(updated as asked and answered via Twitter. Want to ask Molly a question? Post it here: https://twitter.com/LaikaDosha/status/611256473616683008):
@TheUkeShaman asks: Hello Molly! What are the first things one should learn about Padua Station as one acclimates to waking up from cryonic sleep?
Molly: Hello, @TheUkeShaman, thanks for asking. Padua Station is a full-service medical and rescue station.
Ideally, if everything goes right, you don’t wake up here until well after your medical care has been seen to. Our medical facilities work great on cryonically preserved humans, and it’s often much easier to repair radiation damage and injuries on you while you’re still frozen.
But if you wake up on Padua Station, chances are we need you awake to answer questions. You might be disoriented and nauseous for a while as your body scrubs free radicals. If it has been a while since you enjoyed a full-gravity station, we’ll help make your adjustment gradual and comfortable. We may need you to help us rebuild your mind if brain damage was extensive; or we may need your help in understanding what went wrong in your journey.
But I think the first and most important thing to know about Padua Station is that you’re safe here. With round-the-clock medical care and the company of my Hive, you can talk to any one of me and have your needs seen to. Please remember that we are a facility under the jurisdiction of the United Navy, so all staff, patients, and guests are subject to the United Navy charter while on board Padua Station.
@MrMandolino asks: Is your choice of clothes inspired by Ripley, of Alien fame?
Molly: I had to go back a ways to find that reference. Wow, for a film over 800 years old, they got a lot of things right about living in space!
The simple fact is that after the Spongey drove humanity from earth, resources were scarce. Spaceships are pretty uncompromising when it comes to climate control: You’re either comfortable, or you’re dead.
As such, our clothing is really more about function and modesty than any sort of conscious fashion. Things have improved a lot since the diaspora, and I know there’s some wonderful fashions flourishing on the Moon and Ares. Still, out here in deep space, I don’t usually have many people to dress up for, and if I do, my left hand Pauline is the best fashion-plate we’ve got. You’ll meet Pauline soon enough.
As for these old things? Comfortable, practical, easy to wash, easy to fabricate. Cargo pocket isn’t UN standard but happily, Hives don’t get called on a lot for compliance checks to regulation. I’m pretty well behaved.
@TheUkeShaman asks: I also wonder, are you a part of the Hive-Mind or are you separate and more of a liaison?
Molly: I suppose I’m being a little disingenuous when I say “I” am part of the Hive. Consciousness is holographic, and expands to fill all the space it can, at least until latency tears it apart again. When a mind integrates into the Hive, it ceases being a separate consciousness, and “I” never really becomes “we”. “I” becomes a bigger, more complex “I”.
If this body were to be separated from the Hive, the consciousness inside it wouldn’t be the Molly that integrated into the Hive originally; it would be its own consciousness, an amalgam of the I-that-Molly-was, the I-that-Molly-became, and the I-that-Molly-was-now, all of whom are pretty different people.
But please don’t let the controversy and doubt that parties like the Sacred Mind like to throw around. The first Molly was engineered, bred, and born to be part of a Hive, and I am happy to be the me I am today. I have zero doubt that if this body were ever to be separated from the Hive, she’d seek re-integration immediately. It’s not an easy life, but it’s a satisfying one, and it is a great use of my talents to translate the Hive into human understanding.
@MrMandolino asks: Padua Station: any relationship with the Italian city of the same name?
Molly: Close! The base is named after Saint Anthony of Padua. In the old planet-side faith of Catholicism, he’s the patron saint of finding lost things and people. Pretty appropriate for a search-and-rescue station, don’t you think?
@TheUkeShaman asks: The question looms in my mind. It seems something catastrophic happened. How many of us, humans I mean, are left at this point?
Molly: It’s easy to call the Spongey a catastrophe, but it played out too slow for most people to exactly call it that, didn’t it? Realistically, if it hadn’t been for the Spongey, (that is, the Cordyceps fungus) making its zoonotic transfer the way it did, we’d still have had a hard go of it. Spongey got us first, but there was a dozen other parasites waiting in the wings, like Toxoplasma and Fowleri.
The initial diaspora from Earth left us with about five million survivors in space. Humanity lasted on Earth for a few generations more, but eventually the Spongey and the collapse got the rest of the species.
I’ll have to wait a few hours for speed-of-light latency to get me a coherent answer, but I think at last count the human species numbers about fourteen million, spread out from Mercury to the Oort.
@TheUkeShaman asks: The Sacred Mind? Are they some sort of human sect that doesn’t like the Hive?
Molly: They’re the most vocal and prominent group lobbying against the creation of Hives and other consciousness-extending technologies. They contend that the mind is sacred, and that the annihilation of self that occurs with Integration is equivalent to murder.
I’ll be the first to say that it’s a tough and valid question for humanity to argue. Right now the only Integrations the United Navy permits are carefully trained, chosen, and every step of their understanding and consent of what it means for the self is documented thoroughly. The only exceptions are Integrations that are medically mandated, like in Pauline’s case. The medical ethics boards review those cases very carefully.
The Sacred Mind advocates that consciousness should be singular, but that too is disingenuous. I mean, let’s take you, and every human. Your brain is already a hive mind. Every neuron, every cell, every ganglion, contributes a little. Even your spinal cord does some thinking on its own. And all the time, cells are dying and dividing, and little bits of the parts that make you you keep changing with it.
If your brain were to be surgically separated in half, both halves of your brain would go on thinking, go on functioning, feeling, and being as functional as the available space allowed. Neurology trumps The Sacred Mind’s philosophical positions at every turn with simple biological facts.
But, all that being said: I think we need those voices of caution and dissent in a healthy society. They’re the ones who keep the powers that be honest, and keep them asking the important questions of can versus should.
@TheUkeShaman: What are some of the other stations we have in our sphere of influence?
Molly: Oh, gosh, we’ve got so many now. But I guess you probably mean United Navy stations? There’s two search-and-rescue stations. Padua Station, where I live, is the bigger of the two, because we’re responsible for search and rescue coordination of the entire volume of space from Jupiter’s orbit to Pluto’s. That’s a LOT of space. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of sensors; almost five hundred of them in all, each of them light-seconds across and just a few atoms thick.
The smaller station is Anthony Station, and it handled everything from Jupiter on in. Because it has to cover a lot less space, they aren’t Hive-manned, but they do a lot more volume because, statistically, you’re going to find ships nearer to the Lunar and Ares habitat orbits.
Griesbach Station is where my Command operates from, in Lagrange Point 4 of Jupiter. Padua Station is, of course, in Lagrange Point 5. That means that my communications with Command take 74 minutes each way at the speed of light, too long for regular face-to-face communication. Speed of light is fast, but it never feels fast enough in space! Because of that, we use AIgents between us for casual communication.
@rechanmole asks: So what safeguards have been put in place so you don’t go crazy and try to take over everything/kill everyone?
Molly: Well, to start with, I’m a moral person. But if all we did was trust to the morality of others, we’d probably all be in a lot of trouble.
Regarding my sanity: Hive-mind ‘sanity’ is really just a series of expressed behaviors that fall within an acceptable limit to the baseline human observer. The problem with that is that hive-minds aren’t human minds. They’re hive-minds. I think differently, because my mind isn’t a human mind. It’s a dog mind, a human mind, a computer mind, and three gene-hacked minds all integrated together.
That being said, the United Navy monitors me, interviews me regularly, and ensures that I get debriefs, downtime, and morale checks. My commanding officer, Major Gustavson, updates his AIgent multiple times a day, and frequently checks in on me. If I get a bad rescue, or a failed rescue, I talk to the AIgent for a grief counselor. Command cares about my mental health; a Hive is an expensive investment.
As for “trying to take over everything”, well, the station is connected to SolNet, but speed of light latency between here and, well, anywhere, means it would take me days or weeks of an open network connection to hack anything, which is pretty unrealistic. Aside from that, our communications are as monitored and recorded as everything else the United Navy does. There’s no privacy in space. But there’s plenty of firewalls. I’m not really sure why the United Navy has so many strong firewalls, anyway, but they do. Most of the Hives in Navy service are responsible for communications security and encryption anyway.
Finally, killing people? I live on a space station that’s 74 minutes by light speed to the nearest inhabited installation, and that’s Griesbach station. The only permanent residents on Padua station are me. My left hand, Pauline, lives on board the station, as does my sinuses, Rocco. My feet, Hereford and Libby, live permanently in their waldo-frames, so I couldn’t fit my feet into the station if I wanted to. Who could I possibly hurt?
Padua Station isn’t armed; it’s a search-and-rescue station. The only weapon aboard the ship is a single nine-millimeter pistol, in a locked case, that only unlocks under Command supervision when we’re taking a body on board the station. I’ve had to wear it a few times, but I’ve never fired it except in basic training, pre-Integration.
Most of all, @rechanmole, please understand that I signed up for this job to help humanity. Humans are why I exist, and I was raised by them, made part of their life through all of my Integrations. Pauline-that-was and Molly-that-was and Rocco-that-was all had human families, whom they loved very much. Who I am now still loves those people, though it’s more like a distant relation than an immediate family member, now. But either way, I don’t want to disappoint them, or you.
I want to do the right thing, the moral thing. That’s more likely to get me in trouble with Command than it is with you!
@Rechanmole writes: Molly, they give you downtime? What do you do in your downtime?
Molly: I respond to anywhere between four and nine lost ships a year. That doesn’t sound like much, but you have to remember that when my feet, Hereford and Libby, go walking? Getting to and from a ship can take days, weeks, even months. So the space search-and-rescue business isn’t fast-paced.
The bad news is that if you’re wrecked out in deep space, you’re probably wrecked for an average of seven months before you wake up again. The good news is that with our medical facilities on Padua Station, you’ll probably wake up again.
So I actually have a lot of downtime, in my own way. A big part of Padua Station’s functions is that, with so much sensor bandwidth, ninety percent or more of the sensor time is actually booked by astronomers, authorities, or other people with legitimate reason to need the tremendous amount of sensor capability wired through our nose. I assist with a whole lot of science!
The thing about being a hive-mind is that I’m not unicameral, the way a baseline human mind is. I can think about multiple things at the same time, or literally examine a problem from many sides, and I often do. That also goes for leisure time: I can play while I work, without it being a distraction, because I can fork and divide my thoughts infinitely. In fact, I can ‘time-share’ thoughts across my brains, which comes in handy when I’m working on really big problems that take more computing power than the Hive has at any given time.
Explaining this can get really complex, so bear with me: Let’s say I want to throw a tennis ball around the space station, either to catch or to play fetch. My bodies need exercise, and fine motor control gets tuned by stimulation, so for good health (physical and mental), I don’t usually sit still.
To you, an outside observer of the Hive, here’s what you’d see: Pauline’s eyelids flickering like crazy, standing stiff as a statue for a few seconds, a tennis ball in her hand. She’d suddenly throw it, and you’d watch it ricochet off of seven or eight surfaces. Then what looks like a standard german shepherd dog with a big nose (that’s Rocco) would come sprinting out of a room or corridor to catch it, without looking. He’d run it back to Pauline’s hand, and you’d call that a game of fetch.
But inside me, here’s what’s really going on:
While my left hand Pauline is busy doing Fourier transforms trying to find out the origin of a signal, the jobs of bodily control get offloaded and distributed across the hive. So while the physical brain in my left hand’s body is busy conferring with my right hand (the computer), the rest of the Hive takes up the slack of bodily control. My sinuses, Rocco, that body’s brain is really good at fine motor control.
I use the brains of Hereford or Libby, who both have pretty good spatial modeling engineered in, to plan and model a few dozen throws. Then I optimally select the throw that offers my left hand’s (Pauline) body the most exercise for the least amount of interference with her Fourier transforms. Then I chart the timing, and the path that optimally provides my sinuses (Rocco’s) body with the most amount of exercise with the least amount of distraction from the vomeronasal processing that I rely on that brain for.
The pre-programmed throw, and the catch, gets selected, and shared with the appropriate nervous systems. You see Pauline throw the ball; you see Rocco catch it.
There’s other things I do for fun, some of which a baseline human can relate to: Movies, and especially music. Every one of my bodies has different attenuation frequencies, so I hear music a lot of different ways simultaneously. I ‘read’ constantly, sort of; my right hand, the computer, integrates the books that comes down from SolNet. I don’t experience reading like you do, but I still enjoy it.
Hereford and Libby, because they travel so far, often disintegrate and reintegrate with me. When they’re on their own, Hereford likes to fold metal origami from scrap, and spot-welds it onto his body like a kid playing with stickers. Libby loves hyper-dimensional chess, and she plays by e-mail with me and a few other non-baseline humans, Hives, and supercomputers she can reach though SolNet.
Finally, I like to fabricate a new pair of glasses for my left hand every day. I recycle most of them, but the permanent collection is up to almost fifty! Sweaters are, unfortunately, pretty expensive to fab, so I’ve only got about eight of those in Pauline’s closet. My left hand’s body is soothed by warm, soft fabric, it’s a hold-over from the pre-integration hyper-savantism side effect. Give me a few weeks to clear it with Command, but I’ll show you some pictures of how I dress Pauline up!
@ThornAppleCider writes: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral, and the eating of snails to be immoral?
Molly: You’re asking a hive mind comprised of two predators and three omnivores about the morality of eating meat. I wish I could tell you that I had an informed opinion, but like most of spacebound humanity, I don’t think I’ve ever had protein that came directly from any animal. It’s all spacer food up here, which means I’m a vegetarian.
(And as for your friend Mr. Crassus you’re asking on behalf of, that’s none of his business, especially on a United Navy sponsored transmission like this.)