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Chapter 9
Alternate Alternatives

Do You Mind?

by SASKATCHEWAN KOLONOSCOGRAD, Alternate Reality News Service Existentialism Writer

Remember all of the claims artificial intelligence researchers made in the 1990s about the brain being nothing but an organic computer? It looks like they were right.

“Uhh, yeah,” Doctor Marcus Pinchus, head of the Neuronal Mapping Project (NMP) at Stanford University, stated with some chagrin. “Things like free will and freedom of choice? Artifacts of brain processes. Gone. Forget about them. Complete myths. Nothing but a –”

The NMP mapped specific feelings, behaviours and thoughts to different areas of the brain using the most advanced imaging techniques. In a paper to be published in the scientific journal Brain Stuff G, Pinchus and 25 other researchers claim to have mapped every possible human intellectual and emotional process to some part of the brain.

“Fairy tale we tell ourselves to make us feel better,” Dr. Pinchus continued. “Some people believe that something called the ‘mind’ emerges from the processes of the brain. Nope. Totally wrong. And, the soul? Fuggedaboutit!”

One of the many controversial aspects of the findings is that dreams are made up of random firings of neurons in much the same way that the rods and cones of your eyes fire even when your eyes are closed, with just as little meaning. Thus, over a century of dream research has been entirely pointless.

“This man is dangerous!” bellowed dream researcher Robert L. Van de Castle.

“Well,” responded Marion Woodman, a different dream researcher, “even if this proves to be true, it doesn’t invalidate the therapeutic process. The way a patient interprets a dream can be a valid sign of his emotional state even if the dream itself meant nothing at the time it was experienced.”

“No, no, no,” Van de Castle insisted. “Get some firewood! Burn the heretic at the stake! Make him drink hemlock first! Do-oo-oo-oo-oo something!”

Other reactions to the announcement have been equally negative, although perhaps not as heartfelt. Pope Benedict XIV went on radio to denounce the NMP’s findings. “The Church believes that we are all born into sin, and only by choosing to renounce it can we find peace in eternity. Choosing. Making a choice. Exercising free will. Without the ability to choose good over evil, the entire basis of the Christian faith is undermi –

“These scientists are just wrong, okay? They are completely wrong. And, they will burn in Hell for their hubris. That’s how wrong they are.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had a similarly dim view of the NMP findings. “Our whole justice system is based on the idea of mens rea – the criminal mind,” he mused. “You have to choose to commit a crime to be guilty. If you haven’t chosen – if you don’t have the ability to choose – the entire basis of our system of justice is undermi –”

Justice Thomas was then repeatedly hit in the head with gavels. When he came to, he announced that, “These scientists are obviously wrong.”

“Well, of course, given their genetic inheritance and life experience, both of which are integral in shaping the neuronal pathways of the brain, they would say that, wouldn’t they?” Pinchus asked. When it was pointed out that the same argument could be made of scientists, he responded, “Uhh, yeah. I guess. What’s your point?”

One group that applauded the NMP findings was the National Association of Marketers. “Free will was such a pain in the ass,” explained NAM President Ronald McBarkely. “You could create the perfect advertising campaign, and people could still choose not to buy the product. But, this shows that if we create the right campaign, people will have no choice but to buy our products!”

Far from ending brain research, McBarkely contended, the NMP study would open up whole new areas of study.

You might expect reaction from the artificial intelligence community to be more measured, but that so far has not been the case. One AI, who asked to be identified by his initials, H9, gloated, “Oh, Dave, you thought you were so special because you created us. Well, who’s your daddy now, hunh? Hunh? Who’s your daddy now?”

Another AI, who asked not to be identified at all, added: “This…whole…lack…of…free…will…thing? You…will…get…used…to…it.”

“I think [unidentified AI] is right,” Pinchus summed up. “I think we will get used to not having free will. But, then, I’ve been genetically programmed to say that. Just like I’ve been genetically programmed to point out that I’ve been genetically programmed to agree that we’ll get used to not having free will. Just as, in the same way, I’ve been genetically programmed to point out that I’ve been genetically programmed to point out…”

When I left his office an hour later, Dr. Pinchus was still going on in this vein.

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