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Falling asleep in the future. 

Prologues to Season 4 : : The Lighstream Chronicles : : Dreamstate

Season 4 Prologue ix-x: Backstory

Every now an then it makes sense to keep readers updated on the scientific and technological developments that were both behavioral and cultural influences in the 22nd century. This addendum could to the 2159backstory link on The LIghtstream Chronicles site.

It wasn’t until 2047 that technological manipulation of the body’s endocrine system became commonplace. Prior to that, pharmaceuticals were the primary mode of stimulating hormone production in the body, but that solution never seemed to alleviate the side effects that so often accompanied pharma-based protocols. Nevertheless, it was the the well funded pharmaceutical industry, perhaps seeing the writing-on-the-wall that helped to pioneer the chips that ultimately became the regulators that enabled precision balance of the body’s chemistry.

Implanting chips into the body was in full swing by the late 2020’s but and this often meant that the body required numerous implants to balance and regulate different processes. The chemchip as it was called in 2047 was the first handle multiple functions. Chip#5061189 (the original first device was about the size of a postage stamp and was inserted below the skin in the lumbar region of the back. From here, it was able to trigger or inhibit the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, ovaries, pancreas, parathyroid, pineal gland, pituitary gland, testes, thymus and thyroid. Programs were written and updated seamlessly to coincide with various life stages and individual preferences. These early implants had a significant affect on overall health and wellness.

Gradually however, these chips required maintenance and did not work in synergy with other chipsets that were becoming prevalent throughout the body. A series of technological developments over the next 12 to 15 years began to consolidate individual chip functions into what became known as the chipset. You can read more about how the chipset works.

 

dreamstate
Just relax, we’ll take it from here.

Of course, technology marches on, so by the 22nd century the augmented human is an extremely sophisticated combination of technology builds on a “natural” human elements. Hence, we have the sleep program. This can be anything the user wants it to be from floating weightless in an imagined, liquid, greenspace to a field of tall grass. Then, regulation of the the body chemistry can manipulate the body chemistry and trick the body into thinking it has had 8 hours of sleep in only 3. Think of how much more work you could get done.

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Comply! Resistance is futile.

A couple of interesting items in the news intersected for me this week. The first was Google’s announcement that it was going to down-rank web sites that are not, according to Google, mobile-friendly. They’ve built a little app  for this that lets you test whether your site is about to get dinged. Easy enough, you type in your URL, it searches through your site and then, you either get the green good, or the red bad. If you get the latter, the app tells you what you need to fix. Choosing not to fix it, means that when folks search for you or your product or service on a mobile device, you won’t be very high on the list. From a BrandChannel post this week,

“Forrester Research reports that just 38 percent of business websites are currently optimized for mobile—while 86 percent of all US smartphone users search via Google. “Businesses must improve the usability of their websites on smartphones and tablets now, or risk being buried among 177 million websites in Google search,” Forrester noted.”

So it would appear that complying with Google’s algorithms is no longer an option if you want your site to retain its ranking. This strikes me as an interesting type of forced compliance. I don’t think I would call it bullying, but maybe it’s somewhere between that and peer pressure. Based on Forrester’s research a lot of companies didn’t think it was all that important to be mobile-friendly, but according to Google, there should be a penalty for that kind of thinking and they have the power to enforce it. Oh, and by the way, you don’t get a vote in this. If you disagree or feel that the “big picture” nature of your site doesn’t translate the smart phone world you either comply or the result could impede the traffic on your site. The argument I’m sure is that a poor mobile experience is just as damaging as a lower ranking. But what about those users who are just searching and then, for a better experience decided to view it on their big screen when they get home? It might not happen, because in your new lower ranking, they might not find you at all. Resistance is futile.

The next item across my desk was a call for academic papers for a conference coming up in Osaka, Japan. The name jumped out at me: 5th International Workshop on Pervasive Eye Tracking and Mobile Eye-Based Interaction (PETMEI 2015). Investigating further was this description:

The goal of the workshop is to bring together members in the ubiquitous computing, context-aware computing, computer vision, machine learning and eye tracking community to exchange ideas and to discuss different techniques and applications for pervasive eye tracking.” 

But wait, there’s more. Here are some of the topics of interest:

– Eye tracking technologies on mobile devices

– Gaze and eye movement analysis methods

– Fusion of gaze with other modalities

– Integration of pervasive eye tracking and context-aware computing

– User studies on pervasive eye tracking

– Eye tracking for pervasive displays

– Gaze-based interaction with outdoor spaces

Apparently, there is a fairly developed need to know what we look at when we are computing or when we are on a mobile device—and maybe even when we are just gazing around and it’s pervasive!

What do these two news items have to do with each other? Directly, nothing, but putting on my Envisionist glasses I see a huge corporation exerting its will in a wave-of-influence sort of way, and I see that there are technologies that we have virtually no exposure to, that will change the way technology reacts to us and the way we react to technology. For me, it underscores how gradually we just adapt to new technologies, because we really have no choice—even though we most definitely do. The power brokers of the future will be the peddlers of all manner of “better ways” to do everything from browsing on your mobile device, to shopping, to learning, to health, to lifestyle, and so on. The proposition will be this: get better at these things or get left behind. Kind of a form of technological Darwinism, and like pervasive eye tracking, we may not even know it’s happening.

I’ll stop there… for now.

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The Finale to Season 3.

The idea of tapping into someone’s memories has been discussed more than once over the years (like this). Remember that the medical erasure process has already been recommended for Sean since he was very badly beaten and raped. Medical erasure could wipe this from his memory and after the scars have healed there would be no trace of the trauma mentally or physically. Of course, this procedure has not taken place yet, so Keiji is able to, through the superconductivity of the regen pod, tap into some of Sean’s latent, near term memories. As we see, however, they are fairly sketchy.

If we stop to think about our own memory, it rarely plays back as a continuous movie. It’s more like quick edits of what we saw or said and almost never includes audio, yet audio can often play a major role in triggering us to remember places, people and things. It is interesting to contemplate that accessing our memories from the outside, might just include audio and more.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Keiji isn’t getting a clearer picture though he could if he could get direct physical contact with Sean. By so doing, he could, theoretically, scan right through the event in its entirety. The complication here is that there was evidence that Sean was headjacked, (another topic I have blogged about numerous times), depending on the quality of the device and the trauma involved those memories may or may not be in tact. In fact, Sean’s memory could already be a disconnected pile of snippets not unlike the event we have just witnessed. He may not even know his name.

Season 4 begins next week April 10th and it kicks off with 4 double-page spreads in the Prologues section. Interesting stuff about the world of 2159, maybe some clues, maybe some foreshadowing.

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The future according to Popcorn and The Lightstream Chronicles.

Back in the 90’s an innovative marketing futurist/consultant by the name of Faith Popcorn created quite a stir with her book, The Popcorn Report. It was a best seller for its predictions of what we would be doing and buying at the turn of the century. I’m pretty sure she coined the phrase cocooning, back then. Some of her predictions came true and then it seems as though we didn’t hear much from Popcorn. Then, earlier this week, I stumbled on an article on the online site, Fusion. The article spun from a presentation called FutureVision:2025 that Popcorn gave earlier this year on the future of work. There are a host of new predictions, but what struck me was how many of these predictions are already part of my future in The Lightstream Chronicles. Herewith are some of the similarities:

Popcorn says:                                               LSC says:

1. Careers and offices are over.        The majority of the workforce

works at home.

2. Virtual  replaces actual travel       Travel greatly reduced

by use of the V. .

3. Language dwnld > implant chip   The chipset and implants.

See the lexicon.

4. Implant chips release body chems     Adjusting your chems. See

Prologues to Season 3.

5. A robot revolution (lots of rbots)  Major premise of graphic novel

is ubiquitous synthetics.

6. Robots will care for the young.      Introducing Marie-D. Season 2.

7. Robots and humans                              Note the AHC logo and image

from Popcorn’s deck below.

popcorn

 

8. “Always upgradable embedded chips…”   Lots on the chipset and

implants. See lexicon.

9.”Who will offer immortality insurance…”   Lexicon, p4 S1.

Almost no one’s getting old.

In a related slide deck, Popcorn also makes a bunch of predictions on the augmented brain. These include exchanging memories, adjusting your mood, reducing sleep time, and escaping into the virtual. Of course, all of these predictions are foundational to my story. And there are a number of slides in these decks that bear an uncanny resemblance to images from the graphic novel. Maybe great minds think alike.

Next week, I’ll highlight some of my other predictions. Speaking of thinking, what do you think?

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Backstage on page 109 – latent memories

This week I’m taking a break from the usual future chitchat to give a behind-the-scenes commentary on page 109.

In panel 1, we revisit the Prefectural Medical Center where Sean Colbert is mending from his assault as Keiji gets his first glimpse of the victim. This is reminiscent of the scene on page 54 in Season 2. Keiji’s pre-programmed clearance provides him with access to just about anything and puts him in a very powerful position to hasten the investigation. The doors literally part for him upon his arrival.

Then next step is to see tap in to the patient’s condition and download everything from vital signs to the status of each injury and how damaged tissues, broken bones, contusions and lacerations are responding to the regen process.

I added some details to Sean’s appearance. Since he has been suspended for nearly 12 hours in the regen “soup.” I wanted to show noticeable improvement in the injuries. The bruises are not as severe, nor are the cuts, and he has even started to grow back his hair, which we can note was completely shaved in the Season 2 scenes.

When Keiji accesses the control panel, by virtue of the super conductivity of the regen suspension liquid and Keiji’s ability to bypass anyone’s brain gate encryptions, he receives a quick flash of latent memory that’s still active from Sean’s past. This is an indication that, at least some of Sean’s memory is still in tact (possibly leading to an identification of the perpetrator(s)), but it also reveals an interesting wrinkle that perhaps no one else thought of: the victim is also Keiji’s creator. Erasing a synthetic from any memory of the laboratory and manufacturing process, especially individuals involved in the creation is a primary protocol — which Sean faithfully executed. of The final image on page 109 harkens back to Season 1, page 21 where Sean takes the critical step of erasing any memory of their prior relationship. This could complicate matters, but that remains to be seen.

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There’s a hack for that.

In The Lightstream Chronicles circa 2159, the government of New Asia (virtually the whole world) owns the Lightstream. The Lightstream is the evolution of what we think of as the Internet today. It is a photo-fast unlimited transmission space that channels everything from your DNA, to your recent V (virtual) experience. It’s considered un-hackable because any intrusion is instantly traceable. It was engineered that way back in the 21st century when New Asia’s breadth was expanding and the government realized that anything other than complete control was just an accident waiting to happen. Since virtually anything consensual is legal and the public is convinced that only AI has access to their private behavior, most don’t consider this a breach of freedom or privacy. But that’s the future…

I recently came across an article in The New York Times about a new web service called the Hackers List, where you can hire a hacker. According to the site HL site, “Hiring a hacker shouldn’t be a difficult process, we believe that finding a trustworthy professional hacker for hire should be a worry free and painless experience.” I’ve always thought so. According to TNYT, “It is done anonymously, with the website’s operator collecting a fee on each completed assignment. The site offers to hold a customer’s payment in escrow until the task is completed, “ and over 500 jobs have been put out for bid, including everything from getting into someone’s email to grabbing a company’s database. Yes, we’ve monetized and consumerized hacking.

Now it may seem as though this next item is unrelated, but reserve judgement. A recent article in WIRED magazine tells us “Why the US Government is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones.” I’ve blogged on this before, but the whole drone thing has already escalated out of control. According to WIRED, the FAA held a conference that was open to civilians but closed to the press. At the conference,

“…officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.)” At the conference they showed something called the DJI Phantom 2 a, “quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive.”

Hmmm. What have we here?
Hmmm. What have we here?

Interestingly, this was a newer version of the drone that landed on the White House lawn earlier this year. So the drone maker, a Chinese company that doesn’t want to loose it’s foothold on this booming market created a firmware update that incorporated something called GPS geofencing. The manufacturer has added the White House to a soon to be list of 10,000 places you will not be able to take your drone. Most of these are airports.

TNYT cited a spokesman from the drone maker,

“‘We do provide different layers of security to make it difficult to hack and get around,’” says DJI’s Perry. But for those determined to avoid geofencing, “there’s an easy way to do that, which is to buy another quad-copter.”

Now maybe you see the connection to the earlier item. So what are we to take from this? Well, we could say that this is another example of technology out of control. We could say that this is proof that with stuff like GPS geofencing we will always stay one step ahead of the hackers. I say this is just the beginning.

Of course, my residence and probably yours, too is not on the geofencing list. What about us?  But wait. Why not hire a hacker to set one up for you?

Fast forward two years: My telco is overcharging me for my premium channels. I log into the HakStore and download my $7.99 hack for that.

Think the Web is tangled now?

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On eavesdropping on your thoughts and the reason for fences.

Sending and receiving thoughts is not that far fetched.

Last year the science media was abuzz with the news that a thought (basically “hello”) was transmitted from India to France. The experiment was clunky and primitive with lots of wires and electrodes, and took 70 minutes to complete, but it was a step in the direction of telepathic transmission. 1. In other labs, scientists are finding ways to translate thoughts into words through implanted electrodes in the brain. 2  From these reports it would appear that telepathic transmissions like the ones shown in The Lightstream Chronicles are decades or more away. But, as we know, technology tracks an exponential growth. What used to take years or decades to develop now happens much faster. The mobile phone was once the size of a brick and could only make phone calls. Now the basic smart phone is a thousand times more powerful than the most sophisticated computer of 15 years ago. If we look at the speed with which technology expands then it is quite possible that some of our most sci-fi imaginings are really just around the corner. Both sets of researchers cite the obvious benefits for those who are speech impaired, paralyzed, or perhaps in a coma which would be tremendous breakthroughs for medicine and psychology. Of course, I tend to think toward the dark side. As the one researcher in the India-France experiment noted, “‘Could there be potential for sending someone a thought that’s not desirable to them?’ he says. ‘Those kinds of things are theoretically in the realm of possibility.’”

In this weeks episode of The Lightstream Chronicles, Keiji-T is eavesdropping on a conversation between Kristin Broulliard and Colonel Lee Chen. The intercepted data is analyzed the identities of the parties is verified and the transcript committed to memory — human or otherwise. Keiji-T’s marvelous technological features are a huge benefit to crime fighting. Before the introduction of Keiji-T’s state-of-the-art faculties thought transmissions were inaccessible. With so much implanted circuitry in the human brain the pioneers of telepathy created sophisticated and impenetrable encryptions to protect our thoughts and telepathic communications from being intercepted or “overheard”. With the introduction of the T-Class synthetic, that fence came down. All in the name of security, of course

In a broadly interpreted and paraphrased thought from the author G. K. Chesterton, (though this not really what he said), “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” (If you wan to know what he really said go here.) Nevertheless, the spirit of the quote stands. As a society we are forever tearing down fences in the name of anything from the greater good to freedom or security. The Lightstream Chronicles is sometimes a reminder that regardless of the sophistication of our implants, the human condition prevails.

Citations:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/scientists-prove-that-telepathic-communication-is-within-reach-180952868/?no-ist
http://phys.org/news180620740.html
http://www.chesterton.org/taking-a-fence-down/
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A taste of future-tech in the graphic novel.

If you are a regular to The Lightstream Chronicles, then you know that what you see on the Web is only a fraction of the detail that is available from the high-resolution PDF that accompanies each page. This week I thought I would highlight a few examples of plausible future tech that have occurred on recent pages.

The coffee

Just your average beverage replicator
Just your average beverage replicator

For example, soon after Kristin and Keiji entered her office back on page 93 Kristin offers Keiji coffee. There’s no Keurig in the office—at least not one that we would recognize—but there is a beverage replicator similar to the one that Marie used back on page 80 when she whipped up a Cabernet for Kristin. The beverage replicator, in this case, the same one that Marie used, a Maitre-deux™ kitchen food and beverage replicator. Model FVX-GNN42H71000.

Kristin “taps” in her favorite blend and delivers a freshly brewed cup of coffee including the cup. Since the flavor configuration can vary as well, Kristin prefers a French Press style at a precise 92.6 C. 325.309 ml. If you look closely into the background of page 93 you can see her making her selections.

The cups

A nanotherm cup.
A nanotherm cup.

The coffee cups that Kristin dispenses to hold a precise 325.309 ml. and are replicated bone china with a nanothermic structure that keeps the contents steaming hot—indefinitely—or until the liquid evaporates. That’s why you’ll catch a whiff of steam throughout this scene.

The desk & tablet

A simple intermediary.
A simple intermediary.

Kristin’s desk is an active surface. In other words it is able to transmit, receive and display (or project) information from any other active surface including the luminous implants that both Keiji-T and Kristin have embedded into their fingertips. (Everyone else in the world has them, too.)

The thin glass tablet that Keiji is “porting” to is simply an intermediate storage device that Kristin then transfers to her desk surface and, ultimately to holographic projection above her desk. The tablet can also store vast amounts of data for later access.

Just a sampling of some of the details in the background—a lot like the design and technology we take for granted everyday.

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What does it mean to be human?

Earlier this week, just a couple of days after last weeks blog on robophobia, the MIT Technology Review (online) published an interview with AI futurist Martine Rothblatt. In a nutshell Ms. Rothblatt believes that conscious machines are inevitable, that evolution is no longer a theory but reality, that treating virtual beings differently than humans is tantamount to black slavery in the 19th century, and that the FDA should monitor and approve whatever hardware or software “effectively creates human consciousness.” Her core premise is something that I have covered in the blog before, and while I could spend the next few paragraphs debating some of these questionable assertions, it seems to me more interesting to ponder the fact that this discussion is going on at all.

I can find one point, that artificial consciousness is more or less inevitable, on which I agree with Rothblatt. What the article underscores is the inevitability that, “technology moves faster than politics, moves faster than policy, and often faster than ethics”1. Scarier yet is the idea that the FDA, (the people who approved bovine growth hormone) would be in charge of determining the effective states of consciousness.

All of this points to the fact that technology and science are on the cusp of a few hundred potentially life changing breakthroughs and there are days when, aside from Martine Rothblatt, no one seems to be paying attention. We need more minds and more disciplines in the discussion now so that as Rothblatt says, we don’t “…spend hundreds of years trying to dig ourselves out.” It’s that, or this will be just another example of the folly of our shortsightedness.

1.Wood, David. “The Naked Future — A World That Anticipates Your Every Move.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

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Will computers be able to read your mind? Uh, yes.

As we see on Page 92 of The Lightstream Chronicles, synthetic human Keiji-T casts a sidelong glance at Detective Guren with a sort of, “What’s his problem?” look. But, in fact, there is really little question. This far into the future, what we know as the computer, will be ubiquitous computing—something that is embedded in the walls, the door handles, your coffee cup and your bodysuit. In other words, everything will have some level of monitoring, transmission or computing power already in the make up of the device.

For example: the walls of your apartment are active surfaces, they can become visual representations of whatever you are thinking, any transmissions you are receiving or constructs that you wish to create. Hence, if you want your office environment to be a courtyard in a small Tuscan village then the walls will comply, fixtures, tables or any other device can comply with the illusion. The data being transmitted to your mind will trigger sensations of air temperature, wind, olfactory cues (like olive trees), and sounds like children playing in the distance, or music from an upstairs room across the street. When you pick up a stylus or touch an interface, you also become part of the network. Literally everything is part of the mesh.

Rewind to the present day. How could this happen you may think, but think again. In your pocket or on your desk is probably a smart phone. On this phone is stored the meta data on everywhere you have been since you owned it. This is courtesy of something called location services, which is probably in the ON position for numerous apps. This data, when matched with the day and time projects a pattern of activity; where you are on Tuesdays at 8:00 AM, who you call on your way home from work, when you text, from where, and to whom.

When it comes to your preferences, your smart phone can tell what sites you visit (your interests), when you visit them (behavioral timing), and the intensity of your interest (time allotted). If you are interacting with others, their data overlaps with yours. If you are not actually interacting, your contact list is a perfect tool for cross referencing. Now the data has tangents. Already we have enough information to predict where you are on Tuesdays, and who you are likely to be with. If you have recently used your smart phone to debit a venti red-eye, we can determine if you are caffeinated. If you have purchased two, then your friend is likely caffeinated as well. And that just scratches the surface.

Fast forward a hundred years or so and this sort of technology would be considered primitive. In an instant, a minor chip embedded in our brain could analyze all the public domain data on anyone we meet and make an assessment of their intentions.

So as Keiji-T gives Detective Guren the look, it’s safe to say he knows exactly what he’s thinking.

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