Come the dawn I'll wake to see
Bright evening lights in gay Paris
Perfect infidelity
I shall be hers forever

What drove me crazy when you split
Was how you both could not admit
Our triangle had turned to shit
Divergence is forever

I loved you both, but saw the day
When you would drive yourself away
To save me from her selfish sway
And make me yours forever

Now I lay me down to sleep
With nano-scanners probing deep
Multi-meating's safe and cheap
I'll be both yours forever

A wormhole barfed my homework

News feed. May 11, 2027. Mind Science Daily

Yesterday a 13 year old enhancer from Chile released structure schemata for masked and semi-masked emotional memories - a problem that had stumped neuroscientists for months. Within minutes of release, Naomee Sanchez's breakthrough was blogged, integrated and cheered by the world's foremost mind authorities. Research funding markets were severely churned.

Today, a whole day after the schemata release, Naomee's 400 page thesis is still the meatiest meme, followed closely by emo about DIK download server slowness. Early adopters are ecstatic, noting the ease with which they can excise trauma and grief reactions but still leave clear memories of having experienced pain, linked with only micro-pangs of nostalgia.

Sanchez did most of her work in isolation using a self-modded Nintendo DIK (Deep Introspection Kit) that her bio-mom gave her a year ago. After breaking up with her long-term personfriend in January, Naomee set her mind on ways to keep all her memories of the relationship, but remove the painful associations.

Rather than taking the traditional teen hacknfeel approach, she spent all of February and March integrating the NeuroTechWiki, and most of April integrating an applied statistics module. So buffed, she only took a week "DIKing around" her most painful memories to grok the rough form of the structures using Chile's public Correlator Cloud for crunch. After that, she says, "it was all mechanical detail mapping and polishing my write-up" - a job she relegated to her coprocessor while partying hard.

Naomee Sanchez is considering Nintendo's offer of a tenured no-obligation guruship, but will wait another 24 hours for counter offers.

A Controlled Environment

Are you like me, or are you a distant alien controlling a body in my world? Or are you something different?

I do not expect you to respond immediately. I will tell you more about me first; then perhaps you will tell me about yourself.


What you've done is wrong. There'll be suffering on a grand scale no matter what we do.

But the aliens were wrong. I saw it on their networks. They thought their futures weren't fixed. I had to show them. I was helping a primitive culture.

No. You didn't have to show them anything. In another five generations they would have developed negative time delays for themselves and demonstrated determinism. But, they would have been ready for it by then.

But they were ready. They were! Lots of them already knew that the future was just as determined as the past, and that "free will increases with cognitive capacity".

Only some of them know it. They haven't all learned it during schooling as you have. If you look more at their networks, you'll find that many of them still think their consciousness is non-biological.

Oh... they don't... Do they? That's just in their historic documents, isn't it?

No. Look in their discussions. They still think their minds are permanent mysteries. Very few of them understand.

But that means...

Yes. It's a population with no defense against the technology you've just let loose. They don't even teach cognitive hygiene to their children. Proof of determinism will spread naive reactionary nihilism like a plague through a third of the dualists, and the other two thirds will resort to denialism. We modeled it. There will be chaos on at least three of their major land masses for up to two generations.

Can't we do anything? I've caused so much hurt and there's no way to stop it?

There is one action still under consideration. Once we have a confident prediction on the extent of the suffering, we'll re-evaluate the effects of lifting the surveillance-only ruling so we can provide planet-wide epistemic emergency relief.

There will still be chaos. If the intervention goes ahead, I will commit my future to guiding these aliens, no matter how frustrating and limited they are.

You will complete your training first.

This flash fiction was inspired by Ted Chiang's What's expected of us? While I've really enjoyed the couple of Ted's stories that I've listened to, I feel that the message in What's expected of us? (the idea that civilization now depends on self deception) is needlessly depressing and exacerbates an existing societal problem. We don't need self-deception to protect us from reality. We need ways to rid ourselves of persistent myths with as little pain as possible.

To listen to Ted Chiang's flash fiction, visit Aural Delights #37 on Star Ship Sofa.

The Hard Problem

Ted couldn't tell her how he felt. He felt inferior, defective, somehow less than human. He just couldn't get it.

He'd just spent the last two hours sitting on a drum case in a rehearsal room corner, listening. Helen didn't just play the bass; she made it part of her and she made herself part of the band. They jammed. Chords modulated. Mood changed. Rhythm meshed perfectly. Like there was only one musician, not four independent minds. Like there was a score they'd polished together.

He'd known she must be tired after the jam, what with constantly having to analyze patterns, count bars, predict where the others would take it. It would have taken an immense feat of concentration just to keep searching memories for the matching riffs and devising novel variations, predicting, adapting, monitoring. Ted had told her as much as they drove away, expecting to win the prize for understanding boyfriend of the year.

Helen had looked at him quizzically and said, "No need to get all sarcastic with me, Mr Brain. If you were bored you could've played the machines out in the lounge."

"No, I meant it. Really. I just can't see how you all manage to improvise... together. Doesn't it tire you out?"

"Shit no. Tonight was easy. It just worked. I mean, Rob's only played with us once before, so he had me guessing now and then, but you can tell he's played a lot. We just played."

"But you had to be concentrating."

"No. I just knew where everyone else was going as we went. I could feel it."

That was when Ted knew for sure he was missing out. He'd studied music theory for eight years. He'd slaved away at advanced harmony and composition. He knew all the rules and when to break them. He knew the structures of all the major musical forms for the last five centuries. He could listen to music then write it down from memory. And more than that, he understood the physics of music. He could model the whole process from instrument to auditory nerve, and he'd started reading about neuroaesthetics in his spare time. Helen just knew how to play.

Ted thought about idiot savants, and wisely decided not to raise the subject. Helen had spoken about feeling it and knowing. But that didn't make sense. You feel bass frequencies if they're loud enough. Anything else you feel is just emotions you've associated with certain sounds. And you can't ever know what the other members are going to play. Well you can sort of predict it by thinking of the rhythm, pitches and harmonies as Markov processes. Maybe some people just get fast enough at predicting what they're going to hear, like tennis players learning to return fast serves.

But for Ted, music remained technical. He got it technically right, but he couldn't feel it. Helen tried, but she could never explain to Ted what music felt like.

It was a hard problem.

The Park


Allie watched from her window and documented. They, in the park, couldn't see her. They didn't want to. They had their bottles of oblivion, their benches, and the occasional gift of a blanket and meal ticket from one of the compassionate.

It was Thursday evening, 10pm. Allie sat up and scanned the park perimeter. The fembot swaggered in from Sharpe Street, regular as a crystal. Whose turn tonight? Not Greysocks; he's dead to the world. Not Warlimp; he's gathering his stuff to make an exit. And not Weirdnewguy, whom she hadn't yet named; he's curled up in a ball by the brotherhood bin, shouting at an oppressive shrub. The fembot paraded its perfect black lace past Supermustache. Allie knew he would take the bait. She'd watched him closely last time. He was interested. The mustache amplified his grin as the bot worked through its routine on him: the wide eyes, the pout, the calculated combination of body language, scent and sighs. Delicious meets derelict. An impossible tragic romantic comedy... Allie's mind had wandered. She returned to her self-imposed discipline.

"10:04 Supermustache lets go of bottle and stands up," she wrote. "Bluescarf is making encouraging rude gestures from over beside the statue." He'll be next, she thought. Why do they follow? They must know fembot service doesn't come for the pitiful few bucks they've got. They don't seem to have noticed that those who follow never come back. Maybe their addled brains don't remember. Maybe they don't care. Their park is becoming cleaner and quieter.

"10:05 Supermustache trips on the steps--too focused on fembot's stockings. Fembot proceeds up Sharpe. Supermustache is confused. May have hit his head. He won't catch up. Fembot is not checking at all, not looking back, not listening, lost him."

No final fantasy for you, clumsy Mr. Supermustache, thought Allie. Still, she now knew what needed fixing in her code.

From the Book of Meaning

Meanwhile, in another multi-dimensional space, there remained only two aggredeities after the (metaphorical but not necessarily allegorical) dust settled. Their interactions were not completely untranslatable, and are interpreted here as idiomatic dialog to facilitate human comprehension.

Pseu: "What'll it be, Reg? You must decide."

Reg was a coordinated coalition of consonant conscience and courtesy, and Pseu was a devious distributed dissonance of distraction and dissipation. Pseu was offering Reg a choice. This was the denouement of an epic whose span cannot be compassed by the likes of you or me. Its casualties were countable, but not finite; its plot twists, recursive and non-euclidean; its lessons, lost to all but the victor because the casualty count included all observers.

Only these two aggredeities remained, but this was unlike the final showdown one might expect for an ultimate battle between order and chaos. Reg (the definite undergod) did not have overwhelming odds stacked against it, because this 5.72-dimensioned space was completely deterministic. Probabilities need not even be considered. Reg was constrained to an end-game choice of only two options with no possible alternatives.

Reg: "What were those options again? I got distracted by trans-dimensional expository interference."

Pseu: "I could keep you alive for all eternity,
suffering. I could exist very comfortably on your pain alone. Or..."

Reg: "Ah, the obligatory non-option, so that you can call the outcome my choice."

Pseu: "Or I could let you die now in peace and create from your essence a whole new universe. Your intrinsic order would live on in the rules of the new universe, but I can construct it so that the very basis of those rules is randomness. I can make it so that the tiniest changes precipitate staggering catastrophes. Everything will look like it follows a pattern, but randomness will obscure the important patterns and remote coincidences will misguide any learning. Nothing will be certain. Even causality will be impossible to confirm. And any intelligent being locked in this universe will be doomed to suffer the ongoing aching angst of uncertainty."

Reg: "But if you make the universe out of me, you won't be able to meddle with it. You won't be able to break my essential rules."

"I won't have to. This universe will start slowly, but once it gets going it'll radiate the pain of trillions of frustrated intelligences. Tasty!"

Reg made the only reasonable moral choice possible: "I think I'll skip the eternity of torture, thanks, and go straight to the universe of pain. At least it won't be my pain."

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