you ready, Ray?"
not ready. Modern medicine has done a fine job of ushering him
through almost every disease known to man, but at 262 years of age,
he had finally reached the limits of medical technology. He needed
his joints replaced, again – all of them. His ocular and aural
implants were all but obsolete, and he dreaded yet another full-skin
guess so," Ray said.
consciousness transplant tech glared at him. "Look, you've got be
sure about this. This is a big deal. This experiment could pave
the way for human immortality, so you have to have the right sort of
attitude. Remember, there's a waiting list for this."
sighed. He had contemplated killing himself after the second
skeletal transplant. But these days, suicide was such a pain in the
ass. His dad had tried to blow his brains out with a shotgun, but
they brought him back, albeit with a mind like a puppy. He had
friends who had better luck; jumping off of cruise ships with
barbells tied around their necks, but even then, the undersea probes
would drag some of them back to the surface for "rejuvenation" so
they could creak around on their bionic feet in the malls and
casinos. As the rejuvenative technology got better and better, even
the self-immolation option stopped working, as did the "high-dive"
off of the mile-high skyscrapers that had come to dominate the
landscape. Who would believe that they could suck a shattered
person up with a wet-vac and turn them back into robotic puppies
wandering around and buying stuff?
dynamite helmet was really popular for a while, but those are hard
to get nowadays. Every once in a while someone would just die, but
those cases were increasingly rare. And most of those cases were
people around Ray's age. When his dad died, it was like watching a
beloved pet pass away. When the mind is gone, isn't the person
gone? But Ray's mind was still going strong, and he hated the
thought of putting his kids through the anguish of a real-time
Ray said. "I'm ready."
Somehow, he had been moved to the top of the list in the
Consciousness Transplant Program. He assumed it was because his
body was in such crappy shape but that his mind was still reasonably
sharp. But no one at CTP said a word, including his daughter who
pre-transplant regimen didn't hurt. Actually, it was kind of fun.
He looked like an idiot walking around for months wearing what
looked like one of those old football helmets, and the training
sessions involved hours of questions about his past and his
preferences and his emotions. It was nice to drag up old memories
for the cognitive technician who pretended to be interested in his
boring stories about Y2K and the Yankees.
was unsettling when the cog-tech showed him where his consciousness
was going to be transferred – it looked like one of those ancient
USB drives. "Don't worry old man, this baby holds more computing
power than the entire world did back in 2075."
Ray thought to himself. "This guy can't be more than a hundred
years old. I wonder if he could even comprehend a floppy disk or a
seen them in the virtual museum of ancient technology," he replied.
indeed," the cog tech said.
original attempts at consciousness transfer were quite successful,
but they were "one-shot." It was a direct transfer of individual
consciousness into a storage/processing unit, and most people were
thrilled with the results. Make the transfer, install the s/p unit,
and suddenly robots really seemed to "be" people. And not just
people, but ACTUAL people complete with memories and loved ones and
likes and dislikes that, according to the people that knew them,
were exactly like the person they remembered. They would tell all
of the old stories, reflect on shared experiences, and even
demonstrate an awareness of how they were relating to the world.
Their friends and families loved it.
usual, a group of philosophers had ruined everything. Around the
year 2000, when consciousness transfer was all but inconceivable, a
philosopher named John Searle came up with what he called the
problem of the Chinese Room. The problem is this – suppose a group
of people who speak nothing but Mandarin take to asking questions of
an unseen oracle who sits in a locked room. They slip a written
question into a slot in the door, and a while later, they receive a
people love it, and they want to see this mysterious oracle for
themselves, so they break down the door. Inside the room, they find
a surly American teenager and a big book. The crowd starts
screaming at him.
whoa, whoa," says the teenager. "I have no clue what you are
saying. I do not speak Mandarin. All I do is look at the incoming
squiggles, find them in the book, and then write down the squiggles
the book tells me to…"
was the problem of simply transferring consciousness. How could we
KNOW that what we were experiencing was the actual consciousness of
the subject, or just a process that mimicked consciousness? Was it
really grandpa, or just a surly teenager acting like grandpa?
cog-techs at CTP decided that the only way to resolve this problem
was to do more than just transfer individual consciousness from one
platform to another. They had to replicate it, and then verify the
replication with the original. In other words, they needed to copy
Ray's mind, and then have Ray verify the copy.
Cog-techs around the world weighed in on the problem of
verification. But in the end, they settled on the most basic of
solutions – the password. First, remove Ray from all connection
with CTP. Second, encrypt any password thoughts so that they could
only be decoded by Ray himself. Finally, after the consciousness
copy was complete, allow Ray, and only Ray, to determine whether or
not the copy of his mind could prove his identity using the
found himself and his creaking body in a lead lined room looking at
an instruction book. First, he was supposed to think of a secure
password – at least 7 characters, at least one capital letter, one
number, and one punctuation mark. It can't be the name of a pet, a
person you know, a birthday, etc. And you MUST be able to remember
up with passwords is one of the most tedious aspects of modern life,
and it took Ray more than an hour.
the cog-techs unlocked the door, he walked down a hallway and gave
birth to Ray-Ray.
copying process was interesting. Ray guessed it was kind of like
dying – the old stories of "your life flashing before your eyes"
seemed to make a lot of sense. But he didn't die.
cog-techs removed the football helmet, and then left Ray alone with
a hologram of himself. There was a tray of sandwiches.
Ray-Ray's first words were, "Hey. I'm Ray-Ray. Are you hungry?"
couldn't help but think of cheesy beer commercials. "You can call
me Ray, you can call me Jay, you can call me Ray-Jay, you can call
could use a beer," Ray said.
burst into holographic laughter. "Good times," he said. "I
remember how my drunken soccer coach in middle school used to do
paused. "Don't you mean OUR drunken soccer coach?" He reached for
Ray-Ray said. "Roasted vegetable?"
smiled. "Just testing…"
conversation flowed. Ray felt better than he had since most of his
friends and family had either died, killed themselves, or turned
into puppies. Finally, someone to talk to. Someone who actually
understood who he was. Someone who was "him." It was love at first
his friendship with his hologram blossomed over the coming weeks,
Ray's fourth mechanical heart started to give out, and the cog techs
warned that replacing his skin, joints, and heart would most
certainly compromise his cognitive capabilities. Puppy time. But
Ray-Ray didn't seem to hurt like he did. Ray-Ray sympathized with
his pain, but didn't really seem to understand it. Was Ray-Ray the
oracle in the Chinese Room, or was he really Ray?
you me?" he asked Ray-Ray.
YOU me?" said Ray-Ray.
don't even know if I'm me, anymore," said Ray. "All I know is that
I'm afraid of dying, but that after 262 years of medical
intervention, there is only so much more the med-techs can do. I
don't want to be a puppy, but I don't want to kill myself either."
cog-techs had been pressing for the password test. They wanted to
see if Ray's mind had truly been replicated. But Ray and Ray-Ray
came up with a different plan.
we need," said Ray, "is a third consciousness. Ray-ray-ray, if you
will. I know the password, and I assume you do to. But the real
trick seems to be in creating something that fuses our
do you mean?" asked Ray-Ray. "You don't think I'm you?"
not that. It's just that you seem like a copy of me, but I don't
feel myself `in` you. And while a copy of me would certainly be fun
and comforting to the people around me after I'm gone, I'm just not
sure you would get the same fun and comfort from them that I
Ray-Ray's hologram blinked (on and off, not eyes). "So, what should
techs were getting frustrated. Ray's health was failing fast, and
everyone was worried that he would "lose it" before the cog tran
(cognitive transfer) could be password confirmed. The cog techs got
even more frustrated when Ray and Ray-Ray requested a second
cognitive copy, combining both of their consciousnesses into a third
to the lead-lined rooms, and back to the onerous task of coming up
with a new password. Ray was done in thirty minutes, but Ray-Ray
took over three hours. And when they were both wheeled back into
the "birthing" room, there sat Ray-ray-ray in all of his holographic
wasn't quite sure what to do. The cog techs were pushing for a
final password test so they could confirm the cog tran and start the
process of shutting down, but both he and Ray-Ray hesitated. Was
Ray-ray-ray really "them?"
Suddenly, Ray punched himself in the mouth. Hard. His artificial
lips started bleeding, his artificial teeth fell out, and what he
assumed was real blood started to drip onto his hospital gown. And
the pain was definitely real.
the hell are you doing?" asked Ray-Ray, with a confused look on his
Ray-ray-ray screamed in pain.
looked at Ray-Ray. "Your turn."
Ray-Ray, still looking confused but most definitely not in pain,
punched himself in the mouth. There was holographic blood, and a
lot of moaning, and an obvious amount of discomfort.
didn't feel a thing. Then he looked at Ray-ray-ray. His mouth
wasn't bleeding, but he seemed to be hurting. Bad.
the fuck?" asked Ray-ray-ray.
isn't working," said Ray. He had hoped that they would all feel
what he was feeling, that he would feel what they were feeling, but
he didn't. THEY didn't.
point, the cog techs rushed in. "What the fuck?" There was a lot
of blood in the room, holographic, artificial, real, whatever. "We
are shutting this down, now."
three Ray's of consciousness looked at each other. They nodded, and
in unison said, "N-o-t-a-p-u-p-p-y-8." Ray sighed. Ray-ray looked
scared. Ray-ray-ray smiled. The cog techs smiled.
Ray?" the cog tech asked.
death was relatively uneventful. He had asked that his family not
be present, and the cog techs agreed. If his loved ones didn't see
his "death," they might be more willing to accept the transfer. And
it was crazy easy. Someone pressed a button somewhere, and Ray's
heart just stopped. Someone else pressed a button to over-ride the
back-up brain oxygenation unit, and Ray died just like every person
in the world has ever died – lack of oxygen to the brain. A
death-rattle. "He's gone…"
had insisted that Ray-ray and Ray-ray-ray be up and running at his
"exit," and this created a lot of conflict among the cog techs.
Half of the team thought it a bad idea ("Watching yourself die?"),
while the other half savored the chance to watch someone watching
themself die. With approval from the CTP administration (including
Ray's daughter), the "watch yourself die" team won out.
went nuts. "How can I ever know that I am him? That he is me?
That he WAS me?" His hologram flickered.
knew the password," said the cog techs.
the password." Ray-ray's hologram paced anxiously around the room.
"Fuck you," he said to the cog techs. "This is bullshit."
pulled out a holographic gun, and shot himself in his holographic
head. There was holographic blood and brains everywhere…
Ray-ray-ray said, blinking... "Where did he get the gun?"
couple of weeks later, the cog tech team was directing the initial
family interview with Ray-ray-ray's closest relatives. But
Ray-ray-ray ("you can call me Ray, you can call me Ray-jay") wasn't
doing so well. When prompted by his daughter, the hologram of her
dad seemed to remember her seventh birthday party. This made her
smile. She asked how he was doing.
hologram sighed. "I just don't feel like myself anymore. But, to
be honest, a game of fetch sounds like fun. Would you rub my
daughter shook her head.