Rumors had their own classic epidemiology. Each started with a single germinating event. Information spread from that point, mutating and interbreeding-a conical mass of threads, expanding into the future from the apex of their common birthplace. Eventually, of course, they'd wither and die; the cone would simply dissipate at its wide end, its permutations senescent and exhausted. There were exceptions, of course. Every now and then a single thread persisted, grew thick and gnarled and unkillable: conspiracy theories and urban legends, the hooks embedded in popular songs, the comforting Easter-bunny lies of religious doctrine. These were the memes: viral concepts, infections of conscious thought. Some flared and died like mayflies. Others lasted a thousand years or more, tricked billions into the endless propagation of parasitic half-truths.
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I know your race and mine are never on the best of terms." There was a cold smile in his voice if not on his face. "But I do only what you force me to. You rationalize, Keeton. You defend. You reject unpalatable truths, and if you can't reject them outright you trivialize them. Incremental evidence is never enough for you. You hear rumors of Holocaust; you dismiss them. You see evidence of genocide; you insist it can't be so bad. Temperatures rise, glaciers melt-species die-and you blame sunspots and volcanoes. Everyone is like this, but you most of all. You and your Chinese Room. You turn incomprehension into mathematics, you reject the truth without even knowing what it is.
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Perhaps they'd been conditioned by all the quarantines and blackouts, all the invisible boundaries CSIRA erected on a moment's notice. The rules changed from one second to the next, the rug could get pulled out just because the wind blew some exotic weed outside its acceptable home range. You couldn't fight something like that, you couldn't fight the wind. All you could do was adapt. People were evolving into herd animals. Or maybe just accepting that that's what they'd always been.
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Computation, after all, implied a problem not yet solved, insights not yet achieved. There was really only one sort of program for which foreknowledge of the outcome didn't diminish the point of exercise, and Bre¼ks had never been able to find any religious orders that described God as a porn addict.
I know, I know: it can be frustrating as hell. But people have an unfortunate habit of assuming they understand the reality just because they understood the analogy. You dumb down brain surgery enough for a preschooler to think he understands it, the little tyke's liable to grab a microwave scalpel and start cutting when no one's looking.
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Imagine you are Siri Keeton: You wake in an agony of resurrection, gasping after a record-shattering bout of sleep apnea spanning one hundred forty days. You can feel your blood, syrupy with dobutamine and leuenkephalin, forcing its way through arteries shriveled by months on standby. The body inflates in painful increments: blood vessels dilate; flesh peels apart from flesh; ribs crack in your ears with sudden unaccustomed flexion. Your joints have seized up through disuse. You're a stick-man, frozen in some perverse rigor vitae. You'd scream if you had the breath. Vampires did this all the time, you remember. It was normal for them, it was their own unique take on resource conservation. They could have taught your kind a few things about restraint, if that absurd aversion to right-angles hadn't done them in at the dawn of civilization. Maybe they still can. They're back now, after all- raised from the grave with the voodoo of paleogenetics, stitched together from junk genes and fossil marrow steeped in the blood of sociopaths and high-functioning autistics. One of them commands this very mission. A handful of his genes live on in your own body so it too can rise from the dead, here at the edge of interstellar space. Nobody gets past Jupiter without becoming part vampire.
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While a number of people have pointed out the various costs and drawbacks of sentience, few if any have taken the next step and wondered out loud if the whole damn thing isn't more trouble than it's worth. Of course it is, people assume; otherwise natural selection would have weeded it out long ago. And they're probably right. I hope they are. "Blindsight" is a thought experiment, a game of "Just suppose" and "What if". Nothing more. On the other hand, the dodos and the Steller sea cows could have used exactly the same argument to prove their own superioirity, a thousand years ago: "if we're so unfit, why haven't we gone extinct?" Why? Because natural selection takes time, and luck plays a role. The biggest boys on the block at any given time aren't necessarily the fittest, or the most efficient, and the game isn't over. The game is never over; there's no finish line this side of heat death. And so, neither can there be any winners. There are only those who haven't yet lost.
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So much anger in here. So much hate. So much to take out on someone. This time it's going to count. She's adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, three hundred kilometers from land. She's alone. She has nothing to eat. It doesn't matter. None of it matters. She's alive; that alone gives her the upper hand.
Evolution has no foresight. Complex machinery develops its own agendas. Brains - cheat. Feedback loops evolve to promote stable heartbeats and then stumble upon the temptation of rhythm and music. The rush evoked by fractal imagery, the algorithms used for habitat selection, metastasize into art. Thrills that once had to be earned in increments of fitness can now be had from pointless introspection. Aesthetics rise unbidden from a trillion dopamine receptors, and the system moves beyond modeling the organism. It begins to model the very process of modeling. It consumes evermore computational resources, bogs itself down with endless recursion and irrelevant simulations. Like the parasitic DNA that accretes in every natural genome, it persists and proliferates and produces nothing but itself. Metaprocesses bloom like cancer, and awaken, and call themselves I.
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Every concert pianist knows that the surest way to ruin a performance is to be aware of what the fingers are doing. Every dancer and acrobat knows enough to let the mind go, let the body run itself. Every driver of a manual vehicle arrives at destinations with no recollection of the stops and turns and roads traveled in getting there. You are all sleepwalkers, whether climbing creative peaks or slogging through some mundane routine for the thousandth time. You are all sleepwalkers.
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Perfect hexagonal tubes in a packed array. Bees are hard-wired to lay them down, but how does an insect know enough geometry to lay down a precise hexagon? It doesn't. It's programmed to chew up wax and spit it out while turning on its axis, and that generates a circle. Put a bunch of bees on the same surface, chewing side-by-side, and the circles abut against each other - deform each other into hexagons, which just happen to be more efficient for close packing anyway.
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