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From: "Talarican" <exultnttalarican@mindspring.com>
Subject: (urth) A Soul in 2 Gigabytes of RAM
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 17:44:28 

Some reflections on the robots of 5HC

Much has been written about the soul Mr. Million, the purely electronic
cyborg "simulation", clearly exhibits. Indeed the simulation seems to have
more of a soul (filled primarily with regrets, it would seem) than Maitre or
the other living members of the Cave Canem clan put together. I think the
inclination of all Urthlings was to ascribe this at least in part to the
unconventional method by which it was originally programmed; it is in effect
a simplified bitmap of an actual person's mental synapses. And of course a
goodly portion of the regrets would accrue from the fact that the person
simulated was brain-fried to death by the process which mapped those

However, I notice a curious phenomenon near the end of "Fifth Head": Number
Five writes that his robotic guards at the prison camp in the Tattered
Mountains would listen to his stories of Mr. Million and occasionally
respond by sneaking him gifts of sweets and extra food. How do the 'stalking
machines' fit into this scheme? On this evidence, they seem to have souls
also. Why? Is the software technology of those backwater worlds, on which
reel-to-reel tape recorders are used * , so sophisticated that programmers
can give stalking robots artificial souls without "simulation"? Or is
"simulation" perhaps commonly utilized as a programming shortcut by the
authorities and the powerful on a world where human life is cheaper than
dirt, i.e. the 'stalking machines' are themselves simulations of some
hapless condemned criminals or slaves? Could this explain occasional cases
of robot guards going berserk, as Number Five relates?

I have to wonder, too, if the submission of 'Number One' to
simulation-with-extreme-prejudice was, er, entirely voluntary? I get the
impression that this sort of simulation is done clandestinely, or at least
in a very questionable manner, perhaps under the rubric of euthenasia. I
suppose these ten-nine unbound simulators and similar equipment are actually
ostensibly manufactured and sold with the "understanding" (wink, wink,
nudge, nudge) that they will be programmed by perhaps less authentic and
more conventional and kludgy methods that don't involve killing the
simulatee. If true simulations by particle beam examination of the brain are
done in "back alleys", is it a stretch to suppose that this procedure might
be forced on a simulatee, perhaps in order to dispose of an inconvenient
personage while preserving useful memories?

If Maitre (Number Four) assassinated Number Two, is it unreasonable to
suppose that the scanning process, by which Mr. Million (Number Three) came
to be, represented the assassination of Number One by Number Two? ** Mr.
Millions' one allusion to the occasion, as related by Number Five ("Until
today I had always thought they lied"), could possibly be construed as
lingering bitterness.

* Reel-to-reel?! aw come on! When 5HC was written, 8-track tape was in
vogue! Now THAT would have been a hoot!
** The person simulated by Mr. Million was by his admission Number Five's
"great grandfather", which means two more generations of clones, Maitre, and
his father whom he killed, transpired. And, cf. Tante Jeannine's remark that
the simulator itself must be included in the "count" in order for Five to be
the correct number for the narrator.

On the subject of the Cave Canem "family tree", here's another IAQ: what was
the question "Dr. Marsch" was leading up to asking Maitre, referring to the
progenitor of the series of clones, which Number Five interrupted with his
insults about "Marsch's" supposed Annese origin?

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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