Design fiction and roboethics: Are we ready to be god? The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel continues.

p53: Assaulted by a non-human?

There was a time when crimes were simpler. Humans committed crimes against other humans — not so simple any more. In 2159 you have the old fashioned mano a mano but you also have human against synthetic, and synthetic against human. There are creative variations as well.

No sooner than the first lifelike robots became commercially available in the late 2020’s there were issues of ethics and misuse. The problems escalated faster than the robotics industry had conceived possible,” problems inherent in the possible emergence of human function in the robot: like consciousness, free will, self consciousness, sense of dignity, emotions, and so on. Consequently, this is why we have not examined problems — debated in literature — like the need not to consider robot as our slaves, or the need to guarantee them the same respect, rights and dignity we owe to human workers.”1 In the 21st century many of the concerns within the scientific community centered around what we as humans might do to infringe upon the “rights” of the robot. And though the earliest treatises in roboethics included more fundamental questions regarding the ethics of the robots’ designers, manufacturers and users, now in the role of the creator-god they did not foresee how “unprepared” for that responsibility we were and how quickly humans would pervert the robot for numerous “unethical” uses, including but not limited to their modification for crime and perversion.

Nevertheless, more than 100 years later, when synthetic human production is at the highest levels in history, the questions of ethics in both humans and their creations remain a significant point of controversy. As the 2007 Roboethics Roadmap concluded, “It is absolutely clear that without a deep rooting of Roboethics in society, the premises for the implementation of an artificial ethics in the robots’ control systems will be missing.”

After these initial introductions of humanoid robots, now seen as almost comically primitive, the technology, and in turn the reasoning, emotions, personality and realism became progressively more sophisticated. Likewise their implementations became progressively more like the society that manufactured them. They became images of their creators both benevolent and malevolent.

Schematic1Longm
Humans building themselves. Better?

A series of laws were enacted to prevent humanoid robots to be used for criminal intent, yet at the same time military interests were fully pursuing dispassionate automated humanoid robots with the express intent of extermination. It was truly a time of paradoxical technologies. To further complicate the issue were ongoing debates on the nature of what was considered “criminal”. Could a robot become a criminal without human intervention? Is something criminal if it is consensual?

These issues ultimately evolved into complex social, economic, political, and legal entanglement that included heavy government regulation and oversight where such was achievable. As this complexity and infrastructure grew to accommodate the constantly expanding technology, the greatest promise and challenges came in almost 100 years after those first humanoid robots when virtual human brains were being grown in the lab, the heretofore readily identifiable differences between synthetic humans and real human gradually began to disappear. The similarities were so shocking and so undetectable that new legislation was enacted to restrict the use of virtual humans. The classification system was enacted to insure visible distinctions for the vast variety of social synthetics.

Still, the concerns of the very first Roboethics Roadmap were confirmed even 150 years into the future. Synthetics were still abused, and used to perpetrate crimes. Their virtual humanness only added a element of complexity, reality and in some cases, horror to the creativity of how they could be used.

 1 Euron Roboethics Roadmap

 

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The Lightstream Chronicles, online graphic novel and web comic: a design fiction medical chart.

p52

“Leon Kass, a member and former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics and professor at the University of Chicago, argues that ‘victory over mortality is the unstated but implicit goal of modern medical science…'”1

By the 22nd century, society has, for all intents and purposes, achieved this goal. Death is optional. Only the most severe injuries or deliberate suicides achieve the status of non-retrievable. Although a deceased individual can be replicated (replication in humans is called “progenation”) it is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans are replicated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Therefore, many accident victims and their injuries can be repaired, their body parts replaced, or regrown and their virtually lifeless bodies, regenerated using advanced stem-cell-based biomedical treatments. Because of the gravity of Sean’s injuries he will most likely receive an immersive regen. Patients treated with immersive regen are often coherent and functioning in a day or less.

This week, on page 52, we can see the extent of Sean’s injuries. It’s times like these when I wish the graphic novel were a movie, so that we could see exactly how I envision Doctor Hayes’ chart/screen expanding.  It starts out about the size of an iPad mini, but is the thickness of a credit card. With a touch from his luminous implants the chart “unfolds” to reveal the full view of Sean’s status. It is something like a hybrid of a futuristic coroner’s report and and a medical chart. Perhaps one day, in my spare time, I will animate this.

Sean's medical chart
Sean’s medical chart

The bigger question appears to be his illegal “brain intrusion” which we have discussed previously, known as headjacking. if Sean’s attack is associated with the recent series of rape/headjackings in DownTown, and he is the only survivor to date, his ability to remember the attack could shed some much needed light on the perpetrators of the crime.

 

Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Circa 1490.
Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Circa 1490.

A note on nudity. As I have mentioned in multiple previous blogs and on the web site, the story contains adult themes like rape and prostitution and it takes place in another century. I did my best to add a degree of modesty to the comic but I am also trying to stay true to the context of the story, the time, mores and conventions of a future world. It is not meant to offend or shock. however if that sort of thing does offend, then you may want to reconsider continuing with the story. For historical context you won’t see anything that is more risqué than Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, circa 1490.

 

1.”Go Gently into That Good Night.” Christianity Today 51.1 (2007): 26-27. Online.
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Living forever is not for everyone. New character intro. The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel and web comic.

p51

This week in The Lightstream Chronicles online graphic novel and web comic, we meet Detective James John (Jack) Guren. Yeah, he looks a little like Jason Statham. The best description for Jack is hard ass. He is smart, rugged, capable, and full of attitude. From Australian New Asia, Jack was born into a military family. His father Frank was a professional soldier who worked for Backbone Corporation, a New Asian government-funded military contractor. He and his fraternal twin Jake spent their childhood adjusting to their parent’s frequent relocations around the world. At age 15, the brothers asked to be enrolled in the New Asia Military Academy in Brisbane where they graduated with honors. Jack went on to National Taipei University to study synthetic criminology and Jake joined the New Asia Military special ops. After two tours, Jake took an honorable discharge but had trouble adjusting to civilian life. A couple of years later he just dropped off the grid. Jack has not seen or heard from him in almost 20 years.

After an advanced degree in synth crime, Jack joined the New Asia Police Academy and then the Hong Kong 2 Police. He was instrumental in busting a synth ring known as The Ranch, the largest bust of its kind. Jack uncovered nearly 150 reprogrammed (twisted) synths, and more than 30 human hostages who were used to record deviant experiences (headjackings). The experiences were sold on the black market. For his work on the case and wounds received during the bust, Jack received the Chancellor’s Medal of Valor. The following year, he was appointed to the Chancellor’s Task Force on Synth Crime.

Hopeful that his new appointment would enable him to cut through the oppressive government bureaucracy and make a significant dent in synth crime, Guren began challenging many of the government officials that he saw turning a blind eye to the lucrative black market in experience trading. His efforts, however, met with repeated obstructions, including magisterial reprimands. Multiple investigations turned into dead ends. As a result, Detective Guren has become increasingly embittered and cynical. His frustration is multiplied by his latest investigation: a series of rape/headjackings in DownTown, all of which conveniently occurred during strategic mesh outages, free of any surveillance. Guren’s investigation has remained unsolved for more than 200 days, making it the longest unsolved crime spree in recent memory.

Detective Jack Guren
Detective Jack Guren

 

The victims were males between the ages of 16 and 20 and all were fatally headjacked. More on headjackings here. While the rape death of a DownTown street-teen is not unusual, these seem more insidious and devised. Sean Colbert’s attack, which bears many of the same characteristics, marks the twelfth unsolved incident. Detective Guren is at the crossroads of apathy and rage.

Another unique attribute to Detective Guren is the fact that he is an ager. This is the term given to people who opt out of genetic manipulation to prolong their life indefinitely. In other words, at 38, Detective Jack Guren is aging and on track to die in what might be considered a blink of an eye in a society where most people opt to live indefinitely.

 

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The Lightstream Chronicles: Insights into new characters and their backgrounds in the digital graphic novel.

Page 50

This week we get a bit closer to actually meeting some new characters. Seated in panel one is Governor Nakamura. As we have read from the cast notes and previous blogs, the Governor is the step-father of Sean Colbert and raised him after his mother’s untimely death when he was only three years old. There is a quite a bit of mystery and controversy over her death. Karen Colbert was a successful attorney for the New Asia government in Shanghai, and married to Sean’s bio-father Kenji Colbert, a lieutenant in the New Asia Military special ops. Lt. Colbert was killed in a shuttle crash while investigating an alleged, private shadow army of synthetic soldiers that were reportedly headquartered in Guangzhou Province. Sean Colbert was born to Karen only two months after the lieutenant’s death. Reportedly, Karen Colbert became a vocal critic of the how the New Asia military investigated the crash and how they subsequently dropped the Colbert’s investigation into the synthetic army. After Sean was born, Karen quit her government job and moved back to Takarazuka City, in Japanese New Asia where she and Kenji had met. 18 months later she married local attorney and prefectural supervisor, Takeshi Nakamura. The two began a private law practice in 2142, but Karen continued to investigate her husband’s death. Two years later, while on business in Chinese New Asia, Karen fell to her death from the roof of a Shanghai hotel. It was ruled a suicide. Devastated, Takeshi abandoned Karen’s investigation, moved to Hong Kong and focused on raising Sean.

Early in Sean’s development it was apparent that he was brilliantly gifted. A age four, he had already constructed the family pet, and by age six he built a fully functional domestic droid and family companion. Sean was accepted into the Hong Kong Academy at age 9 and graduated in only two years. He went on to study synthetic systems design at the prestigious University of Advanced Cybernetics, and graduated at age 13. The next year he began work at the megaplex, government-owned, Almost Human Corporation (AHC) and received the coveted Chancellor’s Prize at age 16. A year later Sean became Vice-President of Design at AHC.

Getting to know the Governor.
Getting to know the Governor.

Meanwhile Takeshi became a successful attorney and gradually moved into the political scene where he was appointed to the Interior Ministry 2155 and made Governor in 2157. Despite the fact that outward displays of religiosity are illegal, the Governor has not kept his Christianity a secret. This has caused a stir in the media since there is still strong opposition to any religious display in public. Some speculate that his relative impunity is a result of a gradual trend in relaxing of the religious laws. He continues to receive the support of the Chancellor.

It’s always good to have a little background.

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Body Armor, and Kicking Butt in Hong Kong 2. The Lightstream Chronicles, online graphic novel continues.

“Director’s Commentary” p49

As Kristin Broulliard and Toei-N arrive at the waiting area for the intensive care regen unit on floor 212, it looks as though they might be a bit late. It looks like a cast of characters has already assembled. Col. Lee Chen is snapping orders at a couple of his elite enforcement droids, and there are a couple of folks in the background to whom we have not yet been introduced. Soon.

The question arises about body armor. As we noticed early in chapter one, Col. Chen wears his armor pretty much wherever he goes, but his reasons are different from the droids. Being a droid in DownTown can be a life threatening proposition. True, the droids need to look intimidating, but their armor is much needed protection. Killing or disabling synthetic, (aka droid) is not a capital offense, (which many believe to be discriminatory), but it carries stiff penalties and a mandatory, non-parolable prison term or erasure. As with any crime, however, criminals rarely plan on getting caught. Drive by shootings and snipers are fairly common, so the  armor comes in handy and protects the most critical operational functions of the droids, which are contained in the chest and head. In DownTown, whether you are human or synthetic police, there are sections where armor is strongly advised. Col. Chen has no fear when it comes to busting heads and kicking butt in DownTown. His elite droids have a nasty reputation and their sometimes brutal tactics, are rarely questioned by the New Asian government. As for why the colonel is wearing armor in TopCity, the answer is simple, he’s a badass.

Lee Chen and his armor.
Lee Chen and his armor.

For the record, when Col. Chen is in TopCity, he wears his white dress armor, when he’s in DownTown, it’s the more intimidating black version.

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