"The Dream as Scary and Loony as I Can Make It" PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 12 January 2013 15:35

Short story by Shaun Johnston, January 2013

Joe, I like neither the new title, not the opening number. It’s too dumpity-dum. Not that I’m doing any better with the second act dream sequence. I know what I have to do--Jane gradually realizes she’s committed to a lunatic situation that threatens her with the loss of everything she holds most dear—her consciousness and her creativity and all that. It’s got to be dreamlike but also scary. OK.

I’m exploring two options. Here’s the first:

Mars: Jane wakes up, finds herself in some kind of pod. In a pod next to her is her husband, Bill, the pilot, also waking up. Handsome guy. She recalls they’ve left Earth together headed for Mars. They kiss, hug. Since they’ve been wakened Mars must be close, so they head for the spaceship’s flight deck. Bill does some checking: everything’s fine, just as planned.  Soon he’ll have to start preparing to ferry the colony down to the surface. But first they have to eat. OK, some space food paraphernalia. Then they sit down and have “breakfast.”

Jane speaks. “Bill, I’ve absolute trust in you, that’s why I agreed to come, as the artist on the expedition. But, it’s time for me to know more about what’s down there waiting for us. Tell me about it.”

“We’re not just going to Mars,” he says. “The point is, we’re going to become part of Mars.”

“Wonderful,” Jane breathes, adoringly. “Go on.”

“Mars is made of cheese, green cheese. We’re going to transition from a muscle and bone kind of body to a body made of cheese.”

She’s taken aback. She comes to realize he’s not joking—it’s a dream, right! She asks him more questions. All his answers are about how wonderful it will be to be made of cheese. “Of course, we won’t be the exactly the same. Brains can’t be made of cheese so we’ll be equipped with computers made of cheese. But they’re better--they’re completely logical. We’ll be the first humans with perfectly logical brains.”

Jane is alarmed. “Bill, I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to become different. I love you just as you are!”

“Don’t worry,” he says, “we’ll still love one another, just in a different way.”

“What do you mean?” she says. Then she realizes. “Me too? No, I don’t want a brain like that. I want to stay the way I am. I’m an artist, I’m creative, my conscious experience is about more than just logic!”

“Jane, you can’t live on Mars with an Earth-like brain, you have to be made out of what Mars is made of. Anyway, you won’t mind. The new brain doesn’t have consciousness, it’s just logical. You won’t miss anything.”

You see this sinking in, She’s going to lose everything she holds most dear—her consciousness, her creativity. And she realizes Bill doesn’t love her, can’t love her, he’s an automaton, he’s been an automaton all along, else he couldn’t have agreed to come on this mission and have a purely logical brain.

She turns cold, you see it in her eyes. “Bill,” she says. “I can’t give up my free will. I have to return to Earth!”

“You can’t go back,” he says. “You knew that when you agreed to come. You’re bound to stay. You’ll be among the first human beings to become a part of Mars, to make a part of Mars truly human. And you won’t have lost anything. We don’t really have free will, that’s just an illusion. Consciousness, it’s just physical. You won’t be able to tell any difference. It’s going to be fine. Trust me!”

She’s horrified. She walks around the flight deck trying to prove she does have free will, but she doesn’t know how to. Bill can always prove that, whatever she does, it isn’t free will making her do it. She goes to the forward window and looks at the approaching planet. Soon she’s going to be a part of Mars. She’s going to be a stone. No, not even that. Just a lump of cheese.

End of scene.

Obviously there’s problems. The whole spaceship thing could be too expensive. So I came up with something cheaper.

The Pacific Ocean.  Jane’s in a cabin on an old wooden sailing vessel.  She’s been brought along as a companion for her husband, the captain, Bill. She’s also the expedition’s artist. They’ve reached land and they’re about to go ashore to gather specimens. As Bill gathers his instruments Jane questions him.

Jane speaks. “Bill, I’ve absolute trust in you, that’s why I agreed to come, as the artist on the expedition. But, it’s time for me to know more about what’s out there waiting for us. Tell me about it.”

[I’m using the same dialogue, to save a little time. It works OK.]

“We’re not just collecting specimens,” Bill says. “I believe I know how evolution works. I just want to prove it.”

“Wonderful,” Jane breathes, adoringly. “Go on.”

“What tells living creatures how to grow? Think of that as a blueprint written in atoms. It’s huge. It’s as if all the stars in the sky were actually code for a living creature. But, unlike stars, atoms keep jiggling out of place, so the blueprint keeps getting damaged. If that was all, there’d be no evolution, no species. But here’s what I’ve come to believe--there’s always more new creatures grown from those damaged blueprints than there’s room for. So only creatures made from the best versions get to survive and reproduce. There it is, evolution. That’s what made me. I’m purely physical.”

She’s taken aback. She comes to realize he’s not joking. She asks him more questions. All his answers are about how wonderful it will be to know we’re all the result of just those two simple physical processes. “If I can prove it, we’ll really understand ourselves for the first time. We’ll be the first humans to really know where we come from. It’ll confirm for me that I’m purely physical, made by simple purely physical processes.”

Jane is alarmed. “Bill, I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to become different from me. I love you just as you are!”

“Don’t worry,” he says, “after I’ve proved my theory, we’ll still love one another, just in a different way.”

“What do you mean?” she says. Then she realizes. “Me too? No, I don’t want to think of myself as purely physical. I want to stay the way I am. I’m an artist, I’m creative, my conscious experience is about more than just physics!”

“Jane, you can’t shut yourself off from the truth. If I can prove we evolved through these simple processes you’ll just have to accept it. Simple physical processes like that can’t make real consciousness and creativity. But don’t worry, you won't change, you'll be just the same. You won’t miss anything.”

You see this sinking in, She’s going to lose everything she holds most dear—her consciousness, her creativity. And she realizes Bill doesn’t love her, can’t love her, he’s an automaton, he’s been an automaton all along, else he wouldn’t have organized this mission to prove he was purely physical.

She turns cold, you see it in her eyes. “Bill,” she says. “I can’t give up my free will. I can’t come ashore with you. I have to go back home!”

“That won’t help ,” he says. “You’re bound to find out whether or not I’m right. And if I’m right you’ll be among the first human beings to know their true nature, that they’re purely physical. And you won’t have lost anything. We don’t really have free will, that’s just an illusion. Consciousness, it’s just physical. You won’t be able to tell any difference. It’s going to be fine. Trust me!”

She’s horrified. She walks around the cabin trying to prove she does have free will, but she doesn’t know how to. Bill can always prove that, whatever she does, it isn’t free will making her do it. She goes to the forward window and looks at the land they’re about to explore. If he gets his proof, she’ll have to accept she’s purely physical. No consciousness, no free will, no creativity.

End of scene. Same principle, but a smaller and cheaper set. And just as scary. Actually, it’s scarier, because it’s easier to identify with. It doesn’t involve just a few hundred people on a spaceship, it involves everybody, wherever they are.

Another reason I prefer it is, it’s more resistant to those damn angels of ours always trying to tone things down. I wish we’d never given them any say in the matter. Present them with the Mars choice and they’ll complain it’s the Moon that’s said to be made of green cheese, they’ll want us to say Mars is made of red oxide or something, and we lose some of the loony aspect of it. But the evolution scenario, there’s no way you can make any sense of that, it’s loony through and through, just like a bad dream.

The scene’s only twelve minutes long. Surely we can get people to suspend their sense of reality for that long. Then Jane wakes up and we’re back in the regular world. That’ll be a relief.

See you Tuesday, we can discuss this then. Watch out for that green cheese.

Sandy.

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debater comments:
Big debate
Instead of this, You should join this online debate between 80 scientists:



http://www.researchgate.net/post/Is_there_a_scientific_alternative_to_neo-Darwinism_for_understanding_biological_evolution
debater , January 19, 2013

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