The Amazing Adventures
of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Okay, first of all, I really
enjoy reading your story. The most interesting thing about it, to
me at least, is that the story isn't so much about Sara as about
other people's reactions to her. This gives your story an element
of realism not found in most 'superhero' tales. At least, that's
how it seems to me.
Recently I took a look at the
Transhumanist website and found an interesting article on
'uploading', which is to say, transfering the mind from the crude
human bodies we have now into a computer where we would probably
achieve post human status.
What's this have to do with
Sara, you ask? Well, in the First Interlude, Sara meets many
different people and never realizes until the end that they were
all artificial. Now, if she can store all of those personalities,
each of whom passes the Turing Test in her computer matrix, then
it shouldn't be too hard for her to store uploaded human minds
within that same matrix. We would live in a virtual reality world
that would be indistinguishable from the one we know in many ways,
except that we would be essentially immortal, and we would no
longer have any problems with shortages.
In fact, the more I think
about it, the more I wonder why I don't see a line of
transhumanists going around the block and clear down to the end of
main street just waiting for a chance to upload into Sara.
Well, I'm gonna get into that
in the Second Interlude, at least the part about virtual worlds
inside Susan populated by independent conscious entities. Later,
somewhere in the middle (I think) of Part Three, I'm going to see
what I can do about the 'upload' thing.
Okay, first of all, the idea
that Sara's humanity is a simulation seems to be conjecture on
your part. There is no reason the Cryptoaliens could not have just
as easily uploaded a real human mind into this super robot.
Perhaps that of a small child with a terminal illness. Giving her
a new life, with the added bonus of super powers would seem to be
a better deal than simply curing her weak, frail body, which would
wear out in a few decades anyway.
Second, if the Cryptoaliens
used simulated humans, their reactions to stimuli would also be
preprogrammed into them, making any such experiment pointless. I
believe they would be interested in how real humans react to Sara
because that will enable them to work up a policy concerning us
and our ultimate place in the universe.
I don't think a 'real human
mind' has been evolved along a path necessary to be able to
control such a machine without a lot of training, and Sara was
completely untrained when she was initially activated in Alex's
apartment. In a 'real human mind', a lot of what motivates us
depends on such things as the need to satisfy organic drives that
just don't exist for a super-robot, and reactions to hormonal and
chemical stimuli. While these things can be simulated, they don't
have the lash of, for instance, the avoidance of pain or the fear
of death to give them real meaning.
Also, Sara is deliberately
subject to modifications of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics,
which are entirely artificial constraints outside the scope of a
'real human mind'. These involve a special relationship with one
person and only one person on our planet, her native 'awakener'
necessary to get her through the crucial adjustment phase
following activation. If these practically hardwired constraints
applied to everybody, she would be hamstrung and perpetually
conflicted and if they didn't exist at all, Sara would
accidentally destroy her 'parent' by inadvertently invoking some
highly dangerous power before her consciouness realized that mere
humans are tremendously frail compared to her. Also, she would
never have any motivation to accept behavior modifying input from
These three 'Laws' are roughly
1) She cannot --- by action or
inaction --- significantly harm her awakener (it's automatic,
operating at a level below her consciousness that has been
programmed with an elaborate set of evaluative rules for
determining what constitutes 'significant' harm and what internal
and external threats would potentially inflict such harm).
2) She must at least respect
his opinions (not obey him slavishly, but if it is his opinion
that she should, say, perform a specific task, she would do so
unless it is internally inconsistent with the overall behavior
that she has acquired as a result of her evolving learning
experience in this way she learns to actually become
3) She gets a positive
reinforcement stimulus from 'pleasing' her parent and a negative
reinforcement stimulus from 'displeasing' him (after all, Alex
can't effectively spank her and normal physical rewards are
irrelevant to a being who essentially needs nothing and is
potentially totally independent from our world and everything in
A completely 'wild' and
unrestrained Sara would be terrifying to contemplate. The choice
of a suitable awakener by the Cryptoaliens is a very crucial one,
as well as the circumstances of her immediate environment. Imagine
how different the story would be if she had been planted in the
young Adolph Hitler's Vienna apartment prior to the First World
War, or if she had been bestowed upon a human committee of some
kind (ranging from the original Bolshevik Party Congress to the
American Continental Congress, or a government agency, or Ali
Baba's Forty Thieves). What if her awakener had been a redneck or
a moron? Or the Marquis de Sade? Or Ma and Pa Kent?
It wasn't just Alex. He's OK,
by and large, and generally means well (though he doesn't really
take a lot of important stuff very seriously he's basically a
loser). It's the Russians and NASA and the US and Houston and the
times we live in. All of these things are very formative, from her
'formal' education to Dinah's harangues to her crush on Jimmie to
hanging out with the Urban Animals to hanging out with the boys at
An imported 'real human mind'
would carry preconceptions and prejudices, not to mention fear and
the memory of pain. If you get rid of everything that goes into
the development of a 'real human mind', you're back to square one
anyway and there's probably no difference between the almost
completely unformed mind of a newborn (except for stimuli
involving the womb and the trauma of birth itself) and an
'artificial' mind constructed by very experienced and knowledgable
Cryptoaliens (and their super-robot helpers, who may themselves
have once been beings like Sara, many thousands of centuries ago).
Also, the relative percentage
of 'real human minds' who are basically as decent as Sara (by
necessity) is pretty low. We 'real humans' tend to be real
stinkers as often as not. By the time you find out that your
precious baby has a fascination with pulling the wings off of
flies, she's in control of your super-robot <shudder>.
Lucretia Borgia was once a sweet, innocent baby.
I don't doubt that at some
point in the Cryptoaliens' history (or histories there's
probably a lot of varieties), they uploaded their original
organically produced personalities and essences into super-robots
themselves. There might be vast populations of beings that are
physically like Sara (only more so) 'out there'. Or they might all
be uploaded to some kind of virtual reality of their own
individual choosing, leaving only their super-robot servants in
the 'real' universe to take care of business for them. Or some
combination of variations thereof. Who knows?
Second, if the Cryptoaliens
used simulated humans, their reactions to stimuli would also be
preprogrammed into them, making any such experiment pointless.
I guess that depends upon just
how sophisticated their modelling is. I think there's probably a
statistical damping effect that applies to large human
populations, someting along the lines of Hari Seldon's
'Psychohistory' in Asimov's Foundation books. The range of
possible human reactions to confronting aliens is potentially very
large, but the random distribution curve of probabilities applies
to this conjecture, meaning that the central trend is based on the
largest number of likely outcomes.
This can possibly be
manipulated by opportunistic individuals, of course. Bruce Wayans
uses the natural apprehension of the unknown for political
advantage, just as Hitler used anti-Semitism. One cannot discount
the effects of historical accident.
But then, Sara herself is a
historical accident. Her primary function might be to provide a
certain amount of entertainment value for the folks who sent her
a sort of galactic Truman show. Then one could suppose
that events such as Hitler's improbable rise to power were
examples of Cryptoalien meddling as well. I don't think so,
though. If these creatures were that unethical, we'd have perished
a long time ago to make lebensraum for a Crypto-housing
development and shopping mall.
I believe they would be
interested in how real humans react to Sara because that will
enable them to work up a policy concerning us and our ultimate
place in the universe.
Bottom line on their 'gift' to
us has more to do with our species having to confront our own
destiny at a critical time in our development. Our reactions to
Sara are not as important as the process of self-discovery that
enables our species to work up our own policy concerning ourselves
and our 'ultimate place in the universe'.
Tell me, Chris --- if you had
a chance to be uploaded into Sara and experience an eternity of
virtual existances of your own choosing, free forever from pain
and suffering (unless you're into that), what would you do? What
would most people do? Would humans as actual physical beings more
or less disappear into Heaven if the opportunity presented itself?
Of course, there would be the odd contrarians who would refuse to
'go', but their short lives would become even more miserable as
society collapsed from the exodus.
But to hell with society. What
would you do, Chris?
Be honest. For all you know,
I'm a Cryptoalien myself and you're staring at one hell of an
opportunity. And, for all you know, virtual existance isn't
necessarily all it's cracked up to be since you would be
eternally at Sara's mercy
Okay, I'll admit it, at first
I thought I'd jump at the chance to be uploaded into a world that
was free of all the troubles we have on this world. Then I thought
about our history, and how, no matter what the circumstances, we
somehow manage to be savage, greedy, lustful, cruel and hateful
beings. Would all of that be erased when we entered Sara? If so,
would we still be us? Or would we merely be a collection of
complex simulations programmed to believe it? Where does humanity
begin or end? If all the bad in us is taken away one day, would we
continue to evolve as a people? Or would we experience stagnation
and apathy without any troubles to overcome? After all, it's said
that we learn more from our failures than we do from our mistakes.
Think about it.
© Patrick Hill, 2000