By telleropnul, August 3, 2016

Constantine had once been told that a mind was a sentence that could read itself. A book might have thoughts written within it, but something external had to be applied to the book in order to read the words. But what if words could be written in some medium that allowed the words to take on a life of their own and refer back to themselves? What if the instructions telling the book how to read itself were also written in the book itself?


“The meta-intelligence,” she whispered.

“Did you never think to look at yourself with it?” asked the Watcher. “That was what it was there for—”

“I don’t want to look at myself with it,” said Judy. “I don’t want to see that my mind is just a mechanical process. I don’t want to see that it’s just a Turing machine. Like the thing that runs this place.”

“So what? You say that as if there is something wrong with that.” The Watcher seemed indignant.

“Your body is a mechanical process. Your heart pumps, your muscles contract, your nerves react. So what if your mind is a Turing machine? You are greater than the sum of your parts.”

Judy gave him a weak smile.

“I know that. But my eyes and ears and senses are just writing to a length of tape, and your words have just been written to that tape, and my brain is just the tape head that reads the words and then jumps back and forth as it reacts to what you said.” She couldn’t help herself now: she looked. A long reel of tape was threaded between the hemispheres of her brain, clicking through a section at a time, chattering back and forth as she examined his face, eyes darting.

“No,” said Judy, turning the gaze of the meta-intelligence away from herself. “I know you’re humoring me,” she said. “I know that you are. I don’t blame you. I know that a Turing machine is just a mathematical concept. But, I look through this and I can feel my brain mapping directly onto the mechanism. It’s like I can almost see the original process in there, just out of reach: the self-referential part of my mind that allows me to be me. And if I see that, I will have defined myself and all of my thoughts.”

Tony Ballantyne