Saturday, August 28, 2004

More Than Human and Natural History

Sci-fi is a wonderful resource for mapping out ideas that push the borders of what identity, consciousness and self might be. I went to the sci-fi bookstore to get Justina Robeson’s Natural History and rulebooks for GURP a cpl of weeks ago and ended up with a bigger catch than I had planned. Oh the joy of having a whole pile of unread books. I remember how sad I was at the age of fifteen when I had gone through the whole shelf of sci-fi books at the local library. From A to Ö, nothing more to read. I used to go there once or twice a week ant bring home a catch of six to ten books. I can’t remember what I did then; I think I started training my social skills instead, and exploring males. Hih, I must be regressing now then.

Day before yesterday I read Theodore Sturgeons More Than Human from 1953, about the gestalt human. A group of persons, an idiot, two teleporters (twins), a girl who can move things by will and a retarded baby who functions like a computer, forms bleshes (blesh = mesh + blend) their minds into one entity, the gestalt human. Yesterday I started reading Ted Chiang's collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others, but I fell asleep in the middle, this morning; house lit up, cats paw on my cheek. A female math professor who gets into an existential crisis when she proves all number to be equal, the connection between the world and the mathematics to not be there. There were short stories before that, The Tower of Babylon and Understand. Chiang had gotten the Sturgeon prize. In the short Understand a man gets a medication, “hormone K” which increases the amount and performance of neurons in his brain. He is able to understand his own mental processes. I thought of Marvin Minski’s writing on the mind, of how little we know about it. That we can see, in tests, the activity of neural transmissions, but we only see the mechanical proof. I went to an exhibition at the Nobel Museum, about what technology have inspired sci-fi writers; nano tech etc. There was a very nice section there called the brain pavilion mapping out the history of research, with all the beautiful illustrations from the fifteenth century and forth.
Alistair Reynolds described in Revelation Space alpha and beta simulations of dead persons. The neural networks in their brains scanned in, the physical body dead, and eternal life in simulation. Important to not lose the master tape, heh, and no copies allowed. I would like all my friends to read Justina Robson's Natural History, but it’s impossible for me to lend my copy to anyone. I must have it close. The forged humans, Isol who is a spacecraft, her mind made autistic, self-sufficient for long travels.

I’m trying to get together the paper I'm presenting next weekend in the cross-disiplinary conference in Stockholm. The limit is fifteen pages, and I have written that, but it means that the content so concentrated it becomes almost painful to read. And the abstract promises something interesting, almost entertaining, but instead its minimalist structuralist stuff I seem to have put in there. I sent it to a friend to look at, and now I feel guilty and sorry for him to have to read my clumsy language. Aw.

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