A Transhuman Fairy Tale

Anders Sandberg (nv91-asa@nada.kth.se)
Thu, 9 Jan 1997 14:27:07 +0100 (MET)

A Transhuman Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a king and queen.
Their highest wish was to have a child, but for many years the queen had
remained childless. One day one of her ladies-in-waiting came to her and
told her about the fairy godmothers of biotechnology, who were said to be
able to help childless mothers using their magic spells. The royal couple
visited the glass and steel castle of the godmothers, and a few months
later the queen bore a child.

The happy parents invited all the fairy godmothers to a great celebration
in their castle. After a splendid dinner where the court held long
eulogies over the skill and power of the godmothers, they gathered around
the young princess and began to tell the parents about what they had given
their daughter: genes for good health, intelligence, beauty, slimness and
a predisposition for a charming personality.

The godmothers were just telling about the wonderful genetic switches they
had inserted so that the princess could for herself activate some of the
clever spells in her body when the thirteenth godmother burst into the
castle. The court had failed to invite her due to a computer error, and
she was furious. She pointed at the princess and told the others that it
was she who had created the genetic switch that controlled the telomerase
production; without it the princess would develop cancer due to an
inherited predisposition and die. With an evil laugh the evil godmother
ripped the optic disc containing the sequence for the controlling protein
into pieces and vanished in her black porsche.

The godmothers explained to the horrified parents that there was nothing
they could do; discovering how to unlock the switch would require
unravelling the entire genome of the princess and solving the generalised
protein structure problem, and even the spells of the godmothers could not
change all her DNA once she was born. But the twelfth and youngest
godmother, who so far had kept silent since she was just a research
intern, spoke up. She told the parents that she had inserted a few
amphibian genes "just in case": if the princess ever got too sick they
would begin to produce carbohydrates and proteins enabling a cryonic
suspension. She would lie frozen until future technology could revive her.

Several years went by and the princess grew up into a lovely young woman
just as intelligent, beautiful, creative and healthy as the godmothers had
predicted. Her father, still fearful of the curse of the thirteenth
godmother, had ordered the court to only serve healthy food rich in
antioxidants and low in calories, eat nutrient supplements developed by
the godmothers and forbidden smoking in the entire kingdom.

One day when the princess was alone in the castle she went exploring; in
one of the towers she found an old library, not changed since the 19th
century when its illustrious owner had died. On the desk she found a
humidor, containing strangely smelling cylinders. Her mentor AI told her
it was a cigar, a drug that had once been widely used in the kingdom.
Curious and unaware of the risks she tried smoking it -- and developed
lung cancer.

The saddened court and the godmothers could not do anything to stop the
cancer from growing metastases, and finally they had to cryonically
suspend the princess (although being rulers over their own kingdom, the
parents could change the law so that she could be suspended well before
legal death) and placed her in a capsule in an earthquake-proof bunker.
Over the years a great hedge of thorns grew up around the bunker, a
biodefense designed by the thirteenth godmother to make sure the princess
was forgotten forever. And there she lay for one hundred years.

One day a transhuman passed by through the local nets, and found a
reference to the old story about the frozen princess. He found the
thorn-hedge, and broke through it using his disassembler nanites -- the
spells of the godmother was far from cutting edge now. He entered the
silent and cold bunker, finding the capsule of the princess covered with a
thick layer of frost and dust; through the translucent cover he could make
out some vague contours filling him with deep longing. He opened it (not
minding the liquid nitrogen that poured out since his body was covered by
protective utility fog) and kissed her with lifegiving nanites that began
cell repair. She opened her eyes, and fell in love with the handsome
transhuman. He carried her away from the bunker, and they lived happily
ever after -- since the twelfth godmother had perfected life extension
therapy in the meantime.

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
nv91-asa@nada.kth.se http://www.nada.kth.se/~nv91-asa/main.html
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y