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Author Topic: EP589: Seb Dreams of Reincarnation  (Read 382 times)
eytanz
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« on: August 25, 2017, 07:54:37 PM »

EP589: Seb Dreams of Reincarnation

AUTHOR: Aimee Ogden
NARRATOR: Matthew Hamblin
HOST: Mur Lafferty

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They unplugged Seb’s neurodes at the end of his ten-year tour of duty. He’d known it was coming, had been told before he ever signed the contract that if they left him in any longer his health would start to deteriorate. What they hadn’t mentioned was that his health would deteriorate anyway. Once, Seb had kept six hundred people alive, responded instantly to their needs, and their wishes too when those fell within his power. He had carried them all in his belly, made them part of himself. He thought he would implode under the emptiness of having lost them.

Today, though, his only job was to leave his apartment: something he hadn’t done since the first week he’d moved in. He had groceries delivered, the occasional takeout, odds and ends as he needed them. Supermarkets and corner stores might as well have been on another planet. If they were, he might have actually cared to visit them. He stared out his ninth-floor window while trying to summon up a reason to go out, let alone the will to do so. His fleet-assigned shrink had given him the task and called it homework. Which was of course the exact opposite of what it actually was. Out-of-home work.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Thunderscreech
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2017, 07:54:32 AM »

I saw a different metaphor to the story, I wondered if Seb's situation might be similar to how Social Media can affect us.  We start sharing posts and liking pictures from our friends and it feels like we're part of something bigger.  A healthy balance might even give us a real benefit in terms of relationships maintained or grown beyond our immediate monkeysphere and we get a boost from the acceptance and praise that comes with being part of an active circle even if we can't get out as much as others yet we're still 'connected'.

For some people, though, it goes deeper.  Eventually, they stop leaving their houses and having their own adventures.  Their interaction with Social Media takes a turn for the worse where they start to define themselves entirely by this one small window to the world.  As they dive deeper, it becomes a dependence and it starts to hurt them.  They compare their own 'behind the scenes' lives to the 'best-of' reels for their friends and begin to collapse inwards.  What once brought them join and acceptance now leaves them feeling like they're a lone swimmer who just can't reach the boat that's motoring away while everybody onboard parties, oblivious to the struggle in the water behind them.  Their entire identity becomes wrapped up in this dependence, defines them, but insidiously, they feel they can't break free because then they'll miss out on more.

Seb tries to recreate that feeling of connection he had as a ship brain, to recapture that immediacy, that community the only way he knows how.  He's someone who's been kicked off Facebook and is trying to see if he can fill that need with reddit.  The outlet is different, but the drive is the same and the danger of losing himself to an unhealthy level in it is identical. 

This story seemed less The Forever War to me than a parable about how we want to be helpful, social animals and how easily technology can refine and concentrate that desire to be 'connected' to a point where we harm ourselves. 
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Katzentatzen
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« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2017, 09:18:13 AM »

This story reminded me of the traumatized and isolated protagonist of EP573: Whatever Tower, However High. I hope he turns out okay in the end.
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esanderson
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« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2017, 02:04:33 PM »

I really liked this. Seb needs to be part of something bigger and he needs to be helpful to his community and he needs to use his neurodes. In my work with US Military Veterans, I have seen that they are happiest and recover best if they can use skills they were taught in service to destruction in a positive and constructive way after they come home.
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Zelda
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 02:58:44 AM »

It took me a little while to get into this story because at the beginning Seb confused me and I had trouble relating to him. But I really enjoyed it when he began figuring out how to help his neighbors.

I didn't notice anything in the story that led me to think Seb was a war veteran. His memories of being a ship brain were about taking care of the people inside the ship. I see it as a peace time vessel and Seb as someone who was so fascinated by space that he was willing to get the body modifications the job required.

The underlying premise strikes me as unrealistic. I can't imagine that a human brain would be better at taking in and analyzing the vast amount of information needed to keep a space ship operating than a computer designed for that purpose. This didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story however.
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acpracht
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2017, 08:31:07 PM »

It took me a little while to get into this story because at the beginning Seb confused me and I had trouble relating to him. But I really enjoyed it when he began figuring out how to help his neighbors.

I didn't notice anything in the story that led me to think Seb was a war veteran. His memories of being a ship brain were about taking care of the people inside the ship. I see it as a peace time vessel and Seb as someone who was so fascinated by space that he was willing to get the body modifications the job required.

The underlying premise strikes me as unrealistic. I can't imagine that a human brain would be better at taking in and analyzing the vast amount of information needed to keep a space ship operating than a computer designed for that purpose. This didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story however.

Huh, I guess I didn't read it as anything but a wartime vessel. The talk of "tour of duty," "fleet assigned shrink," and "Suicide was bad for recruitment" all smacked of military lingo to me.

This, especially, though suggested that Seb was a veteran, to me:

"There was still pain, but it was a dull ache, a limb compressed oddly into a new and strange shape, not severed entirely. Growing pains, not war wounds."

As for the "brain as supercomputer" thing; I think it's a valid point and there's probably some willing suspension of disbelief being asked for the sake of the story. My own "brain canon" goes something like this, however: Seb was the human component of a human/machine integration. Just as some assembly lines combine what humans are good at (pattern recognition and dexterity) with what machines are good at (data crunching, repetitive actions), I think that might be the case here. Seb recognizes human needs, identifies complex patterns by human intuition, etc., and is aided by the processing power of the onboard CPU.

Just my thoughts.

-Adam
Producer
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Ichneumon
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2017, 12:00:45 PM »

I think this was a very touching story. Seb's desire to be plugged in was both selfish and selfless. In the end he did so much good for others, but it was all to distract himself from his own pain. I believe he could heal and become a more complete (reincarnated?) person, but it would take a long time. Seb would have to develop more of a sense of himself, what he needs and wants. My non-psychiatrist suggestion would be to try a sport or athletic hobby to try and reconnect with his human body.
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Piet
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2017, 04:45:05 PM »

Nice life-affirming story. The narrator's accent couldn't help but place my imagined location for the story in England, even though Seb lived in an apartment instead of a flat. Puzzling why in that accent th is pronounced as f, e.g. thing is pronounced as fing.

Excellent comment above by Adam on how it might make sense to have a brain controlling a ship if the brain has higher-level responsibilities, leaving the small details to be dealt with by coded subroutines.

An interesting element of this story is the creative small-scale improvised engineering Seb does to adapt devices to suit his unique circumstances.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 05:00:45 PM by Piet » Logged

It's not the destination...it's the glory of the ride.
CryptoMe
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« Reply #8 on: Yesterday at 12:10:12 PM »

I agree with Zelda that Seb served his "tour" on a civilian or at least peace-time vessel. All the military lingo acpracht pointed out could just as easily be applied in these cases, so that is where my mind went.

I really like the comparison Thunderscreech made to this being like a social media addiction. I believe that it was. Seb says so himself when he says that what he really misses was being useful and doing things for people....

So, this is where the story lost me. Why can't Seb be useful in person? Why can't he go help the mother with her children, mediate the roommate dispute, clean the kitchen, etc. in flesh form? I am very surprised that neither the neighbours nor the psychiatrist suggested this. Barring in person interaction, why can't Seb command his fleet of tech from a computer monitor/keyboard interface? I know it would be slower, but then he could keep helping people *and* feel like he still had some extensions (if very low tech).

And this is where the story lost me again. The reason for the 10 year limit on the neurodes was that they would stop addressing his flesh body needs adequately and cause his health to deteriorate. So, as I see it, any kind of linking through his neurodes would be a big problem. Which is why I don't understand why the psychiatrist would allow him to keep connecting to his drones and machines for 14 hours per day! This does not sound reasonable to me.

All that said, I really enjoyed the process and telling of this story. I just think the ending was not consistent with the parameters the author set up.
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Fenrix
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Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #9 on: Yesterday at 01:05:07 PM »


Why can't Seb be useful in person? Why can't he go help the mother with her children, mediate the roommate dispute, clean the kitchen, etc. in flesh form? I am very surprised that neither the neighbours nor the psychiatrist suggested this. Barring in person interaction, why can't Seb command his fleet of tech from a computer monitor/keyboard interface? I know it would be slower, but then he could keep helping people *and* feel like he still had some extensions (if very low tech).


I don't think that's really feasible for him. His social anxiety and near-agoraphobia shown in the story makes the in-person interaction difficult.  Also, all of the learned behavior from running the ship seemed to be largely in isolation from inter-personal contact. I think he was also dealing with something akin to phantom limbs with the loss of being plugged into a network. Telling Seb to go in person or use a keyboard may be like telling someone suffering from clinical depression to go outside and smile more.
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