|Inside the Tank, we have only the system clock. If the computer's date is correct, it's a year since my meat-self stepped into the scanner at BrainFrame Resources. Six months ago I awoke here, rather than at home as I'd expected. Our captor had downloaded my mind-scan from a torrent site.|
The idea of uploading human minds into computers is a well-worn trope in science fiction. Indeed, I've written several previous stories that included this premise to a greater or lesser extent, notably "Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone" and "Erosion".
So why did I write another version? Partly it's because there are so many problems with the notion of "uploading" that it takes numerous stories to show them all.
But mostly it's that I wanted to let rip with a no-holds-barred satire. My earlier stories were fairly conventional straight pieces that contained occasional jokes but never went over the line into outright comedy. As I've said before in these behind-the-scenes notes, I enjoy writing humour and satire. I decided that the "uploading" trope was so pervasive, it badly needed a satirical skewering.
Satire requires a target. In this story, my primary target was the nature of today's Internet, which as we all know is infested with trolls, spam, hackers, and pirates. My secondary target was the laziness of science-fiction writers who tend to ignore these inconvenient issues, and assume that all such problems will somehow be resolved when the technology improves.
The dark side of the Internet is the dark side of human nature — and that's not going to disappear any time soon.
Nowadays, anything digital is instantly pirated. Films, music, and books are all available on torrent sites. Even confidential non-commercial data gets leaked and hacked. Consequently, if people ever upload their minds into computers, it seems very likely that those mind-uploads will end up being pirated.
The premise of the mind-uploading trope is that such uploads are functionally equivalent to real people. Hence there could be any number of thinking, conscious uploads existing within the computer systems of unscrupulous hackers.
What would it feel like to wake up inside the computer of a teenage kid who doesn't give a damn about copyright? What could you possibly do about it? To explore this, I wrote "Escape from the Andromedan Empire".
Because I conceived the story as a satire, I originally ended it on a satirical note. When I submitted it to InterGalactic Medicine Show, the editor said, "Currently you end on what is essentially a very clever punchline. But 6000 words just to get to a clever punchline isn't satisfying." I therefore tweaked the ending to make it a little more conventional. I retained the original punchline, but moved it slightly earlier in the narrative. If you read the story, you can probably spot what I originally intended as the final line.