Archive for the ‘itravel’ Category

Phoenix – episode 3

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This is the third and final episode of “Phoenix,”  a short story about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

(video on – metallic cylindrical interior)

Frank here.  So here I am in the itravel pod on Olympus Station, Mars orbit, which is home, heading out to Prince Rupert BC.  Who the heck was Prince Rupert, anyhow?  This system’s running slower than ever.  I’ve been sitting doing dick for five minutes, bored out of my skull, listening to Eleanor Rigby on their crappy sound system.  Okay. here we go, I’m finally getting a tingle…a-a-a-and…must be there!

Welcome to Prince Rupert, Canada’s Pacific Rim deep-water port. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 2

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This is the second episode of “Phoenix,”  a short fiction about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

That was my first taste of problems involved with using my life insurance policy.  I didn’t think they were all that bad, considering the alternative.  It was only after I died a second time that I felt a tiny bit concerned, because it was so stupid.  Even now, now that the pattern is obvious, I have trouble understanding how I could have done it.  Back then, I couldn’t begin to understand.  My log entry after I saw the evidence is pure confusion – just screaming question marks.

I’d survived a year and a half since the volcano.  By that time I had lots of experience and was diving safely.  In fact I was getting bored, and looking at other sports.  Anyway, this is what happened, as well as I’ve been able to reconstruct it.  I needed the cruiser for a date with a girl on some other station so I asked Dad well in advance and he agreed.  Fine.  Eight o’clock Friday night I climbed in and the fuel-oxygen was down to zip.  Almost.  The spare tank was empty too.  How could Dad let that happen?  I was probably late, probably frustrated.  I drove that thing into a station and traded in the spare.  The attendant was pretty young – I saw him at the inquest later – didn’t know much.  He gave me a tank with the wrong fitting.  And I didn’t notice. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 1

Friday, March 12th, 2010

“Phoenix” is a short story about a young guy who found freedom in a life insurance policy.  Here is the first of three episodes.

This is Frank Forster speaking on January 7, 2092.  This is a confidential message for Frank Forster.

Frank…if anybody’s around, save this for another time.   You’re going to have to make a decision, and you don’t need anybody’s advice except your own.

You’re probably wondering why there’s no video.  I turned it off.  I’ll explain why later.  Just keep listening, Frank, I need you to hear this through to the end without any interruption.  Arrange that, okay?  I don’t want somebody like Georg dropping in for a cold one in the middle of this.  Not that Georg will, ‘cause he’s dead.  I assume you heard.  God, I hope you did – I’m not trying to be brutal.  Yeah, Georg’s dead, permanently…yeah, permanently…and that’s a lot of what this message is about, so pay attention, hamhead!   Oops, sorry, sorry, I, uh…Frank, I’m not trying to offend you.  I don’t want you to stop listening.  Don’t stop listening.  Understand that I have strong feelings.  You will understand, if you just listen to this.  So, if I start to get abusive, just go with it, okay?  Do that for me.  Shit, do it for yourself.  I don’t want to edit this, I’d mess it up.  So some parts may be a bit raw, so what?  I care about you, Frank, so no bullshit.  You’re my future – all the future I’ve got.

I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t like.  It’s about life insurance, Frank.  I’m going to ask you to cancel your policy. (more…)

What We Are Not

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

What We Are NotWe are not Cartesian egos.  We are not biological organisms either.

Not Cartesian egos

A Cartesian ego is a kind of mental or spiritual thing that is thought to inhabit a human body and give it life.  Many people believe we can exist independently of a human body – that we survive the death of our bodies, continuing to have experiences either without a body, or by being reborn in another body.

I hardly need to argue against Cartesian egos.  The idea is in widespread disrepute without any assistance from me.  It is hard to reconcile with a scientific view of the world.  We have no convincing evidence that such things exist.  Until we have, we should use Occam’s Razor for its intended purpose to prune them from our conceptual scheme.  Leaving them in creates clutter and awkward problems.

One problem comes from split brain research.  When the corpus callosum connecting a patient’s two cerebral hemispheres is cut, two centres of consciousness appear where there was one before.  Should we conclude that the surgeon’s knife divided a spiritual substance?   Instead of deepening our understanding, this multiplies mysteries.

Despite its academic unrespectability, the idea that we are Cartesian egos is embraced by billions of people.  It is deeply involved with emotion, as this passage from Umberto Eco’s novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana illustrates:

One evening the spiritual director stood in front of the altar balustrade, illuminated – like all of us, like the entire chapel – by that single candle that haloed him in light, leaving his face in darkness.  Before dismissing us, he told us a story.  One night, in a convent school, a girl died, a young, pious, beautiful girl.  The next morning, she was stretched out on a catafalque in the nave of the church, and the mourners were reciting their prayers for the deceased, when all of a sudden the corpse sat up, eyes wide and finger pointing at the celebrant, and said in a cavernous voice, “Father, do not pray for me!  Last night I had an impure thought, a single thought – and now I am damned!” (more…)

The Self Illusion

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Vase-faces2

To find the right answers, ask the right questions.  I have skated around the question, “Is there a rational justification for self concern?” without coming up with a solid argument that settles it one way or the other.  But there is a related question which can be answered.

Two Views of Teleportation

As we have seen, teleportation by means of information transfer can be viewed in two ways.  The facts of the case are: I am scanned in North Vancouver and my information is sent to Omaha, where it is used to construct a living replica of me.  Meanwhile, the original in North Vancouver is destroyed.  Two views of these events are:

SURVIVE: I am transported from North Vancouver to Omaha.

DIE: I am killed in North Vancouver, and someone else – my replica – is constructed in Omaha.

People who think about teleportation disagree about whether SURVIVE or DIE is an accurate description of the case.  How can it be settled which view is true – or whether neither is true?

People who disagree about SURVIVE and DIE do not disagree about the facts of the case.  The facts are not in question.  No scientific experiment can be devised to settle which of SURVIVE and DIE is an accurate description of the facts. (more…)

Forking – episode 4

Monday, November 16th, 2009

This is the fourth and last episode of Forking, a short story in the ‘philosophy fiction’ genre.  If you haven’t yet read Episode 1, start here.

Forking 4 composite 3Roger Beethey shows up late, with a blonde.  Elliot gives him a pleading look.  “Relax,” says Beethey.

“You said it would be a skeleton crew,” Elliot complains, gesturing to a clump of technicians.

“It is.”  Beethey nudges the blonde.  “This is Sylvan.  He’ll do your faces.”

The Elliots exchange glances, and stand up.  “This isn’t a game,” one says angrily. 

“You’re right, it’s no game,” Beethey hisses.  “You chose us, a US major network, over your socialized Canadian TV, because you wanted the exposure.  Well if you want our exposure, you’ve got to get us our ratings.  The network doesn’t even know what it’s invested in, because of your paranoia about leaks.  They’ll be watching with interest, and if I don’t come up with a professional product” – he draws a line across his throat – “I’ll have to pull your stunt right after you. (more…)

Forking – episode 3

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

This is Episode 3 of Forking, a short story in the ‘philosophy fiction’ genre.  If you haven’t yet read Episode 1, start here.

Forking 3 composite 3Getting into the Institute turned out to be easy.  Arriving in a crowd from the bus, he found the iid-controlled gate held open for him by a smiling girl.  Security at that boundary is given low priority.  The ‘free-campus’ tradition.  Half-hidden in a big armchair in a departmental Reading Room – not his own department’s – he checks the messages on his phone.  Nothing new that matters.  He re-reads Elliot’s reply to EB, agreeing to meet before class.  Elliot must be in his car by now, probably in slow traffic on the Expressway.

Elliot forwards another copy of Elliot’s message to EB, adding a note at the top.  “BTW, I hope it goes without saying that I take issue with Dalton.  I notified the board that he he’s a lightweight, unsuitable for that job.  Between us, he’s a dick-head!”  Elliot pictures EB’s reaction when he reads it.  He feels strangely exhilarated, and almost giggles.

With a few minutes to kill, Elliot wanders out of the Reading Room.  He notices the libertarian, Wade, coming down the corridor.  Wade nods to Elliot in passing.  Only since Elliot gained tenure – over Wade’s opposition, he is sure – does the old anarchist grant him even that much recognition.

A suitable target.  Elliot saunters after him. (more…)

Forking – episode 1

Monday, October 26th, 2009

“Forking” is the story of a man who is accidentally duplicated.  It is both thought experiment and short(ish) fiction.  The thought experiments of philosophers are often thin stuff, which fail to paint a coherent, credible picture.  Because readers’ imaginations are undernourished by the lack of detail, so are their philosophical conclusions about the possibilities being described.  Fiction invites readers into a more richly imagined world which can engage them on several levels – emotionally, aesthetically, intellectually, morally – as they are engaged in real life. If a story is well told, readers’ judgements about it should be close to what they would think if they were to live in the world it portrays.

Forking 1Finally an email from Dalton, on the last possible day.  With misgivings, Elliot opens it.  Nothing at all in the body, just Dalton’s signature and the animated IGo logo scrolling endlessly across the page.

Elliot opens the attachment – his own presentation – and starts flipping through it.   Dalton’s markup starts on the fourth slide. “DATA VOLUMES?  NOOOOO!!!!” in 60-point Arial.  Wincing, Elliot flips to the next slide.  A fat red X covers all five bullet points.  Next slide.  Another X.  The next slide has another note.  “FORGET DATA VOLUMES.  ENERGY IS MEANINGLESS.”

Elliot snorts, then closes his eyes.  He can feel pressure building behind them.  Energy is….   How could anyone say that?

Dalton sat on it for a week, more than a week, and now this is his feedback.  Who is this prick?  Just a flak, a lobbyist hired for the PR push the board insisted on.  Dalton impressed the board; he was the man. A dumb flak who can’t use the shift key.  (more…)