Yeah, Maybe Not That Short

Academician Sesca Galith stepped up behind the podium, and tapped it gently to begin. The audience quieted rapidly as she held up a wickedly-pointed poniard, of oddly-textured metal, with lights gleaming white and amber in its hilt, whose image was repeated on the displayed behind her.

“Presenting, gentlesophs, the latest in field interrogation technology from Eye-in-the-Flame’s cognitive weaponry division. This little tool is our ripknife, a guaranteed instrumentality for extracting information when it is both necessary and urgent. Using a nanitic burning-scan reader, when emplaced in the cerebral cavity of a target via some vulnerable aperture or thinness, the ripknife creates a high-resolution destructive scan of the neural network of their brain’s essential regions, then uploads it via your tactical mesh network to your battlespace command center. There, static mind-state analysis or fork interrogation using our patented NEUROLAUNDRY ™ software will lay your target’s secrets bare within minutes, and relay useful information back to you over the mesh. There is no better way to ensure field data acquisition proceeds rapidly enough to keep you inside the opposition’s command-and-control loop –”

A grizzled kaeth in the audience coughed. “Doc, we’re all just simple mercenaries here. Give us the short version?”

“Find someone knowledgeable on the other side, then stick it through the eye socket and wait until the light turns blue. Ignore the dripping. Then you know what they know. Knew.”

 

23 thoughts on “Yeah, Maybe Not That Short

  1. Now what sort of countermeasures are undoubtedly in place to keep this from being effective against an Imperial legionnaire? 😉

    Furthermore, can the mechanism be miniaturized and put in a projectile — maybe even one that works as an “aggressor” version of the standard-issue bug-out device, except it routes the signal to your dedicated transceiver instead of theirs?

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    • Oh, there are definitely countermeasures. And counter-countermeasures, and counter-counter-counter-measures, as the eternal war between offense and defense continues apace…

      (But I will go so far as to say that the people willing to put vest-pocket antimatter bombs in their brains for cognitive security purposes have a distinct advantage in this realm…)

      As for the projectile version: probably. It’d have to be a slow projectile, though – it’s hard to get much of a neural map off brains that have been splattered over the nearest wall or pre-jellied inside the skull – which would be hard to make armor-piercing. Not impossible, though.

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  2. Hm. I once cooked up something similar for high-tech cyberpunk-ish GURPS and Eclipse Phase. It was colloquially known as “icepick” and originally designed as an one-shot emergency upload tool (ie. cases of unsalvageable gross trauma with more-or-less intact head and ticking clock) carried by ambulances and high-end emergency medkits. But again “street finds it’s own uses for technology”, giving the gadget a distinctly two-edged reputation…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And now the $64 question: What sort of considerations would I have to keep in mind if I-as-private-citizen wanted one of these things for my own self-defense?

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      • The ripknife. You’ve already implied elsewhere that (at least in Imperial space) the brain-nuke is already standard issue, so that would be trivial.

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        • (Not so much standard issue. The man on the Imperial street doesn’t feel much of a need even for a bugout device, never mind an autoretaliator. Those who go forth into The Outer Darkness Wherein There Are States And Barbarians, on the other hand…)

          As for considerations – well, it’s not like there are any restrictions on buying one, and it’s also not like you have to justify it for any particular purpose. If you want it, you can have it, and the software that goes with it, too.

          Now, if you actually use the thing and claim self-defense, that your forward planning apparently centered around using a hilariously inappropriate specialized interrogation tool (whose intended functionality is very unlikely to qualify) for self-defense instead of any one of hundreds of more appropriate options is likely to encourage the court to examine your case with a more jaundiced and skeptical eye than it might otherwise, on the grounds that that’s a definite articulable suspicion and maybe even probable cause to believe that you intended to be up to some shady shit, there. Which outcome, y’know, might be worth considering in advance.

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          • Would a similar sort of logic apply to preferring “self-defense” weapons that are clearly made to cause gratuitous amounts of pain, suffering, and “chunky salsa” to the victim rather than killing them outright quickly and efficiently?

            Or, for that matter, even apart from the question of the tools used, can someone with a clear mens rea be held criminally liable even if the act itself would normally be considered above-board — such as in the case of a Dexter Morgan-style high-functioning, scrupulously squeaky-clean Pay Evil Unto Evil serial killer who conveniently always happens to be around when someone is violating (even accidentally) someone else’s rights to stop them with lethal force, but is doing it for decidedly less ethical reasons than the modal Imperial?

            (i.e. Someone whose typical inner narrative says “Thanks, I needed an excuse to let loose!” rather than “I must stop this evil at all costs!”)

            …Actually, generalizing from that, which do the eldrae consider to be worse in general: Doing the Wrong Thing for the Right Reasons, or Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons?

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            • (3/3)

              Actually, generalizing from that, which do the eldrae consider to be worse in general: Doing the Wrong Thing for the Right Reasons, or Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons?

              This is really an apples-to-oranges comparison, they would say, inasmuch as the former is a defect of intellect and the latter a defect of ethics, but in practical terms, at least the Right Thing got done in the latter case. Of course, in the latter case, the Right Thing got done mostly by chance and a lot of Wrong Things are certain to also be done, and in the former case, the doer is likely to do mostly the Right Things, except in case of persistent and therefore unforgiveable stupidity-nigh-insanity, so the previous  shallow analysis is essentially useless. In conclusion: generalities murky, ask again later.

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            • (1/3)

              Would a similar sort of logic apply to preferring “self-defense” weapons that are clearly made to cause gratuitous amounts of pain, suffering, and “chunky salsa” to the victim rather than killing them outright quickly and efficiently?

              The latter, no: since the Empire considers a self-defense law that requires one to act out bad horror-movie clichés to be a bad law, chunky-salsa all you want, pace the stringencies of collateral damage. If you feel you need to shoot Mr. Robber in the face with a myrmidonic carbonizer, anti-materiel rifle, or other overkill of choice to offset the accustomed-to-violence differential, the courts aren’t going to armchair-quarterback you.

              The former, even more so: torture is very definitively illegal. If you can’t provide a really good justification for your choice that passes alethiometric analysis, like, say, happening to be walking through the local military museum’s gallery of prohibited weapons and being compelled to promptly defend yourself with the first thing you could pick up from their display of algetic whips or crawler needlers, this case will not end well for you.

              (It won’t end well for your attacker, either, but then, the Curial courts have never had any problem finding both parties guilty when both parties happen to be guilty.)

              Liked by 1 person

              • Re that last point: Does that hold in the civil realm as well? Do the Imperial courts have an established doctrine of applying comparative and contributory negligence when appropriate?

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            • (2/3)

              Or, for that matter, even apart from the question of the tools used, can someone with a clear mens rea be held criminally liable even if the act itself would normally be considered above-board — such as in the case of a Dexter Morgan-style high-functioning, scrupulously squeaky-clean Pay Evil Unto Evil serial killer who conveniently always happens to be around when someone is violating (even accidentally) someone else’s rights to stop them with lethal force, but is doing it for decidedly less ethical reasons than the modal Imperial?

              For strictly legal purposes, there ain’t no mens rea unless there’s an actus reus.

              Leaving aside the various issues surrounding “even accidentally”, if you’re hanging out in a hypothetical bad neighborhood and shooting shady folks in the commission of their special crimes, that’s within the bounds of “defense of self and others”, so no crime has been committed – and with no actus reus, there’s no cause to go inquiring into mens rea.

              Ethicists, philosophers, acquiescents, and the Guardians of Our Harmony, now, they may concern themselves with the virtue of your motives – but the Curial courts are there to judge your praxis, not the state of your soul.

              (Side note: it may also be worth reflecting on the various Sargases and their turning of their inherited pathologies to literally good ends…)

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              • Let’s say, though, that it becomes an issue questionable enough that the Court has to ask for an alethiometric scan and examination, even if the defendant is ultimately exonerated.

                Even if, in his capacity as an agent of the Curial court, the judge can’t take that into account if no actual wrong was committed, would they (or, perhaps more relevantly, the people actually conducting the examination) have the latitude to, say, take the person in question aside and tell them “Hey, you should really get this checked out before it gets you in real trouble?” Are there any extra-judicial concerns they might pass on to those groups so concerned and mentioned (Guardians of Our Harmony, etc.), or something they can do to possibly tell others that it might be a good idea to put this particular person under a little more scrutiny than normal (under the constraints of legal bounds and contractual obligations, of course)?

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                • I would guess that the various social karma / wuffi / reputation scoring providers would start giving someone imitating the the hobbies Marvel(r) Punisher(tm) some very very interesting rep-net scores.

                  And keeping your “secret identity” is going to be a non-starter in any advanced world or hub. Hell, keeping a comic book style secret identity is now probably impossible in our world now.

                  I suppose going out to some outer world and playing superhero it could be a way for an Imperial with a taste for mayhem to go have some fun.

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                • Let’s say, though, that it becomes an issue questionable enough that the Court has to ask for an alethiometric scan and examination, even if the defendant is ultimately exonerated.

                  That’s actually pretty routine in court cases in general.

                  Any such thing that comes out in court will be in the copy of the records to which all parties of the case are entitled. Intelligent defendants take note.

                  Anyway, they can’t pass on such instructions to other groups: that’d qualify as extra-judicial punishment, or at the very least distinctly lacking in that spotless propriety with which the courts, as the rest of the governance, are obliged to conduct their affairs.

                  Which doesn’t mean that the Guardians of Our Harmony or, for that matter, tort insurers don’t take particular notice of people whose names are mentioned in the public records of trials conducted when it’s time for a routine audit, either, of course.

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              • More pointedly and particularly: Could you still be up on some sort of manslaughter (soph-slaughter?) charge at the very least if it came to light during the investigation that, while on the face of it the immediate circumstances make it look like a “clean shoot,” a broader examination of the context reveals that you were basically stalking the victim and looking for a good excuse?

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                • If you had a good excuse, legally speaking, it was a clean shoot. That you happened to be in the neighborhood looking for one doesn’t change that.

                  Now, if there’re grounds to charge you with some sort of assault (by the Imperial legal definition of “To give an individual reasonable cause to suspect intent to violate their sophont rights, while physically or virtually present.”, which is what harassment/stalking-like things fall under), that’s another matter, but it also doesn’t change the above. One can be guilty and found guilty of the latter and still make a clean shoot.

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    • As a more general question, what sort of things would your average Imperial not be able to purchase for use in self defence (or whatever else)?

      I’m assuming there are some things which would have uninsurably large collateral damage risks and would be unpopular with your neighbours, like various kinds of nuclear weaponry. There are also things which are restricted by some kinds of treaty, like strangelets (lets leave aside the usefulness of a handheld strangelet dispenser for now). There are also things which are ethically unacceptable to the Imperium, like changeling AI guided weapons.

      Is there anything else that is actually forbidden, though?

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      • Forbidden, not so much. (Bear in mind that what makes changeling AI-guided weapons forbidden has essentially nothing to do with the “weapon” part; forbidding-wise, the exact same reasoning would apply to changeling AI-driven accounting software.)

        Technically, some things could be: the Charter strictly only protects the right to personal arms, as the editorial note at the link explains. In practice, they aren’t, on various grounds including but not limited to the notion that the crime is almost always in the use, not in the capability, and in civilized parts we don’t punish people for what they might theoretically be able to do.

        So in practice, it’s almost completely determined by your ability to pay the tort insurance costs associated with covering the risk – something that is widely variable across multiple factors: location, risk associated with not having it, safety features and cross-checks, your personal sanity index, etc., etc. If you want to own a large nucleonic weapon (as distinct from a device), say, the premiums can vary from fairly nominal – if, for example, you live in a low-population deep space habitat in a bad neighborhood – to eye-bleedingly spectacular and out of all practical reach – if, for example, you live downtown in a major city in the Core.

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        • changeling AI-driven accounting software

          I’m trying to figure out how that would actually work, and why I find the basic idea so doggone funny.

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  4. The idea of an antimatter brain nuke unnerves me slightly, especially in spacefarers. There’s that lingering thought of a stray galactic cosmic ray disencapsulating one of your carefully stored antiparticles and the whole ensemble “popcorning”.

    Also, I’d be leery about brain-ripping a member of the transcend, too. What comes out might look a lot like the output of destructive brainscan at first glance, but behave rather more like a horrifying mind-eating postsophont virus once you’ve opened it up. Who’d want to take that chance? Fuck ye not with the mindware of the weakly godlike, etc.

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    • The idea of an antimatter brain nuke unnerves me slightly, especially in spacefarers. There’s that lingering thought of a stray galactic cosmic ray disencapsulating one of your carefully stored antiparticles and the whole ensemble “popcorning”.

      The safety features are… impressive.

      Also, I’d be leery about brain-ripping a member of the transcend, too. What comes out might look a lot like the output of destructive brainscan at first glance, but behave rather more like a horrifying mind-eating postsophont virus once you’ve opened it up. Who’d want to take that chance? Fuck ye not with the mindware of the weakly godlike, etc.

      Indeed. The safety features are… impressive.

      🙂

      Like

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