Appendix Two: RCRs, RCCs and E-clones -Their Development, Capabilities and Uses

Experiments involving the control of remote robotic machines or bionic assemblies by primate brains took place as early as the first decade of the 21st century, but they typically involved the implantation of electrodes or the use of scanning techniques to detect and amplify neural events.

The first demonstration of remote cognitive control by a human brain using a neural bionic implant took place in 2014, utilizing a miniaturized radio transmitter self-powered by heat from the body. Other competing technologies included the use of nanobots in the bloodstream to detect and transmit neural events, 'headsets' similar to ear-mounted mobile phone transceivers which used magnetism to detect neural events, and straightforward electrode implantation with a connecting 'port' on the side of the head.

By 2020, such technologies were routinely used for the control of prosthetic devices and remote agents such as household appliances and robots, and by the mid-2020s, two-way communication was becoming normal, employing receiving devices in or pointing towards appropriate parts of the brain (secondary visual, aural and tactile neural processing regions). 'Avatars' in VICs (Vicarious Internet Communities) were thus able to communicate directly with their controlling human brains.

Although quasi-human electronic brains had existed from the late 2010s onwards, they were too large and expensive for most uses, and it was not until the first nano-scale bio-electronic self-replicating assembly was demonstrated in 2023 that the way was opened for human-scale cognition to be used as a routine feature of free-standing robotic agents. A combination of this technology with the rapidly developing 2-way brain-to-brain communication and control systems led to the first true RCR (Remote Cognitive Representation, or sentient robot) in 2027.

Although RCRs as such didn't exist until 2027, it had been clear from 2020 onwards that their arrival was only a matter of time, and the wide-ranging ethical and practical concerns posed by RCR technology were the subject of the RCR Congress in 2025, which laid down a Code of Conduct for the construction and operation of sentient robotic agents.

Initially, limitations on communication bandwidth and lack of complete knowledge of the 'wiring diagram' of the human brain (finally achieved only in 2030) meant that a human could 'inhabit' a remote brain only partially, receiving sensory and cognitive output, and issuing control instructions at several levels up from actual motor or neural cognitive functions. By degrees, the intensity of the inhabiting became deeper, and by 2040 it had proved possible, with practice, to build a limited degree of consciousness in the remote brain. This is best thought of as a sharing of consciousness between the two brains; attention to sensory input, for instance, in the remote brain would overlay attention to local sensory input. Of course, a flow of sensory and cognitive data from the remote brain to the 'host' brain continued, so that the experience obtained during inhabiting would be available to the host brain after inhabiting ceased.

Many types of RCR did not have full or even any human neural equivalence, for instance canine and feline RCRs, which became available from 2029. There was intense competition among RCR producers to build faster, stronger and more skilful robots for sporting and entertainment purposes, and the first Non-Human Olympiad took place in 2037.

In the following year, the first experimental RCC (Remote Cognitive Collective) was demonstrated. It had long been clear that shared inhabiting of a remote brain was technologically feasible, but there had inevitably been much agonizing over the practical and ethical details. These were largely ironed out during the process that led to the Human Settlement in 2051, so that when the Global Genetic Gathering (G3) was instituted in that year (to supervize the development of the human genome), it naturally took the form of an RCC. The agreed-upon freedoms for RCC development were rapidly exploited during the remainder of the 2050s,

Although RCRs and RCCs had reached a high degree of sophistication by 2050, and were in everyday use for an immensely wide range of activities, people inhabiting them were still essentially visitors, with restricted local consciousness. The cognitive results of such inhabiting were fed back to the host brain, and there was never any point at which the person left her own body in a complete sense.

The problem was not by any means the comparability of remote brains with original human brains; by 2050 they were equal or superior in virtually all respects, although an 'inhabitant' could only make partial use of them. The issue was back-up. The sense of continuity that a person has, and that forms an essential part of their experience as 'I', is highly dependent on an uninterrupted flow of sensory and cognitive neural events. Accidents in the 2040s, before connection technology had become totally secure, in which the link between an inhabited remote brain and its host brain was broken had shown that if the interruption was for more than a few minutes then the sense of continuity in the host was severely disrupted, even to the point of serious mental illness.

It was therefore necessary for a technique to be developed for twin representations of a brain to back each other up on a continuing basis before it would be safe for a person to 'step outside' of their own brain and take up fully conscious residence elsewhere. Initially, this was achieved, very imperfectly, through switching off appropriate sections of the host brain, recording events in the remote brain, and using periodic packet updates to maintain the state of the host brain. Two hours turned out to be the maximum period between updates for continued viability of the host brain.

'Maintaining state', as it became known, was the central focus of cognitive research in the 2050s and 2060s. Using periodic updating, a full human brain ('e-clone') operated remotely in a bio-electronic assembly for the first time in 2055, but it was 2070 before the technology was secure enough for people to abandon their original bodies for any length of time with a reasonable presumption that they could one day return to them, and even then the back-up procedures were cumbersome and arduous, as well as very expensive. People usually experienced some cognitive deficits on returning to a backed-up host brain from an e-clone, but these were not seriously damaging to normal conscious functioning.

At first, e-clones, RCRs and RCCs were static representations of human brains in individually delimited physical bio-mechanical assemblies, but it wasn't long before the concept of 'cloud' computing began to extend to the representation of electronic brains as much as to applications run from personal computers or communications devices. It is easier to achieve redundancy in 'cloud' environments, for a start. Of course somewhere there is still hardware; but the continued operation of Moore's Law meant that by 2050 hardware had become completely commoditized, and as close to free as made no difference. From 2040 onwards, the functions of a human e-clone had begun to be distributed in the cloud just as much as those of a corporate function, and increasing use was being made of 'apps'. The operation of many parts of the human brain is completely standardized, and there was little point in creating 20 billion copies of a standard set of operating instructions when one would do. So quite quickly, there was no longer any place you could point to and say, 'that is my brain'.

E-clones can of course migrate easily between 'storage' bio-electronic facilities, RCRs and RCCs, and an electronic person makes minimal demands on resources. Prior to full dematerialization of RCRs and RCCs in the 2070s, individuals ran the risk that the particular external device they were inhabiting at a given moment would accidentally be destroyed; but by that time the risk was already extremely small.

Some people chose to remain in their original bodies and inhabit e-clones on a temporary basis, leaving their original bodies in a passive state but with a communications link open to the e-clone in order to maintain state in the host. This worked, but if done without ongoing back-up - for economic reasons or just out of laziness - meant that on re-assuming the original body, where state had been maintained, there would be a very uncomfortable cognitive disjunction: deciding to 'maintain state' in your original body inevitably meant that equivalent state could not be maintained in the eclone. These were the people who lost their lives in 2085 when the Japanese earthquake destroyed 3 billion original, stored bodies, since their un-backed-up eclones were unviable if detached from their host brains.

Population pressures on resources had become extreme by 2060, and it was agreed to set a goal for 2080 of 90% cyber-space residence, based on the maintenance of compulsory e-clones. Thus only 10% of time could be spent on average in the physical world. The incentive was of course that the entire infrastructure of cyber-living would be provided free to all. Based on experiments that showed a gradual deterioration in psychological experience for people who spent their entire time in electronic environments, it was also decided to make the maintenance of physical bodies compulsory, albeit free. The principle was set up that if you lost your physical body, you would also lose your e-clones, and vice versa, although in practice this rule was often not enforced.

Between 2060 and 2080, back-up procedures gradually improved, and finally in 2090 real-time back-up was achieved for the first time. From then onwards, it was possible for people to exist as different, simultaneous representations of themselves, whether in RCRs, RCCs, as static e-clones, or in their original bodies. Back-up remained expensive, however, until as late as 2100. From then on it could be considered as a routine and unregarded aspect of human life.

 

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