The Glittering Web

Red-Gold Routes:Red-Gold Route, taking its name from the common practice of coloring the territorial volume of the Empire gold, or gold-bordered, and that of their satrapies and client states shades of red on political maps is, in definition, a long-distance route used by the the Imperial Merchant Navy in which all the ports of call are in Imperial territories, clients, or trade stations. This emphasizes not only the usefulness of the route as a means of connecting the Imperial metropole with the greater galactic empire, but also the strategic security of being able to connect (and travel between) distant possessions without having to rely on making stops in, or passing through the sovereign territory of, another polity. The definitive description of the Red-Gold Routes and their status is to be found in the navigational charts and rutters published by the Imperial Post-Courier Star Packet Company, ICC.

A similar term, the Red-Gold Beam, refers to the dataweave communications routes that allow packets to reach their destinations without ever transiting non-Imperial segments of the extranet (an option for which can be set in the routing headers). The communication lasers themselves, naturally, are frequency-multiplexed and are in any case invisible from off-axis.

See also: arterial; Far Star Station; Golden Band; Golden Interstar; Spice Way Program.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


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Other than the FTL squirt routers integrated into the stargates themselves, the most important parts of the interstellar communications infrastructure – and before it the interplanetary communications infrastructure – are each system’s relay stations.

Customarily located above and below the acme and nadir poles of the system’s primary star, relays are statites, hanging in position from and stabilized by variable-geometry solar sails. This positioning at a sufficient distance above and below the ecliptic gives them the best possible line of sight on every object on the system: stargates, planetary geostat constellations, major drifts, and starships operating in the normal (i.e., along the ecliptic) traffic lanes, with the minor exception of the most epistellar of planets, coronal habitats, and other sun-hugging operations.

While for the most part, intra-system networking is done using standard mesh protocols, coordinated via shortest-link routing protocols based on current light-lag, occultation ephemerides, and traffic-control data, the relay stations’ positioning enables them to serve as the route of last resort for all backbone traffic in the system. In particular, they handle traffic between planets and drifts currently on opposite sides of the primary, and interstellar traffic without an endpoint in the system; i.e., stargate-to-stargate traffic. In these functions, both relays function as load-balanced peers, although scaled such that each is capable of handling the total expected load alone if necessary.

The relay stations also function as management points for the interplanetary mesh, and as such at least one is continuously manned by a site systems administrator, usually an infomorph.

– IIP Elucidated, Volume I: Perspectives


Trope-a-Day: Internet Incorporated

Internet Incorporated: Averted in theory: both the Empire’s dataweave and the interstellar extranet are networks of networks, just like the Internet, operating in decentralized fashion, with no central company, organization, government agency, etc., which controls the whole of it. (Except locally in certain repressive polities.)

In practice, well, that being said, Bright Shadow, ICC does own the vast majority of the interstellar communications infrastructure and even a very large part of the local communications infrastructure inside the Core Economic Zone, and a good part of it elsewhere. But it’s not a legal monopoly or a central control – they’re just very, very good at what they do.

Trope-a-Day: The Alternet

The Alternet: Lots of them, if you will, independently invented on lots and lots of worlds. (The Empire’s version is the Dataweave, operating on IIP and mesh network principles.) And then there’s the extranet, which is the Internet-of-Internets that links all of these internets together, although in practice everyone refers to all the networks that aren’t their specific local one as “the extranet”.

It supports most of the same functionality and more (say, pervasive augmented reality, mindcasting, and exomemory transfer, to name three examples), although with certain limitations that the Internet generally doesn’t have to worry about, like light-lag [and the associated possibilities of fun with ansibles] and planetary alignments…

Trope-a-Day: Everything Is Online

Everything Is Online: Played entirely straight, including just about every piece of technology you can think of – infrastructure, houses, vehicles, appliances, even the simplest packaging will have at least an identity-location-and-v-tag beacon on it – and including people’s brains (which is where your modern chap keeps his PDA); all hooked up using pervasive wireless mesh networking.  Only the most paranoid of organizations or those working with incredibly dangerous technologies air-gap their networks, because it’s so incredibly inconvenient in the modern world.

But then, IIP is different from IP inasmuch as it has security baked right in – it’s impossible to send or receive any traffic, for one thing, that’s not all duly certified and encrypted and authenticated – and many of the network managers, routers, security systems, and so forth are artificially intelligent and quite capable of running their own little panopticon, so while it’s not impossible to perform great feats of hacking using Everything Is Online, it’s a damn sight harder to do than our Internet might make it look.

And there generally are local overrides, just in case.

Trope-a-Day: Contagious AI

Contagious AI: In its lesser form, this is weavelife, the mutated descendants of a million viruses and buggy software agents, that infests the less aggressively controlled parts of the dataweave (and, of course, pretty much every border zone of the extranet; lack of jurisdiction tends also to be lack of control) until the cycle scavengers and Virtual Immunity come a-reaping.  It tends to be studied by some computer scientists (infoxenologists) with much the same fascination as some biologists and epidemiologists study the microbial part of our ecosystem.

In its greater and fortunately very rare form, this is the perversion that one particular failure mode of an attempt at seed AI turned into, and it’s coming to eat your soul.  Or at least your mind-state, and not incidentally anything within reach of any automation it can manage to crack.

Seeing the Unseen

When I come home from my journeys abroad, I like to render all the layers visible, and spend a while just watching the world.

We are used to all things coming wrapped in information.  People are ringed by their p-tags – identity, claims of affiliation, reputation haloes shining or shadowy, current persona and embodiment, lifelog privacy status, projected-integrity mind-models, a dozen sopholinks to their personal memeweaves, socialgroups, game avatars.  The air is full of the sparkles of the public annotation and contract channels; a thousand thousand microblogs and notes and pictures and geolinks, and small deals and favors for the taking.  Facades from buildings to clothing are dressed up in augmented-reality shimmers.  Alternate views from dozens of cameras and sensors are yours for the asking.  Advertisements rewrite themselves to your preferences.

Almost every object around us self-knows, announcing what it is, whose it is, what it’s for, how to use it, of what it is made.  Roads know where they lead, and what is to be found along the way.  Books know the stories they tell, people’s opinions of them, offer copies of themselves to guest readers.  Paper can read itself, money can count itself.  Glasses know what drink they contain, and when they need refilling.  Food declares its suitability for your species, its contents, its freshness.  Every box can enumerate its contents – at least to its owner.  And even those objects that do not know themselves are still known; any interface worth its price can tag every passing plant with its species and uses, name all the stars in the sky, or paint the air itself with its pressure, temperature, constituents…  Even the dataweave below all this shows itself to the watching eye; its linkages glowing from infra to ultra with traffic from cell to cell, themselves surrounded with transparent wireless haloes.

It’s quite the light show.

We ignore most of it, of course.  You could drown in all the information the ‘weave shouts at you every moment of every day, however enhanced your mind.  But it’s always there, always available.  You always know that you can know.

Like air, like energy, like a handy cornucopia – you only miss it when it’s gone.

– from “Walking the Worlds”, Silvis Kelmaren’s travel blog