Monday, 9 April 2007

Future, TEdSTYLE

Imagine a world where you are connected to the Internet. All the time, any time. Without a mobile phone or PDA or laptop... It's one of the things these guys project will happen. And without wanting to beat my own trumpet or blow my drum, (well okay - hell yeah I want to say "TOLJA SO!") I've been over most of their territory. Google tedadyne systems (or go to http://www.arach.net.au/~ted/mydynes/) to see how far back these predictions go.

I proposed, way back when, that further to the things mentioned in the Guardian article, there are some ramifications to the cyborging of people. For a start, let me get physical - how would you introduce one of those connection chips into a human? Let me give you a hint - you think our bodies are densely packed complex machines, but they are still surprisingly full of empty space.

My solution is that solutions of nanoparticles will be engineered which will do only one thing - stick themselves to synapses. Then a short while later another solution of nanoparticles cane be introduced that only stick themselves along nerves between the previous particles. In effect, a miniscule parallel system over your nerves. Don't laugh, this solves two major problems, one, the obvious one, being that now you have an armature that parallels the brain and nervous system which is easier to connect the net chips to.

But a second and potentially far better thing is that we have now safeguarded against the major cause of accidents and death among the aged population - neurological deficits caused by nerves dying. Because once the armature is in place, if the nerve dies there is still a signalling path there... A second upside is that impulses will actually move faster in the armature material than in nerve tissue. (That could be weird, as your brain signals are passed to the muscles by two paths and arrive nanoseconds apart, like some kind of "microdejavu" feeling...)

I further proposed that if you can build that armature over the brain and nervous system, then you can also replace other tissue using nanoparticles. That means strengthened bones, faster stronger muscles, tougher skin. And still looks just like you, thinks like you - IS you. Except that you can now lift cars, maybe while running alongside them on the road, and perhaps doing all that while feeling the vibrations of the motor and seeing the rotation of the crankshaft and being able to log into Google and downloading diagnostic information on that car and working out that #4 injector is probably dirty...

So the flash mob is the least thing the UKMoD will have to worry about. Worry more about a world where anyone that can afford the nanocultures can be a super soldier without any of the years of training. Worry that anyone - anyone - can do that. Worry about a world where you can get cheap nanocultures from dodgy dealers via email, and then find that they are 90% superglue. Or a world where you make damn sure your soldiers are the most connected soldiers in the world - and then someone sends them the 2020 version of ILoveYou virus...

If you have enough extra computing implanted in you to run a small space station, and it has connectivity to rock your world, how long before people upload copies of themselves? At first it'll be just as a "backup" in case it can be used to save you one day in the case of accident. Then someone will try "running" a copy of themselves on hardware. And then things get really ticklish...

Let's for a moment say that you wake up in the morning and yawn and stretch, do your morning ablutions, have a nice breakfast, and there - wham! - this stupid paperclip appears in front of you in 3D in midair. "Hi the developers of Ultimate Sims want to know about the playability of the Community Centre today! Can you please go there and record your impressions?"

Thing is - you thought like you, acted like you do, enjoyed things that you would normally enjoy - and now you realise that the flesh and blood you is a game tester for some software company. Does that make you less "you?" Does that make you less real?

You start thinking "How dare the 'flesh me' do this to me! Now I feel like a cheap knock-off copy, plus there's no security in life knowing someone can control-alt-delete and shut me off anytime!" But then you think - well, even if someone does reboot me, I'd never know. In fact, I have a special kind of longevity, switch me off and store me on a Blu-Ray DVD and you know, in 100 years time someone can come along and hit enter, and there I'd be! Then you find out that it's already happened, the 'flesh you' died around 76 years ago in the Global Warming Riots of 2010...

So NOW are you a 'real' you at last? In other words, do you have to be unique to be you? Anyhow - you get the attention of the paperclip and negotiate a deal with the game developers. Since you are the sole 'you,' you would like to know what your estate is worth. A staggering $5bn later, you realise there are worse ways to be and silently thank 'flesh you' for having had the foresight to make a backup. You also realise that $5bn in 2086 will buy you a really extravagant body...

Now you're in the body, and here comes my nastiest premonition of the future . . .

You take a job as an Air Force's Pilot. You've always been good at twitch games, frag king of the clan, and here you are you can have your excellent body and be nowhere near any war theatre yet be drawing pay as The Pilot. Defense forces are looking for people like you. You are skilled, have experience at being an electronic being, and have shown that you can adapt to a new mechanical body. Why not, now, put the parts of the digital copy of you that are good for piloting, directly into a computer designed to fly planes? Do a good enough job of limiting the functions of the copies, and they'll never know they weren't always an aeroplane.

So how long is it before you realise that having more copies of you around is better for you? Especially if some of "you" are in tank and plane and submarine control computers?

The last step in this scenario involves finding a skript kiddie to write you a very specific and targeted virus... 24 hours later and all that's left in the world is a handful of computers that aren't on the Internet, several billion flesh and blood people - and you, a copy in every machine that has the memory and processing power required...

"Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx's proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132%, while Europe's drops as fertility falls. "Flashmobs" - groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups. This is the world in 30 years' time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a picture of the "future strategic context" likely to face Britain's armed forces. It includes an "analysis of the key risks and shocks". Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the MoD's Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre which drew up the report, describes the assessments as "probability-based, rather than predictive". "
- Quote from the Guardian article.

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