Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Voortrekkers

In Poul Anderson's "Epilogue," machines have been naturally selected for consciousness and intelligence whereas, in his "The Voortrekkers" (Explorations, New York, 1981), machines have been programmed with human psychoneural patterns. Thus, "The Voortrekkers" addresses issues that are treated at greater length in Anderson's Genesis and Harvest of Stars Tetralogy.

In "The Voortrekkers," for slower than light extra-solar exploration:

a complex and dynamic human psychoneural pattern is scanned and recorded, then transferred to a photonic-electronic matrix, thus producing a conscious, motivated, self-programming machine, needing no life support, that "'...can be switched off in transit...'" (p. 159);

on arrival in another planetary system, the neural pattern can be transferred to a molecular-organic matrix, thus producing a human being who can explore a planetary surface and test its habitability.

When the original consents to be scanned and recorded and to give cells for chromosome templates, he knows that he will continue to live on Earth or in the Solar System and will eventually die there. It makes no sense for him to wonder whether he will be the one who wakes up in a spaceship entering another planetary system. Yet when the transferred neural pattern becomes conscious, it will think, "I am the one who has woken in the spaceship..."

Is this, rather than human beings traveling faster than light, the real future for interstellar travel?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I agree, "The Vcortrekkers" shows Anderson touching on issues he treated at much greater length and depth in the HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS.

At the end you asked a question: "Is this, rather then [sic] human beings traveling faster than light, the real future for interstellar travel?" My answer would be I hope not! Only a very very few persons would "download" their personalities into a computer matrix like this. I would far rather we had a FTL drive or even that mankind would use generation ships if that was what it would take for mankind to leave the Solar System.