The future: Soon to be evenly distributed.

One of the great debunking websites is something called the Quote Investigator. The site is characterized by excellent research, thorough citations and lot of interesting tidbits especially about quotes we think we know. It has been a couple of years since I saved this one, but it strikes me as especially relevant with a spate of the most recent news releases on wearable technology (spawned by the Apple Watch), and lots of tech reports on telepathic breakthroughs. Consensus, it would seem is that what Gibson actually said (though as QI states, it wasn’t always said in the same way) was,

“The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

Which is to say much of what we attribute to science fiction future, at least the near and not too far out fiction futures has probably already been done to some extent.

Also from QI:

“In July 1996 the Washington Post published a story discussing research on wearable computer systems. In the mid-1990s systems using bulky visors and head-mounted video cameras resulted in a Borg-like appearance. The journalist John Schwartz deployed an entertaining variant of the adage under investigation ’The future is already here, it’s just in beta testing, the high-tech world’s final smoothing-out of kinks before products and services go public.‘”1

So images like this TIME cover animation are very sci-fi in appearance but they are also right around the corner. As the cover says,

“The Apple Watch is just the start. How wearable tech will change your life—like it or not”.2

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Time cover, whether you like it or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my Copenhagen presentation earlier this year, I called this Technological Darwinism—the idea that technology will change our lives and we are powerless to stop it. Adapt or die.

The same QI article further surrounds the quotation with another Gibson remark from a USA Today Article in 1993,

“I’m not trying to predict the future. I’m trying to let us see the present.” (Ibid.)

This, as I have often stated, is also a prime rationale for design fiction. The other albeit a bit more difficult to achieve, is best said by Resnick,

“Scenarios work to enable agency in those who experience them by showing the breadth of possible futures and the inevitability of none.”3

So I will wrap this up by quoting my own quotes from the same Copenhagen paper,

And while society is in desperate need for a host of technological advancements,  Evan Selinger of RIT reminds us that, “technology moves faster than politics, moves faster than policy, and often faster than ethics” 4

According to Allenby and Sarewitz

“… as technological evolution continues to outpace the grasp of human intent, we have little time to waste. These are the questions of our time…”5

1 http://quoteinvestigator.com/category/william-gibson/
2 http://timemagazine.tumblr.com/post/97149637119/times-new-cover-never-offline-the-apple-watch
3 Resnick, Jonathan. “Materialization of the Speculative in Foresight and Design.” Thesis. OCAD-Ontario College of Art and Design, 2011. OCAD-Ontario College of Art and Design, Dec. 2011. Web. 2012.
4 Wood, David. “The Naked Future — A World That Anticipates Your Every Move.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
5 Allenby, Braden R., and Daniel R. Sarewitz. The Techno-human Condition. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. Print.
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Speculating on the future. How do we know?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes a futurist as:

“one who studies and predicts the future especially on the basis of current trends”1 (emphasis mine).1

According to the Society of Professional Futurists,

“A professional futurist is a person who studies the future in order to help people understand, anticipate, prepare for and gain advantage from coming changes.  It is not the goal of a futurist to predict what will happen in the future.  The futurist uses foresight to describe what could happen in the future and, in some cases, what should happen in the future.”2

Their definition expressly denies any attempt at prediction. Embedded in that definition is the term foresight. Voros, in his paper, A Primer on Futures studies, Foresight and the Use of Scenarios, seems to agree.

“Futures (or foresight) work is not, contrary to popular misconception, about prediction or crystalball gazing and trying to guess what “the future” will be. Serious futurists are not in the business of prediction.”3

When I presented my paper Design Fiction as a Means of Provoking Individual Foresight and Participation in Today’s Decision Making, at Loncon3, The World Science Fiction Convention Academic Programme last month, a question arose from the audience suggesting that The Lightstream Chronicles was speculating on “so much”, such that how could I know?

At the time I thought the questioner was inquiring as to my methodology for speculating about future events on such a broad, world-building scale. I started a nutshell explanation of how I built the foundation of the world in 2159, but before I could get very far our time ended (as these things run like a clock). I hoped to carry on the conversation afterward one-on-one, but alas the questioner disappeared,

Thinking about it afterward, either he came in late and missed the point or I did. The point of The Lightstream Chronicles is not to predict the future, but to get us thinking and to provoke discussion and debate about it—today. In this regard, my story about how design and technology blend seamlessly with culture influencing behavior and humanity, shares its intent with Paul Saffo’s definition of foresight: “The goal of forecasting is not to predict the future but to tell you what you need to know to take meaningful action in the present.”4

So the answer is, we don’t know.  At the same time there is a rationale for all of this speculation. Here, I turn to Voros’ “Three ‘Laws’ of Futures” :

The future is not determined.

The future is not predictable.

Future outcomes can be influenced by our choices in the present. 3

And that is the point.

 

 

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/futurist

2. http://www.profuturists.org/futurists

3. Dr Joseph Voros, Swinburne University of Technology, Foresight Bulletin, No 6, December 2001, Swinburne University of Technology.

4. Saffo, Paul. “Six Rules For Effective Forecasting. (Cover Story).” Harvard Business Review 85.7/8 (2007): 122-131. Business Source Complete. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.

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Science fiction: Near, distant or far? Why is The Lightstream Chronicles set in 2159?

Science fiction author William Gibson said,

“Personally I think that contemporary reality is sufficiently science fiction for me. Some critics are already maintaining that science fiction is a sort of historical category and it is not possible any more…I have to figure out what it means to try to write about the future at a time when we are all living in the shadow of at least half a dozen wildly science fiction scenarios.”1

I am not of this opinion. I think it is still possible to write compelling near, distant and far future fiction. The frustrating part is often the off-the-cuff critiques, and quick dismissals that any trope such as robotics, or immortality immediately render the work a rehash. I’ve heard this many times. So, it was an conscious decision when writing the original script to make this a distant future fiction.

I follow Robert Heinlein’s definition of science fiction:

“Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the scientific method.”

With that it is incumbent upon the author to hold those realistic speculations in one hand and with the other, threads of the present that could stretch far into the future.

One of my primary thematic motivations is speculating on human and transhuman futures. To me, based on present day facts, seminal aspects of transhumanism are already in place. We already have cochlear implants, artificial hearts, robotic limbs, transmitting health monitors, and other technological improvements built into our bodies. Without some sort of wild card devastation (which could derail any speculative future) here is no reason to consider a decline in the sophistication and amplification of health-assisting technologies. As with most technologies that, over time, etch themselves into our culture, these will become progressively more accepted as logical improvements to our natural bodies. Based on the current rate of technological advancement and the propensity for technology to grow exponentially, it is not unreasonable to consider a neart future—say 10 to 15 years—where our natural human bodies are significantly enhanced by multiple technologies from retinal implants, to augmented reality, in the form of organs, genetic adjustments, replacements, and interventions designed to keep us younger, sharper, and better in some demonstrable way.

This 10 to 15 year future could easily be the premise of a “near future” design fiction (and perhaps my next book will take that track), but I wanted to follow the threads deeper for two primary reasons. First, is the pragmatic reason that it takes a long time to write and produce a graphic novel of this complexity and I did not want to embark upon a race with technology to complete my story before the speculative future was either no longer speculative or was simply wrong. The second reason, is that small changes, to me, are not disruptive enough to provoke discussion and debate. An incremental change, one that seems like the logical next step, runs the danger of appearing too rational and “on course” to disrupt our present day thought processes (i.e., Her). If we only observe incremental trajectories, we cease to contemplate the long term.

The argument against long-term, future speculation is that it ceases to be plausible because, by then,  “anything can happen”. But this is merely a truism. The fact is, anything usually does not happen. There is an enormous amount of logical speculation that can be derived from what usually does happen given the human condition. If you combine the human factor with plausible advancements in technology—given reasonable trajectories of scientific focus—then we are, in fact, dealing with realistic speculative futures.

This brings me to the narrative itself. If you want to take the next few steps, and look beyond incremental change, to the logical next steps of viable AI, and synthetic humans, fully realistic and indiscernible virtual reality, functioning telepathy, ubiquitous surveillance and indefinite life-pans, then to exert a firm grasp on the science and the current gaps that exist, the only responsible thing to do is move your story into the distant future. To accomplish this you don’t need a 300 year Star Trek future but rather two or three generations from where we are now. This places us in a distant future of approximately 150 years. In my estimation, you just can’t plausibly get there any sooner.

If we want to talk about these logical trajectories we have to place ourselves in a setting that permits them to exist. Then we can look back on how they came to be. To me, this is the crux of design fiction. You may not like it, but the idea is provocation and examination of the futures we incrementally build. If you may think it passé and stereotypical, then you might also find yourself quickly bored of stories that also include tropes such as life, death, love and redemption.

1.http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/08/07/us-books-authors-gibson-idUSN2535896520070807?pageNumber=2&sp=true

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The future of death: What the world will be like when we live forever.

As revealed in Season 1, in a conversation between Sean and the Techman, a company named Chronos, way back in 2045, figured out how to secure the telomeres on the right genes and turn off the biological clock. When a host of nasty side effects, including death, resulted from the Chronos formula, the company went under and a company called Genfinity took up the reins and perfected the process. Now, in 2159, most people, once they reach their early to mid 20s, shut off the aging process. Together with the eradication of life-threatening disease, natural death became a thing of the past. Even most injuries that were considered fatal a century ago are no longer so. Most body parts can be replaced and even brains and consciousness can be transferred to new bodies. In 2159 there are a few million people walking around that look like they are in their 20s but are closer to 140 in chronological years.

Only the most catastrophic injuries by accident, suicide, violent crime or act of war are the remaining causes of death. As discussed in previous blogs, there are some who choose to age naturally. They are known as agers. With enhancements, organ replacements and the lack of disease, the life expectancy of an ager is nearly 150 years.

The matter of what to do with an unlimited lifespan is another question. As reported in an earlier blog, the suicide rate in New Asia is extremely high. Apparently, after a hundred years some people actually get bored with it all or become weary of pleasure and find life meaningless. The oldest living human in 2159 is a man who switched off at age 81 back in 2047. That makes him 193 in chronological years. The jury is still out on how multi-centenarians will feel about their lives in the next couple of centuries.

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Is privacy an illusion? The philosophy of privacy. Part 2

I’m writing about the privacy issue because it is so much an underlying theme of The Lightstream Chronicles. In the story, which takes place in the somewhat far future of 2159, there really is no such thing as privacy—neither physical nor cerebral. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. It is a throwback to another era. Of course, one of the objectives of my science fiction crime drama is to provoke us to think and ask questions. Would a total loss of privacy be psychologically catastrophic? Is losing your privacy as bad as losing your freedom? Some people think that losing your privacy is not such a big deal, and if anyone wants what is yours badly enough, they are going to get to it anyway. They think that privacy is an illusion. I discussed some of these issues in Part 1 on this topic.

But maybe this is the bigger question: Could such a thing happen or is it purely a device for interesting fiction? My focus in Part 2 is not to debate the illusion of privacy but to analyze how such a thing might come to be.

In Part 1, I looked at whether or not privacy is actually a right, and while there are some strong legal arguments to the affirmative, it is not explicitly stated in our constitution or Bill of Rights. I believe this lack of clarity adds to our general assessment that privacy is beyond our control. The idea being, if it is not even expressly guaranteed in the Constitution, then what hopes have we? In my opinion, our strongest concerns for privacy are in regard to malicious intent, such as hacking our personal data in order to steal our identity or our money. But at the same time, I venture to say that we also feel that we have some control in this area, either through constantly improving technology at our disposal or at the disposal of the legal system. Stealing is sill a crime.

Powerlessness comes, in my assessment, from our distrust of power. It could be government or corporate. According to a recent Gallup poll [1], distrust in government is at an all time high. We are just not sure that government, or other people are always going to do the right thing. But I’m not writing this from a political perspective, rather more of a social one. When we feel less competent to resist change, and more and more fundamental changes are gradually introduced, we are more likely, as a society, to accept and adapt. Just go with it.

We’re living in an age where technology is coupled with everything. Everything. New technology therefore carries with its wonderful promises a host of capillary downsides. Hence, as soon as we are able to share our thoughts (telepathy is not that far off, folks) we are setting ourselves up for having them taken from us. The question then is probably not whether my privacy will disappear, but how I will deal with it the day that I realize it is gone. How will it change my behavior if I no longer care whether you know what I do, or even that you know what I’m thinking?

More fodder for thought and conversation. What do you think?

 

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/5392/trust-government.aspx

 

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6 everyday things that have disappeared in the 22nd century.

As you know, The Lightstream Chronicles is a cyberpunk graphic novel set in the year 2159. A lot has changed. Last week we looked at 10 futuristic technologies that are more or less ubiquitous in that time. This week we’ll look at 5 things that have nearly disappeared.

1. Death

In the 22nd century, death is optional. Medicine has eliminated nearly all forms of disease see (#6) and genetics has isolated the gene that causes aging. The aging gene can be switched on and off (usually in a human’s 2nd decade), through a simple medical procedure. Living forever is not for everyone, however. The suicide rate in New Asia is extremely high. Apparently, after a hundred years some people actually get bored with it all. Taking a dive off the Top City Spanner or jumping in front of a mag lev train are the most popular methods of suicide. Some humans can choose natural death over an unlimited lifespan. They are known as agers. They may take advantage of replacement organs, or other enhancements but avoid the genetic tinkering to stop the aging process. Average life expectancy of an ager is around 148 years. Despite the most popular enhancements, agers often find themselves as social oddities.

2. Religion

As the result of a brief, but bloody war executed by drones and initiated from rivalries in the Middle East (known as the Drone Wars), millions died. Religion and politics were blamed but politics survived. Religious assembly became illegal and all faiths were included, and while individuals are permitted to believe or worship anything they want, it must be kept private; no evangelizing or congregating is permitted. An individual can still visit a priest, mullah, or rabbi but it must be one-on-one. When it comes to morality, (that could be item number 7 in this list) the government has had to legislate to stave off a widespread moral decay. For more than 60 years the ban on religion has been tightly monitored, however in the last few years it has not been as rigidly enforced. Those who practice their faith in private are “tagged” as such in their profiles and they tend to come under more scrutiny than non-religious. The government knows everything.

3. Privacy

This brings us to privacy. I’ve written extensively about the Mesh network that sees everything. It was developed as a deterrent to crime and is quite successful at that most of the time. The network enables “impartial” software to monitor anything that constitutes “suspicious” activity. What constitutes suspicious activity? The law of the land is contained in the multi-volume, Hong Kong Protocols where most of what is considered illegal is that which infringes on the rights of another. Therefore, almost anything that is individual, or consensual is within the law. For the system to work, however, it needs to see everything. Most of the public has grown accustomed to the idea that every waking and sleeping moment of their lives, including their thoughts can be, and is monitored. According to recent polls, the public takes comfort in government assurance that no humans are interpreting their activity, and hence, not making any judgments on their behavior no matter how bizarre.

4. Reality

Reality has taken a big hit. Most of the population spends dozens of hours a week living in their minds via the V, (virtual immersions). These programmed immersions are infinitely detailed, environmental and sensory simulations. When you’re in the V, there is no discernible difference from the real world. Participation can occur with the users identity, or by assuming another from limitless combinations of gender, race, and species, and may entail a full range of experiences from a simple day on the beach to the aberrant and perverse. Immersions are highly regulated by the New Asia government. Certain immersive programs are required to have timeout algorithms to prevent a condition known as OB state in which the mind is unable to re-adjust to reality and surface from the immersion, a side effect for individuals who are immersed for more than 24 hours. Certain content is age-restricted and users must receive annual mental and bio statistical fitness assessments to renew their access — all of which is monitored by the government.

And if that isn’t enough to jog your faith in what is real, another departure comes in the area of all things replicated. 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 but they are very expensive and scarce. Replication is based on duplicating molecular “fingerprints” of actual objects. With the escalating population and less people dying, replication has saved the world from starvation.
5. Humans

Though this might also fall under the category of reality check, #4  is the lack of real humans; in the technical sense, they very hard to find. For a time, the word post-human, or transhuman was in vogue, but this dissipated. Now the only discernible difference between humans and synthetics seems to be DNA. Everyone is enhanced to some degree. Enhancement itself, has come to mean, “…considerable intervention… beyond the basic human faculties and senses…” There are a host of human enhancements, and nano-level implants that have become common place mostly to adjust brain function and regulate body chemistry; spike adrenalin, induce sleep, reduce stress, enhance sexual activity, release pheromones, communicate telepathically, enhance athletics, muscle tone, elimination of excess fat, etc. Everyone can have the body they want, including more fingers, toes, or other innovative additions, and if it isn’t available from their own DNA, it can be spliced in the lab to enable the growth of fur, a tail, or other combinations.

6. Disease and illness

Though many diseases in the 21st century were thought to be genetic in origin, medicine turned its focus to the cellular level. This provided the cancer breakthrough and eventually almost anything that can wreak havoc on the human body, particularly at the cellular level, has been brought under control. This includes cancer, neurological, and muscle diseases, organ failures, and old age. Then genetic engineering fine-tuned the genome to enable zero-defect births and isolated the genes that cause aging.

Since most cellular damage is done through abuse and environmental toxins many people may still choose to smoke, or put other damaging substances into their bodies with the assurance that diseased lungs, livers and kidneys can be grown in the lab from their own DNA and replaced on an outpatient basis.

 

Taxes are still collected.

 

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10 futurist technologies that appear in The Lightstream Chronicles

There are dozens of futuristic technologies in The Lightstream Chronicles. Most are part of the background — diegetic prototypes — everyday items the population takes for granted. Here are some:

1. Indefinite life spans – Introduced in Season 1, humanity in the 22nd century can live forever if they choose. Selective telomere genetics can stop the aging process at any age though it is illegal until age 18. Those wishing to have permanent “children” must opt for the synthetic variety (see no. 6). There are certain members of society that choose to die at a natural age. They are called agers. Many consider aging to be a disease or a form of suicide and agers can encounter discrimination in society and the workplace. Based on the eradication of most disease and other debilitating conditions the average lifespan of an ager is about 150 years.

All glowing and sparkly.

All glowing and sparkly.

2. Telepathy – Humans are implanted with chips around the age of 3. 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 (sensors placed just under the skin of the fingertips) accessing everything from the Lightstream (the evolved Internet), to infusion learning, internal body chemistry, and the V (see no.10). These implants are what allow humans to receive voice and telepathic transmissions from other humans or synths (see no.6). If a “caller ” is in visual mode, a picture is formed in the mind so that the receiver can “see” who is calling. This highly defined mental picture and sensory enhancement allows user to immerse themselves in the world of the V.

 

hardmounted

An illegal headjacking device.

3. Cerebral crimes – Every technology has a downside. In the 21st century, it was hacking into your phone calls, texts and stored data. Since that information — and so much more — now resides in your mind it is the new frontier for criminals: thoughts, dreams, fantasies, memories, experiences. Of course, sophisticated “brain gates” and encryptions come with your chipset and are always being improved, but the will to have what can’t be had is strong in the human race. It was not something we were able to winnow out with our transhuman improvements. Headjacking is such a crime (you can read more about that here) because it automatically overrides the brain gates and encryptions but swigging memories and experiences right out of their resting place in the brain. It is also a capital offense. The government says that what goes on in your brain is your most cherished possession.

 

4. Programmable architecture – Matter, in the 22nd century is programmable. You can tell it to build more of itself or less. The most impressive example of this is the Top City Spanner that bridges Hong Kong 2. It took 10 years to form the immense structure that, from end to end spans more than 12 square miles. 2.9 million people and synthetics live or work within the spanner architecture. It still takes an architect, or architectural expert system (the synthetic kind) to engage the proper design but once that is done, there are no construction laborers necessary. When it is time for tenants to move in, the furniture is replicated (printed) from configurations that are purchased by the business or resident.

5. Replicated everything – Which brings us to replication. Replication is based on duplicating molecular “fingerprints” of actual objects. Once you can replicate matter, it’s really just a matter (bpi) of having access to the right molecular configurations. Replication of inanimate objects is widespread for food beverages and hard goods. When death became an option instead of inevitability, replication enabled the world to feed the burgeoning masses. Replication does not work on living organisms. You cannot replicate a human being. That is called progenation and involves growing tissues using DNA in a lab environment.

Keiji

Keiji-T: State of the art

6. Artificial Intelligence – It is estimated that there are some 250 million synthetics in the world. It is also the largest global industry. Known as “synths” they function in civil service jobs, manufacturing, law enforcement, the military, domestic service, and for companionship. They are available in hundreds of different configurations and designs, from entirely non-hardware, to deliberately non-human to virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Some synthetics are so life-like that they are legally required to identify themselves and their “class” status upon before interacting with a human. A complex set of laws has been written and rewritten to accommodate these new designs providing rights and protections for both humans and synthetics. Keiji-T is virtually human with no outwardly distinguishing characteristics that would enable us to detect his (its) synthetic nature.

 

7. Clean energy - Fossil fuels are a thing of the past as well as most natural resources having been nearly entirely depleted by the mid 21st century. Electricity is collected primarily from the earths on motion in either wind or the movement of the oceans. Vast networks of attenuator nets in the world’s oceans provide for the enormous demands for electricity for magnetic levitation systems for all earth-bound vehicles. Wind velocitors collect and amplify wind for most residential power, lighting, replicating, etc.

8. Bio-suits – In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone in The Lightstream Chronicles is shrink-wrapped in a bio-suit. There are two reasons. First, because they have perfect bodies and modesty is a thing of the past. If you have it, flaunt it, and if you don’t have it, you can make it, change it or adjust it. Second, is a more practical reason. Bio-suits monitor body temperature, diaphoresis, chemistry, and stress level to name a few. Relays from a network throughout the suit send information directly to the wearer’s chipset and which interfaces with internal systems to adjust hormone levels, respiration, and body chemistry. It also diagnoses and repairs diseased cells through cellular oxidation. The material is also programmable to add, say a hood, pocket, pouch, or pack and it is self-healing. You can push a small object into the suit material and it will form a protective pocket around it.

tailmanscene

Just one of the guys.

9. Gene Splicing-Cross Species – The wonders of science now enable you to grow a tail, horns or antlers, reptilian skin. There are limits to which DNA will play nice together, but the list is long, and it is popular.

10.Virtual Reality – This has been written about extensively in the blog and on the site. The terminology in the 22nd century is virtual immersions, a fully engrossing experience that overtakes all senses and consciousness. Immersions are a form of regulated entertainment and are available in two types, programmed and retrieved. These highly realistic virtual experiences are known in street vernacular, as The V. Programmed immersions are detailed environmental simulations. Participation can occur with the users identity, or by assuming another from limitless combinations of gender, race, and species, and may entail a full range of experiences from a simple day on the beach to the aberrant and perverse. Immersions are highly regulated by the New Asia government. Certain immersive programs are required to have timeout algorithms to prevent a condition known as OB state in which the mind is unable to re-adjust to reality and surface from the immersion, a side effect for individuals who are immersed for more than 24 hours. Certain content is age-restricted and users must receive annual mental and bio statistical fitness assessments to renew their access — all of which is monitored by the government.

If you are a fan of the story and think I’ve missed a few, feel free to comment.

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The philosophy of privacy Part 1

What things do we want to keep private? Most often is something we don’t want others to see or know about because a) it would cause us embarrassment or shame, b) our behavior would be judged unacceptable, c) others would use this information to do us harm (through our address, passwords, bank account numbers, etc.), d) there are just some things that I would rather be the only one who knows. One or more of these probably resonates with everyone. If you have never done something you consider shameful, you could eliminate A. But not everyone thinks the way you do, so your political party, your position on abortion, sexuality, religion or so many other things might very likely affect the way other people act toward you including your employer. Therefore, B may be more relevant to some. Almost all of us would agree that getting our bank account depleted, our credit destroyed or our identity stolen is pretty important stuff so C may be the most relevant. Finally, there is just the fact that some moments are private, some thoughts belong to you alone and others are just none of anyone’s business.

Michael P. Lynch, writing last year for The New York Times stated that privacy as a political or legal concept means, “…what is private is what is yours alone to control, without interference from others or the state”.1  The question arises, however, as to whether or not we really do have that right. According to The University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, “The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy”.2  However, they point out that some amendments imply privacy, without using the term per se.

“…such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information.  In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the “enumeration of certain rights” in the Bill of Rights “shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”  The meaning of the Ninth Amendment is elusive, but some persons (including Justice Goldberg in his Griswold concurrence) have interpreted the Ninth Amendment as justification for broadly reading the Bill of Rights to protect privacy in ways not specifically provided in the first eight amendments.”

So maybe the answer is that while it isn’t cut and dry, we have, at least, a decent legal argument for privacy. Lynch says there is more, that there are psychological and philosophical issues at stake: “…the concept of privacy also matters for another, deeper reason. It is intimately connected to what it is to be an autonomous person.”

For example, if we use the 4 rationales for privacy listed at the beginning of this blog, then some might argue that, save for your “papers and effects” being guarded “against unreasonable searches and seizures” as listed in the 4th Amendment, then they really don’t mind what you know about their preferences, their whereabouts, or even past or present behavior. But would that also hold for your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.


 1.Lynch, Michael P. “Privacy and the Threat to the Self.” Editorial. The New York Times 22 June 2013, Opinion Pages sec.: n. pag. The New York Times.com. The New York Times Company, 22 June 2013. Web. 10 July 2014.
2.”The Right of Privacy: Is It Protected by the Constitution?” The Right of Privacy: Is It Protected by the Constitution? The University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, n.d. Web. 09 July 2014.http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/rightofprivacy.html
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The Lightstream Chronicles graphic novel – New website and season 3 coming soon.

Here is a preview of how things will shape up for the conclusion of Season 2 and the kick-off of Season 3.

The sort of sexy, double-page conclusion to Season 2 will be published a couple of days early on June 25th (no blog) and then I will take a short break on July 4. During that time, I will be uploading the new — that’s right new — website. I will be keeping the homepage and WebComic links in tact but if you have chapter 1 and chapter 2 bookmarked you probably won’t get there from here. In addition to a refreshed look and feel, there will be a new approach to the weekly featured page, more like a conventional webcomic format. Season 1 and season 2 will be archived pretty much as they are now and I will be offering a season 2 PDF that is paginated like the option that is currently offered for season 1. So if you’re into having the highest res possible and neatly paginated like a real book, then you can request that.

The new LSC home page - coming soon.

The new LSC home page – coming soon.

 

Starting on July 11 we will have 7 full weeks of bonus material as prologues to season 3 (that’s 14 pages) with the official season 3 start on August 29. I think there is quite a bit of cool stuff in the prologue content, everything from a primer on headjacking (complete with diegetic prototypes) and a trip into the V.

I’m also working on some transmedia links but I don’t want to make any promises yet.

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A good hacker doesn’t need to read your mind to know what you’re thinking.

In The Lightstream Chronicles, telepathic communication, the sharing of experiences and memories, and direct cerebral connection to the Lightstream are commonplace. That’s why Kristin Broulliard and Col. Chen can have a conversation without speaking and they can do it separated by miles. In the same way that we can rifle an email to someone across the planet within milliseconds, the society of the The Lightstream Chronicles can communicate with virtually anyone. In a similar fashion to our current smart phone technology, however, you must have an “address” and the requisite “permissions” to share memories or experiences with others. All very neat and tidy, except just as we are quick to adapt to new technologies, there are those who are quick to hack them.

An article last year in i09 author George Dvorsky posed questions to a professor of cybernetics, a neuroscientist and a futurist about telepathy and the plausibility of  direct mind communication. The idea of brains connecting and transmitting is, apparently not that far fetched. The technological concepts exist and numerous experiments have proven the viability of brain transmission. The only thing missing is probably the funding to make it seamless and painless. But data transmission, whether it is in the form of texts from your smart phone or thoughts from your head, will be subject to the similar dangers. From the aforementioned article, futurist Ramez Naam states, “There’s the risk of malware or viruses that infect this. There’s the risk of hackers being able to break into the implants in your head. We’ve already seen hackers demonstrate that they can remotely take over pacemakers and insulin pumps. The same risks exist here.”

But a good hacker won’t have to intercept your thoughts to determine what you are going to do next. The right hack, to Google, or Facebook, or Twitter will reveal so much data about your whereabouts, your proclivities, your favorites, your daily schedule and all of your other preferences, that they will quite accurately be able to predict exactly what you will do next. For that, I recommend The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?

If you follow the blog you know that privacy is a recurring topic here. If you are concerned that it is just a matter of time until someone hacks “the Cloud” to get all of your sensitive documents and digital data, then the danger will likely still exist when it’s your memories and experiences that are stored there as well. Yet evidence would show that possibilities like this don’t really concern most people. There are lots of Clouds, lots of data and lots of people using it. In other words, the possibility of bad things happening doesn’t deter us from participating and adapting to these changes.

I guess we would have to get into the philosophy of privacy to really knead this topic. So I’ll save it for another time. What do you think?

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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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