Brain In A Jar: Book 1Marcus Freestone / Science Fiction
BRAIN IN A JAR
A SERIES OF NOVELLAS
ALL MATERIAL © COPYRIGHT MARCUS FREESTONE 2017.
Bath, England - March 2346
The prospect of having all his internal organs replaced by a computerised system was weighing on his mind somewhat. Kip nervously opened the brochure and scanned the introduction. Even though he knew that this was by far the best option, realistically his only option, he was still wary. At only fifty one he had been confidently expecting another sixty or seventy years of productive life, so it had been a great shock to be told that he needed this drastic procedure or he wouldn't even make sixty. As a scientist himself he had maybe fallen prey to the hubristic opinion that his species had successfully consigned all organic diseases to the rubbish heap of history (along with, of course, rubbish heaps and most of the other perverse mistakes of the industrial revolution).
So long as his brain was unaffected then he would be able to carry on with his work but, as a biochemist, he was all too aware of the complications of the ecosystem that is the human body. Although this procedure had been successfully carried out thousands of times over the previous few decades, and none of those people had yet died of anything organic or any complications of the operation itself, he was still trepidatious. This was his first experience of any kind of health problem and he supposed that he was merely suffering from an attack of perfectly understandable nerves at the prospect of plunging into the unknown. Even though he understood the science of the procedure, it would be physically and emotionally an entirely new experience to have people putting him to sleep and chopping out large parts of his body.
Kip had no worries about the financial aspect of the eye-wateringly expensive medical procedure. As a precocious student he had filed several chemical patents, two of which had been developed and earned him tens of millions of dollars. He had never married and had no children or expensive tastes and so had been able to pursue his scientific enthusiasms unhindered for the last thirty years. This was the first impediment that had ever interrupted what he had always assumed would be an easy and comfortable life.
He flicked his tablet onto the next page of the brochure and tried to focus. He understood all the science but the legal jargon was beyond him. There was also some stuff in there that looked like science but didn't make sense to him. He supposed that they had to cover themselves even though they had performed thousands of procedures over decades without a single problem arising. Doubtless a vast swathe of lawyers had earned millions for themselves by writing all this unnecessary blather; in his experience as a scientist the lawyers were mainly inadequate, uneducated people who could only get their kicks by obfuscating everything and confusing people. He had originally been determined to read all seven hundred plus pages of the document but he was developing a headache and it was a waste of time anyway. For two days he had tried to read the whole thing but it was exhausting. He had gone back to the beginning to have another go but he knew that he would never make it to the end. There was no reason to believe that after fifty years he would be the first person to experience a problem with the procedure; he knew that all the fail safes were as next to infallible as made no practical difference. He also knew that without the procedure he would become seriously ill within a few months and then have to face a slow, painful and totally avoidable death. He had no dependants and his colleagues would carry on his scientific work if the worst did somehow happen, so what the hell was he worrying about? He clicked to the end of the document and wrote his signature in several boxes with his fingertip, then, taking a deep breath, he clicked the consent button. Within a few seconds he received an acknowledgement and was told that he would have an appointment time for the procedure by the end of the day. Had he known exactly what GSKM really had in mind for him would he still have consented? That was a question he would never be able to answer honestly.
He stood up and walked to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Kip had never been that attached to his physical self but he found himself thinking that, strangely, he would miss having organic lungs, kidneys and a heart. In practical terms it would make no difference to his life, except to prolong it by several centuries (at least that's what the brochure claimed, though only another couple of hundred years would tell if that was scientific fact or merely part of the sales pitch; after all, once you had died, you couldn't exactly sue GSKM, could you?). No, he would carry on much as before, but would he feel any different having a computer in his chest and stomach? How far could you go, how many things could you replace, before you stopped being human? Kip had always found the media frenzy and philosophical debates around post humanism to be of little importance, but now that he had signed the consent form he was being forced to come off the fence. Would this make him an android? So long as his brain was unaffected then, as far as he was concerned, then he was still exactly the same person. After all, having an artificial knee didn't turn you into a robot, and how was having your organs replaced any different? No, the brain was all that mattered, everything else he had was just a meat vehicle for the three pound lump of neurons in his skull. Over the coming years Kip would remember that thought and this day and ponder upon it at length.
As he poured the tea he found himself more than usually aware of his body. He would also reflect on this in times to come and ask himself whether, deep down, he really had understood all of the GSKM brochure and known what was about to happen to him, but still gone through with it anyway. He was of average height and appearance and considered his brain to be his best feature by a long way. Not that he was by any means a stereotypical clumsy, socially awkward professor - far from it - but it was nonetheless an undeniable truth that he had dedicated himself wholeheartedly to a life of the mind, and most aspects of the physical world had just fallen away into insignificance over the years. He had never managed to sustain a physical relationship where the pros outweighed the cons, and all his colleagues who had partners, and especially children, suffered from what Kip saw as unacceptable interference with their scientific work. Now that he was faced with this drastic operation he was glad that he wouldn't have anybody fussing around him. All his friends were scientists of some description and they would surely accept this as a minor inconvenience and he would soon be back at work and everything would carry on as normal.
So why was something nagging away at him and unsettling him? And why was he on some level afraid of GSKM and what was about to happen to him?