10/13/23 – Brain Design

Spacetrawler, audio version For the blind or visually impaired, October 13, 2023.




You can lead a horse to water…


  1. russell

    Almost what I said. I said “unexpected” side effect. Surely it must have been unexpected.

    As is, she clearly needs to be locked up in a laboratory somewhere. But she’s so smart that she could get out whenever she wants. Something like the clamping device used on Eebs might work. She’s probably the only one that could design such a device.

  2. sfriedberg

    Different perspective here, I’m afraid. I see no reason she needs to be locked up in a lab. Quite the contrary, she’s been a tremendously productive and generally beneficial member of society at large. At most she might need to hire a “moral compass” advisor. She’s already clearly done enough self-reflection to recognize her behavior might be unsettling.

    1. russell

      Only if the moral compass advisor had some way to enforce her decisions.

      She has SOME empathy, a person she trusts might be enough. Someone that would be useful in other ways would be best.

  3. Efogoto

    So when Choan’s host (who hates euphemisms) says “they cut much of that part out”, is that genetic modification or brain surgery?

    Or maybe it was the way Milton the Monster was made:

    Six drops of essence of terror
    Five drops of sinister sauce

    Now for the tincture of tenderness
    But I must use only a touch

  4. Pete Rogan

    Methodology aside, Choan is a made monster, the end result of her parents with a specific, determinedly amoral goal for the child they created and then customized. This expands the pool of people to blame but, really, what good does that do now?

    Choan’s not a full sentient. She’s a machine, built to a purpose which, we are now quite sure, she has fulfilled utterly. Having completed her task… what is left for Choan to do now?

    More mayhem? Why? I’m sorry, sfriedberg, but Choan has shown that she cannot be trusted with freedom or with the free exercise of her considerable intellectual skills. Her capacity to do harm quickly outscales any unmodified ‘minder’s ability to determine what is wrong and what is permissible. Since she has no control herself, this means that harm will happen long before the ‘minder’ can so much as warn others as to what is happening.

    But one wonders if the same skills that produced Choan couldn’t produce an anti-Choan… a moral, surpassingly comprehensive sympathetic soul who could in fact determine when Choan were going off the rails, and act to stop her. Choan’s mechanical ability could not be equaled, but to date all of Choan’s inventions and technical developments have been that, technical, and amoral in operation. What if the anti-Choan could tweak a device, an invention, to thwart or at least hinder its capacity for harm? A circuit breaker in the atomic bomb, if you were. Or a tiny impurity in an otherwise-lethal gas that turns it into pink foam upon release.

    But of course somebody would have had to have done this work decades before to make an anti-Choan ready to combat her thoughtless ways now. Haven’t got that. We’re left with the disposal question again… if we can get her into the stasis chamber.

  5. Griffin

    Comparing her to Eebs feels… wrong. She’s capable of catastrophic stuff, but she’s not an entire species of horrifically powerful telekinetics that could legit conquer and enslave a galaxy.

    I think there’s a possible route of goodness and peace for Choan it just needs to be…. Incentivized I think. I think all of this is effecting much more than can be seen, by her or us. She may not even be capable of recognizing it. But it may have an effect. At least to temper her some.

  6. sfriedberg

    Pete Rogan, I am not sure I have been reading the same webcomic as you. Choan not fully sentient? A machine built to a purpose? How do you come to that conclusion?
    russell, Choan requires a leash? Seriously?

    Tell me, folks, do you condemn the Vulcans of Star Trek as intrinsically amoral, incapable of morally correct action, and needing to be locked up as irredeemable dangers? If not, why not? They exercise “considerable intellectual skills” and are physically powerful, admit no place for emotion in dealing with others, and reduce empathy to an exercise in logic. If the proper way to deal with Choan is to lock her up, then why is that not the proper way to deal with Sarek?

  7. Pete Rogan

    sfriedberg: Choan is sentient, but she is not A sentient — a being capable of consciousness, reflection, self-doubt and reappraisal of goals, means and ends. Choan’s got none of these in favor of an increase in mechanical and mathematical capability. As such, she is little more than a tool. The only thing possibly worse would be for her ‘minder’ to determine that they have a better purpose to turn this tool toward, for wealth or power or simple revenge. This possibility cannot be eliminated. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen?

    I don’t know where you picked up your scant knowledge of Star Trek’s Vulcans, but it was an empty store, to be sure. The Vulcans turned to logic only after they suffered devastating wars among themselves, the result of uncontrolled and self-reinforcing emotions. Sarek is respected (no, not quite revered) because he brought logic to bear on the conflicts of the Vulcans, and made a winning case for self-control and calm. I find it curious, sfriedberg, that you picked up on one of the fictional popular misconceptions of what the Vulcans are about that fed prejudice and hostility against them in the Star Trek background. It was a created misunderstanding in the background material to drive story ideas and serve as a possible source of conflict. It’s not what the Vulcans are like at all. That’s kind of like mistaking Martin Luther King, jr, for a Black Panther. Your entire line of reasoning is discarded.

    Choan has not yet acted on any impulse, or question, or spurt of curiosity back in her hometown. It’s possible she might yet have a moment of inspiration, or of curiosity, toward things the data terminals do not mention. I’m continuing to watch for such, not that they’re guaranteed to appear. Given Choan’s amoral and largely ahistorical approach to the past, this would be aberrant for her. But not impossible.

    With that thought in mind, think I’ll pour myself a brandy and settle down for the evening. This story will abide to Monday, to be sure. Best to make sure I can, too.

  8. Pete Rogan

    Oh yeah. Before I forget again, Christopher, your aphorism ahead of the comment section reminded me of the Algonquin Club story where each member was asked to make a proverb out of a random word. Dorothy Parker was given ‘horticulture,’ which she turned into this deathless shibboleth:

    “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

  9. Demarquis

    So, Choan departed on a quest to discover more about herself and whether or not she is either insane or amoral. And the thing is, merely asking the question is proof positive that she has the potential to improve herself as a person, because if she couldn’t she could never have asked the question in the first place. This is a case where to ask the question is itself the answer.

    Now, not saying that improving herself will be easy. She may have a long quest ahead (her animal guide will be very helpful in that regard). But she has already begun the journey, so…

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