Masochuticon #23.

Intellectual Property

by Holgate.

It’s a blast whenever someone digs up sci-fi movies from back then, just to see the shit they predicted. Straight up, guys, it’s a good thing you’re long dead, because the embarrassment would kill you. And if they ever get time-travel sorted, we’re heading back just to take the piss. ‘Tell us about the future,’ they’ll say as we step out, blinking. Tell us first where you got your bullshit utopia, and we’ll talk once we stop laughing.

The one I love is where the guy gets all of his knowledge and skills and shit downloaded into his brain, because the world’s just a sim, and he’s got all the codes. Then there’s the one where the ditched lovers get their memories wiped clean of each other. Or that one where you live back other people’s experiences by plugging yourself into some kind of disk player thing. Fuckin’ hilarious. Oh, they got the concept right enough. The execution? Just a bit different.

Basic principle of medical science: no sharing allowed. You want something, someone’s got to give you it, for keeps. A pint of blood? That’s fine, I’ll get it back soon enough. You want a kidney, that’s going to cost you, but I can survive on just the one. Heart, liver, you need a stiff, and everything that entails. If you thought they’d be growing them in vats, Mr Director, or building bionic whatevers, then I’m glad you’re not around to see what happens instead. But that’s meatpacking, and I stopped doing meatpacking long ago.

Don’t call me a dealer. Dealers don’t hire neurosurgeons, for a start.

Supply and demand was always the problem. Sure, there were the parents who were well trained in getting the best price for their kids’ excess offal, and the scarcity always meant you could sell on at a premium, but there was never enough of the good stuff. Not when the gangs had the morgues in their pockets. That’s why I went upscale as soon as partials went black.

You could say I’m a matchmaker for the meeting of minds. An overseer of the brains trust.

The first one to call me? Retired professor from a defunct university, blahblah chair of ancient history, and looked like he’d grown up there. Spent his life reading the crap on tablets they dug up from deserts. The last of a breed, he said, all his work set to rot or be thrown on the fire unless someone stayed around to remember it. His grandson was the one on the receiving end, which made life easier when things got messy. Not that I was around for that. My job was prep with the old man: tell me what you know, tell me what you know about what you know, hours of the stuff to make sure it was still there, tossing nuggets from old encyclopedias to dig out long-buried artefacts of his own.

When he came out, I expected him to be some kind of vegetable, set to end his days being spoon-fed soup by a family whose names he’d forgotten. Don’t go deep and he’ll be fine, the surgeon said. Talk about the weather, tell stories from last week. And he was: though I tried not to disturb them both in the week before they left us, the glances I snatched through the one-way glass were of someone at peace with the world’s simple pleasures.

I don’t ask how they do it any more. I joked once to one of my guys, as we sat waiting for his latest to come out, that I’d need a partial from his own head to make sense of what went on in the theatre. ‘You’d never afford it,’ he said, ‘and I couldn’t afford to lose it.’

It was just bequests for a while—maybe two, three years. Then the splicers with scalpels came knocking for off-books work, everything the ethics boards wouldn’t touch, and the fact they wouldn’t touch it meant there was always going to be trade. And not just buyers, either: like attic-cleaners flogging their accumulated tat, once people got word that there was money to be made, they started scouting their heads for what they could get shot of: doctorates in obscure topics, proficiencies in dead computer systems, the works.

Some are easy turn-downs: if I ever talk to another gambler wanting to pass on his winning system, it’ll be too soon. Yes, there are buyers: but if you’re winning, you’re not selling, and if you’re selling, you’re not winning. And we don’t sell crap. Then there are the damaged goods, the schizophrenics touting their conversations with angels, the tinfoil-hatters with dark secrets they couldn’t tell but would gladly sell.

The hardest to turn down? The artisans, the creative types. If I could sell on the talent of an arthritic concert pianist, I’d have the music schools out of business overnight. And it’s tough telling a watchmaker or weaver that I can pass on their knowledge but not their nimble fingers. At least, not yet.

But novelist, economist, historian—a speaker of five languages who’s happy to let someone else have the other four? If it’s all in your head, we can do business.

By Holgate, 26 July, 2006; direct link.