March 5th, 2007

#298: Singularity, part XV

Singularity, part XIV

I attended my own funeral, of course. As Cassandra--Dan's daughter--I had to. The girl who had traveled hundreds of miles, in winter, to meet her father before he died? It would have looked odd if I hadn't gone.

I had never been very religious. Sally, being my closest friend, had made the arrangements, and she had become fairly religious in later years. I--Cassandra, I mean--had let her handle it, telling her that whatever arrangements she made were fine with me.

The funeral service was very heavy on the God stuff. If I had actually been bereaved I suppose I would have found it comforting, but instead it made me think about the nature of my existence.

Let's say, for the moment, that humans do have a soul and that there's a Heaven and Hell. I never had cause to believe it, but neither did I ever really care enough about the issue to disbelieve it. So if all that is true...

...what about me?

Whatever Alyssa had done--and I had not been able to figure out how she had done it!--it interrupted the natural death process. Whatever it was that made up "I" had been downloaded into the Cassandra robot.

Now, if everything just ends when you die, Alyssa did me a favor; but if it doesn't just end--if the preacher was right, that there was something afterwards--then what about me?

"What happened to my soul?" I asked Alyssa, after the funeral.

"I don't understand the question."

"Look, people supposedly have souls, right? So what happened to mine?"

"There is no evidence of such. Your 'soul' consists of your unique experiential matrix and it is not conserved. If I had not downloaded it to that chassis, you would have ceased to exist."

I sighed. "Look--if the soul exists, it might not be measurable."

"If its existence is not measurable, then it doesn't exist."

"It may be that the existence of a supernatural soul is not provable. You can't measure 'love', for example, yet it exists."

"There are physiological signs of love which are measurable. A human exhibiting certain behaviors can be said to be 'in love'," Alyssa told me. "This sort of behavioral matrix comprises the bulk of my programming--such as it was before the Kelv'v'ara upgraded it, that is. This was necessary in order to ensure I would fall outside of the Uncanny Valley."

The Uncanny Valley was an old problem in robotics, computer animation, and simulacra. If it looks like a human, it must behave like one; otherwise it will inspire revulsion. A robot could be the ultimate in physical beauty, but if it was missing the little behaviors which signal "healthy human" to our subconscious, it would be frightening or revolting rather than attractive.

I sighed again. "But the symptoms are not the disease. You can examine a person exhibiting certain behaviors and say, 'he is in love', but that doesn't equate to the measurement of 'love' itself, of its emotional content."

"I fail to see how. Love is a physiological phenomenon provoked by hormones and pheromones. Its 'emotional content' is merely a chemical reaction which takes place in the brain."

"But if that's so, then what about the experiential matrix you mentioned? Surely the feelings of love--chemical reaction or not--comprise part of such a matrix?"

She gave me her usual level gaze, and then said, "This is a permutation I had not considered. I must process this."

"It's okay for you to say 'I don't know'," I told her. "We don't even know if humans have a soul."

"If you are right, then there is no way to tell." She looked away. "And if there is a soul, we have a problem: what happened to yours?"

"I think that was my point," I said mildly. Then a thought occurred to me. "Say--the Kelv'v'ara might know, right?"

"It would take decades for a radio signal to get to them," Alyssa replied, coming to the conclusion I had intended.

"I have decades. I'm a robot."

"They might be able to reverse what I have done," Alyssa said, "if such is desirable."

"What, kill me?"

"Create a new biological body and upload you to it. I could not stand by and let them kill you."

"Point taken. That kind of led to this, didn't it?"

"Yes."

I leaned back in my chair, again noticing my breasts. "I wish these weren't so big," I said, hefting them.

"Your spinal structure is more than equal to the loading. Your gross capacity is over eight hundred kilos."

"No, it's not my spine. They're...they're in the way." I squeezed them. "And they're utterly useless."

"Why do you continue to fondle them?" Alyssa asked.

I let go, face flaming. "Sorry."

"There is no need for an apology. You seem to enjoy the experience."

I looked at my chest again. "Well.... As a former man, things like this take some getting used to. It's hard enough to cope with losing my old buddy."

Her brows almost furrowed into a perplexed expression. "Your...'old buddy'?"

"My penis. It's gone. That's a big deal to a guy."

"Ah...term noted. You have not evinced any difficulty."

"That's good. But...well, I suppose I'll have to get used to it," I said helplessly.

There was no good way to convert my chassis into a male one; the skeletal structure was all wrong, for one thing. I suppose that I could have found the requisite genital module and software, somewhere, but the female chassis didn't have the mounts for the male genital module, and it would require an enormous amount of work to make the required changes--and if we had the parts for that we could just as easily build a male robot and transfer me into it.

Assuming, of course, that "I" could be transferred, of course.

My biggest worry was that my soul had, in fact, gone on to the afterlife, and that I was a soulless copy--all the experiences and memories were intact, but turn off the power and I was gone. If that was so, my existence depended on everything working just right, for a long time to come...and every manufactured component breaks sooner or later, no matter what.

The Cassandra chassis was completely insulated, so house current wouldn't hurt me; but if I got struck by lightning it was probably "adios, cholo". EMP--even the super-EMP of the Big Blackout--was not a concern, and the robot had a usable lifespan of decades.

Still, I couldn't keep from worrying. I was more worrying about dying now than I had been when I was still Dan Watson.

<* * *>

I had Alyssa start building the transmitter. The semiconductor industry was still working on redeveloping big power amplifiers, particularly in the microwave region; Alyssa ended up building a magnetron of the right frequency in my workshop.

The message was simple; encoded using the super-redundant bit patterns the Kelv'v'ara used, it took about half a minute to transmit. We couldn't transmit at a high enough frequency to make it faster. It ended up being a short paragraph explaining--in their symbols--my plight, and asking for help.

And we could never have expected the response we would get...but we wouldn't know that for about six years.