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Here I was in Colorado during the winter.
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BaCkup Identity by Brendan ZaChary AllIson
“You want me to defend you pro bono on charges of over 47 trillion counts of murder?”
“No. I’ll pay you. Lavishly. Once this is resolved, I should have control of my estate again.”
The defense lawyer leaned back in his chair. “This is really complicated. Like something you’d see on an exam in law school.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you, Johnny 502. Your consciousness is an amalgam of over 500 of the best defense lawyers in history. You’ve defended thousands of murderers. Many of them actually were guilty.”
“So you consider yourself innocent?”
“I didn’t kill anyone. I wiped a server housing 47 trillion consciousnesses, most of them copies or hybrids like you. There were only 77,673 purebreds active, most of those for people who were dead already. Besides, I copied the backups. That’s how we’re talking. You’re online through my laptop right now.”
“OK, the first part, nothing I can do there. Courts worldwide have found that any consciousness is a life. But the second part about the backups. Hmm.” Johnny 502’s chair would have fallen backwards as he leaned back further if it had been real. “We might cut a deal. You restore all the backups except one – the purebred copy of you that controls your estate – in exchange for immunity.” He paused. “That’s why you hacked everyone else, huh? Negotiating power?”
“Could we still work together if I don’t answer that?”
“Yes. I’m a fucking lawyer. But how did you lose power of attorney over your own estate, even your own body?”
“I had more or less the same contract as millions of other people out here in the real world. If I was declared dead or comatose, my purebred backup got control. Of everything I owned or was. Turned out I was misdiagnosed as comatose. The technical term is minimally conscious state, often confused with coma. Once I got communicating with that little EEG cap, I learned my purebred backup was trying to pull the plug on me. The court said my contract still held even though I was misdiagnosed. Fucking lawyers!”
“OK, so you used a brain-computer interface to take out the Master Server?”
“No, just made some changes to I’m the only one who can access the only copies of all of you. I won’t hurt any of them, except for deleting my purebred. One count of murder, plus whatever other petty crimes for hacking the server. You get me off in exchange for letting about 47 trillion of you ‘live’ again.”
“47 trillion people whose lives you disrupted won’t be too happy with you.”
“How they gonna find me? I’ll pay a doctor to wake me up with the Laureys paradigm, then vanish on some island. I’ll make another purebred copy of myself under a different name for when I die in real life.”
The lawyer leaned back further, almost upside down. “Would be great publicity – landmark case.”
“And you’ll be the savior of 47 trillion people.”
Johnny 502’s avatar stood up and his chair disappeared. “OK. I’ll take your case, and for free. Just a few seconds – paperwork filed. Being reviewed by a judge in a secondary server. Approved. Your money’s in your old bank account.” He smiled. “These things used to take so much longer in real – hello? Hello?”
I was advised to develop this into a novel. That may take a while.
Johnny 502 was named to reference both defense attorney Johnny Cochran and Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.
Prof. Steven Laureys is a real person working with coma and other disorders of consciousness. I got his permission to use his name here. We work together on BCIs for these patients, although his work goes well beyond BCIs.
This does connect to real-world issues with some patients who need BCIs. We’ve been involved with many situations where the phrasing of a will – including who gets power of attorney under which circumstances – is crucial.
It depends on your view of the protagonist. Disrupting 47 trillion consciousnesses is pretty serious, although it’s unclear how bad the disruption was. The protagonist seems to have got what he wanted and “won” overall.
I wrote this in May 2022.
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