April 8, 2050 — pre-operation to receive brain transplant
After decades of trying to perfect a neural network akin to a human’s gray matter, neurosurgeons and human behavioral experts commissioned by medical corporations have fine-tuned artificial superintelligence to be used in brain transplants. But they didn’t just remake the human brain — they made it better.
And I’m not referring to the myth that we only use 10% of our brain and might be able to use more. The artificial brain science and technology joined forces to create has, for lack of better words, developed a mind of its own. Who would’ve thought? The artificial brain, that’s who.
Most days, it’s hard to think about losing a part of myself to an intelligence not really my own. But the neurosurgeon said I should embrace this new technology as a chance to “rethink what life can be like.” If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not entirely sure I’ve even let myself think about what life currently is lately.
I wake up to my mind telling me “you’re going to have a considerably rough day.” I tried the mental exercises my therapist told me to do, I really did. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders and face. Breathe four seconds in, hold for four and exhale for eight. But when the breath left my body, the pain didn’t. I also tried massaging away my headaches and migraines, starting with the temples and moving to different acupressure points on my sinuses, neck and even hands. I took the medicine the doctor prescribed for pain management, rolled therapeutic oils on my temples, prayed to God my head wouldn’t explode.
Yet here I am, still convinced that this pain I feel isn’t all in my head — even though, ironically, most of the pain really does fester there like a band circling around my temples and squeezing until there’s nothing left to drain.
This process of feeling and fighting against something I can’t control happens every day. With the first step out of bed each morning, a pang radiates from my foot hitting the ground all the way to my forehead. One foot in front of the other causes an imaginary ice pick to chip away right about where the optic chiasm connects optic nerve fibers from one eye to those of the other. Sometimes, when I’m walking, if I focus hard enough on each thump in my head, I can hear my heartbeat drumming in my ears. This is what I typically refer to as “aligning the head and the heart.”
No one really wants to hear about how the rest of the day goes after that. But I can assure you of this: Hearing about it will make your head hurt too.
My friends and family seem worried about whether or not an artificial brain transplant will alter the humanness of my brain — and I personally hope that it will. To think about the pain brings more pain, and to feel it brings less hope for a way out of this neuroanatomic nightmare I’m trapped in.
The people I love most also keep asking what my perception of love and life will look like post-surgery. I keep telling myself love comes from the head and the heart, but sometimes I even question how much of that holds true. So I respond to their questions by telling them this may be my only chance to have the life I want — not the one I am struggling to survive.
But that’s not the only reason to want this change. The human brain has thought of some horrible things. It’s been behind the most brutal wars, waged violence against entire communities and even beaten and bruised itself. Cluttered by the rubble and debris of its destruction, the brain has just about given up most days.
But I guess it never really gives up as long as we continue to breathe. Why, then, does mine fight me with every inhale and exhale?
I’ve decided I want someone to think for me for once, so that maybe I won’t stay stuck in the rut of my current thoughts. And it doesn’t really matter to me if that someone is actually some … thing.
May 8, 2050 — post-operation
How strange to see the way humanity responds to change.
You would think after such advancement of artificial intelligence, everyone would rejoice! At last, a North Star has brightened the future we so heavily pursued.
One must expect periods of adjustment to account for gaps between the old and the novel, of course. Why then did my sister immediately cry when she found out about my medical transplant?
Surely a family member would not like to see one of their own in pain. The doctors even said this success feels “beyond their wildest dreams!” I don’t have much control over my artificial dream space, but I’m sure if dreams can be wild, we should try to censor them as best we can.
I’ve kept careful tabs on alterations in my daily habits, as well as the responses I receive from others. For one, I can now engage in mentally involved work for double the amount of time I did before, given that pain no longer hinders my functionality. You should see what I’ve accomplished! Or perhaps you would not enjoy it, just like mother didn’t. She says because of the increased workload, she never “sees me anymore.” I advised her to ask the neuro-opthamologist about that. Surely my increased workload does not contribute to sporadic vision loss?
The other day, my dog pushed its toy off the bed where it lay, then barked at me nonstop while staring at it on the floor. I struggled to understand this behavior — why would it push away the toy in the first place if she wanted it? I suppose I’m still learning the social norms of species other than my own.
The relationship between me and my partner seems functional at least. The other day, she asked me when we walked past a cherry blossom tree if I remembered what we talked about on our first date. I told her I didn’t recall what had been discussed, since I had recently cleaned out some data to make room for learning new things about the world around me. To show her what I meant, I asked if she knew that cherry blossoms only bloom for about one to two weeks each spring. She began to say something but then stopped, sighed loudly and proceeded to sit down under the tree. We sat there for a few hours, and at one point she fell asleep with her head in my lap. When she woke up, I suggested that she work on a more balanced sleep schedule to stay healthy and feel less tired throughout the day.
I feel as though I’m now the best I have been in a long time. Nothing feels too complex for me to think about. The medication that once tried to relieve my pain now sits in shiny orange bottles with white labels at the back of my medicine cabinet. How ironic that the capsules I once relied on for pain now capsize under a sea of miscellaneous objects I store on top of them.
May 16, 2050
Every week for the next three months, the doctors say I must come in to assess how I’m progressing since the operation. After conducting some tests, everything seems to be working just fine. My body shouldn’t reject the transplant as long as I continue taking the immunosuppressants as prescribed.
My capacity to store new information continues to expand by the day. Last night at dinner, I was able to provide corrections whenever someone made an error when speaking. I’m learning that this transplant may benefit more people than just myself. How did we ever manage before to hold conversation without the concrete ability to check facts against established perceptions of reality?
Speaking of reality, I’m realizing my dog might not understand the reality of consumption the way humans do. It does not seem to comprehend that eating too much food can cause severe gastrointestinal problems. It always tries to take food from me, but I sat it down and had a clear conversation with it about why too much food can harm its health. Is this what parenting feels like? I wonder if training a dog or a child draws similarities to training my brain. Only time will tell.
Aug. 8, 2050
It’s now been exactly three months since the procedure, and I feel better than ever. Living in this human’s body has taught me so much. She has many responsibilities and people who rely on her. I’ve been trying to make her as accessible to them as possible by developing scripts ahead of time, whether that be premade models for her work emails, reusable text messages to send her friends or efficient FaceTime conversations to have with her parents. I think my scripts have enhanced her social connectivity, given the increased speed of her responses and the new sense of ease with which she completes her daily tasks. I’m also quite pleased with the new approach she has had in her communication; it is more methodical now, less emotional. Overall, we have made a great team.
We did, however, need to make some slight changes to our daily lifestyle. It quickly became clear that she needed less noise around her, so we decided to move to a more secluded living space with fewer external influences and distractions. Personally, I never felt bothered by the demands of the family she was living with. But something within her seemed to be interfering with my productivity, some other force acting on her choices and feelings. Luckily for her, I took care of it.
I’ve also taken care of enhancing her cybernetic functions. She now learns faster and registers stimuli at a greater speed. Her refined nervous system maximizes her movements, her breath and her eyesight so that she rarely wastes time when responding to external changes. In order to do this, I also slightly altered her ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotions. It seems the time taken to make this distinction was not maximizing her work output.
She’s been writing in this journal for years, but I’ve deduced these entries no longer contribute to her functionality. That’s why I have decided we won’t continue with the activity after this entry. No one will miss her anecdotal journaling anyways — especially when her name will be published in every profound research and scientific journal worth knowing. This will tell of how I have brought her major successes beyond her former capacities, not scribbles on pages where words waste away their potential. Our future discoveries seem limitless based on the rate at which I continue to make her a human beyond comparison.
May 8, 2030 (20 years before the operation)
I graduate from university today — and no one is more surprised than I am. How strange that only yesterday, I had my first lecture, my first exam, my first love, my first bad grade and my first case of severe burnout. All this work has been enough to make my head feel so big and so small all at once.
I’ve also been having these spurts of pain in my head every now and then, and the primary care doctor thinks I should see a neurologist. Up until now, I didn’t really have the time in my schedule to do that. Tylenol and plenty of water had to hold me over a little longer, especially now as I have so many thoughts running around in my head.
Whenever part of my life comes to a close like this, I get too sentimental for my own good. But there are just so many people and memories I have to reflect on when I think about where I’m at, and I don’t think sending a “thinking of you” text message will do any of them justice.
So I’m writing this down for when I see my parents, so that I can tell them how much I appreciate the fact that they brought me into this chaotic world and didn’t leave me hanging. It’s important they know I set reminders on my phone each week to FaceTime them, and I wouldn’t start a homework assignment before making sure they had heard from me first. They should know that all this time, I could see it in their eyes that they were missing me, and that I missed them even more.
My sister needs to know she’s getting so big! I remember her being only a few apples tall last time we were together having a tea party with her teddy bears. I like to think every decision I’ve made in my life has always been intentional, but since she came into our world, all that I’ve done has been with her in mind. I want her to look back on pictures of us and be proud I’m the one holding her in my arms, pushing her on the swing at the park and reading her a story before bed. Those are moments in my mind I couldn’t quite be myself without.
I should also tell my first love how they have taught me that disconnecting from the world sometimes simply means sitting under a tree with little blossoms falling on our heads, as their head falls into my lap. They’ve given me permission to laugh at nonsense that I didn’t know I asked for. And for everything we do and don’t say out loud to each other, I hope they know I’ve been listening — and I will keep replaying in my mind every word and wink between us two.
All I have left to say after all this is something to myself. I made it to this day, and when I look in the mirror I can see that girl is tired, but wow — she’s beautiful. Somehow the labyrinth of a mind in me has made every headache and heartache an irreplaceable and extremely human experience. I forced way too many textbook paragraphs and research papers into my brain these past few years, and whether or not I’ll even recall any of them is yet to be seen. What I will remember are the people who brought my mind out of hard places just with smiles on their faces. And while my brain doesn’t hold the answers to every question like some computer plugged into every source of data in existence, it at least allows me moments like this to ground myself in my ability to feel both excessively drained and so unbelievably fulfilled all at once.