Mar 7, 2013

Bimanoid Theory

I previously mentioned the idea that in Chapter Three of Exode the protagonist, Parthney, achieves a form of tenuous contact with the alien Huaoshy through the medium of Robin, a seemingly unsophisticated robotic assistant at Lendhalen. For stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe I generally imagine very little direct interaction between humans and the Huaoshy. Sure, if there is an emergency, as in The Start of Eternity, then the Huaoshy will step in to set things straight and they might come as close as possible to taking human form so as to facilitate a needed change to human civilization. In Exode, is Parthney facing some kind of emergency when Robin starts "channeling" the Huaoshy?

Pla'kao, co-director of Lendhalen, has plans for Parthney. A Buld spaceship will soon visit Earth and the ancient Interventionist/Overseer dynamic on Earth is threatening to crumble. Pla'kao does not want to risk Humanity becoming the next sapient species in our galaxy to destroy itself in a technological disaster. As he learns about Earth's history, Parthney can't help wondering if he'd only make thing worse by visiting Earth. Maybe Gwyned should return to Earth: isn't she better equipped to manage the technological difficulties that are now facing the Earthlings? When Parthney loses interest in going to Earth, the Huaoshy step in (literally "step in" to Robin) and nudge him back into line, back on the path to Earth.

Robot, woman, alien Huaoshy?
I was never certain what Gene Roddenberry had in mind for the Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain. Did we ever see the "true form" of the Excalbians? Had they developed beyond the biological limitation of having a physical form? Maybe they just looked into the thoughts of Kirk and borrowed from his mind a rock-like body form that Kirk was most likely to believe could be used by a creature from a planet like Excalbia where the whole surface was covered with molten rock and lava flows. Could the Excalbians instantiate themselves in any convenient physical form?

In the case of the Huaoshy, they long ago transformed themselves from biological organisms to artificial life forms composed of "sedronic matter". However, when needed, the Huaoshy can integrate swarms of their zeptoscale components into people or robots, essentially instantiating a locus of Huaoshy consciousness in a convenient chunk of conventional matter. In Exode, this is how Robin suddenly becomes more than a just a robot.

Presidents in space
Pla'mak, the other co-director of Lendhalen, has long worked to establish a process by which advanced technology might be transferred from Genesaunts living on worlds of the Galactic Core to Earthlings. However, the Huaoshy seem to carefully control the pace of technological advancement on worlds like Earth, so Pla'mak has long felt frustrated. Pla'mak long ago became convinced that the Creators constantly observe the actions of Genesaunts, leaving them little room to intervene into the course of Earthly affairs.

Pla'mak can never forget that prior to the establishment of Lendhalen there was another Interventionist training base on Oib....until the day when it was suddenly and completely obliterated. Interventionists at training bases like Lendhalen try to conceal their rebellion against the pek, but Pla'mak suspects all efforts geared towards secrecy are wasted effort. It might be a simple matter to exclude the pek and their nanites from Lendhalen, but the Huoashy could have as yet undetected ways of monitoring events inside Lendhalen. It turns out that Pla'mak's intuitions an paranoia are well justified!

Let me explain why I've called you here this evening....
For the past 20,000 years the Buld revolutionaries have worked diligently to strip pek nanites from their bodies and cloister themselves in places like Lendhalen where they can live free of pek interference. Pla'mak is correct to suspect that the Creators do not rely on anything as primitive as pek nanites to monitor the actions of the Buld and she long ago initiated a research program aimed at testing the idea that even after a powerful magnetic field is used to inactivate pek nanites in a person's body some other foreign material remains "stowed away" inside humans. Although that research effort has never succeeded, it is true that there are other tiny symbiotic elements inside humans that can replicate and allow for direct interactions between humans and the Creators.

In the theory developed by Pla'mak, the term "bimanoid" is used to refer to the never-interrupted linkage between humans and the Creators. Pla'mak has suggested that every human is continually a functional duality: part biological organism, part non-biological Huaoshy symbiont. This concept has leaked into the general awareness of the Buld revolutionaries and it has developed into the common belief in a "soul" as the homuncular component that is hidden away inside people.

macroscopic symbiont
The typical effort to experimentally confirm the bimanoid theory is to collect tissue from humans, digest away the biological components and attempt to identify a remaining non-biological residue, possibly something like a pek nanite, but different. Sadly, Pla'mak and her Interventionist friends don't have the technological means to detect the swarms of tiny devices, even smaller than pek nanites, that are inside their bodies. A popular science fiction theme is macroscopic symbiotic organisms that can reside in human bodies, but what if there was no way to physically detect a symbiont that was hidden away inside us?

Last year when I was sketching a fan fiction sequel to Sagan's story Contact, I needed a way to account for the ability of Sagan's Hadden character to be so in tune with the aliens. I proposed that it is possible for a collection of nanites to move from one human body to another, essentially carrying a mobile consciousness from one human body to another. Following his death, the symbiotic collection of nanites that was inside Hadden and which allowed him to function as an Interventionist agent leaves his body then migrates and takes up residence inside Kate. To what extent can we say a conscious being exists as that swarm of nanites...maybe such a swarm is only a
"potentially conscious being"? Does that "being" only really exist after being "incarnated" by the nanite swarm establishing a symbiotic relationship with a human body?

The search for new life and new civilizations leads to...
a planet with rivers of lava!
For Exode, I imagine that the pek keep a record of each person's genome. The truth behind Pla'mak's theory of the bimanoid is the presence in each person of zeptoscale nanite-components that function as symbiotic extensions of the Huaoshy. Can we define a human being as a particular body formed around a specific genome in combination with a particular "bimanoid symbiont"? And is every "bimanoid symbiont" actually a conduit for interactions between Humanity and the Huaoshy? I assume that the Huaoshy have very little interest in what happens to most people: no more than we would be able to generate for each blade of grass in a pasture. However, there might be a few critically important times when the Huaoshy would pay more attention to what is going on in the pasture.

First Contact
The "big impending event" in Exode is the arrival of a Buld spaceship in the Solar System. The Huoashy are inherently interested in how the Earthlings might react to First Contact with creatures from another world. Just as much of our own cortical brain activity might not be worthy of close conscious attention, the Huaoshy might ignore most of the information that is available to them from the symbiotic "bimanoid" elements that are inside each person. However, when something special is going to happen (like a First Contact event) the Huaoshy might "tune in" and pay special attention to human affairs...particularly the few humans who will be directly involved in the First Contact.

Hollywood geology
The Huaoshy have ethical restrictions on the extent to which they can interfere with the normal development of sapient species. Since Parthney is preparing for a mission to Earth, the Huaoshy have a "hands off" policy with respect to his thought processes: they would not make use of their "bimanoid interface" with Parthney to take direct control of his behavior. However, Parthney is not just a "typical false Buld". His genome first arose thousands of years ago on another world of the Galactic Core. That genome has previous been "instantiated" in flesh several dozen times and the "bimanoid-generated record" of the brain structure and thought processes for each of those "versions" of "Parthney" is on hand. The zeptoscale symbiont that now resides inside Parthney was carefully designed and it shaped his mind and personality while he was growing up on Hemmal. Was Parthney thus "reincarnated"? Not in the conventional sense, but the person who is Parthney was selected and shaped by the Huaoshy for his special role during the approaching First Contact event between the Buld and Earth.

This reminds me of Isaac Asimov's character Golan Trevize. Asimov never really explained the basis of Golan's perfect "intuition". In the case of Parthney, he is a great choice to play the role of the last Interventionist agent to go from Lendhalen to Earth because the Huaoshy have spent the past 20,000 years searching for the best candidate to play that role, and Parthney is their choice. 

Parthney and Robin
What about Robin? During different parts of Chapter Three in Exode, Robin operates in two distinctive modes. In the "robotic mode", Robin is simply a useful assistant who can cook and perform mundane tasks for Parthney. At other times, Robin instantiates a complex "bimanoid symbiont" that can provide information about conditions on Earth and help shape Parthney's thinking and prepare him for his mission to Earth. That instantiated intelligence that interacts with Parthney from the locus of Robin's robotic body is not really a "reincarnation" of some individual. It is more of a conduit for Huaoshy interaction with the human species: a "user interface" that functions as a nexus of information about all of humanity: this is quite a resource for Parthney!

Specifically, "Robin" can access a "database" containing the available information from each human's "bimanoid symbiont" from all of past human history and the entire present population of Earth. During the time when Parthney is using the conventional records available at Lendhalen to study Earth history, Robin occasionally allows Parthney to access part of the data stream that is available to the Huaoshy from the entire "bimanoid symbiont network" of Humanity. Is this an unfair advantage to give to an Interventionist agent? Not really; the Observers have always been allowed to tap into parts of this available data stream. When the Huaoshy want the Interventionists to be on equal footing with the Overseers they can step in and grant someone like Parthney special access to the bimanoid data. In this way, the Huaoshy have long been able to precisely maintain a balance of power between Interventionists and Overseers.

This balancing act reminds me of the situation that Jack Vance described for the Institute in his Demon Princes novels. Humanity at large was pitted against the institute and the ruling junta of the Institute sometimes sided against the rank and file members of the Institute so as to prevent the institute from too completely stifling Humanity.

"we've learned not to fear words"
One of the reasons that Parthney was selected to be the last Interventionist agent from Lendhalen is that he has a highly efficient brain for making use of his own mirror neurons, resonance between pek nanites in his brain and the brains of other people and utilizing available resonances between his personal "bimanoid symbiont" and the entire "bimanoid symbiont network" of Humanity. When he is given access to special information about Earth and specific Earthlings by Robin, Parthney processes the information at a largely unconscious level that he never questions- and he never discusses this "special access" with his Buld handlers at Lendhalen.

The Savage Curtain
When I was in my "golden age of science fiction" (age 12) and watching Star Trek, there were some episodes that really annoyed me. The Savage Curtain was annoying on many levels including:
1) it was one of the episodes where "good" was pitted against "evil"
2) it had one of the lame paper machete aliens that seemed biologically implausible
3) after the "reincarnation" of historical figures like Lincoln, the Enterprise just hurries on to the next mission..."we only seek out alien civilizations, we don't actually ever learn anything from them"
4) they had to throw in a Klingon.

I don't care what the readings are...he's dead, Jim.
The alien species (Excalbians) resides on a boiling planet, endlessly simmering on medium-high, apparently waiting until spaceships come wandering past. When the Enterprise arrives, the aliens learn to speak the language (English, of course; even the Klingon and the Vulcan speak English) and they create copies of long dead humans, Klingons and Vulcans complete with memories, copies that cannot be distinguished from normal living creatures. Of course, the aliens can also effortlessly take control of the Enterprise. The Excalbians have all of these amazing abilities, but for some reason they can't understand "good" and "evil". Lucky for NBC, they decide to stage a little experiment that will reveal the difference between good and evil. The script suggests that maybe one of the aliens is able to morph into the form of President Lincoln, or else "Lincoln" is simply materialized from scratch. Don't sweat the details...

Spock sums up the advanced technology of the Excalbians: "creatures able to control matter and to rearrange molecules in whatever fashion was desired. So they were able to create images of Surak and Lincoln after scanning our minds and using their fellow creatures as source matter".

Kirk: "Continue to our next assignment".

An hermaphroditic Pla takes the place of Balok
So, President Lincoln wasn't actually reincarnated. The Excalbian's "simply" looked into Kirk's thoughts and used his conceptualization of Lincoln as the basis for making a "Lincoln puppet" that was able to give Kirk the experience of having met Lincoln.

I previously made a list of other Star Trek episodes that might fit into the Exodemic Fictional Universe:
The Squire of Gothos - 2,000,000
Return to Tomorrow - 1,000,000
What Are Little Girls Made Of? - 500,000
All Our Yesterdays - 250,000
The Menagerie - 125,000
The Corbonite Maneuver - 50,000

In this list, "50,000" means that Balok's people might have been a branch of Humanity created by the pek about 50,000 years ago. I'm imagining that various such branches of Humanity might struggle for survival and struggle to advance their civilizations under the watchful guidance of the Huaoshy, thus resulting in scattered populations of humanoid through out the galaxy. Where might the Excalbians fall on this scale? Maybe somewhat behind the disembodied entities depicted in The Squire of Gothos, about 1,500,000?

Why might so many of the civilizations found scattered around the galaxy be confined to just a single planet? If their technologies are controlled by the Huaoshy then we can view them as isolated experiments, a few of which, like the Buld, are granted access to space travel technology. Maybe the Excalbians are not actually humanoids; possibly something quite alien like the Fru'wu. For Exode, I imagine that there are about 20 other sapient species from our galaxy being "cultured" by the pek.

Maybe only a few of these "experimental cultures" are designed to test the survivability of species under difficult conditions where there can be competition between "good" and "evil". In the case of the Buld, Pla'mak fears that they have made a mistake by allowing the Earthlings to rapidly develop a technological civilization. The Buld naively worked towards the goal of providing Earthlings with the ability to develop a technological civilization because they  could not imagine the kinds of "evil" that can arise from putting advanced technologies in the hands of the primitive Earthlings.

If the Huaoshy have been trying to "immunize" the Earthlings against the possibility of self-inflicted technological disasters, might Pla'mak sometimes find it useful to design experiments to test the "survival instincts" of people like Gwyned? Gwyned defies the rules that are imposed at Lendhalen, but her intentions are good. Might she actually qualify for service on Earth as an Interventionist agent, particularly if the Overseers abandon their work on Earth? Pla'mak and Pla'kao would have a hard time agreeing on that, just as they have differing views on what role the Interventionists should continue to play on Earth.

Original art by Pat Brennan
Asimov's Angst
For me, this raises the same issues that were explored by Asimov with his Laws of Robotics. Even if you are guided by good intentions, might your actions have disastrous consequences?

In The End of Eternity, Noÿs was ready to risk nuclear destruction in order to make sure that time travel technology did not arise. The interventionists are willing to risk technological disaster in order to give the primitive Earthlings a chance to survive and not be replaced by the hermaphroditic Prelands.

In Foundation and Earth, Golan is troubled by a similar dilemma. Is safety worth the cost of converting Humanity into Galaxia?

In the end, Exode must focus these sorts of questions squarely on the reader. Do we Earthlings have the wisdom to shape our own future as a species? Do we trust ourselves to make choices about the course of our civilization or would we welcome a god-like force such as the Huaoshy who could make decisions for us?

Kach and friends
If, on the basis of irrefutable evidence, that god-like power decided that it is not wise to allow Humanity access to science and advanced technology, would we object and insist that we be given a chance to prove our worth before being dumped into the waste bin of evolution? If given such an opportunity, what would be the wisest course for we Earthlings to take in trying to survive our technological adolescence? Does any one individual (such as Pla'kao) or any group of humans have the right to make such a decision?

In Foundation and Earth Golan Trevize had an ego that was large enough to encompass the entire galaxy; he was ready to decide the fate of the human species. In Exode, the Buld (and the Pla subgroup) have lived through ghastly experiences that make them humble and cautious. Gwyned is ready and willing to act decisively, but she finds no practical means to implement her plans. She is ready, but the time is not right. Kach will be in the right place at the right time.

Top, Pla'mak; bottom, Pla'kao
Pla'mak and Pla'kao
Back in January I started trying to imagine back stories for the co-directors of Lendhalen, Pla'mak and Pla'kao. Every 30 years they each go through "partial change" and they must then begin a period of re-learning who they are. Pla'kao went through partial changes in 1930, 1960 and 1990. During World War I, Pla'kao was profoundly influenced by the way that Earthlings began applying their growing scientific knowledge and technological sophistication to the creation of weapons of mass destruction. Up until the 20th century, Pla'kao and Pla'mak were in fundamental agreement about the mission of Lendhalen as a base for training Interventionists agents. However, after about 1925 Pla'kao began to develop fundamentally new ideas for the role of Interventionists on Earth. Pla'kao now believes that the true mission of the Interventionists has been the introduction of gene combinations to Earth that might regulate human behavior and prevent the Earthlings from destroying their budding technological civilization in a self-inflicted disaster similar to what obliterated the Fru'wu home world.

In contrast, Pla'mak remains true to the original goal of the Interventionists: pushing for ever more advanced technology on Earth. Pla'mak agrees with Gwyned: the Earthlings should be given all of the advanced technologies that are available to the Buld. Both Pla'mak and Pla'kao agree that they need to know more about the Overseers and their plans, particularly what will happen to Observer Base on the Moon when the Buld spaceship reaches Earth in the near future. Pla'kao wants to make sure that The Overseers continue to operate out of Observer Base; thon believes that the Overseers can act to prevent the Earthlings from continuing to develop technology at a pace too fast for them to control. Pla'mak want's to evict the Overseers, making it possible for the Interventionists to freely help the Earthlings adopt the advanced technologies that are available to the Buld who live in the Galactic Core.

Parthney is sent off to Earth, very much the man in the middle between the conflicting views of Pla'kao and Pla'mak.


Note. This is the third part of a three part series of blog posts in which I sort out the end game for the Interventionists who have been working for 20,000 years to bring we Earthlings out of the stone age.
Part One.
Part Two.

Bimanoid Interface. For more about the "bimanoid interface" see the next blog post.

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