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From: matthew.malthouse@guardian.co.uk
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 11:48:36 +0100
Subject: Re: (urth) Those chems

On 03/09/2002 06:26:35 Roy C. Lackey wrote
>The only differences between what are termed "male" and "female" chems is
>matter of programming and relative size. Many of their inner components
>probably interchangeable. None of those components can be identified as
>or female. Marble's modesty in entirely an affectation; she has no female
>features to hide beneath a habit, no more than the soldiers have male
>features. In fact, the soldiers wear only different colors of paint to
>indicate their function.

The suggestion that Marble's behaviour is an affectation is an interesting

An affectation. A show, pretense, or display. Behavior that is assumed
rather than natural; artificiality. A particular habit, as of speech or
dress, adopted to give a false impression.

But is it?

You also say that the behaviour of the chems is programmed.  We know this
and more we know, I think, that the function of those placed directly in
society is in part and perhaps in the greatest part is to inhibit change,
providing a static referent against which novelties can be measured and so
improve the chance that the societies Typhon/Pas designed would arrive at
their destination in the form he intended.

Programmed behaviour - in the literal sense of being codes and
instructions - is as "natural" to the chems as any learend behaviour is to
humans.  Marble's modesty is exactly the opposite of an affectation.  It
is likely as deep seated in her as any instinct in us, perhaps more so,
and for a very specific reason: to make her (and her kind) not only fit in
with the human society in which she exists but also to make her a model
for that society.  Yes, it is an artifice to give a false impression -
that she is human.  But it is not assumed or adopted: it and other such
manerisms are fundamental to her creation.

So too with gender.  Gender-less chems would not, could not have performed
so well in the role assigned them. A difference so fundamental between
gendered humans and non-gendered chems would have been a significant
barrier to the chems function.  Just look at where Marble is; in a
religious establishment and a teacher of the young. Church and school, two
central institutions for society and thus most effectively placed.  She
should be an examplar for the children and adults who come into contact
with her.  The effectiveness of this compromised only by the unplanned
long extended wait in the Whorl where the degredations of age made the
differences between chems and humans more apparent.

Gender is not sex. It is not the presence or abscence of particular
organs.  Here it is a designed matter based on the human model with which
the chems must blend.  If Marble is programmed to act in ways that are
accepted as being appropriate to women and does so then for the purposes
of her funtion she is effectively female because she is seen as female in
that society.  She is modest not because there is physically anything to
be modest about but because humans seeing her must be taught that a good
woman is modest and a good man respects that mdoesty.

Having chems differentiated into male and female types - and given those
types occupations stereotypically appropriate in that society - a
methodology for governing the replacement of chems in the small numbers
that it was anticipated might be required immediately suggests itself and
further fits into the designed differentiation that helps chems fit into
human societies. To do otherwise, to have one chem alone be able to create
another or to have new chems appear from some "magic" portal would have
diminished their effectiveness.

The entities in Mainframe might understandably be dismissive of
"machines".  After all those entities designed the machines and their part
in the plan.  More the machines function has come to an end.  Having
stabilised societial forms for the length of the journey and subsequent
wait in orbit there is no further use for them.  But for the humans abord
the whorl the chems are personalities.  Marble would have been known to
many in her part of the town from their very earliest days and as such
most assuredly a person and a woman.

What should our view of chems be?  The mainframe view of a small, useful
tool?  Or the passenger view of personality and fellow?



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