FUTURES SCIENCE FICTION Reflected glory. B Y T AIK HOBSON “A Mr Justin Wollensberg,” said D0K. “Cryonized in 2031, age 68; decryonized r Wollensberg, please. Stop. three days ago for further treatment of his Shouting.” Stage T4 pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Non- “M “You stop playing doctor and smoker, with a significant social history of give me what I need!” four drinks a day, on average, for 20 years up The physician unit took a step back; until the time of diagnosis. Whisky, mostly. 5.72 minutes of acrimonious negotiations Presentation: jaundice only. Condition later and they had barely chipped the ice. In flagged as inoperable owing to age. the uncomfortable silence filling the room, “Mr Wollensberg,” said D0K, looking neither unit nor patient seemed inclined to across the bed, “your Mirror.” talk. It fell to the unit to make the next move. “A real doctor. At last! I must say —” D0K retook its step and dropped its voice; “Why’s he here, then?” asked the Mirror. from its internal store of social cues it chose The unit looked up. a quirk at random. “Why —” “Mr Wollensberg, can I be frank?” Rais- “Cryo hasn’t made anyone younger yet, or ing a hand, D0K pinched at the bridge of has it? And is this or is this not the surgical an imaginary nose. “My suggestions, far ward?” from being arbitrary, are meant to reflect six “It is, doctor. But our Nanosurgery Option decades’ worth of MED treatment data … has an 87% —” Miraculously, we are no closer to address- “Robot, MED does not condone acts of ing your problem than when I first entered heroism. Not in 2031. Not now. Has the this room 6.5 minutes ago. Therefore I don’t Bhullar had a digitized copy of himself treat his patient funds for recryonization?” believe that it is my method that you object illness. That’s what I want.” “No.” to, but something else —” “That explanation oversimplifies the “Then I want him out of here and in “What?” option, I’m afraid. Mr Bhullar was an excep- palliative by noon. Understood?” “Your aversion to units. To put it bluntly.” tion; the offer was made so we could archive “Yes —” A snort came from the patient’s direction. his approach to the Whipple’s procedure “Clearly long-standing pancreatitis that’s “Evidenced by your refusal to adopt a unit —” D0K hurried to make its point when it been self-managed … And poorly too —” assistant, as per unit legislation, even when saw the patient’s mood start to change. “The A shout brought both the Mirror and the you were still in service, as well as your Mirror Option confers full authority upon a unit around. Yellow and deathly, the patient current attitude —” digitized copy of yourself. Yes, this is correct. had pulled himself up to sit. “Nothing in the law says I have to like But we would have no control over it —” “How dare you! I didn’t spend all those them. Now, are you going to bring me a real Wollensberg sneered. “I don’t see a years on ice just so you could brush me off doctor, or what?” problem.” like some —” jabbing his finger in the air, he Two black pupils balanced over a hooked “Kindly explain how that is superior to settled at last on D0K “— like some machine! nose closed the distance between patient and what we are offering you now.” It’s a trick! That’s not me! I would never —” physician unit, proving that back in the day “It would have a nose, for a start … But “And a psych referral, if he’s still in denial the notoriety of Dr Justin Wollensberg had you weren’t planning on offering me this during transfer.” The Mirror left the room. been well deserved. Not three days out of the choice.” The physician unit waited until the patient ice, and the ex-surgeon had already cowed “The Mirror is not without faults. Some- had stopped shouting before turning around. the entire surgical wing. times it … reflects more than what’s desired, “That was the likeliest outcome by 73.7%. “As I explained, 2.13 minutes ago, there are to put it one way.” Please explain why you chose the Mirror.” no more human physicians left.” In spite of “Ha! And just the kind of poetic nonsense But the man didn’t answer. D0K made a itself, D0K had to fight to stand its ground. I wanted to avoid when I had them freeze me psychiatry referral anyway. “Your transfer “Not after the responsibility of caring was all those years ago. Mirror, indeed! Count will effect —” rescinded from human hands in 217—” yourself lucky, robot, because you’re in for “What happens to the Mirror now?” “More nonsense.” But the patient went some real schooling.” “As an autonomous program it will be quiet. For all their disagreements, he must “In that case,” said D0K, realizing that it offered a position in the appropriate consul- have seen that they were going in circles. had reached a solution, albeit not the one it tancy, with the opportunity for retraining.” “Fine. Then give me the Mirror Option.” had hoped for, “on to the issue of consent.” “… maybe —” the man’s eyes were dull, D0K cross-referenced the patient list. Fifteen minutes later, just as the unit had “maybe you should delete it.” “You’ve been speaking to your ward neigh- secured the patient’s consent, a hawkish nose D0K looked away, disgusted. “I will not. bour, Mr Bhullar.” appeared from behind the door, followed by Good day, Mr Wollensberg.” “Damn right I a pair of dark eyes that turned first to the end The unit left the room. ■ NATURE.COM have. Didn’t think I’d of the room where the patient was bedded, Follow Futures: wait this long just to then onto the readings of a medical pad held Taik Hobson lives in Japan, where he @NatureFutures have someone else out by the physician unit. averages four cups of tea per day all year go.nature.com/mtoodm treat me, did you? “And who do we have here …?” round. 154 | N A T U R E | V O L 558 | 7 J U N E 2018 © 201 8 Mac m ill an Publi shers Li m it ed, part of Spri nger Nat ur e. A ll ri ghts r eser ved. ILLUSTRATION BY JACEY
Nature – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 6, 2018
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