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.
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.
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?
If you were wondering whether Sean Colbert was dead or alive, the technical answer is, alive. The story has not yet revealed what state the young prodigy is in, coma or conscious, vegetative state, or permanently damaged. All in due time. There was lots of activity this week beyond teaching Design Foundations and feverishly writing lectures. I spoke to a small group of design grad students this week about my research, the idea of design fiction and how, it can participate in future thinking and foresight. I was gratified to see the excitement level and how these topics, specifically from The Lightstream Chronicles online, digital graphic novel and webcomic helped to raise these issues. The discussion included such provocative topics as the prospect of immortality, digital implants, surveillance and security, privacy, mental telepathy, the perfect human body, and technological Darwinism to name a few. Unfortunately the discussion ended just as we got to the real meat of the design fiction future and that is what our role will be in it, not only as designers, but as human beings.
The question came up as to why everyone in the story is so perfect, muscled, slender and good looking. I covered this in a previous blog, but it bears some additional discussion. As I mentioned back then,
“…In the story narrative, through genetic engineering, and continuous monitoring and augmentation of body chemistry, the society of 2159 has enabled the sculpting of any body shape, musculature, and proportion. Hence, the story contains a visual proliferation of ideal bodies as a direct result of technological advancements in medicine and body design. The plot then, serves to drive body exaggerations in this context and provides the opportunity to examine the perfect body phenomenon in the cultural context of the narrative.”
But the short answer would be, “Because they can.”
This is an opportunity to put ourselves into the shoes of our fictional characters. Take a couple of newlyweds who are trying for their first child. If the technology existed for a couple of non-invasive genetic alterations to prevent your child from ever having a “weight problem”, would you sign up? Pretty harmless isn’t it? And of course, every other couple is doing it so if you opt out, your child could be a pretty significant stand out from the status quo. As you think this over, you ask yourself, “Do I really want to saddle my child with a weight problem?” So you give pause, however brief, and then opt for the miracle of technology.
The next question would probably not even raise and eyebrow. Now that everybody is walking around and looking pretty darn good, it goes without saying that monitoring your body chemistry, and the weight gaining hormones would only make sense. Since a seamless implant or patch will do this for you, why not?
This is how technology subtly changes culture,society and behavior. As society makes these seemingly harmless adaptations eventually we have The Lightstream Chronicles. Is that bad?
That is the whole idea behind my research into design fiction. These scenarios can bring cultural legibility to representations of the future and thereby provoke discussion and debate, challenge conventional thinking, and encourage individual foresight and participation into the implications of today’s decision-making; perhaps a glimpse into, and examination of what gets made and how it will affect culture and humanity, rather than to simply wait and see.
There are currently 6 chapters in The Lightstream Chronicles, and I’ve been working away on the conclusion of chapter 2, struggling with rendering physically correct glass, and the resulting expense that it causes in render time and set up. Of course, most people probably don’t study the way real glass looks, unless you’re a CG artist, so most people wouldn’t notice if it was dead-on or just close. And I’m not sure it matters. Part of what makes up my day.
When chapter 2 concludes we will be at page 84 and my renderings are getting close to this landmark. That leaves about 130 to 140 pages until completion. Sound daunting doesn’t it. Eh! No stopping now, in fact, I’ve just envisioned a new scene to insert into chapter 4, probably 4 to 6 pages.
Let’s get some dialog going. Comment damn it. I say that in the nicest possible way. 🙂
As we saw in a previous post, the mesh is a pretty reliable means of monitoring the “public safety”. With a decent, albeit monochrome, three dimensional image, government security sentinels can spot suspicious behavior, illegal speech, and other possible crimes even when you are alone in a closed room. The ubiquitous use of active surface technology (AST) in combination with human sensory implants, (that are as common as a flu shot in the 22nd century) provides a sharp, clear picture of what’s going on anywhere in Hong Kong 2. The prevalence of AST nodes and their long-range signal is so effective that large portions of the network could be disabled, such as a city block, and the network would “self-heal”. Some criminals, however, have created sophisticated “blocking” devices that have successfully cloaked transmissions.
Decades of visual data that have been correlated with real emergencies have contributed to an almost fool-proof catalog of what constitutes “suspicious” activity. When behavioral anomalies are cross-referenced with immediately accessible bio-data from humans within proximity of suspicion, the system can confirm through heart-rate, blood pressure, adrenaline output, and other secretions whether something illegal is going on. Depending on the severity of the infraction, the observed behavior may trigger something as minor as a telepathic alert to the offending party, to an all out assault by police security. The law of the land is contained in the multi-volume, Hong Kong Protocols where most of what is considered to be illegal is that which infringes on the rights of another. Therefore, almost anything that is individual, or consensual is within the law. The mesh surveillance network is a successful deterrent to most human crimes, however suspicious behavior is not as easily detected in synthetics, since they are absent the bio-data, and can be laced with complex algorithms that belie suspicious activity. Most synthetic humanoids leave the factory with highly secure encryptions that prevent anyone but the most sophisticated techo-criminals, from tampering with synthetic behaviors. As law, synthetics are required to follow the synthetic code which was derived from the robot code, a 20th century imagining of author Isaac Asimov. The ancient robot code stated that:
A robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm
A robot must obey human orders, unless they conflict with first law
A robot must protect itself if this does not conflict with other laws
The synthetic code is much longer and more complex than its 20th century predecessor but still leans heavily on the idea that synthetics cannot injure or allow a human to come to harm. Hacking into a 22nd century synthetic, drone, droid, or robot to enable it to commit a crime or harm another human is called twisting. It is considered a capital crime. Nevertheless, twisted synths are responsible for, or complicit in nearly 70% of the crimes in Hong Kong 2.
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 judgements on their behavior no matter how bizarre.
As many a CG artist will tell you, finding something productive to do between renders can be a real challenge. I’ve manage to submit an article to a magazine and an abstract for a conference in Berlin this summer, but that seemed too go awfully fast. To make the time a bit more productive, I have been immersing myself in the world of cyberpunk, via Tumblr. I’ve managed to post and research quite a few images, and there seems to be no end to the creative visions of whoever my fellow Tumblr’s are. The hashtags are pretty consistent: #dystopia, #cyberpunk, #urban, #urban decay, #architecture, #futuristic, #transhuman, #sci-fi, #science fiction, #tech, #cyborg, #android, #crime thriller, #design fiction. But the well is very deep. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve compiled thus far stop on over to The Chrons.
Need some cheap replacement retinas, a refurb on your artificial skin, a 50 finger massage, virtual, synthetic, or any other kind of sex you can imagine (or would rather not)? You’ve come to the right place: DownTown, Hong Kong 2, in the Mong Kok sector. Sean has arrived as of last week, his location logged by cyber-surveillance, and in panel 1, he has just crossed the street where he encounters throngs of people (using the term loosely) as well as all of the diversions DownTown has to offer. Sometimes I wish this really was a movie instead of still images, because in panel 1 the woman to the left of Sean has programmable skin that shows live action video of… whatever.
But Sean is on a mission and in panel 2, “A few minutes later” he has walked to a less crowded alleyway. Sean is a bit of a fish out of water here and the locals know it. A street urchin goads his friend to hit on the guy who looks like he’s from TopCity. Maybe the boots are a dead giveaway; too clean.
In panel 3, Sean has arrived a his destination, an antique electronics store that looks like it has all the most popular antique brand names from the 20th century (zoom opportunity).
This is another one of my favorite pages. Sean has just emerged from the MagShuttle that descended the more than 300 floors to DownTown Mong Kok. There’s lots going on with this page but I have not spelled it out hoping that you will download and zoom in to the high resolution image. I’ve discussed the mesh in previous commentaries, so you already know that the New Asia government prides itself on knowing where everyone and what they are doing at any moment. In the year 2159 just say, “Goodbye privacy.” The only consolation is that most of the visual record of your life is monitored by dispassionate synthetics or biocomputers that aren’t voyeurs and they don’t make personal judgements. That is, unless they determine that you are breaking one of the laws of the New Asia Protocols. Risky business.
In panel 1 Sean is being scanned by a Hong Kong Police surveillance drone TS-1. If you don’t speak Chinese, these signs highlight the fact that this section of town specializes in buying and selling experiences – some legal, some not.
The drone in panel 2 captures both a visual of Sean and his identity data stored on the chipset that you are implanted with at birth that lives at the base of your cerebellum. This chipset is continually updated throughout your life with memories, emotions and experiences. The resulting readout gives a complete dossier on young Sean, but there is some data missing.