When General Genius built the first mentar [Artificial Intelligence] mind in the last half of the twenty-first century, it based its design on the only proven conscious material then known, namely, our brains. Specifically, the complex structure of our synaptic network. Scientists substituted an electrochemical substrate for our slower, messier biological one. Our brains are an evolutionary hodgepodge of newer structures built on top of more ancient ones, a jury-rigged system that has gotten us this far, despite its inefficiency, but was crying out for a top-to-bottom overhaul.Or so the General genius engineers presumed. One of their chief goals was to make minds as portable as possible, to be easily transferred, stored and active in multiple media: electronic, chemical, photonic, you name it. Thus there didn't seem to be a need for a mentar body, only for interchangeable containers. They designed the mentar mind to be as fungible as a bank transfer.And so they eliminated our most ancient brain structures for regulating metabolic functions and they adapted our sensory/motor networks to the control of peripherals.As it turns out, intelligence is not limited to neural networks, Merrill. Indeed, half of human intelligence resides in our bodies outside our skulls. This was intelligence the mentars never inherited from us....The genius of the irrational......We gave them only rational functions -- the ability to think and feel, but no irrational functions... Have you ever been in a tight situation where you relied on your 'gut instinct'? This is the body's intelligence, not the mind's. Every living cell possesses it. The mentar substrate has no indomitable will to survive, but ours does.Likewise, mentars have no 'fire in the belly,' but we do. They don't experience pure avarice or greed or pride. They're not very curious, or playful, or proud. They lack a sense of wonder and spirit of adventure. They have little initiative. Granted, their cognition is miraculous, but their personalities are rather pedantic.But probably their chief shortcoming is the lack of intuition. Of all the irrational faculties, intuition in the most powerful. Some say intuition transcends space-time. Have you ever heard of a mentar having a lucky hunch? They can bring incredible amounts of cognitive and computational power to bear on a seemingly intractable problem, only to see a dumb human with a lucky hunch walk away with the prize every time. Then there's luck itself. Some people have it, most don.So this makes them want our bodies...Our bodies, ape bodies, dog bodies, jellyfish bodies. They've tried them all. Every cell knows some neat tricks or survival, but the problem with cellular knowledge is that it's not at all fungible; nor are our memories. We're pretty much trapped in our containers.
David Marusek
Is power like the vis viva and the quantite d’avancement? That is, is it conserved by the universe, or is it like shares of a stock, which may have great value one day and be worthless the next? If power is like stock shares, then it follows that the immense sum thereof lately lost by B[olingbroke] has vanished like shadows in sunlight. For no matter how much wealth is lost in stock crashes, it never seems to turn up, but if power is conserved, then B’s must have gone somewhere. Where is it? Some say ‘twas scooped up by my Lord R, who hid it under a rock, lest my Lord M come from across the sea and snatch it away. My friends among the Whigs say that any power lost by a Tory is infallibly and insensibly distributed among all the people, but no matter how assiduously I search the lower rooms of the clink for B’s lost power, I cannot seem to find any there, which explodes that argument, for there are assuredly very many people in those dark salons. I propose a novel theory of power, which is inspired by . . . the engine for raising water by fire. As a mill makes flour, a loom makes cloth and a forge makes steel, so we are assured this engine shall make power. If the backers of this device speak truly and I have no reason to deprecate their honesty, it proves that power is not a conserved quantity, for of such quantities, it is never possible to make more. The amount of power in the world, it follows, is ever increasing and the rate of increase grows ever faster as more of these engines are built. A man who hordes power is therefore like a miser who sits on a heap of coins in a realm where the currency is being continually debased by the production of more coins than the market can bear. So that what was a great fortune, when first he raked it together, insensibly becomes a slag heap and is found to be devoid of value. When at last he takes it to the marketplace to be spent. Thus my Lord B and his vaunted power hoard what is true of him is likely to be true of his lackeys, particularly his most base and slavish followers such as Mr. Charles White. This varmint has asserted that he owns me. He fancies that to own a man is to have power, yet he has got nothing by claiming to own me, while I who was supposed to be rendered powerless, am now writing for a Grub Street newspaper that is being perused by you, esteemed reader.
Neal Stephenson