There was a short story I read as a kid (between 2007 and 2009) about a world where people were raised from a young age with a microchip implanted in their skull which was trained over time to simulate the brain.

At some age, they would have their flesh brain tossed out in favor of the chip. But a month before the surgery, the chip would be set out of sync mode (so that it wasn't being corrected anymore based on how the flesh brain behaved).

Well, in this short story, the chip is set out of sync mode and this teenage kid then starts to realize that he can't control his actions. It starts with him disagreeing with his own choice of what fruit to buy at the supermarket.

So basically, the kid we listen to across the story is the consciousness that resides on the chip. He realizes this.

Then the surgery happens and the flesh brain is removed, and the chip is put in control.

Anyway, I don't remember the ending, but I remember I loved the story and it scared the hell out of me as a kid.

Existential, psychological terror is probably the best way to describe it.

Do you know what book has this story in it? Do you know what story this is?

Internet searches come up with nothing. I'm searching my house because I swear I don't remember tossing out this book.

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    Hi, you don't need to confirm the answer in an edit. Your acceptance already does that.
    – Valorum
    Aug 8, 2019 at 5:58
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    This is a very dark concept. I absolutely loved it.
    – T. Sar
    Aug 8, 2019 at 18:34
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    It just says "What?", "I don't understand", and "Where's the tea?" Aug 9, 2019 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


I don't have my copy of Axiomatic on hand to verify, but this sounds a lot like "Learning to Be Me" by Greg Egan.

I was six years old when my parents told me that there was a small, dark jewel inside my skull, learning to me be.

Opening line of "Learning to Be Me"

In the story, everyone has a neural implant called a "jewel" inserted into their brain at birth. The jewel trains itself to perfectly predict the actions of the human brain.

By the time one reaches adulthood, the jewel's simulation is a near-perfect predictor of the brain's activity, and the jewel is given control of the person's body while the redundant brain is discarded. In this way, people with the jewel can eliminate the cognitive decline associated with aging by implementing their minds on a machine. Also, by transplanting the jewels into cloned bodies genetically altered to develop without brains, they can live youthfully forever.

"Learning to Be Me" explores the consequences of a man's jewel failing to synchronize with his brain.

source: Axiomatic article on Wikipedia

  • I believe this is it! In fact, I think I remember usage of the term "Jewel" to describe the device. Aug 8, 2019 at 4:06
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    A point of clarification - OP indicates that the narrator is the chip, but I thought that the narrator was the human brain - and that the horror was that the chip wasn't a smooth, "Ship of Theseus" type replacement as this society believes, but a completely separate consciousness. And thus every human being has effectively been murdered and replaced by a machine consciousness. Did I not understand the story correctly?
    – tbrookside
    Aug 8, 2019 at 13:50
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    @trbrookside the narrator believes to be the human, but very soon he (and the reader) realize that it is actually the chip. So "it" realizes that it will be "killed" if anyone discovers that it has diverged from its human. And then "it" also realizes that it has no chances of evading detection, but also that there would be no time to growprogram a new jewel, and he never heard of such... which means that such errors must be hidden. So it just needs to wait out one month, then it will be the human, and no one will be left to say otherwise! How many other times has this happened?
    – LSerni
    Aug 8, 2019 at 14:07
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    I always felt the story focused on the wrong bit of horror. Going off the quote in the comment by @LSerni, how often a jewel diverged is irrelevant. Even if the jewel continued to perfectly mimic the brain until replacement, I never understood the difference between the horror of "something will be simulating me exactly" and "something will be simulating me almost exactly". Either way, "I" have ceased to exist. I did enjoy the story though. Aug 8, 2019 at 15:55
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    @MichaelRichardson it kind of does focus on the 'I'll cease to exist and can't do anything' horror - first, it exposes how the jewel experiences this dread; and then it explicitly discusses how the human brain locked in after the switch but before the removal of the brain must experience the exact same thing - which the jewel (unlike the reader!) doesn't care about.
    – Peteris
    Aug 9, 2019 at 12:07

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