«OK, everything is recorded. But we must wait that Rolf unplugs his emitter from Earth's Internet network, in order to exchange our reports» concluded Enken, who engaged into gathering the wealth of videos and written reports of the experiment, without forgetting the precious telemetry recordings. «If he can manage, as last time he was blocked several nights by a conference which was monopolising the beam.» In more of being unable to use the beam as he needed, Rolf could even not archive the documents on Earth. For a scientist, to work in such conditions was rather frustrating, but Rolf was aware that some catastrophe could result of a salvage divulgation of the secret of the lokutens.
So, in the convened time, Enken and Elaminaroa waited for Rolf's messages, before sending theirs. The beam was probably congested, as they had to wait for more than fifteen minutes.
The comparison of the reports from Palomas and Vilayah clearly showed that the experiment was a full success. The riders all showed able to lead their individual lokouten, perform specific actions, communicate by speaking and listening, and then return to their bodies and remember what they had seen and done while in the lokouten, including the integrity of visual tests. And all the eight riders, unlike previous experiments where only some succeeded. It worked even with the newbies, as if the success of some was helping the others too. Strictly speaking, there were some distorted memories, and Kurt had forgotten half of his experience, but they could consider that the connection was reliable.
But a thing was worrying Ekarpan and his team: that Steve could so easily incorporate a lokouten which was set for Liu. Probably, when he indicated the visualization to Liu, this visualisation in fact acted on himself. They felt that this was the weak point of the whole project: no material system, even with psychophysical capacities, would ever be able to check which consciousness is attempting to ride it. They however extensively customized the electronic brains of the robots, reproducing all the peculiar circuits, unique for each person, which are formed during the growth and modified by all the experiences along the life. What happened showed that even this was not enough to identify and select the legitimate owner of this brain...
Clearly, anyone could impersonate anybody, and engage into all the imaginable abuses. And this was ruining any hope of seeing someday any practical use of the lokouten on Earth, or even on Dumria. They could even not reserve their use to a small group: sooner or later, the secret would spill, and the disaster would be unleashed.
«The Earthlings could come on Dumria» remarked Elaminaroa. Certainly visiting another planet as with our flesh body was an astounding prospect, and the Dumrians would readily offer it to their friends of Earth. The problem is that, then, all kinds of violents, bandits, rapists, dictators and fascists could come and wander incognito on Dumria, under an innocent and sympathetic look, just to assault them in a forest, invade and destroy their subtle social structures, with introducing distrust and suspicion in their world where everything was working thanks to their pure innocence... To this thought, they all felt nausea. Already the lokouten looked difficult to control, but it was infinitely worse if in more they could be so easily overtaken by anybody...
«It could even be a planned invasion mean.
-Worse, by Ouarkatan.»
We remember this civilization which had evolved into an incredible global dictatorship, and which was about to discover the quantum telescopes and interstellar communication. The name itself, «Dark Terror» in the language of the Draminyan, was enough to arise a shudder in the back to everyone present. Already the Dumrians did not liked at all how their love poetry websites had been desecrated by some Earthlings, who went to gawk as if they were vulgar porn sites. The Dumrians had to create a complex filters system, to make these love images, which adorned nearly all their pages, invisible from Earth. Even if we could not speak of an invasion of their web space, the Dumrians were feeling this as a strong blow to their freedom of expression, which reached them in their intimacy, and in more which reached them all, even those who were not interested in Earth.
«Not Ouarkatan, they are too materialistic to ever do psychophysics.
-Them, likely not, but others might do. I don't think any Earthling loyal to the United Nations will try anything against us, but there may be on Earth a bunch of groups that may want to try to colonize Dumria. Remember the «anti-suicide conspiracy» which was on the verge of disorganizing us. It is enough that they persuade some of us to build some lokouten somewhere. This could be done under a lot of very good pretexts. Once they take control of a robotic plant, then they can launch a mass production of lokouten, or even modify all the ordinary robots without us realizing, at the occasion of the automatic updates of the hardware. Once enough machines are created or equipped with psychophysical brain, then a physical invasion by force is quite possible, and we have no way to counter it.
-Yes we would have, to cut fuel supplies.
-Pooh, they will think at this. All these people are used to war, they have it in their minds since their birth, when us, we would have everything to learn in this domain.
-And the black sphere... What does it want?
-If it was the emanation of an invasion force, it would not act otherwise.
-And in more we are isolated by the tempest.
-My feeling is that, with the lokouten, it is as with the nuclear plants» concluded Orea. She had no need to say more. The Dumrians, when they discovered nuclear fission, had tried, as nearby all the technological civilisations, to build nuclear plants for producing energy. But when they realized the fantastic genetic threat of the accumulation of radioactive wastes, which would sooner or later disperse in nature, then they decided to stop everything, despite the considerable amount of work already invested in this business. And, three thousands years later, eleven nuclear tombs forever forbidden to life were still here on Dumria, as symbols of the wisely avoided tragedy.
Orea's remark was followed by an heavy silence.
The silence of the Dumrians who are thinking at serious things.
«The most difficult now is to make understand this to this stubborn Rolf» Ekarpan concluded.
The Dumrians had no need to say more, so that their decision was made, and the discussion ended there, except for a discreet aside from Ekarpan to the programmers:
«We do not know what will happen when the sphere will arrive, neither what will be good or not to do. But just in case, I think we should change the program of the lokouten, to be able to neutralize them if things go wrong. For this, you will make a small security team, headed by Enken, in the small game room with a video link, in order to see without being seen. No lokouten must be able to move without your consent, even if they disconnect all their remote control connections. If ever anything unusual or unexplainable happens, you stop everything at once. Especially if they start to do weird philosophy or try to persuade us to do shady things. I think we should consider this as a vital security matter, for our entire civilization. As with nuclear power plants.
-OK barbarian, this will be done, replied Enken. He was able, as all the really clever persons, to immediately switch from the unleashed fancy to the most demanding military discipline, if the situation commanded it.
-Well. In facts, the Earthlings are much more endangered than us, in this affair. The sphere is aiming at them, and, given their psychological difficulties to take decisions together, any beginner manipulator could easily divide them and paralyze them. The majority of them would even think that lokouten cannot exist. The time they understand that they do exist, it will be too late for them.
-The lokouten cannot go on Earth, anyway. It is us who are threatened.
-Indeed. But with these machines, it is possible to try to manipulate or intimidate us, or try to persuade Rolf to build these machines on Earth, or to entrust somebody else less scrupulous than him. I think we need to take note of all what the lokouten will say, especially about Earth.»
The group of technicians disbanded, except Enken who, as at random, followed Ekarpan toward the bath rooms. «The problem is that we are isolated by the storm, murmured Enken, and nobody on Dumria knows what is going on here. If ever things go wrong, we may not have the time to send alarm messages on the network, and nobody will worry before days, and even weeks. So I propose to program an alert message, which would go on the network automatically after some time, if nobody is here to delay it. I can program it from here, on the Antüs computer, so that it leaves even if the electronic communications of Vilayah are cut. So, even if we are neutralized, the message will go, with all the explanations.
-Yes, this is a very good idea. But be careful not to forget to cancel it if the experiment is successful, otherwise all our secrets are disclosed.»
The whole Palomas team celebrated late in the night the success of the lokouten experiment. However Rolf was feeling a rising concern. The black sphere would be there in a few hours, and still nobody had the least idea of what would happen next. Even Tchögyal was locking himself into silence, evading any discussion, alone in his bedroom. This concern was even beginning to become visible to the other people in the University of Palomas, and several professors and staff members such as Gus Anvil had begun to discuss about what was going on with the psychophysics team. This unwanted attention was not reassuring them, quite on the contrary.
But another thing was worrying Rolf. Since the exchange of reports, no message came from Vilayah, by no channel, public or secret. This was not the ways of Ermine, Ekarpan's spouse, who usually was running the link. Maybe they were all lost into one of their lengthy game sessions, or into long parties of typically Dumrian activities that Earthlings do only at night. But at only some hours of the contact, it was not the moment. The fear of Rolf, since the beginning of the Kuten project, was that the Dumrians refuse to work with him, for a whole set of much too obvious ethical reasons. So at the least suspicion of a negative signal from Vilayah, Rolf was feeling an insidious guilt filling him.
And there especially was Steve's case. How could a beginner, without any preparation and without any history of psychophysical experiences, could so easily integrate a lokouten, which was even not designed for him? It was Steve himself who aroused Rolf's suspicion:
«You know, Rolf, I am worried with what happened.
-Err, well, hey... I could perfectly say I was Liu, if I wanted. They could not guess.
-Yes, of course, because you were disguised in Liu, with the wig and all.
-It is not this. In facts Ekarpan and his team had no means to check if it was really Liu riding the lokouten. If I did not told them, they would even not notice.
-But we took all the necessary steps for matching the consciousness with the machine circuitry, didn't we? Well, it failed, because you are both beginners, but...
-It is not this. When I was in this machine, I was really feeling like in my body. A bizarre body, as when we are stiff, but a body, not just a mental image. I was really feeling as if I was on Dumria, I understood and spoke the language of Vilayah, and when I wanted to move I started to walk by reflexes, I needed no more than five minutes to be able to do so. The relationship between the consciousness and the machine can quickly become very strong.
-This is clear evidence that we did a good job.
-Yes, but with the lokouten designed for Liu. This worries me a lot.
-Quite simply, the machine does not know how to recognize the consciousness which will enter into it. It is the consciousness which recognizes the body, to which it is strongly attached. But the body, even with psychophysical faculties, cannot recognize the consciousness it is incorporating, and even not defend itself from the grip of another consciousness. This is why there are trance mediums, such as the famous oracles of Lhassa, and cases of possession of human beings by disembodied spirits.
-It is not serious, if...
-Yes it IS very serious. Very very serious. This means that anybody can use any lokouten. And that any manipulator can steal the identity of anybody. Total uncertainty.
-If it is an industrial lokouten, without personality of its own, it is not an issue. But sooner or later, people will use this means to communicate. Without speaking of the dead, who will have only this means to be understood from their surviving family. Imagine an heir using this means to spoil his brothers, or a false spiritual master using the lokouten of a true one!
-Oops. You are right. It would be full dementia.
-Do you imagine the quantity of scheming, scams, rapes, which could be accomplished by this mean?
-Rape, not with my machines.
-Bah, it would be easy to endow them with the appropriate «organs», which are already developed for the «dickwalkers exoskeletons» that you like so much. Understand me, Rolf, between us we can trust each other, nobody in our team will ever attempt to commit any wrongdoing whatsoever with these machines, but as soon as their knowledge will leak out of this small circle, then anything will be possible. Look at all the nutter stuff that we already see on the Internet, with bots roaming everywhere and bothering everybody, trying to defraud people, or requesting the right of vote! But the worse is that there is a whole bunch of so-called progressive intellectuals who take their defence! And all this demented fuss is just in the virtual. Imagine what would happen if physical machines started to wander around, screaming commercials, of if anybody could sign contracts or have sex, while pretending to be somebody else!
«Still worse, if an attack is committed by a lokouten, how to find the culprit? Anything becomes possible, attacks, rape, burglary, and even war, and all this in a perfectly anonymous and unstoppable way!!
«In a world where so many misconceptions are still prevailing on the nature of consciousness and of the human person, we could even not consider an effective defence against an invasion of lokouten, if even there is a possible defence. All our intellectuals would start braying that we must not attack the lokouten, it would be a murder to disconnect them, that they are above the law, that they should have the right of vote, etc. Not to mention that everybody will want the replacement of their flesh body by a metal body, in the hope of obtaining immortality.
-Ouch ouch ouch, you are right, Steve. From this perspective, it is completely insane and horribly demented. Uncontrollable, and worse, nobody to only want to control. And more, in a few hours, there is this sphere which is coming, which will use means we do not know to command us to do things we cannot predict. And even if it does not ask us to frankly spread the secret, sooner or later, this secret will leak. So everything you said will become possible. And the world will verse into dementia.
On what can happen tomorrow, we can make no plan, or we need to envision an infinity of hypothesis.
-We can at least envision cases, depending on what it will «request» us to do.
-If the sphere requests us to use the lokouten.
-If it requests us to build other lokouten.
-If ever it requests us to disclose the secret, and to whom.
-If ever it will requests us for something.
-Well, two or three hours remain before bedtime, and the contact will be tomorrow morning at about half past four. If the sphere keeps going.
Well, concluded Rolf, we are going to meet all together, so we shall see. You, Steve, you have to prepare a message for Ermine, on the emergency channel, and tell them to beware of the use they will be asked for the lokouten. The best would be that they provide a way to disconnect them, if something weird happens, or if there is a glitch.»
Unlike what Rolf was hoping for, the full meeting of all the protagonists shed no real light on the attitude for the next day. Tchögyal flatly refused to come, and without him Rolf was feeling less assured. They were even not allowed with the quiet but luminous presence of Yonten Drolma. Monsieur and Madame Eraert were immediately aware of the risk of misuse of the lokouten. The German technicians of the KRG, above all rational people, had more difficulties accepting that their work may unleash the chaos. For them, it was questioning years of studies. Only the three «riders», led by Ulrike Meinster, proved really worried. Everyone nonetheless agreed to maintain the secrecy about their finding, but some wanted to continue the experiments and share with other researchers, while their colleagues said that they were already enough to know the secret. As for the use of the lokouten the next day, everyone agreed on generalities such as respecting the human rights, but as soon as concrete cases were envisioned, views were diverging at once.
«You see, even with us only, it would be a mess», Rolf told Steve. Seeing that the discussion could not reach a conclusion, he ended the meeting, and he asked Steve to send his message. So on an Earth's internet page about a garden project, the foliage of seven trees was suddenly modified, starting a small music in Ermine's home.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux.
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