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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A. I. High (Science Fiction)

by Brian Barr

Published: Brian Barr Books (March 1st, 2018)

Softcover, 26 pages

 “The sensations Spacix produced were nothing like Shinobu knew from past drug experiences. Cannabis programs made his inner motors hum and gave his circuits a “light” feeling, as if her were soaring above the clouds. Mushroom chips brought funny hallucinations and colors to his fiberoptic vision. Cocaine replications gave his motherboard an intense sense of energy, and he could study for hours with it, as well as with the Adderall programs he tried. Each e-drug gave its own effect, and all of them intrigued Shinobu, made him want to indulge more.”
The one thing which has always drawn me to cyberpunk stories is, at its best, the genre is an examination of what it means to be human, what defines humanity, and what is the line between sentience and programming. Back in the middle of the previous century, it was considered necessary for all literature (at least those which were to be taken seriously) to reflect on what was called “the human condition”. Then post-modernism came along and erased all that, playing as they did with all manner of conventions. The idea of “the human condition” was old hat. Except in the realm of sci-fi.
Author Brian Barr

Which brings us this story, number 3 in the Nihon Cyberpunk series, by emerging sci-fi writer Brian Barr. Here we see a the development of cyborgs as essentially comfort animals for those humans who have experienced loss, or in the case of our main character, who could not have children. In our protagonist, the nature of the cyborg’ simulation of actual human male adolescent characteristics is so accurate that he begins having teenage angst and experiments with e-drugs- the registered sensations of actual drug users broken down into code. As the protagonist takes the drug though, we wonder, is he actually enjoying it or is he simply running through a designated program of code. From that, we begin to question whether our own actions and predispositions are much different from this cyborg boy. In the old days, the Calvinists called this predestination, today we call it programming.

As is suggested by the tragic ending to this tale, how much of our lives is controlled by invisible forces beyond our control? How much of our lives can we really shape? How much are we just deluding ourselves?

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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