BSGX430 - THE PLOT

9am GMT, Friday 12th September 2130

Jocelyn hadn't managed to round up the full team. The disco had indeed gone on all night, and several members had blocked access to their RCRs until minutes before the normal start of their pre-class session.

"They're not going to mind," said Dorothea. Slavica, Lucy and Maria were there as well; they had all been involved in the periphery of last night's discussions, so they had gone to bed early.

Sleep is as much as necessity for an e-clone as for a person in fizz. This had been deliberate on the part of their designers. Already by 2010 it was clear that the detailed and ongoing identity of a person was inextricably bound up with the exact pattern of the memories laid down (and constantly reinforced or varied) based on second-by-second operation of the hippocampus and the other parts of the brain it feeds, and that sleep, whatever its original functions, is highly involved in the rehearsal and integration of these memories in other parts of the brain. And that's just to pick one aspect of the never-ending interplay of sensory input with the corpus of the cognitive functions of the brain. Of course it would have been possible to invent a version of a person with a reorganized, perhaps even more efficient set of memories, but it would have been a different person, and maintaining state (it always came back to that) between an e-clone and the fizz body would become impossible. So the decision was made, surely correctly, to preserve the neurological basis of people's brains exactly as it already was. This didn't of course prevent improvements to the chemical basis of memory, the implantation of chips for enhancement of specialist vocabularies, and such-like, which could be faithfully mirrored in an e-clone and a fizz body.

So you still struggle to mobilize your mental resources with two hours' sleep after dancing all night.

Jocelyn gave them the good news about her Dad. She thought it was good news, at least, she offered shyly. They gulped.

"An anthology?" wondered Maria. "That's an amazing idea, but how are we going to do that in a few weeks. Even days. 'Cos that's all we've got, isn't it? We've got one mysterious, male proclamation so far, and we need a hundred fruit on the tree by next week. And it's all got to be done in secret."

But they were up for it. Not superbright for nothing, and this had been bubbling away under such pressure for such a long time that any way forward just seemed an immense relief.

"It's even exciting," admitted Lucy. "Sometimes I am horribly bored with all this brain stuff. Who cares about adding another floor to the edifice of human knowledge? It's time we had some fun."

"Do we need to talk about the response to BSGX301," wondered Dorothy.

"No, no, no," chorused the others. "The group will know what to do. We shouldn't even think about it, that could just spoil it. It's got to come naturally. This morning. Then we'll take it round to the nine, well, it's seven without 301 and us."

"They've all promised to try to do something of their own once they see it," said Jocelyn. "Or even before, in one or two cases. Slavica, how soon can you get the clone installed for them?"

She was smug. "Done!" she preened herself. "Before breakfast this morning. I already knew all the techies in the groups, and they're begging for it. They'll all be fully installed in today's tutorials; and de-installed afterwards, of course. Luckily for us, a tutorial RCC is a tutorial RCC. That's one good thing about the Assembly - they don't allow any variation in the basic RCC models, so when you've cracked it once, all the others are identical."

She yawned. "I've been up half the night."

The pre-meeting with the rest of the group was brief. They were too tired to protest, and didn't seem as if they wanted to anyway. Everyone was focused on the reply to BSGX301, skirting round it, anxious to get started, but not needing or wanting to talk about it in advance.

"Just one thing, Slavica, technically speaking," asked one of the dancers, "I understand that there aren't any individual contributions in this, and I see it as a kind of space that we communally occupy, and fill up in a way that is satisfactory to us all, but you must have, John's group must have, set up some sort of package of rules for what parts of the brain can be involved. I mean, for instance you can't allow great tidal waves of hypothalamic chemicals to sweep across the canvas. Can you?"

"Canvas is not a bad starting point," said Slavica, "although 3-dimensional space stretching through time is better. 'Canvas' helps to point up that the space has characteristics, just as canvas can be watercolour paper or actual canvas or walls or ceilings. It's important that the space moves forwards in time, so there is a constraint that it marches with the speed of our joint consciousness in real time. But also on a vertical axis there has to be a constant summation of the traces, I'll call them qualia, that are being deposited, so that the group can hear/see/feel the effect that's being created. It's none of those words, of course. And the group can move backwards and forwards in time to adjust what's been put down, obviously. But those are the easy bits. Because this has never been done, or if it has we don't know about it, we have to try to work out what the neural boundaries should be. It's clear enough with an individual creator: there is an enormous amount of subconscious input to the creative process, but it's still a conscious process unless you're talking about automatic writing. The painter, the composer, the writer, they're using a set of highly prescribed techniques, language, harmony, composition, within which to set down their creations. When it comes to us, as a group, I don't know if we have a kind of mega-consciousness. I don't think so, that would seem to defeat the purpose. Consciousness, in the sense of the continuity of self-ness from moment to moment, the remembered present, and all that, that's a social invention, we all agree, I suppose? It hides more than it reveals."

Slavica scanned around for agreement, and continued: "Then it becomes a question of what the modalities of group behaviour would be, if we're not going to use the channels of attention and consciousness. The canvas, the space, and the rules of composition, so to speak, they're one thing, but they're not the most important. In a way they replace the conscious imperatives that guide the individual creative process. But more interesting is what parts of the neural flows to allow to mingle. No washes of dopamine, you're right, but we have to get far below the level of the semi-semantic left-brain stuff that's used by the existing RCC apps. It's good enough for superior performance on intellectual work, we feel that every day, but it won't do for creativity and emotional expression. The thalamus is more or less the key, as far as I can see. Well, as far as we can see - it's something I've often discussed with my IT colleagues, so we're not starting from complete ignorance. The thalamus is represented quite fully in an e-clone; the ersatz inputs from the hypothetical body come in at brain-stem level, mostly. So we have tried to create a collective thalamus, is the best way I can describe it, and that feeds the group experience. What arrives at the shared creative space already includes a synthesis of eight sets of thalamic signals. The RCCs already join up most of the fore-brain activity, that's how they function. What I'm describing is a major over-simplification, of course. And it's not necessarily the best way to do it. I'm quite surprised by how effective it was in BSGX301's effort. Their model is not quite the same as mine, but it's fairly close. Of course, choosing effective types of model is one of the main goals of further research. It just hasn't been done. Take telepathy, for instance. It was established early on that there are basal brain functions which are telepathic in nature, using magnetism, but nothing has been done to explore that. It doesn't matter in an RCC, of course, the whole point is to create subconscious linkages and communication. But what about between groups? That's probably why it was there in the first place, to allow early primate groups to communicate. Everyone pretty much agrees that the human psyche was a sub-set of the group psyche, rather than the other way around, so telepathy came with the territory."

They were all riveted to the spot.

"God, look at the time," said Dorothea. "We're late for class."

 

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