Wednesday, September 23, 2015

chromatophoric panoptopus

rifters |  I once spoke to a man who’d shared consciousness with an octopus.

I’d expected his tale to be far less frightening than those I’d studied up to that point. Identity has a critical mass, after all; fuse with a million-brain hive and you become little more than a neuron in that network, an insignificant lobe at most. Is the Olfactory Bulb self-aware? Does Broca’s Area demand the vote? Hives don’t just assimilate the self; they annihilate it. They are not banned in the West without reason.

But octopi? Mere invertebrates. Glorified snails. There’s no risk of losing yourself in a mind that small. I might have even tried it myself, for the sheer voyeuristic thrill of perceiving the world through alien eyes.

Before I met Guo, at least.

We met at lunchtime in Stanley Park, but we did not eat. He could not stomach the thought of food while reflecting on his own experience. I suspect he reflected on it a lot; talking to Guo was like interviewing a scarecrow.

It had been, he told me, a simple interface for a simple system: a Pacific Octopus liberated from the captive colony at Yaquina Bay, outfitted with a B2B wrapped around its brain like a spiderweb. Guo had one of his own, a force-grown lattice permeating his corpus callosum in service of some Cloud-killing gig he’d held in Guangdong. The protocols weren’t completely compatible, but could be tweaked.

“So what’s it like to be an octopus?” I asked him.

He didn’t speak for a while. I got the sense he wasn’t so much gathering his thoughts as wrestling with them.

“There’s no such thing as an octopus,” he said at last, softly. “They’re all— colonies.”