This story is based on the Turing Test, a test developed by Alan Turing to test artificial intelligence. The test is carried out a human judge interacting with humans, and sometimes robots, through text messages, and the judge must decide if they are talking to a robot. This seems like a good idea, but it is thoroughly flawed. One of the main flaws is that humans regularly associate intelligence with things that aren’t actually intelligent. Another flaw is that language is not something that is all pre-programmed at birth, it is also a learned cultural thing. I guess we will end up having to answer all those hard problems about consciousness after all.
For over thirty years, Edward M. Lerner worked in the aerospace and information technology industries while writing science fiction part-time. He held positions at numerous companies such as Bell Labs, Hughes Aircraft, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman. In February 2004, after receiving a book deal for Moonstruck, he decided to write science fiction full-time.
“Neural Alchemist” follows a professor who was revived from a stem cell creation. Tedd Roberts, the author, shows us he is an expert on this. He understands that stem cells could potentially replace damaged cells in parts of the body that don’t replace easily. The story shows an understanding of the sources of stem cells used in current research: bone marrow, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, transformed endothelial cells and only very rarely, fetal tissue. “Now we know that certain areas of the brain, such as the dentate gyrus of hippocampus, have the ability to make new brain cells. Most brain areas do not. What if we could replace the neurons damaged by stroke, injury or disease? Like the old time alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, the Neural Alchemist turns stems cells into any brain cells we need.” What is not so accurate about the story is the idea of reviving dead humans. Stem cells are pretty amazing, but we have no research to support the ability for bringing deceased humans back to life.
Tedd Roberts is a neuroscience researcher, educator, and writer. He advises up and coming science fiction authors, TV writers, and game developers. His acknowledged consults include novel brain diseases and the medical nanites to cure them, exotic toxins, and brain effects of a zombie virus.