Purchasing a synthetic human? You need to do your research.

Behind the scenes. Page 73

This week we introduce Marie-D. If you check out Marie’s bio page, you’ll see her features and options. When you buy a synth, it’s kind of like buying a car. You have to check the ratings, the mileage and the trade-in value. Marie is BMW quality, from Almost Human Corporation, (the world leader in synthetic humans).

Here are the specs:


Marie-D. Your very own domestic synth.
Marie-D. Your very own domestic synth.

Synthetic ::

Name ::                  Marie- D

Mark Date ::       April 2, 2156 | Hong Kong 2, NA

Commission ::  April 22, 2156 | K. Broulliard

D-CLASS ::          Specifically designed for domestic labor/companionship

    :: domestic chores

   :: empathy and encouragement

   :: high loyalty quotient

   :: child rearing

   :: no sexual programming

Programs ::      Au pair

  :: culinary

  :: basic medicine

  :: teaching skills | art | music

  :: 8 more

Designer            :: S. Nakamura

Manufacturer :: Almost Human Corporation. NA

Feature set       :: medical diagnostics

  :: personality package

  :: human-synth telepathy

  :: family values

  :: empathy circuits

  :: linguistics

  :: 18 hour power integrity

  :: luminous implants

  :: memory belt porting

  :: biometric shut-down

  :: liquid circuit infusion

  :: 2 infusion ports

  :: latent/dormant equipped

  :: turnstile encryption

  :: type II nanoprene exterior

  :: titanium headwrap

Note: D-Class synthetics are the highest rated, non-sexual, domestic synthetics

   ::::3 years of 4-star customer ratings


Don’t you wish you had one?

If you were an early follower of the comic, (and I mean really early – there were only a handful of you) then you might remember Marie with rather prominent breasts and details. This caused way too much controversy and I changed her to a sort of androgynous version, albeit quite pretty, I think. Based on this design I think that a synth can have a very female demeanor without the requisite breasts.

Interesting to note that Sean Nakamura was also the designer of this particular domestic synth model. Of course in this day and age, the name Sean Nakamura is the counterpart of today’s Jonathan Ive.

By the way, do you think she should be called, “her”, or “it”?

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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.

Page 71

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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