Artifact from the future: News – V Addiction A Silent Epidemic in 2159

Editorial note: An artifact from the future is a kind of reverse archaeology whereby we look at something the future might produce and ask ourselves how we got there and how these things came to be. This “news item” is its own little diegetic prototype.

Dateline (HONG KONG 2, NEW ASIA) 31 May, 2159

Eyebrows were raised in HK2 this week as the New Asia government released the latest figures on V addiction. Each year the NA Ministry of Social Happiness issues its recommendations for health and eudemonia. This year the guidelines have created a stir among some citizens especially for those who are engaged in the V, which by all estimates is nearly 90 percent of the population. The Ministry has lowered V-time recommendations by 25 percent over 2158 levels. With the new recommendation, the average ninety-six hour stay in the V would be reduced to seventy-two.

Government spokesvoice, expert system synthetic (ESS) Linxiao-P, stressed that, “The government is reminding everyone that this is still a recommendation and they are hoping that the public will voluntarily comply — that there will be no need to regulate the V. They are also emphasizing that vacation V is still at the user’s discretion. Of course, using common sense V practices.”

Experts are certain that the government recommendations are based on figures released on Tuesday that the V addiction rate is at 18.5 percent—up 1.5 percent over last year. Though the percentage is relatively small, it equates to an additional 267 million people.

According to Linxiao-P, the government recommendations are based on data from millions of V experiences, (gathered anonymously). Analyzing the behaviors of these individuals, many have extended their V time into the three-day workweek, which has had a negative effect on national productivity. Though the government will not verify the correlation, the increasing V addiction rate may also be related to the increase in suicides.

An ad for the V.

An ad for the V.

As they did in 2158, MSH published the popular day-in-the-life, typicals for both men and women. The free V program is automatically loaded into all V time logs and viewing is mandatory before beginning any individual V experience. Most V participants have found the program to be extremely entertaining. Typicals include recommended levels for various chems as well as V time.

 

James and Momo

This year’s typicals bring back James and Momo for a first-person tour of their weekly V habits. Whether or not James and Momo are human, synth actors or constructs remains a popular guessing game, but with this year’s intimacy section of the program, many people are more convinced that certain “body functions” are uniquely human. In the safety section, as James “performs,” Momo explains how our bio parents may have selected different gene partitions than other human, necessitating different chem protocols, but easily programmable guidelines should keep everyone well within health boundaries.

In the program Momo asks a question that many everyday V users ask, “Shouldn’t we be able to adjust chems levels to ward off V addition?”

As James explains in his inimitable way, the answer is theoretically, yes. The power of dopamine, however, the chem that is released at climax, for example, has undisputed addictive properties. Statistics show that 86 percent of V experiences result in a flush of dopamine. Most scientists agree that extended periods in the V living out fantasies is a continuous dopamine roller coaster. The user wants more. Unlike the V, a natural sexual climax is has a definitive ending point, at least in males. The high dissipates quickly. In the V the dopamine can keep on coming, depending on the program the user is in.

 

Chem recommendations

According to Linxiao-P, ” This is why it is always good to use the manufacturer’s recommended chem pre-sets so that when it’s time to leave the V there is a sufficient release of prolactin to satiate you before coming back to the real world. Of course, keeping your oxytocin levels up is important at all times.” Linxiao stresses that there are apps for this. “All of these optimum chem levels can be modulated seamlessly. Many of these apps can be infused free from the Lightstream.”

Whether or not the population voluntarily complies with the new government recommendations remains to be seen. As Linxiao-P says, “By far, it’s the best way to stay healthy. A little dopamine every day is fine, but too much and you risk a lot of other side effects.”

 

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In the virtual future, reality may be the biggest casualty. Part 1. More webcomic background.

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Before we dive into this week’s discussion, I need to pull a few definitions from glossary 1 and glossary 2.

Accretion (brain) – brain accretion is quantum storage of all mental, cognitive and experiential data from a living brain for transference to a progenated being or synthetic.

Progenation – (aka genning – slang) this is the counterpart of replication in inanimate objects though the process is very different. This is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans or endangered species are progenated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Progenation involves “replicating” an individual’s life forms in the lab through using duplicated DNA and then transferring their brain accretion. Gifted surgeons, scientists and other “social contributors” can be genned and leased to other parts of the world where their specific skills can be utilized for maximum affect. Due to high demand, territories throughout New Asia bid on such individuals. The government has begun to designate certain promising births as potential “progens.” These children are given special governmental benefits and opportunities to help insure that they will be able to be genned upon reaching maturity.

Saming – Slang for the purchase of an identical synthetic version of one’s self for the purposes of companionship or a sexual relationship.

In 2159, determining what is real and what is virtually real can be something of a challenge. With world population figures nearly 12.7 billion, experts in the 21st century feared that there would be a catastrophic food shortage, but advances in molecular replication put those fears to rest. Essentially this level of replication enables society to “print” any inanimate object including food of all types. The ability to “print” averything from an apple (without seeds and core) to sophisticated recipes and vintage wine has all been perfected. The level of complexity is dependent on the quality of replicator device. So, while it is possible for a peasant in Guangzhou to print his own rice, a machine that prints chocolate soufflés and cabernet sauvignon is a more expensive proposition. Recipes and templates for everything are available through the Lightstream with enough credits or Yuan.

Artisan farming and making is still seen by many as a superior option and has attained a connoisseur status. Farmland for crops and livestock, however, became the most significant casualty of population growth making those who were able to retain their land some of the wealthiest members of society. Real meat and made items command top credits. Amidst this, the question arises: How do you tell the difference? If you are in the market for the real thing then you can probably afford to own a sophisticated analysis device that breaks down the molecular components of the item in question and compares it with the extensive database of templates for replicated goods. Nuance, it appears, is the difference between items that are authentic and those that are replicated. While the  majority of the population is satisfied with chicken breast that is molecularly identical to every other chicken breast, some are convinced that the missing nuance of natural process is the veritable spice of life.

Nuance, it appears, is the difference between items that are authentic and those that are replicated.

Now there is the matter of life itself. Living tissue cannot be replicated, per se; it involves a complicated process of growing tissues from duplicated DNA and knitting these tissues together into an interdependent life form. This is known as progenation (aka genning). The process is both expensive and tenuous. Many consider it to still be in the experimental stage and inhumane. Scientists believe that some of the problems with successful progenation come from the rapidity of the process. Because the genning process takes weeks rather than the decades required to form an adult human from the embryonic state, something is lost most often in the formation of the brain and it’s complex connection to the countless number of bodily and cognitive functions. Similar failures brought on by rapid cellular development were also at the core of the decision, nearly a century ago, to abandon human cloning — now thought to be barbaric.

A successfully generated adult human will have a fully developed body in every respect. The brain, however, remains an empty mass of tissue. The final phase is “brain accretion transference” (BAT), where all mental, cognitive and experiential data from the living brain, natural human donor, is transferred to a generated being. If successful, the progenation process is complete. The government reports the success rate for transference at around 50% but some leaked reports put the number as low as 1 in 20. When transference fails, the living body must be terminated. There is no way to repeat the process. Even successful progens, after years of life, can die suddenly without explanation. There are also reports, though suppressed by the government, that progens can display psychotic episodes after a number of years.

Science is working on this.

It is much easier to build a synthetic human than to grow a natural one. The booming synthetic industry is evidence of this. In a synthetic, there are separate controlling computations for processes and behaviors. There is no physical “grey matter” rather a tightly weighted and configured quantum brain for handling the countless input-output calculations. Therefore, uploading your brain into a Synth for the purpose of an identical synthetic version of yourself is commonplace. Though not at all inexpensive, many people save for years to be able to purchase their identical — those who prefer their own company to anyone else’s.

Next week, more reality challenges: Enter the V.

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The transhuman future: Accumulating enhancements will be the new materialism.

Kristin’s conflicts.

The word of the day is primasapien. It would probably be fair to attribute this term to Kristin Broulliard. If the synthetic humans of the 22nd century were actually human then the terms racist, or bigot might apply. A primasapien holds the conviction that no matter how life-like the technology, the near human characteristics, the genetically grown organs or the super-human strength, intelligence, reaction time, etc., humans will forever be superior. It’s a controversial topic in this day and age. Much of the belief centers on the idea that the distinctively human aspects of synths, such as those involving emotions or pain, no matter how believable, are still not intrinsic. They have to be designed-in to the programming, whereas humans are born with these traits. However, this distinction is becoming more tenuous. Proponents of synthetic rights cite the hundreds of enhancements that human beings infuse over the course of their lives, that these are no less “programming” than the characteristics that are built into synths. In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone with unadulterated human emotions, attitudes or behaviors. With the rapid advancement of genetic and biotechnologies, the material gradually gave way to the internal and the invisible. The materialism—the collection of things—which typified the early 21st century evolved into a society that was preoccupied with internal enhancements, better bodies, better eyesight, internalized, escapist entertainment, and the accumulation of information. Eventually it could all be summed up in the visceral experience of living—and living forever. It became a mandatory process for humans to compete in society. 

For the primasapien the argument is further complicated because of the use of progens — genetic doubles that are lab replicated and then their brains are transferred through the brain accretion process. There has been a long debate on whether genned humans are real humans, since the transference process is not always successful. In failed brain transfers, a fully matured human is left in a vegetative state and must be terminated. With synthetics there are, at least, fewer legal problems: it is still legal to simply shut down a synthetic human, in-effect terminate them as long as they are employed by, or owned by you.

An additional complication come from a segment of society who insist that humans conceived in artificial wombs, or are the combination of unknown genetic bio-parents, are not whole humans. 

Next week: The hidden secrets of genning. 

Production commentary

Today’s rendering was quite the challenge. As you know, everything in world of The Lightstream Chronicles is built, as close to possible, to true scale. Thus, 60 stories is somewhere in the vicinity of 800 feet. The medical center in this concluding scene is roughly that height. The TopCity Spanner begins around 50 stories from street level. If I had my way, I would incorporate physical “rooms” into every building so that exterior views would give us an unlimited and random appearance, and the occasional evidence of human activity on the building’s interior. This would probably take a couple of lifetimes for one individual to produce. If we were living in New Asia in 2159, we would have 3-dimensional data for every nook and cranny in a given city. Replicating the world would be relatively easy.

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If a computer or machine is watching me, so what? Graphic novel commentary.

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This week I’m picking up on a thread from a couple of weeks ago on how adaptive we are as a society and how that can be good and not so good. Gradual change is something we are less likely to notice than abrupt changes in the world around us. One could argue that our adaption to the abrupt changes are more survival oriented — we quickly adapt and then eagerly make efforts to revert to something we think is better. When confronted with things like natural disasters, wars, shortages or catastrophes we tend to adapt quickly, even band together, until the situation can be corrected, or together, we correct it. When we look at the incremental changes of technology, or augmentation, or bio/genetic modification, these changes (though they are coming increasingly faster) are much slower. Adaptation is not on a massive scale. It’s an S curve followed by another S curve, and then another. Before we know it, there has been a massive change. Technologies that enable us to rid ourselves of disease or poverty are one thing; they have less of an effect on an individual’s daily behavior. Technologies that enable us to cram more information into our brains at a faster pace, or stay awake longer, or focus better, including cosmetic improvements, or escapist entertainments may need to contain a warning label. It’s hard to deny that the onslaught of technology and information, of sound byte attention spans on a 24/7 time schedule has changed us. The question is: at what point will we no longer recognize ourselves.

The characters in The Lightstream Chronicles may have arrived at this question too late. Over a period of decades, society has gradually given up on the notion of privacy. It was exchanged, bit by bit for enhancements that enabled telepathy, to channel direct-to-brain, instantaneous entertainment or escape into the V, a brain-port to upload language fluency in two hours, protection from assault and kidnapping. Together with the demand for ubiquitous, “active surfaces” woven into every piece of their environment a 24/7, always-on picture of everyone, every minute became the norm. There seemed to be little question that the positives outweighed the negatives. So what if a computer or synthetic is watching me in my most private moments? It was awkward at first and took some getting used to, but government assurances that the “watchers” were only looking for laws that are being broken and putting citizens into danger, made things easier to take. After all, the watchers are just computers or machines; they are not making any moral judgments. And in a society where anything is legal as long as it is consensual, most people aren’t worried about breaking any laws. And if they feel like being deviant, well there is always the V. There they can delve into the darkest recesses of their imagination with impunity.

Relax. It’s all good.

 

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In the future, hurting people is a crime. In fact, in the surveillance-state, don’t even think about it.

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In last week’s The Lightstream Chronicles, weighing the rational against the emotional, Toei boldly suggested that perhaps a synthetic police detective could do a better job of apprehending the serial rape gang that has been successfully eluding Detective Guren for the past several months. These type of crimes — inflicting harm on another person — are top priority and usually solved immediately. With mesh imagery available for nearly every square meter of Hong Kong 2, the ultra-sophisticated surveillance that is capable of seeing everyone, anywhere, anytime would have quickly identified the imminent crime even before it was actually committed. Similar to matching a fingerprint, analysis of body language, gestures, heart rate and other data can predict almost instantaneously that an individual or individuals is about to commit a crime. The mesh, constantly “on”, looks for patterns of suspicious behavior and provides a 3D picture. When suspicious 3D mesh behavior is detected, computers quickly accesses the chipset of anyone in proximity. Readings from the autonomic nervous system of the victim(s) and/or perpetrator(s), provides evidentiary data. If it is determined that a crime is about to be committed, drones, police or sentinels are quickly dispatched to the scene. If the perpetrator(s) are synthetic, the job of detection is actually less complex than assessing human biometrics. Synthetics, even those who have been twisted, have “intent transmitters” which can quickly be identified by central security systems. In Detective Guren’s serial rape case, however, “outages” in the mesh prevented the first step initiation of this public safety protocol. Should he be held to blame?

Next week, I’ll talk about why crime continues to thrive in HK2.

Progress update

Perhaps it doesn’t take much to get me excited when it comes to The Lightstream Chronicles, but this week, while working on Chapter 3, I built the first few panels with whom I think is going to be our number one star. I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say that Keiji-T will play a very prominent role in the remainder of the story. If we make a movie analogy and look at the six chapters that comprise The Lightstream Chronicles (at least so far), then Chapter 1 was probably the first 15 minutes of the flick, and Chapter 2, the next 15 minutes or so. That makes introducing a prime player and arguably the lead character, a good 30 minutes after the start of the movie, a bit risky in standard practice for film evolution. Then again, it might not be totally accurate to say that he (it) has not been introduced. In truth, Keiji’s first appearance was in Chapter 1, on page 17 and then again in Sean’s lab. And there has been chatter about him, but not what you would call an official speaking part as of yet. So, since i know what is going to happen, starting to render Keiji is a pretty big deal for me.

Upcoming speaking engagements

Coming to London and Copenhagen

Coming to London and Copenhagen

I think I can safely say, now with travel arrangements in place, that I will be in London and Copenhagen this summer presenting papers on my design fiction research. The first appearance will be at Loncon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. It runs August 14 – 18 at ExCel in London. I don’t have a fixed time yet but I will be participating in the academic program in conjunction with the event. This is the place where they award the Hugo’s every year for the best in science fiction, and that is pretty exciting. The focus of the academic program is Diversity in Speculative Fiction. I will be presenting the intersection of my digital, online, graphic novel with the broader aspects of design fiction. Shortly thereafter, I will be presenting another paper more deeply focused on design fiction as design research and practice with in the “Design Thinking and Social Justice stream” of the The 2014 Art of Management and Organization Conference in Copenhagen, August 28-31. Both venues are very exciting opportunities. If you’re one of my followers from The Lightstream Chronicles or theEnvisionist.com, in either of these cities, stop by and say hello.

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Can we still march to a different drummer?

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Last week I proposed the question about how we will deal with the idea of our lives being “naked.” I’m probably wearing my glass-half-empty hat today, but if I had to guess what the pulse would be around the globe, I would probably say that 85 to 90 percent of the world hasn’t thought about it at all. Another 10 to 14 percent have thought about it but only superficially, not long enough or deeply enough to form an opinion one way or the other. The remaining 2 percent or so, are probably scattered about between excitement and dread. I have no data to support this other than my own secondary research through the media, culture and the arts; academic papers, futurist and forecasting journals, so the pulse I feel may not be at all real. With that disclaimer, I will dissect that scattered about group.

At one end of the scale are those who consider themselves to be “tech savvy”, those who are comfortable accommodating the latest and most advanced technology into their lifestyles  (and I probably have to include myself in that group) calmly, and maybe even eagerly enfold whatever it is either because we think it is just too cool to pass by or because we think it will be a real enhancement to our life. At the other end of the scale are those, (probably deeper thinkers) who look askance at every new development as something just short of reading the supermarket tabloids. They have a “this too shall pass,” approach and a “wait and see” perspective. Eventually they too may adopt the new technology, but by then, it won’t be new anymore, and they will have fully vetted it as either fad or functional. Some of this second group will be motivated by cost, as early-adopters will always pay top dollar for hot technology. Some will be satisfied with whatever level of technology they are currently using and have no time to fuss with new software or user interfaces, or operating systems. This group is probably not worried about being left behind.

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum are a handful that might are a bit concerned with how ubiquitous it is all becoming and how it is no longer we who are enfolding technology but technology that is enfolding us. For this group, the idea is disconcerting. Now let’s see, where was I? Ah, yes, back to email…

Even the folks at the opposite end of the early adopter scale will eventually come around won’t they? I mean, they really don’t have a choice, do they? When whatever technology they are using decides to quit, it’s not like they can go back to using the old model. If they want to continue using the functionality they are accustomed to they have to buy the newest. That’s how it works, even for those who are not so quick to embrace it all. Maybe no one wants to be left behind, not really.

It looks suspiciously like a race. The destination is final digital convergence of everything we are. That’s not just alarmist Alex Jones stuff. Guys like Ray Kurzweil and companies like Google would love to see us all with non-invasive brain implants that connect directly to the Cloud, and they foresee that day happening before 2050. Hence, in that day we will all be of one mind, interconnected by our thoughts and accessing data, entertainment, virtual reality 24/7. Cool huh? We will be lightning fast, always on, and smart as a whip. That would include, of course, the kind and compassionate along with the scoundrels. If this is all moving too fast for you, keep in mind that it is just a sliver of where science and technology are leading.  Keep in mind that everything else, like biotech, and genetic engineering, and every other aspect of business and commerce, politics and society will be moving at a similar pace. But relax, we’ll adapt, just like we always do.

In a recent interview, Kurzweil may have pinpointed the underlying pressure that we will to bear to adopt the latest and most advanced. “I think human and computer intelligence will be mixed together just as it is now. We have conflicts today between groups of humans that are both enhanced by intelligent technology. A war between a group that used the latest technology and a group of humans who eschewed modern technology would be a very short war.” 1

All those in favor, say “Aye.”

All of this sarcasm has a point. What really motivates us to accept and enfold technology. Is it because we are afraid of being left behind when the rest of the world is doing it? Are we destined to be motivated by fear that our neighbor has an upload port behind her ear and we don’t? What  if the children across the street have brain enhancements that allow them to learn faster and retain more information, should my kids have it, too? It’s time to think about this. It is a possible future.

Next week: How this applies to The Lightstream Chronicles.

1.Segall, Eli. “Futurist Ray Kurzweil Predicts In-body Computers and a Potential War With machines.” Las Vegas Sun 26 Jan. 2013: n. pag. LasVegasSun.com. 26 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

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The Naked Future. Are you ready?

Ed. note: Due to problems with my ISP, The Lightstream Chronicles was posted late this morning. Perhaps the subject of a future blog rant, after hours of something loosely called “tech support”,  I had to drive to the local Starbucks to upload the pages. Long live Starbucks!

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If you zip back to my blog about page 53 you’ll see a somewhat lengthy but not all that coherent post on the interaction between humans and synthetics. That post centers more on how synths, once they became realistically human, were quickly exploited as slaves, both menial and sexual. Though not all of the future society in The Lightstream Chronicles was to blame as soon as there was a device that could do your bidding, there were those who abused the technology. Some will see this is pure dystopic fiction but it is difficult to argue that the past is littered with the precedent for technological misuse. And as we move toward a more ethically relativistic society, misuse will have a narrower and narrower definition. Therefore, even in a society that should be more enlightened, it is completely plausible that we could treat our synthetic co-workers with less respect than real humans. The irony in this future speculation is that the technological enhancement of humans and their symbiotic fusion with the technosphere, along with the ever more emotional and empathic capabilities of synthetics, the line between real humanity is almost nonexistent.

The Naked Future

Thinking about the future is more than a geeky, sci-fi pastime. I believe it is our responsibility to engage with the political, scientific, social and ethical decision-making happening around us. Because, whether we know it or not, those decisions will make a huge impact on the shape of the world we live in tomorrow. It’s just one of the reasons that I am a card-carrying member of The World Future Society. As a member, I regularly check in with wfs.org to see read the latest prognostications on the future. If you look closely at the predictions or forecasts of any futurist, it’s probably possible to see where they are coming from as well. In other words, everyone comes at his or her vision of the future with an opinion: is this aspect of the future all positive or is there a cautionary tone.

This is, of course, at the core of my design fiction research at Ohio State. So, as I was meandering around the wfs.org site I stumbled upon an article by Patrick Tucker, an editor at The Futurist magazine, a publication of WFS. This happened on March 5th. Coincidentally, I saw that Patrick’s book, The Naked Future: What Happens In A World That Anticipates Your Every Move? was about to be released on March 6th. Since this topic is dead center on my radar, I clicked over to iTunes to see if it was available as an iBook, and sure enough, it was. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait so Googled up a YouTube video moderated by David Wood for the London Futurists and featuring the aforementioned Tucker along with futurists David Orban, Evan Selinger, Gray Scott, and Rachel Armstrong. It was a lively (though, at times, technically challenged) Skype meet-up that touched on some timely topics.

I hope to have a full review on Tucker’s book in a future blog but I think that the meet-up touched on some of the thought-provoking ideas that I’m sure are in-store for the reader. Naked is a perfect term for this idea of our lives being transparent and the book (though I am only partially through it) documents the shrinking evolution of big data from unwieldy complexity to smartphone accessibility — as a fearsome tool of the powerful over the weak to what is becoming an open resource. Therein is perhaps the most interesting part. We may as well accept that fact that this is a reality, and as Tucker explains (11) the big data era has already morphed into telemetry, “Telemetry is the collection and transfer of data in real time, as tough sensed.” The fact is we leave tracks. Extrapolating this is easy, walk the same path, explore some dark corner, innocently tweet and you are adding to your data. After a while, as much as you may wish to disbelieve, it is easy to predict where you will go next. As computing becomes more ubiquitous, all of our surfaces become live, as everything we touch leaves some sort of metadata fingerprint, eventually our lives will be, well, naked.

How will we deal with that? Some say to relax, that we’ll adapt to that change just like we have to every other change. I have some ideas on that, but I will save them for the next blog. Cheers.

 Tucker, Patrick The Naked Future: What Happens In A World That Anticipates Your Every Move? New York, Penquin, 2014.
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Progress update: webcomic and graphic novel.

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In this scene nobody seems too talkative about the case at hand. Perhaps they are just trying to process everything that has just transpired — but it is late —and Detective Guren is still stewing over the comment from Col. Chen back on page 58.

On a side note, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I redesigned the elevator that our characters are standing in front of. Finally, I opted for a sleek, silent and fast shuttle that could bound multiple stories in short order.

Progress update

After completing multiple pages of prologue material — similar to the approach I took prior to Chapter 2 — I have begun work on Chapter 3. The rationale for the prologues is to present what I believe to be rich, and important, backstory. If you are a regular follower of the web comic/graphic novel, then the backstory and nuances of what is going on in society as well as history, help to immerse you a bit more in the characters and their lives. At times, it feels as though there is so much backstory that I wish I had written a conventional novel. But then I think we would have been hard pressed to consider this as a work of design fiction.  It is, of course, the diegetic prototypes that are so woven into people’s lives that we can look at and contemplate their affect on the culture and the behaviors of the characters.

Chapter 2 will wrap up on page 84, in case you were wondering.

 

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Futurist glossary for the year 2159. Part 2.

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A few weeks ago, I posted Part 1 of a cyberpunk, futurists’, design fiction glossary for the year 2159. This week I’m adding Part 2. There will probably be more to come. Now you are really in the know.

Accretion (brain) – brain accretion is quantum storage of all mental, cognitive and experiential data from a living brain for transference to a progenated being or synthetic. Essentially, quantum storage of your brain and its contents. (see also progenation)

Agers – humans that choose death over an unlimited lifespan. They may take advantage of replacement organs, or other enhancements but avoid genetic alterations to stop the aging process. Average life expectancy of an ager is 148 years. Despite enhancements, agers often find themselves unemployed after age 60.

Brain accretion – see accretion (aka bacc-up – slang)

Brain port – a port is inserted behind the ear just below the occipital bone and laterally to just above the C1 vertebra. The port resembles a small patch about 20mm square. It blends in with the skin and becomes visible only when touched by the owner. This reveals a slender 5mm slot in the center. The port connects through a microscopic tube to the base of the Pons, a key feature of the brainstem that connects the medulla to the thalamus. The Pons is considered white matter as opposed to the grey variety and is used to conduct signals from the forebrain and midbrain. It helps a number of autonomic functions like sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder control, hearing, taste, and equilibrium among others. It also helps you dream. (See also chipset)

Chipset – a brain augmentation. The first chipset is installed in humans at an early age, usually when a child reaches 3 or 4 years old. The first implantation sends a stream of nano particles that are programmed to find the Pons and set up a grid, basically a set of microscopic slots that will accept updates and other programmable nodes that interface with luminous implants accessing everything from the Lightstream (see Lightstream), to infusion learning, internal body chemistry, and the V. These implants are what allow the person to receive voice and telepathic transmissions as well as to “see” who is calling or immerse themselves in the world of the V. The Pons’ midbrain pathway also provides access to the hippocampus, the brains memory center. The placement of the chipset is both strategic and precarious. As long as the port is used for medical purposes only such as software updates (so to speak), all is well. With the relatively new diversion of exchanging experiences, however, memories—complete with their accompanying sensory experiences are recorded and extracted directly via the port to an external device called a swig and then can be transferred to another person. (See also swig, headjacking)

DownTown – (aka DT – slang) is a general referent to the portions of the Hong Kong 2 below 50 stories. More specifically, it refers to the area below the TopCity Spanner. Because of the massive scale of the spanner, portions of the city below were blocked from the sun and rain and hence abandoned. Other areas were flooded from drainage miscalculations from spanner run-off. Criminal elements moved into the shadowy world below and certain areas became known for illegal activities and deviant behavior. Not all parts of the city have taken this route. Hong Kong Island, for example, is not considered to have a DownTown in the same sense of the word. The area considered the highest risk extends in a 2000-meter radius from what is currently the Mong Kok district. It includes portions of Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong.

ESSabbreviation for Expert Systems Synthetic. ES Synths are specialists in a myriad of areas from psychoanalysis to parenting, sexual dysfunction, anger management, human behavior, and the list goes on. ES Synths can be hired by the hour as consultants or therapists in  person or via the Lightstream. They are a service of the New Asia government and you can pay in credits or cash.

HK2abbreviation for Hong Kong 2, the global capital of New Asia.

Infusion – is the process by which knowledge or experiences are uploaded into the human brain. Low level infusions can be tactile via luminous implants or more robust uploads via the

Invisible City – a section of DownTown that was flooded by spanner run-off. Largely abandoned in the flood of 2155, the area was originally an air shuttle-warehousing complex consisting of approximately 20 city blocks. Occupancy is disputed but the area does maintain some businesses, infusion bars, and Synth brothels.

NACabbreviation for New Asia Corporation. Most corporations are government owned.

New Asia – Most of the world belongs to New Asia. Countries that sold to the New Asia government (formerly China) retained their identities and are referred to as French New Asia, German New Asia, British New Asia, The United States of New Asia, etc. Some smaller countries such as Switzerland never sold their countries. A small selection of states, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana seceded from the Union prior to the sale of the United States to New Asia. The territory is known as the United Colonies of America.

Progenation – (aka genning – slang) This is the counterpart of replication in inanimate objects though the process is very different. This is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans or endangered species are progenated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Progenation involves “replicating” an individual’s life forms in the lab through using duplicated DNA  and then transferring their brain accretion. Gifted surgeons, scientists and other “social contributors” can be genned and leased to other parts of the world where their specific skills can be utilized for maximum affect. Due to high demand, territories throughout New Asia bid on such individuals. The government has begun to designate certain promising births as potential “progens.” These children are given special governmental benefits and opportunities to help insure that they will be able to be genned upon reaching maturity.

Pure-stuffs – (aka puffies-slang) usually refers to naturally made or grown food, beverages or other organic, inanimate objects, that some believe to be superior to molecularly configured replications. Since these generally require antiquated forms of agriculture, they are rare and quite expensive.

Replication – replication of inanimate objects is widespread for food beverages and hard goods. Many insist that there is a difference between a real and replicated apple, thus, “pure-stuffs” are still sold. Replication is based on duplicating molecular “fingerprints” of actual objects.

Tapping, taps – a tactile communication system that utilizes implanted sensors just below the skin on the users fingertips. Touching the fingertips together in specific sequence can be used to access information that is lightstreamed directly to the users brain, adjust programs for internal chemistry, receive telepathic communications, or transfer data to active surfaces. Specialized programs and receptors allow users to transmit feelings and emotions via touch to the sensors of another individual.

TopCity – the area of Hong Kong 2 that refers to everything above 50 floors including the Top City Spanner.

TopCity Spanner - an architectural wonder that took 10 years to construct. It connects Hong Kong Island with the North Bay, Kowloon and through to the Mong Kok area. The spanner uses programmable architecture that enables engineers to expand, add new partitions or floors.

Twisting – the illegal tampering and reprogramming of a synthetic for committing crimes.

V (The) – street slang for virtual immersions. (aka virtual reality)

V chair – a home lounging device that enables users to have extended Immersions in the V. Usually reserved for the privileged and wealthy the chairs reduce skin compression, maintain body chemistry, monitor immersion time and can be hooked up to intravenous and body waste disposal accessories.

V palace – capsule hotels where patrons can hook up to the V, hourly daily or weekly. Longer-term guests are fed intravenously and catheterized to dispose of body waste. V palaces exist in both TopCity and DownTown, though accommodations vary significantly. The government is trying to discourage extended time in the V, as it has been shown to have debilitating behavioral side effects.

 

Comments welcome!

 

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How important is realism and what makes it real?

 p63

This week, the governor flashes a rosary and crucifix, and while our team may be trying to conceal their surprise, we can see that they are more than a bit shocked. If you haven’t read the backstory on the government’s stand on religion, you can find it here, early in chapter 1, and in the chapter 2 prologues. I’m going to let you sort that out for now.

Kristin Broulliard's silent commentary.

Kristin Broulliard’s silent commentary.

Today I thought I would center the discussion on realism. 

The future of The Lightstream Chronicles is built with “artifacts” that, by virtue of the narrative, become infused with meaning. At the same time, they are intended to provide a sense of realism and increase engagement, as well as foster discussion and debate. Because design permeates culture, and is an inextricable part of daily life. Design and technology quickly blend in, and the people living in, and with it, don’t particularly take notice of it.

There has been a document floating about that I came across while stalking the pages of Carnegie Mellon’s Design Fiction and Imaginary Futures blog, called the Critical Engineering Manifesto which appears to be co-written by a group from Berlin in 2011. The team, Julian Oliver, Gordan Savičić, and  Danja Vasiliev, have put together a rather ominous truism of the power of engineering and design in our culture today and especially in the future.

If we assume that the critical engineer shares at least some definition, in principle, with critical design popularized by Dunne & Raby, then its purpose, is a critique on engineering and perhaps technology and their affect on culture. As Dunne & Raby help to define critical design, it “uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life.”

The Critical Engineering Working Group and their manifesto share a similar spirit. Number 5 of the 10-point manifesto reads:

     “5. The Critical Engineer recognises that each work of engineering engineers its user, proportional to that user’s dependency upon it.”

As I have written many times our smart phone, is a prime example: a designed technology that brings with it new efficiencies, and at the same time, engenders new behaviors. It has undeniably engineered us as well.

Therein lies the role of the diegetic prototype for design fiction. iPads, smart phones, vibrating reminders, 160 character thoughts exchanged with total strangers are likely just the beginning. But, to fully absorb the impact of our creations that have begun to create on their own, we need to think. Somehow, our speculative design needs to break through and become real enough to provoke us to think about the future and become more engaged in it.

Realism, I believe plays a significant role in this breakthrough objective. Realism, however, can be achieved in many ways beyond the most obvious, material fabrication. Indeed, the realism that made 2001 A Space Odyssey, Minority Report, or even Her so memorable, was not real at all, it just seemed that way. Yes, these artifacts from the future — the devices and technologies made scientifically plausible and logically designed — were so believable that they blended in, but what made them seem most real was how commonplace they were to their users. It was the way the characters interacted and behaved with these devices.

The Lightstream Chronicles quite obviously stops short of material fabrication, and leans heavily on the realism that can be conveyed through CG. But though the digital forms of these artifacts have dimension and virtual physicality, the emphasis is on how they can go unnoticed. Just as with our present-day artifacts like smart phones and laptops, they blend into the scheme of everyday. They are ubiquitous in the culture, yet they serve to influence social interaction and individual behavior.

The use of diegetic prototypes can suspend disbelief about the future scenarios, and through an examination of culture and context, individuals can contemplate present-day decisions that will affect the future on an individual basis.

Indeed, I believe that realism is key. It is important to examine what makes it real to us and ask how real it needs to be to actually provoke us to think and encourage us to engage in our future.

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About the Envisionist

Scott Denison is an accomplished visual, brand, interior, and set designer. He is currently Assistant Professor of Design Foundations at The Ohio State University. He continues his research in epic design that examines the design-culture relationship within a future narrative — a graphic novel / web comic. The web comic posts weekly updates at: http://thelightstreamchronicles.com. Artist's commentary is also posted here in conjunction with each new comic page. The author's professional portfolio can be found at: http://scottdenison.com There is also a cyberpunk tumblr site at: http://lghtstrm.tumblr.com
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