnection of Ms Broase’s brain and discorporation of her body? Sherry, we will have to put you to sleep now as we physically move you to your new brain’s housing. From there we will transport you to a holding area where you will awaken in rehab.”
“How long will I be out?”
“An hour or so. You should feel like you awakened from a deep sleep, but you should feel no different than you do now, but you will have a virtual body at that point.”
Mr. Farley walked up to the decimated body of Sherry and says, “Ms Broase, you appear to have been successfully transcribed. I have been monitoring the progress of the operation and can attest that the surgery was successful. I can now issue you a temporary transcription license which will allow you to enter into the additional contracts you must sign as a transcribed individual.”
“Wow, what a wonderful ceremony.”
Dean said, “I have to say it that way, it’s part of the legal statement.”
She replied, “Is there anything I have to do?”
“For the last time, place your thumb print on the tablet attesting to your transcription.”
Looking down at the tablet, Sherry placed her right thumb on the tablet and it beeped an acknowledgment.
Thank you, Ms Broase. I hope you have a successful transcription review.”
“You won’t be doing my permanent review?”
“No, your doctor will provide that later today. To you, it will feel like about a week or so, since you’ll be overclocked.”
“Thank you.” She said.
The doctor then said “Are you ready, Sherry?”
After a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Yes, doctor.”
“Ok, you’ll start to feel sleepy, just relax and let it happen. When you wake up you’ll be in a more comfortable bed.”
“Thank you doctor. I am starting to feel a bit woozy.”
She then closed her eyes, meaning she told her new augmented retinas to go to standby, but the effect was the same. Sherry, now moved to her new brain via transcription, became unconscious. The doctor then started the procedure to remove her new brain from the circuit that connected her to her flesh and blood body. Circuit by circuit, synapse by synapse, the nano-machines extracted themselves from Sherry’s spinal column and cranium. Her flesh and blood brain and spine had been excised and reduced to mush and put in a medical waste receptacle.
Her body then stopped breathing and her heart beat for one last time. There was a slight convulsive reaction from her body as her new brain was removed from the circuit connecting it to her body. Then her body died.
But Sherry lived.