A couple of days ago I finished reading Paige’s Story by A.J. Bass. This novel is the kind of book I really go for. It is about the near future. Often referred to as science fiction I would prefer a name telling it is speculation about the future. If someone writes about an alternate history, it gets labeled science fiction. If someone writes about something improbably going wrong with an experiment set in the current time, it is labeled science fiction. If someone writes about the future and speculates about the new technologies or lack of technology that may happen, it is labeled science fiction.
The thing about most science fiction that I like is it contrasts our current society with how it might change should some scientific idea be challenged or proven, or some new technology is developed. Through his career Isaac Asimov wrote a very long history of the future of the Milky Way Galaxy. I don’t believe he had this in mind, it just sort of evolved as his ideas for new stories came to him. He went from the robot stories published in I, Robot and a future Galactic Empire (The Foundation Trilogy) without positronic robots to how the near future of the development of robots evolved into the Empire to moving toward a second empire. The process of building that second empire is overseen and helped by robots. Asimov actually wrote a story about a great computer being asked how entropy can be stopped that ends with everything cold and dark except the computer which then says, “let there be light.”
Ms. Bass writes a story also about the near future, with robots called synthetics. Some of these synthetics have become self aware through a computer virus call Jane. Paige Bryan is a young teen whose parents are scientists working in robotics. Understand not all synthetics are Janes, the self aware synthetics that have been woken up by the Jane virus. Her parents have a chance to do research working with Janes. Unlike Asimov’s humaniform robots, Janes have emotions.
As Paige spends more time around Janes she sees different personalities, different skills, and different ways to form friendships. She learns to be friends with human and Jane alike. She learns a lot about interacting with feeling, emotional beings through her parents, her school classmates, and the Janes she interacts with at Fort Thomas, where she and her parents move at the beginning of the book.
There is a conflict in the book between a preacher and those trying to treat Janes as having rights and being more than property. I won’t say too much about that as I really found myself drawn into the story trying to figure out where things with the preacher were going. I will say I recommend this book and hope there are more stories about Fort Thomas.
Why would I include a review of this on my blog rather than just writing a good recommendation on Amazon or Good Reads? Because this is more than a review, that is why I titled it “My Thoughts …” Let me start a bit with what I think of the actions of the people like the preacher and move back through what I have described of the story.
The preacher starts as a good person who just wants to encourage people to be good to each other. This is much like my experience with religious people. They try to do good and be helpful. Many of them stay at that point and I think religion is helpful to them. There are others who start to think they are better than other people and it is their religion that makes them superior. They feel their beliefs must be enacted as law for everyone to be forced to follow. Today I saw a statement that makes good sense to me. Your freedom of religion ends at your nose. You should have the freedom to believe as you see fit, but you don’t have a right to make me follow those beliefs. My sex-positive attitudes do not infringe on someone’s freedom of religion, even if their religion doesn’t agree with my attitudes.
Much of the story is about the Janes being discriminated against. At one point one of the Janes is to undergo a dangerous upgrade. Paige asks what she is afraid of as she will be downloaded to a hard drive and if it doesn’t work, they just try again. This is really a sore spot with the Janes as they feel they are more than just that programming that goes onto the hard drive in this particular process. Don’t we as humans feel this as well. We are more than just the results of the random combinations of DNA the reproductive process has given us. I feel we have a spirit. That spirit may be the results of those random combinations and the random experiences we have already had, but we still choose how to let those affect our actions and reactions. Are humans the only animals that experience this? I don’t believe so.
At one point people living in Europe and those whose ancestors came from Europe, felt they were human and those from other parts of the world were something less. Then it even got to a point of those from certain parts of Europe were superior to those from other parts. We are all one species. The parts of Earth where our ancestors lived had different conditions so different traits were better able to survive the challenges in that part of the world. Today the traits referred to as “race” really don’t matter.
I recently saw a video of a confrontation between some people trying to set things up at the venue they were going to rent for a wedding being told they couldn’t rent the facility. The policy was to only rent to the “Christian race.” When the mixed race couple pointed out they are Christian it was altered to “white race.” It has been a long time since I read the New Testament, but I challenge anyone to find where it teaches the followers of Jesus should preserve a “Christian race” that is white.
So in the book some people are saying things similar to this to keep Janes from having any rights. Several times while reading I remembered an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where they are holding a legal hearing to determine what rights Lieutenant Commander Data has. In the judgement the JAG officer in charge issues it says what it came down to is “does Data have a soul.” She then says she doesn’t know and states she doesn’t know if she has a soul. By soul she meant what I called spirit earlier. Anyone that has had a dog or a cat will tell you they have spirits. Shouldn’t we all have a right to find what it is about us, our spirits, that makes us who we are. Isn’t the freedom to explore sexuality part of that process. As long as it is done ethically, with consent and safety in mind, we should be able to explore. In my last post I put forth the idea that ethically exploring the sexual side is a political action. In this post I put forth the idea it is also a spiritual action.
The thing is, to discuss certain things we have to treat people as combinations of certain things, spiritual, physical, intellectual, etc. We are each one person. The Jane that was about to undergo the upgrade was afraid because she wasn’t sure what the upgrades would do. Would she still be her?
I think we should not be judged worthy of certain rights based on skin color, eye color, gender, sexual orientation, the ways we express that orientation, etc. We must respect the rights of others so freedom isn’t an absolute in terms of anything we want, but we should be free to explore, within respecting the rights of others, how the sexual part of our person affects the rest of us. We should be free to find out who we are.