Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Finished" by Robert Reed

Another day, another story about immortality. Or rather, another story about the cost of immortality, which is almost invariably a more important question than whether immortality itself will ever be acheivable.

In Reed's iteration of the theme, immortality is acheived by a process called "finishing," in which a person's mind is imprinted on a crystal, which is then placed inside an artificial body. The drawbacks are that the process destroys the person's original body, and freezes their consciousness into the state they were in when the finishing was performed. Essentially, people that are finished are frozen in time. The can use memory sinks to learn new things and store their new experiences, but, essentially, they remain the same person that they were at the moment they were finished.

There are a lot of directions that Reed could have taken with this premise, many of which have already explored to death (excuse the pun). Of course, he could of asked whether the finished are really people anymore, whether the person really dies during the process, or if immortality is really worth the cost of being frozen in time.* Instead, Reed focuses on the physical cost of being finshed. To a certain extent, Reed is a realist/pessimist (depending on how you look at it) about humanity and society. In his world, much like it would be in ours, finishing is not a cheap process. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to even have the most basic of finished bodies, and much more for the creation of the crystallized brain.

However, as you see in the story itself, it isn't only the super-rich that get finished. Many average people seem to go through the process as well. So, the question remains, how does the average person pay for their finishing. Keeping in mind that, after the process is completed, the finished person is essentially immortal, the possibilities are quite disturbing. I'll leave it at that, because I don't want to ruin anything, although I will say that the resolution does not show a very positive picture of the capitalist spirit.

*To a certain extent, he does address this last question briefly, when we hear the story of a terminally ill man who was finished to escape death. We find out that, because he was sick and miserable and in pain when he was finished, he remains locked in that state for eternity. Basically, this is just a point for the argument on the main character's part for picking the "perfect" day to be finished.

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