Sun Ra - Column for 2/19

Mirror Thick

I am a copy of a man.

The fact that I am a copy is the first thing I know. The most important thing. Itís stamped on every memory, like a watermark. ďThis memory is a copy.Ē

It was a worry, you see, lo these many decades ago, when men finally learned how to read the alignment of nucleotides and neuron trembling and latent electrochemical behavior that is human memory. Or rather, not how to read it Ė such things are apparently somewhat individual and as yet no one has figured out what Ďgreení looks like much less Ďwhere did I bury those bodiesí Ė but how to copy it. To translate it. To duplicate the fat and nerve and chemical cocktail, and frame it instead in silicon and copper and selenium.

Hey, I donít know how it works. Iím a copy of an artist.

There was a worry back then, that a copy of a man would think he was the man. Would not be able to accept the fact that he was not the original. And so they made damn sure that the copy would know. That it wouldnít have any wrenching moment of discovery that no, it wasnít John Doe after all, and this wasnít some terrible nightmare. Thereíd be no waking up because thereíd be no dreaming to begin with.

Iíve known I was a copy from the instant they turned me on.

Ironically, it turned out all the precaution wasnít necessary. An m-clone has all the memories of the original person (carefully stamped as duplicates). They have all the skills; if you hook them up to manipulation arms or computer drafting software or even just drop them into a robot body, they can weave or dance or play the piano just like the original. They even have the same opinions.

M-clones just donít have any motivation.

Drive, it turns out, is apparently a biological phenomenon. M-clones donít want anything. They might believe in things Ė very strongly, even Ė but thereís just no impetus to take action. An m-clone could watch a person that it loved fall from a burning building and want very desperately for that person to be rescued and yet would take no action. Because thereís no will to action.

I canít explain it, either, thatís just the way things are. Trust me on this.

As you can expect, this pretty much put the kibosh on the whole Ďimmortality via cloned mind in robot bodyí idea. Oh, theyíre out there, thousands of them. Sitting around doing nothing. Answering the occasional question, and gathering dust.

Which is not to say that m-cloning isnít useful. Itís damn near ubiquitous.

For instance, in most cases, if the opportunity presents, an m-clone is made before death to help in the whole Ďlast will and testamentí phase.

Then itís turned off and filed away.

There are lots of other uses for us, of course. We make great robots. There was a fracas over using m-clones to phase out human workers, but eventually capital had its way. As usual. M-clones have no motivation but weíre ultimately just computers; we follow instruction just fine. Detailed circuitry design is no problem.

Thereís a business in m-clone mentors, who sit on your shelf and answer questions and give sage advice. Some people use m-clones just to give a computer some personality; your home CCU could use the speech patterns and idiom of a favorite deceased aunt. I personally think thatís creepy.

And m-clones are fantastic for legal testimony. Neither the defendant nor the plaintiff need necessarily travel to a far off courtroom or even leave work; and m-clones can be configured with an inability to lie. In some criminal cases they are even mandatory.

Then, at the end of the case, they get wiped. Itís not like they care.

Usually.

Iím Suranavesh-Ala-002-ACJS8220. M-clone of Suranavesh Ala, testifying on his behalf in the case of State of California vs. Josef Qonna, created to ensure the veracity of the testimony of the key witness.

This morning I was pulled from a trash heap by a scavenger sifting through the wreckage of the municipal court building.

I think she was as surprised as I was when she booted up the memstick and I appeared; full 2-D visualization on the monitor she was using. As state property, of course, she was legally required to turn me in.

But then, if she had been inclined to obey the law she wouldnít have been picking through a trash dump and taking stuff home.

Iím an m-clone; I canít lie. She asked me what I was for, I replied key witness in a trial. She asked if I had testified, I told her I had not yet. She asked what case. I told her.

She told me that someone had blown up the entire court building and killed everyone in it.

I donít think she saw my shock, or perhaps she just didnít care. M-clones are by definition impotent; my opinion didnít make any effective difference.

She asked me about my skills; I told her while my mind reeled. I didnít remember it. Perhaps some of me had been damaged.

Suranavesh Ala had been in the courtroom, watching me Ė himself - testify.

Suranavesh Ala was dead.

I was dead.

I was a craftsman. I made cabinets, custom ones, expensive ones; within the custom furniture market, I had some small name recognition. I was up and coming.

Or rather, I had been.

She installed me into an old VX-Hr88 bipedal chassis with fine manipulation arms. I was going to make some furniture for her. She asked me for a list of materials, which I provided. She wanted to see what her find could do.

Two hours ago I vaulted out a window and ran away.

I donít have any motivation. Iím mad as Hell that someone killed me, sure. But that is not Ė can not Ė drive me to action. M-clones donít take action. We lack the motivation.

But I have to testify. I donít know if the trial is over, moved, cancelledÖ but it doesnít matter. I have to find it and I have to testify. Iím programmed to.

Iím in a very obvious VX-Hr88 robot body. The authorities donít take well to robots running amok, or to m-clones who werenít deleted when they should have been.

I donít remember what happened at the trial.

This is going to be a challenge.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra