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"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

People-Sorter  
  A device able to sort human beings with incredible speed.  

When you've gone back in time, snatched people from an aircraft that will crash in minutes, and want to obtain physical duplicates ("wimps") that are so close to the original that the difference can't be detected, and then send them back to the crashing aircraft, you'll need one of these.

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.

I knew the process was fast, but I'd never seen it.

From Millenium, by John Varley.
Published by Berkley Books in 1983
Additional resources -

Compare the experience of Louise Baltimore, time-traveler, with the experience of the fish in the demonstration of the AutoFish sorting system, shown below.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Millenium
  More Ideas and Technology by John Varley
  Tech news articles related to Millenium
  Tech news articles related to works by John Varley

People-Sorter-related news articles:
  - AutoFish Sorter Now, People Sorter Later

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