Trope-a-Day: Clone by Conversion

Clone by Conversion: It’s possible, with the right abominations of technology (basically, start with a healing vat and a cerebral bridge, then add evil) – but since you’re just using the original person as organic raw material, the applications are sharply limited. Basically, if you need reinforcements and have the equipment such that this looks like a reasonable way to go, bear in mind that you can get to exactly the same place in the end by popping along to your friendly local butcher and explaining that you’re buying meat for a family pig roast.

In many cases, this also avoids the ensuring war crimes trial, which is often a point in its favor.

(There is also the technique used by… certain intelligence agencies of covertly implanting sleeper agents with a Trojan device that permits an agent or an intel AI to be remotely downloaded into their brain, overwriting their original mind-state. But decent people shouldn’t think about such things.)

9 thoughts on “Trope-a-Day: Clone by Conversion

  1. “There is also the technique used by… certain intelligence agencies of covertly implanting sleeper agents with a Trojan device that permits an agent or an intel AI to be remotely downloaded into their brain, overwriting their original mind-state.”
    In the Schlock Mercenary universe this is called “red hacking”


  2. It seems to me in the latter scenario that overwriting the host personality entirely would be the cognitive effect of using C4 to blow a hole in a locked safe — it’ll certainly do the job, but it’ll also make enough noise to attract attention, so you’d better be prepared to move if you want to make use of it.

    I’ve been doing a little independent thinking on the subject myself lately (for my own project, but partly inspired by what you’ve written for yours), and I think that a less obtrusive way to go about it would be to have the “sleeper personality” whisper helpful little suggestions into the host’s preconscious cognition, then rely on the host’s own conscious processes to execute the decision and come up with an internal narrative justification for itself. I’d imagine that that would fool even an alethiometer (or at least the less robust ones).

    I’m tentatively calling this the “‘Glad I Thought of It’ hack”.


      • It’s been years since I’ve seen any of that show, but from what I can find online and my vague recollections, she seems to be closer to Alistair’s idea than mine.

        I’m thinking more along the lines of “Harvey” (the neural clone of Scorpius planted in John Crichton’s mind) from Farscape, though probably still a little more subtle than that in its execution.

        Probably a better example might be the more subtle efforts at indoctrination done by the Reapers in the Mass Effect games, where the subjects remain convinced that they’re in control and that they’re still working to advance their own goals even when they’re far gone enough to have effectively become puppets; the control is exerted in a More Than Mind Control fashion, where the manipulator plays on fears, hopes, and drives already present in the target and amplifies or distorts them selectively and gradually. I’m thinking of one very big (and very spoilery) example in particular that manifests towards the end of the last game as a near-perfect analog, though I won’t name names because, well, spoilers.


    • It’s a different tools for different jobs situation, mostly. What you describe latterly is what the ISS call a “shadow source”, which is a great tool for subtle espionage.

      But sometimes what you need is an agent-in-place right now for a heavy op, which is when you call up this technology and dump one into one of your prepared sleepers. This burns the sleeper, but if you need someone for a heavy op in their vicinity, time for that consideration’s probably already past.

      (This also has the pre-activation advantage that, however subtle the agent you’ve buried in your shadow source, it does interact with the rest of the mind and so will show up on a mind-state analysis, if they’re capable of it.

      This tech, on the other hand, is a tiny physical module that doesn’t interact with the brain until it wakes up and eats it. That’s much less detectable unless you’re paranoid enough to routinely give all your personnel high-resolution NMRIs and then physically examine every last tiny shadow that turns up.)


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