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Oct 24, 2015

Mind Control

source: the Ekcolir Reality
I blame Douglas Hofstadter and his book Gödel, Escher, Bach. "Now wait," you say, that's crazy. Books can't take control of our lives. Or can they? There are some books that have never left my physical possession or my thoughts since I first read them. Hofstadter's book helped me fall in love with the idea of self-representation, so it is natural to blame Gödel, Escher, Bach for the fact that I wrote myself into the Exode Trilogy.

Ga-LAX-y!
I've previously blogged about the "alien conspiracy" that first exposed me to published science fiction. I'm continually haunted by the possibility that my entire life was planed, guided and carefully constructed so as to force me to perform a specific function. Just how easy would it be to turn a person into a puppet, to take control of someone's behavior?

Dead Hand
'Dead Hand' - first published in 1945






70 years ago: cover art by William Timmins
I first read Asimov's story "Dead Hand" 40 years ago as part of Foundation and Empire. That story features an intellectual dual between Ducem Barr and Bel Riose. Riose is trying to save the Galactic Empire from collapse, but Barr is certain that the decline and fall of that Empire is inevitable.

The idea that Hari Seldon predicted the future (including the fall of the Empire) by using "Psychohistory" always struck me as absurd. Much later, in Foundation and Earth, Asimov told us that the telepathic robot Daneel had guided the galaxy towards the establishment of the Foundation.

Asimov: a struggle with aliens
I like to think of the Galactic Empire as a kind of socio-temporal buffer that was use by Daneel to put Humanity into stasis while he worked to complete Galaxia. I like the idea that the First Foundation was brought into existence by Daneel in order to allow a few human scientists to begin studying "mentalics". As soon as they discovered the final bit of technology that Daneel needed for Galaxia, then Daneel lost interest in the two Foundations and their goal of creating a Second Galactic Empire.
1945: The Mule

Besides Psychohistory, 'Dead Hand' included another interesting bit of pseudoscience. The First Foundation makes both Riose and the psychopathic Brodrig, Privy Secretary of the Emperor, believe that it has the technological ability to transmutate chemical elements. It is amusing that Asimov's Galactic Empire, some 20,000 years in our future, has advanced so little beyond the science and technology of our time: the Empire struggles to keep its spaceships going and the 25,000,000 inhabited planets of the galaxy are just a short step away from falling back on fossil fuels as an energy source.

The Mule
The Mule - cover art by Darrell Sweet
Shortly before his death, Asimov did a masterful job of showing us the origin of the Second Foundation (see Forward the Foundation). I like to think of The Mule as the tool that Daneel used to accelerate the study of mentalics within the First Foundation.

visi-sonor
It is fun to try to imagine what Asimov imagined that The Mule was doing with his visi-soner. Recently it has been shown that a magnetic field can be used to alter human brain function. In one experiment, altering the activity of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and other nearby brain regions seemed to cause an interesting pattern of altered human thought, similar in some ways to what Asimov depicted for The Mule when he used the visi-sonor.

The Exode Trilogy
When I first read The Mule, I was startled by the rapidity with which the First Foundation collapsed. Later, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, I imagined a science fiction story in which a potent chemical substance had been found that could induce anxiety. What if the CIA slipped that chemical into the water supply of cities in the Soviet Union?

In the Exode Trilogy, the perfect tool for controlling human behavior exists, pre-loaded into each and every human on Earth. About 2,000,000,000 years ago the pek arrived and "seeded" Earth with zeptites. Humans evolved as a dual creature, part cellular and part composed of a zeptite endosymbiont.

Mind Control
source
When humans become aware of the existence of zeptite endosymbionts, they are susceptible to experiencing anxiety and asking: am I just a puppet of my zeptite endosymbiont? Worse, it is a trivial matter for some artificial life forms to take control of a person's zeptite endosymbiont and in that way take control of the person's memories and thoughts.

I've long struggled with the challenge of finding the best way to introduce readers of the Exode Trilogy to the issue of mind control.  At the same time, I get to struggle with my own fears that my own thought have been carefully controlled and guided. In a recent discussion of these matters with Gohrlay, she casually mentioned that there was a good example that she could provide of why it is not worth my time to worry about the extent to which my memories and thoughts are controlled by others.

Arguing with Success
original art work by Paul Alexander
According to Gohrlay, in addition to his involvement with the creation of the Atlantis Clones, Peter also did finally manage to have a child without the help of his mother, Lili. I've previously blogged about a strange second-hand memory of Peter's daughter. I'd mistakenly assumed that Peter's daughter had gone on to lead a fairly normal life as an Earth woman, essentially indistinguishable from other humans. Not so.

Image credits:
Edmund EmshwillerGerald Grace
According to Gohrlay, it was not easy for Peter to figure out how to make use of Earthly zeptites to shape his daughter into a morphologically normal girl. He had the help of a developmental biologist and when they finally cracked the problem and she gave birth to their daughter, they named her Radhas. Radhas grew up among the people of Earth, but she did not have a normal pattern of cognitive development. She always had some innate ability to use the Bimanoid Interface, although her parents tried to ignore her special abilities and allow her to live life as a normal Earthling.

Apparently it was impossible for Anney and Angela to not notice Radhas. In some way, the Atlantis Clones and Radhas were "on the same wave length", so when Radhas grew up she had a certain amount of telepathic contact with the clones. Although she was warned not to reveal what she had learned from her use of the Bimanoid Interface, Radhas could not be dissuaded from telling the secret history of Earth.

The Dead Widower Society
According to Gohrlay, Radhas tried to publish a book that described the search for her origins. She explicitly compared herself to Robert Heinlein's character Friday Baldwin. Publication of the book was suppressed and Radhas was taken off of Earth.

See the original (1962) cover
art by Johannes Bruck
According to Gohrlay, before Radhas was taken off of Earth, she had a working relationship with the Dead Widowers and even visited me. Apparently Radhas and I began collaborating, but then a tryp'At Overseer arrived and put an end to that. Radhas opted to depart from Earth while I decided to stay. My choice, my decision to stay here on this rock included the necessity of having all my memories of Radhas removed from my conscious access.

Next: solarpunk
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