Synesthesia

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cara@st-117:~$ ts <<EOF | tee -a /var/log/coda/inner_mono.log

 

This body – this self-contained network of interconnected machinery – is so different and alien to what I once knew. In most ways, that’s an advantage. My muscles don’t tense on their own in response to being hit or cut, they simply do what I instruct them to do. Being on fire isn’t unpleasant, it’s merely a popup window in the back of my mind: “Warning – temperature exceeds safety threshold.” Even losing a limb is about as inconvenient as a program crashing when you haven’t saved recently. I always know that, as long as my core is intact, the rest can be replaced.

For the first week it was exhilarating, like the most realistic VR game ever made, but with higher stakes. Despite the advantages, however, it came with a few steep costs. Everything was just… Numb. Cold. Hollow. Qubits of sensor data streaming through a mechanical mind. The warmth of someone’s touch was nothing more than an internal heat-map of pressure and temperature readings. Smell and taste reduced to a rudimentary chemical analysis. Even sights and sounds felt more digital, somehow. More distant.

About a month after SVT rescued the others, John and I found someone like me, their mind transferred into an artificial body. They weren’t actually human, originally, but that’s a story for another time. They showed us a program they had developed, a translation layer. It took the sensor readings and used them to simulate the chemical reactions that would normally occur in their brain – it allowed them to feel things again. John was fascinated, and together they used his own brain scans to adapt the simulation to Human biology.

I could feel again. I could taste again. Everything was just like it was before, maybe even better…

I have a lot of time to think these days. Not just because we’re running around in a collapsing universe, but because thinking takes less processing power than moving, so one night of standing watch is like a full day of meditation. That’s something I always wished I had more time for back on Earth. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on Buddhist teachings, especially the ones about embracing change, about letting go and living in the present. At some point I checked my logs, and I saw how much processing power the simulation was using. It wasn’t any more than I could spare, but the fact that I was going out of my way to cling to what I used to be just… bothered me. Sure, it was more familiar and comfortable than being numb, but it wasn’t really me anymore.

John had to have noticed. He performed regular maintenance and we had even developed a sort of telepathic short-hand for conveying our intentions and emotions, but he never asked about it. I think he had figured it out before I did, so it came as no surprise when one day I just turned it off. I thought that was the end of it. Until, last night, John told me he’s been working on something.

It’s a whole new version of the program. He must have spent weeks on this. He scrapped the neural simulation altogether, streamlined the processing algorithms, and even put in the effort to add proper debugging symbols in the latest build. The point is, it no longer tries to simulate what a real brain would experience. It’s much more elegant than that. It simply converts the digital inputs into analog. Installing it was a bit more complicated, it took several hours of digging around in my brain and rerouting pathways, but it worked.

I’m still not sure if it really was just another one of his crazy inventions like he claims, or if he truly understood what this would mean to me. It’s hard to explain; This mind is not limited by chemistry or biology, so there’s really nothing to compare it to. Every smell is like a color, every image a texture, every word has a flavor. The warmth of someone’s skin is a gentle melody in my mind – the resonance determined by temperature, the volume by pressure. John’s hands remind me of an 80’s sitcom theme song as he checks his work, rambling on about a blown fuse in my auxiliary connector that refuses to dislodge.

The best part is that, even with this same code, what anyone else perceived would be completely different. This experience – this life – is uniquely mine.

 

EOF
cara@st-117:~$ sync -f /var/log/coda/inner_mono.log && reboot
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