Thursday, December 6, 2012

TAP, by Greg Egan

TAP stands for Total Affect Protocol, a brain implant that gives the user a new, personal language--a way to express any emotion or thought, no matter how complex.  Nothing is ineffable.  One of its early users has died from what appear to be complications of the implant, but her daughter does not think so--she thinks it is murder.  So begins this story.

As always with Egan, the premise is one that will make you think hard.  In this case the premise is a bit of a stretch for me--it's hard to figure out what it truly means.  But the way the story proceeds makes it clearer as it goes along. The story winds up as a powerful combination of two future technologies--TAP and immersive virtual reality--and a very difficult moral dilemma.  Both technologies are frightening when carried to their logical conclusion, but even worse would be to have one without the other.  You'll have to read it to see why, the argument builds through the whole piece.

It's not hard to see why it was nominated for a Hugo in the novelette category in 1996.  Also understandable that it didn't win, because it's a challenging story to read, and you probably should read it more than once.  Now, I almost never read things more than once, but I do think about them, and the more I consider this story the better I like it.  Go read it, more than once if that's something you do, or read it closely if not.  Four stars.

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