Author Topic: EP386: Finished  (Read 14981 times)

eytanz

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on: March 07, 2013, 05:41:49 PM
EP386: Finished

By Robert Reed

Read by Joel Nisbet

---
What did I plan?  Very little, in truth.  An evening walk accompanied by the scent of flowers and dampened earth, the lingering heat of the day taken as a reassurance, ancient and holy.  I was genuinely happy, as usual.  Like a hundred other contented walkers, I wandered through the linear woods, past lovers’ groves and pocket-sized sanctuaries and ornamental ponds jammed full of golden orfes and platinum lungfish.  When I felt as if I should be tired, I sat on a hard steel bench to rest.  People smiled as they passed, or they didn’t smile.  But I showed everyone a wide grin, and sometimes I offered a pleasant word, and one or two of the strangers paused long enough to begin a brief conversation.

One man—a rather old man, and I remember little else—asked, “And how are you today?”

Ignoring the implication, I said, “Fine.”

I observed, “It’s a very pleasant evening.”

“Very pleasant,” he agreed.

My bench was near a busy avenue, and sometimes I would study one of the sleek little cars rushing past.

“The end of a wonderful day,” he continued.

I looked again at his soft face, committing none of it to memory.  But I kept smiling, and with a tone that was nothing but polite, I remarked, “The sun’s setting earlier now.  Isn’t it?”

The banal recognition of a season’s progression—that was my only intent.  But the face colored, and then with a stiff, easy anger, the man said, “What does it matter to you?  It’s always the same day, after all.”

Hardly.  Yet I said nothing.


---

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #1 on: March 08, 2013, 04:55:56 AM
Well, this certainly was an odd take on Immortality. I should expect nothing else from the author of Marrow.

He certainly circumvents one of the big problems of immortality (how do you feed a population that lives forever when the population keeps growing?). Though I think there'd be an employment problem, eventually at least, if the Finished have to keep working to pay off debt (and you thought Baby Boomers were bad!).

Of course the worst part is the emotional lock on your last day, since, well, you never change. I think that would really suck. Of course, would you know it would suck, if you were constantly locked into one frame of mind? And why would be able to learn new things, but not change your emotional state? are the two really that different?



Listener

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Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 01:58:51 PM
I didn't much care for the beginning or ending of the story, but I liked the middle -- the slice-of-life stuff and the way Justin lived now that he'd been Finished. I think the beginning tried to be almost TOO clever, and the ending, where Bonnie somehow knew that Justin was using her or whatever (I'm still not 100% clear on it), came on too suddenly. I liked the last line, though.

The technology created for the story was interesting, in its way, although because of the length of the story I kept having to mentally piece together the differences. The brain is a crystal, the bones are ceramic, the skin is synthetic and getting better as technology improves, etc. I don't recall anything about whether a Finished person really looks that much like a human, but I'm guessing Justin doesn't QUITE, judging from the opening scene.

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Reply #3 on: March 10, 2013, 05:33:20 AM
I quite enjoyed this story because I kept having to backtrack. Normally, that annoys the living crap out of me, but for some reason, I found it entertaining, here, instead of annoying. Nicely done.

The ending took two turns I wasn't expecting and made me enjoy the trip.

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Dem

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Reply #4 on: March 10, 2013, 02:51:16 PM
This is one of those stories where I can forgive a lot, like the mechanics of how the whole thing works and who knew what when, because the idea of a never-ending state of mind, frozen in place when you're 'finished' is jaw-dropping. Like the smell of fox poo, it has some initially attractive notes, and then the whole noxious range kicks in. What a risk, that you pick the right moment for your process. And what if you went with the Betamax equivalent of the technology? Would there be a conversion service or would everyone else just wave their shiny VHS wigs at you until you couldn't get the parts any more and found yourself at a boot sale? Think I'll stick with the virtual world consciousness upload please.

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chemistryguy

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Reply #5 on: March 11, 2013, 11:12:35 AM
Quote
Like the smell of fox poo, it has some initially attractive notes, and then the whole noxious range kicks in.

So many life experiences I haven't been a part of yet.

This story with the appropriate title chilled me.  For all I could see, he was a dead man walking.  What's to be had?  An unchanging mind and a thousand years of debt.  Count me out.

 


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Reply #6 on: March 11, 2013, 07:55:37 PM
Interesting that there are so few comments on this story even though it's been out for most of a week. Is everyone getting too distracted or comment burned out because of the flash contest?  :P

Overall I really liked this one. I agree with Listener that the opening was a bit too much. He was guided by what, fate? to throw himself into traffic because that's how he would meet Bonnie. Not that he knew he would meet Bonnie, that's just what happened. But then, if their relationship was based only on him seducing her into being Finished to pay off his debts, then what did fate have to do with anything?

The middle was very interesting, especially Justin's backstory about becoming Finished. Such a fascinating technology and idea. I really loved the exploration of it. And I really liked how, even though the real conflict of the story--Justin's upcoming betrayal of Bonnie--didn't come until probably three-quarters the way through, it didn't feel like it was missing either. Then it had the expected revelation that all was not as perfect as it seemed, and then we get a tidy reversal from Bonnie and it's done.

Again, like Listener, I'm entirely clear how Bonnie was able to come to her conclusion that Justin was using her, especially with how careful Justin explained he'd been with not being too pushy, but it didn't bother me too much.

A good, interesting, and unique tale.

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Scumpup

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Reply #7 on: March 11, 2013, 08:38:21 PM
Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.



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Reply #8 on: March 11, 2013, 08:54:28 PM
Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.



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Reply #9 on: March 11, 2013, 11:27:39 PM
I didn't find this story so novel - the author telegraphed the outcome pretty heavily early on. What was endearing about it was it's somewhat nostalgic emulation of the patronizingly sexist SF of the 50s and 60s, with the twist of having the heroine turn around at the end and break our expectations.



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Reply #10 on: March 12, 2013, 03:46:08 AM
Loved the mild mystery of discovering just what our narrator was, plus the twist at the end. Very well read, too. A great story all around, and the best since Mur left. Glad to find you've still got it. Four stars. Cheers!



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Reply #11 on: March 12, 2013, 11:03:13 AM
Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.

I do not believe in a soul or consciousness that transcends the physical body, but I also don't think we'll ever be able to copy the inner workings of the mind.  I find the idea disheartening, since I've always hoped that teleportation would someday become reality.

That being said, I did not have to suspend my belief system to follow the story.  After the main character was finished, he was no longer the same.  If you're unaware that you're fundamentally different, does that mean the procedure was a success?  As an outside observer, I'd have to say no.


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Reply #12 on: March 12, 2013, 08:39:11 PM
I really enjoyed this one, more like this please  :)



Jade Praerie

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Reply #13 on: March 12, 2013, 10:57:43 PM
My thoughts keep returning this episode. Love the double-meaning of the title: "Finished" as in polished/perfected, or as in done/ended. Also the politics of finished citizens, their place in society, and the growing power of the industry: Could finished persons come to be the majority? Would this path in life come to be the norm? Would nearly everyone get hooked into a life of debt through unending upgrades? Would all children be born of artificially incubated frozen reproductive cells?



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Reply #14 on: March 13, 2013, 05:59:18 PM
Review of Finish

This story leaves us with just enough unanswered questions to make us think.

Justin carefully selected the day and his mood so he'd be happy (and horny) forever.  However, if he was so all fired happy why did he try to kill himself by walking into traffic?   Or was it a suicide attempt? Did he really know a lovely young woman was in the pink Cheetah and did he target her or was it just dumb luck? 

He went to the hospital for his procedure with a woman who abandoned him as soon as his procedure was done. He was mortified when she left because she was supposed to help pay for his med bills. She lied and admits it. Sounds like she was in the same business he is now in -- Seduce the unwitting into being "Finished" to pay off his own debt.

I was really dismayed by the unethical behavior of the corporation that performs the "Finishing". Apparently they will "Finish" any one with the down payment. The telling of the friend's father who will be dying forever was the saddest part of the story.  Society has progressed significantly with technology, but at the heart of it all is corporate greed. 

The story is a puzzler. It makes you think -- would I want to live forever? At what cost? If it goes wrong, I'll be miserably forever and unable to leave this contemptible corporeal plain. Is it worth the risk? Would YOU be willing to pay the price?

This corporeal plain is not the be all end all for me. It's been a fun rise this time, but I'm looking forward to the next round.And I don't want to wait 10,000 years to get there.


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Scumpup

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Reply #15 on: March 13, 2013, 06:50:36 PM
I don't see the Finished as people paying the price for immortality.  Justin et. al. died as a result of the Finishing process.  The in-story description notes that it involves neurotoxins and neuron-destroying nanites.  The Finished who we get to know in the story are automatons imprinted with a static image of the original person's emotional state at the moment of death.  They are no more than sophisticated recordings, at best.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2013, 05:14:10 PM by Scumpup »



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #16 on: March 13, 2013, 07:39:31 PM
Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.
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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #17 on: March 13, 2013, 07:48:01 PM
I really liked this story, but I'm not sure about the end.
On the one hand I don't like how Justin's actions were explained, as if to the idiot reader who hasn't yet figured it out. I like stories where you have to figure things out, and I get upset when they end up spelling them out to you.
On the other hand, the last line of the story is much better had it not ended with Bonnie going into the clinic.
So I don't know about the ending.

The beginning was OK, took a while to hook me, but I loved how as the story progressed more and more of the beginning made sense, and I was able to put the pieces together.

Still not sure where I stand on the singularity issue. But at some point in the story I asked myself this: Justin assured Bonnie that the technology keeps getting better. But that's not always true. History has proven that already. So what happens to all these Finished people when the next Dark Ages hit? Not only do they stop living forever (no more upgrades, tune-ups and repairs), but the people to whom they owe money start to lose it. That could start a stock market crash (or equivalent) that would drag society even deeper into the murk. I would not bet my eternal life on something like that. When the singularity comes, I intend to learn everything I can about cybernetics, so I could take care of myself.

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SF.Fangirl

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Reply #18 on: March 14, 2013, 02:08:51 AM
Liked it, didn't love it.  Interesting idea, but I found the main character emotionally distant ... maybe that's an effect of being finished, but I just couldn't really care too much about him or his mark.

I am also confused by the beginning.  I don't think he's suicidal. It almost seemed like a rom com "meet cute" ploy, but how'd he know that the driver would make a good mark.  And even then its something of a give away since he got an obvious warning not to walk into the road.  Plus if he's got money concerns then the cost of repairs would seem to be a problem.

I am less confused about the ending. My take is that Bonnie is not an idiot.  She's simply aware that she's not the kind of woman a rich man would pick for a lover so she knows he's using for for something.  (I mean that line about best sex ever because of her was over the top ... enough of those lines and she'll figure it out.)  Eventually she sees his game and decides (or had already decided) to use him herself to get what she wants.  She's got a bit of a self-esteem issue and figures she's only going to get worse with time so it's best to be finished now and there's no way for her to pay for it on her own.



Lionman

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Reply #19 on: March 14, 2013, 06:34:36 AM
I generally liked this story, as it made me think of something from my own past.  A long developing storyline about a pair of characters, twins, brother and sister.  While young, the two were separated, the sister growing up on a wholly different world, likely star system from her brother.  A world where the inhabitants developed 'magical' powers, which in reality turned out to be simply be TK skills, able to go right down to the subatomic level, allowing them to effectively rearrange matter at that level.  Thus allowing them to renew their bodies for an extremely long time.

She later discovers she has a brother, and embarks on a journey to find him.  Once found, she uses her abilities to keep him young as well.  This seems to work out fine for a few thousand years.  Then, he finds someone he wants to settle down with and live out his life with.  This is where the problem develops.  His body has become adjusted to keeping itself young and strong, and it doesn't slow down immediately.  He ages, but still a great deal slower than it should, rebuilding itself from wounds faster than it should normally.  This leaves him with the problem of not being able to grow old with the one he loves.

Needless to say, immortality may not be all it's cracked up to be, if you leave behind, if you constantly outlive, those things that become important to you.

So, as I was saying, this story made me think, though it didn't really evoke strong emotion, which to me is the true purpose of a story.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #20 on: March 17, 2013, 08:46:58 AM
Forgot to mention: I love the pyramid scheme of the Finished. Slowly but quietly take over the world, one hapless person at a time.

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Reply #21 on: March 17, 2013, 11:38:29 PM
Man, Max totally beat me to it. Its sort of a Ponzi scheme for eternity. Hilarious. At least this one had the benefit that if you were in a good mood the day you bought in, you could never work up a good hate against those jerks that conned you.

Interesting future extrapolation of those Madoff-like bastards who still your life savings....except this time they're stealing your life! Fascinating.

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Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #22 on: March 18, 2013, 08:30:05 AM
Forgot to mention: I love the pyramid scheme of the Finished. Slowly but quietly take over the world, one hapless person at a time.
Actually, I thought about it a little more. And it's beautiful and elegant and creepy.
See, the beauty of pyramid schemes is their exponential growth. So the day before (or the week or month, however long the process actually takes, but it's a short time) every person on the planet is Finished, half of them are not. So the changes will be rather sudden. What changes? Well....
The food industry, perhaps the world's largest, will collapse in on itself. Nobody needs to eat anymore. But people can still rent food, yes. But that is then returned and resomethinged to become food again. Produce will be a thing of the past. Orchards will die, cultivated fields will turn to weeds, domesticated animals will either die in their enclosures or escape and run wild. Fast food will no longer exist. There's no point in renting a meal for 5 minutes. Every single person who ever worked with anything having to do with food, from farmers to Wall-Mart cleanup boys will be out of a job.
The medical industry, also one of the world's largest, will cease to exist. Medical care is now provided in the form of spare parts and repairs, provided for you, for a fee, from your maker at their clinics. Millions more out of a job.
The clothing industry will survive for a little bit longer, but not much. Since people don't have the money to buy clothing, they won't. Anyway, who needs new clothes? Just don't wash your current clothes. They won't get dirty. You won't spill food on them, won't get them smelly from your sweat, and you can minimize damage from the elements. Just don't go outside when it's raining. It's not like you have a job to go to.
What's next? Entertainment and the arts (I'm sorry to all the artistic people for lumping art with entertainment, but economically in this scenario they belong together). Both rely on creativity and innovation. With everybody's mind a crystal, that is very hard to do. It can be done, a little bit, but not enough to sustain an entire industry. Furthermore, with nobody earning money they won't have disposable income to spend on it.
The same thing will happen to the technology sector. Without innovation everything can be robotized and even more millions of people are out of  a job.
Politics will die, perhaps the best thing in this scenario. No new politicians will grace the scene, since if you weren't a politician before, you're not very likely to become one now. So everybody knows all the politicians on the scene, and they will always have the same views and ideas. No compromises. At some point people will just stop voting. Besides, their true allegiance lies elsewhere.
See, at this point, the Company now owns every single person on the planet. They own them body and mind. There is no way for you to work off your debt, since you can't bring new people into the pyramid. And nobody is earning money anyway. People quietly and without fuss switch from being in debt to being enslaved. They will do whatever the Company tells them to, because they have no choice.
Picture that. An entire planet of people, billions of people, controlled by a single Company. By the board of directors of that Company. By the chairman of the board.
...
We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be.... Finished.

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Scumpup

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Reply #23 on: March 18, 2013, 02:15:48 PM
Other than things being dressed up a little with (some of) the robots being imprinted with recorded human personalities, all you are talking about is the long-standing sci-fi trope of "Planet of the Robots."
Although it hadn't occurred to me that it was all a pyramid scheme, it can_sort of_ be interpreted that way.  Real pyramid schemes rely on constantly bringing in new people whose entry fees are used to pay off those above them in the pyramid.  The Fixing industry doesn't seem to be profit driven.  The Fixed end up owing vast amounts of money that it will apparently take them centuries to pay it off.  There may not even be enough money coming in to cover costs, if the amounts are truly that great.  The "centuries" part is also bad business from The Company's standpoint.  You don't even need to use the present value of a dollar formula to figure out that getting $1 today is definitely better than getting $5 six hundred years from now.  Whoever is at the top of this pyramid isn't motivated by the typical pyramid schemer's desire to get rich quickly. If, in fact, there is a Fixed at the top (or an AI), money is of limited use to it, as has already been noted.  A fixed has little use for many of the luxury items that being wealthy lets a live person enjoy.
So, what is the end goal of this scheme, if there even is a goal or a scheme?  If the idea is to eventually replace humans with Fixed, why?  If the goofy financial arrangements are to essentially enslave the Fixed, why?  A world full of robots bearing the personalities of long dead humans as they felt in one moment out of their lives is a creepy notion, but doesn't make any kind of sense in itself.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #24 on: March 18, 2013, 02:31:14 PM
Two words: ultimate power.
All you need to do is to be a power-hungry CEO, have yourself Finished on a day when you are feeling particularly power-hungry and unscrupulous, and POW. One megalomaniac and ultimate arch-villain, ready to conquer the world.
Also, it's a classic pyramid scheme, better even than the standard one. The people brought in are being use to pay off the people above them, or at least to pay off their debt. But in this case, the people brought into the scheme are trapped forever, there is no getting out. And they have everything to lose by spilling the beans. If they go to the press or to the cops, there's nothing  to be done. Apparently it's not illegal to have yourself Finished. You are an adult, the decision was yours to make. So you're going to go crying to the press or cops because you can't pay off your debt? Grow up. Don't like working to convince other people to be Finished? Fine. Don't. See if you can find some other way to pay off your debt.
It's iron-clad. The person at the top of the pyramid has everything to gain and nothing to lose. That's what makes it so elegant.

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Scumpup

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Reply #25 on: March 18, 2013, 03:04:45 PM
Trapped into what?  Slavery makes sense if one is exploiting one's slaves economically or sexually, as seen in real life human trafficking.  What does your hypothetical Fixed CEO get out of "owning" all the Fixed who owe him for the process and for repairs/upgrades?  What can he compel his enslaved Fixed to do that will benefit him? 



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #26 on: March 18, 2013, 03:22:30 PM
Megalomaniacs don't respond well to logical arguments, they don't need to. It's part of megalomania.
He can control every person on the planet, that's enough for him. Just imagine him (or her) cackling away from the penthouse of some skyscraper just knowing that he controls everything and everybody on the entire planet. Billions upon billions of people. He can kill them with a word. He can make them do anything he wants. He is a god to them, and they must worship him wholly. MUWAHAHAHAHA!

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Scumpup

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Reply #27 on: March 18, 2013, 04:53:43 PM
I concede the idea of power for its own sake.  Still, it seems like a lot of trouble to end up with a world of nominal slaves over whom you actually have surprisingly little control.
Imagine this conversation:
Evil Overlord:  "Justin, you must do x or you will be denied repairs and upgrades forever!"
Justin: "Thy will be done, O Awesomely Puissant One!"

I'm having trouble filling in x with anything that would gratify or benefit the Evil Overlord enough to make this expensive and insanely slow scheme worth the effort; especially if said EO is an AI.  He may have the key to absolute obedience, but what will he command them to do?



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Reply #28 on: March 18, 2013, 08:51:41 PM
Seems like a more likely scenario is that the people who are not allowed to be Finished are the ones who are ultimately the slaves. They'll be the engineers, technicians, and creative types who make it possible to upgrade the Finished to later and more powerful models, to allow them to have some degree of non-crystalline change in their personalities.

Then the conversation makes more sense:

Evil Overlord: Justin, you must design a better crystalline matrix for me or I will see to it that <whatever>.
Justin: Thy will be done, O Awesomely Puissant One!

Granted, <whatever> in that scenario would have to be something that has some meaning to an unFinished. He could threaten to Finish him, I suppose, but then that would make him one of the ruling class and deprive the Finished of his technical expertise.

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Reply #29 on: March 19, 2013, 03:20:02 AM
Now I'm interested to see to a story from the POV of one of these last-unfinished-humans. That would be a very interesting society and dichotomy to explore.

To jump in on the running discussion, I think Max's breakdown of civilization is probably pretty accurate, but I don't see it as an evil overlord's diabolical pyramid scheme. I see it as the unintentional cost of stupid humans trying to gain immortality. They're going to finish themselves by Finishing themselves. However, I don't think it would play out exactly as Max described only because as we get near the end, there will be pockets of people who see the writing on the wall and start up "Natural Humans" colonies. These will be the "crazies" and the conspiracy theorists who the rest of Finished society will shun and mock. But as the industries die, the Finished humans will start to realize what they've done. Society will slowly collapse like a flan in a pantry, but the pockets of humans will be out growing their own gardens and living off the land.

Then the wars will start.

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Reply #30 on: March 19, 2013, 08:51:17 AM
Now I'm interested to see to a story from the POV of one of these last-unfinished-humans. That would be a very interesting society and dichotomy to explore.

To jump in on the running discussion, I think Max's breakdown of civilization is probably pretty accurate, but I don't see it as an evil overlord's diabolical pyramid scheme. I see it as the unintentional cost of stupid humans trying to gain immortality. They're going to finish themselves by Finishing themselves. However, I don't think it would play out exactly as Max described only because as we get near the end, there will be pockets of people who see the writing on the wall and start up "Natural Humans" colonies. These will be the "crazies" and the conspiracy theorists who the rest of Finished society will shun and mock. But as the industries die, the Finished humans will start to realize what they've done. Society will slowly collapse like a flan in a pantry, but the pockets of humans will be out growing their own gardens and living off the land.

Then the wars will start.
Interesting. Now- could you fill in some detail? About 3000-4000 words maybe? Ta.

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Reply #31 on: March 20, 2013, 12:34:25 AM
Two words: ultimate power.

But who would be pulling the strings? And to what ends? It's not like the Finished need much of anything. And I'm not sure they're react well to being ordered around. There's only so much you can threaten them with, and most seem apathetic to start with. I would agree with Cutter McKay, this is just humans messing their society up all on their collective own (if that's not contradictory).



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Reply #32 on: March 20, 2013, 05:16:03 PM
So, they weren't immortal machines. They were vampires.

Allow me to explain: when I was an adolescent, I played a lot of Vampire: the Masquerade. One of the conceits of the genre is that vampires don't really grow, emotionally, after their "death." They are stuck, forever, in whatever emotional context created them. This is meant to explain, for example, why vampires do silly things like become infatuated with humans who remind them of their dead wives and such. They can't really grow - well, they can, but its hard - so such attachments come easy, and are unusually strong when they form.

That's probably why I had a hard time feeling much sympathy for the main character. I am fully sick of vampires. These days, I much more identify with the flamethrower-wielding avenger (stakes are for wimps) than the selfish, craven bloodsucking fiend.

In the end, I don't think I would accept this kind of immortality, not unless I could be assured that improvements in the technology would eventually result in a fully plastic mind. And, in that case, I'd probably ask to be encoded in crystal and left there until I could be revivified with such a mind. The alternative - life unchanging, trapped in a single emotional context forever - is just too horrifying.

What saved this story for me was the gradually dawning pyramid scheme element. I thought it was very well paced. The fact that I couldn't understand why anyone could chose this kind of eternity - me, terrified-of-death me! - put a wet towel on things, but I enjoyed the pacing enough that I don't regret listening.

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Reply #33 on: March 22, 2013, 12:30:21 PM
Allow me to explain: when I was an adolescent, I played a lot of Vampire: the Masquerade. One of the conceits of the genre is that vampires don't really grow, emotionally, after their "death." They are stuck, forever, in whatever emotional context created them. This is meant to explain, for example, why vampires do silly things like become infatuated with humans who remind them of their dead wives and such. They can't really grow - well, they can, but its hard - so such attachments come easy, and are unusually strong when they form.

That's one thing I didn't like about VtM. I prefer vampires who grow as characters -- which is why in the beginning I liked Laurell K Hamilton so much. (FWIW her vampires are still growing as characters; they're just growing into sex toys for an increasingly Mary-Sue-ish narrator.)

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Reply #34 on: March 22, 2013, 12:56:31 PM
I really like the core idea (Finishing) but I was not quite as big a fan of this particular story. But you guys pretty much have it covered, so I'll just say that Ponzi schemes are evil and there's no way I would ever let myself get Finished! Talk about a fate worse than death!



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Reply #35 on: March 22, 2013, 12:58:47 PM
However, if he was so all fired happy why did he try to kill himself by walking into traffic?   Or was it a suicide attempt? Did he really know a lovely young woman was in the pink Cheetah and did he target her or was it just dumb luck?

Perhaps I've been listening to many episodes of the "Stuff they don't want you to know" podcast, but I saw a larger conspiracy at work.  Justin didn't seem suicidal at all.  I also don't think he did it intentionally ("I planned nothing").  His description of walking into traffic is vague with references to what witnesses said he did rather than his memory of it.   I wonder if his actions weren't controlled by the corporation that makes the Finished people.  Perhaps Bonnie was specifically targeted for assimilation... er... I mean "finishing".   I'm certain that the Traffic AI could track Bonnie's Cheetah.  Were Justin's actions controlled remotely?  Or perhaps the discussion with the old man on the bench triggered some sort of implanted program?  

I also have a nagging suspicion that this is not the only time that Justin has stepped into traffic.  It is just little things like the line, "Again, I tumbled."  Why is the word "again" there?

Anyway, while this one was scary, I loved it.



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Reply #36 on: March 22, 2013, 01:03:16 PM
I prefer vampires who grow as characters -- which is why in the beginning I liked Laurell K Hamilton so much. (FWIW her vampires are still growing as characters; they're just growing into sex toys for an increasingly Mary-Sue-ish narrator.)

I refer to her genre as "vamporn." I forget where I stopped in the series...somewhere around the book where there was 50 pages of story at the front, then 250 pages of sex, then 20 pages of story at the end to "tidy up" the first 50 pages. "Tedious" doesn't even begin.

The point being made about this story is, I think, a good one. If people don't grow after Finishing, you do essentially have a weirdly constant populace who will always want exactly the same things for eternity.

And no one has yet suggested the creepy aspect of Finishing a child. You know some sicko would do it.

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Reply #37 on: March 22, 2013, 07:19:06 PM
Something not really addressed in the story is of intense interest to me.  Are Justin and the other Finished really who they think they are?  It seems to me that the Finishing process kills the person and creates a robotic copy.  The copy may have the memories and even believe itself the same person, but it is still just a detailed copy.

I always have that problem with "new body" stories. Partly because I think of the consciousness/soul/self as something contained within your body that ventures elsewhere when released. So, saying YOU can be moved into a new body or cloned into multiple bodies suggests that this intangible can be bound to a new body just because the other information in your brain was able to somehow be copied.

I generally have to suspend that part of my belief system when consuming these stories because it's rarely addressed well if at all. Mostly because it's as based in science as Anne Rice's vampires.

There was some interesting discussion about the source of consciousness in the last segment of this week's Radiolab - http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blogland/2013/mar/19/rebroadcast-emergence/



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Reply #38 on: March 25, 2013, 01:11:59 PM
I really liked this one and enjoyed the debate in the story about whether finished people were even alive.  It is interesting to imagine which side of the debate FOX News would come down on.

I'd love to read a sequel to this story in which we learn that some corrupt technician has been making duplicate versions of the crystals and putting them into different bodies, perhaps ones with no arms and legs, to exploit their processing power for profit.  Would such an action be a crime against humanity?  Or simply a copyright violation?

I didn't much care for the outro and the rehash of the "I would be too bored to live forever" trope, which strikes me as sour grapes.  There's a big difference between living 70 great years and living 500 great years or 4,000 great years.  You don't have to necessarily sign up for eternity right off the bat and there's a big difference between living longer in today's world and living longer in a world of the future in which science likely advances such that things unimaginable to us today become possible.  For example, true cryopreservation for long space travel could mean we could spend 20,000 years in the blink of a conscious eye and wake up arriving to a human colony in another star system.  And it may become possibly to mingle one person's consciousness with another person's in a way that would make sex today seem like nothing more than a handshake compared to that experience.



That said, in this particular story it is an interesting question whether someone who is locked in to a good emotional state (when they are Finished) could ever commit suicide in the future.







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Reply #39 on: March 26, 2013, 06:44:53 PM
this whole story, from beginning to end, has made me completely and totally nauseous.



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Reply #40 on: March 26, 2013, 09:00:01 PM
I loved the craftsmanship of this line "She was raised Christian, but I don’t remember which species." A nice subtle dig at religion comparing different denominations as evolutionary growth. There's a lot packed into this sentence that provides insight into the character.

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Reply #41 on: March 26, 2013, 10:43:42 PM
I think you are reading more into the line than is there.  I see it as expressing an apathy about her Christianity on the character's part, such that he simply can't be arsed to remember, rather than a dig at religion per se.



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Reply #42 on: March 27, 2013, 03:21:46 PM
I think you are reading more into the line than is there.  I see it as expressing an apathy about her Christianity on the character's part, such that he simply can't be arsed to remember, rather than a dig at religion per se.

I have to consider the choice of the word "species" was deliberate on that part of the writer. It shows the characters approach to the categorization of religion similar to a scientific approach. It shows a certain amount of detachment and something akin to flippancy.

"Denomination" would be the more correct term. However, I choose to give the author the benefit of the doubt in that the use of the word "species" is a deliberate choice for tone and characterization as opposed to using the more correct term.

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Reply #43 on: March 28, 2013, 02:19:02 PM
I have to consider the choice of the word "species" was deliberate on that part of the writer.
<snip>
"Denomination" would be the more correct term.
I'm falling somewhere between the two of you. Sure, "species" is the wrong term, but "denomination" is slightly specialist (you might even call it "Christian jargon") so the use of a different word does not, in itself, seem to imply anything more than the narrator not being a Christian. Well, possibly it implies he's not had much contact with the church, but that's not exactly unusual these days.
The exact alternative word chosen may indicate something of the character's perceptions, and perhaps "species" is not such an obvious choice as, say, "brand" or "variety". So maybe we can validly read in an instinctive regard of Christians as strange almost to the point of being alien, but I'm not sure this justifies the leap to "evolutionary growth".
Yeah, somewhere in between  ;)



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Reply #44 on: April 04, 2013, 03:13:50 AM
Well, I thought I liked the story fine, but then I read the forums. Wow, this story has nothing on the ideas tossed about by Max e^{i pi} and Kaa. I want to hear those stories!! :)



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Reply #45 on: April 11, 2013, 03:38:12 PM
Indeed. The story was okay, but the discussion that has spawned on the forum because of the story is *fascinating*.

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Reply #46 on: June 13, 2013, 01:57:19 PM
Hmmm...  I'm not sure whether I liked the story or not, but it's certainly given some food for thought.

Personally I don't think the immortality Pyramid Scheme is necessarily run by a megalomaniac businessman.  To me, this world is a kindred world to Ferrett Steinmetz's "Dead Merchandise", capitalism gone feral.  People have forever wanted something that will make them live longer.  A company provides something that does this because people will buy it even if the terms don't favor them much.  The Finished, in their own self-interest, will draw in more people, and so on.  I don't think that the company that made this technology was thinking "I'm going to convert the whole human race!", they were more thinking "Hey look, I can make money by selling X.  Therefore I shall sell X."  Without really thinking about long-term consequences, much like Steinmetz's ad faeries.  The end consequence, though, is that the entire human race may become entirely extinct (except perhaps some anti-Finished communes here and there), and replaced with facsimiles to which the corporation would probably say "That's not our responsibility.  Our customers have bought what they want to buy."

I find the entire idea of the Finishing absolutely horrifying.  The process as described does not give me immortality, rather it is a form of suicide in which I subject others to my current self-image through a doppelganger proxy without actually being involved myself.  It's like Invasion of the Body Snatchers where everyone volunteers to be taken.  It's suicide from fear of change.  Even if my consciousness did somehow transfer, the idea of a completely changeless existence is more frightening to me than fear of death. 

I mean, I get where he was going with trying to be slightly horny at the time of the change, but doesn't it bother him that no amount of sex will ever sate that appetite?  A constant and unsatisfiable urge to me sounds worse than having no urge at all.   Like being forever hungry or thirsty or exhausted with no ability to do anything about it.  THAT sounds like a reason to commit suicide to me just for a change of pace, rather than something to commit suicide in order to become.



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Reply #47 on: September 25, 2013, 09:47:49 AM
I liked this story a great deal, it was very well written and had an aching melancholy to the romantic story that felt pretty real. The ending was pretty bleak, but I thought it worked fine here. I think both the characters were unusually well written, the protagonist being just enough off to make it slightly uncomfortable to inhabit his 'mind', and Bonnie felt pretty true to life as well and being much wiser than she let the world know. How she knew at the end ? I would expect that those true reasons would be an 'official' secret in this world, but that some people would still choose it, because let's face it, mortality is a b***h.