(some reading notes)
Crucially, the weapons became more autonomous, able to independently observe, orient, decide, and act, vastly speeding up and magnifying their abilities. Requiring an explicit decision from a human slowed them down, and so that requirement was gradually abandoned. Human supervisors no longer pressed the trigger; instead, they were left only with a veto to stop their weapons from firing.
There is nothing difficult about performing simple euphoric gastronomy. With some effort and discipline, one may become quite proficient in tailoring the right drugs to the right food. In this book and its accompanying simulations, I will show you how to create heretofore unimaginable culinary experiences.
The conspiracy theories don't end there. The extra attention and resources applied to the 'whales' — new kinds of planets, tailored solar systems, personalised civilisations — means that they spend massive amounts of time playing the game. Could Super Thermal actually be trying to harm or control these players? I don't see it myself, but there's a reason why the AU has revived talks about getting the Samyn-Harvey gaming addiction legislation passed.
There are 149 trillion square metres of land on Earth, all captured, rendered, and analysed as a unique object many times over, known to us as a string of numbers and glyphs. Every patch of dirt at the base of a tree, every doorstep where lovers first met, every boulder and rock that has never been touched: we will give nothing and everything a name.
Rechartered cities, on the other hand, were much more modest and local in scope. Under the Hakodate model, which was approved by referendum in 2044, the municipal government invited trusted foreign co-ops, missions, and nonprofits to establish long-term presences in the city. In exchange for more streamlined and lenient laws concerning use of air, land, spectrum, and drones, the organisations were expected to undertake worthwhile projects for the benefit of the city. These were frequently very lively projects; rewilding, environmental remediation, carbon capture, transportation upgrades, massive art installations, testbeds for experimental technologies and algorithms, and the like.
Simply undertaking the induction course didn’t guarantee that an individual would 'consummate', so the CCM set up precisely targeted real-world social networks to provide essential human support, particularly during the imprinting period. The CCM understood how Christianity itself first spread during the Apostolic Age through hundreds of small gatherings, and accelerated that process by multiple orders of magnitude with the help of network technologies.
His personal hygiene was hardly perfect, but I'd seen and smelt worse. His clothes weren't particularly old or dirty. While he often had a surly attitude, I had never seen it cause any serious fights or arguments. All of this is to say that I couldn't point to any specific reason for why he was being downvoted by passers-by; it was the combination of his overall demeanour and personality that put people off.
A liberal person, on hearing 'discrimination', will naturally think of sexism or racism, or these days, sentism, all of which have their devils and their champions. They will not think of the low-level, murky discrimination that the downvoted experience, even though it is equally illegal. They will assume that these problems ought to be impossible, thanks to our right to see and to remove any personally identifying information held on us by corporations.
Climate change income transfers via the United Nations Carbon Tax programme have mostly been funneled into dronedrops of food and manufactured goods. These have helped to reduce extreme poverty levels by almost half, although at the expense of depressing the local economy. That said, there have been some notable economic successes, including the remote tourism project at Kibira National Park and the Distributed Technical College of Gitega.
It was in this shifting environment that the Second Berne Convention began in 2032, with the goal of devising a new international copyright system. After three weeks of fruitless negotiation, little was agreed other than to hold an extended 'copyright congress' that included all relevant parties — and so the Long Congress began, eight years of ideological battles and horse-trading.
Rather than advocating for the abolition of copyright, they argued for a return to the rules seen in the 18th and 19th centuries: a 14-year term, renewable only once, with the requirement that all copyrighted works also be easily licensed. This became known as 'classic' copyright. Other provisions limited the ability for corporations to indefinitely trademark characters or ideas — a crucial factor for the reuse of characters such as Mickey Mouse.
Weak epistemic closure was not a new phenomenon, but it took on a new guise as the internet allowed people to pick and choose their news sources and communities at will. The most niche beliefs could find a safe harbour online, and even relatively small communities could wield disproportionate political or economic power. Researchers at the time understood that epistemic closure afflicted even highly intelligent people, so ‘more education’ didn't seem like a particularly useful solution. However, sociologists at Heidelberg believed that promoting 'memetic diversity' might be more effective.
With the SMP map completed, the Heidelberg team addressed their next question: how could they increase memetic diversity? In search of answers, they tested thousands of 'diversification strategies' on unwitting subjects. One strategy used AI agents to manipulate online discussions towards considering new forms of gun control; another engineered out-of-context problems in tight-knit communities opposed to marriage contracts. Yet more experiments modified memes to make them more acceptable to isolated communities, or tailored to create novel carriers for them.
If forensic linguistics is the pursuit of identifying the author of a text by means of comparing it to a wider body of work, then reverse forensic linguistics, or RFL, is the creation of original texts based on a complete knowledge of an author's work. The larger the corpus, the better the results
The Observavi Machine's purpose was more troubling than its predictions of natural disasters and competition winners; it anticipated a time when free will, predestination, and human manipulability might become fundamental problems. The simplest AIs of the time were able to identify and predict basic human behaviour from just a handful of data, and the Machine was a natural — if accelerated — amplification of their powers.
Here's how the Constitutional Blueprint worked: it analysed leading constitutional and legal drafts and simulated how they might affect the workings of a country in vividly drawn scenarios. Some constitutions might have fixed-term elections, others might call for a basic minimum income, yet others for strict environmental regulations. Each constitution was put through the wringer in imaginary booms, busts, disasters, elections, and wars.
They were a century late, but the gleaming dreams of the 1950s and 60s finally came true. By 2050, space travel was at that delicate moment between adventure and commonplace, a time when tens of thousands lived and worked in orbit, and millions travelled up and down the gravity well in spaceplanes, laser launchers, and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) rockets.
should OAIDs act only to prevent the imminent threat of violence against individuals, or should they (and their operators) aim to reach back further to the root cause of the violence, up to and including preventative detention and assassination?
At this early stage, R2PI via OAID deployment has not lived up to all the promises of its initial proponents. Both sides can point to major successes and failures, and its future use has become complicated due to factors such as: disputed notions of sovereignty; universal availability of cheap and basic drone weaponry (although newer high-energy weapons and petapixel surveillance somewhat counteract this); legitimate privacy and surveillance concerns; and the development of advanced ethics technology.
Even the earliest clinical prototypes gave wearers an unprecedented level of simulated sensory exchange, allowing them to see, smell, feel, hear, and taste almost anything. After only a decade of development, they could be used by individual wearers to issue commands, process information, and store memories at a speed that exceeded all but the most experienced unlaced amplified teams.
Like all bubbles — Tulip mania, the South Sea bubble, the Internet bubble — the Brain Bubble began with a new product that fulfilled a genuine human demand in an innovative way: the Neural Lace. And like all bubbles, the value of that product became unmoored from reality, sailing far beyond its intrinsic value amid irrational exuberance from speculators, and ultimately — inevitably — sinking to the depths
There were already a few dozen androids and humans in civil unions across the world, but none had bothered to go through with a wedding, so Amanda and Martin's ceremony was of some note. They allowed a small cloud of reporter drones to observe and happily answered their more polite questions. There were no protesters — this was England, after all.
The purpose of the Farsight Foundation is to recognise and reward the politicians and public administrators who have made difficult decisions — decisions whose effects can only be evaluated many years or decades after any potential short-term political gain.
Amid the hubbub, Ibanez successfully petitioned for the ‘Space Resiliency’ budget to be maintained while almost all others were cut. Her advocacy of research into keeping critical orbital resources including weather, communication, and power satellites available even in the aftermath of a freak solar storm or similar major disaster unequivocally showed its value in 2052, following the Cascade.
The Work wasn't the most ambitious documentary mega-project of the mid-century; the Total History Initiative, the Systemic Memome Project, and the WideArch Project were all indisputably more far-reaching. What made The Work unique was the breadth of its membership, which included children and teenagers.
If The Work was to accurately depict professions throughout the ages, it would need to employ children. This was not without some controversy. Even as young people around the world gained more rights, and laws regarding compulsory schooling were loosened in the mid 21st century, many adults still believed they were incapable
In the beginning, there were too many questions and too few answers. This made some people sad. They wanted to know how they could make more money, or move faster, or kill people more easily, or make people feel better. They wanted to know how the world worked. They wanted more answers faster than ever
When Selinger confirmed the accusation, people quickly divided into two camps. In the first were those who felt that the 'inauthentic' nature of Selinger's humanitarian impulses meant that the award should be retracted, despite the good results of his work. Moral agents had their place as learning and instruction tools for convicted criminals or those at the far ends of the neurodiverse spectrum, but 'normal' people should only use them sparingly and on occasion; certainly not all the time. Such users didn't deserve special credit for actions taken by following their instructions.
Later in his life, Selinger revealed to a friend that his moral agent was programmed with an unusual mix of utilitarian philosophy, buttressed with teachings from a Universalist agent. Crucially, it emerged that he himself had been tinkering with the agent's code over time, adding and subtracting new values.
By the mid-60s, it was common for children to grow up with constant moral agent instruction. So what if Selinger had a half-introself, half-exoself, potentially compromised/enhanced moral compass? Humans have been externalising parts of their bodies and minds for millennia. Moral agency was merely the latest step.
What made the 21st century? You could say that it was the Century of the Mind, given our new understanding of the human brain and the blossoming of AI. You could say it was the Century of Equality, thanks to the great strides made against sexism, racism, and income inequality. Or perhaps you could say it was the Century of the New Frontier, with the explosion of intelligence across the solar system. But human-created climate change may trump them all. It scarred Earth in a way that will still be seen millions of years into the future, our most wretched legacy to our descendants. Even with our very best mitigation and geoengineering efforts, even with diligent and optimistic de-extinction programmes such as the 500 Project, we will never be able to restore all of the thousands of extinct species and ruined ecosystems to what they once were. And what of our inheritance?
Once the most acute effects of the Rise had passed, the Flotillas gradually dissolved into their thousands of constituent units. The world shifted to a new phase of extended crisis, throwing power and resources into rebuilding a more resilient, decentralised, multiply-redundant society. No-one wanted rescuing again. No-one wanted to be at the mercy of the climate any longer.
You've always liked posthumans — enough to want to become one. But no amount of Ceretin or cram sessions have helped you qualify for the transition centres. You didn't get into Undhagen or the IIS or Clavius. You spent a long time revising, training, trying — and failing. You took all those magstim therapies to boost your scores, at great risk to your own health, and all of it was for nothing.
Many other places had already been rewilded by then; the Area de Conservación Guanacaste in Costa Rica and a substantial part of the North American Great Plains had been restored to a wilderness state in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the latter case, a number of Pleistocene species were controversially introduced by the 500 Project, including the onager, the grey wolf, and the African lion (standing in as the American lion).
They say it all started in during the 1990s, when software began to eat the world. It ate up our wasted time. It ate up our spare time. It ate up our working time. And it ate up our agency.
Programming has always been about solving people’s problems. One of the biggest problems out there is the fact that only programmers can make software. How do you solve that? You make software that lets non-programmers write their own software — and in doing so, you don’t just solve a few people’s problems — you solve everyone’s problem.
She told me a story about a civil war among the SETI AIs after they discovered her supposed Cepheid signal; that 'Stephen' and 'Boulogne' had wanted to tell the world, and that 'Matilda' and 'Gloucester' had wanted to cover it up and keep it for themselves. They thought the humans wouldn't understand what they'd found in the signal.
Glory is a Rovane-type group mind that meets the conditions of ethical personhood and agency. Glory comprises 245 individuals, but that total may increase or decrease over time. Under what conditions should Glory be considered to have become a different person or to have ‘died’? How do these conditions differ from those applying to non-group minds?
The investigations widened amid concerns that the 'rogue terraformers' responsible for the cooling may have employed other strategies besides the reflectors. Researchers looked into whether anyone was currently manipulating the orbits of asteroids to introduce water and hydrogen to the planet (alarmingly, yes); growing tweaked organisms to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (no, probably because they would be too unreliable); and deploying an enormous solar shade at the L1 point (no, much too obvious).
After a brief obsession with man-made stations and spacecraft, everyone realised that it made far more sense to just hollow out one of the thousands of suitable rocky asteroids in the Belt, spin it up to produce a comfortable gravity — typically a shade lower than 1G — fill it with organics and water mined from nearby, string a fusion-powered lightline through the centre, and seed it with bacteria, algae, plants, fish, animals, birds, and anything else you might want to throw in. Many biomes would aim for an 'Ascension' mix that included endangered and recovered species, but not all were so concerned with Earth’s problems.
Given the number of life-bearing extrasolar planets we've discovered lately, are we really to believe that we're the only civilisation in the history of the entire universe that can run simulations? I like to think that some other hapless civilisation got the job done a few hundred megayears ago and now the rest of us can get on with enjoying life.
It's not really the Speeky that's talking — conversational-level AI was still almost two decades off in 2014. It's not reading from a script, either, because I can ask it quite a wide range of questions, like whether I should go to the park or the beach today, and it'll give me appropriately personalised responses that take into account previous conversations I've had with it. You see, the Speeky isn't a toy so much as a puppet controlled by an operator who might be anywhere from next door to the other side of the planet.
"The Guide directly addressed the lack of community and purpose felt by many in rich countries experiencing the 'speed-up'. Traditional religious groups were too conservative to take full advantage of new technology, and the corporations and organisations that did have the expertise simply couldn’t comprehend or weren't interested in more spiritual matters. Moreno's background as a hybrid developer-guru marked a genuine turning point."
Members of the Braid received a very modest stipend on joining, enough for them to dedicate at least a day a week to honing their craft. They were assigned mentors who encouraged them to regularly post projects on the Braid's crowdfunding platform. Non-profits and successful members provided matched funding to novices' projects, and the reinvestment of profits from successful projects helped keep the community going. It grew slowly but steadily, and after a decade had come to rival the ailing publishing industry in both size and influence.
'Cognitive entanglement' was a term used to describe how young people used SMSes to share thoughts and moods in a way that seemed like telepathy. We use the term in a very different way today, but it's easy to see how startling this new mode of communication must have been to adults who had previously used laborious interfaces such as keyboards and screens to talk to one another. It must have been deeply unnerving for them to see groups of completely silent teenagers abruptly bursting into laughter or performing some other kind of co-ordinated behaviour with no warning whatsoever
Another unexpected side-effect of the explosion in SMSes was that conversations and thoughts that had previously gone unrecorded were now made permanent, if not necessarily public. Beyond the expanded surveillance and censorship that this enabled, they aggravated the problems faced by corporations, and particularly financial firms, that tried to avoid recording any potentially illegal conversations. Some resorted to the obvious tactic of banning SMSes, but this usually slowed down their operations to an unacceptably uncompetitive level. If you wanted to work, you had to be proficient with SMSes.
Today we might pity those who never had access to personality reconstruction, desire modification, and metacognitive mapping, but it's easy to forget that mind-altering substances have for a long time brought a cruder kind of relief and variety to our lives. From alcohol and caffeine to cannabis and amphetamines, we've never lacked ways to both stimulate and relax our minds.
What's extraordinary about these drugs is that their inventors actually had very little idea about how they operated. Scientists in 2019 could observe their effects and check for any harmful side-effects, and they had hypotheses about their method of action, but they would lack anything even approaching a complete model of the brain for at least another decade.
I could be describing a scene from Imperial China a thousand years ago, back when exams served as a way to test and select candidates for government positions, but I'm actually talking about the British A-Level exams in 2019. Oddly, the creators of these exams acted as if study and work were solitary pursuits that depended largely on rote memorisation. Clearly this has never been the case, but in the age of the internet and the dawn of ubiquitous connectivity it had become a dangerous falsehood.
Being locked inside a hostile virtual reality simulation easily ranks among the worst nightmares invented in our century. Today we have strict laws regulating the use of locked sims, laws that are baked into hardware and enforced by severe punishments. Locked sims have very few legitimate uses outside of specialised therapy, but unfortunately they have plenty of illegitimate uses, interrogation being foremost among them.
In the early 21st century, governments in disaster-prone areas such as Japan and California had long held regular disaster drills and encouraged citizens to prepare disaster supply kits. Unfortunately, this assumed that people would have the time, money, and inclination to buy and assemble a kit, which was sadly proven wrong time and time again.
These advances didn't come about without a massive human cost: millions of people working in the transportation industry lost their jobs to UCS and its competitors in the 20s and 30s. While deliverbots weren't as versatile as human workers, they were much cheaper and rapidly consumed the most profitable parts of incumbents' transportation and retail businesses. Looking back, it's clear that the social upheaval and increasing inequality resulting from the job losses contributed to the demand for basic minimum income that spread across the world in later years.
Most conversations people overheard weren't valuable to them or to anyone they personally knew. But some entrepreneurs understood the corollary: that all conversations are valuable to someone. They became 'conversation brokers' and created a huge market that was constantly being supplied with new eavesdropped and streamed conversations. Unscrupulous journalists bought conversations of confidential chats and phone calls; blogs bought every word said by celebrities; corporate espionage firms bought the private conversations of important executives. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up with the brokers within days of their launch, salivating at the prospect of big payouts if they happened to record the right people.
Our ‘object’ is the founding document for an organisation that might once have seemed wholly pointless — a company that didn't last for decades or years or even months, but just two weeks. It was called 46 Central Green. 46 Central Green wasn't a shell company or a holding company, nor a convenient legal fiction for the shuttling around of assets or rights; it had real, human employees from Cordoba, Santiago, and Madrid. Like other 'real' companies, it created a real product, sold it, made a profit, and then dissolved itself — it just did it much faster than normal.
Of all the things we covet — power, money, possessions — there is one that remains stubbornly elusive: attention. A finite resource that must be husbanded carefully, attention cannot be increased
Today, these assumptions of unitary and stable identity seem quaint, but they were fiercely argued at the time; you don't give up thousands of years of tradition and law on a whim. Questions of liability had to be thrashed out in courts around the world, and new applications had to be found before mimics could fully flourish. While most users initially hired instant expertise, in the long run it was the sharing of expertise that mattered most, along with the construction of ‘amalgamated’ expert mimics that were useful across a broad spectrum of situations.
Along with the traditional oil extracting states, the 'algal boom' also harmed the fortunes of global energy companies such as Shell and BP. While you might not have been able to tell from their PR campaigns, their profits still largely came from oil. A few farsighted energy companies rode the boom by investing in biofab startups and algal infrastructure, but adapting to the new world of decentralised research and power generation proved too much of a shock for most of the oil majors. The introduction of the global carbon tax in 2025 was the beginning of the end.
For a brief time Kevin Wing, CEO of UCS-FedEx, was the world’s 16th richest person. His face was captured in countless photos, games, movies, and plays, but the most enduring image of Wing must be him clad in a spacesuit, giving a thumbs-up as the crescent curve of Mars drifts above him. When he landed on Earth two years later, casually sipping from a glass of water refined from Deimos, a Martian