THE BICAMERAL ORDER

How had Moore put it?  Cognitive subspecies.  But the Colonel didn’t get it.  Neither did Lianna; she’d shared her enthusiastic blindness with Brüks over breakfast that very morning, ticked off in hushed and reverent tones the snips and splices that had so improved her masters: No TPN suppression, no Semmelweis reflex.  They’re immune to inattentional blindness and hyperbolic discounting, and, Oldschool, that synesthesia of theirs – they reset millions of years of sensory biases with that trick.  Randomized all the errors, just like that.  And it’s not just the mundane sensory stuff, it’s not just feeling color and tasting sounds.  They can literally see time . . .

As if those were good things.

In a way, of course, they were.  All those gut feelings, right or wrong, that had kept the breed alive on the Pleistocene savanna – and they were wrong, so much of the time.  False negatives, false positives, the moral algebra of fat men pushed in front of onrushing trolleys.  The strident emotional belief that children made you happy, even when all the data pointed to misery.  The high-amplitude fear of sharks and dark-skinned snipers who would never kill you; indifference to all the toxins and pesticides that could.  The mind so rotten with misrepresentation that in some cases it literally had to be damaged before it could make a truely rational decision – and should some brain-lesioned mother abandon her baby in a burning house in order to save two strangers from the same fire, the rest of the world would be more likely to call her a monster than laud the rationality of her lifeboat ethics.  Hell, rationality itself – the exalted Human ability to reason – hadn’t evolved in the pursuit of truth but simply to win arguments, to gain control: to bend others, by means logical or sophistic, to your will.

Truth had never been a priority.  If believing a lie kept the genes proliferating, the system would believe that lie with all its heart.

Fossil feelings.  better off without them, once you’d outgrown the savanna and decided that Truth mattered after all.  But Humanity wasn’t defined by arms and legs and upright posture.  Humanity had evolved at the synapse as well as the opposable thumb – and those misleading gut feelings were the very ground-work on which the whole damn clade had been built.  Capuchins felt empathy.  Chimps had an innate sense of fair play.  You could look into the eyes of any cat or dog and see a connection there, a legacy of common subroutines and shared emotions.

The Bicamerals had cut away all that kinship in the name of something their stunted progenitors called Truth, and replaced it with – something else.  They might look human.  Their cellular metabolism might lie dead on the Kleiber curve.  But to merely call them a cognitive subspecies was denial to the point of delusion.  The wiring in those skulls wasn’t even mammalian anymore.

Peter Watts, Echopraxia.

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