Trope-a-Day: Virtual Danger Denial

Virtual Danger Denial: Very strongly averted just about everywhere advanced, because this attitude coupled with ubiquitous computing and mind-machine interfacing, as well as when Everything is Online, is not survival-oriented, shall we say. (Yes, you can catch a fatal STI from cybersex.) In the modern world, you can safely assume that you are completely surrounded by computers which control just about everything going on in your vicinity, and anything that affects them will most definitely affect you.

And don’t even think about what an EMP would mean.

Trope-a-Day: Precrime Arrest

Precrime Arrest: Well, while this sort of thing is easy enough to do with behavioral analysis software and ubiquitous computing and AI monitoring and all the other appurtenances of Citizen Oversight, obviously you can’t arrest people before the crime, having a great and tremendous respect for free will and all. That would be very bad form indeed. (I mean, if they were certain to commit the crime, that would be fine: under Imperial notions of the legal causality of intent, that’s why you can arraign someone for murder even if they were stopped before proceeding, but if they haven’t committed to their mens rea yet, it’s not a crime even if it was very likely to be, and free-will choices in critical moments are awkward that way.)

But there’s ain’t no rule saying you can’t quietly park a UAV with a stunner, say, in the air over people who are very likely to be about to commit crimes just in case, or quietly take other precautionary measures. If it turns out they don’t – well, no harm, no foul. That’s not an accusation, it’s just probability-based policing.

Living Object Protocol

So, a little while back I was having this discussion (scroll down) regarding starships, and where exactly the seat of their identity might be said to lie, with particular reference to the Ship of Theseus problem.

And, as it happens, Imperial technology already has a thing or two to say on this sort of question. Let me tell you about living objects, and about the Living Object Protocol.

Of course, the first thing to say there is that while, technically, a “living object” is just an object that implements the Living Object Protocol, it’s still something of an obsolete term. This is the modern age, after all, and you’d have to go to some barbarous outworld to encounter an object that didn’t implement the Living Object Protocol. Even shrubs and rocks, thanks to the nanoecology, implement the Living Object Protocol. In practice, therefore, they’re just called “objects”.

So what is it?

It’s ubiquitous computing, the Internet of Things at its apogee. LOP turns the objects it’s applied to into smart, meshed (wirelessly connected to the dataweave and to objects around them), self-aware, location-aware objects.

At a minimum (the “base subset”) this supports limited self-knowledge. Every object is aware of its own identity (both hard-coded, by type, and whatever its owner names it); it is aware of its creator (designer and manufacturer); it is aware of its owner (and ownership history); and it is aware of its location.

(Which, as recent fic implies, makes it very hard to steal things if the owner left the ackles at default or set ‘em even half-sensibly. In some cases even more so – you stole someone’s phone? That’s not going to let you call anyone but Emergency Response. Steal their gun, and… well, let’s say getting into a firefight with that would be a real bad idea.)

Virtually every significant object – anything more than a bolt – comes with the “informational subset”, too, which in combination can tell you virtually everything about them; their user manuals and other documentation explaining how to properly use and care for them; customer support information and links to object-centric memeweaves; specifications and product data; maintenance procedures and history; manufacturing origins and components/ingredients; fabber recipes for customization; the purchase invoice; proper end-life procedures for recycling and/or disposal. Such documentation is self-updating, with information automatically appearing regarding product updates, recalls, and required service calls, along with geolinks to service centers or downloadable service packs.

Such objects are also readily searchable; it’s easy to track down your favorite mug with a simple query to your home dataweave for its location by name, or even for the locations of every object in your house identifying itself as a mug. Search engines can perform a similar task for objects in the broader world – at least, for objects that you own, or which are flagged for public accessibility.

With little effort, therefore, it’s easy to understand where and what anything is, when and where you got it, how much it cost, what it’s made from, where, and by whom, how to use it, how you should never use it, what other models are available, how it’s evolved from previous versions, how it might change in the future, what other users think about it and how they’ve tweaked it, what creative uses it’s been put to by heteroprax users, and how you might dispose of it safely.

More sophisticated objects also support the Interweave Command/Control Protocol (“WeaveControl”) enabling them to be controlled and commanded remotely, and providing access to both their internal diagnostics, and any sensors with which they’re equipped: your bath can report its temperature and the current water level; your chairs know who’s sitting in them; your milk bottles can tell you if the milk they contain is fresh; and so forth.

Objects which naturally come in groups support cooperative LOP and WeaveControl subsets to be queried or commanded as a group; of which the most obvious example is LOP enumeration. A handful of LOP-compliant Imperial coins, for example, can be ordered to count themselves and report their total value.

Likewise, hierarchical objects automatically cooperate and pass information up and down the hierarchy, the superior controlling and coordinating its inferiors. A vehicle or building’s structural members can cooperatively use their localizers to validate the structure against its blueprint, or compute current stresses and strains in the structure.

SO – in relevant context, want to know whose that starship is, or what that module was part of before you got it, or the maintenance history of that booster, or the fuel status of that drone, or the details of the current consist?

Ask it.

You’ll get a valid answer. The LOP protocols will reject any invalid transfers, identities, or assemblies you try to push through them. So it will always know…

Trope-a-Day: Made of Phlebotinium

Made of Phlebotinium: Well, while there are several kinds of phlebotinium around (see: Applied Phlebotinium) of one grade or another, the deprivation of most of which would certainly make the universe substantially less pretty and/or efficient, the two big ones from a “made of” point of view would be the Absolutely Ubiquitous Computing, which would have much the same “rocks fall, almost everyone dies” effects were it to suddenly go away as electricity suddenly stopping working in Real Life1, and the specific pieces of ontotechnology responsible for the creation of stargates and tangle channels, without which – and thus with all communications and transport restricted to sub-light speeds – the galactic community would look very different indeed.  Indeed, if you delete the tangle channels (which allow real-time communication once you lob them at each other subluminally) as well as the stargates, there’s unlikely to be much of a galactic community, or much in the way of a “star nation” except very loose federations of subluminally-established colonies, bound together by information updates and data trade.

(1. ObVious reference example here: A Fire Upon The Deep, and the Countermeasure.)

Trope-a-Day: Friendly Fireproof

Friendly Fireproof: Your modern weapons, seeing as they contain fairly sophisticated software and personal-area network integration, tend to come with FFI (Friendly Fire Inhibition) to ensure that this is realized in real life; they just plain won’t fire at targets positively identified as friendly.

(Yes, of course there’s an override mode.  There’s also a fancier civilian model that prevents you from firing if the collateral damage you might do exceeds the amount your tort insurer would be willing to pay for.)

Of course, all guarantees are off when it comes to grenades or other area-effect weaponry…

The Most Fundamental Assistance

I watch the two of them move through the misty streets from my seat in the café, while I wait for the thin rain to stop.  The one, tall, pale and dark in the manner of the eseldrae – and clad in rather a nice set of blue-black formal robes, too – but with the very distinct no-expression and flickery eye-hand motions of someone very much occupied with their augmentality feeds, and yet somehow smoothly staying on course; the other, much more alert, trotting at his heels and weaving in and out of obstacles to stay close, golden fur obscured by panniers stuffed with…

Wait, is that a whisker laser reflecting off the droplets?  On a hunch, I call up the local network overlay.  Ah, dedicated high-bandwidth links.  Well, that’s nothing I’ve seen before.

A thinking-brain dog.