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Blood Music

As the last few paragraphs of On Walking crystallized, and I thought of myself as a cell discovering the outside world, I realized I'd seen the same thought before, in Greg Bear's book Blood Music. So, I went and found it, and here it is.

Vergil was in the tub, up to his neck in pinkish water.


The pinkish color in the water didn't look like soap. “Is that bubble bath?” Edward asked. Another thought came to him suddenly and left him weak.

“No,” Vergil said. “It's coming from my skin. They're not telling me everything, but I think they're sending out scouts. Hey! Astronauts! Yeah.”

I also found a few other nice passages. Here's one that imagines what it would be like to be a cell …

“Hard to understand exactly what time is like for them,” he said. “It's taken them maybe three, four days to figure out language, key human concepts. Can you imagine, Edward? They didn't even know. They thought I was the universe.


“They're trying to understand what space is. That's tough for them. They break distances down into concentrations of chemicals. For them, space is a range of taste intensities.”

… and here's one that shows where people would fit in.

“The ones hooked up to my neurons aren't the big wheels. They're researchers, or at least serve the same function. They know I'm here, what I am, but that doesn't mean they've convinced the upper levels of the hierarchy.”

The thing that's interesting about all that is that it provides a handle for thinking about superorganisms. Remember the analogy, that people are to superorganisms as cells are to people. Bear doesn't talk about superorganisms per se, but he does imagine that both cells and people are intelligent, allowing us to map ourselves to either the part or the whole.

Finally, here's a passage unrelated to the above that fits in nicely with the idea of Self as Ideas.

—How many of me are there?

That number will always change. Perhaps a million by now.

—Will I meet them? Integrate with them?

No cluster has the capacity to absorb the experiences of all like clusters. That must be reserved for command clusters. Not all information is equally useful at any given time.

—But no information is lost?

Information is always lost. That is the struggle. No cluster's total structure is ever lost. There are always duplications.


  See Also

  On Walking

@ May (2002)