Tuesday, February 28, 2012



Doctors Eric Bell and Amelia Malm sat next to each other on the jet having decided to attend the conference in Tucson where an elite symposium on robotics and consciousness was taking place. They rambled on in conversation as clouds flew past the small window. Musing about the nature of the will, and will power.
"We all have will," Eric mused. "But some seem to have more than others. Why is that, I wonder?"
Amelia pondered the matter. "It is an interesting issue, isn't it?"
"Yes," Eric said. "I think one must consider the degree of freedom in the individual's environmental field. At any moment, how many possible choices are there to act upon?"
"Or at least the person's perception of options available," Amelia added. "Sometimes one may misperceive the field. They may see more options than are really there, or they see fewer than are really there. In the first case one perceives a door where there isn't one, and so of course, walks straight into a wall."
"Yes, of course," Eric said. "I've done that a few times myself. And in the second case you mention, one is in a room with many doors but sees none of them, and so is trapped."
"And," Amelia said, "We must consider the option glut which can be quite incapacitating in that there are so many options, one becomes indecisive and unable to choose any thing. Like a child in the candy store, unable to pick any one candy since it eliminates the choice to pick a different one. I think the key is not in the will power, but in one's perception of it. If you think of yourself as vanquished, then you are. I see this all the time in my practice. A person sees some heroic story on the news and thinks, there is no way that he or she could do such a thing. They perceive their will to be inadequate. And even worse than that, they have crippled themselves with their perceptions. They are telling themselves they could not do it. So when such a time occurs they, quite predictably, are incapacitated."

Eric leafed through the conference portfolio noting the various presentations and their scheduled times.
"We simply must hear Dr. Hubert Kleitman at 10:30," he murmured. Amelia looked over his shoulder.
"Digital Expansion of the Scope of Awareness"
"Yes, that does sound good, and we can enjoy a leisurely breakfast before attending," she said. She glanced on down the listed itinerary. "I would like to hear Rachel Rokeach on The Origin of Feeling too. I think she is plowing some new ground in the field of neuroendocrinology."
"Look at this one," Eric said. "Vladamir Vesnev, 'Regarding the Transfer of Being to Robotic Clones'. How Star Trekish is that? The Starship Enterprise breaks the Mortality Barrier!" Amelia laughed.
"Yes. We finally find immortality by cloning our consciousness and implanting it into a robot who can continue our work long after we die. Now there is a concept! I like it!"

The two of them chattered on abstractly for most of the flight, neither of them bringing up the fact that they had booked a room together in the hotel. It was not a thing either wished to talk about; just a thing they both wanted to do. To shed their uniforms and their professional demeanor and be naked together for awhile. They sometimes called it their 'secret mutual admiration society', and they were the only two members. They only met now and then. And this was one of those times.


Eric rolled over in bed, looking at Amelia still sleeping. He lightly brushed her hair back from her face. It was seldom that he got to see her with her hair down. Her eyes suddenly opened, looking over at him.
"Are we late?" She said, reaching for her watch on the table beside her. She glanced at it and laid back down. "It's early. I must still be on Texas time."
Eric smiled at her.
"I must say Amelia, you nearly wore me out last night."
"You were quite the tiger yourself," she answered. "Especially for a man who doesn't eat right. I need a shower," she said, throwing off the sheet and sitting up. Eric looked at her pale ample breasts. She stood and walked toward the bathroom.
"Do you need any help?" Eric said, feeling aroused all over again. She glanced back at him and smiled. "In a minute, I might."


Eric and Amelia walked into the noisy conference room filled with a colorful mix of neurosurgeons, shrinks, philosophers, and the like. There was a certain electricity in the air. The group mind putting on its collective thinking cap. They paused at a table by the door to pick up their name tags, and additional materials about the conference. Amelia had morphed back into Dr. Malm again. Her hair pulled sternly back, and in a tailored black business suit. Dr. Bell wore a western styled sport coat and a string bolo tie clasped with a silver star of Texas. They looked good together. And there was little hint that only a short while ago they had been frantically groping one another in the shower.

They took their seats as someone stepped up to introduce Dr. Kleitman. The distinguished doctor wasted no time upon approaching the podium in getting to the subject at hand.

"May I open with a brief reading?" he said, laying a book open on the table in front of him. From the ground-breaking paradigmatic writings of Dr. Julian Jaynes. He begins his treatise like this:"

"O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevalent counsel, an invisible mansion of moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is my self of selves, that is everything, yet nothing at all - what is it?
And where did it come from?
And why?"
Dr. Kleitman closed the book.
"That was the opening paragraph of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, as Jaynes penned it in 1977."

"Today, we see how our work in recent years has markedly increased our understanding of how the mind forms words. How these words spill forth from our mouths like a rehearsed script even as the mind invents them and strings them together. All language is essentially romantic. An effort of the individual consciousness to embrace the life around it. We dance with one another conversationally, as it were. A spoken tango. Yet words are only one part of what it is that gives meaning to that which is spoken. Body language, posturing, gestures, and emotional expression all play a part in communicating the feeling behind the words. Crying words. Laughing words. Loud harsh words, and words whispered. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...."

"And so, yes. It is important that we can, through brain-computer interfacing, transpose the electrical activity in certain areas of the brain and know the linguistic equivalent of those patterns. But alas, we have only strings of letters making words, and words making sentences. They are sterile once removed from the emotive environment from which they sprang. Anyone knows this who has received a computer-generated phone call right in the middle of dinner." He paused to allow the laughter from his audience.

"It is a robotic voice monodroning a message. Hubert...Kleitman....your...prescrip..tion...is..ready...at..your...local phar...macy....thank...you...for...shopping...the...Drugs...A...Plenty...way...CLICK." He paused again for the laughter and applause.

"In this case, we get the meaning, but find it quite annoying anyway. We feel cheated of a real human voice. Still, at the end of the message we find ourselves saying 'thank you' and feeling ridiculous in the moment afterward." He paused again for murmurs from the audience.
"The denoted signature of a word monitored from a thinking brain lacks a connotative context. This is where we are today. We arrive at the wild west of neuroendocrinology. The frontier. To arrive at a robust sense of a consciousness, we must now explore a new kind of interfacing. The monitoring of whole body activity. The endocrine system. All the organs of the body. Muscular tension, and so on. Only by gathering such data and melding it with the words thought or spoken can we arrive at the synergy of the meaning behind the words. The felt meanings. It is the next step in the creation of digital consciousness. Thank you for your time."
Dr. Kleitman gathered his notes from the podium and sat down.


As the group stood and began gathering their papers amid noisy chatter, Amelia sat writing a few hurried notes.
"Is it possible we can cheat death of completely annihilating us?" she wrote. "Is it delusional to think of transitioning and shifting our consciousness, our hearts and souls into something that lives after us?" She closed her notebook and then hurriedly re-opened it to note a few more things to think about.
"What are the forces that shape our shared beliefs as to what is real and what is not? And why did the ancient oracles stop talking? Where is the line between the beliefs we share and the madness of shared delusion? When does one become the other?"


Jack, Billy, and Violet sat around the table beneath the flickering light. Billy looked over at Violet.
"I'd like to take you somewhere," he said.
"Where?' she asked. "Into the shadows of the walls? Into one of the corners? Out that door over there?"
"Somewhere darker," Billy replied. He stood.
"Will you hold my hand?" Violet asked nervously.
"Yes," Billy said reaching out for her hand.
"But what about Jack?" she said.
"This is just between you and Billy, Violet," Jack said. "Go ahead. You were made to follow him." He watched as Billy led Violet into the shadows. Violet looked back once, then was gone.


"Where are we?" Violet said, holding his hand tightly. "I can't see," she said in a small frightened voice.
"I know," Billy said. "It was like that for me too, at first," Billy said. "But after awhile my eyes adjusted. Then I saw endless shades of grey, and the infinite degrees of darkness. Some blacks are blacker than others. In awhile you begin to see this."
"Put your arm around me Billy," Violet said, as she stumbled onward.
He stopped.
"This is a good place," he said. Violet's hands searched out his face.
"You're leaving me, aren't you?" she sobbed.
"Not really," Billy said. "You are still here inside me in this room I made for you long ago. Remember when we were children, and I first held you in my arms? It was right here. In this room. Sit down." Violet sat slowly down, sinking into a cushion of soft tar. Billy's footsteps faded. She clutched her face in anguish. She was back in that place where he had always kept her. And the last time it was years before he returned again. She laid slowly down on her side weeping, and soon fell asleep.

to be continued....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chapter Four concludes.


Sandy, Anita and Alejo sat nervously on the couch in Dr. Malm's office. She pulled up a chair in front of them.
"I haven't asked you here to pass judgement, or blame," she said. "My goal, quite simply, is that we all leave this room today feeling ok. Are we agreed on this?" They each nodded sheepishly. "Anita, surely you must feel so much of Sandy's pain."
"I do," Anita said, tears coming to her eyes.
"So much so, you would even ask your boy friend Alejo to help you make Sandy feel better," Dr Malm continued.
"Yes. I hurt for Sandy as she hurts for herself," Anita replied.
"And yet, now you see how your empathy has back-fired so to speak. How you have all become only more uncomfortable with one another."
Yes," Anita cried. Sandy reached out to clutch Anita's hand.
"I feel so stupid," Anita said. "So stupid."
"It wasn't stupid, what you did, Anita. It was very self-sacrificing. You would give anything to have Sandy back as your best friend, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," Anita nodded. Dr. Malm turned her attention to Alejo.
"Alejo, men think with their dicks, don't they?" Alejo laughed self-consciously.
"But, never would I actually make a move on Sandy, unless Anita thought it good."
"Remember we are not here to point fingers," Dr. Malm said.
"I just was trying to make Anita happy, to make Sandy feel better" Alejo stammered.
"Alejo, you were driven by your dick. You needn't feel bad about it. But here we are now." She glanced back and forth at each of them. They were still such children.
"Here is the main thing," she said. "Billy is in a coma. Love each other, as you want, but understand he may come back one day." Alejo got up and walked over to Sandy. He bent down and hugged her.
"I am so sorry, Sandy," he said in a choked voice. Sandy hugged him.
"It's ok, Alejo," she said, reaching out for Anita.


Dr. Bell hung up the phone after a brief conversation with Dr. Corrigan. He dialed Jacob, one of the interns on the team.
"Jacob, Eric here. Listen, I'd like you to pull all of Billy's EEG read-outs for the past month. I'd like you to review these. Get Sarah to help you."
"No problem," Jacob answered. "What in particular do want us to be looking at?"
"We are preparing a special file to be sent to Dr. Corrigan. We want to look at the frequency of certain patterns, how often they recur or repeat, also any extreme spikes showing up anywhere in the mapped areas. In each of these things as you identify them, highlight the time of day. You may also write some summary remarks regarding your observations."
""We'll get right on it," Jacob replied.
"And tell Sarah these studies are something she might easily parlay into her doctoral dissertation. Once Dr. Corrigan and his team review this folder and make any additional notes, they will begin mapping out specific sites for the implanting of chronic electrodes and laying out a design for a B/C interface tailored specifically for Billy."
"This sounds really exciting," Jacob said.
"Well, one of two things could happen. If we are successive in our objectives, it would be ground-breaking and unprecedented in our field. A kind of thing that could give us increased funding to continue in the research for several years to come. Or the other thing that could happen, it all goes nowhere and gets written off as a 'mad scientist' moment we would all look back on wondering what we were thinking."
Jacob laughed. "I think if Dr. Corrigan is sicking his dogs on it, there's a good chance we can pull it off."
"Perhaps," Dr. Bell replied. "Our first attempts may prove promising, but clumsy. It may be a process of evolving our approach, honing it. Such research is like making one's way through a maze. You hit a dead end. You turn around and try a different corridor. In Billy's case, the maze is not merely one of brain anatomy and physiology, but the labyrinth of consciousness itself. Rome wasn't built in a day."
"When do you need this data by?" Jacob asked.
"By the end of the week," Eric replied.
"Yikes, that's a lot of midnight oil!" Eric laughed.
"Gallons, maybe. But hey, burning the midnight oil with Sarah couldn't be too bad. All you need to figure out is whether it is to be at your place or her place!"
"You dawgg!" Eric said, laughing even harder.
"Don't tell me," Eric retorted. "I've seen you looking her up and down plenty of times. And, I thinks she's got a sweet tooth for you. The way I figure it, you both need to get laid."
"Well," Jacob said, clearing his throat and speaking academically. "Yes, looking at the data I would say there could be certain interesting correlations, a co-variance, perhaps. We might need a little more data to come up with a standard deviation."
"You dawgg!" Eric laughed. "Just don't get any mysterious stains on the read-out sheets and have it on my desk by Friday."
"I'm on it," Jacob chuckled.
"I'll bet you are!" Eric said, hanging up the phone before Jacob could blurt out a comeback.


Billy called to Jack from the dark corner of the room.
"I'm right here, Billy," Jack answered, looking over his shoulder into the darkness.
"Come over here," Billy said in a loud whisper. Jack walked over to the corner.
"Come on out where I can see you," he said peering into the blackness.
"Shhh," Billy said quietly. "I don't want to wake Violet."
"So, what's up?" Jack said in a hushed voice.
"Violet is starting to drive me crazy," Billy whispered.
"What do you mean, Billy?"
"She's acting weird. She keeps calling herself Sandy, whoever Sandy is."
"Sandy is someone on the outside. Remember? We talked about this last time," Jack answered.
"But I want Violet to be Violet," Billy said. "I don't know who Sandy is. For all I know, that's my mother's name. I can't be fucking my mother."
"No, that would be crazy," Jack said. "I think you just need to go along with it. Let her pretend she is Sandy. Maybe it would help you remember who Sandy is."
"I have another plan," Billy said. "But, I may need your help."
"Sure, what is it?" Jack replied.
"I want to kill Violet. I think she is dangerous."
"Whoa, Billy! Listen to yourself. You can't kill Violet," Jack said.
"Why not?"
"Because Violet is a part of your mind. It would be like putting a gun to your head."
"But she is driving me crazy," Billy said.
"Maybe so. Maybe you need some distance. But, you can't kill her."
"What am I to do then?" Billy asked anxiously.
"I don't know," Jack said. "Maybe take her off into that blackness back there where you go. Put her in a room somewhere else in your head. You could always go back to her then, if you wanted to."
"Would you help me do that, Jack?"
"I can help you persuade her. I can talk to her. But I can't go with you to wherever you put her."
"Why not?" Billy asked.
"Because you still need me here to help you think things out."
"I'll be back later," Billy said. Jack peered into the corner. There was a faint shuffling of feet, then nothing. He sat back down at the table and looked over to Violet sleeping on the floor half-dressed. He would miss her. But maybe it was for the best for now. After all, if he could help Billy get on his own feet and begin to remember the outside world, and maybe rejoin it, then he too could go off into the darkness. Maybe find Violet. Maybe have his own life with her somewhere back there in the darkness of Billy's sub-conscious.


"Sandy," Dr. Malm said, looking at her curled up in the chair in her office. "Are you still writing in your journal? Writing down your memories?"
"Yes," Sandy replied. "I write a lot about Billy and me, but sometimes, I don't know what to say, and just write his name over and over." Dr. Malm smiled.
"I had a boyfriend once. And I used to do that very thing. I would try to write his name in as many fancy ways as I could."
"I have Billy's name tattooed just above my ass," Sandy said. "Want to see it?"
"No, dear," Dr. Malm giggled. "I'll take your word for it. In fact, let's change the subject. Have you ever been hypnotized, Sandy?"
"Uh uh," Sandy said, shaking her head. "I think it's interesting though."
"It is very interesting, Dr. Malm replied. And I was thinking about trying a procedure with you, to relieve some of your stress and help you think more clearly, sleep better. Some of your problems might be better dealt with through hypnosis rather than pills. Is that something you would like to try?"
"Sure," Sandy said. I've often wondered what it would be like to be hypnotized." Dr. Malm glanced at her watch. She slid a cushioned ottoman over to Sandy's chair.
"I want you to stretch out, Sandy. Put your legs up here, dear. Good. Just relax. Lean back in the chair and allow yourself that comfort. Good. Now, I'd like you to close your eyes and take a long slow breath in. And out. Again. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Again. Good. In you mind, there is a picture of a beautiful periwinkle blue sky. Do you see it?
"Yes," Sandy answered.
"And do you see the little white clouds floating by?"
"You breathe them in...Inhale...You breathe them out...There they are again...Breathe...In...Breathe...out....Slowly... in...and...out...the clouds go in...and...out.........You are sitting on a beach of warm sand...Watching the sea...The sea rolls in....breathe....it splashes at your feet...exhale...the sea flows out...you lay back on the sand....the clouds go in...and out...the water splashes on your feet...."
Dr. Malm stood, smiling at Sandy in a peaceful trance. She walked over to her desk and made some notes. She would awaken Sandy in a short while.