Genetic Brains and Minds

14 Jan

Sinixia was a country further advanced in biological science than in physics or electronics. Its main contribution to the advancement of technology happened to fall in the area of miniaturization.

Zeo Xiton, the man responsible for its primary invention, began his career as a specialist in reckoners, calculating computers, and digital memories, but discovered a new direction for himself upon meeting and becoming acquainted with a gifted biologist named Gax Nojam.

The two men came across each other in a downtown public cafeteria of Sinixia City and learned that they had a lot in common. They shared the same tiny table in the crowded eating place, finishing their bowls of anchovy chowder.

“I work in the lab of Proto Test,” revealed the grinning Gax. “We are engaged in some very promising work on RNA threads. Our hope is to be able to successfully complete complicated implanting of geneticals we produce into the human body, where they can operate as bio-chemical monitors and early warning mechanisms.

“We are constantly learning more and more about what goes on in the brain and the nervous system of humans.”

Zeo began to perk up with unconcealed excitement. “That is most interesting,” he muttered. “It sounds like work that could in time be of value to my own research over at Reckon Tech, on synthetic organic devices that approximate what goes on in computing brains and memories. I am interested in hearing more details about what you are involved with”

“We, then, must see each other again and talk about the subject,” said the biologist with evident enthusiasm. “Can you be here for lunch tomorrow, at this same time?”

Zeo promised to be present. Neither of them could have foreseen the extent and dimensions of their future friendship.

Zeo obtained a long list of books and articles on genetics from his new friend. Gax grew ever more involved in explaining the advanced ideas on the frontier of his own area of human biology. His new pupil constantly presented him with salient questions whenever the pair got together, visiting each other at his apartment. Both of them lived near Sinixia University in the center of the capital city.

“I am astounded at the similarity of the genetic code to the digital language in all the reckoning devices and electronic memories that our society makes use of,” concluded Zeo one evening at a dining hall. “I ask myself how some kind of practical use is possible for the parallel that exists between the two realms.”

Gax thought a moment, then made a reply. “Yes, that is something that is also evident to me. But how could the genetic code within each one of us be mastered and put to work for human purposes? Our genes and chromosomes are smaller and more condensed than any material processor made of silicon or rare metal. They are able to carry more data than any existing electronic mechanism that now exists. But no one has ever handled or controlled the genes in people for informational purposes. Can a person become some kind of data processor like a reckoner is?”

Zeo smiled with enthusiastic joy. “That is what I mean to prove by actually accomplishing the feat: finding the means of replacing machine intelligence with the genes that all of us are born with.”

The pair stared at each other in meaningful silence.

Gax revealed to his new partner the details concerning important experiments carried out at the laboratory where he worked.

“We are hoping to develop a biological transmitter that can deposit digital data into body genes,” he announced with evident pride. “There is a special name given to such a system or device, it is a transcriber.”

“It sounds like a practical solution to the problem of genetic coding. But it could be a difficult task to create such a tool. How is your team of geneticists attacking it?”

“Our hope is to use micro-thin strands of DNA or RNA as the conduit of transmission. It will enable us to perform logical operations and transformations on the information implanted on the genes. As you know, a gene is a long sequence of two strands made up of four different types of molecules. These go by the symbols of A, G, C, and T, referred to as the Base Four. The two separate strands twist about to form the famous double helix.

“I myself am engaged in finding how to use DNA as a semiconductor from an exterior circuit into the interior of a single gene.

“It is not at all a simple thing to accomplish, my friend.”

“Yes, I realize that is true,” murmured Zeo. “If only you had your own laboratory facility to work out a solution to the transcriber problem.”

Sinixia City was a crowded metropolis of two vertical decks with towering skyscrapers that touched both of its levels. Elevated motor throughways swung about in different directions. Upper floor streets paralleled the older, decaying ones below on the ground.

The headquarters of Genlabs Corp. in the original commercial area under the sky level was the destination of Gax Nojam one bright and sunny summer morning.

He had an appointment to meet with the head man who was the most important stockholder as well, Dr. Jus Kedap, a pioneer in the field of biochemical genetics and its practical applications.

The office of the prominent developer was surprisingly plain, simple, and modest for one with such a high reputation in his technological sector of life science.

Kedap was a short figure with a full head of silver gray hair. He greeted his visitor with a strong, hearty handshake and invited him to take a chair on the side of his paper-full work desk.

“You wanted to see me to talk about a new research venture that you are planning to carry out on your own, as a private, subsidized basis?” asked the corporate president with a friendly smile. “Please, describe what it is you have in mind.”

“I believe that I can use the human genome as a depository of digital information and data,” boldly asserted the geneticist. “It will take a lot of work to accomplish, but the final product of the effort will be a living, organic reckoner that will be better than any electronic device that we now have and use.”

Dr. Kedap gave a look of astonishment. “I have always thought of that as a difficult, very distant goal best left to the far future, years and even decades ahead of our own time.” He ended with an audible sigh.

Gax now grinned with confidence. “Let me explain how I plan to do it, sir,” he softly asked the industrialist who was an important person in bio-genetic development in Sinixia.

Kedap listened with focused attention to the presentation that Gax had rehearsed for many days before. A spell of positive enthusiasm seemed to float and rotate around the young scientist with fresh, new ideas.

When the visitor was done speaking, the company president sprang to his feet, out of his chair.

“This is most fascinating, young man. You need to describe your plan to my top research committee. I can arrange to have them up here this afternoon. In the meantime, let us go to the dining chamber and have lunch together. We can talk more as we have a meal together.”

Jus Kedap grew as spirited as Gax about the prospects presented, expressing himself and eating very little.

“I can see these fantastic genetic transistors that you call transcribers turning genes into nano-computers and memory units. Humans will be able to accomplish more than they ever have before. Instead of our standard binomial codes with only two possible values, positive and negative, we can use the four bio-chemical ingredients of every gene to encode data in a quaternary manner, with a fourfold system of reckoning and storage. That will multiply the power many times over, I foresee.

“But can you provide this marvelous transcriber that will be able to write information into and onto a single gene?”

Gax gave a radiant smile. “If your company can provide me and my associates a laboratory with the proper instrumentation, it will occur. I promise you we will manage to make an operational transcriber that creates a genetic reckoner and memory we can use.”

Dr. Kedap nodded his head. “I consider it a project that Genlabs cannot afford to overlook or ignore. You must come over to us and act as the supervisor of the entire project to build a genetic transcriber, young man.

“It will be worth your while, I guarantee you.”

Both Gax Nojam and Zeo Xiton soon became employees of Genlabs Corp., working on a problem kept secret from even the closest associates of the president, Jus Kedap.

There were several possible paths that might render the desired transcriber, and each of them was in turn examined and tested.

Carbon nanotubes, titanium dioxide, and gold threads proved to be blind allies in the search for an effective gene transcriber.

“We need to develop an organic memristor, a type of artificial synapse, what I would term a synthetic neuromemristor that can do the job for us on cell genes up in the human brain,” argued Zeo. “It may take us a lot of time and effort, but that must be the goal we focus our attention on.”

The lab work continued day after day. Weeks and months passed in hard, serious research.

Zeo, with a deep background in molecular biochemistry, made strong arguments for finding an effective enzyme that would enable a transcriptor to control the important flow of RNA proteins along the strands of DNA within particular genes.

“Such an enzyme might transmit strands of DNA and the information enscribed upon them between separate genes within a chromosome,” he declared with forceful emotion. “That could be the path to successful encoding of data onto the condensed chromatin within a chosen gene.”

Gax felt compelled to direct work in the new laboratory in this direction recommended by his colleague, the bio-geneticist.

Zeo made an immediate report to Gax, exciting and inspiring the latter to go directly to Kedap with the successful results at last achieved.

“We have made a special transcriber that consists of RNA polymerase than can flow along and enclose a DNA thread completely. It results in amplification of the gene’s informational logic to a fantastic degree. This provides a marvelous method of transmitting, storing, and performing logical operations on the data that is encoded onto the gene in question.

“We shall end up with a very fast genetic internet within the DNA of the affected individual genes.

“The key is the controlled flow of RNA polymerase along the long strands of gene DNA. It allows us to control and amplify a nearly infinite number of individual signals in a fourfold system of gene components.

“This will give us the most effective transcriber we have yet constructed in our lab,” announced Zeo with a wide smile.

“Let us, then, begin to produce and market it for implantation on volunteers,” decided the head of GenLabs, catching the enthusiasm of the pair of scientists.

In a short time the experimenters were able to recruit a team of ten, half males and half females, to become the initial individuals equipped with genetic reckoning capacities and data memories. From the back of each of their heads protruded the electronic-biological links and connections that made the new system possible. Whenever the occasion arouse and presented itself, their genes could receive and transmit information in or out of their enhanced brains.

The volunteers met every several days at GenLab headquarters, where Gax and Zeo tested and exercised the new, multiplied powers now part of the minds of these pioneering subjects.

The early results were positive and successful, raising the hopes of the creators of the genetic brains added to and connected with the natural, biological ones that the recruits had been born with.

One of them, Ro Faon, appeared to take leadership over the rest of the geneticals with the new abilities. He was a successful salesman in the field of nano-mechanisms and advanced microscopes. Ro had a deep personal interest in the advancement of genetic technology and their application in everyday life. He became the informal spokesman for those bow referred to as the “geneticals”.

Within a few months, a second crew existed, then a third one was formed. The individuals involved found that they could find favorable employment in information processing and computing-reckoning jobs. A growing demand for their new skills led to increasing placement of such extraordinary specialists. All of society in Sinixia viewed them as the answer to many practical economic and technical problems of advanced society.

Geneticals began to appear in all corners of business, industry, and scientific endeavor. It seemed that every conceivable social institution was able to make use of their astonishing talents. They were popular and sought after everywhere.

Ro Faon became an important factor within GenLab, for he was the central figure finding new work for the enhanced ones, then staying in personal contact with them as they found their places among the rest of the population.

He became the main contact point of Gax and Zeo with the geneticals that they had constructed through bio-genetic research.

“Why must we live here in Sinixia City and be looked upon as genetic oddities to be utilized and exploited for tasks that computing reckoners once had exclusive right to perform?” argued one of the geneticals assembled in the dining hall of a restaurant they were used to frequenting. “Can we ever win the right to be seen and treated as ordinary human beings, as normal citizens, as common members of society? That is all that any of us want to enjoy.”

The person presiding over the informal meeting was Ro Faon, the early and most active genetical operating as a wonder mechanism in the new system of life.

Genetical after genetical spoke about their pain and unease in their everyday social relationships. “I was treated better before I became the person that I now am,” was a common, repeated refrain in the individuals who voiced their own dissatisfaction with their new condition and situation.

At the end of the meeting, Ro Faon promised his assembled comrades that he would present their opinions to the leading scientists at GenLab who had given them the capabilities of mind that now seemed to plague them with unforeseeable troubles and problems.

Both Gax and Zeo sat at their desks, petrified by what Ro told them was about to happen with the geneticals who were functioning with their new powers and abilities.

“The spirits of all my comrades, both male and female, have reached a point of absolute desperation. They are talking about carrying out a massive immigration out of Sinixia City, in order to find a better life for themselves elsewhere in our country.

“The patience of every single genetical has been finally exhausted. Not a single one of them is willing to continue as they have up to now.”

Ro paused, looking at each of the research scientists in turn. “Is there anything that either of you can offer them that might make them reverse their desire for autonomy and independence? None of the members of our group can stand to continue being human reckoners and memory machines for business and industry. They would prefer almost any kind of life that is different from their present barren, hollow existence.

“I myself share in this common attitude of mind.”

Ro stared at Zeo, then at Gax.

“All of us are ready to leave this metropolis and hunt for a new way of life out on the open land of Sinixia.”

As the genetical rose and left the office, the two creators of the human computer-reckoners stared at each other in silence.

The idea that became victorious among the desperate genetic rebels was that of taking to the roads and living on them. As roving wanderers, the geneticals could keep their augmented mental capabilities without having to sell themselves to established institutions within Sinixia.

“We shall enjoy the absolute liberties of a migrating style of living,” proclaimed Ro to the large crowd of followers who trusted and believed in him and his designs for their future.

The construction of motorized vehicular homes became a passion with genetical families and groupings. Road cottages and long trailers by the dozens appeared to form vardo caravans like those in the culture of migrant gypsy populations. Micro-homes that could be quickly set up or disassembled became popular.

“We shall no longer live here in Sinixia City,” announced Ro to anyone willing to listen to him. “Our home will be situated wherever we decide it should be.”

Jus Kedap summoned his pair of top genetical researchers to his office in order to report to them the grave situation facing both the manufacturer and the employer-users of the brain-enhanced men and women of Sinixia City.

“They have united, all of them, into nomadic tribes and clans,” he said with anger in his voice. “There is nothing that anyone can do about it. They are still free citizens with the right to live and move about however they might choose.

“I have ordered the ending of all work on new mechanisms and devices. We cannot afford to continue producing a migrant population out of step with contemporary society.

“It was all a horrible mistake, doomed to end in disaster, as it has. None of the geneticals intends to make further application of what we have added to their brains.

“I would conclude that we reshaped their brains, but not the minds that they now possess. They have evolved into beings beyond the normal controls of scientific and technical advances.

“None of us foresaw that these people would become independent thinkers making unexpected, unpredictable decisions the way that they have.

“Who could have known how the genetical brain was going to turn out?”

Neither one of the creators of the bio-invention had a word to add to that.

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