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excerpt from Chapter 37 of the novel Public

Chapter 37 Excerpt

Chapter 37 (Excerpt)

State of the Dark Art

The new nanobot neocortex was working perfectly. In fact, it was exhilarating how well it worked. Daniel could look at an object and just know how big it was, or how heavy, or what it was made of, or exactly how far away it was or how fast it was moving. His hearing was similarly acute, able to identify the nature, location, and relative motion of objects just by the sounds they made. And that was in real reality. In any virtuality his reflexes were now so blindingly fast that he could react faster than all but the best simulations could cope with.

For the first time, he had added a mesh interface to his kit. Any information he wanted to look up, he could access just by thinking about it. The clinic technician handed him a test page written in Old Kingdom Egyptian syllabic hieroglyphs, and he read it off the page at once. On the next page he correctly matched complex chemical formulas to their molecular diagrams. Story problems involving differential equations were obvious. He was able to fill in blanks asking for obscure economic statistics, such as steel production in Japan in 1930, or Belgian unemployment in 1983, or the 2000 census population of Passaic, New Jersey. Asked a question about the structure of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which he hadn't even heard in years, after perusing the musical score in his head for a moment it was apparent that the main theme of the second movement was, in fact, a major mode inversion of the motif from the first. My, that was clever of crazy old Ludwig. And Good Lord, Daniel didn't even know how to read musical notation! Or at least, not until a few seconds ago.

By the time he finished the manufacturer's standard set of test questions — achieving a perfect score — he was absolutely in awe of his new capabilities. It was as if the entire sum of human knowledge was available to him. His subsidiary ability to process and manipulate the data he accessed was similarly superhuman. He felt like he could write a doctoral thesis in a completely unfamiliar field in a matter of minutes.

"This... is... amazing!" he got out, then suddenly felt almost ashamed at having uttered something so banal.

The clinician grinned back at him. "Isn't it sweet?" he agreed. "Revision 11.3 just came out this month. More than double the capability of 10.0, which was released just six months ago. You got the hottest rig on the planet in your head right now, dude. You can't be any smarter and still have a head," he joked.

Daniel laughed with him. This was way cool. Of course it was troubling, too, but what troubled him most now wasn't the intellectual abilities, it was that anybody could seriously consider such gifts to be evil in and of themselves. That was like saying that being too well educated was bad.

It reminded him of what he'd always heard about sex growing up, that it was such a powerful force, like an addictive drug that could make people do immoral and hurtful things just to get it. But when he actually got there and experienced sexuality, he always found it joyous and pleasant, not guilty or demeaning. It was certainly that way with his girlfriend. God, she was hot! They could do it for hours.

It seemed that, once again, he'd been lied to. Everyone knew that if you got high-level Sing augmentations, you became a mindless zombie who couldn't pry themselves out of virtuality. Yet now that he was here, mindless was absolutely the last thing that he knew himself to be. He could even peruse any part of Scripture, or anything written by any Christian theologian or philosopher since, just by thinking about it. Was that wicked?


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