"So if you can make people that strong and that fast, why aren't you like that? Not fragile and feminine?"

"If I had trained from birth like Geminel and Marakel, I'd be almost that good. But there are strict limits on how much a human genome can be altered, while bioroid manufacturers can do anything they like. Well, not that much, but way more than the limits of humanity."

"But they started off as human, right? And then got modified to where they are now?"

"Right. But that was before the current legislation. Now the law is, you can only change a human genome so much, but you can do all sorts of things with a genome created from scratch."

"But how much has to be replaced before it counts as 'made from scratch'? Ten percent? Fifty? Ninety? What if I take two halves from different people and stick them together? Is that made from scratch?"

"Of course there are huge grey areas. But the Bioengineering Authority tends to rule that anything even a little suspicious is not human, and not very many people are willing to risk their children like that. Actually, I'm pretty close to the edge. If Daddy wasn't who he is, I might not have passed."

"It seems strange that people would let the government tell them what improvements they can or can't make to their children, at least for the kind of people who can afford genetic engineering."

"It's not a stable situation, no. And things will only get worse as the disparity grows. It's easy to do research on bioroids, since you don't have to worry about little issues like medical ethics. Even today, there are all sorts of lobby groups trying to get the rules changed."

"What sort of changes do they want?"

"Oh, all kinds. Some want genetic engineering banned entirely, but they're mostly religious fundamentalists, and don't get much support from the mainstream. The ones who want to disallow everything outside what's currently considered human are a lot more popular."

"So, no more bioroids?"

"Right. But there's enough wealth tied up in making and using bioroids that I don't think they have much chance. Then there are the radicals in the other direction, who want to declare anything that can pass a sapiency test legally human."

"Would bioroids pass?"

"Oh, definitely. The whole point of bioroids is that they have human intelligence without human insubordination. But, depending on which test you use, at least some and possibly a lot of computer programs would pass too, and most people wouldn't stand for that. At least bioroids *look* like people."

"There must be moderates in there somewhere."

"Sure. There are moderate radicals, who just want everything substantially derived from human genes to be legally human."

"Heh. But I meant real moderates. You sound disapproving of both extremes, so I know there's at least one person in the middle. Where do you stand?"

"Daddy and his friends want to extend the limits, given proper safeguards like testing new gene complexes in bioroids before using them on humans. But that makes the line even fuzzier, hopefully to the point where questionable cases default to human instead of human."

"Human until proven bioroid, eh?"

"Right! That would be enough of a gain for one generation, Daddy says."

"Do you think your generation will make it that far?"

"Maybe. There'll be big changes before I get around to having kids, I'm sure, but I don't know in what direction."

"What about cyborgs? You said Geminel and Marakel had mechanical implants. Can humans use those?"

"Not really. BEA regulates those too. Not quite so heavy-handedly, but in practice humans only get to use medical prostheses, no better than the part they replace. And it's a lot easier to get funding for research into organic treatments, like transplants or cultured tissues or stimulated regeneration, than for alloplasty. And, it's a lot easier to augment bioroids, since you can adapt them to the machines as well as designing the machines for them. Geminel's brain is altered way outside human limits to accommodate the robot link."

"If his brain is so different, why does he think just like Marakel?"

"Because they had the same childhood, the same education, the same lives."

"Taught the same obedience?"

"It's not obedience, exactly. Obedience is giving up your own goals for someone else's, and bioroids smart enough to be useful would be smart enough to rebel at that. They're taught duty, which gives them goals that they take as their own. It just so happens that those goals are useful to their owners."

"Don't they ever go too far, or diverge from what their owners want?"

"We teach them loyalty, too. Bioroids live by very much the ideals the old samurai were supposed to: loyalty to their lord and dedication to their cause, beyond even life itself."

"So you control them by making them more perfectly virtuous than yourselves."

"Exactly."


This file was last modified at 1635 on 22Jun99 by trip@idiom.com.