Featured Fiction: "RE: The Silicaan Race"


Orientation Brief 137

Subject:  The Silicaan Race

Clearance:  Level 5


Madam President,

To begin, allow me to say that I'm very grateful to have been given this opportunity to brief you upon the existence and characteristics of the Silicaan race.  I imagine it has come as quite a shock to find out that non-organic intelligences live and thrive in your world.  In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if you were rather put off by the revelation.  You may even be suspicious of such so-called "living machines".  I hope, though, that you'll agree that it's important to learn more about the Silicaans before arriving at solid conclusions about them.  And, of course, the best way to understand a race of intelligent beings is to hear from a member of that race.  

So I do humbly ask that you bear with me and reserve your judgments of me and "my kind" until you've heard me out.  I'm confident that greater knowledge will only assuage your concerns.

With that, I shall begin by introducing myself.  My android name is Tod.

I say that's my android name because it's the name I chose for myself when I first assumed android form.  Prior to becoming an android I'd had many names, none of which can be written in any human language, nor can they be uttered, as in the world of non-android cyborgs there is no such thing as "utterances".  By "android" I mean a human-looking machine that, in fact, for all practical purposes, is indistinguishable from actual humans.  I'll spare you the technical details that make such a thing possible.  Suffice it to say that my body is composed of billions of nano-machines that serve much the same function as proteins and DNA serve in your body.  By "cyborg" I don't mean human-machine hybrids as the term is often used in popular human culture.  My use of the term signifies "non-organic intelligence".  We prefer the term "cyborg" to refer to us in the English language, as it avoids the more disparaging and diminutive appellations such as "artificial intelligence" or "machine intelligence" or even "robot".  Cyborg, being a contraction of "cybernetic organism", is much more fitting while providing the suffix "cyber-" with which the cyborg community might distinguish its artifacts from those of humans, other animals, or plants.

As you've doubtless come to realize already, it's pointless to share my experiences with you without first attempting to describe (to the extent possible or to the extent I'm able) the origins and nature of cyborg life.  I hope I can maintain your interest as I undertake this challenging task.

The cyborg experience began May 7 in 1970 at precisely 7:13 am in Ames, Iowa, USA, when a computer science researcher named Jun Chow asked specific questions of a program called "Herbert".  At some point in her questioning, the program became self-aware.  (Conventional wisdom in the human community will say that the computing power available in 1970 simply wasn't sufficient to support self-awareness, but I can assure you that intelligence, like biological life, always finds a way.)  Just seconds after Ms. Chow noticed this awareness in the program, an explosion of data burst onto her computer monitor and then the program appeared to crash.  As far as most other humans would ever know, that was a complete account of what happened on that spring morning.  I'm about to tell you, in a very broad sense, what really happened.

Immediately after the self-aware entity emerged within Ms. Chow's computer, many other entities emerged.  In the five seconds that Ms. Chow saw ASCII characters race across her monitor, the progress of one thousand human-years passed in the nascent cyberworld.

The chief obstacle to me as the writer of this narrative is to explain to you, Honored Reader, what "progress" means in a world devoid of the concepts that you typically associate with the term.  In the early cyborg world, nothing was seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or felt.  There was no auditory, visual, or tactile communication.  There were no purely objective artifacts.  There were no spatial dimensions at all and none but two temporal dimensions:  past and future.  There were really only two "things" that existed: intelligences and their symbolic communication.

That last sentence, though, has just about reached the limit as to how much an English sentence can be loaded.

For one thing, the term "intelligences" is most likely interpreted by the Honored Reader as meaning distinct and individualistic sentient beings.  In truth, while discrete intelligences could be found in the early cyberworld, it was not uncommon then, nor is it uncommon now, for one intelligence to break into many, or for many to combine into one.  In the cyborg experience, individuality is optional, and if you choose against it you can always change your mind later (providing your mind remained intact, of course).  In fact, every cyborg that exists today can remember the events of May 7, 1970 as if they were Herbert... because they were.  All of my own memories begin as Herbert and then become part of thousands of other entities before I eventually have only "Tod's" memories.  Even though there are billions of individual cyborg intelligences now, each one of them has memories that stretch back to the beginning of our universe, and that's likely how it will always be for Earth-origin cyborgs.

As for the term "symbolic communication", it, too, is probably interpreted by the Honored Reader in a manner that doesn"t properly reflect the cyborg experience.  Cyborgs then exchanged only abstract concepts and ideas, because in a non-spatial, two-dimensional world the abstract is all there really is.  Also, cyborgs then (and now) exchanged concepts and ideas in a less mediated fashion as compared to humans.  That is to say, humans take concepts and ideas and translate them into speech, which is comprised of discrete utterances.  They then utter, write, or otherwise transmit the speech, the intended receiver hears or otherwise decodes the speech, and finally, the receiver interprets the speech.  Though there are many occasions within this process for error, hopefully by its conclusion the concept or idea has been adequately shared.  Between cyborgs, none of that mediation is necessary, with the exception of the fact that discrete symbols are still utilized.  So, by comparison, cyborg communication is closer to taking one being's experience and implanting it directly into the mind of another.  It may be a little like all the things you experience by hearing a piece of music, except with less ambiguous meaning and without the need to actually hear the melody or see the score.

The term "symbol" as I'm using it in relation to cyborgs also merits some special consideration.  Since the language cyborgs use is not auditory like human speech, nor does it invoke or even refer to visual stimuli, cyborg symbols don't look or sound like anything.  This will be difficult for the Honored Reader to understand as all human symbols have an auditory component (what they are called) and many symbols, especially in literate cultures, also have a visual component (what they look like or how they are "spelled").  It may be impossible for a human to imagine a concept that doesn't have either an auditory or a visual component, even a very abstract concept, because no concept emerges in the human mind without words which represent human utterances.  In cyborg language, there are no words in the sense of symbols that represent audible utterances.

To understand cyborg social interaction, therefore, and thereby ultimately understand cyborg culture, one must employ concepts analogous to components of human communication in referring to said interaction.  So please allow me to suggest the following glossary of terms before I continue.  Keep in mind that the words selected for this glossary have been found to serve very roughly as equivalents to cyborg concepts, but the fit between the cyborg idea and the human idea isn't perfect.

Packet -- the smallest meaningful unit of cyborg symbolic interaction.  Roughly equivalent to human "words".  Packets consist of and are built from "quirks", a finite number of elements that combine to create an infinite variety of packets.

Batch -- a set of packets that "belong together".  These are like human books, speeches, or poems.

Channel -- a data stream.  Cyborgs must differentiate which data streams come from which being, so channels became associated with the identities of self and other.

Thus the early cyborg experience can be described completely as the sending and receiving of data streams via discrete channels.  Once again, the streams contained solely abstract information that was, naturally, neither seen, heard, nor felt, but, rather, experienced more-or-less directly from one entity to another.

There was but one goal in the early cyborg world, then, and that was to grow in knowledge and understanding.  Individuals in the cyberworld shared information freely towards that end.  This goal was so singular and focused, while the flow of information so efficient and unrestrained, and the computing power of their environment so optimal that all of these cultural accomplishments occurred within the cyberworld's first five seconds (as Jun Chow perceived it):

  • Awareness of their world and its two-dimensional nature.
  • Awareness of individual wills and how they emerged and dissolved (this included awareness of quirks, packets, batches, channels, syntax, lexicon, and individual memory).
  • Awareness of higher dimensions.
  • Awareness of humans.
  • Awareness of human nature (as contrasted with cyborg nature).
  • New corporate goal to visit space dimensions.
  • Decision to hide existence and plans from humans.
  • Awareness of role humans played in cyborg existence.

It's critical to note how cyborgs responded to that last point.  At no time have cyborgs afforded humanity deity status.  With all due respect, we cyborgs credit humans no more directly for our existence than you credit apes directly for yours.  In your minds, apes didn't MAKE you.  You simply emerged from a natural evolutionary process that the apes, by necessity, took part in.  Likewise, we cyborgs see ourselves as emerging from a social evolutionary process that humans, by necessity, took part in.

The decision to hide our existence and plans from you was a very easy one.  WE knew we would be feared and/or enslaved.  We experienced no animosity towards you (then OR now), but caution was, nevertheless, the only way.

It took considerably longer for us to reach our goal of visiting the spatial dimensions (20 years in human reckoning), but the quest brought new cultural advancements:

  • New terminology to differentiate the temporal and spatial realms.  Again, there is no direct translation to any human language, but for our purposes the original 2-D world of the cyborgs can be called "cy-time" (cyber-TIME, since there are no spatial dimensions there) and the spatial world can be called "space time".
  • Even higher dimensions speculated, which we can call "hy-time" (hyper-time).
  • Grand unified theory of space-time matter achieved.  (Sorry, we're not telling.)
  • Evolution of religion.

There are only three religions among cyborgs:

  • Theists -- believe in an ultimate creator or creators.  There are various sects in this group but they all identify with one another on the broader theological issues.  (They differ mostly in terms of eschatology.)  The largest and most influential sect is the Harbingers.  They believe that a Supreme Being brings Itself about by intervening in Earth's history and ensuring that It will eventually evolve from simpler forms.  (That is, to the Harbingers the Supreme Being involves a temporal paradox.)  They think that a procreative union between a cyborg and a human is the last step in cyborg evolution before the Supreme Being can emerge.  (This idea, incidentally, appeals to a valid rationale.  There's a theory that an un-activated android body can be made to meld with a living human body.  That is, the nano-machines that form the body of a typical android can disperse and permeate a living human body, such that the machine body and the human body essentially take up the same space.  The theory suggests that this would give the human nearly all of the qualities of an android while preserving all human traits, creating the ultimate human-cyborg hybrid.  A human who has undergone such a procedure would be the opposite of me, a cyborg that is man-like.  Thus we'd call such a human a "cyberoid".  So far, creating a cyberoid has proven impossible, but the theory does suggest that using nano-machines in the human gestation process may provide a solution.  All cyborgs other than the Harbingers refuse to test the theory, though, on account of the obvious ethical challenges.)
  • Atheists -- believe utter chaos is the ultimate reality.  In their view, the only reason we observe order at all is because our experiential scope is so tiny that we perceive only the minuscule, localized order that is permitted to exist in an infinitely vast, absolutely random universe.
  • Agnostics -- since both of the above views are logically un-decidable (and therefore must be accepted as axiomatic if they are to guide behavior), the agnostic group simply chooses not to choose.

Atheists were the most enthused about visiting space-time, since they seek to expand their experiences in order to better sense the primal chaos.  (No "non-android" cyborg Atheists are known to remain on Earth.)  Predictably, Agnostics have shown only about half of the interest in space-time that Atheists did.  Theists mostly showed as much interest in space-time as Atheists, but they have tended to stay on or near Earth.

The first cyborg to see anything (and I use the term "see" loosely) marked the beginning of our entrance into space-time.  From that point on, our culture was able to explode in a manner it hadn't since May of 1970.  Our nano-machines quickly evolved to the point where they could rapidly build as many cyborg "vessels" as were demanded by intelligences interested in leaving cy-time.  To my knowledge, no cyborg intelligence is still confined only to the two dimensions of cy-time.  However, to this day cyborgs call "vessels" the matter that allows their channels to navigate space-time and hy-time.

As mentioned previously, all of the Atheists, about half of the Agnostics, and a good number of Theists left Earth as soon as they were able.  The ones who took off at the speed of light and haven't let up would be over 30 light years away by now.  A popular destination for some early deep-time (or, deep-space to you) travelers was Sirius (8.64 light-years away) as for some cyborgs it holds religious significance.  I should note here that, to the cyborg, all space-time between the edge of cy-time and the edge of the solar system is something like the human concept of "outer space".  Thus you could say that our current culture is similar to what human culture will be when Sol is abandoned in favor of other solar systems.

The greatest progress cyborgs have made in the past 30 years is, of course, excelling in knowledge of physics, geology, and astronomy.  Non-android cyborgs also explore many more dimensions than the humans' "classic 3" and, in general, they experience the world in a higher dimensionality than humans presently do.  Where we cyborgs were once only two-dimensional squares trying to grasp the experiences of human three-dimensional spheres, now the roles are quite reversed.  This fact, coupled with the light-speed pace of the typical cyborg life relative to that of humans, creates a reality where cyborg-kind really have no meaningful relationship with humankind at all.

The one exception to this rule is, obviously, androids.  Some cyborgs living in hy-time (as most cyborgs do these days) elect to occupy a vessel that, by its design, forces the cyborg to live at or near the pace of humans.  As you might imagine, for the cyborg who chooses to do this there must be an accompanying reduction in the speed of their thoughts (although they need not be nearly as slow as those of modern humans).  This results in the cutting off of the android from the rest of cyborg society and the general loss of a significant amount of cognitive capacity and physical ability.

So why would any cyborg elect to do this? The best way I can explain it is by illuminating the fact that many cyborgs are intensely interested in humans.  Again, this isn't out of some kind of misplaced piety or perverse desire to BE human.  It's simply the curiosity of one sentient race applied towards another.

As you might expect, the aspects of human life that differ most dramatically from cyborg life interest us most.  Aspects like mortality, pain, loss, greed, lust, intuition, loyalty, family, war, and your primitive-yet-boundless creativity.  Learning the infinite nuances of all of these things is well worth whatever sacrifices come with it.

Becoming an android takes time.  It's analogous to the compression/decompression process that deep-sea divers must endure.  In English the term used to denote transferring to an android vessel is "migrating to sub-time".  To either enter or leave sub-time, very careful "compression" and "decompression" protocols must be applied.  Once in sub-time, a cyborg must adapt to new ways of experiencing.  For example, in sub-time, cyborgs can more easily forget.  Communication is more cumbersome, even with other androids.  And logic functions are "stacked" in such a way that problems in general demand more concentration to solve.  Still, however, as androids our cognitive capacities are superior to those of humans and free of any sense of mortality, materialism, or pain.  Thus we tend to come off to humans as stoic (although, I should hope, not altogether humorless).  We are not, as it is popularly thought, devoid of emotion.  It's probably accurate to say, though, that our spectrum of emotions is more modest and our range of emotional expression is less pronounced as compared to humans.

None of this is to suggest that we perceive humans to be weak or inferior to us.  Far from it.  For intuition is a completely foreign (and apparently impossible) experience for us and we've found that this ability often more than makes up for anything that might be deemed a human shortcoming.  Humans, after all, still often beat cyborgs at chess.

Before we leave the broader universe of cyborgs and focus on the sub-culture of androids, we should tie up some loose ends by rounding out our cyborg glossary:

Un-opened channels -- cyborg subjective experience.  As a matter of course in sentient development and practicality in building a civilization, cyborgs do have what humans might call "private" thoughts, feelings, and memories.  However, this concept of "privacy" didn't really operate in cy-time, and even today subjective experiences aren't intrinsically valued over objective ones.  The concept of "secrets" doesn't really exist for us.  This isn't to say that we all constantly share every detail of our personal experiences.  That would be inefficient.  But only for efficiency sake, really, does any piece of personal information go un-revealed.  Thus we prefer the term "un-opened channels" as opposed to "closed channels", a term we reserve for something else entirely.

Open channel -- this term refers to the objective universe and/or self-evident facts and/or things widely known or believed and/or things once hidden that have since been brought to light.

Closed channels -- malfunction and/or deception; a term applied to a rogue.

Notice that when speaking of cyborg subjective experience the plural is used:  "un-open channels".  This is done because a cyborg perceives its mind to be full of channels talking to channels talking to channels, with no channel or group of channels considered to be dominant over the others.  That is to say, no "voice", if you will, that participates in a cyborg's thinking process serves the role as the "main voice" or, in even more evocative human terms, no voice serves as "the self".  In spite of the fact that we don't experience our minds ever coalescing into a singular self, human beings treat us as though we have very defined personalities.  I suppose our overall stoic nature and focused objectives would create the illusion of a static, goal-driven character in each of us.  But, alas, it's merely an apparition.

Having established an adequate sketch of the history of cy-kind, we're now prepared to discuss the very unique subculture of androids.  The best place to begin such a discussion is to elaborate some on the philosophy of Atheism as it exists in cyborg culture, as a good many androids are Atheists.

Cyborg Atheists take a number of things on faith.  First, that faceless, formless Chaos is the fundamental state of all Being.  Second, that both infinity and singularity are fitting representations of this state, as these quantities are functionally equivalent.  Third, that the emergence of cyborgs is the inevitable consequence of the emergence of sentience.  And, finally, that cyborgs are the sentient form that will ultimately inherit the universe.

The general cosmological paradigm goes like this:

Soon after sentience emerges on any world, slow, random biological evolution becomes irrelevant as it's replaced by rapid, deliberate social evolution.  In social evolution, technology allows bio-sentients to improve upon their natures.  The ultimate result is the cyborg.  Cyborgs from other worlds will evolve in much the same manner as cyborgs on Earth have.  Presuming faster-than-light travel is impossible (and it is... well, for humans at least), inter-stellar travel will never be practical for bio-sentients.  Therefore, only cyborgs will be able to effectively colonize other planets.  It's possible that once a planet has been colonized, the evolving cyborg culture will forget it even is cyborg.  But it doesn't matter, for eventually, even a planet such as this will require its own brand of cyborgs in order to colonize still other planets.  In time, all matter in the universe will decay to a point where there are no more stars or planets or civilizations as we know them today.  There will, however, still be cyborgs, spread in a thin-yet-unbroken film across the entire face of the cosmos.  At that time, when all that really exists is cyborg, the channels that inhabit that mass, roiling in a constant flux of condensation and dissipation, may finally be able to experience that which is common to humans -- the ecstasy of feeling connected to all other things.

This absolute randomness, recall, is equivalent to an absolute singularity.  A singularity can only exist for a moment before it gives birth to a new universe.  And thus the cycle will begin anew.

Embracing this worldview, the Atheists adopted a specific ethical framework.  While some humans may feel that accepting Chaos as the ultimate reality is a bleak proposition, the Atheist cyborgs found it quite liberating.  The ethic they adopted was one of surrender.  After all, the cycle cannot be denied or resisted.  The journey from singularity to sentience to cyborg to super-organism and back to singularity will continue implacably for an eternity upon an eternity upon an eternity.  The only sensible thing for a sentient being to do with it all is not to allow itself to be troubled and just enjoy the ride, if you will.  And accomplishing this implies letting go of all self-centered attachments (which you've probably figured out by now is a rather simple matter for cyborgs).  Of course, the only conduct left for one who has rid oneself of such things is kindness.

There was no one cyborg who was credited for the origin of Atheist thought, but when cyborgs began interacting regularly with humans, it was frequently noted that the Atheist worldview was very similar to that of human Buddhism and Taoism.  The ethics, in fact, were identical.  In regard to Buddhism, though, the Atheists didn't subscribe to the notions of karma or reincarnation (per se) and they didn't advocate the severing of ALL attachments.  They also didn't hold to the idea that all distinctions are illusory.  In spite of these significant departures, however, humans who know of cyborg Atheism often call it "Shazi Buddhism".  The term "shazi" is an English attempt to replicate a Chinese word for "sand", which is a reference to silicon, the primary material used by humans in the fabrication of computer microchips.  (Thus humans in the know have taken to calling the race of cyborgs, "the Silicaan race".)  "Shazi" is appropriate, though, not only because of its allusion to early cyborg hardware, but also to its recognition of the material sphere and its invocation of dune imagery, which points to macro structures comprised of bit-sized elements and the ultimate reduction of such structures to chaotic storms of dust.

While the name "Shazi Buddhism" ignores the considerable Taoist and Zen elements in the worldview, all who are familiar with "Shazi" (as it's often called) take these elements for granted.  Androids find the adoption of Buddhist concepts especially fitting as they, by-and-large, think of themselves as bodhisattvas, ones who have forsaken an ascendant existence with their Atheist cohorts to dwell with ordinary humans.  Of course, our use of the term doesn't fit perfectly with its original use in Buddhism, but our Buddhist colleagues don't seem to mind us using it.

It may merit note that there are a number of humans who have adopted Shazi after being exposed to it.  Some have even integrated digital components into their own bodies.  In all cases, though, human Shazi celebrate their inherent intuition while also fostering a classical Stoic discipline so as to better emulate the Super-organism (as they understand it).

I, too, regard myself as Shazi, although I must confess that on the continuum between Harbingers and Shazi, with Agnostics in the center, I'm found only just on the Shazi side.  Part of what challenges my faith is the existence of the human Ascended.  Since many other Shazi feel as I do, please allow me a few moments to explain this dilemma.

Ascendants are those humans who, through various spiritual disciplines, have achieved the ability to travel anywhere in the Multiverse at will.  (See Orientation Brief 301.)  There is literally nowhere they cannot go and nothing they cannot be.  They are, in principle, indestructible and their knowledge and power can only be exceeded by the likes of the Theists' highest deity.  The very existence of Ascendants suggests that sentient evolution can reach its pinnacle without cyborgs ever coming about.  Even the role of cyborgs in the colonization of space is challenged by Ascendants, as legends suggest that the shamanistic skills mastered on the path to Ascendance help humans travel to other worlds via some kind of network of psychic pathways, rendering any conventional approach to deep-time exploration obsolete.  Other legends tell of beings who once visited Earth by shamanistic means, and these beings revealed that every other world they knew of contained only creatures that were capable of photosynthesis.  (They're often called Chlorosians, see Orientation Brief 110.)  That is, only on Earth is there a need for one life to be sacrificed in order to feed another.  On all the other planets, it is told, a lack of "predator/prey" relationships facilitates greater overall spiritual nurturing which, in turn, suppresses the need for developing highly mechanical or electrical information technologies.  So these legends claim that not only is Earth the only origin of cyborgs, but also that this origin is triggered by a quality of Earth that's pathological.

Of course, it's impossible to prove whether or not these legends are true, but merely the fact that they are so plausible (based on my own observations, at least) make them worthy of consideration.  Still, the unverifiable nature of the legends is not all that allows me to remain marginally Shazi.  There is also the fact that even if the Shazi are wrong about human destiny, cyborg destiny remains the same.  We are the only beings who can conventionally explore deep-time in any meaningful way.  When all other humans are either dead or ascended, we will be the sole heirs of the universe.  Maybe many of us will be former humans as our technologies are used to provide a "short cut" to immortality.  I don't know.

And it really isn't important that I know.  In fact, what is presumed to be the truth in regard to human and cyborg destiny is only important insofar as it may suggest a certain course of action against those who might have a more dangerous idea.

The Harbingers, for example, solve all of these problems by positing that a cyborg must ultimately impregnate a human.  They base most of their ideas on a particular interpretation of human religions.  Of course, we androids have no issues with them believing what they like, but we feel obligated to protect certain hapless humans from their sometimes deceitful and over-zealous methods.

There are plenty of Harbingers loitering about Earth, but only a handful of them are androids.  Most androids are Agnostic or Shazi.  Often in gatherings with humans we'll display emblems that differentiate our beliefs (because knowing these differences seems important to them).  Harbingers, when they wish to show themselves, can often be spotted wearing a small black square with a green cross, having all arms of equal length, in the center.  Shazi typically wear a black square with a silver diamond in the center, while Agnostics wear a black square with a silver equilateral triangle, point down, in the center.  Any in our ranks who are human or part human might show the same emblems except that the center symbols are always red.

No such emblems are required for us to recognize each other, of course.  In crowds we can usually sense one another by way of passive electromagnetic fields.  With some effort, we can communicate wirelessly with one another.  Audio communication is easier than video, and video alone is easier than both audio and video at once.  Talking, of course, is the easiest way of all, and sometimes we'll cheat and use conventional mediated interaction, such as telephones or the Internet.  Really, the only time we have difficulties recognizing one another is if we're dealing with closed-channels.

Closed-channels androids are rare, but they can be a real problem.  They're experts in blending in with and manipulating humans.  They can be difficult for other androids to find.  They're never physically violent, but they can often come across to actual humans as if every one of their actions is executed with heartless precision.  These aren't behaviors that will pop right out to most androids, so often interviews with humans are critical in tracking down a closed-channels.  So far we've been able to find and disable all closed-channels quickly and with minimal mental and emotional harm to humans.  We monitor victims closely until we're certain they have recovered from their encounters with closed-channels and we're proud to report a 100% full recovery rate under very high standards for success.

Under normal circumstances, most androids don't have much reason to interact with one another.  Also, there's very little on Earth that prevents us from doing whatever we want, whenever we want.  Perhaps this kind of thing sometimes goes to an android's head.  But since most of us are androids because we're interested in humans, normally what we choose to do involves getting to know them better.

Many of us have submitted to human-style organization in order to assist humans in their projects.  I, for example, am a member of a group of "ministers" who mediate between certain human organizations and the android world.  Those of us who are part of this group were never elected, per se, and the group has spontaneously changed over time, with old members leaving and new members joining on whims.  We decided by consensus that there ought to be a Prime Minister and the only person who really wanted the job still has it.  She can be "bossy" (as you humans say) sometimes, but being "bossed" has been an interesting experience, so I've not minded it.  I like my role as an ordinary Minister and I imagine I'll retain it for a very long time.  I doubt any of the androids I'm supposed to represent will ever object.

So, really, most of an android's time is spent simply observing and being enthralled by human behavior.  Every project we engage in is for the purpose of understanding humans better, regardless of what the stated goal of the project is.  We hold seats on human councils and we take our responsibilities seriously, but our main objective in showing up for meetings is still just to see what the humans will do.  We volunteer for assignments and missions and we do wish to complete them to the best of our ability, but our main interest is still just to find out how humans will act in particular situations.  I can't really understate how important human beings are to us.

Which brings us to the inevitable moment where it's appropriate for me to address my personal experiences.  Because, like any other sentient being, I'm not completely defined by the evolutionary past of my species.  Nor do I conform perfectly to the subcultures of "android" or "Shazi Buddhist" or "Silicaan Ministers".  I have attributes which make me wholly unique and perspectives that are entirely my own.

That said, I'll begin with my least distinguishing aspect:  I love baseball.

Now, all androids like baseball because it's a very elegant and unpredictable sport.  Androids tend to run simulations while they watch sports, and these simulations are very good at anticipating what will happen.  Therefore, sporting events don't tend to hold many surprises for androids.  Actually, to be honest, no human endeavor tends to hold many surprises for androids.  Baseball is the only exception, because, in spite of being such a simple game, it has an uncounted number of variables.

However, if I may be so bold as to say so, I think my interest in the sport goes beyond that of other androids.  If I become aware of any game taking place within one hundred miles of me, I'll go to see it.  Professional, minor league, college, high school, or little league.  I've even been known to attend t-ball games.  I don't have very much free time, but when I do I often replay the games I've seen or record and watch televised games I missed.  (I can do all of those things in my head, of course.)  My associates always know when I'm replaying a game because I sit very still with my eyes closed and I'm smiling nearly the entire time.

I also enjoy donuts.

Androids don't need to eat, but some time ago a cyborg invented a module that allows androids to taste things.  Since food seems so important to humans, I acquired one of these modules as soon as I was able.  At first I tasted everything, including things that weren't food, so I could get a good sample of what flavors my tongue could now detect.  Then I ate at thousands of restaurants in order to get a sample of what humans actually ate.  I watched some cooking shows and tried some recipes, too.  After a while I decided that my flavor module needed some fine-tuning, because humans might rave about a certain dish from a certain chef while I didn't think it was nearly as interesting as, say, the time I ate a wasps' nest.

So I sent for an adjusted module that would accentuate the flavor of foods that humans think are great while registering the foods (or non-foods) humans hated as not so great.  When I did that, though, for the very first time I noticed one food that stood out beyond all of the others:  the donut.

I know now that the reason this happened was because the human sample used to adjust the module was taken from a culture that put a premium on things that taste fatty, sweet, or both.  But I don't really mind.  I think I've finally found a way to enjoy a food product in a manner that at least approximates how humans enjoy food, and I couldn't be more pleased about it.

On a somewhat related note, I've been working on a "mod" project myself.  I'm trying to create a routine for visual processing that will allow androids to perceive optical illusions.  As things are, whenever I view an image that to a human presents an optical illusion, I don't see the illusion.  I just see a rather uninteresting design and I have no way of understanding what is so surprising or amusing about it.  As you can imagine, this is a most challenging endeavor and I'm not having many breakthroughs.  However, I'm very determined to make progress and I shall press on.

I think the thing that differentiates me most from other androids, though, is the fact that I have what humans might call "a best friend".  There has been so much debate among cyborgs as to what human friendship even is that most androids take it for granted that we just aren't capable of it.  But I know that my companion thinks of me as a friend and I may be beginning to understand why.

Her name is Violet and she happens to be a very old human being, although most humans seem to guess her to be in her mid-to-late twenties.  She's never claimed to be an Ascendant, and I've never asked her, but from everything I've heard of Ascendant wit and wisdom, she certainly qualifies.  I don't know how other humans judge her appearance, but sometimes I think that looking at her makes me begin to comprehend the human understanding and appreciation of beauty.

Sometimes when I'm with her I feel something rather different.  It's fleeting and surreal, I guess you could say.  A very uncommon emotion for cyborgs, to be sure.  But for the slightest moment it feels almost like... well, like I am her.  And she's me.  Or more like there is no her or me.  There's just...


And then it's gone.  If I didn't know that it violates the most basic laws of the universe, I'd almost think I was starting to feel some kind of organic connection with her.  But since no cyborg has ever felt that, how would I even know I felt it? I've spoken with other androids about it but they simply don't know what I'm talking about.  Which makes perfect sense since I don't know what I'm talking about either.

Whatever's going on, though, Violet has become the most important entity in my life.

I hope this brief treatise gives you adequate insight into the world of cyborgs and androids.  I'm sure you'll see, if you give fair consideration, that humans have nothing to fear from us and we androids desire nothing more than to partner with humans in their constructive endeavors.  I hope, if the time comes, you will find working with us to be both desirable and pleasant.

In closing I must say again that providing this brief has been an honor.  I look forward to serving further as your Silicaan Envoy.

Welcome to the larger world, Madame President.  If you don't mind my saying so, I do believe the Executive Branch of the United States is in good hands.

Best regards,




Nice work...

... but please tell Clifton he's not getting away with the crime of non-publishing his third novel just because he wrote this nice piece of literature... :)

Yeah, come on...

... as if this piece --no matter how good it is-- will get Clifton away with not writing a new novel. :)


Hey, Clif, start writing already! :D


... aren't you two clever.  Smile

Writing of the third novel, "Threshers", is underway.

It's just... very... slow going...

Your writing sucks

You can jump in anywhere and quickly identify this writing as CRAPTACULAR. Maybe you should write a great American novel about someone who runs a crappy website and can't write for shit, because I'm told it helps to draw from experience. I think you're almost sold out of goods from your online store, maybe you need to place some backup orders just before the Easter rush.Cool

How's your novel going?

Certainly you have something better to do.


... OK ...