Mindscan by Robert J. J. SAWYERMindscan by Robert J. J. SAWYER


byRobert J. J. SAWYER

Hardcover | December 1, 2007

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Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids, the first volume of his bestselling Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, won the 2003 Hugo Award, and its sequel, Humans, was a 2004 Hugo nominee. Now he's back with a pulse-pounding, mind-expanding standalone novel, rich with his signature philosophical and ethical speculations, all grounded in cutting-edge science.
Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he's discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she's no longer constrained by a worn-out body either.
But suddenly Karen's son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance.
Mindscan is vintage Sawyer -- a feast for the mind and the heart.
Robert J. Sawyer was born in Ottawa and lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. He has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel.
Title:MindscanFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:304 pages, 8.66 × 5.8 × 1.11 inShipping dimensions:8.66 × 5.8 × 1.11 inPublished:December 1, 2007Publisher:Tor BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0765311070

ISBN - 13:9780765311078


Read from the Book

CHAPTER 1Twenty-Seven Years Later: August 2045There were perhaps a hundred people in the ballroom of Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and at least half of them had only a short time left to live.Of course, being rich, those who were near death had mostly availed themselves of the best cosmetic treatments: face-lifts, physiognomic rebuilds, even a few facial transplants. I found it unsettling to see twenty-year-old visages attached to stooped bodies, but at least the transplants looked better than the ghastly tautness of one face-lift too many.Still, I reminded myself, these were indeed cosmetic treatments. The faux-youthful faces were attached to old, decaying bodies—bodies thoroughly worn out. Of the elderly who were present, most were standing, a few were in motorized wheelchairs, some had walkers, and one had his legs encased in powered armatures while another wore a full-body exoskeleton.Being old isn’t what it used to be, I thought, shaking my head. Not that I was old myself: I was just forty-four. Sadly, though, I’d used up my fifteen minutes of fame right at the beginning, without even being aware of it. I’d been the first baby born in Toronto on I January 2001—the first child of the new millennium. A much bigger fuss had been made over the girl who had popped out just after midnight on 1 January 2000, a year that had no significance save for ending in three zeros. But that was okay: the last thing I wanted to be was a year older, because a year from now, I might very well be dead. The old joke ran through my mind again:“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news,” said the doctor. “You don’t have long to live.”The young man swallowed. “How much time have I got left?”The doctor shook his head sadly. “Ten.”“Ten what? Ten years? Ten months? Ten—?”“Nine … Eight …”I shook my head to dispel the thought and looked around some more. The Fairmont Royal York was a grand hotel, dating from the first glory days of rail travel, and it was enjoying a revival now that magnetic-levitation trains were flying along the old tracks. The hotel was across the street from Union Station, just north of Toronto’s lakeshore—and a good twenty-five kilometers east of where my parents’ house still stood. Chandeliers hung from the ballroom ceiling, and original oil paintings adorned the flock-papered walls. Tuxedoed servers were milling about offering glasses of wine. I went to the open bar and ordered a tomato juice heavily spiked with Worcestershire; I wanted a clear head this evening.When I stepped away from the bar with my drink, I found myself standing next to an honest-to-goodness old lady: wrinkled face, white hair. Amid the surrounding denial and fakery, she was quite refreshing.The woman smiled at me, although it was a lopsided smile—she’d clearly suffered a stroke at some point. “Here alone?” she asked. Her pleasant voice was attenuated into a Southern drawl, and it was also tinged by the quaver often found in the elderly.I nodded.“Me, too,” she said. She was wearing a dark jacket over a lighter blouse, and matching dark slacks. “My son refused to bring me.” Most of the other old folks had companions with them: middle-aged children, or lawyers, or paid caregivers. I glanced down, noted that she was wearing a wedding band. She apparently followed my gaze. “I’m a widow,” she said.“Ah.”“So,” she said, “are you checking out the process for a loved one?”I felt my face quirk. “You might say that.”She looked at me with an odd expression; I sensed that she’d seen through my comment, but, although curious, was too polite to press further. After a moment, she said, “My name’s Karen.” She held out her hand.“Jake,” I said, taking it. The skin on her hand was loose and liver-spotted, and her knuckles were swollen. I squeezed very gently.“Where are you from, Jake?”“Here. Toronto. You?”“Detroit.”I nodded. Many of tonight’s potential customers were probably Americans. Immortex had found a much more congenial legal climate for its services in increasingly liberal Canada than in ever-more-conservative America. When I’d been a kid, college students used to come over to Ontario from Michigan and New York because the drinking age was lower here and the strippers could go further. Now, people from those two states crossed the border for legal pot, legal hookers, legal abortions, same-sex marriages, physician-assisted suicide, and other things the religious right frowned upon.“It’s funny,” said Karen, glancing at the aged crowd. “When I was ten, I once said to my grandmother, ‘Who the heck wants to be ninety?’ And she looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Anyone who is eighty-nine.’” Karen shook her head. “How right she was.”I smiled wanly.“Ladies and gentlemen,” called a male voice, just then. “Would you all please take seats?”Doubtless no one here was hard of hearing; implants easily rectified that sign of aging, too. There were rows of folding chairs at the back of the ballroom, facing a podium. “Shall we?” said Karen. Something about her was charming—the Southern accent, maybe (Detroit certainly wasn’t where she’d grown up)—and there were, of course, the connotations that went with being in a ballroom. I found myself offering my arm, and Karen took it. We walked over slowly—I let her set the pace—and found a pair of seats near the back at one side, an A. Y. Jackson landscape hanging under glass on the wall next to us.“Thank you,” said the same man who’d spoken before. He was standing at the dark wooden podium. There was no light directly on him; just a little illumination spilling up from a reading lamp attached to the lectern. A gangling Asian of perhaps thirty-five, his black hair was combed straight back above a forehead that would have done Professor Moriarty proud. A surprisingly large, old-fashioned microphone covered his mouth. “My name is John Sugiyama,” he said, “and I’m a vice-president at Immortex. Thank you all for coming tonight. I hope you’ve enjoyed the hospitality so far.”He looked out at the crowd. Karen, I noticed, was one of those who murmured appreciatively, which seemed to be what Sugiyama wanted. “Good, good,” he said. “In everything we do, we strive for absolute customer satisfaction. After all, as we like to say, ‘Once an Immortex client, always an Immortex client.’”He smiled broadly, and again waited for appreciative chuckles before going on. “Now, I’m sure you’ve all got questions, so let’s get started. I know what we’re selling costs a lot of money—”Somebody near me muttered, “Damn right,” but if Sugiyama heard, he gave no sign. He continued: “But we won’t ask you for a cent until you’re satisfied that what we’re offering is right for you.” He let his gaze wander over the crowd, smiling reassuringly and making lots of eye contact. He looked directly at Karen but skipped over me; presumably he felt I couldn’t possibly be a potential customer, and so wasn’t worth wasting his charm on.“Most of you,” Sugiyama said, “have had MRIs. Our patented and exclusive Mindscan process is nothing more daunting than that, although our resolution is much finer. It gives us a complete, perfect map of the structure of your brain: every neuron, every dendrite, every synaptic cleft, every interconnection. It also notes neurotransmitter levels at each synapse. There is no part of what makes you you that we fail to record.”That much was certainly true. Back in 1990, a philanthropist named Hugh Loebner promised to award a solid gold medal—not just gold-plated like those cheap Olympic ones—plus $100,000 in cash to the first team to build a machine that passed the Turing Test, that old chestnut that said a computer should be declared truly intelligent if its responses to questions were indistinguishable from those of a human being. Loebner had expected it would be only a few years before he’d have to cough up—but that’s not how things turned out. It wasn’t until three years ago that the prize had been awarded.I’d watched the whole thing on TV: a panel of five inquisitors—a priest, a philosopher, a cognitive scientist, a woman who ran a small business, and a stand-up comic—were presented with two entities behind black curtains. The questioners were allowed to ask both entities anything at all: moral posers, general-knowledge trivia, even things about romance and child-rearing; in addition, the comic did his best to crack the entities up, and to quiz them about why certain jokes were or weren’t funny. Not only that, but the two entities engaged in a dialogue between themselves, asking each other questions while the little jury looked on. At the end, the jurors voted, and they unanimously agreed they could not tell which curtain hid the real human being and which hid the machine.After the commercial break, the curtains were raised. On the left was a fiftyish, balding, bearded black man named Sampson Wainwright. And on the right was a very simple, boxy robot. The group collected their hundred grand—paltry from a monetary point of view now, but still hugely symbolic—and their gold medal. Their winning entity, they revealed, had been an exact scan of Sampson Wainwright’s mind, and it had indeed, as the whole world could plainly see, thought thoughts indistinguishable in every way from those produced by the original. Three weeks later, the same group made an IPO for their little company called Immortex; overnight, they were billionaires.Sugiyama continued his sales pitch. “Of course,” he said, “we can’t put the digital copy back into the original biological brain—but we can transfer it into an artificial brain, which is precisely what our process does. Our artificial brains congeal out of quantum fog, forming a nanogel that precisely duplicates the structure of the biological original. The new version is you—your mind instantiated in an artificial brain made out of durable synthetics. It won’t wear out. It won’t suffer strokes or aneurysms. It won’t develop dementia or senility. And …” He paused, making sure he had everyone’s attention. “It won’t die. The new you will live potentially forever.”Even though everyone knew that’s what was for sale here, there were still sounds of astonishment—“forever” had such weight when spoken aloud. For my part, I didn’t care about immortality—I rather suspected I’d get bored by the time I reached, well, Karen’s age. But I’d been walking on eggshells for twenty-seven years, afraid that the blood vessels in my brain would rupture. Dying wouldn’t be that bad, but the notion of ending up a vegetable like my father was terrifying to me. Fortunately, Immortex’s artificial brains were electrically powered; they didn’t require chemical nutrients, and weren’t serviced by blood vessels. I rather doubted this was the cure Dr. Thanh had had in mind, but it would do in a pinch.“Of course,” continued Sugiyama, “the artificial brain needs to be housed inside a body.”I glanced at Karen, wondering if she’d read up on that aspect before coming here. Apparently, the scientists who had first made these artificial brains hadn’t bothered to have them pre-installed in robotic bodies—which, for the personality represented by the recreated mind, turned out to be a hideous experience: deaf, blind, unable to communicate, unable to move, existing in a sensory void beyond even darkness and silence, lacking even the proprioceptive sense of how one’s limbs are currently deployed and the touch of air or clothes against skin. Those transcribed neural nets reconfigured rapidly, according to the journal articles I’d managed to find, in patterns indicative of terror and insanity.“And so,” said Sugiyama, “we’ll provide you with an artificial body—one that’s infinitely maintainable, infinitely repairable, and infinitely upgradeable.” He held up a long-fingered hand. “I won’t lie to you, now or ever: as yet, these replacements aren’t perfect. But they are awfully good.”Sugiyama smiled at the crowd again, and a small spotlight fell on him, slowly increasing in brightness. Beyond him, just like at a rock concert, floated a giant holographic version of his gaunt face.“You see,” Sugiyama said, “I’m an upload myself, and this is an artificial body.”Karen nodded. “I knew it,” she declared. I was impressed by her acumen: I’d certainly been fooled. Of course, all that was visible of Sugiyama were his head and hands; the rest of him was covered by the podium or a fashionable business suit.“I was born in 1958,” said Sugiyama. “I am eighty-seven years old. I transferred six months ago—one of the very first civilians ever to upload into an artificial body. At the break, I’ll walk around and let you examine me closely. You’ll find that I don’t look exactly right—I freely admit that—and there are certain movements that I just can’t do. But I’m not the least bit concerned, because, as I said, these bodies are infinitely upgradeable as technology advances. Indeed, I just got new wrists yesterday, and they are much more nimble than my previous set. I have no doubt that within a few decades, artificial bodies indistinguishable from biological ones will be available.” He smiled again. “And, of course, I—and all of you who undergo our procedure—will be around a few decades from now.”He was a master salesperson. Talking about centuries or millennia of additional life would have been too abstract—how does one even conceive of such a thing? But a few decades was something the potential customers, most with seven or more of them already under their belts, could appreciate. And every one of these people had been resigned to being in the last decade—if not the last year—of their lives. Until, that is, Immortex had announced this incredible process. I looked at Karen again; she was mesmerized.Sugiyama held up his hand once more. “Of course, there are many advantages to artificial bodies, even at the current state of technology. Just like our artificial brains, they are virtually indestructible. The braincase, for instance, is titanium, reinforced with carbon-nanotube fibers. If you decide you want to go skydiving, and your parachute fails to open, your new brain still won’t get damaged on impact. If—God forbid!—someone shoots you with a gun, or stabs you with a knife—well, you’d almost certainly still be fine.”New holographic images appeared floating behind him, replacing his face. “But our artificial bodies aren’t just durable. They’re strong—as strong as you’d like them to be.” I’d expected to see video of fantastic stunts: I’d heard Immortex had developed super-powered limbs for the military, and that that technology was now available to civilian endusers, as well. But instead the display simply showed presumably artificial hands effortlessly opening a mason jar. I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be unable to do something so simple … but it was clear that many of the others in the room were blown away by this demonstration.And Sugiyama had more to offer. “Naturally,” he said, “you’ll never need a walker, a cane, or an exoskeleton again. And stairs will no longer present a problem. You’ll have perfect vision and hearing, and perfect reflexes; you’ll be able to drive a car again, if you’re not able to now.”Even I missed the reflexes and coordination I’d had back when I’d been younger. Sugiyama continued: “You can kiss good-bye the pain of arthritis, and just about every other ailment associated with old age. And if you haven’t yet contracted Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, you never will.” I heard murmurs around me—including one from Karen. “And forget about cancer or broken hips. Say sayonara to arthritic joints and macular degeneration. With our process, you’ll have a virtually unlimited lifespan, with perfect eyesight and hearing, vitality and strength, self-sufficiency and dignity.” He beamed out at his audience, and I could see people nodding to themselves, or talking in positive tones with their neighbors. It did sound good, even for someone like me, whose day-to-day troubles were nothing more irritating than acid-reflux disease and the odd migraine.Sugiyama let the crowd chatter for a while before raising his hand again. “Of course,” he said, as if it were a mere trifle, “there is one catch …”Copyright © 2005 by Robert J. Sawyer