"The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature." -Jorge Luis Borges
“People who are busy and happy don’t write diaries; they are too busy living.” -Robert Anson Heinlein
Either you have a memory or you don't. How do I know that I have lost memories? I seem to have memories of other memories, or, the feeling that I have forgotten something important. I'm particularly puzzled by my antagonism towards Doltun and my sense of unease whenever I see Orbho Anagro.
What is going on?
Yesterday I only had time to start this with a few brief notes and I am going to be busy for the foreseeable future, so it might be useless to record my thoughts here. I had given up using sonet after Doltun blocked my memories. I have memories of sonet being a useful tool, but now my remaining memories of that only lead me to dead ends. Doltun told me to explore the city and make new friends...of course, he could not be bothered to explain what had happened to my old friends. Now I have one name in my conlist: Klempse.
On each of the past two days I have met with Vicktir Klempse and I've also met another scientist, Wints. I think I have a basic understanding of what they mean by "science" and they introduced me to their robotics project. They have a huge amount of history behind their little "research station" and I've been looking though their records in my "spare" time. I'm reminded of the exciting days when I first had access to the Observer database.
When I mentioned my memory problem to Klempse he told me that the scientific research station was founded by people who reported similar problems. During my first night with access to the history of these scientists, I tried to find the personal records of the founders, but I failed. Today Klempse told me that those historical files were censored long ago and that there is now only an oral history of the early days of science. However, I have a huge sense of relief knowing that I am not alone, that I am not simply going crazy!
|Klempse explained to me that Doltun calls me a criminal. I do remember illegally going to Earth, but Klempse told me that I must have done something worse than just that. Last night I looked into the history of other criminals who violated the Rules of Observation. I could not access all the records. Observer Net is not open to me. I have many memories of my days within the Observer corps and making use of the Observer databases, but now I cannot even remember my fellow Observers. Why did Doltun take away so many of my memories?||Hi Gohrlay! I have not used this network since I was a kid. We scientists just use our own research network, a habit that developed long ago when early scientists were blocked from sonet. I hope this reaches you. I spoke to Doltun again today and he said that you were disrupting Overseer business and you were part of a group of conspirators. I suggest that you take Doltun's advice and start creating a new life that does not involve either Observers or Overseers.||Yes, Vicktir, I see your note. Thanks for taking the time to check in here and share what Doltun told you. If Dolton wants me to "create a new life" why did he send me to you and suggest that I participate in the mind downloading experiment?|
I was allowed no time with Klempse today, so I will take the time to try to order my thoughts and lay everything out here. Klempse says that he is very busy running diagnostics on the equipment that must be used for the project that Doltun has in mind. Klempse is worried that critically important circuit elements may have been damaged during the many years during which the downloading project was abandoned. He'll know more tomorrow.
If I decide to go through with downloading my mind into Klempse's machine then I want to have a written record of myself to pass on to whatever comes next. I guess the goal is that there will be a newly created artificial life form, a computerized device that will hold fragments of my mind. I've seen the positronic robot called "Nahan" and it does not seem to have a mind. Is there really any reason for me to hope that my mind can live on? Thinking of this sometimes frightens me!
Yesterday Klempse showed me the room full of positronic circuits that he wants to turn into my new brain. Since Doltun seems to have assigned this project to Klempse, I can't really imagine that there will be a future in which my mechanical self will not know him, but Klempse insists that my mind will shatter upon being downloaded into all those circuits. When I told him about my idea of writing about myself for the benefit of my future self, Klempse insisted that I should try to record my most sweeping and "high level" beliefs and desires.
He tried to explain to me what he means by "low level" and "high level". Apparently. the procedure for copying the structure of a brain into positronic circuitry is inherently "low level". Klempse used an analogy. Imagine copying all the letters from a text into a new file. One little error in the data file could scramble the meaning of the text. A person with a "high level" understanding of the meaning of the text would be able to make a good guess about the nature of the error and make a reasonable correction, but he says there will be no "high level" function in the positronic brain. Klempse says that is what the mindlessness of the Nahan robot proves. So I hope that it might be possible for me to pass on to the future my "high level" thoughts in these writings. Klempse is not at all doing a good job of giving me confidence in this whole mind downloading scheme. He said that I need to understand all the risks and make an informed decision.
Speaking of Klempse, I found a great way to get him fired up. Yesterday when we were discussing Nahan's disappointingly mindless behavior, I asked about the robots that most city residents use as their personal aides. Klempse admitted that the aides are not mindless, but for some reason the scientists are only able to make positronic robots. He explained to me that the aides are all nanoelectronic in their brain structure, not positronic. I asked why the roboticists like Wints have been working to develop Nahan's mindless positronic brain rather than work to improve the brains of aide robots. Klempse started ranting, almost shouting, about how everyone at Observer Base is like a zombie and how frustrating it has been for the scientists to do "real work" rather than the "safe work" that they are "allowed" to do. Rather than explain himself, he started grilling me, demanding that I explain things that everyone takes for granted. For example, he asked me why we call our home here on the Moon "Observer Base". I replied that the name obviously comes from the Earth Observation Project. He argued that most people on the Moon never have anything to do with observing Earth and they usually just refer to "the city" when talking about where they live. He demanded that I tell him where the word "city" comes from. I've always assumed that it is just a name, like "Earth", a name for a specific place. He claimed that many words like "observer", "base", "Earth" and "city" are not of human origin.
I've never much cared about language before. Everyone always speaks the same language on the Moon. Of course, on Earth, there are hundreds of other languages and a major part of the Observer project concerns tracking those languages and their changes through time. Last night I looked into the history of languages spoken on the Moon and got a refresher for what little I had learned about the subject in school. It seems clear from the linguistic database that there was a major language shift about fifty thousand years ago when Neanderthals took over as Observers. Before that, the language used here on the Moon was different: it was a language that originated with the Overseers. Of course, the current Overseers were the Observers before we Neanderthals. I'd forgotten that there was an even older group of Overseers before the current ones, and of course they had another language that was once used by everyone living on the Moon, but that was very long ago and that language is dead. Klempse claims that if you check in the Observer data base then you will discover that language began on the Moon, not on the Earth. I did not really understand his argument about why our earliest words like "city" are not of human origin. He claimed that the Orbho were on the Moon before the human species even existed. I'm not really sure what that means, but it got me thinking about exactly where the Orbho come from. Klempse sent me away with a bitter order: "Learn your history, kra Gohrlay!" I don't think he was mad at me, he just seems to be frustrated by the way everyone takes our way of life for granted and never asks the right questions. I'm learning that science is all about asking the right questions, questions that most people never bother to ask.
What Klempse said about asking questions got me thinking about my days just before I was arrested by the Overseers. I've been told that under the conditions of my arrest, I cannot have any contact with the Observers, and that seems to be true. I have clear memories of some of my fellow Observers. However, I also seem to have memories of involvement with additional coworkers who are not among those who I clearly remember. It is like having the ghost of a memory of having done something and asking yourself: who did I do that with? But nobody you remember was that person. So how can I possibly recover these gaps in my memories? And why did the Overseers feel the need to remove some of my memories?
I simply cannot bring myself to approach any Observers. If I try, then I start feeling ill. Two days ago I tried to talk to a stranger about my trip to Earth. I selected a man who I see all the time on the tram; he lives not far from me. I've greeted him in an impersonal way several times, but I do not know his name. I tried, but I simply could not tell him about my past criminal activity. Klempse assures me that it is the nanites in my brain that control my behavior. How can any of us hope to ask the "right questions" when we are not in control of our own minds? I hope the robot that comes after me will sort these problems...if I can bring myself to go through with this.
Klempse invited me to his home for dinner. It is late now, after I spent a pleasant evening with Klempse and his wife (Freytu). Their two children are off on their own, so it was just we three in their rather large house not far from the research station.
When Freytu inevitably asked about my family, Vicktir immediately tried to change the subject, but I had started thinking about my past. I discovered that I have some memories of the home where I grew up, but I cannot remember my parents. Seeing the way that Vicktir and Freytu playfully got along with each other, I felt a sense of loss. I have a haunting sense that I grew up in a warm and happy environment, but I cannot even picture the faces of my parents. Why would the Overseers have erased my memories of my family? Now I feel strange that I did not even recognize the loss of those memories until Freytu prodded me to think about something other than my crimes. I suspect that when I went into Observer training I mostly lost contact with my parents. All of my adult memories center on my experiences as an Observer, but it would be interesting to know what led me to become an Observer. All I have now is a jumble of memories from my youth that hint at a steadily growing interest in Earth. I know there must be a fuller story behind that, but it is not in my memories any more. Surely my parents had a major influence on my choice to become an Observer.
I asked Klempse if he could find my parents for me and he said that he is sure that the Overseers would object to that. When I got home this evening, I tried to search for my family in the Index, but I ended up getting a terrible headache and vomiting up Freytu's home-cooked dinner. Clearly, the Overseers have put a lock on my mind and I am powerless to remember important parts of my past life...they don't want me to continue living in the criminal pattern that got me into trouble. The city s not so very large: just by wandering around I should bump into people who I once knew. Have their memories of me also been destroyed?
It is frustrating that I only know the general nature of my crime; the details have been erased. The more I become aware of what the Overseers have taken from me, the more I despise Doltun. I have a deep resentment that frequently flares up inside me in a frightening way. It is good that I now have Klempse and a chance to explore the world of science; seeing everything in a new way, through the lens of science, is a welcome distraction from my crime and punishment.
I could see that Vicktir and Freytu are best friends, even though they are two very different people. Freytu is very involved with the arts and she has a gallery in the city core. I've been past it, but I've never been inside. It is strange to see them discussing the life of the city since Vicktir only sees cultural events as if he was observing them under a microscope, while Freytu participates fully in the daily beat and throb of the city. I can remember my childhood enthusiasms for dance and music, but at a fairly young age I became captivated with Earth and my Observer specialty, the topic of human tool use. I suppose I was also divorced from city life, but not as decisively as is Klempse.
So we talked some about my crime. Vicktir claimed that only working Observers are encouraged to have an interest in Earth. At one point he said, "But I doubt if there is any active discouragement preventing people from thinking about Earth. Most people only give thought to their pathetic personal interests, like the latest hat fashion and style of dance music." Freytu laughed at him and explained that hats had been out of style for twenty years. Nothing Vicktir said seemed to upset Freytu, even when Vicktir was apparently trying to ridicule her entire way of life. Once Freytu looked at me, shaking her head, and said, "Scientists!"
Freytu asked me about my interest in robotics and how it was possible that I had managed to suddenly get her husband to shift his work away from mathematics. Unable to tell her anything specific about my crimes, I spoke briefly about the problem of endowing positronic robots with minds. She had apparently heard Vicktir mention Nahan and she wondered why an Observer, like me, might care about positronics.
I was trying to find something that I could say to her, when Vicktir mentioned that I was not just a typical Observer: he explained that I had actually been to Earth. As soon as he said that I found that, I could suddenly say more. Freytu looked at me in a new way, too. She understood that only individuals who are genetically indistinguishable from Earthlings are allowed to travel to Earth. She said that she had never met anyone other than genetically modified Neanderthals before. Since I had been to Earth, she sensibly assumed that I was a modern human, genetically identical to the vast majority of humans on Earth. I assured her that I was a genetically modified Neanderthal and Vicktir explained to his wife that I was a criminal, a Neanderthal who had gone to Earth and that I could have gotten away with it had I only interacted with the small remaining population of Neanderthals on Earth. Klempse was wrong, but I did not bother to try to correct Vicktir. Most people seem to never really understand the Rules of Observation.
It is also almost certain that Freytu was wrong about never having met a modern human. There are quite a few of them living on the Moon now. True, most of them work as Observers, but they are fully integrated with those of us who are Neanderthal descendants. As soon as the last Neanderthals die off on Earth, we Neanderthals will take over as Overseers and the modern humans will have sole responsibility for the Earth Observer Program. Most people like Freytu know nothing about genetics and the fact that we Neanderthals are inter-fertile with modern humans. It is even possible that Freytu has had modern humans in her family tree.
Freytu wanted to know what it was like on Earth. Her thinking about Earth seemed completely contaminated by the ridiculous romantic literature that is popular on the Moon: silly tales of imagined civilizations on Earth, like The Last Gardener. I told her about the tribe of Earthlings I had visited and their miserably difficult lives. I described the all too-human experience of scavenging meat from the bodies of dead animals. We got into a long discussion of microbial disease, something that most city residents are completely unfamiliar with. The conversation never got back to robotics.
Before going to his home for dinner, I spent the whole day with Klempse at the research station. He told me that he had been able to make a complete list of all the circuit elements missing from the positronic circuit array that was designed for mind downloading. Wints is now going through that list and he will determine which of the missing circuits are important and need to be replaced. Klempse has now turned his attention to the brain scanner. He showed me the scanning device and even let me put my head inside it. It is rather gruesome, with a mechanical cutting device that is designed to remove a person's skull bones and expose the brain. The scanning mechanism is complex with both nuclear resonance and optical elements. He spent hours explaining nuclear physics and lasers.
Klempse says that a complete human brain scan will take weeks to complete, a time during which the layers of the cerebral cortex will be sequentially pealed away and destroyed. Do I really want to go through with this? He will first be testing the scanner using an animal. He said that he put in a request to the Overseers for a test animal to be brought from Earth. Klempse says that a particular type of animal was used for previous test runs of the scanner and that he needs to compare the machine's current performance to records of those earlier tests.
I asked Klempse which animal species would be used and he refused to tell me. He said that I do not have the required scientific detachment and that I would be outraged if I knew exactly what has to be done. Now I am left wondering if this is all worth the sacrifice of an innocent animal from Earth. However, this is exactly the kind of sentimental reaction that got me arrested. Millions of animals die every year on Earth. Klempse said, "Why not sacrifice one more for a good cause?" Maybe I'm still not sure that this is a good cause. The main driving force behind this project is Doltun, and he just wants to eliminate me.
I tried to show this diary to Klempse today. He apologized for not having taken the time to keep reading it. When I tried to access my sonet node from the lab, I had no luck. Eventually we learned that Doltun had walled my node off as soon as Klempse posted his first comment. Now we have transferred this into the network that is used by the scientists and Klempse again has access to what I write here.
After we sorted out the technical issues, we got to talking about what I hope this diary will accomplish. Klempse suggested that I look at my life in the way a scientist would and question everything. He says that if these rambling notes are going to be of any value then I must write down an account of the things that I take for granted in my life. How am I supposed to do that?
He gave me a specific example. I previously mentioned "nanites" in this diary. That is a word that I'd never heard before I met Klempse. Today he gave me a long lecture about how the physicists of the research station have spent centuries exploring the very large and the very small. He says that most people are blind to anything that is not easily seen by the human eye, but most of the universe cannot be seen by the naked eye. He talked to me about the history of discoveries in astronomy and biology: black holes, quasars, cells and DNA molecules. He said, "All these things were unimagined by people before scientists started looking with telescopes and microscopes."
I countered with a description of how Observers document the genetics of every creature on Earth and mentioned the fact that humans on the Moon have been genetically engineered so as to make sure that our population here reflects the phenotypic characteristics of humans on Earth. Of course, I should have been ready for his response. He started asking questions about how it is possible for Observers to determine gene sequences. I foolishly launched into an account of how to use a gene sequencing device. He pointed out the fact that I have no idea how the gene sequencers of the Observers actually work. He was disgusted with me and asked, "Do you even know that genes are made of DNA?" I did know that, but it never seemed important before I heard Klempse talk about it. It had always seemed natural to let robots and other machines deal with such details.
Klempse explained that scientists made their own microscopes and discovered the existence of nanites inside human brains. According to Klempse, nanites are nanoscale devices that the scientists know exist, but they have made no progress in understanding them and what they do. A popular hypothesis among the scientists is that Earth was long ago visited by aliens from a distant planet and those aliens control the nanites. Some scientists believe that interstellar travel is too difficult for biological organisms and that maybe the nanites are a kind of artificial life form that made the long voyage to Earth. Anyhow, we humans have no understanding of the origin of nanites, the spaceships we use to get to Earth, our robotic aides, or how Observer Base was built and how it is maintained. He says that it is likely that my memory problems are due to nanites in my brain.
I asked Klempse what the brain scanner would do with the nanites in a brain. He seems to think that it will be easy to program the scanner to ignore the nanites. If so, there might be memories in my brain that are blocked from my conscious recall by the nanites, but those memories might be successfully copied into positronic circuits. I got excited by that possibility and, of course, Klempse immediately threw cold water on me. He says that there is no reason to believe that it will be possible to effectively make use of my memories if the structure of my brain is copied into positronic circuits. He used the analogy of dumping a million data files onto a storage circuit. There might be a lot of interesting information there, but no way to make use of it. He started talking about all of the parts of a human brain and how they function as a data processor. According to Klempse, Nahan's positronic brain is proof that roboticists have not learned enough about human brains to replicate human thought processes in a machine. He thinks that he can use the brain scan technology to copy my memories into positronic circuits, but there will not be a functioning positronic processor with an ability to make use of those memories in the way that my mind does. If he is right about that, then there is no point in trying to download my mind into the circuit array. Klempse says that this is why the whole downloading project was abandoned long ago. Then of course Klempse says that scientists must always be skeptical and the final result of this experiment will not be known until it has been completed. What should I believe?
|If Klempse is correct, then the brain scanner can recover my lost memories. Maybe there is a way to use technology to get around the sonet block that Doltun imposed. Doltun and the Overseers might not want others in the city to know what these scientists know, but I think they should know. There must be a way to let them know.||Hello again, Gohrlay. Do you think that we scientists have only been twiddling with our telescopes for all these tens of thousands of years? The Overseers monitor everything, including this research computing network. I'm sure that Doltun is aware of your idea of sharing with others our secrets, like the existence of nanites. There have been many scientists who tried to start a revolution and wake up the city to the truth. Good luck with that. If it was easy someone would have done it long ago.||How can you go on, day after day, knowing that the Overseers treat us all like puppets? Doesn't it bother you that people are kept ignorant and happy? And what is the purpose of the whole crazy plan? What are the Overseers trying to accomplish? I still believe that there must be some way to break the cycle. In any case, I take your point and I am continuing to read in the research network's archives. I'm starting to sense that many people who were smarter than I am already confronted these same frustrations long ago. I hope that there is something useful to learn from what they did, but would The Overseers have already removed any useful information?|
I'm going to do it. Yesterday Klempse told me that he would not do any more work on the mind downloading project unless I committed to sacrifice my brain for science. Klempse and Wints has a big argument about the downloading experiment. Wints thinks it is wrong to use the brain scanner, even on experimental animals. He called Klempse a fiend because he is willing to destroy my brain. Klempse agreed, but he is still willing to do it. Klempse wondered if Wints has any moral high ground, because even though Wints will not use animals, he has made use of results from experiments with animals.
After they gave me an ultimatum, I spent the rest of the day yesterday wandering around the city and visiting my favorite places. It got strange and creepy because I kept thinking of Nahan, the mindless robot that Wints is trying to breath some humanity into. It is not that Nahan is creepy. He is actually handsome and equipped with a set of programmed routines for mimicking human facial expressions. That special programming is what makes him seem so human at first glance. Of course, as soon as you talk to Nahan you quickly learn that he is an empty shell with no real mind. It is just the opposite for the Orbho who all have a shared facial expression that never changes even though they do seem to think like people.
Anyhow, I'm avoiding what I need to say about Nahan. Last night I was not-sleeping and struggling with my need to decide about the mind downloading. I thought I heard Nahan telling me that I should go ahead and put my brain in the hands of the roboticists. At first I thought it was just a silly trick of my mind, then I wondered if I was going crazy because it really did seem like Nahan's voice was in my head. Then I got thinking about Doltun and nanites. Klempse agrees that the Overseers can use nanites to delete memories from people and he has theorized that nanites block people from thinking about certain topics, but in the deep of my sleepless night I started wondering if Doltun could fill me with false memories. Doltun seems to like the idea of getting rid of me by having my brain converted into circuits, so would he hesitate to use nanites to make the decision for me? Could he simply make me think that I want to do this? I still feel like I have free will and that this is my decision, but would I be able to know if I was using false memories as the basis for "my" decision? Anyhow, I can't imagine why Doltun would go to the trouble to use Nahan's voice as a way to talk me into deciding one way or the other.
I've always had intuitions about things and I am not afraid to make important decisions because they feel "right". I'm not a mystic. I trust the unconscious parts of my brain to make good decisions at times when the rational part of my mind is dithering and confused. Maybe it is just stress that caused me to imagine hearing the voice of Nahan, but now that I have made the decision and I am at peace with it, I still feel like I am in mental contact with Nahan. I mentioned this to Klempse and he suggested that I'm just anticipating what lies ahead and imagining things. He's explained that after the download there will only be artificial boundaries between "my" circuits and Nahan's. Klempse and Wints have been discussing ways to allow "my" future positronic brain and that of Nahan to interact and communicate. Klempse took me to a storage room where there are robotic body parts. He intends to give me a robotic body, but he thinks it is silly to expect Nahan and that future "me" to rely on human language for communication. Of course, the goal is to make a positronic brain that can use language in a human-like way, but why penalize robots by restricting them to the inefficient means of communication that are available to humans? Nahan and my future positronic brain should be able to share a direct brain-to-brain communications channel. Am I simply thinking about that too much already? It sure seems like part of Nahan has been inside me for the past day or so.
Well, the decision has been made and the roboticists will now make the final push to ready the downloading equipment. Wints says that it might take a month to manufacture all of the needed circuits. Klempse is going ahead with calibrating the scanner. Doltun is going to bring up the needed test animal from Earth. It occurred to me that the best test animal might be a human, but I cannot imagine Klempse sacrificing an innocent human just to test the scanner. What will they use? Some non-human primate, a rat, or what? Klempse won't tell me...he just wants me to trust him to do what must be done.
I've been on a journey deep into the history of the mind downloading project. Before Doltun revived it, it had been abandoned for almost 300 years. I asked Doltun how it was that he even knew about downloading, but I expect no answer from him.
|Before the downloading project ended, there had been thousands of years of brain research leading up to that final experiment. Thousands of years of using experimental animals. I'd never imagined bringing other species of animals to the Moon. Well, we have bees and other pollinators for the plants, but rodents and monkeys were used extensively as experimental test subjects for brain scans. The problem came when human subjects were needed in order to reveal the unique features of human brain function.||Most of what there was to learn about brains could be learned from experiments with rodents. They are easy to keep in cages. In fact, some researchers started keeping them in their homes as companions. When the practice started to spread through the city, the Overseers put an end to it. I doubt if they want people to transfer any of their emotional attachment from their aides to animals.||
Vicktir, I'll never understand how you can throw Gohrlay away just as you would a rodent who you raised in a cage for experiments. Of course, I don't even understand how you can sacrifice experimental animals for science.
Remember Gohrlay: you can always call off this crazy experiment. If you have ANY doubt about sacrificing yourself in this way then just say STOP!
At its peak, there were half a dozen team members working to figure out how to copy the structure of a human brain into positronic circuitry. The last project member was Nahin Ifushty, one of the few female scientists I've found in the male-dominated ranks of scientists. The robot Nahan was named in honor of Nahin. She was involved in some kind of scandal that neither Klempse or Wints want to talk about. Wints did say that Nahin used her own brain as a scan target in experiments that created positronic circuits by copying her neural network structure using a method that did not destroy brain cells. The circuits that Nahin created are still inside Nahan's positronic brain array.
Klempse told me that Nahin died of a brain infection. Infectious disease is almost unknown within Observer Base. Klempse said it was a type of amoebic meningoencephalitis, never seen before or since on the Moon. I was able to find meningoencephalitis in the medical database, but supposedly there are no protozoans on the Moon. Cases of meningoencephalitis are almost always associated with Observers who spent years on Earth before returning to the Moon. Strangely, Nahin's case does not even appear in the medical archives. Klempse says that almost certainly the entire written history of humanity is full of gaps. He said to me today, "Do you still like to imagine that your brain is the only thing that gets edited by the Overseers? Get over yourself, you are not that special."
Anyhow, Nahin's non-destructive brain scan method was not precise enough to capture the details of neural networks. As I understand it, the key issue is how to reveal the functionality synaptic connections and that requires invasive techniques, specifically, the introduction of molecular and optical probes directly into neurons. That analysis results in cell death. The dead cells are cleared away and the analysis continues, going deeper into the brain, a race to keep ahead of spreading waves of neurodegeneration. Nahin tried to avoid killing cells, but she never found a way to accurately read out the functional properties of the scanned cells and she could only work at the surface of her own brain. She used her cerebellum as the target, and Wints says that although she was not successful in her main goal, she did make progress in understanding the function of the cerebellum, which helped Nahan develop graceful human-like movements.
I'm rather stunned by the idea that Nahin was so dedicated. She spent years of her life with a hole cut in her skull for access to her brain. Leading up to her death she almost daily subjected her brain to the scanning process. I've been studying a computerized model of the fundamental cerebellar circuit that was made possible by Nahin's research and I've been driving Wints crazy with my questions about brain models.
Klempse is a mathematician and he has never studied the work of Nahin. He says that all scientists know about her because of the fact that she experimented on herself. I suppose I'll achieve a similar kind of fame if we actually get the scanner up and running and manage to copy my brain's structure into positronic circuits. Klempse views Nahin as a failure, someone who got so entranced by an experiment that she could not pull back from it, even years after showing that it was a failure. Wints says that it is unfair to call Nahin a failure since she did solve the puzzle of how the fundamental cerebellar circuit functions. However, Wints thinks that Nahin should have studied the cerebral cortex, not the cerebellar cortex.
I've read in her own journal that Nahin feared destroying her own brain cells and so she was unwilling to experiment on her cerebral cortex. It might be fair to say that she took a sensible middle path in her work and ended up pleasing nobody. Some people view her as crazy and rash for experimenting on herself and others view her as a coward for not exploring the cerebral cortex.
Wints estimates that it will take him a month to manufacture all of the critical circuits that are missing from what will become my positronic circuit array. I doubt if I can figure out Nahin's work in that time, but I want to become as knowledgeable as I can about the downloading process. I find it comforting to imagine that I might discover a way to make a non-destructive scanning technique, thus avoiding the need to obliterate my own brain. However, it seems certain that if Nahin could never accomplish that then there is no real chance for me to do it.
When I arrived at the research center yesterday, Klempse took me to the scanner room for a test of the equipment. I spent about six hours in the scanner and we took the magnetic field strength up to the so-called "Nahin Limit". During her studies of the cerebellum, Nahin routinely used magnetic field strengths at a level that disrupt the primary visual cortex.
The reason for using that approach can be traced back to the earliest attempts to copy the structure of human neural networks into positronic circuits. Visual cortex was selected for those studies in order to allow conscious test subjects to report subjective experiences that could be linked to the objectively observed measures of brain activity. The logical conclusion to those studies of the visual cortex came when a retired Observer, Kanne Ing, volunteered to have her primary visual cortex destructively scanned. While stationed on Earth, Ing had suffered a stroke that resulted in blindness. Thus, primary visual cortex became the first brain region with its detailed structure copied into positronic circuits and simulation of its function provides the basic visual system that is used in Nahan. Given the existing detailed understanding of the primary visual cortex and its unique cortical network structure, Nahin used magnetic field parameters in her work that would selectively disrupt visual sensory experiences before altering other brain systems. Nahin thus defined the "Nahin Limit" and routinely carried out her research at that limit. Huge sections of her personal diary are devoted to the strange visions she had during the long periods of time during which she was in the brain scanner with her vision disrupted.
During most of that first scanner session, Klempse kept the magnetic field strengths near the Nahin Limit and I think I began to understand its appeal to Nahin. I found that the magnetic field conditions defined by Nahin can create a brain state that reminded me of dreaming. I could think about seeing an object and the visual cortex would seem to manufacture an oddly distorted view of what I was imagining. Klempse provided me with a little hand switch by which I could regulate the variation in magnetic field strength in my visual cortex. I was able to "focus" the strength of disruption of my normal visual processing, allowing me to switch the function of my visual cortex back and forth between normal vision and a kind of internal "mental theater" where my own thoughts directed the shapes and colors that I expreienced.
Most of my time in the scanner was used by Klempse to obtain an initial low resolution scan of my brain's structure. Klempse says that every human brain is unique and that the low resolution map of my brain will be the guide for the detailed scan that takes place during the mind downloading process. During most of the low res scan Klempse had me under the influence of a muscle relaxant. He says that during the download scan I'll be unconscious and my muscles will be completely inactive in order to prevent any motion artifacts from corrupting the brain scan data. Laying there for hours with no ability to move eventually became like a bad dream. For a while it was quite entertaining to play around with creating visual images, but when I got bored with that I started having an odd sensation of falling uncontrollably. Klempse kept talking to me through the entire ordeal, but I had no way to inform him about my distress. Luckily it was not all that bad and I survived. Klempse is seeing if he can work out ways of allowing movement inside the machine in case we need anything like that again. Anyway test animals probably won’t keep still so he thinks that’s needed.
Today we did a second session and I did it with my muscles active, as Nahin had done for her studies of the cerebellum. Klempse says there are as many neurons in the cerebellum as all the rest of the brain. During today's scan I was able to access and read Nahin's research files using a little view screen inside the scanner.
Nahin literally spent years inside the scanner with her legs free to move so she could learn new movements and study the corresponding circuit changes in her cerebellum. The scanner still has a system for delivering food and drink, so it is not too difficult to stay in the scanner for six hours at a time. My arms were restrained, but I had hand controls at my disposal for my computer access and I could talk to Klempse. It is important not to move quickly in the high magnetic field strengths that exist during a scan, but my legs were outside of the main magnetic field and Klempse let me use a walking simulator that Nahin developed for her studies.
Klempse seems encouraged by the performance of the scanning equipment. He's going to compare the results from my low res scans to older data and then move on to a destructive scan. The experimental animal has been brought up from Earth by Doltun.
I did get a reply from Doltun. He claims that Overseers were heavily involved with the decision to allow Kanne Ing to have her visual cortex destructively scanned. Apparently the occurrence of Kanne Ing's brain damaging stoke on Earth, emergency evacuation back to the Moon and later participation in brain research is an important case study for Overseers who are in training.