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The machine: Welcome to it



I love that song by Pink Floyd; "Welcome to the Machine". I know it's not about people becoming mechanized but It really makes one think along those lines.

I have a story that I'd like to run by you. Tell me what you think.

Humanity is at war with a race of cybernetic organisms similar to the Borg of Star Trek. It's not a declared war or anything. These creatures just want a vast workforce and army to go conquering other worlds. They have set their sights on Earth.

A family of resistance fighters consisting of a mother and her son and daughter are trying to devise a way to retrive her husband from the clutches of this race. He was abducted and absorbed by this race and he's now (unwillingly) serving as one of them. See, My vision of this races "assimilation" or "absorbtion" method involves something totally hideous and brutal. Something like performing surgery and installing implants on people without putting them out and removing limbs and eyes and internal organs to suit the needs of this machine race. The removed organs are replaced with machinery and wiring and the individual is shoved into a wall where they will spend the rest of their funtional lives not too dissimilar to the woman on B5 (Bester's lover) who became merged with the wiring and conduits and circuitry of med-lab. The victim would remain there performing functions with his/her mind like a collective computer (like the Borg) until that "unit" is needed to perform an assault on a world.

The family infiltrates the alien's realm or ship or whatever to get her husband back. They love each other so much that one is willing to die in a rescue attempt. They recover the man who is in the process of being totally absorbed by the machine. They free him and make their escape and go into hiding all the while downloading what memories he has and what valuable information he has on their weaknesses.

Unbeknownst to any of them, he still has circuitry and nanotechnology still inside him. One night, a year later, the couple are celebrating the birth of their new daughter. The older children in in the academy or on the front-lines. The couple are sleeping or engaged in some intimate activity when the nanotechnology activates. He is quickly overcome by organic metals sprouting from his every pore and oraface. The wife is still sleeping while the wires and such touch her therby infecting her also and they are now both drones of a sort. A real tragedy because they are both there, the collective doesn't know where they are and they (the couple) are awaiting instructions from the hive while the baby sits in her crib on the brink of starvation because the parents are now absorbed and semi-dormant.
Some incoherent ramblings which remotely connect to your post.

The possibility of the border between a machine and a living organism becoming fuzzier... is a possibility. I would however think that nanotechnology develops more towards bridging the gap between machine and material.

Several authors have written stories featuring "artificial" species of intelligent beings. It might be possible, but seems improbable...

Why I consider it improbable: a non-sentient AI would lack the flexibility and capabilities of a "real" mind. It would stand no chance against sentients. But if it would be sentient, there would be no reason to consider it different, more "artificial", more inhumane than ourselves.

It could decide who it is, what it wants and why it is here. It could do good and evil, and something in between. Different individuals would disagree, misunderstand, even fight.

If it could perform all the roles of a sentient mind, it would simply be a fellow sentient. With strange patterns of thinking, but a sentient nevertheless. It couls seek purpose, doubt, err and learn from errors. It could dream, hate and love.

If it can do everything we can do, it no longer differs from natural intelligence. A sentient mind, no matter if natural or artificial, has a person, free will and why not even a soul (at least from the Minbari perspective -- considering a soul to be a part of universe trying to understand itself).


But there is one thing that makes me consider artificially intelligent "cyborgs" not viable as a "species" from an evolutionary point of view.

Organic life as we know it... is one hell of a flexible thing. And there are surely forms of organic life far beyond our imagination. We will, at least for a long time, be unable to build devices with capabilities comparable to those of the simplest forms of life.

Ironically, we are too stupid to build something with capabilities comparable to ourselves. You can't jump over your own shadow. Hence we may assume the same of others, and consider the possibility of artificial "species" of sentients existing rather small. But the idea is interesting and makes a good theme for science fiction.

"We are the universe, trying to figure itself out.
Unfortunately we as software lack any coherent documentation."
-- Delenn

[This message has been edited by Lennier (edited September 29, 2001).]
Since this has no direct B5 content I'm moving this to Off Topic, rather than fan fic..