Joan and Jane were born at 7:59 and 8:15 on a Tuesday morning. Two hours later their mother died. Two hours after that their father left the hospital and never returned.
Joan and Jane were identical twins. Due to the circumstances surrounding their births, they would both live two entirely different lives. That said, both girls quickly got adopted without complication.
Joan was adopted by the Smith’s. They lived in Alberta, which was far away from the location of her birth in Toronto. The Smith’s lived an honest life. Mr. Smith worked as a bus driver and maintained the family farm with the rest of his time. Mrs. Smith was a 5th-grade teacher at the nearby elementary school.
As Joan got a little older, she learned a lot about how to take care of the farm. Her parents appreciated her hardworking nature and dedication to their livelihood. As a result of this diligence, Joan got good at taking care of the family animals and the more labour intensive work like bailing hay. Every summer she would spend most of her days with her father doing farm-related work.
Although Joan’s family lived a simple life, they always encouraged her to take her school work seriously. She got straight A’s and read books when she had time to herself. She was a huge fan of science fiction and was always asking questions about how the world worked. Her parents tried their best to satisfy her curiosity but knew as she got older they would run out of answers.
Jane’s life was very different. She was adopted by the Carter’s who lived in Forest Hill, an affluent neighbourhood in Toronto. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother was a doctor. They were both very successful, but always busy with work. Because of this, once Jane was old enough to be left to her own devices, she was.
Jane’s parents instilled in her the idea that hard work was necessary and an essential part of a successful life. Even if she didn’t want to believe them, she saw it every day in the lives of her parents. Jane went to private schools throughout her childhood and did very well.
Jane also loved reading, and with her parent’s library, there was always something for her to pick up. Most of the books were non-fiction, but the variety was vast enough that she never got bored. Due to this, Jane never thought to ask for any books as there were always tones on the shelves. That said, she loved watching science fiction and wasn’t too interested in the things that girls her age typically like.
Both girls were excellent students in high school. They stayed out of trouble and always got excellent grades. Of course, there were times when their respective parents lost their patients, but that was often a short-lived affair. If asked, their parents only complaint would have been the occasional experimentation with drugs. Both girls figured they had kept it a secret, but their fathers always knew.
In addition to their experimentation, they were both interested in science and did well in math. The drugs may have had some influence, but they were both drawn to cognitive neuroscience. The science of the biology behind thoughts and how the brain works.
Joan’s grades were excellent, and she got into every university she applied. But even with the scholarships, she was offered, money was still a concern. So she decided to stay local and went to the University of Calgary.
Jane was in the same boat, and she got into every university she applied. But with money not being a concern, she decided to take a chance and went to UC Berkeley in California.
Both girls continued to do well at university. They were always at the top of their classes and known amongst their peers. Although they had a fair amount of friends, they usually chose to stay in and study or read. Over the years, they both had a couple of boyfriends and at one time or another a girlfriend. Regardless of who they dated, it was important for both of them to have someone special in their lives.
Their universities careers were similar. They learned a lot about their subject matter and finished at the top of their classes. They both also became interested in the mind-body problem. Which is a philosophical question that asks if the mind and body are different things? Are thoughts physical or are bodies mental? Or maybe there is something different that connects both of them?
When it came to practical things, they were both fascinated by machine-mind interfaces. It likely had something to do with all the sci-fi they watched. Regardless, mind-controlled limbs were going to be all the rage going forward.
As they both neared the end of undergrad, they were approached by their respective professors and asking if they wanted to take on a Ph.D.
Jane liked where she was, so she took up one of her professors offers and stayed at Berkeley. Her focus would be on brain-body interactions. She was particularly curious about how she could use live brain activity to control devices.
Joan, on the other hand, wanted to make a more significant change in her life. She was growing bored of living at home, and due to her grades and area of interest could practically go anywhere she wanted. She ended up settling on moving to the University of Toronto.
Joan’s focus would be a mix of engineering and neuroscience. She was more curious about the neurological response to the movement of limbs. She decided to investigate how changes in positions, resulted in changes to states of mind. To do this, she would need to build artificial limbs and figure out how to get them to respond to user feedback.
Over the years, the girls work progressed with the typical ups and downs of academic life. The direction of their work, for the most part, stayed the same. However, they adjusted their research as needed and became more specific in their goals.
As Jane approached the end of her program, she had developed a non-invasive headset that was able to detect changes in brain activity. This activity was matched with body actions. In a sense, by recording activity and calculating patterns, she was able to make accurate predictions about expected arm and leg positions.
Joan ended up developing an artificial limb that could respond to cognitive signals. But, she had to use already existing technology to capture those signals. The technology was bulky and unmovable. However, it made great sense of what users were thinking and translated that feedback into movement. Her limb was also able to give feedback and keep balance despite the noise in cognitive signals coming from the headset.
Both ladies successfully presented their findings and were awarded their degrees. At the same time, they were both equally unsure of what to do next. Seeking some community feedback, they both submitted their research and headed to the ‘Brain Body Machine Conference.’ Due to their expertise, they would present in different streams and rooms, but would still be at the same conference.
Joan presented her findings to a half-full auditorium. It wasn’t that her work wasn’t significant, it just wasn’t as exciting as some of the other work presented at that time. Practicality makes the world go round but isn’t what grabs people’s attention.
Jane’s presentation was later that day, but unlike Joan’s, the auditorium was full of people. Her technology, though simple was groundbreaking for the community. The future applications seemed enormous and would fuel the bleeding edge of the growing industry.
After Jane’s presentation, someone approached her and said “You are impressive. I saw your other presentation earlier this morning. You’ve got your hands in lots of different baskets.” Jane paused for a moment and replied: “You must have me confused with someone else, this was my only presentation.”
The person looked confused but went on “I’m sure it was you. Well, I thought it was you. She had the same voice, hairstyle and look. I guess her clothes were a little different, but the style was the same.”
Jane stood there in confusion, and wondered how such a person could exist? She hadn’t met anyone like her before, nor had she heard of someone who looked like her either. Jane thanked the person for the compliment and took a walk to clear her mind. After stepping outside for a few minutes, she headed to the cafeteria to grab something to eat.
Jane got in line and picked up a sandwich and a drink. She walked along to the cashier and paid, then looked around for a place to sit. Jane scanned the room from left to right, when someone caught her eye. She looked again and noticed the back of someone’s head who was wearing a similar outfit and had her hairstyle.
Primed by the previous conversation, Jane headed in that direction. When she got closer, she could see the side of the other woman’s face. Jane couldn’t help but notice she was looking at a mirror reflection. She even had the same arch in her nose, and her eyes were the same shape and colour.
As Jane approached, Joan looked up and stared into Jane’s eyes and mumbled ‘WTF.’ Jane took a seat across from Joan and said: “I never knew that I had a twin?”
Jane and Joan knew they had both been adopted, but they had no idea they were twins. After that first meeting, they realized how much they had in common. They discovered that they liked the same types of books and movies. They also realized very similar things inspired their works.
When they got home from the conference and brought up what had happened with their parents, things were cleared up. The circumstances of their adoptions had been chaotic, so everyone thought it would be best to keep it a secret.
When it came to business, they realized that their works would go hand in hand. They also realized, that with a little bit of collaboration, they could turn their research into a fantastic business.
After some organization, they approached Jane’s parents and asked for an investment. They used the investment to create a company called J-Squared. In a short time, their company became the leading producer of mind-controlled prosthetics.