Home' Technology Review : November December 2007 Contents 68 FICTION
TECHNOLOGY REVIEW /
Lincoln had three rest days before he was called
again, this time for four days in succession.
He fought hard to remember all the scenes
he was sleepwalking through, but even with his
grandmother adding her accounts of the "playact-
ing" she d witnessed, he found it hard to hold on
to the details.
Sometimes he hung out with the other actors,
shooting pool in the motel s game room, but there
seemed to be an unspoken taboo against discussing
their roles. Lincoln doubted that the Steveware would
punish them even if they managed to overcome the
restraint, but it was clear that it didn t want them
to piece too much together. It had even gone to the
trouble of changing Steve s name (as Lincoln and the
other actors heard it, though presumably not Steve
himself), as if the anger they felt toward the man in
their ordinary lives might have penetrated into their
roles. Lincoln couldn t even remember his own moth-
er s face when he was Ty; the farm, the Crash, the
whole history of the last 30 years, was gone from his
In any case, he had no wish to spoil the cha-
rade. Whatever the Steveware thought it was doing,
Lincoln hoped it would believe it was working per-
fectly, all the way from Steve s small-town child-
hood to whatever age it needed to reach before it
could write this creation into esh and blood, con-
gratulate itself on a job well done, and then nally,
mercifully, dissolve into rat piss and let the world
Without warning, a fortnight after they d arrived,
Lincoln was no longer needed. He knew it when he
woke, and after breakfast the woman at reception
asked him, politely, to pack his bags and hand back
the keys. Lincoln didn t understand, but maybe Ty s
family had moved out of Steve s hometown, and the
friends hadn t stayed in touch. Lincoln had played
his part; now he was free.
When they retur ned to the lobby with their suit-
cases, Dana spotted them and asked Lincoln if he
was willing to be debriefed. He turned to his grand-
mother. "Are you worried about the tra c?" He d
already phoned his father and told him they d be
back by dinnertime.
She said, "You should do this. I ll wait in the
They sat at a table in the lobby. Dana asked his per-
mission to record his words, and he told her every-
thing he could remember.
When Lincoln had nished, he said, "You re the
Stevologist. You think they ll get there in the end?"
Dana gestured at her phone to stop recording.
"One estimate," she said, "is that the Stevelets now
comprise a hundred thousand times the computa-
tional resources of all the brains of all the human
beings who ve ever lived."
Lincoln laughed. "And they still need stage props
and extras, to do a little VR?"
"They ve studied the anatomy of ten million human
brains, but I think they know that they still don t fully
understand consciousness. They bring in real people
for the bit parts, so they can concentrate on the star.
If you gave them a particular human brain, I m sure
they could faithfully copy it into software, but any-
thing more complicated starts to get murky. How do
they know their Steve is conscious, when they re not
conscious themselves? He never gave them a reverse
Turing test, a checklist they could apply. All they have
is the judgment of people like you."
Lincoln felt a surge of hope. "He seemed real
enough to me." His memories were blurred---and
he wasn t even absolutely certain which of Ty s four
friends was Steve---but none of them had struck him
as less than human.
Dana said, "They have his genome. They have
movies, they have blogs, they have e-mails: from
Steve and a lot of people who knew him. They have
a thousand fragments of his life. Like the borders of
a giant jigsaw puzzle."
"So that s good, right? A lot of data is good?"
Dana hesitated. "The scenes you described have
been played out thousands of times before. They re
trying to tweak their Steve to write the right e-mails,
pull the right faces for the camera---by himself, with-
out following a script like the extras. A lot of data sets
the bar very high."
As Lincoln walked out to the parking lot, he
thought about the laughing, carefree boy he d called
Chris. Living for a few days, writing an e-mail---then
memory-wiped, re-set, started again. Climbing a
water tower, making a movie of his friends, but later
tur ning the camera on himself, saying one wrong
word---and wiped again.
A thousand times. A million times. The Steveware
was in nitely patient, and in nitely stupid. Each time
it failed, it would change the actors, shu e a few vari-
ables, and run the experiment over again. The pos-
sibilities were endless, but it would keep on trying
until the sun burned out.
Lincoln was tired. He climbed into the tr uck beside
his grandmother, and they headed for home.
Greg Egan s science fiction has received the Hugo Award and
the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
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