BUSINESS AND PLEASURE
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.
THE MORNING AFTER
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?
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.
THE OTHER ROOM
"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.
"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....