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AutoFish Sorter Now, People Sorter Later

The AutoFish System is an amazing piece of machinery. It can sort and tag up to 100,000 young fish per hour. The device is used to distinguish between natural salmon (protected) and hatchery salmon (dinner) in the fisheries of the Pacific Northwest.

Take a look at the AutoFish video below; sorting by size is done (accurate to within 1 millimeter) and the mortality rate is gratifyingly low - just one-tenth of one percent.

I read about this device at io9.com; so far so good. Then, however, the writer (Charlie Jane Anders) makes the fantastic and totally over-the-top suggestion that this device might be seen as the prototype of a device that could be used to sort people. Who could possibly think of (or describe) such a device?

Why, John Varley, of course. In his incredibly fantastic and totally over-the-top 1983 novel Millenium, he describes what it feels like to fall into a futuristic people-sorter.

There was no way to get a grip on anything (that's why they call it frictionless). I slid through a series of chutes and onto a flat surface coated with a sheet of plastic that clung to my skin. It all happened so fast I never did understand the sequence. At some point mechanical hands removed my pants and I found myself wrapped in a tight cocoon of clear plastic. I was straitjacketed, arms at my sides, feet together.

I was tumbled in a blue light. It was frightening, even to me, and I knew what was happening. My body was being studied in minute detail, from the bones outward. The process took two seconds. I was cataloged out to eighty decimal places and the Big Computer began thumbing through its card file of wimps looking for the best match. That took about a picosecond.
(Read more about Varley's people-sorter)

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