Ultracortex

Ivy wrestled a braid of fiberoptic cables off of her shoulder. Snagged on the joint seal again. “How much longer?”

Holden stopped and slowly, carefully turned himself around in the fluorescent underwater tangle. Air bubbles trickled up from the back of his suit, stringing together a breadcrumb trail leading from his rebreather to the surface 30 meters up. “You said you wanted to see how it works.”

Ivy gestured with her dark eyes at the miles and miles of coiling, looping cables that surrounded them like a kelp forest in early summer. Circuit boards and junction boxes crowded underfoot like a grid of electric coral. “I see it. You could have shown me from the control room. What the hell?”

He waved her off dismissively. “Not yet. Come on, a little further.” He pushed on through the submerged knot of cabling, and Ivy had no choice but to follow.

As they approached the center of the tank they passed an increasing number of circulating fans, and she started to take notice of long straight metallic pipes. Her HUD indicated they were part of the cooling system as well based on the temperature flows. All this equipment generated enough heat to power a small city. But that’s what it took to operate the only post-singularity AI.

If Ivy was going to work on the project, she wanted to see it—it helped her to have a visual. But she could have done that without taking a guided tour through the component tank wearing a full environmental suit and stumbling through coolant.

“You’re familiar with the triune brain model,” Holden cut in, “right?”

“Of course,” said Ivy. Holden continued on in a silence that indicated he wanted a summary. “The reptilian brain is oldest and manages base instincts. The mammalian brain surrounded the reptilian and introduced the limbic system: emotions. The primate brain came third—the neocortex—and it’s responsible for logic and conceptual thinking.”

“Good,” he said, apparently satisfied with her answer. “What we did was add a fourth layer—that’s what we’ve been walking through this whole time. It’s the ultracortex, responsible for parallel abstraction and multitemporal reasoning.”

“Wait. What do you mean added? Added to wha—?”

Holden stepped aside and pulled a final curtain of cabling away to reveal a biological brain, floating and tethered in the depths of the tank. A living human brain.

“Now do you see?”

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