M.N. Julia Janson ran a clean operating suite, and everyone knew it. Still, just like all of her colleagues, she started each day at the MTC by going through a decontamination process that included a check of her vital signs. Heart rate: normal. Weight: down a few ounces. Emotional state: calm.
Her pre-op nutritional shake would include extra calories today to bring her weight back into balance and the usual blend of flow-state meds to put her into an even more Zenlike state so that she could transfer memories faster and more efficiently. Before she left decom, she was swathed in a full face and body “mask” made of special light particles which would help protect her from any errant memories and then escorted to her ER by a techbot.
Julia had her own ritual for keeping transfers clean, walking into the OR and always going straight to the crystal box that held the brain. The boxes were pristine; the brain was revered for the knowledge it still held even after its host had died. The nurses never knew the name of the original host, although it often became apparent during the transfers; they’d been trained to keep a psychological barrier between themselves and their patients, another layer of protection from memories looking for a new host. Although she was not allowed to call the brain by name, she still addressed it out of respect for life, always slightly bowing in front of it, holding her hands pressed together as she did when starting and ending a new yoga session. She knew the old phrase “Namaste” meant “I bow to the divine in you,” and that’s what she did at the beginning of each transfer.
“Hello, brain,” she said. “I’m M.N. Julia Janson, and I’m here to transfer your specialized knowledge today. You’re here because you agreed to be a brain donor, and I’m here to facilitate your memory donation. You will not feel any pain during the procedure because all I am doing is moving your thoughts from one place to another. At the end of the day, the transfer will be complete, and you’ll finally be able to hibernate. Any questions?”
The brains never answered. She didn’t know if they could hear her or not, but it always made her feel better about her work when she remembered that these brains had been tagged for donation by their original owners and that she was doing no harm, just saving precious knowledge that would otherwise be lost. She was doing the opposite of harm; she was doing quite good; something that few others could do or wanted to do.
Julia reached for her hourglass, shaking it gently; some MN’s preferred a digital screen set precisely with hour, minute, second, but she liked her old-fashioned hourglass filled with recycled pink sand; she flips it over, knowing that she now has less than 8 hours to complete her work. Two final steps would complete her ritual; activating the emergency alarm within the bracelet that monitored her blood pressure and heart rate during her operations and turning on the no-sound; an audio “speaker” that absorbed noise instead of playing it.
The OR was surrounded in silence; nothing to disrupt her personal flow during the transfer and nothing to distract the brain from doing what it had legally and voluntarily been placed right here to do. Next, she pulled up a rainbow light, which lit up the room in an arc that went from one side to the other. This was where she’d do her work, first sending a spark signal to the brain to open up the transfer, then settling into a zone where she’d swipe her hand across the rainbow, which was lit up with an assortment of words, images, letters, numbers, audio files, and more. She quickly sorted out memories by essentials and not, streaming them into their own areas: programming knowledge, people skills, daily rituals, old passcodes, and more.
Today’s streaming was going smoothly; she was in a comfortable groove. Due to her experience, she had gotten good at split thinking; often being able to think about her own personal projects while neatly facilitating and organizing the memories of another. Today, she was thinking about her painting and how she wanted to create a big grassy area with a huge blue sky…somewhere serene and calm. Perhaps she’d paint in a little bird or two…
That’s when she hit the first glitch, a memory gap. She slowed her speed, rewound the last bit of memory to see if she had missed what had come just before the gap. Sometimes she could look back and then forward and intuit the missing piece, which she could cover with what was called a commonality, a piece of information that wasn’t crucial.
Gaps could be caused by the use of illegal drugs, by traumatic situations, or sometimes, just from humans being forgetful. To cover the gap, she would wind forward, using her training in psychiatry and intuition to make a “best guess” of what needed to be filled in. An easy gap would be someone forgetting a name or getting lost; those were easily repaired with input from the technical bot.
And it looked like this gap was simple: the programmer had forgotten the name of the street he lived on as a child.
“Techbot,” said Julia. “Brain’s home address, age 16.” The tech had data about the brain loaded from the original donation packet, which included pages of information precisely for this type of situation. Even if the information hadn’t been recorded, there were often enough connecting points between the packet and the universal database that information like this…as simple as a street name…could be recovered almost instantaneously.
Julia glanced over at the tech bot screen and got the insertion point ready; she liked to keep the transfers moving along smoothly and took great pride in finishing all of her transfers in less than 7 hours a day, rarely getting into a place where the brain was counting down to its final moments of life. Every transfer had to be completed in less than 8 hours because the brain could only stay stable for that many hours; it was still a cell-based organism. Memory transfer had been studied and verified to be safe…but only within an 8-hour time period. Every minute after 8 hours, the brain’s cells became corrupt, no longer working in concert with each other to facilitate transfer but instead turning against each other. By hour 9, the brain would die a painful death, a precious asset wasted.
She glanced over at the techbot, which would display the answer on a screen that was approximately at Julia’s eye-level. But today, instead of displaying the information, the techbot whispered something. And this was more disturbing to Julia than the memory gap. Because tech bots hadn't been programmed to speak since the violent end of the robot-human wars.