This story is in response to the May #Writeprompt over at Myths Of The Mirror… I wasn’t going to partake this month (as my muse has deserted me), however, I got a little shot of confidence from a dear beta reader recently, and found a bit of muse lurking in the deepest recesses of my heart. Thanks, lovely one.
It all began – as these things are wont to do – innocently enough. The greatest technological advancement and breakthrough of the modern era was not an artificial heart, nor a cybernetic hand. It was a bionic toe. DJ Amber Starzzz – DJ of choice to the rich and famous of Hollywood Hills – had an unfortunate accident in her million dollar kitchen, when a 750ml bottle of vintage Dom Perignon slipped from her diamond-studded gloved hand and smashed on her foot – severing her big toe, bunion and all.
With the digit squashed beyond recognition the only hope for Amber – the only hope for her $57,000 shoe wardrobe – was for her to have a toe-plant. But Amber balked at having someone else’s toe, replete with jam, stuck to the end of her foot. Instead, she turned to world-renowned technology professor, Nils Karlsson, for whom she’d DJ’d at his sixtieth birthday, and begged his help. A few short months – and a long bank check later – DJ Amber Starzzz was the proud owner of the first cybernetic-integrated piece of tech; a robotic toe complete with AI. The toe was smart enough to know it was a toe and thus perform all toe-like duties including squeezing into size four pumps, and finding the corner of the bed at 3am.
While DJ Amber Starzzz was simply happy to have a stubable big toe back in her life, for Professor Karlsson it was a breakthrough unlike any other. The rich and famous lined up at his door for cybernetic fingers, noses, lips, and nipples. Then shady Government men in immaculately tailored black suits began lining up at his doorstep for cybernetic arms, legs, hearts, lungs, and other organs Professor Karlsson couldn’t understand why they’d possibly want ‘enhanced’. Eventually, the long line at Professor Karlsson’s door wandered away in frustration, as Professor Karlsson no longer owned that door; he was secreted away to an undisclosed military base where he started working on his greatest cybernetic achievement to date – a half human, half robot Adonis named AL (Artificial Lifeform – Trade Mark).
Of course, AL was a triumph to Professor Karlsson’s genius. His human physique rippled golden and oiled and tanned, while his cybernetic enhancements glimmered equally golden and oiled. He was near indestructible with only his soft human flesh betraying any weakness. So, spurred on by his success – as well as the looming threat of execution from his Government – Professor Karlsson took the inevitable next step. He made an entirely cybernetic artificially intelligent man he cleverly named AL 2.0. And indeed, AL 2.0 was vastly superior to AL. His processors fired at a remarkable rate, his body could take an awful beating – far more than a human could withstand. He was perfect. Or… nearly perfect.
While testing Al 2.0’s vast capabilities, Professor Karlsson created a complex moral and ethical dilemma using the most sophisticated technology at his disposal – he had AL 2.0 play Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and face the Kobayashi Maru mission. To the Professor’s consternation, AL 2.0 displayed no qualms about deserting the stranded ship, and further, calculated that the likelihood of the Federation ultimately winning against the Klingons was unlikely, so he defected to the Klingon Empire.
Professor Karlsson was heartbroken. Though, undoubtedly, the Klingon Empire had the better flag, AL 2.0’s utter lack of remorse – of feelings – told him a purely artificial intelligent being was in actuality a step backward.
The Professor dismantled AL 2.0 and returned to his laboratory in defeat. By now, he was approaching his seventieth birthday, and aside from a planned birthday bash featuring DJ Amber Starzzz’ arch-rival, DJ Elite Fiver (Amber having retired from DJing some years past to work on her retail stream of income – predominantly in the shoe line) – Professor Karlsson had little else to look forward to in his life. He’d come to the pinnacle of cybernetic evolution which had resulted in a failure. His health was failing – his knees were knocked, his back bent, and his shoulders stooped. In short, his body was failing him.
It was then that Professor Karlsson had his lightbulb moment. He would implant his own brain – a human brain capable of moral and ethical thinking – into a completely cybernetic body.
The laboratory went into overdrive. Preparations were made. Vast amounts of money were spent. Professor Karlsson canceled his seventieth birthday plans.
The first step was to transfer the Professor’s overlarge brain, complete with eyes still attached to their optic nerves, to a jar filled with a special solution to prevent the tissue decaying. In essence, they were going to pickle the Professor’s brain. The transfer went better than anyone could have hoped. The Professor’s brain was linked into electrodes and wires that snapped directly onto his neural pathways and synapses. This way, he could still think, see, hear, and communicate, throughout the entire procedure. As the fluid filled his jar he even giggled and reported a tickling sensation. Once the jar was secure and the Professor’s brain safe, the team began prepping AL 2.0 to house the Professor’s staggering intellect – all under the watchful disembodied eyes of the Professor.
As the team labored with their preparations – oiling and greasing, tightening and ratcheting – the Professor became glummer and glummer. He viewed Al 2.0 as a body certainly far superior to his own clapped out bag of flesh and bones, but still a body that would require upkeep. Yet what he had now was total and utter freedom. Freedom to think, to pontificate, to wonder, without the weight of a boy and its perpetual maintenance weighing him down.
Finally, when AL 2.0 was ready for the transfer, the Professor dropped a bombshell on his team and the lurking Government officials in their immaculately tailored black suits. He refused to go. He declared the peak of human evolution had been reached and the future of humanity was… glass jars. Humanity would never be better than by being a brain in a jar.
And that was that. Nothing anyone said could convince the Professor of anything different. He had electrodes plugged into his hypothalamus so he could still feel. Wires into his occipital lobe allowed him to see, and the networks of cables from his cerebral cortex plugged into a portable computer effectively allowed him to communicate – albeit by tapping his thoughts onto a keyboard.
So the Professor was bundled – jar and all – back to his townhouse, where he was set on a desk in his study and basked in the glory of freedom as his lackeys went about setting up his keyboard and computer. He needed no-one to feed him. No-one to care for him, no meds, no toileting – just a plug into the internet and he was quick to send everyone on their way.
Success! He wrote on his blog. I have total freedom from the human condition. I am your future. This is your future. Homo Cerebrum.
And though these were the last thoughts ever recorded by Professor Nils Karlsson, students for many years to come would long wonder if his last thoughts should have been about his beloved Maine Coon, Mr. Mittens, who jumped on the Professor’s desk and accidentally knocked a glass jar of pickled brain to the floor…
As mentioned above, this was inspired by Diana’s #Writeprompt, but also my own favourite concept… I long to be a brain in a jar. This morning after my shower I put on three different creams. I’m sick of having to primp, pluck, wash, and exercise this body. As a middle-aged, overweight, hormonal, woman, I say bring on the glass jar!