"I think, therefore I am a butterfly,
Ten millenia from now, a tiny flower's gentle call -
Through clouds of no dreams and no awakenings -
Shall flutter my colorful wings."
- Dai Wangshu
Notes lay scattered around my workstation, translucent ghost presences awaiting activation. I drew one into existence skimming over the contents, familiarizing myself with the layout, and inserting pointers that would link important material to the outline of my arguments. I continued, one by one, referencing and connecting, holograms blinking in and out of existence in response to my manipulations. The data seemed comprehensive, though less extensive than I would have liked, but time was not infinite. Satisfied that this would suffice, I expanded my viewpoint splaying out all the references in a web of connections that flickered like a filigree of stars, then with a sigh, contracted the structure into a single glimmering light. Access remote system: Hidari/Adroite Conference, Committee for Entity Classification, I directed my interface(1). The two neural networks exchanged activation patterns and the connection was established. I allowed the simulacrum to expand into my mindspace, an opulent room with a vaulted ceiling, all rich cherry paneling and black granite, dark and vacuous and cold. The rest of the delegation sat around a long heavy table, simulated personas a bit too refined to be real, but not entirely contrived. I smiled at the effect, this appearance of power, its resplendence tarnished by its own perfection, then quietly took my seat.
"Ah, Dr. Hidari, how are you this morning?" the chairman inquired with diplomatic pleasantry.
I am well, thank you.
"We are pleased you could join us. Your expertise will be a valuable asset. And I must say, you bring us a most interesting case."
It is my honor and my privilege simply to be considered before such an audience.
He gave a jovial laugh, deep and trembling from the belly. "Very well, then. Will you state your name and affiliation for the record?"
Dr. Keiji Hidari, neurobiologist, Boyle Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
"And so deeply humble, for the premier scientist in his field," a distinguished and elderly man added. My interface revealed his name as Edward Chambers, philosopher, philanthropist, and humanist and the head of the Second Chance Foundation. Further prompting revealed the other members in attendance - Peter Markham, reknowned professor of psychology from the University of California, Sacramento. Komiko Tenkawa, machine intelligence engineer from Praxis Technologies. Kassia Gavril, pacifist leader of the Global Organization of Denominations(2). Andrew Lancaster, cognitive science researcher at the North Dakota Institute of Technology. Commander Harrington, Department of Defense. And, of course, my lawyer, Gary Atkins.
Realizing that I had left Chambers' compliment hanging, I protested belatedly, and asking pardon for my lateness, suggested we begin.
The chairman nodded and said, "As you are all aware, this Committee has convened to discuss the on-going Hidari/Adroite case and how it may affect our definition of a legal entity. We hope that by bringing a wide variety of expertise and perspective to bear on this issue that we may find a mutually agreeable resolution. As with all such discussions we welcome all viewpoints and opinions, but please keep in mind that all arguments must be backed by solid factual evidence and clear moral consistences. Any abuse of these requirements, accidental or subversive, will be grounds for dismissal. Now then, I would like to open this discussion with a summary of the case at hand. Mr. Atkins, if you will."
Atkins stood up pertly. "Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman," he paused to collect his thoughts, then continued, "My client, Dr. Hidari, represents the left half of the bipartite entity(3) known as Hidari/Adroite. He has successful co-existed with his right half, the dream artist(4) Adroite, for most of his life, through a mutually agreeable alternation of control where while one is active the other sleeps or functions internally. Unfortunately this balance was shattered several months ago when Adroite suffered from a series of acute seizures. At first the doctors were mystified as to the cause of these attacks, but they eventually determined that the seizures were the result of all the illegal hardware in his brain. Adroite had implants far in excess of the safety guidelines as well as models he was not licensed to use. All of this made neuroreconstruction very difficult, and although the surgeons were able to rebuilt much of the damaged areas, Adroite was left unable to dream. Needless to say he was devastated. In a state of deep depression that neither medication nor therapy seemed to alleviate, and facing the prospect of having his implants forceably removed, Adroite attempted to commit suicide. The bullet passed clearly through his prefrontal cortex, causing severe damage but failing to kill him. While recovering in the hospital, Dr. Hidari requested legal counsel and pressed charges for attempted murder against Adroite. In any normal situation, this would seem absolutely ludicrous, but as a bipartite entity, although his halves do not yet have legal status, his condition does give legal precedence. The question becomes is Hidari/Adroite to be considered a single individual, at which point such charges would be meaningless, or should each half have its own status, at which point we have a most interesting case."
As Atkins concluded, Edward Chambers rose and asked in a deep sonorant voice, "If the Committee is not adverse, I would like to begin with the history of the split-brain issue." He paused scanning the room, and finding no obvious dissent continued, "Any precise determination of the earliest account of this phenomenon is long lost to the vagaries of time, but given the similar anecdotal nature of these cases, it will suffice to mention only one. A certain Miss Reynolds of the state then called Pennsylvania, was an educated woman with a quiet and forlorn nature. After a long period of sleep she awoke disoriented and unable to recognize even her own family. Indeed her loss extended to all her personal memories and her ability to read and write. More interestingly, her personality had changed drastically; she was now extroverted and adventurous. She was quickly able to relearn reading and writing and to restablish relationships. But after five weeks another such sleep occurred, and she reverted to her previous identity with no memory of what had happened in the interim. Such switches continued to occur for much of her life until she settled into the second state around age thirty-five and remained in such until her death at age sixty-five. Cause of death was unknown but occurred suddenly after she complained of an odd sensation in her head."
"Interesting," Lancaster piped, "Do you conclude that each of these two states had its own separate existence alternately as if two minds were sharing time in the same body?"
"I am not concluding anything," Chambers objected, "I merely thought I should indicate that this issue has a long historical precedence, and given that no resolution has been proposed during all this time, we should not be too hasty to put it in a box."
"Of course. Of course. What I really meant to ask is if these separate states exist at the same time with only one manifest or whether they exist alternately and are somehow passively stored in the interim?"
"Well, given that all we know of this case is but a story..." Chambers shrugged.
"Ah, true. One cannot come to such conclusions, but can one speculate on the possibilities?"
"Honestly, this seems a bit preposterous," Kassia Gavril retorted, "Just how would sleep instigate such a change?"
Current research seems to indicate that sleep functions as a restorative process in which the brain culls and organizes the information acquired during the previous day. This theory is supported by studies showing that learning improves after a sleep period, that performance declines during sleep deprivation, and that extended deprivation of slow wave and REM sleep show rebound.
"Then just how would sleep cause such wild personality shifts?"
It is possible that these long "sleep" periods were not representative of normal sleep.
Her eyebrows raised inquisitively. "Is that so?" she remarked. "Then what do you propose?"
If we were to assume that these two stages were representative of alternate hemispheric influence, such periods could represent a struggle for assertion in which each half vies for control. In my own case, such a struggle has been avoided because my two hemispheres are aware of each other and content to allow alternate use of our shared resources. However, it is likely that her halves were not so aware and magnanimous, and that this was simply a battle of systems activation.
"Then you presume this is a brain issue?"
My background would necessitate such a position. I do not mean to deny other avenues.
"So in your understanding, how would this be biologically possible?" Gavril asked.
Split brain patients have a significant portion of the corpus callosum and/or other minor commisures severed, nonfunctional, or absent. This means that certain signals cannot cross between the hemispheres, which in the most severe cases produces total isolation. Because the brain is not a symmetrical organ, certain capacities are either entirely present or more dominant in one hemisphere or the other. Language for instance is typically located in the left hemisphere, although auditory processing occurs in both. Visual processing is contralateral for each half of the visual field; the left half of the field of both the left and right eyes projects to the right hemisphere and the right half of the field to the left hemisphere. Thus a split brain patient will only be able to interpret words presented to the right visual field if, of course, they have that capacity in the first place. Similarly, since the body is mapped contralaterally, they will only be able to name objects held in the right hand. For minor deficits some of the lack of internal communication can be made up for by external awareness. For more severe cases, it is quite possible for the left hand to not know what the right hand is doing. My suspicion for this case is that the damage extended across higher level connections that functioned in control, planning, and memory while sparing the sensory and motor capacities. Thus control would no longer be a matter of mutual agreement, but a switch off between whichever side could control the motor output.
"And what of her behavioral tendencies? Markham inquired.
The workings of personality are not yet known at a neurobiological level. They seem to span a wide variety of systems and thus are not isolatable for studies of this sort. Although pathways of interactions are known, it is not certain which exact networks actually comprise such a system especially given the density of inputs and recurrence within the networks themselves.
Markham nodded, "At the psychological level, we tend to think of personality as a scale of opposing traits. Perhaps each hemisphere contributes weight to this scale, and when isolated it becomes tipped to a particular side."
"Interesting," Tenkawa commented, "And how would you account for the nature of her death?"
A stroke perhaps or an annuerism. The later could explain the origin of the damage if it were located adjointly to the callosum, and its growth could have aggravated the connection perhaps leading to these transitions.
"Still none of this answers my original question," Lancaster noted, "Did she have two minds at once?"
By the modern definition split-brain humans are declared bipartite entities and are considered to have a multi-part mind, but only in the most severe cases could this be considered to approach two separate and distinct minds. Given the absence of modern medical treatment, it is possible that the disconnection was sufficient enough to produce two minds, especially considering she received no integration therapy. The absence of personal memory between phases supports such a possibility.
"Interesting," Lancaster mused, "Do you consider yourself to have two minds?"
As my disconnection is congenital, my two halves have been functionally isolated since birth. Such a setup would naturally lead to the development of fully separate systems. I consider my mind to be distinct, but I have no means of determining whether it is discontinuous from Adroite. And even if we were to assume that we were two minds, I must admit that at this point Adroite has become severely impaired and may no longer be capable of functioning as a distinct mind. Indeed he relies on his interface for almost all functionality in the prefrontal areas.
"So in essence what we have is a mind pressing charges against its damages for its damages?" Lancaster joked.
Atkins frowned while looking over at me, then facing Lancaster announced, "There is no evidence that Adroite is incapable of rational thought and thus unaccountable for his actions."
"Dr. Hidari, you had mentioned that Adroite was highly dependent upon his interface for functionality," Komiko Tenkawa pointed out, "Could you please expound upon this point?"
Brain activity indicates that visual processing is for the most part spared as damage seems to have been limited in the posterior region. There is some degradation of facial and object recognition, as well as some added latency in the systems supporting viusal-spatial interactions. Anterior damage is quite extensive, large regions of the prefrontal and premotor areas are significantly impacted and not suitable to reconstruction. In fact, aside for baseline firing rates and the occasional spatter of activity, there is no natural functioning within these regions. I am unable to fully quantify the nature of the support his interface is providing, but I assume that it includes all the normal activities from these areas.
"These areas are involved in planning and control, correct?" Komiko asked suddenly looking very concerned.
Yes, the prefrontal region is implicated in working memory as well as long-term planning and behavioral control.
"Mr. Atkins, you mentioned that this interface was highly extensive, but you did not indicate any particular models. What hardware does Adroite have installed?"
"It isn't a standard system," Atkins replied, "Everything was custom. It had to be with the types of demands he put on it."
"Do you know what components were used?"
"I do," Harrington interrupted.
Heads turned when the commander spoke.
"Adroite was outfitted with a wide variety of top of the line multimedia processors, your latest IntraVision K36s, Amtel CGXs, and Kacion x369s, all rather standard for a dream artist, but of course, Adroite was not content to be ordinary, so what he lacked in remarkableness, he made up for in volume. His brain is literally riddled with processing units to the point of being more machine than organic. Of course, all of these systems couldn't be run by a standard central unit..." he trailed off with a smile.
"You're implying special military hardware?" Lancaster prompted.
"I'm not implying anything."
"But you knew about his illegal augmentations?"
"We were made aware of such activity."
"But you did nothing to stop him?" Gavril accused.
"It is not our place to police such things."
"Or even to inform those who do." Harrington remained silent. "What was so important about this interface that you would risk a man's life for it?" Kassia demanded.
"Perhaps we should ask Hidari/Adroite that?"
I am uncertain as to what you are referring to. I was not aware of Adroite's activities until they were discovered in the hospital.
"But you are aware now?"
Something about the question made it seem as if it were not quite intended for me, as if he were speaking through me, to someone else. I was puzzled and concerned. I knew that Adroite's implants had been illegal, I knew that they had been extensive and powerful, but I could not imagine how this would concern a military official.
"Ah, perhaps not then. I will be waiting if you have anything to add." And with that his simulacrum disappeared.
"What was all that about?" Lancaster asked.
I am not certain.
"Strange," he commented, "So what now?"
We continue with our discussion as before.
"Well, I for one am tired of talking about Adroite as if he weren't even human. He isn't some damaged brain. He certainly isn't a machine. He is a human being with a human mind and a human soul," Gavril proclaimed.
"We weren't trying to detract from his humanity-" Chambers began.
"No, you were just going to ignore it completely. Science likes to trap the human soul in the human body, but the soul is intangible and eternal and not subject to such limitations. It transcends such existences."
"I do not believe this discussion is attempting to quantify the soul."
"The soul is the source of the mind."
"Ah," Chambers chuckled, "You argue the dualist position then."
"I argue the position of God."
"Yes?" His eyebrows raised. "And how do you propose than an intangible substance such as the soul is able to interact with the physical world?"
"Just because science cannot explain what it fears-"
Science cannot explain what it has no means of testing, I interjected perturbed by this shift in the conversation. It can neither prove nor disprove such phenomenon.
"So it chooses to ignore it."
It chooses to set it aside until new facts can be brought to bear. And if we talk not of possibility, but of plausibility, then your position begins to hold less viability. If we consider the physical laws probable, then we cannot conceive of a nonphysical thing affecting a physical one. There simply is no mechanism.
"You would have us a simple whim of the universe, a random possibility of infinite possibilities governed by physics alone! And what does your own mind tell you, are all your actions, your dreams, your passions but the will of chemical interactions?" she scoffed.
My mind likes to convince itself of its own importance, but that does not make it true. Appeal was never evidence for any theory. We like to hold our minds as sacred, but the more we learn of neurobiology, the more we realize that our minds are but another step in the natural progression of the aeons. That our special cognitive abilities and aptitudes are simply another addition that evolution found useful to our species' survival.
"We are more than mere monkeys!"
Indeed, we are the apex of four billion years of evolution, and what an immense honor that is - but we are still ultimately connected to our lineage.
"Perhaps an evolution of the brain. But not the mind. Humans have thoughts and feelings and dreams. Animals simply have behavior."
"That is a flawed assumption," Markham asserted. "As a behavorist, I must insist that we cannot know inner states except as their resultant behavior. Humans and animals alike."
"I feel pain and love and joy and sadness. You cannot deny these things," Kassia asserted.
"When you are injured, your behavior will be such that you will avoid situations that were like the one that caused the injury."
"How can you claim that suffering isn't real? Do the persecuted not feel anguish? Do the tortured not feel torment? Are all our tears wasted? Our efforts hopeless?"
"I agree with Gavril," Lancaster said, "We do have inner states. That they result eventually sometimes in certain behaviors is irrelevant to determining their existence. After all I can believe that helping out the poor is a good thing, but never once give to charity."
"Not all behaviors are direct from the original stimulus or situation-" Markham began.
"No - but what do you consider that inner knowledge that transpires between many such situations and some potential behavior in the future? It's undeniable that there is some internal representation of all this. Whether you wish to give these inner states the quality of the mind or not is a matter of semantics, but you cannot deny that they exist."
"I see you are going to be incorrigible," Markham assented throwing his hands in the air in defeat.
"And do you define these inner states as a quality of the mind?" Chambers inquired.
"Yes, but they are both a quality of the mind and of the brain, each corresponding directly to the the other in a one-to-one function, one brain state representing one mind state," Lancaster answered.
"Identity theory," Chambers identified.
"Yes." Lancaster smiled.
"But must it be one-to-one? Does one brain state necessarily indicate one mind state? Or must one mind state be limited to one brain state?" Chambers argued.
If the mind is considered to be the pattern of activity in the brain, then yes, such functions must be one-to-one; however, if the mind is defined more abstractly, as higher order features of perception, then a single brain state cannot account for all categories included within a single perception. For instance, the perception of the color red does not require the exact same activation in every instance, there is a certain amount of noise in the system, that will still allow for it to be red. It would have to function this way, for a single neuron never fires exactly the same way, much less a whole population like that needed to encode such a representation.
"But the premise of the mind and brain representing each other is valid," Lancaster amended.
That the mind and brain are integrally connected, each affecting the other, is consistent with current neurobiological understanding.
"So then a split-brain patient, which has two brains, must have two minds," Chambers concluded.
Assuming the premise is valid...and as I have mentioned, assuming that that brain is capable of housing a mind. A brain with relatively few neurons such as the leech can perform useful behavior, but does it have a mind? What level of sophistication is required? And what sort of brain is required to support it? Can a single hemisphere house all the necessary functions for a mind? What if it is damaged?
"And what if it is augmented?" Tenkawa added.
"What do you mean by that?" Lancaster asked.
"If Dr. Hidari's assessment about the extent of the damage to his right hemisphere is correct, it should be thoroughly incapable of functioning, and yet it obviously did function and remains functioning."
"Are you proposing that intact left side sent instructions to the right?" Chambers asked.
"No," Komiko replied, "I believe that his interface did."
The room went silent.
"That would explain the military interest, if this really is a nascent machine intelligence," Lancaster noted.
"Machines don't have souls," Gavril said.
"But they can have minds. We had been close, on the verge, but there was always something amiss..." Tenkawa sighed, "But I think I understand now why we failed all those times."
"Please explain," Chambers asked.
"We had always tried to program our intelligences, to built the categories and the relationships ourselves, to design the entire system, it had never occurred to us that like biological intelligences, they could be grown. That would have seemed too haphazard a process with too many uncontrollable factors and too many unforeseeable results. We were constrained by our need to constrain. But this system was not programmed or designed, it was literally dreamed, an echo of Adroite's mind."
Then everything Adroite has done since his attempt has been an act of his interface? I found the idea disconcerting and yet strangely appealing. And just what did this make me?
"But how can it have a mind? Will? Desire?" Gavril objected.
There is no reason to believe that the biological architecture upon which our brain is based is the exclusive medium for the mind. It is a matter of functionality not of composition. Any system that provides the necessary mechanisms should be capable of supporting a mind.
"And so we hit upon functionalism," Edward commented. "And this philosophy truly is a matter of definition."
"It seems the harder we try to define the mind, the harder it becomes to define," Lancaster lamented. "Can we ever truly know what the mind is?"
The room fell silent, pondering the idea, at a loss for an answer. I thought over all the ideas proposed, testing them where they conflicted, integrating them when they diverged, but in the end all I was left with was questions and arbitrary definitions. I felt despondent in my inability and ready to leave the whole concept to other minds, but then a thought occurred to me.
Perhaps the mind is self-defining.
"What do you mean?" Chambers asked.
If a mind believes that it is a mind, then perhaps it is.
"An odd notion," Edwards exclaimed, "but not without merit. I suppose you have a unique perspective on this, doctor. Do you consider yourself a mind?"
An odd thing happened then. As I forwarded my words to my interface, it seems Adroite's interface did as well. Our voices came out a simultaneous word. We answered in unison, simply, "Yes."
1) neural interface - An implanted device that translates between neural and computer systems.
2) Global Organization of Denonminations (GOD) - An organization devoted to the unification all religions and denominations.
3) bipartite entity - A person considered to have two minds as the result of a physical neurological disconnection between hemispheres (split-brain). Not to be confused with psychological phenomenon such as multiple personality disorder. Although bipartite entities may be given practical distinction, legal segregation is far more dubious.
4) dream artist - An artist who creates "dreams", neural programs that interact with the user's mind to create a dreamspace that is a combination of the artist's designs and the user's own memories and experiences. Considered to be the ultimate in interactive and personalized entertainment.