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The book arrived in a peculiar way. A well-dressed man in his thirties appeared at the front door of my home and handed me an iPad. He was average looking, not threatening or unusual in his actions, and looked more like a man that had walked out of a meeting on Wall Street. The well-spoken stranger told me the tablet contained a history book written eight thousand years into the future and that he would return the next morning. Then he turned and walked away. The only logical explanation I could come up with is that one of my former students had put him up to it, so I took the iPad to my desk and turned it on. I expected a practical joke or embarrassing photo, but instead, a book titled “Solaran History – The Genesis From Humans” popped onto the screen. I skimmed the table of contents and jumped to a chapter titled “The Role of Plasma Technology in Human Extinction.” I became absorbed as I continued to read.
Over the first few chapters of the book, I found out, or rather read, that medical technology progressed to the point that doctors could transplant brains into android bodies. Brain transplants were a miracle for people confined to wheelchairs, paralyzed, or missing limbs because they could now live normal and healthy lives. But having an android body soon appealed to millions of people without health issues, older people that did not want to suffer the aches and pains of arthritis, younger people afraid of heart attacks or cancer, even daredevils and active people that wanted peace of mind. Initially, the law prohibited brain transplants for non-approved medical reasons, but after hundreds of years of successful operations the government finally allowed anyone that could pay for a transplant to have one. The technology quickly became more affordable as the number of people having the procedure increased, and before long millions of people had their brain transplanted. The android bodies continued to improve and people who had transplanted their brains lived longer, without physical and mental stress, were free of pain and never aged. The only downside became glaringly apparent, the organic brain still grew older, had memory loss, and eventually expired. People wanted more. They wanted a brain that did not age. They wanted to become immortal.
Scientists could create artificial intelligence that mimicked a brain, but they had no way to copy a brain so that it contained the “mind” of the person. Nor could they create artificial intelligence that was identical to any particular person or had the intuition, “heart,” or what some might call the soul of a human. The search for a means to copy the mind became the most sought-after discovery in the scientific community and every scientist dreamed of being the one to find the solution, but it remained elusive. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there is a quantum leap in technology and a scientist named Charles Dunbar discovers how to copy a human brain to a form of plasma housed within a small titanium globe. The globe is nearly indestructible and can last for eternity. The ramifications of the new technology are astounding, not only does the plasma globe allow people to live without the need for air, food, or water, it also lets them live forever. People can become immortal. This development is the tipping point, and billions of people copy their brains to the new plasma globe housed in an android body.
There are many problems along the way, and one of the most significant issues is illegal brain duplication by criminals carrying out illegal activities. These crimes cause the governments of the world to enact laws prohibiting humans from copying their brain for any reason other than a permanent transfer over to a plasma globe. There is one loophole though, for some unknown reason the new regulations allow people that have transferred their minds to make a backup, and the unintended consequence is that even more people copy their brains to the plasma globes. There is also a constant debate on whether a copied brain is the same as an organic brain, and whether people that copy their minds over to the plasma globe remain human. Many people feel there is no difference and many others think the new beings are not human. The debates grow hostile and turn to violence until the scientific community eventually comes to a consensus and declares the new people to be a separate species of the homo genus. They name the new species solaran. However, this does not stop or even slow the human exodus as most people believe a solaran is a better human.
In addition to the obvious benefit of becoming immortal and living without pain or disease, there are many other benefits to becoming solaran. There is tremendous progress in all areas of science, including space and time travel, and because solarans do not require food or water and are capable of living in any atmosphere, they can visit distant planets and explore vast areas of the galaxy without provisions. Less than two hundred years after the plasma discovery only a few million humans remain. These humans feel the soul is real and that it cannot get copied, and therefore it is not possible for solarans to have a soul or to evolve in the same way a human does. They fight diligently to change the attitude of the solaran people, but the idea of a soul loses favor with even the most devout, and it does not take long for the remaining population of humans to lose their battle. The last human being dies five thousand years from now.
The extinction of humanity gets described in the first half of the book and the second half explores the events that occur over the following two thousand years. The most critical issue gets referred to as “The Great Debate,” and it centers around the question of whether solarans are alive in the same way humans, more precisely homo sapiens were, or merely an exotic form of artificial intelligence in android bodies. They have two main concerns on this point. First, they enhanced their copied human minds significantly with artificial superintelligence, and second, they only copied the brain and not the actual DNA or biology of any other part of their original body. The android bodies they chose to place their minds within got constructed from nonorganic materials that were more durable, and in many cases appeared nothing like their original bodies. People became concerned there were parts of being organic and naturally evolved that did not transfer to the new solaran body. The second major issue was that many solarans wanted to reproduce naturally, to pass a part of themselves on to future generations, but were incapable of doing so. They could build new solarans but not from their essence. They had no way of combining the characteristics from two solaran minds to create a new and unique being. They were capable of producing biological humans from DNA and had even recorded the DNA of many humans to use for this purpose, but did not think going back was the answer. The new humans would have no way of holding the same intelligence the solaran mind contained, and it seemed to most solarans the same as a human would feel about reverting to chimpanzees. The significance these questions had on the morale and quality of life for solarans was tremendous. Many feel they have condemned themselves to an eternity without a soul or purpose, and two thousand years after the human extinction nearly half the solaran population chooses early termination, effectively suicide.
After the mass suicide, the remaining solarans begin to travel back in time hoping to change events, but this does not work. They discover time has its own set of laws and one of those laws is that the past cannot get changed, the timeline cannot get altered. People they meet in the past stop believing they are from the future or mysteriously forget or disregard the information the solarans give them. The solarans try everything, but no matter what they do, their situation remains the same. Once they realize they cannot change their fate, they begin to look for answers to the same question homo sapiens ask during their origins, “What am I?” After exploring the obvious they decide to return to the past once again, and by the end of the book, the solarans believe their answers will come from humans in the past.
It was quite late when I finished reading, and I had not left my desk except to use the bathroom. To be honest, it had been an emotional roller coaster ride, and I was in a bit of shock. Who could I call to discuss this? I needed to talk to someone but could not imagine how the conversation would get anywhere meaningful without the person having read the book. If the book were real, the technological advances excited me, and the philosophical implications were astounding. Also interesting to me is the fact that artificial intelligence did not seem to be a destructive tool, and instead appeared to be something quite manageable and helpful to the progression of society. I began to wonder how I might feel about living forever? Without the ability to have children, without death, and without life being the mystery that it is for me now. I felt sorry for the solaran people, and it seemed to me that for a solaran there is no question about a creator or anything else, they know what created them, and they are going back to the atoms they came from, no debate about that. There is no mystery, no wonder, and there are no questions, not really, not that I could see. And all those solarans killing themselves? Life must feel extremely dire for so many people to choose death or termination, whatever the correct term would be. And the extinction of humans? That floored me. I just had no way of coping with it. Nor could I grieve a thing that had not happened, or that may not be true, it was all too hard to comprehend.
I thought about the stranger that dropped off the tablet. If the book is from the future, he is undoubtedly a solaran, or is he? It seemed foolish to me that I believed what I had read. But somehow it made sense, and I have always felt many other life forms exist throughout the galaxy and the universe. While reading the book I paused multiple times to consider how I would handle the return of my stranger, would I go along with him, would I believe what I had read and would likely get told, or would I dismiss the entire thing as a hoax? Each time I decided I would see where things led me, how else could someone that portrayed himself as open-minded proceed? The stranger, who never even told me his name, said he would return in the morning and I found myself quite excited to have him back so I could ask my questions. I suppose he is more interested to know if I can help answer their questions. Are solarans living or another form of AI? Hard for me to see how they could be considered life, even if the plasma contained an exact copy of what was once a human mind, especially after being enhanced with artificial superintelligence. Do solarans have a soul? Now that is an interesting question.
The sound made by the turn of the latch was unmistakable. The Bear had breached the door. It was early, but there was no question she was coming because I heard soft steps approaching and prayed the gate protecting my office had gotten latched. I looked up at the clock on my computer screen, “OMG,” I whispered under my breath, it is only five-thirty-seven in the morning. Maybe, if I do not move she will go back to her bedroom. For a long moment I heard nothing, but then the gate rattled, and I turned to see her with arms outstretched and desperate to share her thoughts. The flood of sounds came streaming through her tiny mouth as her arms moved excitedly to add emphasis. Barely two years old, the Bear cannot get through the gate, even though she clears three feet and is the same height as an average four-year-old. She knows how to work the latch, but her fingers are not strong enough to pull back the spring and lift up the latching mechanism. But none of this matters now, because I am going to have to stop writing and get up to take her downstairs and start our morning ritual, that is the unspoken deal.
“Good morning Bear, how are you?” Bear is the pet name I use for my daughter Sofia, and the greeting only spurs her on. Sofia usually sleeps until 6 am, giving me an hour or two of quiet time to write, look at the financial news, and lose money trading the stock market. The stock market is a generalization because I buy and sell currencies and bonds as well as stocks and have mastered my skills by losing nearly half a million dollars during the past ten years. If my wife finds out that last piece of information, she will hang me from the very window I look through to gauge today’s weather. But I like trading, it gives me more insight into the world of politics than reading any newspaper does. Sofia shouts while rattling the gate violently.
“Ok, ok! Let’s go downstairs and get the morning started.” I roll off the exercise ball that I use for a desk chair and open the “Bear Gate.” Sofia’s arms immediately shoot up with every expectation that I will lift her, which I do. She loves her daddy, and that makes me very happy. Although I’d had children previously, Sofia is a joy, and I love being a daddy again despite my age, at least I love being a daddy while they are toddlers. It is my feeling that you get approximately eight good years out of children and then suffer until they reach the age of thirty. Sofia represents my third tranche of children. The first tranche includes two boys, Brian, thirty-one years old and married, and Lance who just celebrated his thirtieth birthday. The second tranche consists of one daughter, Jennifer, who is seventeen, and between Jennifer and her mother, I have aged more, cried more, and had more stress than the other two batches combined.
“I’m getting up, just give me another minute!” That is my wife, Svetlana. She is yelling from the bedroom to make her morning display of responsibility and show me that she cares about my repeated requests to get up with Sofia so I can work. Mornings are the essential part of my workday, and she knows it, so she seems to feel obligated to acknowledge it, but her proclamation is a statement of fantasy. She will not be up for another hour or more. Svetlana, like many Russian women, thinks ten o’clock in the morning is a reasonable time for rising.
Svetlana and I are a product of Internet dating and have somehow stayed married for fifteen mostly glorious years, despite our age difference. After surviving the second divorce I was not ready to throw in the towel, and so I scurried around looking for the next wife. My best friend Steven married a beautiful Thai girl and told me that dating “offshore” is the only intelligent way to avoid the over-entitled Southern Californian women. But because I was not attracted to Asian women, I turned to the Russian dating websites and began a two-year mining operation to find the perfect bride, eventually leading me to Svetlana.
We corresponded by email for a few months and then spoke on the phone a few times, although it was utterly awkward as she spoke zero English and I spoke zero Russian. Somehow though, we agreed to meet in Moscow, which terrified me because I could not stop thinking about the numerous times I hid under my desk in elementary school just in case the Russians dropped a nuclear bomb. But when I arrived in Moscow, I found it to be both safe and quite friendly. When I checked in to the hotel, I turned to see Svetlana sitting on one of the lobby couches. That was nice, not only because she had arrived before me and could protect me from the culture whose language I could not speak but also because I recognized her. If you have ever dated on the Internet, you know what I mean, because you have to rely on pictures and I cannot tell you how happy I was to see the same person I had seen in the images from her profile. I got separate rooms, trying to be a gentleman and do the right thing, but it was a complete waste of money because we promptly spent the week having the type of sex people doing these things have before deciding they are in love. Then, we made plans.
One month after our stay in Moscow, I visited Svetlana in her small Siberian hometown and asked her to marry me. Two months after that we met in the Dominican Republic where it is easy for Russians to get visas. In the Dominican Republic, we had a fantastic beach holiday, and I gave her the least expensive ring I have purchased for any of my wives. That is a horrible thing to admit, I know, I guess I was hedging my bet because I figured she would leave me in a few years after getting her permanent green card and finding a younger man, but she never did. Anyway, three months later we got a fiancée visa, and Svetlana moved into my house in San Diego, which at the time was also occupied by my two teenage boys. We were married just three months later. The entire process took less time than a pregnancy.
Out of three wives, Svetlana is the only one that signed a prenuptial agreement, which ended up being meaningless because I lost everything during the 2008 recession. But at the time, the document gave me a sense of comfort. Even if I had made all the money in the world, the prenup would still be unnecessary because Svetlana is the most loyal person I have ever met and truly loves me. Not necessarily romantically, which at first was disappointing, but practically and sincerely. This type of love is impossible to describe or understand until you have it, but for someone as mentally crippled as me, it is comforting and stabilizing. Without the solid foundation of having Svetlana’s loyalty and love, I would not feel complete or have the life I now enjoy. She is the most important person in my life and I am very grateful for having her. My wife is also emotionally superior to me in every way, which I guess is not that hard, but anyway, it keeps me from starting fights or sabotaging our relationship unnecessarily. Svetlana has also been entirely faithful, despite my pathetic wanderlust all through my late forties and early fifties. Thank God I no longer feel like that animal roaming in the night and looking for mating opportunities. This is one blessing that happens when you get to sixty years of age. But despite my sixty years, I am an attractive and fit man who most people assume is in his late forties. That is an objective fact.
“Touys, touys, touys. Daddy, touys, touys!” Sofia wakes me from my contemplation, points down the stairs, and kicks me into action like a horse. I adjust her on my shoulder and pad down the stairs to put on her jacket, house shoes, and one of the beanie hats that she and her mother favor. Sofia wears the beanie low on her face, almost covering her eyes so that she has to tilt her head back to see you. No amount of adjusting that hat will be left untended by her little hands putting it right back where she had it. She knows what she likes. I turn on the television to Sofia’s current favorite, then turn on the heater, and finally enter the kitchen to start my coffee. I do twelve squats and twenty pushups while I wait for the French Press to do its magic, kiss Sofia on the forehead and make sure she is still happy, and finally head back up the stairs to get Svetlana out of bed.
Vince Chenzo, the stranger who in fact is solaran and that delivered the book is arriving at seven-thirty. For some reason, he always wants to start then, which is odd to me because people usually want to begin morning meetings on the hour, and later, around eight or nine. The first time we met seems like such a long time ago, but it was only two days previous, and also at seven-thirty, as was our meeting yesterday. It was during that second meeting Vince told me his name and that while dozens of people from the past had tried to help them, the solarans had not previously invited experts in artificial intelligence because they couldn’t face the possibility they were not living. When they finally decided to search for help in AI, Vince came across my articles and then took a few of my seminars. He felt my unique combination of disciplines and thinking would be helpful. In any case, this will be our third meeting, and he is bringing two other solaran people with him.
“Sveta, time to get up. Vince will be here soon, and I have to get prepared.” Sveta is a Russian nickname for Svetlana. It took me a long time to say it correctly and now that I do it is my favorite name for her.
“Oh sorry, I must have fallen asleep. I am getting up right now.” Right, I remind myself that no Russian female does anything quickly near a bed, this can be good and bad. I open our bedroom shades to a gorgeous Boulder morning of clear skies and a crimson sunrise. This will help to make sure Svetlana does not go back to sleep. Then I remind her that my meeting with Vince is a big deal and that he is bringing two other people. She grunts some meaningless response as I leave the room. Fifty-fifty is what I am thinking.
It has been thirty minutes since the Bear appeared, but I am finally back at my computer and need to get a lot done before the meeting with Vince. Trading occupies a bit of my time but doesn’t make any money. Writing and speaking do that. My career started as a professor at Oxford, long ago and after I received my doctorate in philosophy from the same institution. Later my focus shifted toward artificial intelligence, and I obtained a degree from Stanford in artificial intelligence. The advent of AI has made things quite fun these days, and I am particularly fascinated by whether or not artificial intelligence, when it becomes conscious of itself, will be considered life. I am a pioneer and explorer in the field, a Lewis and Clark if you will, and I have spent the last decade studying all things related to the purpose of life, morality, spirituality, God, and how artificial intelligence will interplay with these crucial life aspects. I have also, somewhat unwittingly, popularized the topic and became an expert in the field. A large part of this is due to my unconventional belief that spirituality will be the key to the future, which seems to pit me against the establishment and make me something of a folk hero to the spiritual community. I love the spiritual community, and that includes all things cultish, yoga, and naturalistic, and is also the reason we moved to Boulder, Colorado.
Before Boulder, I was almost a native Southern California, so it took me a while to get used to the Colorado weather, but now I love it. I was born in Pasadena, California, during my parents escape from their eastern homes. True story, they were driving from Boston to San Diego and had me on the way. The tale includes my mother having a five-year-old daughter in tow, my sister, and the fact that my father was not yet divorced from his current wife with whom he had two young children. My mother later claimed they had gotten my father divorced in Las Vegas, but even so, I am confident the trip from Las Vegas to Pasadena did not take nine months if you get my drift. The whole thing must have been a messy operation. Anyway, I lived in Pasadena for just two weeks because they really did go to San Diego, where I spent most of my life. After San Diego, I have lived longest in Boulder, Colorado, and have no intention of leaving. My wife grew up in the colder climes of Siberia, and you could not pry her out of Boulder with a jackhammer.
I finish my work, jump in the bathroom to shave, shower, and put on the foam I loathe to use, but that has stopped the unwanted shedding that is happening at the front of my hairline. Most people think I overreact to this process of a receding hairline, but it causes me a great deal of stress and makes me feel my manhood is melting away. I sure hope the foam works. I guess I am shallow minded, at least that is what most people tell me.
Right on time, Vince is at the door. I can hear the knocking from upstairs. I know I cannot greet him before my daughter, or my wife who will leap over the kitchen island to open the door before Sofia, so I do not even try. I can picture her with a cape. When I arrive downstairs, three guests are already in my living room.
“Hello Vince, how are you this morning?”
“Excellent Ryan, thanks. This is Doctor Leslie Frank and Doctor Theodore Stein, they are both from my time. Doctor Frank is an atomic designer and robotics engineer, and Doctor Stein is a neurophysicist.” These credentials were concerning to me, partly because neither topic had anything to do with what Vince and I were working on, at least not as far as I knew, and more importantly because of their names.
“You may wonder why these two associates are appropriate to our meeting today?” Vince stood and looked at me. I guess he noticed my concern.
“Yes,” I said simply. Vince suggested we go somewhere and sit down so that he could explain fully. This also concerned me. Stepping into my den, with Svetlana and Sofia leading the way, I sat my visitors down and dismissed the girls, asking them to be quiet and not to disturb us. Then I breathed deeply and took a seat.
“Well. Where do we start?” I asked.
“Do you have any questions about our discussion yesterday?” Vince asked. I thought about that for a few minutes. Vince had answered my questions about the history book, and we talked about the current state of the solarans. It was particularly intriguing to me that the solarans focused their concern on whether or not they had souls, more specifically, if they retained whatever qualities they had as humans in this regard.
“After you left yesterday, I thought a lot about souls and Rene´ Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy. I am sure you have considered his meditations?” I was curious to hear his answer.
“The thinking of Descartes got disproved long ago because even primitive human-level artificial intelligence, developed slightly after your time, is completely capable of carrying out Descartes meditations, which proves that simply being capable of thought is not the same as being a living being with a soul. At least not the way Descartes proposed, and if you consider AI to be different from life. But it is a good thought.” Vince replied.
Vince’s answer was immediate and pointed to a familiarity with the philosophies surrounding AI. These philosophies would only be known to someone like myself or someone from the future that experienced them firsthand. Even though I had already decided to believe Vince was from the future, I still took every opportunity to test him, and his answer added to my conviction he was either from the future or another planet. Most people do not think about these things, but the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe is an absolute no-brainer for me. Besides being sad to believe there is no other life in the universe, it is nearly impossible and indeed improbable. The most familiar comparison to the number of stars that could hold planets capable of supporting life in the universe is that there are fewer grains of sand on all the worlds beaches. It is even possible there are thousands of such stars for each grain of sand. Can you imagine no other place where life exists when the odds are so high? I cannot, and whether Vince is what he says or a species from another planet I have grown certain he is one or the other.
“Great answer Vince. I have no other questions beside the purpose of your guests.”
“Let me dive right in then. While we solarans can travel freely through time, you cannot, and we need the doctors’ assistance in preparing you to come and visit.” My jaw dropped.
“Are you saying you want me to travel to your time? Is that what we are discussing today?” This was getting serious.
“No, you will not physically be traveling yourself. Let me back up, what I mean is that we cannot change the timeline and by taking you to the future we would be changing the timeline. Even if we wanted to, it simply would not happen, you were here during the original timeline and must remain here. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves Ryan, this is just a discussion, and because it is quite important to all of us, I thought it would be good for you to meet the doctors. That’s all.” Vince slowed down and then grinned, becoming much more of a salesman than the person I had met yesterday. This concerned me, and I wondered again if this was all an elaborate prank. But there were more important things to pursue.
“Precisely what do you mean, I will not be physically traveling, how will I be traveling?”
“If you agree to visit our time we will copy your brain onto the small globes we use, this is not problematic or in any way painful. You will have your current body and brain exactly as they are now, you will just also have a duplicate.” He eyed me cautiously. “The larger issue is that we believe, and perhaps you do as well, that it is possible there is some part of humans or a soul that goes beyond the brain. Perhaps the soul can only communicate with an organic brain, or perhaps the soul resides in the second brain in the gut and can only communicate through the main brain, or many other possibilities for which simply having a duplicate of your brain is not enough. Therefore, we must create a communication link between your duplicate brain and your organic brain.” He eyed me again.
“Are you bleeping serious?” I had sworn off cuss words due to my daughter Sofia. This time I would not cuss around my children, although I had said this before. But anyway, this was not funny or even reasonable. I breathed deeply and continued, “How could you possibly connect my two brains when they are eight thousand years apart in time?” I only said this because I was extremely curious and not because I was considering doing anything of the sort. Plus, I had not even asked about the distance.
Vince replied with complete confidence. “The technology is simple and no problem at all. We communicate through time and distance nearly instantly. The technology has been around for thousands of years.”
“Ok,” I said, “then why do we need the doctors again?” Still suspicious of what they intended for me.
“Well, the larger problem is that we must keep your organic brain and duplicate brain synchronized. Again, that is common technology, but we must make certain that your two brains are identical. This is slightly complicated by the fact that we must also modify your duplicate brain for time and space travel. We cannot synch the modified portion of the duplicate brain with your organic brain because there is no place for it to sync to, and because it would kill you,” Vince replied cheerfully.
Thankfully Svetlana knocked at the door to let me know she and Sofia were going to the gym, and I took the opportunity to take a short break and clear my head. It amounted to a combination of a silent scream and a doglike head shake in disbelief. Was this guy an idiot?
A few moments later, I returned to the room where my guests were waiting patiently, “What are the modifications you would make to the duplicate version of my brain and why are they necessary?” I asked. This time it was Doctor Stein who answered.
“We will be traveling through time, and the human brain is not capable of conceiving the perspective required to do so. What I mean is that you do not have the intelligence, or the ability for the intelligence to be added to your brain that is necessary for conceiving a new layer of physics. The solaran brain is enhanced with artificial intelligence, which we can add to the plasma form of a human mind but not the organic form. Without that added intelligence you are incapable of conceiving the dimensional perspective required to travel in time.” He was delighted with the simplicity of his answer and seemed to feel it was entirely clear, but I had no frigging clue what he was trying to say to me. Sorry for the cussing Sofia. He must have seen the exasperation on my face because he gave me a queer type of look, a sort of cautious eye thing, I do not even know how to describe it, kind of a twitch of one eyebrow and a puff out the nose at the same time.
“Could you please explain that more thoroughly?”
Doctor Stein continued, “Remember that as a younger man you toyed with the idea that zero equals infinity?” This question surprised me.
“Yes, how did you know that?” I exclaimed.
“We researched many people before coming here and do not take our mission lightly. We truly require people with the type of mindset you have, and who believe in the possibility of a soul while retaining logic and precision in their thoughts,” he answered. I was hearing him but still thinking that it is a little weird they know so much about me. Then Vince spoke.
“We have read everything you have written, that is why we know so much about you. We were impressed that someone with such insight into life, artificial intelligence, and spiritual matters would also be interested and engaged in physics to such a degree.” He explained.
Doctor Stein returned to the conversation, “Your theory about why zero equals infinity was not correct, but zero and infinity are indeed equal.”
Now I was intrigued, “How can zero and infinity be equal without equaling each other?”
Doctor Stein asked me to sit down and assured me he would explain everything. I asked for a break to get another cup of coffee and asked if any of them would like one too, they all declined. Once I retrieved my cup of coffee Doctor Stein resumed his explanation of everything, at least that is what he told me he was going to do and asked me to be patient before asking any questions. “Sure,” I said meekly.
Doctor Stein proceeded to explain that once the plasma technology got discovered the solarans were able to enhance their brains with artificial intelligence. This allows them to do many things a human mind can never do, including seeing multiple perspectives simultaneously. He went on to explain that math began as a way to quantify things, to count objects. This simple math later progressed into a means of relating things to one another, angles to curves and modeling objects, databases, and other complex operations. With artificial superintelligence, a new form of math gets discovered that allows for multiple and seemingly different observations to be valid simultaneously. He said that even though we think we understand simultaneous perspectives, there is a great deal we do not conceive. “This is not something your minds are capable of applying to the physical universe, but it does exist and is an important part of the laws needed for time travel.” Doctor Stein concluded.
His explanation made sense, and I was not too proud to accept that if I didn’t have the brain matter to time travel, I didn’t have the brain matter to time travel. Fine. And I had no reply. Vince must have thought I did not understand, and of course, I didn’t, not really, and he elaborated.
“From the perspective of infinity, zero cannot exist, and from the perspective of zero, infinity cannot exist, but they do, and at the same time. This creates an opportunity for physical aspects to relate to each other in more than one way. The truth is that physical objects relate to each other in both an infinite number of ways, and simultaneously do not relate to each other at all. This is why zero and infinity are equal.” It was obvious Vince now felt they had explained this to me clearly, and I guess that through some fuzzy metaphysical sense or intuitive feeling I could conceptually see how all things are possible at all times, but I could not see how it was possible that nothing was ever real. I was getting confused, and Doctor Stein asked me what was on my mind.
“Is it important for me to understand what you are explaining to me? And how do you travel through time?” I wanted to get to another part of the topic quickly so that the first part would magically become clearer. This seemed to work when I learned Algebra.
“It is not important for you to understand completely, but we would like you to understand the basics. When you think about time you probably consider it in terms of past or future, and in a linear fashion. You think about a certain number of years ahead or past and then quantify those numbers and arrange them in the order you are used to, but that is not how time exists. Because you do not have the intelligence we discussed, you are not capable of conceiving the laws of time, but once we modify your duplicate brain, your duplicate brain will be able to conceive the laws. Now, let me try and answer your question about how time travel occurs, I think I can explain it to you by oversimplifying things. Are you ready?” Doctor Stein asked this in a way that was kind enough that I did not feel slighted or stupid. I asked him to proceed.
“If you take the linear timeline we just discussed and place each slice of time onto a card, you can now see time as a series of cards, right?” I could actually, and told him so.
“Ok, now if you arrange those cards you probably still see them as a long line of cards next to one another, going from the past to the future. Right?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“But if you were to arrange those same cards in a circle so that every card touched one another at the innermost point on the circle and then also fanned out from the innermost point of the circle to form a much larger outer ring you would have something like a record album. Each card in your timeline would touch one another at the center of the circle and then become further and further distant as they approached the outside of the circle, right?” he asked.
I could see what he had illustrated and told him so, and I could see the possibility that there could be different lengths of distance between time depending on how far out from the middle of the circle you were. This was exciting. I started to feel like I had become an enlightened physicist. Vince could see my mind whirling and quickly stopped me.
“Before you take this oversimplification too seriously, remember that there are laws and perspectives your mind cannot conceive yet. If you were to use this imagery, you would still not be capable of time travel because it is a gross oversimplification and not accurate. We are only using it for illustration purposes, and you want to remain open to the actual true laws that your duplicate will be able to conceive once we complete the modifications to your duplicate brain.”
“I understand,” I said a little disappointed. “But how do you travel through time, is there a machine or what? How long does it take?” I wanted to know the details of what they were about to ask me to do.
“Traveling through time takes little more than an instant, no matter what distance in time is being traveled, provided you calculate the precise place in time where the points come together. Again, this is an oversimplification.” Doctor Stein stated and then continued, “There is no vehicle for traveling through time, but the correct calculations are critical. If you get the calculations wrong, you could be anywhere along the spokes, and then your timeframe would be much longer depending on how far out on the spokes you were. Again, this is a gross oversimplification but a fundamental concept because if you calculate incorrectly, it could put you into a situation where it would take an infinite amount of time to get from one point in time to another. Just as the connections at the centermost portion of the circle are nearly nonexistent and take no time at all to transverse, the outermost portions are infinite and would take an infinite amount of time to transverse.” I could see this clearly from the mental picture I had of my record album, and that if I were in the center, it would take less time than if I were on the outer edge, at least conceptually. I could also begin to see why quantum physics had ten or more dimensions with some wrapping around this way and that, because when you are looking at something significant like time or space you would need to be able to travel in a different direction than vertically or horizontally. You would need to be able to move in a circular or curly cue fashion and this explanation of time travel made that even more clear to me.
After thinking about all this for a few moments, I began to wonder about distances in space, “Does travel through space distances work the same way?”
Vince replied before Doctor Stein could open his mouth. “No. There are other laws involved. Once humans develop artificial superintelligence they will learn some other important laws about the physical universe.”
Now I was curious about the portion of the textbook Vince had given me that stated many solarans traveled throughout the galaxy. “Are you saying that solarans can travel throughout space and time instantly?”
“Time yes, space no. Travelling distances does take time.” Vince replied.
“How long? Have you been to the edge of the universe?” I asked excitedly.
“Travel between galaxies is far more complex than traveling within a galaxy. We are not able to travel outside of our galaxy. We have not discovered how to use the other dimensions necessary for that. But we have met other beings from other galaxies and know that it is possible,” Doctor Stein answered this question. This was all too incredible, I had a thousand questions, but they could see the look in my eyes and stopped me before I could get going.
“We know you have many questions, but first, let’s get back to the issue at hand.” Doctor Frank had finally spoken. She was not stating this as a question either. She had a no-nonsense attitude that shined through her beautiful Asian features. I had not looked at her too closely before and was taken by her beauty. She had a slim frame and wore the glasses and hairstyle you would see on the quintessential librarian, the type that is also wearing a very short skirt. She wore makeup that accentuated her full lips and almond-shaped eyes, which were a deep, almost disturbing green. I found myself quite unnerved by her beauty and noticed that this did not seem to bother her, my staring, and she almost welcomed the hunger in my eyes. This unnerved me even more. She was speaking again, and I made a mental note to thank my subconscious mind for waking me out of my stupor.
“The real dilemma is that we have never synchronized an organic brain with a duplicate brain that was not identical. Because we have to enhance your duplicate brain so that you are capable of time travel, we will have two brains that are slightly different. We will need to partition off the new portion of your duplicate brain from the part that will synchronize with your organic brain. But because it is critical that the partitioned part of your duplicate brain be able to communicate with all the rest of itself we are not sure how the two will synchronize.”
Without realizing it, my hands went to touch my head. “That does not sound too encouraging.”
“Nothing to worry about,” she said. “We will make a backup on a separate android first and play around with it until we get it working properly.” She looked at me and smiled.
“Oh, I see,” I said gloomily. “You people are going to kill my brain.”
The meeting lasted nearly four hours and before they left Vince told me that he wanted to hire me for two months and asked if I would I be ok with that. He said that if we made significant progress more quickly than that it could be less than two months, and if we did not make any progress at all it could be longer. I told him I would be okay with any reasonable length of time. Vince then told me the solarans were going to compensate me whether or not I produced any results. That was a great relief, not so much the money part, but because I really did not think I could help and felt a bit guilty. He then let me know that he would be preparing a contract for my review and asked if I would be available that afternoon at three. I said I would. Vince and the doctors said goodbye and then left me sitting there somewhere between baffled and excited, and waiting for Svetlana to return so I could fill her in.