Monday, January 30, 2006

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose

CBS aired a television series two years ago called Century City. It was apparently a kind of LA Law set in the year 2030 and addressing legal and moral issues such as genetic engineering, virtual rape, and artificial intelligence. I remember feeling excited when I heard that this series was coming to television, but I somehow never managed to tune in before it was gone after an ephemeral run of only four weeks.

This morning, I was finally able to view an episode of it on the
Universal HD channel, and all I can say is that I wish to God this series had lasted a whole lot longer. Seldom do I feel impressed by the first showing of any new TV series, no matter how much I come to love it over time. But “Century City” grabbed my adoring attention from the outset and never let go for even a millisecond with its perceptive intelligence, mix of intriguing characters, and, especially, its Charlyesque theme in today’s episode about a woman petitioning the court to assume legal guardianship over her husband so that she could have an intelligence boosting neurological implant removed from his brain against his wishes because he could die if he kept the implant. He didn’t want the implant removed because it had transformed him from being a totally dependent, mentally handicapped man “nobody loved” into an independent, thoughtful, interesting, and brilliant man who could take care of himself and who had a wife who loved him dearly for who he was with the implant. If the implant were removed, he would revert to his old self and would not be anything like the same person his wife fell in love with and married, and his life would become a gross and pitiful degradation of what it was with the implant. He reasoned that it was better to die if he had to than go back to what he was before.

I was totally behind this man. If I were he, I too would rather die with the implant than go on living without it. Having tasted the joy of being intellectually adequate and able to take care of myself, I would rather die than return to being intellectually disabled and totally dependent on others to take care of my needs. This is why I hope that I have the courage and ability to kill myself if something ever happens to me that compromises what limited intelligence I have. And this is why if I had a chance to have some kind of implant that would make my brain whole instead of the malfunctioning and inadequate lump it is now, I would jump at it, even if I knew I might very well die from it.

I realize that people who read this blog might wonder what the hell I’m talking about and think that I must be psychotically disturbed to have such an unrealistic image of my capabilities. But they haven’t grown up as me and encountered the daily and pervasive impotencies and frustrations I have. They don’t know what it’s like to go through life being unable to do almost anything even passably well except speak, write, earn decent grades in school, and knock down pins with a bowling ball. “
Rain Man” types used to be called idiot savants for their extremely circumscribed but extraordinary intellectual capabilities in the midst of overall profound intellectual deficits. I think of myself as more of an idiot semi-semi savant. I’m grateful for the modest capabilities I have. My life would be profoundly bleak without them. But if I could compliment them with at least average capability in other areas that most human beings take for granted, I would be more than willing to assume the medical risks that might accompany it.

I cried as I watched “Century City” this morning. Not only for purely personal reasons, but because it was simply one of the best and most poignant pieces of series television I’ve ever seen. Too bad the American public didn’t agree or even get the chance to.

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