7) CARLOS – Page 45
needs met, do we still not want? Where is the absoluteness of joy without the pole of hate and loathing by which to measure it? This is a Heaven without men, surely, and for men there is no Heaven. Carsten disputed the existence of Paradise while promising its coming, drawing on Genesis: Paradise is the tree of God’s seed — the moment of God’s action — which has not yet come to fruition. Paradise will be the moment when the unfortunate collusion of circumstances becomes bright with the predestination of the first possibility.
Man is a discontented animal, continued Carsten in a paraphrase of past philosophers. The mere continuation of happiness, he argued, was enough to turn a man unhappy again through excess or boredom. True contentment could only be sustained for a single instant, a timeless sort of Perfection, foreign to man. If I could make those around me truly happy, I would build a great spaceship to hold them, and sail them to a the farthest limit of a black hole. At the very horizon, wrote Carsten, they would cease to move, they would freeze their very souls in time. Their worries would be at an end, their blood-sin and tawdriness crystallized to brilliant stone. And I would see that they were happy for all eternity, though they knew it not – agreeing with the conclusion of some of the world’s greatest philosophers: Heaven is far away, and strictly for other people.
The intelligences that watched over Chandrasekhar’s comatose form were disappointingly similar to their forebears. They were persistent anachronisms in a future that had expected neural net balls of blinking Christmas lights, plugged directly into our brains through chrome hex-and-washer amplifier jacks. These computers were the same old technology, faster, smaller, running on nano-scale substrates. They were expert systems — computers that read exabytes of data, followed billions of human provided rules, and processed them through an unimaginably fast pocket calculator. They had no consciousness other than lists of tasks to perform and conditions to be aware of; no desires, only what unavoidable programmatic impulses pushed them to do; no sense of right or wrong beyond what codified rules said was right and wrong. There’s probably a joke about them not being too far from human in there somewhere; then again, being created and programmed by humans, it probably isn’t much of a joke.
The Boots of Steel checked on the medipods’ status while juggling a thousand other imperatives. It flew straight, aimed at a mathematical pinprick at the center of the Milky Way, treading space that had been trod before. It could follow the trail of its slow moving predecessor from the fluctuations in density of neutral hydrogen in its path; in the space between stars the passage of the ship might be observable for another century. The Boots’ astrogation routine was prepared to adjust its trajectory at any moment. So far it had proved unnecessary.
That was a high priority imperative, like the routines that maintained power to the medipods and replaced the ablative material protecting the hull. Thousands of other routines existed without ever being utilized, a database of logic resources meant to be employed on an as-needed basis: soil analyzers;