Thursday, September 29, 2016

Holographic Neural Interface Protocol (A Rampant Speculation)


     I can hear it now: “Another post? Really?”
Available now!
   As I continue work on the
Conjunction setting, RocketFans, I must continue to refine my future history to account for observable reality. For example, My A Class PatrolRockets are in the process of getting a weapons upgrade as information from the ultimate space combat sim, Childrenof a Dead Earth, becomes available. Apparently, railguns will be the weapon of choice in space, and even old-fashioned gun powder cannon will have a place. That’s something that’s been discounted since Malcolm Jameson’s articleSpaceWar Tactics appeared in Astounding in November 1939. This proved Heinlein’s axiom that all the theory in the universe doesn’t compare to one instance of getting in there and finding out.
     Or something.
Well, rock me to sleep tonight...
   Anyway, one of the major things I’m going to have to account for in my future history is the growing inevitability of what is coming to be known as the Economic Singularity. Basically, with the advent of reliable, easy to build and above all
cheap AI, the Luddite Fallacy is becoming less fallacy and more “oh crap, there are going to be no jobs no matter your education level in a few decades”. Idealists site this as the perfect opportunity for us to switch to Universal Basic Income economies so we can all relax and let the machines run things, and every person can be part of the aristocracy of the independently well-off. I’d like to think that would happen. I really would. But since AI security is going to be just as cheap as AI everything else, it will be more likely that the 1% who now literally own everything will invest in private armies to protect them and theirs from the starving masses that no longer have any use to them.
     Cynical? Moi?
     Joking aside, the future doesn’t look very sweetness-and-light when your future livelihood depends on the altruism of your average billionaire. I imagine many will either insulate themselves in ivory towers that soar behind thick walls, or...leave. Elon Musk, James Cameron etal. And who knows how many others that can afford it may pack up and go to Mars, mine asteroids, or something else. In fact, I’m depending on it, as one of these billionaires, the ficticious Walter Hopkins, will set up the Destiny Foundation by-and-by. I used to think that asteroid mining would be another development bubble, but if automation and AI really will run everything in a decade or so, then the demand for resources will increase exponentially. This includes metals, of course, but even moreso hydrocarbons...which is what Conjunction is all about.
     But what of us? The 99% who will be left behind, with no available employment, no government dole, and no value to the 1%?
Pictured: Maroua, Cameroon, 2016 or
Detroit, Former United States, 2036
   Realistically, a secondary economy will spout up in the cracks, turning out products by hand for people with no money to by robot-built stuff. This could be as low tech as turning spring steel from scrapped cars into tools, to running a 3D printer out of melted down shopping bags and stolen electricity. Money, now electronic and used to monitor everything you
purchase, will be replace by poker chips and other makeshift tokens. I see this kind of scenario as one of the only possibilities: if the mainstream economy excludes practically everybody, then everybody will have to make a new economy that exists outside the mainsteam.
And then there’s the hackers.
We already see lots of fun and games in the news from hackers doing everything from violating the sanctity of crypto-currency to potentially influencing rival nations’ elections. If this becomes the only way for non-billionaires to have any way to get manufactured products or legal tender, you can bet everyone with a computer is going to try their hand at hacking if they think they can get away with it. And everyone will have a computer.
     What are the powers-that-be going to do about it? Sure, sure, they have all those AI programs that do everything and many will be anti-virus-sooper-dooper-security-programs, but let us not forget, so will everyone else. With AI kernals being release open source and lots of tech sector professionals made redundant by said AI, the hackers will have AI of their own, and what with the open source movements of today and the very real need to do something in the future to put food on the table, there will be a run-away arms race between corporate AI and the disenfranchised. It may very well end up that there will be some form of Basic Income implemented to curb the desire to hack the system, at least among the folks who would be hacking just to survive, as a “cost of doing business” expense. But the desire to make a truly “hack-proof” system will be strong, and much, much more money will be spend on preventing security breeches than on bribing the masses to with Basic and Social Media.
This is were the real wild speculation starts.
     Cognitive improvements are considered an almost taboo subject among people. Of course, many people didn’t want to sell the farm and move to the city when the work dried up. Just like then, people are afraid of losing their familiar way of life. The Economic Singularity will eliminate the familiar way of life quite thoroughly, which will probably make many people cling to the familiar all the more. In the end, that won’t matter for many people. Just like working on Sundays (or Fridays or Saturdays, if you’re Muslim or Jewish respectively), people desperate for income will submit to things they normally would rather not.
...only in your head.
Now im
agine a set of cognitive upgrades that make it easier to direct-interface with computers. They let you actually “see” your social media feeds and YouTube videos without having to use an actual computer! Computers are now owned centrally; you just get the signal, but you have instant access to your favorite computer stuff! The best part is, the upgrades are free! Anyone receiving any kind of Basic Income will find that keeping their benefits will actually depend on getting said upgrades. Conspiracy buffs will moan that were are now monitored 24/7 – not only by camera and monitoring our computer usage, but now your very thoughts as well!
     The fact that this is to a certain degree true will make such conspiracy buffs even less well received than normal conspiracy buffs.
     Just what is the purpose of boosting the brainpower of the average citizen? Holographic Neural-Interface Protocol.

HNIP is a new programming language that allows data to be stored directly in the memories of humans with cognitive upgrades. What makes such an elaborate systems worth the time and effort is that the data is stored holographically – as in “brain holographically”, not “computer holographically”.  The entirety of a given network’s data is stored across the memories of all of the people in the network. While each individual brain theoretically has all of the data, the data lacks the resolution to be accessed – the a holographic image of a rose that’s cut in to tiny pieces each have the full image of the rose but it’s really fuzzy. It takes at least five people with the same data stored in their heads logged in at the same time to allow access to the data.
     What’s the point, you probably didn’t ask? Brains being what they are, it’s impossible to access the data by someone outside the network. Basically, unless you have the data stored in your head already, "remember” it. So any hackers would already have to be part of the HNIP network they’re hacking, and because the computers are accessed by direct neural interface, it will difficult if not impossible to hide the fact that a certain individual is the hacker.
     Now for the fun part: For most people, they can’t function as part node in a HNIP network unless they are unconscious. It just takes too much brainpower. But that’s okay, right? In exchange for Basic Income and an unlimited data plan, the average citizen rents out their brain while they sleep. Each night they take a pill, konk out, get a lenghthy update of all the new data in their network, and for the next eight to ten hours they are a node in a system that lets AI and automation run the world without bothersome hackers planting malware and trying to steal bitcoins and emails. There will still be hackers, of course.  Some will work hard to penetrate systems anonymously, while others will try to beat the resolution problem and get data out of their own heads.
     So I said “most” people have to be unconscious in order for their memory to be used by the HNIP system. Some people function as a node while awake. It can seriously degrade their waking performance of tasks -any thing from full-on zombie impersonator to narcolepsy to only moderately distracted. A very rare few can function more or less normally, while an ultra-rare minority have full cognitive functioning and full node functioning at the same time.
     Naturally, the folks that can crunch data while awake have an advantage. They can stay interfaced to the network for longer, which means more income. Some can qualify for special jobs as systems administrators – or become super-hackers. The rarest, the ones that can be interfaced 24/7 without significant loss of functioning, are highly sought out in situations where you need the most computer power for the least amount of dependent human brains in the network.
     For example, as spacers.
* * *
     Okay, whimsical and somewhat flimsy storytelling aside, I’m trying to make a science fiction setting that takes into account the current trends but still have humans be relevant and act more or less like people now. The rest is working out the consequences so that when I make plots, my characters don’t have to act stupid and their technology doesn’t have to be ignored.
     I’m looking at you, StarTrek.
So to recap for clarity, what I’m proposing is:
  • Humans have cognitive upgrades that allow them to directly access information stored in the Holographic Neural-Interface Protocol language. They do not need personal computers (or tablets, or smartphones) to access this information, but a central computer must be available to translate unconscious data stored across multiple minds into conscious data that can be accessed by people.
  • Holographic Neural-Interface Protocol (HNIP) is a programming language that allows data to be stored directly in the brains of augmented humans In a way similar to normal memories.
  • The memories stored in an individual brain are complete, but of a resolution too low to be directly accessed without the most sophisticated of systems, and even then, the amount of errors creeping into the data make it highly suspect.
  • It takes at least five people with the same data stored in their heads to increase resolution enough to allow reliable access to that data.
  • The more people in a network, the higher the data resolution, the easier it is to access and the more efficient the network is.
  • The data stored on such a network is only accessible by people within that network. You can’t remember something that not stored in your own head.
  • You can be part of multiple networks, but that doesn’t mean that the people from one network (like a public one) can access data from a network they themselves are not a part of (like a classified military one) just because they're in a network with someone that has classified data in their head. Sorry...
  • People in a HNIP network function in two ways: as users, when they access the data, and as nodes, when they act as data storage. Typically, people must be unconscious in order to function as nodes.
  • About 20% of the population can function as nodes while conscious (for a given value of conscious).
  • About 5% of the population can function as nodes and users simultaneously. They are rated on a special scale that measures how well they can function as users while operating as a node.
  • Those who have at least a 70% rating are considered good enough to be spacers, and many are then drafted as spacers (colonists) or offered special incentives to become spacers (Terrans).
     Like I said upfront, I have no idea of how possible this actually is; I’ve just been trying to make it as consistent as possible and to work out the consequences. I’d like some of you out there with actual computer programming experience to weigh in on the subject.
After a round of two of debate on the efficacy of this idea, we can move forward with the Intra-Fleet Tug’s internal design (like, its computers) and get back to work on Conjuction 2.0. So, I hope you enjoy,and I’ll see you next time!


  1. Not to mention the citizens that take advantage of the problem solving capabilities of Ai and who ask them 'find me something to do that doesn't involve too many upgrades.'

    With that, the Ai finds something, due to its superior processing capabilities.

    I wouldn't worry too much but the feasibility of the neural cloud idea. Orion's Arm, and Rocketpunk manifesto have had these ideas too, so you are in good company.


    Would this neural cloud be affected by bit rot (15 year life for digital data) in your setting? I'm considering clockwork computers for some deep space missions in parts of my setting as a result.

    Have you considered putting the railguns in an earlier or later part of your setting? I'm finding that some variety has to occur for future histories, meaning I''m tearing my hair out treading that line between palausible changes and wild out--thereness

    1. I don't see bit rot being an issue because the data is stored in human memory. As for the railguns, putting them in Conjunction would be putting in the earlier part of my setting, as Conjunction is a sort of prequel to The Black Desert. The Conjunction War is the prelude BD's Great Space War. That's one of the clinchers for using railguns for me; it represents an earlier era.


Questions, comments, criticisms? All non-Trolls welcome!