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Cuts Both Ways Response

Women Destroy Science Fiction Response

Published onSep 30, 2019
Cuts Both Ways Response

I read Cuts Both Ways by Heather Clitheroe. It follows an augmented human named Spencer who works as a forecaster, making various predictions with the abilities granted to him by his augmentations. He is able to read the emotions of those around him, with instances described of him rapidly searching through a group of people to locate a terrorist based on emotion, and sensing whether to invest in a community based on the outlook of the people who live there. In addition, the augmentations provide him with perfect recall, at the expense of the memories coming up at the slightest provocation.

The idea which I found most interesting and unique in the story was the exploration of the stress that the augmentations place on the human they are on. Unlike many other sci-fi universes where the technology of the cyborgs seamlessly integrates with the body, the clunkiness of the technology is evident in the story, making it seem far more real. Almost immediately, Clitheroe introduces the enormous amount of drugs required to sustain the augmentations in the body. The augmentations also feed off of glucose in the body, so all casters are scrawny and nearly constantly hungry. The physical toll of the equipment is evident throughout the story, and begins to get worse and worse until there is actual fear of it destroying Spencer. However, he needs it for his livelyhood and the surgery to implant it is irreversible. It makes me imagine a dystopian future where jobs become more specialized and augmentations may be necessary, which would permanently lock people into jobs, potentially with the same employers, for their entire lives.

In addition to the physical wear of maintaining the augmentations, the mental wear is also prevalent in the story. Having perfect recall is generally treated as a good thing, and something which brain-computer interfaces could help us access, but the story shows its downsides. The technology here has developed far past the human ability to process it, and Spencer is stuck with a sort of PTSD from the memory of sensing and feeling what the injured and dying were going through while he was in Damascus. Without the ability to forget and let go, Spencer is constantly tormented, and feels that the memory gets worse each time. With all the hype around Neuralink and other upcoming BCI technology, situations like these are worth considering, as the brain isn’t adapted to containing any more data than it already has.


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