Rage, Pity, Terror, Despair, Remorse, Love
I originally had the idea for the catgut series when I was looking at methods of artificial intelligence in medicine. These artificial intelligence tools will really help advance medicine in the longer term, but I was interested in what challenges we could face for medicine and humanity as artificial intelligence increase is.
So, I thought about unique human qualities that artificial intelligence could never capture. From there I thought about future scenarios in medicine, how long could humans live, could robots replace surgeons, could mental illness be cured by transferring consciousness, what if time travel was possible, and what if we use clones in medicine to treat disease. All these concepts were then melted down to different stories.
The reason each of the novellas are named after a human emotion is that it seems to me that even if artificial intelligence develops self-awareness, could they ever really feel human emotion?
Could a machine feel real pity, or love, or deep remorse. Could they experience despair or true terror. These are uniquely human (and animal) emotions, something machines could never really grasp.
Then I thought about what other qualities machines would find it difficult to conceptualise as well as humans do. Smell is a very important instinct for us as humans. When we smell something, often it transports us via our memory to a different time or place in our lives. It can be happy time, sad or content moment, but smells and music have a unique way of transporting us to other places. I thought that artificial intelligence could probably master music by algorithms, but smell is very difficult to interpret in an algorithm. For example, the smell of roasting coffee beans probably evokes a certain memory for you, and that memory is unique to you. Likewise other smells like the smell of Jasmine or flowers, the smell of burning toast, these are experienced during our lives and all of us have unique memories for each scent.
Finally, I wanted to weave the stories together with something that used to be used often in surgery. Catgut was a common surgical stitch used for many years but it has since been replaced. It struck me that the material simply moved out of our existence, out of our consciousness, as it was replaced by better materials. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it struck me how often things that we're used to move out of our consciousness, and they're no longer used, sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes, and I'm sure you can think of examples, it leads to unintended consequences. So that's why catgut is there, to weave all the emotions, the smells, the unique human characters together.
The CATGUT stories are essentially stories about human beings. Human in an uncertain world, all with the same human frailty that we all have. Sometimes through their own sins, or sometimes by accident, they are thrust into situations they threaten their very existence. That frailty, that very human quality, is what I wanted to explore in the catgut series.
There will be six more of these stories available soon, all of them weaved together by forgotten a material, CATGUT.