Tag Archives: replication

Behind the scenes, The Lightstream Chronicles Episode 136

Episode 136

Clearly,  the Techman is out cold, probably has a whopping headache and some tingling extremities. No problem. Keiji-T has equipment for this. Rubbing his fingertips together, Keiji-T can emit a chemical odor akin to our current day smelling salts. Aromatherapy from the fingertips, however, is a standard feature built into most synths. As we saw back in season 3, Keiji was bragging about the various scents he could conjure up.

In 2159, pheromone implants are also a common human augmentation. A quick trip to the infusion store and you can pick up a nano-endocrine emitter (NEET) that you apply to the skin and it absorbs through the pores. The emitter synchs with your master chipset and can generate or regulate certain hormonal activity.  The most popular varieties are either axillary steroids or aliphatic acids that act as a potent attraction to the opposite sex or as enhancements to intimacy. There are many other options available including repellent scents, stimulants, and relaxants. They are also an optional feature for the enormously popular fingertip implants (luminous implants) that nearly everyone has. This option, however, is not available on earlier fingertip models like one’s that Techman uses.

You can read more about a host of 2159 technologies and augmentations by visiting the glossary part 1 or part 2.

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Why Kurzweil is probably right.

 

Some people tell me that I am a pessimist when it comes to technology. Maybe, but part of my job is troubleshooting the future before the future requires troubleshooting. As I have said many times before, I think there are some amazing technologies out there that sound promising and exciting. One that caught my attention this week is the voice interface operating system. If you saw the film Her,  then you know of that which I speak. For many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, it has been the Holy Grail for some time. A recent WIRED magazine article by David Pierce highlights some of the advancements that are on the cusp of being part of our everyday lives.

Pierce tells how in 1979 during a visit to Xerox PARC, Steve Jobs was blown away by something called a graphic user interface (GUI). Instantly, Jobs knew that the point, click and drag interface was for the masses.

One of the scientists in that Xerox PARC group was a guy named Ron Kaplan who tells Pierce that, “‘The GUI has topped out,’ Kaplan says. ‘It’s so overloaded now.’”

I guess I can relate. Certainly it is a challenge to remember the obscure keyboard commands for every program that you use. One of my mainstays, Autodesk Maya, has so many keyboard options that there is a whole separate interface of hotkeys and menus accessed by (another) keyboard command. Rarely, except for the basics like cut, paste, and delete are these commands or menus the same between software.

If there were a voice interface that could navigate these for you, (perhaps only when you’re stumped), it would be a great addition. But the digital entrepreneurs racing in this direction, according to Pierce are going much further. They are looking, “to create the best voice-based artificial-intelligence assistant in the world.”

The article mentions one such app called Hound. It not only answers questions faster than Siri but with remarkably less overt information. For example, you could ask two different questions about two different places and then ask, “How many miles between those two?”  It reads between the lines and fills in the gaps. If it could see, I’m guessing it could read a graphic novel and know what’s going on.

Apparently there are quite a few well-funded efforts racing in this direction.  As Pierce says,

“It’s a classic story of technological convergence: Advances in processing power, speech recognition, mobile connectivity, cloud computing, and neural networks have all surged to a critical mass at roughly the same time. These tools are finally good enough, cheap enough, and accessible enough to make the conversational interface real—and ubiquitous.”

That’s just one of the reasons why I think Kurzweil is probably right in his Law of Accelerating Returns. (You can read about it on Kurzweil’s site of read a previous blog – one of many). Convergence is the way technology leaps forward. Supporting technologies enable formerly impossible things to become suddenly possible.

Pierce goes on to talk about a gadget called Alexa, which is now a device known as  Amazon Echo, which uses something called Alexa Voice Service. The Echo is a, a black tube with flashing blue LEDs designed to sit in some central location in your space. There, it answers questions and assists in your everyday life. Pierce got to live with the beta version.

“In just the seven months between its initial beta launch and its public release in 2015, Alexa went from cute but infuriating to genuinely, consistently useful. I got to know it, and it got to know me… This gets at a deeper truth about conversational tech: You only discover its capabilities in the course of a personal relationship with it.”

Hence, part of developer’s challenge is making an engaging, likable, and maybe even charming assistant.

But Pierce closes the article with realization that such an agent is

“…only fully useful when it’s everywhere when it can get to know you in multiple contexts—learning your habits, your likes and dislikes, your routine and schedule. The way to get there is to have your AI colonize as many apps and devices as possible.”

So, this technology is coming and probably nearly here. It may well be remarkable and rewarding. I wouldn’t be doing my job, however if I didn’t ask about the emanating ripples and behaviors that will inevitably grow up around it. What will we give up? What will we lose before we realize it is gone? It is marvelous, but like it’s smart-phone cousin (or grandparent), it will change us. As we rush to embrace this, as we most likely will, we should think about this, too.

 

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Is it a human right to have everything you want? 

The CBC recently published an article online about a new breakthrough in vision improvement that could provide patients with 20/20 vision x3. Like cataract surgery today that removes an old yellowed lens from the eye and replaces it with a new, plastic optometric-correct lens, the inventor, an optometrist from British Columbia, says the 8-minute procedure will give recipients better than 20/20 vision for the rest of their lives no matter how old they are.

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Better than 20/20. Maybe it starts here.

As soon as clinical trials are complete and the regulatory hurdles are leaped the articles says the implant could be available in as early as two years. Let me be the first to say, “Sign me up!” I’ve had glasses for 20 years and just recently made the move to contacts. Both are a hassle, and the improvement is anything but consistent. Neither solution provides 24-hour correction, and you’re lucky to get 20/20. So, rationally speaking, it’s a major improvement in vision, convenience and probably your safety. On top of that, the CBC article concludes noting the inventor/optometrist has set up a foundation,

“…Which would donate money to organizations providing eye surgery in developing countries to improve people’s quality of life.

“Perfect eyesight should be a human right,” he says.”

Now I hate to break the poignancy of this moment, but it’s my job. Should perfect eyesight be a human right? How about perfect hearing, ideal body weight, genius IQ, super longevity, cranial Internet access, freedom from disease, illness, and perfect health? It’s hard to deny that any of these are good. If you follow my graphic novel, The Lightstream Chronicles, you know that society has indeed opted for all of it and more: enhanced mood control, faster learning, better sex, deeper sleep, freedom from anxiety, stress, worry, bad memories, and making stupid comments. They are all human rights, right? Or is it just human nature to have unlimited expectations and demand instant gratification? It begins with one implant (not unlike the first nip or tuck or a new tattoo) and then becomes an endless litany of new and improved. But if you posit the argument that these enhancements are desirable, then you are also acknowledging that the current state of humanness is not. Are our shortcomings, disappointments, pain, testing, and struggles to be jettisoned forever? Once we can control everything about ourselves that we don’t like, where will we stop? Will we be happier? Or will there alway be that extra thing that we simply must have. Perhaps this is the real definition of human nature: never satisfied.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”

As I have written about before, all of this is a small section of a greater organism that is growing in technology. So as complicated as the whole idea of human augmentation is to think about, it’s much more complicated. While we cobble together new additions on the old house, there are technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that will surpass our shortcomings better than our replacement part enhancements. If you haven’t read Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, you should. We are rapidly approaching a time when the impossible will be possible and we will be staring at it slack-jawed and asking how we got here and why? It can paint a dismal picture, but it is a picture we should look at and study. These are the questions of our time.

And so, I create fictional scenarios, firmly convinced that the more disturbing and visceral this picture the more we will take notice and ask questions before blithely moving forward. This is where I see the heart of design fiction, speculative futures, and—I think the more powerful—experiential interventions. It will be something to talk about in a future blog.

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Season 4 begins. The plot thickens.

Each week I post a blog congruent with what is happening on The Lightstream Chronicles. Sometimes it is tightly related, other times it might be a bit of a stretch. At any rate, this week we are launching Season 4, and as is customary, we are starting out the season with a bit of context that can help to situate you more comfortably in 2014. That’s a stretch, I realize, but the more you understand about this world the more you are likely to relate to the story, the characters, and the drama.

That being said, we examine the idea of a space station, or in this case a space resort, tethered to earth by no less than a space elevator. Your first thought is science fiction fantasy, but not so fast. The idea of a space elevator actually dates back to the 19th century and a good deal of speculation has been done on how this might actually happen. The critical element that makes this plausible is carbon nanotubes; super strong, super light. Do your homework (ibid).

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Dream on.

 

 

Hence, in 2159 we have an orbiting space resort tethered to a space elevator. Hong Kong 2, though slightly outside of the equatorial ideal zone won the bid. It turns out that mathematical calculations can render almost any location acceptable for an elevator, though Hong Kong remains the only existing site. Plans are underway for Sri Lanka and Rio de Janeiro with new space resorts.

New Vega City could be compared with a 21st century cruise ship. In fact, it was a cruise line that made the initial investment in NVC. Not unlike 21st century cruise ships, passengers choose state rooms based on the view. There are beaches, wave pools, casinos, restaurants that serve non-rep food—the options are impressive. It remains one of the few experiences that rival the V.

Hope you enjoy the next four weeks of Season 4 Prologues and the rest of Season 4.

 

 

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More futurist predictions from The Lightstream Chronicles.

Last week I talked about the similarities between Faith Popcorn’s 2025 predictions and that many of these predictions were already included in The Lightstream Chronicles. Since TLSC takes place 134 years after Faith Popcorn’s predictions, a better term than predictions would probably be backstory. As I have written before, one of the reasons for choosing such a distant future is to allow for the dramatic improvements in artificial intelligence (AI). There is quite a debate on this in science fiction and in future studies: When will we break the true AI barrier? Some believe that we will leave our physical bodies behind and become one with the hive, a giant mind merger of shared thoughts and consciousness somewhere in the mid to late 21st century. Ray Kurzweil, and Martine Rothblatt would probably fall into this camp. Kurzweil believes that there is ample evidence to trust that exponential improvements in technology will make this possible. It appears as though Rothblatt is working on achieving this by what amounts to an accretion of your own data, thoughts, opinions, etc. over time producing what would be the ultimate Siri of yourself. The body it would seem is an afterthought, possibly unnecessary.

My scenarios hinge heavily on what I would call, my take on human nature. I think we like bodies. In fact, they obsess us. I can’t see us abandoning our physical selves for an enhanced neural connection to the Othernet, especially as we are on the verge of perfecting it, ridding it of disease, aging and disability. So enamored are we with bodies, we will insist that our robots be equally sleek and endowed.

And while many future predictions include a Singularity, where everything changes, an unrecognizable future ruled by AI, I think change will be more mundane. As I highlighted last week (and where Popcorn and I agree), I believe we will be heavily augmented. Here are some more:

  1. By nature of what I call endofacts, (implanted artifacts) we will become our own ultra-powerful computers. Our input output (I/O) will be built-in as in luminous implants; our user interface (UI) will be visible on our retinas.
Learning to use your new luminous implants. Click to enlarge.
Learning to use your new luminous implants.
  1. Our aging process cease with an outpatient procedure that stops telomere decay. 25-29 will be the preferred age for that.
  1. Because of the powerful transmission chips embedded in our chipset, we will be able to transmit thoughts and images from our mind or our vision to anyone, anywhere who is willing to receive it. It will be a lot like reading minds, but we will also have to invent brain-gate encryptions to keep others from hacking our thoughts. If you want to talk to me, (like a phone call) I have to give you permission.
  1. As with Popcorn, I believe that virtual reality will make physical travel less important, but I also believe it will rule the day. It will be the new drug with millions addicted to it as an escape from reality into their own programmable, perfect world. Once again, this is attributable to human nature. This, I believe, will be the biggest upheaval in the socio-techno future: the determination and separation of real from virtual.
  1. The Top City Spanner is the result of programmable architecture. It can replicate and rebuild itself based on our needs. It’s the same idea that nano technology promises but on a larger, life-size scale. The two technologies will merge.
  1. Replication is another big prediction. We will be replicating food and just about anything else by recreating its molecular structure. It will end starvation, food shortages and most farming.

There are a lot more if you drift through the pages of TLSC, which I encourage you to do.

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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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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.

ESS – abbreviation 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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