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Chadia, the end of a decades long search, and the answer to a question

When I was a kid, one night I had an interesting dream, which lead to a question which has remained unanswered for at least 20 years and only found an answer few days ago. (Whether or not this is related to my previous entry, a half-fictional story called "The Weblog", will be left as an exercise for the reader...)

Today's entry has three parts: (1) the dream, (2) the question and (3) Chadia.

(1) the dream

I was in the street, walking back home. Suddenly, looking at the sky I saw a spaceship, maybe 20 meters across. My first mental reaction was a mix between surprise and curiosity, so I stopped to look at it, but this curiosity quickly turned into fear, because as I was looking at this thing, it stopped moving and { a feeling, an idea } suddenly became obvious to me: I knew that something inside the ship, something which might have been half-synthetic half-organic (maybe some sort of advanced AI), something I felt, had detected my presence, had detected the fact that I had seen the ship in broad daylight and wasn't happy about it.

I thought it would fire its weapon systems at me, I knew it had those capabilities, and it could have vaporised me on the spot, but it didn't do that. Instead, after few seconds I felt something in my mind. I didn't know at first what it was and then I suddenly realised that the on board AI had taken on itself to shut my mind down. I had no time to wonder *how* it was doing that (which advanced scientific principles were at play), I felt that already the outer, most ephemeral, layers of my consciousness were disappearing and I knew that it wasn't an accident. It was a deliberate attempt by an external entity to shut my mind down. I was under attack.

The problem with being the target of an attack like this is that the enemy is already inside the castle, and that's a very stressful situation. I didn't know what to do, I didn't have anything to counter attack. I was just witnessing, powerless, the systematic weakening of the outer layers of the thing called "myself" and I knew the attacker would not stop before the end. I was in a very, very deep shit.

I tried to resist. I tried to "push" it back, but in the context of a mental battlefield this was non sensical. In addition, that thing was becoming better at it, as if it was analysing my consciousness as the attack was happening.

I had an idea. I told myself "don't worry about the outer layers", they were already compromised anyway, already gone. I should instead build a new defence system protecting the inner parts, thereby making a new fortress inside the original one. I focused on that task for a moment and felt that the attack had reached the new boundaries and had paused. Was it that easy ? Did I manage to stop it ? Things were calm for few seconds and then I felt a tsunami of mental pressure (and an acute headache occured). It was clear now, this thing was winning and I was about to die, or, more exactly, about to be shut down, or terminated. (What is the correct word here ?...)

But I could still think, and a part of me had another idea. I should just save the core. The very very small core. The Essential of Me. I could not even take my memory (too much data in there), I would need to sacrifice the memory of the events of my own life. Most of my personality and my personal memory would be gone, but I could still save the core. I had to !.. I turned the focus of my attention from the attack itself to a very simple task: I had to abandon ship but I would take the core with me. This thing would not succeed in destroying me.

I put into this the sharpest amount of mental focus I ever had to put into anything...

And that's when I woke up.

(2) the question

I quickly forgot about that dream, but then, many years later as a young adult reading science fiction, I remembered it and asked myself "What exactly would I need to have taken ? What exactly would I need to rebuild myself ? What are the fundamental tenets of my personality that would be enough to rebuilt something I would identify as myself ?"

This is actually a question I asked few people over the years (resulting in them looking at me strangely and then running away awkwardly, never to talk to me again...) and it goes as follows: One day somebody (of either gender) meets you and says "I am you from the future! What happened though is that I had to change body (this is why I do not look like you -- and might be of a different gender) and I have also lost my memory, but I am you". What would you ask this person that would convince you that he/she is telling the truth ?

The reason why I put the memory loss as a condition in this exercise, is because otherwise it would be too easy to just ask this person something that only yourself knows (eg: a childhood memory you never shared with anybody else).

I actually asked myself this question many, many times over the years and never really found a satisfactory answer.

(3) Chadia

She is French, Tunisian decent, female. I bumped into her earlier this week in London and I am still trying to find a detail in her that would prove that she is not me from the future in a different body and with a memory loss; or, in her case, a different memory dataset.

Meeting her actually gave me few answers. First, it is possible to make a female version of me. For years I suspected it was a theoretical possibility but had never observed it in the wild. Second, I found the solution to that identity definition problem I gave myself all those years ago. The question, or questions, I would ask.... Well, there isn't any. My mistake was to think that there is such a thing as a question I would ask. In fact it's what she does and the way she does it, and the way she talks, about things or about herself, her weaknesses, her strengths, her self awareness and the theme of her dreams, her aspirations and hopes for her own future that collectively identify what she is...

It wasn't a question, or a set of questions. She is like a painting, which cannot be reduced to one of its strokes, but when you see that painting in its entirety, you undoubtedly, unmistakingly, recognise it...