Trope-a-Day: Slipping a Mickey

Slipping a Mickey: The reason why v-tag poison detectors are built into bar glasses, finger-rings, and suchlike all over the place.  Of course, given the social conditions of the happy utopian Empire, not more than one in a billion of these things ever triggers, and most of those are false positives, but still.  Trivial security enhancements are trivial.

Trope-a-Day: In Space Everyone Can See Your Face

In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Averted, for all the practical reasons mentioned.  In practice, augmented reality v-tags – actually, the standard public identity tag – tell you who is who, and those who want to can use supplementary v-tags to indicate their current emotional state, etc., and perform other expressive tasks.

(The running lights on spacecraft also mentioned?  There for close orbital operations and for the benefit of the crew when they have to go clamber about on the hull to do maintenance, including such things as delineating the – very hot – radiative striping so you don’t accidentally step on it.  You can turn it off quite happily outside those circumstances, although a lot of captains don’t simply because with the energy budget of your average modern spacecraft1, there’s really no point in making the trivial saving of turning the lights off.  Besides, someone might have a telescope aimed at you, and programming this gorgeous paint job wasn’t cheap, y’know?)

1. i.e., running on fusion, with thus-generous power budget. This was not the historical case back in the fuel-cells-and-solar-panels days.

Trope-a-Day: The Faceless

The Faceless: Lots of people who, for one reason or another, need to go around all day wearing environmental/vacuum suits for one reason or another.  (Although facial-expression v-tags are quite common to reduce the effect of appearing to have no expression.)

Also, more than a few infomorphs who are not only faceless, but also bodiless.  Although keeping communicating in this way, special circumstances aside, betrays either an appalling lack of grasp on biosapience psychology, or else just plain rudeness.

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.

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

This Is Your Brain On Data


A mental condition caused by intelligence enhancement, infostarvation is the result of the capacity of the mind to process information exceeding the bandwidth available to it to access information, leading to, in effect, intense boredom – if not of the whole mind, at least of part of it.

While this was not unknown in the early days of intelligence enhancement, it is rarer in modern times which permit additional I/O bandwidth to be added to the brain, often in the form of dataweave connectivity; and which permit parallel metacortical threads and exoself agents to be spun-down as needed. However, it remains possible for infostarvation to be triggered by travel to areas either of constrained bandwidth or lacking in network connectivity, since it is easily possible for modern core intellects to exceed the capacity of natural sensoria.


A morbid or pathological fear of not knowing things, commonly experienced by members of cultures in which use of group shared-memories, mnemonic interfaces (permitting one to remember reference material as if it was part of one’s own memory), neural interfaces, or even wearables is widespread upon visiting less developed cultures where compatible V-tags and reference databases for everyday objects and individuals are not available; the phobia itself is triggered upon encountering unknown individuals and non-described objects. Specific symptoms include compulsive memorization of any available reference material, undue social and technical awkwardness, denial, and flight response.

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed.