By Vexen Crabtree 2000
This is an optimistic essay on the future of human kind. I will progress in jumps of a few hundred years, starting within this century until we reach times that are unimaginable.
This is not about machines dominating mankind or about us becoming slaves. I feel this will not happen. Computers and mankind will continue to enjoy a symbiotic relationship and more so, the more we develop together.
Finance: The city high street is devoid of banks. All small transactions are done by waving your mobile over a scanner which deducts money from a small-change account, which has to be topped up from a main account. A daily limit is also set to reduce the impact of theft. All banking is done online. There are financial advisers available, but they deal more in the business side of things rather than any day-to-day banking services.
Sat in my room I can access the internet and purchase goods from any shop and any nation across the entire world. The goods are delivered directly to my door. On the streets we only see second-hand bookstores, second-hand music sellers as these industries are completely internet based.
At home I can change banks, change any of my financial choices via computer. In fact, it's very hard without going into the larger cities, to change any of them in person. I can only change them from my own computer, or from a new one if I register it as legit.
My computer recognizes my voice, responds to commands and can change the heating controls and air conditioning in my room. I adjust "radiator temperature" with just the same ease as I would adjust the volume on the radio station.
People + Politics
Society is still the same. People socialize in pubs, get educations, become drop outs, make friends, break friends, break laws, make laws. There is turmoil in the political systems across the world as international bodies regulate and control local governments, and direct democracy has eroded the power of local centres of power.
Voting is done through computers mostly, but you can turn up in person to one of the voting booths. You can vote monthly on the various issues. The Polls display how much of the populations opposes what, and who wants what reform to go through.
More specific votes could happen such as a "Teacher's vote on whether to make Wednesday afternoon a sports-only time". On this only teachers, students and relevant people can vote. The system automatically excludes (but records) votes made by non-relevant people. Votes can be made at any time, as long as it's before the deadline for whatever issue the vote is for.
The government put out an advert, "Please vote on this issue before February".
Transport arrangements are done both on the internet and in travel agents. Global travel is organised and all routes are checked by computer, so that there are no conflicting paths. Computer systems advice which train routes require more trains, where more rail lines are required, where an airport extension will be required within five years, which roads need to be expanded, where houses are likely to be a benefit to various cities finance.
Regular automated web pages display demographic information on cities and countries. Automated Interpol sites browse the web looking for illegal content, maintain criminal profiles, some of which is only accessible from police-registered machines. Machines need to be registered to be able to view different content, with the motherboard-processor information being that which you use to register them on.
Computers: Motherboards and processors are not separable. Maths processors, graphics cards, sound cards, input cards (voice recognition, touch screen, mouse, etc) are all upgradeable. There are the normal problems of compatibility, software bugs, hardware malfunctions, etc.
Local governments span cities, and are not governments as such. Countries boundaries are irrelevant and confused, with travel permits being issued by computers overwatched by legal computers with dependence on no particular countries. There are always rumours that a particular government's computers have more influence, but to tell the truth, no-one knows how to find out nor if it matters much.
Anyone can put forward a law reform. Sometimes they get voted in, most the time they don't. If a "Oil reform" is put through, then certain professions votes have more weight than others. For example. Oil workers, environmentalists, students with qualifications in those areas, transport officials will all have an "increased" vote. Unrelated professions firemen, farmers, medics, etc, have a normal vote on the issue.
Governments are comprised of computer programs running heuristics. People vote on the heuristics, choosing in order which ones they think are better than others. There is not need for party systems, although some countries still hang on to them, because at the end of the day it's the individual laws that people are interested in, not in the profile or confidence of those who suggest them.
There are some famous cases of laymen suggested laws or heuristics that have gone on to become global alterations - but for the most part the legal systems are fluid and predictable. Local laws are always there, causing some confusion for people who move from place to place, but even the local laws are held on global computers ready to be viewed and commented on by anybody.
It is possible to find the location of any person at any time by enquiring at computer terminals. As people move around they can "hide" their position from certain people, groups or countries but not from the law.
I just bought a new CD after hearing a few snippets of the band's music on the internet, but I've no idea who I bought it from or which country it was delivered from. My computer automatically finds out where to get objects at the cheapest price, or perhaps quickest. I don't normally bother enquiring about the source of the things I buy - it's boring information. Unless of course I want to buy from a particular company.
Sat in my room I chat with my sister, who is sat upstairs. We chat both with our voices, our computers relaying our messages, and by keyboard. I'm not sure why sometimes I decide to type, and why sometimes I decide to talk. It's all psychological. I put my hand on the mouse and menus appear all over the screen awaiting my input. I flick the mouse in the direction of the choice I wish to make.
Whilst playing Minesweeper I dictate an essay to my computer. Sometimes I jump on to the web to find snippets of information to quote in my essay. Whenever I quote something the documents automatically stores where I quoted it from, when, and whether I just broke copyright or not. Most essays break copyright sometimes, but unless it's for anything commercial the police rarely censor it.
The only reason to go into the town center is to buy a limited range of goods (most companies have no premises) or mainly to socialize. Pubs, sports centers, lectures are all available. Lectures and films are available on request. If a lecturer gives a sermon, then it is instantly available from wherever and wherever you choose to watch it. Of course, the lecturer can limit his audience or the times/places it can be views from.
The World: Companies are nondescript for the most part, with little need for PR as their products are automatically listed in the correct places.
In VR you can observe planets through many satellites and automated rovers. If you pay a lot of money you can sit in your room and control one of the Martian robots from your computer (as long as you have a VR headset). If you start to do anything dangerous it automatically cuts you off and your profile is marked with the relevant information.
Many people's jobs are done purely in VR. Cleaning robots (when cleaning unautomated things) are done via your computer. Power stations have no human maintainers. Power production, diversion and costings are all done by computers programmed by computer programmers now sat on beaches in far away places.
Many people have implants. Radio signals and neurones are interchangeable. With the correct implant I can sit anywhere in my house and communicate with the devices that sit around the house. Turn the lights down. Change the radio station, summon my wheelchair, tell the toaster to toast some bread.
I can request a channel to someone else, allowing range-limited telepathic conversation relayed through computer chips. For a cost we can initiate long-rang conversations (sometimes with lag) through satellites, relays, phone cables, anything, whilst sat in our chairs. Three way conversation? No problem. A board meeting, assuming we all have the correct implant? No problem. Why not.
A computer program notices that a criminal has broken his curfew. His record is not too bad so it lets him go for a few minutes, in case he is doing something legit that required a temporary break. But no, he's got into a transport.
Suddenly, the computer program looses control of the car. Impossible! The car disappears from the GPS network. It has been hacked. The police put out a global alert with the car and criminals details. It requests satellite surveillance, giving an emergency code.
The satellite is viewing the last known location of the car. It pans back. The car is located, driving off-road towards a city. The satellite follows it. There are no automated defence systems in between the car's location and the city. The police station views a history of the city and finds it contains a noticeable element of hackers and "safe spots" for criminals.
The city's military is informed, but they decline, stating that the criminals record is not bad enough to fire a missile at the car. The car still refuses communications with the police programs.
This is the last straw: The computer program requests to some Human police officers that they chase the vehicle. Control passes to the city's Human users, and to the cities local police computers, and this particular escapade is finished. Ooh look, that person just broke the speed limit, have they any fines outstanding? No... automatic fine invoked... ...
Legal, policing and international systems are under control of computers. Co-operation and satellite power bring an increasing peace across the entire planet.
Long term strategies to prevent ecological disaster are planned, overlooked and implemented by computers. The computers can be convinced to change their plans by mass voting, but it never happens as the computer's look ahead is great enough to prevent any such things being necessary.
I.e., the computer notices that its proposed oil-price increase has been voted against by some people, not enough to affect the plan, but a significant amount. So it produces a forecast of the companies that would go broke if oil prices do not go up, of the amount of oil fields that would empty, and when, and the financial and transport effects of those things. The votes against its proposed price increase dwindle.
Human beings do not leave their houses. Human beings bodies do not move much, at all. Sometimes during feeding.
I sit in my room. I am currently viewing, with my inserted eyes, the front room of my house. All seems in order. I pan the camera around the room, getting feedback into my neck neurones which tell me which ways I can and cannot look with this particular camera.
I take control of a robot arm that is sat in the room downstairs. The robot arm comes alive, and ones of my arms assumes the role of controlling it. My left arm now feels like and moves the robot arm. My house reports to me the exact location of the arm, and the camera in the room zooms in on it giving me an outside view of my own arm.
I switch to the view from the camera on the arm itself so I can better see the object it is handling. I control its robotic digits, servers and mechanical muscles as if it was my arm. When it touches something, I feel it. When I make it strain, I feel it.
It is currently building a new component for me to control later, from the bits and pieces that are placed on the living room floor. I realize that in the future I require a new memory chip for the arm, so I order my house to order one to be delivered in a few days. I concentrate on the construction of my new device.
It is one that will go outside to sit on the top of my house, because I only have two cameras up there, and they are pretty old ones that can only swivel. I am building one that will move around on the roof, giving me a nice view of the city I live in.
Someone disturbs me, it is my next door neighbour. He paged me.
"What?", says a computer in my neighbours house. I do not know if the computer typed or voiced my words. It doesn't matter.
"You gave me my antenna back last night in a bad position!" - my neighbours voice was transmitted by my house directly through the speakers in the roof of the room I am in. It guessed that because I am using an arm-camera, that I wouldn't want to see text. It was right so I let it know that audio was a good choice by "ticking" its decision.
Ticking feels like something you do to a child when it says something polite.
"I'm sorry", I communicate to my neighbour, "The news was interested so I left it where it was."
I couldn't remember exactly how I'd left it, but I suspected I left it focused closely on my own garden.
"Won't do it again", I said. I'd have to remember to write a script so that whenever I return control it automatically goes back to how it was before I borrowed it. I woke my computer and said to it, "Before I sleep tell me to write the 'Return Antenna Script'"
I closed communication with my neighbour, and continued building my new camera for a while. I got bored and paged Sophie, who is a girl that lives a few streets away.
"Hey Sophie, what're you up to?"
"Oh hi there Vexen", she said, and I knew it was the real her now.
"You should but a slight delay on the "Wait a moment" script", I said.
"I don't want to - I like to make it clear to people so they know it's a script they're talking to. I don't like it when I can't tell the difference".
She sent me a "smile". I took inventory of the things I had around. The nearest device I had to her house was a hand-on-wheels that I left to pick flowers in park a few days ago. I had forgotten to tell it to return here when it finished. I send it to Sophie's house, and it informed me it would take six minutes to get there.
"You can borrow one of my complex arms if you want", said Sophie, "It's upstairs at the moment".
"Sure", I said and let her know I was slightly excited by the prospect.
A "complex arm" is an arm that is much more complex that a Human equivalent, it has a few cameras, many digits and touch-screen surfaces (so people can physically write on each other). She offered me its control reference and I accepted. She had put a control-return delay on it of 20 hours.
I switched my view to the view of SCA (Sophie's complex arm), and looked around her house. It reminded me how messy mine was. She told me that her own complex hand was in another room. "Race you downstairs" she exclaimed!
A race is a nice thing. You both try to get your component to the same point in the house before the other person. Normally if you tell something to go somewhere (for example, I told the device in the park to come here) then it goes at normal speed, being dead careful, on automatic.
I turned off the safety programs on SCA and controlled in manually. As I got it moving (we were both working at high speeds by now) I tried to recall the layout of her house. I reached the top of the stairs just before she did, and turned to move down the roof.
"Damn" she said, with a smile, ""I forgot I had left the lens cleaner up there!"
She sent me the co-ordinates of the collision she just had, her device had crashed into another at the top of the stairs. Well, nearly crashed, on automatic the lens-cleaner managed to move out the way.
I got to the bottom of the stairs and turned left, damn, in to a dead end! I turned the wrong way! I turned around just in time to see Sophie's other CA get there first.
"Ha ha!" she laughed, and I sent SCA to go wrestle with her's.
When one of your components is near other components, they automatically ping each other to see who's active. For example, if I moved through a convention (which is a large gathering) my unit would automatically ping the nearest units. I "feel" my way around, and am aware of where things are, and become aware of which devices are moving around and returning pings and which ones aren't. It's like being in a room full of people, and noticing which ones are laid down asleep, and which ones are active.
I accidentally bump into another unit, and feel it as if I had bumped into them in person. To all extents and purposes I did. It was asleep, but it had probably just pinged its owner, "Just got bumped" or something. If the owner was busy they'd ignore it, otherwise they'd commandeer the unit.
Is very different. You don't need to "go to work", you simply take over "work units" which are already at work. If you are new, the employer (normally a computer) will lend you work units until you have built your own. Pay is in the form of materials, components and currency. Amongst friends most trading is material-based, i.e., swapping one type of transistor-board for another, or swapping metal strips for whatever. Currency is just an unused equivalent of material parts. You can exchange currency, but its ultimate use is simple to buy components in order to have a better life.
There are sayings like "Money can't buy you love" which means, it doesn't matter how many material parts you have, you still need to be a nice person to form long term, loving relationships with other houses.
Love is a type of long term relationship. It is said that computer programs cannot feel love, but it appears to be less true as more and more people die.
In such a material existence, death comes slowly. It is not fatal. The principal things that keeps a person alive is their concentration and their memories. From birth all people are recorded, their movements, actions and character are recorded in a huge personal database kept in their own rooms, where their bodies are.
A person's consciousness is where most of their processing power is ... i.e., in their heads. But with time they find that spend more and more time in the computer, using its memory, its processing power. People tend to slowly move their heuristic functions from their brains into their computers without realizing.
Imagine a person who works on a space station. It is inefficient to keep sending commands from their Earth body to the satellite, so they move the most-repeated actions into the computer banks on the station. When they are working they feel like they are actually in the station. It takes up enough of their concentration and returns enough values for them to be immersed in it, to think that they are there.
With time they move more of their "concentration" and processing modules in to the banks of the station, with the subconscious aim of making communication more efficient. Eventually they will find that whilst they are at work they do not need to access their bodies at all. This is called "separation".
If a person lives long enough, they stop accessing their bodies all together, because all of their thought processes have been transferred to computer. They do not feel any different and it is a gradual process. The things that they previously worked out in their brains they are now doing on dynamic computer memory, forming connections and organizing their information in exactly the same way as they would whilst the systems were running in their heads.
What is happening to you, sir, is that you have a disease in your real life body. There is no known cure for it, aside from replacing some large parts of your biological body. As you know, you only have a few more months use of your body left.
"Is it serious? What can I do?"
Well, you are suffering a premature death. Which means you are not old enough to have transferred enough of your character protocols on to your computers and devices. Normally a person's consciousness is preserved completely across all of their various systems, but in your case, we may need to operate on you.
"What are my chances?"
What we need to do is wait a little longer, and before it is too late, fully grep your brain and retrieve from it every protocol and piece of data that we cannot find on your devices or computer, and store them there for you. When you wake up you will feel a little disorientated, it'll seem like waking from a sleep but finding yourself in a different place. There will be no noticeable physical or emotional differences.
"What do I need to do?"
Well, when we decide is the right time to do it, we will inform you. You will need to give us complete access and control of everything, invoke star dot star permission for us. Because your employment record is clean the government will give you the necessary physical modules, that all dead people need in order to feel alive.
"Huh, what are they?"
Well there are certain things that cannot be transferred to computer, physical things like hormones. The physical modules emulate these things. Your computer records all your hormone levels, and with this module it can give your new brain systems the feedback that your body would have been giving you as a result of the hormones. For example, when you touch someone you like your arm informs your homunculus image of what is going on, which causes hormonal reactions in your physical body, which again affect your brain. It's a cycle. The physical units emulate the hormonal part.
There are some benefits. You won't feel attached to your own room in the previous room. Your attitude to temperature and cleanliness will change. Cleanliness will become more global, so that you pay attention to the dust and grime that your units move through without the additional feelings of them on your physical body. You will be able to keep temperature to make your units happy, without the feeling that your "body" needs more consideration. Because you won't have a body.
"What will happen to my actual body?"
Some people prefer to keep them in their houses, in a hermetic unit. Other people move them down to the graveyards and say a final good bye to them. It is illegal however, to leave your body in a natural state. If you do that the police will commandeer some of your units and force you to move the body to the graveyards.
Evaporation is a kind of death that is fatal. Evaporation means you lose control of too many of your units. If there was a natural disaster and your house partially collapsed you may evaporate. You will suddenly find yourself with a limited control over your bodies and senses. Many cameras will not work and you will not know what is going on in your own house.
Some people, if they do not look after themselves, gradually evaporate as dust, grime and rubble gradually lags them down. People who communicate slowly are likely to be like this. This is why you must always keep your houses tidy, and why you must always be sociable, so you know when you are evaporating.
In the last moments, sometimes you can survive without any input at all. You can be reduced to, for example, only having control of the components near your computer. People tend to panic when this happens, it feels like suffocation, and normally the emergency services are called out.
If you do not get help, you will evaporate. Your systems will stop at a cascading rate until your main unit cannot cope and crashes. From then on all your devices become public property, and all your scripts are lost. This is a fatal death.
Crime and Punishment
When crimes are committed, most the time the police will fine you and remove currency from your account. But sometimes it is necessary for them to commandeer some of your components and use them to undo the damage you done. For a large fine you can submit components to police control so they can carry out community work, cleaning and repair with them.
In extreme cases, the police will keep some of your devices. When they are finished with them they will give them to the sick and poor people. The poor people are gradually brought up to full strength by the donations of material from the police and by generous members of the worldwide community.
Who are people and who are computers? The definition is both useless and unasked. Communication is received using an unknown protocol across a wide area. People respond, but cannot figure out the protocol. Perhaps the government knows how. They say they don't. There appears to be lag between most beings and the unknown source. It is calculated to lay in a part of the galaxy where no people have been. They are aliens. There is excitement all round.
People start an exodus towards that part of the galaxy, sending all of their consciousness to spaceships, trying to be the one with least lag between the aliens and Earth.
The Aliens are faced with a multitude of communications, from a complete assortment of space vehicles. It figures there must be people inside them. There are not. People survive for thousands of years living their lives jumping around from servers to server.
Current edition: 2000 Jan 28
Parent page: Vexen Crabtree's Websites: Forcing Humanity Onwards
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