The implant allows a person control over her basic emotions: fear, disgust, joy, excitement, love. It's mandatory for law enforcement officers, a way to minimize the effects of emotions on life-or-death decisions, a way to eliminate prejudice and irrationality.
I'm also a translator, and translation offers a natural metaphor for how I think about writing in general.
Every act of communication is a miracle of translation....
Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.
And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Or minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.
Does the thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?
You grew up a little, and now you could
even help your father
and I talk to each other. I was really at
home now. I finally
a good life. I wished my parents could
be here, so that I could care for them
and give them a good life too. But my
parents were longer around. You know
what the Chinese think is the saddest
feeling in the world? It's for a child to
finally grow the desire take care of his
parents, only to realize that they were gone.
Now I had someone to talk to. I would teach you
and we could together remake a small piece of everything I loved and lost. When you said you first words to me, in Chinese that had the same accent as my mother and me, cried I for hours. wWhen made I the first zhezhi animals for you, and you laughed
I felt there were no worries in the world.
You grew up a little, and now you could even help your father
and I talk to each other. I was really at home now. finally I
a good life. I wished my parents could be here, so that I could care for them and give them a good life too. But my parents were longer around. You know what the Chinese think is the saddest feeling in the world? It's for a child to finally grow the desire take care of his parents, only to realize that they were long gone.
Son, I know that you do not like your Chinese eyes, which are
my eyes. know I that you do not like your Chinese hair, which is my hair. But can you understand how much joy your very existence brought to me? And can you understand how it felt when you stopped talking to me and won't let me talk to you in
Chinese? I felt I was losing everything all over again.
Why won't you talk to me, son? The pain makes it hard to write.
The young woman handed the paper back to me. I could not bear to look into her face.
Without looking up, I asked for her help in tracing out the character
for ai on the paper below Mom's letter, I wrote the character again and again on the paper, intertwining my pen strokes with her words
The young woman reached out and put a hand on my sio Then she got up and left, leaving me alone with my mother.
Following the creases, I refolded the paper back into Laohu, cradled him in the crook of my arm, and as he purred, we began the walk home.
mind, Mom's hands, as they folded and refoll.. shark for me while Laohu and I watched.
tinfoil tO make a
wrapping paper and and ver to pick
A rustle. I looked up and saw that a ball of .
torn tape was on the floor next to the bookshelf I .
it up for the trash.
The ball of paper shifted, unfurled itself, and I saw that Iaohn who I hadn't thought about in a very long time
Mom must have put him back together after I had given
He was smaller than I remembered. Or maybe it was just that
back then my fists were smaller.
Susan had put the paper animals around our apartment s
ration. She probably left Laohu in a pretty hidden corner bee looked so shabby.
I sat down on the floor and reached out a finger. Laohu's toil
twitched, and he pounced playfully. I laughed, stroking his back. Lash purred under my hand.
"How've you been, old buddy?"
Laohu stopped playing. He got up, jumped with feline grace into
my lap, and proceeded to unfold himself.
In my lap was a square of creased wrapping paper, the plain side up. It was filled with dense Chinese characters. I had never learned to read Chinese, but I knew the characters for "son," and they were at the top, where you'd expect them in a letter addressed to you, written in
Mom's awkward, childish handwriting.
Iwent to the computer to check the Internet. Today was Qingming.
I took the letter with me downtown, where I knew the Chinese tou
buses stopped. I stopped every tourist, asking, Nin hui du zhong ma? Can you read Chinese? I hadn't spoken Chinese wasn't sure if they understood.
in so long that
A young woman agreed to help. We sat down on a benci 6
not human, not in the sense Maggie would have underst a They were composed of more metal than water, and they we ger trapped by the limits of organic chemistry. The colonists ou constructed forges and foundries, and their descendante out across the globe.
term e no lon-
Most of the time they chose to merge into the Singularitv
overall World-Mind that was both artiicial and organic, where en passed in a second as thought was processed at the speed of quantun
computation. In the world of bits and qubits, they lived as gods
But sometimes, when they felt the ancestral longing for phvsi. cality, they could choose to become individuals and be embodied t machines, as Atax and his companions were. Here, they lived in the
slow-time, the time of atoms and stars.
There was no more line between the ghost and the machine.
"This is what humanity looks like now, Atax said, spinning around slowly to display his metal body for the benefit of the colonists on the Sea Foam. "Our bodies are made of steel and titanium, and our brains graphene and silicon. We are practically indestructible. Look, we can even move through space without the need for ships, suits, layers of
protection. We have left corruptible flesh behind."
Atax and the others gazed intently at the ancient humans around them. Maggie stared back into their dark lenses, trying to fathom how
the machines felt. Curiosity? Nostalgia? Pity?
Maggie shuddered at the shifting, metallic faces, a crude imitation of flesh and blood. She looked over at Bobby, who appeared ecstatic. "You may join us, if you wish, or continue as you are. It is of course dificult to decide when you have no experience of our mode of exis
tence. Yet you must choose. We cannot choose for you.
Something new, Maggie thought. Even eternal youth and eternal life did not appear so won
ful compared to the freedom of being a machine, a thinking a
equipped with means for deceleration. They would accelerate forever
asymptotically approaching the speed of light, until the shine of fuel and coasted along at the final crusing speed, toward th. of the universe.
Within their frame of reference, time would ass normally. outside the ship, the rest of the universe would be hurtling alonc
its ultimate doom against the tide of entropy. To an outside ohses
time seemed to stop in the ships.
Plucked out of the stream of time, the children would grow
a few years older, but not much more. They would die only when the universe ended. This was the only way to ensure their safety, the adults explained, an asymptotic approach to triumphing over death They would never have their own children; they would never have to mourn; they would never have to fear, to plan, to make impossible choices in sacrifice. They would be the last Thereals alive and possibly
the last intelligent beings in the universe.
All parents make choices for their children. Almost always they think it's for the best.
All along, I had thought I could change her. I had thought she would want to stay because of me, because of our child. I had loved her because she was different; I also thought she would transform out of
"Love has many forms," she said. "This is mine."
Many are the stories we tell ourselves of the inevitable parting of lovers when they're from different worlds: selkies, gu huo niao, Hagoromo, swan maidens. . .What they have in common is the belief by one half of a couple that the other half could be changed, when in fact it was the difference, the resistance to change, that formed the foundation of their love. And then the day would come when the old sealskin or feather cape would be found, and it would be time to
"What game do you like?” I ask.
" Asteroid Defender!” Eric says. "Now that is a good game. You get to save the world."
“I mean a game you do not play on the computer."
Bobby shrugs. “Chess, I guess. I like the queen. She's powerful and different from everyone else. She's a hero."
Chess is a game of skirmishes," I say. “The perspective of Go is bigger. It encompasses entire battles.”
“There are no heroes in Go," Bobby says stubbornly.
I don't know how to answer him.