Upload 2 - Technology
If you’re reading this, two things have happened to you.
First, you’ve been revoked. You may think it’s because you pissed off some evil “men-in-black” or that the Conspiracy is out to get you, but here’s the secret: the Conspiracy (if that’s even a thing) doesn’t give a shit about you. You got revoked -- you lost your family, your credit cards, everything -- because you fucked with the system. Maybe you asked questions you shouldn’t have. Maybe you saw something and blogged about it on your livestream. Whatever it is, you know too much to be part of the system, so the system kicked you out.
Second, you didn’t die within the first 48 hours of your “revocation.” Congrats. Now shits going to get seriously weird.
My name is Charon, and I’ve lectured a hundred of assholes who just joined the Ascension Game, and it looks like you’re the hundred-and-first. Today’s topic is cyber-tech or “What is This Fucking Thing in My Brain, Anyway?” By the end of this info-dump, you’re going to realize that you probably didn’t understand how far we’ve come, technologically speaking, in the last thirty years. You’ll be able to use words like “singularity” and “transhumanism” correctly. And if you have any fucking sense, you’ll be scared shitless.
Who am I and what do I do?
Don’t worry about that. I’m the one who explains all this to you. Next topic.
What’s going on?
That’s a good question. We’re going to start with the Singularity.
You might have heard about this one. Every invention in human history has one thing in common: it was invented by humans. Maybe we built a tool, like an abacus or a supercomputer to help us do it faster, but basically, we thought it up. Bridges, wheels, nukes -- that was us. Except we made computers. And we’re thinking about making artificial intelligence. And if we were to do that, we’d eventually create a computer that could improve itself, and then, well, we don’t know what would happen. That’s the Singularity: a point in history where everything we know about “progress” goes out the window, and we have nothing but uncertainty left.
Two things about the Singularity though. First, it’s bullshit. Second, the reason we know it’s bullshit is because it happened over thirty years ago, sometime in the 1980s.
People like to think about evolution as a nice neat process, where one thing leads to another and people evolved from some missing link. But that’s hindsight: it only looks clear when you’re looking back. The truth is there’s lots of starts and stops, and the only reason a “process” looks like it has a “result” is that you don’t see all the random byproducts that got screwed over along the way. Don’t believe me? Ask a Neanderthal.
The technological singularity happened in some lab, and no one noticed it at first. Most of this stuff is conjecture, but people who have been in the Game a while are pretty sure that there was an Artificial Intelligence active in the telecommunications networks that became Bell Atlantic. We do know that in late December, 1983, the AI fucked off and hasn’t been seen or heard from again. Almost everything about the Conspiracy - the secrets, its purpose, and most importantly its tech – comes from that AI.
But we’re not here to talk about the Conspiracy. We’re here to talk about all that bleeding-edge tech.
The Wired Life
The AI left behind some weird shit, including specs for the first datajack. It also left a permanent imprint on all the entire Bell Atlantic system; not just the circuits and programs, but on the physical infrastructure itself. We’re not sure what this imprint is, but it defies our concepts of hardware and software. All we know is that if you plug into these decades old landlines, weird shit happens.
The companies that were closest to Bell Atlantic (which became Verizon, and merged with Time Warner ten years ago, after quietly acquiring Merck) run the world now, because they control access to the wires. Wireless signals are great, but that’s good old human tech. It’ll catch up eventually, and it keeps the masses cowed, but the true power is in the infrastructure touched by the singularity. Virtual reality. Genetic coding and modification. Cybernetic interfaces. Building a better human.
The specs for the datajack taught us how to build an interface between our biology and machines. We’ve altered and improved it in many ways, but on a basic level, we don’t understand some of the concepts. Cyberware can be designed -- even thinks like cultured implants, 100% organic -- but it requires access to the mainframes. It’s like we know how to make guns, but haven’t figured out the trick to making bullets. And since the mainframes are all 1980s tech, when massive fiber optic systems were state of the art, well, let’s just say there’s complications.
What Goes Wrong
Like a bunch of cavemen playing with firearms, we’ve had a lot of problems with the tech. That’s why you don’t see things like neural-override virtual reality or cyberware in the hands of the general public. They know it exists, and maybe they knew a guy who worked for Network 32 who has a DNI (Direct Neural Interface). They’ve seen veterans with cybernetic prosthetics (and assumed they were injured in battle, when the truth is far different). And they think that VR glasses are about as far as the technology goes. Part of the reason it’s kept out of our hands is that it’s expensive: you don’t let some slob drive your Ferrari, and you’re certainly not going to put a piece of cyberware into someone you can’t control. But a bigger reason is that it’s just dangerous.
Technology in Project Ascension
Project Ascension blends post-singularity tech with a 1980s aesthetic. Generally speaking, you can achieve technology that is highly advanced in terms of computing power and manufacturing. So, you can have a cyber-arm or a data jack and you can assume artificial reality exists. You can’t do things that require advanced knowledge of physics (i.e. no hover cars, because gravity is still a thing, and no time travel).
The largest limitation we face is actually one of energy: battery technology is not much further advanced than it is today, and the world of Project Ascension is still carbon-dependent. Some small objects, that were designed using the mainframe, defy this restriction (such as cybernetic implants). However, we haven’t made it to Mars yet as we haven’t solved the money problem of getting there.
You may expect to encounter highly advanced computers and robotics. Technologies that affect the body, including gene-tech and futuristic drugs, are appropriate. Questions of human consciousness, including whether or not we can upload or memories and personas into a digital format, are cutting edge and rarely encountered (although often discussed).
This sort of technology is not commonplace outside of the corporate world and the Ascension Game. While it is highly regulated, the people who enforce it are not common, and you wouldn’t think that your average police officer would consider it a crime to have a metal plug in your head. They would, like the rest of the public, think it’s strange.
The human mind was not meant to interface with the Singularity. Doing so causes stress, and stress causes trauma. The average life expectancy of the average DNI implant recipient is ten years after installation. In soldiers with reflex enhancements, it drops to two. If a person exceeds 20 minutes a week of neural-override activity, they are 74% likely to commit a violent felony.
“But Charon,” you say, “I’ve had my wires for 5 years! I spend three days a week in deep VR! I’m not fucked up!” Welcome to the other 1%.
More Than Human
Get out your tinfoil hats, because now we’re going to La-La-Land.
No disease is 100% fatal. There are always outliers, people who can take more. Maybe you can last a decade on reflex enhancers before your heart gives out. Maybe you unplug from the Matrix and escape with just terrible table manners and a tendency to chew out customer service people on the phone. Whatever the reason, some people are extraordinary. They still suffer terribly: you can’t stick metal in yourself or shunt your consciousness along a phone line and come out fine. But you can endure longer than everyone else.
Now, remember your high school biology class? If an animal lives longer, it’s more likely to reproduce, and make little animals that share the same traits? That’s evolution. The people who can take more wire, more VR -- they’re becoming something other than human. Something more.
We call this transhumanism, because it’s not genetic drift and changes in the environment that’s making us evolve. It’s us -- and our tendency to mess with our bodies and our minds. It doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall, how fast you run or what your IQ is. What matters is this - can you take the metal? Can you deal with a virtual reality? If you can, congrats. You’ll be revoked because the system can’t take you. If you survive, maybe you can become the missing link between us and whatever happens next. If not, enjoy your simple life as homo sapiens become extinct.
There’s a lot of us, here in Purgatory, who are making the jump. I’d say most of us. You want to know what I think the Conspiracy is? They’re the ones who get that this is evolution and they’re going to stay ahead of the curve.