12 noon, EST, Sunday, November 4th, 2131, Lake Success, New York
"What's with the bed?" queried Michael as they stepped out of the lift to Slavica's upper sanctum.
"There's a real bathroom, as well," said Slavica, pointing to what had been an empty corner of her eyrie. "Some days it just doesn't seem worth going home to nobody and nothing, then struggling back here the next morning. Not that there's much traffic going out of the city at 6 am, and it's only 30 miles."
"Where is home, then?"
"Tribeca; a duplex. One of my banker ancestors lived a street away in the mid-19th century, so it makes it feel vaguely family-like."
"Are you getting broody, Slava?"
"Could be," admitted Slavica. "I actually had a boy-friend for a while a few months back, but it didn't work. He was quite bright, a roboticist, so we did have things to talk about. And he danced well. But he didn't understand!"
"That work comes first, you mean?"
"Sure. I think I'll have to have an affair with an older man. Someone who's got two wives already and a business and eight children and sponsors the Met, so he'll be too busy to want much of my time."
Michael thought the conversation was taking a dangerous turn, especially because he was far from indifferent to Slavica's rangy, angular body.
"Well, we'd better get on with business, hadn't we, before you think I'm wasting your time!"
Slavica gave him what can only be called a sexy grin.
"Yes, Michael. Of course."
"I'm sorry I missed last month," said Michael. "I was in China for weeks, as you probably know."
Slavica did know. Everybody knew that Michael had been negotiating a merger with Baidu, but after endless discussions it had been put on hold for a year.
"So we have two months to catch up on. Well, there is real progress, I'm glad to say. I'm keeping it up here because it's secure, and I don't want to risk a leak prematurely. I do trust the staff, but it's dynamite, really, and people are only human. So it's best if no-one sees the whole picture except me."
"Oh, don't worry," she said, seeing the look of alarm in Michael's eyes. "It's heavily backed up all over the place and my lawyers have all the codes in case anything happens to me."
"You know from last time that we had established a high probability of non-locality in physical human-to-human interaction. Since then we've accumulated a humongous number of timed traces that put it statistically beyond doubt: there are arrivals of data in human brains that are simultaneous and invariant with distance, starting from the existence of that data in one brain only, which doesn't need to be part of the group receiving the data. So there is a field, which we loosely call the collective unconscious. The data then travels to parts of the brain where it can be accessed by 'consciousness', for want of a better word. We have all the pathways mapped out; they're quite various. Our original guess that 'esp' migrated from below the thalamus to various more evolved parts of the brain turned out to be correct. However the data always arrives in the first place to the top of the brain stem and travels on from there: there's no instantaneous connection between individuals for the higher parts of the brain, the amygdala, the pineal gland, etc. That's surprising, perhaps, when you consider that there are quantum effects in all of those regions; but we conclude that there is a biochemical identity, or at any rate a functional identity between the basal cells in different individuals which orchestrates the instantaneous transfers."
"Now, here comes the fun part. The original RCR and RCC models have all the likely esp channels blocked off, as you know, so it's not surprising that there is no esp that we can find between RCCs. That also seems to be the case with e-clones: 'ersatz' input deliberately limits itself to a subset of the full array of data that arrives in the upper parts of the brain. That was originally as much a function of limited bandwidth as it was a deliberate decision to exclude certain types of input. Thus, again, there is no detectable esp activity directly involving classical e-clones. However, if there is back-up from fizz body to e-clone taking place at the moment of reception of esp data by the fizz body, then the e-clone will behave as if it had received the data directly. I'm not sure if I would have predicted that, although it seems logical after the event. We don't have a lot of such cases, but enough to make us reasonably sure. But the newer RCCs, 'my' RCCs if you will, do have the pathways from the basal regions to the upper brain, and we are startled to find that they display non-locality. Why startled? Because they are electronic, not bio-chemical. The basal functionality is represented, sure; I had to do that or the pathway wouldn't have had any meaning in neural terms. The effect was weak, in my first new version, because my functional mappings were very approximate; and that's why, when the groups first tried to contact each other, it was so difficult. In last year's research, we knew that there was esp, but we didn't have enough measurement precision to know whether it was non-local or not. Now we do, and we are in no doubt about it."
Slavica paused for breath, and to see whether Michael wanted to ask anything. But he was just nodding encouragingly.
"So we've got two mysteries now, instead of one. The first is, how can there be telepathy between electronic copies of brain functionality? And the second is, how to explain non-locality for complex inorganic assemblies? Inorganic quantum effects are nothing new; that's how quantum computers work. But non-locality between multiple e-clones is something else. Anway, it's a demonstrable fact, in both cases. Not only is it a fact, but the fully esp-enabled RCC, well, anyway, the most sophisticated one we've developed so far, actually allows far greater clarity of experience in group-to-group communication than you can get with physical human groups. "
"There's one thing I don't understand," chipped in Michael. "If you are working with unreconstructed e-clones, then how can it be that they have access to all your new channels in the RCCs?"
"That's really a characteristic of RCCs: they work by merging similar parts of the e-clone. If you have six participants, say, then you have six frontal cortices alongside each other with many additional pathways; and so on. That's why people have to learn to work RCCs: you have to be able to separate out your own regular e-clone workings from the communal additions, and kind of negotiate your way to an agreed synthesis. Well, you know that; it's part of the basic training. The result is a much more focused intelligence. But when we add, say, a representation of the basal neurones, which are not represented in the regular e-clone, it is a standardized model with links from each individual e-clone, so it acts as a common extension to the individual brain. That's probably why there is greater clarity in RCC esp; when RCCs try to contact each other, they don't have to deal with many different sets of basal neurones. Another way of doing it would be to create a better e-clone, which had internalized additional parts. That's a next step, but it won't necessarily improve clarity, although it might improve depth of perception, and it surely would improve the quality of individual clone-to-clone esp."
"I must admit," said Michael, much abashed, "that it makes my head hurt."
"Perhaps you'd like a drink?" asked Slavica slyly.
"A drink?" Michael was startled. "I wouldn't dare to ask you for a drink. Surely you don't drink? And especially not here?"
"I'm changing. Perhaps for the worse, perhaps for the better. There's a kitchen over there." Slavica pointed to another corner of her domain, where indeed there was a smart, new cooking area with a small bar and dinette attached. "I have to eat, you know."
They walked over together.
"Sometimes I find that champagne helps me to think," said Slavica, opening a fridge and taking out a bottle of Bollinger.
"What's so funny?"
"Partly it's the spectacle of the super-goddess Slavica descending from her throne. But mostly it's the fact that your antecedents drank nothing else. My dad told me about it. Peter and Stewart were never more than a couple of feet away from a bottle of Bollinger. Obviously it's in the genes!"
They sat at the dinette, and suddenly a curtain seemed to rise on their relationship. The discussion of RCCs continued, but it was stagey. Something was about to happen, they both knew it, but weren't going to say it.
"The mysteries," asked Michael, thoughtfully, after the first lifting of glasses. "Can you solve them?"
"I don't suppose so. I wasn't cut out to be a metaphysician or a philosopher. I'm not sure that they can be solved by the human brain. Perhaps one of our RCC's can have a go at it! The quantum brigade has been chewing away at it for 150 years, and they haven't got anywhere. All I can do is to explore what's possible in the real world. Well, not the real world I guess. Our weird world! Probably that's why I feel a bit out of it. I don't like mysteries! Anyway, there is plenty to do without attacking the mysteries. Perhaps, the more we describe them, the closer we will get to resolving them. But it won't be me. I feel that."
She took a big swig of champagne, and refilled their glasses.
"How far can you get, then?" he asked.
"I have to pick and choose," she said. "There isn't time to do everything that's possible."
"What do you mean? You're 19. You've got a whole lifetime in front of you."
"Yes, I know. Yet. Yet. I feel that I have to do it fast. I don't know why. If I don't do it now, it won't be done. By me, anyway."
Michael put his hand on hers.
"You sound so grave. Tell me what's possible, at least."
"Well, the direction that seems to me to be the most important is to explore the possibilities of expanded RCCs. What is a group? Does performance, bandwidth if you like, expand with group size? In human history, the group seemed to be optimized at about 150 members; but that was a function of brain size and the communications technology that was available at the time. Grunting and sign language, mostly. We can do a bit better than that in an RCC. Finally, is the RCC a way to deal with the singularity, if such a thing is going to happen. Is the power of an RCC greater than the power of its constituent members? How far are we going to return to communal existence? Will it be a selectable alternative to individual existence?"
"Well, there you go into metaphysics again!"
Slavica laughed, and put her other hand on top of Michael's.
"I need someone like you to stop me getting carried away."
"Oh, but I would like to carry you away," offered Michael.
"I'm not very heavy, and it's only 15 meters to the bed. Do you think you could manage that?"
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