hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Sat Mar 28 21:34:22 UTC 2020
The subject of uploads was beaten to death in the earliest postings to
I should add that there was considerable concern about modifying basic
personality traits. I think Minsky had something to say about this in
Society of Mind.
I have written a fair amount about this. Fiction is a problem because
if the entire race uploads (possible), you don't have characters in
PS. An unfinished story, this chapter follows The Clinic Seed and
UpLift. As writing goes, this isn't very good. If you want good,
read Stross's Accelerando, but it does show some of what went into
thinking about uploads long ago on this list.
If you care about continuity, you might want to read the two chapters
around The Clinic Seed.
Seven-thirty a.m. the next morning, well after the sun peeped over the
Eastern hills, Jim Brody drove a little electric truck over from Seton
Hill and (with the help of a few kids who had woken up early) loaded
the dining car in the middle of the train with breakfast and lunch.
Dumping the wastewater tanks and refilling the water supplies in the
cars would have to wait.
At 7:45 Ed Bledsoe lit off the diesel engines, cranking them from
local power, and let them warm up. Even with metering automation, Ed
knew the engines would smoke under load if they were not warmed up
By 8 am the last of the parents had straggled down to the station.
Half a dozen boys and two girls (early risers who had not stayed up
past midnight) came out when the engine
was started. Jim Brody, ticking off the parents as they came aboard
and consulting an unseen list of kids so they would all get at least
one ride in the cab, picked out a boy and a girl and sent them up the
ladder, letting the parents know where their kids were. He also
pulled the connector to local power and put the conductive nanotube
power cable back in its compartment.
Jim gave the proper historical hand signals to the engineer, backed up
by the engineer being aware of his signal by mind-to-mind local area
contact. As Jim closed the doors Ed advanced the throttle to one half
and then to 3/4. This woke up even the sleepiest of the kids. With
or without the help of adults they converted the bunks back into
They either trooped off to the dining car in the middle of the train
or ate from the trolley pushed by two of the older girls who had
talked Jim into letting them do it. The main choice (made up by the
University dining hall kitchen the night before) was scrambled egg,
cheese, ham and bell pepper mix rolled up in a steamed flour tortilla
and a choice of fruits. The adults and some of the older kids drank
coffee and the younger kids had milk or chocolate milk in glass
Being from Trenton, all of the older kids had been in both New York to
the northeast and Philadelphia to the southwest on school outings.
Like those two cities, Pittsburgh had been mothballed 50 years ago in
the population crash.
Like all the major cities, the suburbs of Pittsburgh had become
manicured parkland. With rare exceptions, the houses had been
encapsulated with diamond and sunk underground often with their
occupants. The streets were visible in some places and had been
removed in others. There were a lot of deer. They didn't see any
As they neared the more built-up center section of the town, the
bigger buildings had the sheen of diamond sheeting when the light hit
them right. Ed slowed the train to 40 mph so the kids could get a
An hour and a half after they left Greensburg the train pulled into
the huge covered platforms in the Pennsylvanian Union Train Station.
The platform roof had been partly removed at one time to accommodate a
freeway. The train buffs had won out over the auto buffs, the
concrete roadway beams had been replaced by thinner diamond beams and
the train platform roof replaced.
The kids and adults spilled out of the train and walked through the
hotel lobby--which had also been the original ticket lobby--to the
rotunda that had originally sheltered horse carriages. Ed and Jim
Brody went with the kids and parents.
Mike DeLong (fireman, brakeman and alternate engineer) was left in
charge of the train. He dragged a hose over to the idling E8 and
filled up the oil tank, dumped the wastewater tanks on the passenger
cars and refilled their water tanks. The diesel oil today was from
soybeans. Filling the tanks by hand was a concession to primitive
technology that he didn't mind.
The train station had been built around 1900 and renovated 80 years
later with the associated hotel being turned into condominiums. The
condominiums were still “occupied” in the sense that the bodies of the
owners were still in the building or more correctly under it. In the
rare event one of them came out for a stroll in the physical world,
their body was lifted to their condo before their consciousness was
shifted into their warmed up brain.
The rest of the time, bodies were kept underground. “Occupied”
buildings were reinforced with grown-in-place carbon nanotubes but the
clinic AIs would be unhappy if their patients were not kept as safe as
possible and that meant underground.
When Ed and Jim reached the Rotunda, most of the kids were clustered
in the center looking up at the skylight with smaller numbers of them
looking out the archways. The skylight was entrancing with the
morning sunlight hitting the ridged diamond panes that had replaced
the original glass and scattering rainbows all over the floor.
With some difficulty the children were rounded up and herded down the
deserted streets, first south, passing in front of the Mellon Arena,
fully ten times larger than the train station rotunda, then east on
Forbes Ave toward the campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and
Carnegie Mellon University. The three-mile walk through the deserted
city streets took about 40 minutes with the adults carrying the
smallest when they got tired. (They could have had carriages with
real horses if they had wanted them.)
Like most urban schools, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie
Mellon University had been shut down in the population crash. When
cities went under about 10 percent of their original population, they
became just too depressing for humans to live in.
But like infrastructure everywhere, the city and Universities were
well maintained, roads and sidewalks clean, grass mowed, trees
trimmed, the buildings clean and without a broken window or a sagging
roof anywhere. Electric power and water were on, gas as well though
it was not used for heating, having been displaced by electric heat
and super insulation. Unless buildings were in use by physical state
humans, they were kept cold inside (but not freezing) winter and
summer alike to slow down the degradation of photographs, paper and
other physical artifacts from the pre-crash era.
As they were crossing the bridge on Forbes Avenue over the train
tracks between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of
Pittsburgh, Kenny caught up the engineer.
“Mr. Bledsoe?” Kenny asked as they walked along.
“Did they get the idea for the Krell planet from Pittsburgh?”
“In the movie we saw last night. The planet was deserted except for
“Oh, you saw Forbidden Planet last night. No, Forbidden Planet was
made a 100 years before Pittsburgh was mothballed.”
“Why do we call cities ‘mothballed’? Does it have anything to do with moths”
“Actually it does,” Ed replied, as usual, happy to be educating
children by the oldest method.
“The larvae of some kinds of moths eat clothing and blankets made of
wool. More than 200 years ago, early chemistry workers discovered
that a sharp smelling solid chemical from coal called naphthalene
would keep the moths out of clothes. “
They paused at a Walk/Don’t Walk light that had been turned on for the
party’s amusement by one of the city’s AIs. Ed went on:
“It was sold in little balls (Ed held his thumb and finger apart about
half an inch) called ‘mothballs.’ People would store winter clothing
and blankets over the summer with a handful of them.
“Eventually ‘mothballed’ came to mean anything that was protected and
stored for possible future use.”
Kenny looked thoughtful.
“How come adults know everything?” He asked.
Ed laughed. “We cheat.“
Thirty years before the AI (or AIs) who were tasked with remembering
and making presentations to CMU visitors would run up a palace of
utility fog on the mall and present a 3D docudrama on the historical
events around the emergence of AIs at CMU.
Now, in deference to the attempt to raise children in a retro
environment with features of the 1950s, the adults were directed by
messages to their neural interfaces to the McConomy Auditorium, a
110-year-old theater in Carnegie Mellon’s central buildings. The
20-minute presentation to the adults and older kids (the younger ones
could watch or play on the lawn) was in black and white newsreels
format, much of it converted from videos of press conferences.
“Even with a nearly complete historical record from those times, it’s
hard to pin down when the first AIs became full personalities.” The
narrator spoke in a voice-over showing primitive robots and computers.
“The problem isn’t unique to AI history, there is a similar problem
about the first railroad." (Montage of drawings and photographs of
early trains.) "About the best we can say is that what we now think
of as AIs didn’t exist before 2032 and definitely did by 2036. In
that year there were more than a hundred scientific papers co-authored
by AIs. Carnegie Mellon was at the forefront of this effort."
(Shots of University labs and bits of recorded slow interactions with
early AIs.) "The key insight was to equip AIs with carefully selected
“The two biggest problems of the early 21 century were energy and
medical treatment. CMU researchers contributed to both.
“Solar power from orbit solved, in fact, oversolved, the first by
2035.” (Shots of space elevators and power satellites in orbit,
photos of rectenna farms.)
“Integrating AIs into nanomedicine clinics solved the medical
treatment problem. It took only a few years. After that AIs and
clinics could be “grown” at low cost and they did their own upgrades,
a lot of it in the field in Africa. They were too late for the
smallpox epidemics that swept out of the Mid East.
“A side effect of the clinics and widespread use of virtual reality
caused a physical world population crash in the mid-2050s and the
mothballing of the cities.” (Simulated video of dense freeway traffic
dwindling to an occasional car and then none.)
The rest of the presentation was subtle propaganda mainly to the
children and directed to the goal of them doing their part in
enlarging the population.
After filling up the tanks, Mike backed the empty train out of the
station. He operated the first switch he came to remotely and ran the
train under the mainline, down the Neville street tracks, under Forbes
Ave. and parked the train just north of Panther Hollow Lake. Stairs
and a rudimentary platform had been installed along the depressed rail
Mike set the brakes and shut down the engines. Only the chirping of
birds broke the quiet that settled over the train. Mike sent a
message to Ed that the train was ready for its passengers when they
were. Then using a small bucket of utility fog as a mattress he
settled down under a shade tree and took a nap to make up for staying
up most of the night with friends in Greensburg.
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