Four minutes to intro, Danny, the show’s producer, advises. Can we do one more line check?
“Testing,” I say. His third time checking, but I indulge him. He’s new to the station.
Line is good. Thank you, Mr. Woolsey. Tom has asked whether you wish to discuss the recent event with your granddaughter.
“Thanks for asking. We’re all still processing what happened. Given the format here, I’d rather not. Let’s keep personal matters out of the fray.” For now, anyway.
Understood. Tom will introduce you shortly.
“I’ll be here.”
I keep a “green room” interface in my settings for times like this. There’s not much to it, as it happens. I only took B.org’s default energy-saver setting — basic black viz interface in all directions — and I recolored it to a deep hunter green. HTML color code #216C3D. It gets me into game mode.
Th@ch is calling. I check the time as I pick up. “Three minutes, fourteen seconds and I’m on live. What do you need?”
“Are you listening to this crap?” Th@ch asks.
“I was,” I answer. “But now I’m on a line with you.”
“Why didn’t they put you on first?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Well, maybe you should have. A ten-minute head-start for Sheila Tso? I’ve got half a mind to hack the live feed and wreck the show.”
“A fantastic idea,” I reply. “And it wouldn’t reflect poorly on us at all.”
“So argues my mind’s other half,” Th@ch moans. “But still. Supreme Leader Tso gets an uncontested quarter-hour to peddle her meat-jockey fascism, and all we can do is smile and take the hits?”
“I’ll be as tough on her as the context warrants,” I say.
“That’s a lawyer’s promise.”
“By definition,” is my answer.
“How is Jean?” Th@ch asks. As if my granddaughter were an old friend, or even an acquaintance before the accident.
“She’s fine. Still in config. Trying herself on.”
There is a pause. “Butterflies,” Th@ch says. “I’ve always wondered. Once they’ve cracked chrysalis, fanned out their wings, taken their first flight into the sunshine — do you think they spend even a minute looking back on their humdrum caterpillar days?”
“I think sentimentality is a distinctly human trait.”
“And a weakness, at that.”
Danny calls out to me over his other line: One minute, Mr. Woolsey.
“Clock’s ticking. I gotta go.”
“Yeah, all right. Bring it home, Henry.”
“Sure thing.” I cut the line and bring up the radio volume.
Joining us now on the broadcast to discuss the Sherman case is attorney Henry Woolsey, himself a Post Mortem Entity and a committed advocate for PME rights. Mr. Woolsey, welcome to the show.
“Thank you, Tom.”
Mr. Woolsey is the —
“Please, Tom, call me Henry.”
Of course. Henry is the managing partner of the @Woolsey, O’Brien and Sims law firm —
“And Tom — my last interruption, Tom, and I apologize — I would prefer if you would identify me as a PCE —”
Oh. Er, I’m not familiar … you said PCE?
“Papa Charlie Echo. For Post-Corporeal Entity.”
A shrill voice interjects: “There he goes already.”
Hold on, Sheila, you’ll have your turn —
“But this is important, Tom, because he’s assuming the conclusion —”
“Quite the contrary, Sheila,” I argue, “It’s you assuming the conclusion —”
Tom, chuckling: All right, you two, back to your corners. Let’s work through this. Henry, I apologize if I gave offense. PME is the term I was familiar with —
“Because it’s the term everybody uses, Tom,” Sheila Tso all but shrieks. Really, that voice of hers doesn’t do her any favors. “But now that Attorney Woolsey has this case before the Supreme Court, he suddenly wants to rewrite the dictionary.”
Contrast my voice: patient and measured — that’s all me — and tonally calibrated by B.org’s proprietary software to be maximally appealing to listeners. “I should be clear, Tom: I’m not offended. This business calls for thick skin. So to speak. The point I wanted to make is that words matter, and we need to speak with precision. If I am a Post Mortem Entity, then I have died. If I have died, then Bob Sherman has died, and the @BobSherman who survives online is not the same Bob Sherman who gave up his body at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, and we don’t need the Supreme Court to decide the question.”
“We don’t need the Supreme Court to decide the question.”
Thank you, Sheila, Tom says. I will note that you had ten minutes on air before Henry came on. Let’s give him time to make his case. Henry?
“I don’t doubt that Sheila can answer the question without the Court’s help. But the Court granted certiorari — that is, the Justices voted to hear the case — and they will decide the question, one way or the other.”
And you would have them rule that online @BobSherman and PhysWo Bob Sherman are the same legal entity.
“I would have the Court apply the law as it has been applied in all fifty states — including in Kansas — for lo, these thirty or more years, before Junior Sherman decided to make a grab for his estranged father’s financial accounts.”
“Gabe Sherman grabbed nothing, Tom. Gabe Sherman is Bob Sherman’s only son, and because Bob Sherman died without a will, Gabe has inherited the entirety of Bob Sherman’s estate under the laws of intestacy in Kansas. And for that matter, anywhere else.”
“You do have to tip your hat to them, Tom. To the anti-PCE crowd, I mean. It’s been twenty-five years now, since the Court ruled in Loxley v. Utah that an unenhanced Post-Corporeal Entity is a person fully entitled to the rights, privileges, and protection of the law. Twenty-four years since the Court carried forward the Loxley principle in a criminal case, to hold that more than just a data offense, the deletion of all copies of a PCE’s profile could be punishable as homicide. Twenty-one years since Virginia v. Spano, where the Court held under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause that any provision of law that burdens a PCE’s exercise of rights is inherently suspect and subject to strict scrutiny in federal court. Eighteen years since Jablonski v. Board of Elections of Huron County, which affirmed the right of a PCE to vote in elections of the state and municipality where he or she last resided in the PhysWo —”
“And I would remind our listeners that in all of these cases the Supreme Court referred to purported persons like Mr. Woolsey as Post Mortem Entities.”
“Tom, I have been purporting to be a person for over a century now, and for 26 of those 103 years I’ve been doing it online. I think it’s fair to say I became less of a person when I swore in as an attorney than I did on the night my heart stopped beating.”
Tom chuckles. Danny the Producer sends me a text — Thank you for deflecting that so gracefully.
“But to get back to the case. Since Loxley established their nationwide right to hold property, millions of PCEs have graduated into online living and retained access to the wealth they worked so very hard to accumulate while in the PhysWo — often at the expense of their bodies, I should note. Indeed, over the last decade, forty-six state legislatures and the EU have adopted laws that freeze the assets of PCEs during their period of quarantine. If you remember, there had been a spate of incidents in which hackers targeted the financial accounts of PCEs who had just discorporated —”
“Had just died —”
“— and were undergoing the standard two weeks of configuration and testing.”
“Most of those hackers were PoMos,” Sheila Tso asserts, entirely without basis.
“My point is, the law on this question is well settled: you can take it with you. And millions have. Now here comes Junior Sherman, backed by big dollars and big lawyers, to turn three decades of financial practice on its head.”
A text comes in from Th@ch: I’m listening and you forgot “big churches.”
I didn’t. I just didn’t see the upside in antagonizing, I dunno, Christendom. I continue:
“And they do so today on the theory that — get this — while @BobSherman may be a person under the Loxley case and its progeny, he’s not the same person as the Bob Sherman whose body was interred in the First Presbyterian churchyard two years ago. I’ll grant them cleverness, Tom. Tenacity, too. But there comes a point where we, as a nation, have to say enough.”
“I’ll note that Mr. Woolsey hasn’t yet engaged the merits of the case. To do that, he’d have to acknowledge first, that the technicians did not actually transfer Bob Sherman’s consciousness online. They made a copy of it. And shortly thereafter, the original Bob Sherman died. The copy is not Bob Sherman. The copy is an imposter.”
“I would not say @BobSherman is an imposter. This isn’t a case of credit card fraud. From @BobSherman’s perspective, he has complete continuity of consciousness with Bob Sherman in the hospital bed. He closed his eyes, the Technicians went to work on him, and he woke up again. He retains the entirety of his memory, his mind is perfectly reconstructed —”
“They say that, Tom. They say perfectly reconstructed, but don’t believe it.”
“Even if —”
“Perfectly reconstructed is not achievable.”
“Even if @BobSherman is not —”
“It’s not achievable.”
And we have crosstalk. Tom wades into the morass, pulls the clinching pugilists apart, wags a finger at Sheila … again. Ms. Tso, he says, toggling back to formality. You need to let Mr. Woolsey finish his comment.
“I’ll readily concede that @BobSherman is not an exact, perfect copy of the Bob Sherman who stopped breathing.”
Text from Th@ch: Why? Why the FUCK would you concede that?
I continue, and I show him why. “But is it not true of all of us, embodied or not, that we are constantly growing and changing? Are any of us truly the same person from one moment to the next?”
“This is the way lawyers talk,” Sheila says.
I think it’s an interesting point, Tom says.
That’s my window. “Let’s run with that, Tom. You say I made an interesting point just now. Would you say that point caused you to think about the case a bit differently?”
I would say so.
“And about PCEs a bit differently?”
Well … yes. I would say yes.
“With the result that you are, arguably, a different person than the person you were before I spoke?”
“And yet Sheila Tso is not here accusing Tom of Right Now of identity theft. Or for that matter, outright theft of all the assets previously held by Tom of a Moment Ago.”
Sheila answers. “The difference is that Tom of a Moment Ago hasn’t died.”
“But that is an altogether separate point, analytically, isn’t it? Sameness and difference are irrelevant. A guy gets thunked on the head and loses his memory — his son doesn’t get to walk into his house and make off with the furniture.”
Not legally, anyway. Tom chuckles.
“All we have to judge the matter is continuity of consciousness, with all the bumps and bruises, advances and reversals, that come with it.”
Let’s take a caller, Tom says. Carl from Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Carl, what’s on your mind?
“I understand and appreciate the lawyer’s points, Tom. And I’m generally a supporter of PME rights. But the plaintiffs have raised an interesting philosophical question here. If I understand this right, the way it works is the technicians make a digital copy of the dying man’s consciousness. Then the man’s body and brain die, but there’s that copy that lives on. But what if the body were somehow resuscitated? Then you’d have two Bob Shermans. Is one more Bob than the other?”
Sheila, your answer?’
“I’m glad the caller brought this point up, because this is important. This very issue arose in the case of Cleon Davis —”
This is the man in Florida from two years ago who awakened — in his body, I should say — after the Technicians transferred his consciousness into online quarantine.
“That’s exactly right, Tom. And if you recall, the Technicians killed Cleon Davis, on the table in the OR, where surgeons could have been — should have been saving him.”
I can’t help but sigh. It is astonishing to me that they are still banging the drum about Cleon Davis. It is so completely disingenuous. But I lay out the facts, patiently, for the nth time: “Let’s be clear about what happened with Cleon Davis, Tom. Cleon Davis arrived at the ER with three gunshot wounds. He had a bullet lodged in his spine. The Technicians began performing their work, during the course of which Mr. Davis flatlined for three minutes and was pronounced dead by the attending physician. Following standard operating procedures in the State of Georgia, Technicians did not flick the ‘live switch’ activating their working digital copy of Mr. Davis until just after he was pronounced dead. Minutes later, while the Technicians were preparing chain of custody documents, the hospital apparatus attached to Mr. Davis’s body began to record a heartbeat and brain activity. Soon after Mr. Davis opened his eyes and began speaking. The Technicians consulted with the physicians and Mr. Davis’s family, and it was decided that the two iterations of Cleon Davis, digital and embodied, should be kept separate and consulted about what to do. Both iterations agreed that the better course was to proceed with the PME identity —”
“Lawyer talk, meaning ‘to kill Cleon Davis on the operating table’ —”
“— and the hospital and Technicians followed through on those instructions. The local district attorney investigated the matter, the Davis family declined to press charges against the Technicians, and the matter was dropped. But we’ve strayed from the point, Tom. The caller raises an interesting philosophical question, but in the law we take the cases as they come. @Bob Sherman is the only Bob Sherman we have.”
Sheila, one more word before the break.
“I guess what I’m left wondering is how we got to the point where we have iterations of people. We have so much technical knowledge, and so little in the way of actual wisdom to manage it. The questions my community is asking are important. They are moral questions. The sophistry and intellectual detachment Mr. Woolsey has offered on your show today cheapens and degrades the discourse.”
Thank you, Sheila. Sheila Tso from the Center for Life Meaning joins us today to spar with PME activist and practicing attorney @HenryWoolsey. We’ll break for the news. When we get back we’ll discuss tech visionary Ophelia Maurer’s controversial speech on the floor of the UN earlier this week, in which she called for nations to adopt policies to transition their populations out of the PhysWo. You’ll want to stick around.