Friday, 24 April 2015

Some Future Trends

SWARM ROBOTICS - they 'think' and agree collectively on how to do things and what to learn. More intelligent in large numbers than as individual compounds of polymers. They see and distinguish colours and decide together where to move and how to adapt. A perfect tool for bringing order in their environment. Cheap, small hulls - mouse sized to bee sized, they can help with various activities or be weaponised. Their manufacturing could perhaps be more simple if they just 'pop' out of a template and are quickly updated with simple learning software.

ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORK (ANN)- these small collection of neurons, typically not more than a thousand, can have basic learning human processes and develop data recognition patters over time. When integrated into powerful processors they can solve task very quickly. One such use would be in the monitoring and creation of meta data. Increasingly our devices transmit data so there is a vast and in explorable sea of bits flying around the web. That data can be intercepted and indeed ours e-mails can be read and so on. Because ANN has data recognition patters on more sophisticated levels than just recognizing individual words it can be more useful in the interception of particular activities(terrorist messages, for example; although somehow utopian). ANN is a beginning stage, currently used by corporations to navigate and translate the changing trends on the market and become better prepared as to what will be the next big 'hit'. A further development of ANN is a cyborg(cybernetic organism), which furthers the number of neural connections and so moves along the scale from insect learning to actively conceptualising. ANN will be used to process a large amount of data in the future, because the current conventional ways take too much time.

ROBJECTS - it is an extremely delicate process to design a humanoid robotic body, so robots of the future will generally look like tools and objects with highly specialised functions. A flying tool box, a moving ladder, a talking fridge that does the ordering, a 'smart' lawnmower that can trim trees and so on. They are not conscious and are not AI but are specialized tools that need little input as long as they work within a specified, and often narrow frame. With the advent of energy generation which comes inadvertently with scientific development we will be able to power up a cornucopia of robotic objects around us that are doing task on the background. Any menial job that could be done by a human will be possibly handled by a robject.

REPLICATOR - goes back to vN or von Neumann. It is a device that can place constituents in space bit by bit and arrange them into the requested form. Tools and houses alike can be 'pooped' at a tremendous rate, boosting economy and sky-rocketing production. Two methods are available: top down - printing and assembling the parts of an object literally 'piece by piece', and bottom up approach - which is growing one part until it constitutes the whole. Somehow similar of an organic body, bottom up approach can grow matter out of just a single 'part'. Molecular self assembly and self organization akin to those of our own bodies may design grand structures, likeable only to those of the termites'. It is important to note that if we increase a termite colony proportionately so that a termite matches human size, the construction will dwarf anything that we, or any other organism has come up with.

TELE-OPERATED ROBOTS and VR(virtual reality) - Tele-operated robots is to be the first step towards true and autonomous AI. They will be stronger, faster and will give subjective experience of what it is to be like if you had such a body. Developing immersive VR technology and increased transfer data rate will make that possible through goggles, gloves, sensors and a menagerie of gadgets attached to the body. It is somewhat an interesting dichotomy as even today there are people who would rather enjoy their virtual selves more than their 'mundane everyday'. With the incremental immersion a subjective sensation that is not akin to humans will be made 'experience'-able for humans and it is likely that there will be those that would prefer the state of this reality to that of the 'real'.

STIGMERGIC HUMANS - radio transmitters translating brain activity into waves to be picked up by others and re-translated into nerve-stimulating impulses. Stigmergy is not in itself hive mind and can be observed in simpler organisms such as bees, termites, ants, who are collectively capable of creating highly organised societies but are individually quite primitive. In the case of humans, say, one might transmit to the collective whole a sense of sexual pleasure and fulfilment that one is having, therefore giving a wide-spread satisfaction to the group and in return receive processed data, by somebody who had done hard work of analysing scientific findings, for instance. Extrapolations are endless. In fighting units one will be fed data of position and conditions of his fellow combatants and will in a tactic fashion asses the best place to hide or advance to. In simple words - neural pulses are transformed into bits, travelling via the wireless and translated back into neural information stimulating the neurons, producing chemicals accordingly in the brain, activating sensual centres and delivering data.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY - What can most shortly be expressed as reprogramming of the code of life - DNA/RNA. It is possible to turn genes off and for instance no longer have to store long term energy in the fat cells, effectively riding society of diabetes and heart attacks. Another possible feature is to reprogram micro organisms to work in our favour, constructing foods or structures that are of benefit to us. One such example could be filling holes in buildings by simply injecting organisms that start producing the corresponding molecular matrix and eventually fill the gap and strengthen the structure. Yet another possibility is to reproduce cells of the human body, by growing them artificially outside of the body. Being scraped from the throat they undergo DNA reprogramming (adding genes more often than not) and are injected back into the organism, being recognised by the body and used accordingly in the regeneration process of various organs - lungs, hearts, livers ect. Or using 3d printing technique, to produce an extracellular organic matrix then populating it with modified stem cells, extracted from the body of the host. By renegotiating the genome sequence of the stem cells they are changed into the constituents of an organ, ready to populate the 'sponge' and grow into a functional organ.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - an entity is truly intelligent only when it is possible to understand what you want and need at the moment. Witnessing our fellow humans, that may be an inappropriate explanation but... At the moment there are computers reading huge chunks of the available data base. Soon they will effectively encompass the whole of human knowledge in the form of a cloud. It won't be able to give you a compressed summary, though, but rather a large source of data to consult with. Every related topic and paper on a given issue in almost an instant. It won't be able to give you a subjective processed summary, or rather it won't be able to deliver you things on the fly that are relevant to the situation. The better your question, the narrower the answer will be. Only when emotions kick in and empathy shapes thought in ways similar to those of the caveman will an AI be able to discern what is relevant. Even though global data base is available at the moment, robots will only perform menial duties in the years to come. A large portion of the assessment will still be done by humans. Robots will take over jobs on the low end of the ladder.

FUNCTIONAL ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM - method of translating neural brain waves into electric waves; monitoring and recording them. fMRI scans give insights to the brain functions or more precisely which part of the brain is active based on what operation is performed or what emotions are felt. In the future these waves can be transmitted to robots and directions can be given only by a thought. For instance - robotic chairs for cripples, which are connected to transmitters(placed non-invasive) in the brain pick up signals for directions and execute them, transferring their otherwise immobile patron. These signals can also be transmitted brain-to-brain and a person sitting in one room can receive signals to move their hand involuntarily by somebody else via WiFi. As the technology proliferates it will become possible to make the famous telepathy accessible. Chips are going to become omnipresent. Signals from our brain will be send all across our environment and our surroundings will be manipulated, without us having to use physical movements. Curtains on the wall, the kettle, the phone, the television ect. will all become recipients to our commands. The technology poses some interesting and dangerous interpolations in the face of mind control. Although extremely immoral and twisted use of this technology will allow for mind controlled humans. Another use will be sharing brain power. When you're asleep, for instance, you will literally 'lend' your computational power to another person and help them in the solution of a hard task. Such as solving n-dimensional mathematical theorems of string theory, perhaps.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Ground base - part 3

The mission of the Exo was to establish a ground post on this huge terrestrial Keplerite. It was to be the beginning of it's colonisation. Earlier probe telemetry had shown satisfactory amounts of oxygen and a gas composition similar to Earth's. Ozone layer naturally formed under the radiation of Ultra Violet light from the system's blue sun and, what was to be considered, an alarming amount of spores and seeds in the air.

Commander Ashley was panting under the weight of the bag; a lump of metal in cloth.
"One and a half G," Brick was gasping drearily. He was the least trained from the group for field dirty work.'On top of that smell!'
As soon as the drop ship's door had opened they had started dumping the bags close by, under the open sky.
Zyana came out dragging a small cylinder with a dome on top. Stepping heavily she put the device next to pile of bags.
'How long we have, Mnemo?'
'It's one minute and thirty eight seconds, Chief,' Mnemo registered as Brick was manipulating the small control on the dome.'We're receiving optimum load within the energy limit.'
'Ok, let's scramble back,' he said as a quiet hum and a gentle ripple of a vibration was felt all around them.
Trotting through the unpleasant mushy ground they crawled back in the safety of the ship as the humming was grew into a disturbing sonority.
The purpose of the Anti Ioniser was to create a corridor in the magnetosphere of the planet and disturb the cloud's movement as much as possible directly above them. It was their part of ground work in assisting the Exo to deliver it's load as safely as possible. The Exo itself was suspended in orbit and was travelling at thousands of miles per hour. On top of that it was still spinning to maintain gravitational field on board. With the systems off they could not divert it from it's wild movement. Even though there was a short window during which the reconstitutor could be fired and a pulse propelled downwards. To synchronise the cold calculations Mnemo needed to distance himself from his emotional side. An analogy in human beings would be those rare cases of heavy pathological lack of interest in the surroundings. Such beings were incapable of being humans. A switch from emotional intelligence to that of an existence in the form of a specialised tool.
From the open freight gate the team saw a beams of light, illuminating the surroundings. In a fraction of a second they pillar of white luminescence flashed blindingly and disappeared just as quickly, leaving behind a cloud of dispersing evanescent sparkles. Five cubes from were there now, seemingly thrown in all directions randomly. The useless metal was now reconfigured to be whatever expeditionary equipment they could scrape form the Exo. In two standard hours it would hover above again. Hopefully close by.
When the short spectacle was over Ashley stepped outside and put on the light from her circlet. During the speedy landing they hadn't looked around at this new world.
Her foot found a soft bed of fluffy, pale purple moss, tumbled together in small hops, like balls of wool. It was everywhere.
'Let's see what we have for breakfast,' she murmured.'Mnemo what did you bring down?'
'A crate of food, bio-exploration sensors, first aid and a tent.'
Looking around, Ashley's light illumined short tree-like growths with thin trunks and an oversized thick crown. Lean spiky leaves pointing directly upwards the colour of light magenta. On the mushy ground there were odd aquamarine spheres supported by thin stems, above the moss. Tallest of all was a reminiscent of acacia. The only thing taller than humans so far. Their leaves were in the same spiky fashion like their shorter cousins. And it was quiet. A magical moment.
An abrupt crumpling put her out of her contemplation as Zyana was coming out of the ship. She had unpacked a power bar ration, so needed by her demanding body. The swarm skittering around her.
Brick was wheezing slightly and had put on a respiratory mask from his carapace's kit. His steps were visibly heavier as he walked towards the cubes.
'I will take on bio.' He said to Mnemo.'That OK, Chief?'
'Yes, start unloading and let us see what we can scoop from around here. Champ, go and help EV over there,' Ashley said with a thin smile. 'Einstein, you will teach me how to put that lump back together, alright?' she turned to Mnemo, gesturing at the Zorgathron.
EV stood for Extra-Vehicular and was the designated, slightly mocking nickname for Brick.
'Is Brick your real name, anyway?' Ashley mud-walked to the cubes. Wasn't the first time she'd asked him.
'Chief, it goes back with the marines. And it stuck, unfortunately, throughout Academy after a while. Colonel was an old dog, that man!' Brick's voice came muffled from the mask.
'Feeling better?'
'Yes, Chief, thank you.' He raised his head from the cube.'But look at yourselves, springing around like it's the Tube.' The Tube was a weightlessness hangar for astronauts at the Academy.
'My arms feel much heavier,' Zyana joined in. 'And check out the lawn,' she was looking down as she was sloshing through the tumble moss. There was water underneath the vegetation. It felt like walking on a very soft damp carpet. Despite being the middle of the local night it was warm. Sticky in fact. The slight breeze was not helping at all and there was a sweet odour in the air. It felt like being in a quagmire. Ashley felt small droplets of sweat on her forehead.
'You're right, it's a fair amount of work just being here. I don't suppose it will be Maryland hiking adventure.'
'I am already quite interested to see what the bio-exploration will come up with,' happy smiley.'Chief, have you ever had an experience with ZrX456?' Mnemo's metallic voice was betraying curiosity.
'That goes there,' Ashley grabbed an upper arm joint and hanged it against the shoulder.'So far so good, right?'
'Yes, brilliant.' Happy smiley.'Now I will just grab that -'
'Chief doesn't know what she's doing.' Zyana said; grinning. Brick snickered.'You make sure to put that thing back in order. It's the only one we've got.'
Mnemo looked at Ashley, who shrugged expectantly.
'Let's get on it, Einstein.'

The mood of the group was always uplifting. Morale principal of Commander Ashley. She wouldn't like the company of obedient dogs, but rather independent individuals. Much more reliable. The phenomenon at the ship was still an puzzling occurrence and the extreme reaction of Ashley was truly unexpected, even to herself. The veteran had regained her usual dignity and slightly condescending friendliness as they had busied themselves deploying expedition gear and assembling back the hulk of the giant robot. It was, however, the display of human fragility that was keeping Brick and Zyana loyal to the protocol more than ever.
Mnemo, on the other hand,  seemed naturally adept at morality. In some aspects he was still like a child. It had been close to a standard year since he had went on line. His AI module was integrated in an exploration drone, inhibiting a human-like, featureless body. His banks of scientific data were always with him, but emotions and curiosity were running rampant and, paradoxically, he needed to focus before assessing something from purely inhuman intellectual side.

Brick had assembled one of the sensor bio probes and it was doing the first scientific inspection of this Neo Earth. The bot was hovering next to one of the 'trees', scanning and investigating the constituents of the body. It was slow but deliberate. Brick's life as a space walker; the drills and training in weightlessness hadn't make him weak exactly. But he was not a soldier like Ashley or Zyana. Less lively - more assertive. Careful steps and less danger.
Zyana had unfolded the tend and was sorting the food supplies. Dehydrated menagerie of nutrition packed dry goods in need of water only. Some of it even had taste. The purifier on board the small drop ship would come in handy. Ashley and Mnemo had the hulk of the robot laid outside. It was taking more than usual not only because Ashley had little experience, but because of gravity as well. At first it seemed almost normal, but it was an ever present exertion and it would take time getting used to. In the quiet serenity of the night they spend the two hours it took the Exo to make a full orbit quickly. Mnemo filed in, informing that it will not pass overhead. Telemetry also showed that it's power was low regardless. An hour under the rays of the star was not sufficient to power up emergency alone. They could use the drop ship to change positions, but Ashley chose to preserve fuel. It felt right to focus on constructing some sort of a dwelling out here. No matter how basic it was. The slow work was calming.
Day was approaching on the horizon.

The early sunrise greeted them with a sparse breeze. At first the thin orange light on the horizon bathed the high clouds in orange. As the star was climbing more it revealed a majestic plain all around them. They could not see any mountains; hills at best - casting their long shadows over great stretches of flat land. Bathed in pale yellow they saw distant lakes and ponds. A few trees visible from afar, their coronas azure against the shadow of their unlit side. They put on protective visors to witness the rising sapphire that was the sun. The breeze was blowing stronger as the star was climbing higher. Slowly the blue yellow was transformed into blue as the sun hanged just above the horizon then white that was the day shine. The wind was shuffling the plants and whistling around them. It was a pleasant change to that of the quiet murky night and a refreshing one as well. On the horizon there appeared a chromatic fusion of various colours. The distant ground was growing blue and then a cloud of colours was seen rising and creating a dance of spiralling dyes in the air, dispersing as it was picked up by the wind. The sensory probes hadn't come up with any insight of the world yet.
'I think you should put on respiratory masks.' Mnemo concluded.'This looks quite thick.'
As the sun was ascending the bright blue tumbles on the ground opened up to reveal a gentle and wide array of leaves, thin as silk. The flowers opened with grace, surprisingly quickly as if greeting the star. The plain around had suddenly become turquoise and the gentle leaves were dancing in the wind as if they were waves in the say. The chromatic cloud was steadily advancing and they witnessed small buds branching out hastily from the plants; opening up to release spores and seeds, thistles and fluff; floss of all colours, picked up by the wind. Every plant had it's distinctive spectrum, but together they made a dazzling mix. For a minute they were engulfed in a haze of dancing splashes of rainbow and everything they could see was the faint form of each other and the ship. The wind cleared the cloud and it passed away as the day had finally emerged in it's fullest. They found everything covered in a thin colourful film. Their carapaces, the ship, the giant hulk of the Zorgathron, the bio probe bots. Strange fluff was adhering to every possible surface, still moving with the wind. The bleached purple of the plants was now smogged by the pollen.
Wiping her visor Zyana was the first to speak.
'Earth to base, anyone?'
'Equally impressed here, Champ.' Ashley seconded.
The wind blowing was making the blue flowers on the ground move almost vehemently and the dust was shacking off the leaves freely.
'I suspect that is a way to spread the species here,' Mnemo extrapolated.'I find this deeply fascinating. I just notice how omnipresent life is on this world.'
Looking around they saw the cloud of pollen moving away, new plants releasing their dust in the air as the the day light was racing through the land.
'I have to note that the temperature of the day is already perceivingly higher. It must be the reason behind the constant wind. Have you noticed it has been blowing in one direction only?' Mnemo continued.
'I admire it. But I think I'm alive because of this.' Brick knocked on his mask.
'I wouldn't want to breathe any of these, either.' Zyana continued.
'Brick, check the bots and see if see if they agree with that dust. Zyana clear off the cubes, Mnemo check the ship and food.'
This display of nature was bothering Ashley.

The inside of the ship was a mess. There weren't any conventional wipes to be used, but Mnemo improvised with a bag from the scrap metal. It still looked chalky and colourful. Happy smiley. The skittering swarm never fully got rid of the dust either. Moving around was a colourful carpet of bots. The food supply and the equipment was designed to survive exploration and even though no one expected invasive spores and seeds it was preserved. The exploration bots and massive hulk of the robot were good. The finer equipment from the cube was useless now.
The whole of the land had been transformed so rapidly as if somebody had tossed paint wildly on a canvas. Mnemo noted that the ground tumbles of moss were returning their colour.
'They are actually breaking down the pollen,' he was observing the ground.'It's a biological warfare in the form of a colourful display. I need to study this more.'
He was so fascinated that he asked permission to divert one of the sensory probes and observe the magnified spectacle.
Ashley had sloshed away from the camp and was crouching next to a greenish murky pond close by. She dug her hand in the shallow water and took out a fistful of brown and green mud that was seeping like a jelly between her fingers. The smell was terrible.
'Is everything here trying to grow on top of something else?' She turned to Mnemo.
'You summarise it pretty well, Chief. It would seem every plant here had tried pollinating and spreading itself as much as possible. But it might be that the entire world is covered with vegetation and the only way to grow is to use the body of other plants. It is survival of the strongest in a simple sense.'

Towards midday massive dark clouds started forming. The humidity and sticky warmness of the air had only been alleviated by the constant wind. The sea of blue flowers and bright purple plants was reflecting so much of the intense light that it felt they were walking in a dessert. Visors, breathing filter masks and protective glasses had come to the rescue. Equipment designed for hostile worlds with no breathable or very toxic air. The water purifier was marking the water content as hazardous. What looked so native to Earth was so hostile. The clouds quickly blanketed the sky and the temperature increased considerably, before a wild torrent of water started pouring down. The heavy gravity and sheer amount of water was giving the sensation of being pushed against the ground. The torrent passed quickly, leaving behind soaked and drenched stretches of land. The moss tumbles were swimming in murky liquid. Everything had become like a pond, from which trees and plants were dotting the landscape. It got dense again as the sun shined from behind the clearing clouds, which were swept away by the wind. Some of the gentle blue flowers, who looked trampled now, miraculously returned to their shape as the sun bathed them in light and stood anew. Other just stay - smashed.They saw rainbow in the wake of the passing nebulous sky. Whatever small comfort that was they relished it.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ground base - Level 2

The habitable Kepler planets list was growing with time. The name had remained the same, although interstellar drives and deep station reconstitution now provided the means to explore the planets in person. ETSS54 had transported itself doing reconstitution jumps several times. It was encoding it's information and propelling it on a beam of light into the depth of space towards it's next destination. Every time a heap of particles remained only to be swept away by the stellar winds. And every time it was reappearing, using whatever material was around to reconstitute it's original hulk. It was targeting mineral rich bodies without any atmosphere and so, year after year it crept towards it's final destination, some twenty light years away from Earth. In it's wake it constructed beacons to serve and guide the exploration and colonization teams that followed. In some cases they were able to exploit novel research and establish corridors of low mass fields, shortening the times and resources needed to traverse the expanses between the beacons.

The final destination was a galaxy segment rich in stars, three of them containing Keplerites in their systems. After final emergence ETSS54 settled and began mineral extraction from an asteroid to fully deploy itself. When it had been completed it launched away from the body and floated in space, a permanent outpost of the ingenuity of humanity. Curiosity soon followed.

It was a sensation very unfamiliar to Zyana. Being out here, so further away from everything that had, now she was realizing, been a foundation in her life. She was quiet most of the time as she felt she didn't have much to contribute. Ashley's orders were intimately familiar. Clear, defined and easy to follow. One of the few things that made her feel relaxed and assured of herself. The long texts of the Flight Rules were a challenge. The code for space travel was immense and dealt with details that sometimes were going beyond the limits of pettiness, she thought. The revisions and reassessments provided an academic challenge that was alien to Zyana. Quite unlike the soldier life so far. It was comfortable back then with the legion, maybe perhaps dangerously so. After all she pushed for re-evaluation and reposition. Now she was no longer keeping peace with an iron fist, but scrambling over the unknowns of space. On the forefront of exploration, she wasn't one of the curious.

Zyana released a small pulse to one of the bots and it relayed the message to the swarm instantly. They piled around her in a carpet at her legs and followed. She had a few basic commands, encoded in protein sequences and was able to direct simple instructions. Chewing a power bar she glanced at the reconstitutor. They wouldn't be able to take all of the equipment with them. Not in a single go. She activated the holo screen on her wrist and the ship's schematic with the big black spot in the middle gleamed. Four bright dots showed all crew present. She made for infirmary.

Serving under Commander Ashley was a privilege. Chief had an ubiquitous record and was a hardened veteran. The boys were making the atmosphere more fun. Brick was not a soldier, but he was a curious one and Zyana had showed him how to handle their SEE better. He had even tinkered a bit with the thing and actually made it's arm movement smoother. Zyana had never seen a truly autonomous AI. At first she wasn't sure how to address Mnemo, but the respectful manner of the robot's behaviour had really warmed the ice through. This deep space barge might prove to be more exciting than Zyana had anticipated at first. Entering the small infirmary she swept the room with a single look. A mess. The SEE suit was dumped there, the pulse cannon piled on top. A set of plasmid explosives, electrocutor, ram rifles and a three combat carapaces. The swarm went for the SEE and she grabbed couple of suites.

Brick and Mnemo had disassembled the Zorgathron and were hauling it on the drop ship. Ashley had just finished reporting to HQ.

"Odd that nothing came out of the scans," Brick opened."Now I feel like a guinea pig.", he smirked.
"We might as well look like one, for that thing out there," Zyana's voice cackled.
"As inappropriate as it may seem, I am deeply fascinated by it," Mnemo linked in."I am quite positive that it also is afraid of us. Even as capable as it might seem to be, it's still holed up there. It might not want to go out."
"The thing put us in the dark. It deserves to stay there," Brick said.
"Considering the difference of opinion, I still say that it might be after a contact."
Brick made a face expressing a wide "Oooo". 
"You two don't have anything else to blab about?!" Ashley sternly voiced in as Zyana came in, hauling her load; the swarm skittering next to her. Brick looked at her with appeal and silently motioned his head towards the door. Was he admitting that only a woman can deal with it? The notion was entertaining and Zyana allowed herself a smile. She nodded back, reassuring him. Ordering the bots to go back and take what was left she walked out heading towards controls. Sooner or later she would have asked anyway. Brick and Mnemo were debating over the comm about a better way to pile up the partitioned hulk, keeping it together with talks. Going in Main Deck door she removed her circlet and carefully knocked on a metal surface, drawing Ashley's attention. When the commander turned to look, she pointed on her removed head gear and approached. Ashley removed hers as well. She leaned in the chair and allowed the fatigue to trickle in.
"Boss," Zyana began calmly. "I want to be ready for that thing. What was it? I want to know."
Leaning on one side, hand supporting her head Ashley took a moment before answering.
"I don't know, champ. I thought it didn't look threatening. It was looking around as if not making any sense out of it. I could see it's head shuffling around. Too dark to tell you clearly what it looked like, but then it looked at me. Those two eyes I will remember. That's the time I lost all grip, champ.Not afraid as when I was running for shelter in the trenches; nor angry as when my mates were dying. Not like when we're pushing through the meat shield. Those things help us to be better soldiers, champ. It was something else. Panic... And I held to the only thing that made sense to me then." Tired, she turned her gaze back to controls.
After a short pause, Zyana said, "I've got your back, Chief." She turned and left controls to stock on gels and hypos from first aid. Soon after all of them were clad in carapaces and the small cargo loaded with the emergency gear.  
Inspection done; systems on-line; power-check; landing thrusters-ready; fuel tank- full. 
They detached themselves from the dark body of the Exo and an unspoken wave of relief followed. The ship was going through the night side of the planet and the landing site was pre-mapped. It was almost at the centre of the dark globe. A push from the thrusters and the small vessel moved towards it's destination. Soon they would enter the atmosphere. 

Ashley was conscripted from a very young age by the royal marines, back on Earth. Instead of finishing high school she carried a machine gun for graduation day. The world was a grim place thirty years ago. Quiet uprisings - stopped at their very inception with corporate diplomacy; mass and obvious surveillance; inequalities everybody knew of but no body was talking about slowly brought desperation in the hearts of men. And as the philosopher had said "If humanity does not invent Utopia it will self consume itself." The system causing the waves of unrest was struggling under it's own weight, but in the name of order, "sacrifices" were made for the good of society. Some of the intertwined economies of the world were facing default just as various corporations were swallowing states and one day somebody was waking up with the same laws in the book, but paying their tribute to a corporation rather than a country. Constitutions were changed into handbooks of clauses; public norms became way of assimilating oneself in the work force; etiquette was forgotten; global economy changed from prosperity to rent seeking. Without an original malicious intent humanity was plunged into a dark bubble of gripping stasis. Desperation gave rise to waves of unrest. A gradual dissolution of a system, where everybody who participated were truly equal only because they shared the poverty. In the midst of the rising chaos were those who chose to preserve peace, rather than cling to an old world order; those who valued knowledge or had seen divinity in creation. Those with will, power and drive. Those who ascribed worth to life and viewed progress in light of advancement and discovery. Technology gave them the means to oppose the dissolution and preserve a body that could recreate society. Sadly the savagery of the trenches was a key to the preservation. The rest of the crew weren't even born then.

Brick was reciting from a small prayer book in a low voice as the sudden rocking of the ship indicated entrance in the atmosphere. Intrigued, Mnemo was peeking behind his shoulder, childishly taken in by every new thing presented and visibly ominous of the shacking that has now grown into massive reverberation. A happy smiley was projected on the screen. The serene open space background outside changed into deep purple haze, followed by a night sky. The clear bright dots of the distant stars began flickering as they entered mesosphere. Zyana was gripping the two sides of her arm chair and had herself strapped tightly. The sensation did not please her much. The swarm was squirming comically as they shuffled around the floor of the vessel as the vibrations were tossing them around. Ashley was apparently not bothered at all by the turbulence. A sound of alarm came from the console and a "Critical height reached" sign flashed on a holopad. Brick brought his seat close to controls.
"Override!" A brief blue flash engulfed the deck.
"Engage manual!"
"Yes, Captain!" a metallic voice was heard.
"Frontal thrusters, please!" His fingers were quickly going through buttons on the console and a holo keyboard.
Mnemo's readings indicated high pulse in Zyana and steady in Brick and Ashley. Flat smile face.
"Yes, Captain!"
A deep thrum came, followed by a huge tremor in the ship; the rocking receded. Brick did not stop moving his hands between the keyboard and a soaring schematics of the drop ship.
"Balancing engines, please. Maximum power on frontal thrust!". The unsurprising 'Yes, Captain' came again; they could see the quickly approaching ground outside.
"Distribute propulsion!" All the rocking from before was gone. They were now descending cosily into the lower parts of the atmosphere.
"Lower retraction." 
A distinct "thump" was heard, followed by the receding sounds of the engines going cold.
"Ladies and gents. Welcome home!" Brick smiled as he looked at the rest of the team.
"Brick, I will hand it to you. Don't become an ass hole, though!" Ashley curved her mouth in a smile.
"Deeply interested. I have some questions, concerning the process," Mnemo said as he unfastened. Happy smiley.
"Eight years in space academy, and they still don't think you're ready. If you can deal with the constant assessments, please I will show you everything." Brick did a lightly mocking bow.
It was a landing done without the full support of navigation processor. That and Mnemo actually had a lot of respect for any academic knowledge. Even though he could probably outpace any human in terms of learning he was taken in by an immense curiosity about the world. 
Ashley was already at the door, "Aright ladies. We've got work to do!"
The swarm gathered again at Zyana's feet and she followed close by.
"Yes, Chief!" the three of them replied.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Ground base - Level 1

The muzzle of the pulse rifle flared, brightly lighting the foyer on spasmodic flashes. The heavy portable cannon thundered in semi-automatic, propelling huge rounds which devastated the corridor and left metallic scatters and shreds in the wake of a shower of sparks.
The SEE suit's (servo extended exoskeleton) depleted battery reminded of itself with an alarming beep. The gradually returning weight of the suit made Ashley lean towards the wall. She let go of the trigger of the cannon and crashed with a disappointing clang. The SEE hummed down one last time and went cold completely.
Staring intently at the debris left from the shooting frenzy, commander Ashley couldn't see any movement. She looked at darkness beyond, but there was nothing there.
"Chief, I feel the moment is not right, but I see your heart rate going through the roof", a fast metallic voice thrummed from the transmitter.
She unbounded her body from the SEE and with an angry kick released the safety of the oversized right limb of the battle suite, still gripping the cannon. Her arm sprang out from the shell, sweaty and numb. She had squeezed hard.
"Gim'me a reading!"
"Chief I still have no connection to the freight decks and I detect no movement other than the four of us in the parts visible", Mnemo's voice replied.
Ashley's red hair, shaved on one side of the head, spoke of her fiery temper. She had a vicious a scar going forehead to mouth, making it's way through one the fierce eyes. Constitution of a hardened soldier and an attitude of a long-life veteran.
"Close down this section and send a swarm to collect that piece of rubbish", she punted the SEE, "power preservation is crucial, charge up the drop ship and reconstitutor, save enough for command deck and communications while we're on ground and if there is anything left grab the Zorgatron and scour the freight deck! No body is to go in the dark, ok?!"
"Should I put you in the dark then, Chief?"
"Go for it!"

A slide door clapped in front of her and sealed the wrecks. All lights powered down and she put on the flash light from the circlet. The bugger had escaped and they didn't even know what exactly it was. The fact that they didn't have any proper battle gear didn't help much either. This exploration barge, named Exo3 was to establish a link on the ground in three standard days, but the events now were pushing in a different direction. They couldn't go by the Flight Rules book now. First the EMP had dispersed everything they had and now they lived only on secondary emergency. They had send a message back to ETSS54(extraterrestrial space station) as soon as they were clear what was going on, but it would take close to a standard day to reach them. Another day for a recharge beam to travel back, plus the fact they were suspended in orbit and wouldn't be able to indulge properly. The best the Station could do still wouldn't be enough to fix the the scrambled electronics of the ship.
She felt the crew needed to get out of this tin can as quickly as possible.
"Mnemo! Get everybody in Controls!", Ashley barked while exerting on a push valve to open a slide door manually.
"Certainly, Chief!"

Mnemo was best described as an unauthorised piece of artificial intelligence. It came packed in an original shiny body from HQ - "providing crucial expertise and quick assessment of environment". Whatever that meant. Brick had underground algorithms from the network back home, or basically all those AIs that loved their individuality but put on a fake mask in front of the world. They didn't like themselves wired with protective chips and circuits to fry them up in case they were going through with the wrong thoughts. Blessed by hackers and outsiders, a true blend of equality and freethinking.
They had reconfigured EU54x2 and gave him the name Mnemo. Ashley knew it had worked the moment she had pointed a gun at Mnemo and saw the confusion and fear of the robot. It was feelings and emotions, not computational power that made AI truly intelligent. The robot never quite got rid of a nervous tinge in it's voice since then. But he was way more useful like that and became an indivisible part of the team. It had taken a bit for Mnemo to understand the drive behind Ashley's action.

Brick was the one constantly tinkering with Mnemo's original body. The one Mnemo liked to inhibit most often. Brick had even given Mnemo a screen on which basic emoticons were displayed based on the mood of the AI. An engineer and a space walker, Bricks was a techie who liked tinkering with anything. Unshaven, slightly sarcastic, focused and efficient individual, he could never make it to management or command, but fit right in exploration. He was comfortable here and was the one most well acquainted with Flight Rules.

Making her way to main deck, Ashley was greeted by Zyana.
"How went the hunt, boss?"
A serious glint from Ashley was all the answer she got.
Zyana was from the G.E.B. legion. Had a ball of nerves called an electric organ in herself. A battery in a way. She could sustain a current for short time, transliterated into reading pulses via genetic code and was capable of powering up SEEs, electronics and equipment for brief periods. Would need to stuff herself on protein bars make her body work back the power loss(which didn't sit well on her waist), or spend some time with that strange glove. Not individually engineered, G.E.B. soldiers were mass-enhanced. Reliable in any case, Ashley was glad to have somebody like her on the team.
"OK team!"
Mnemo was wired in cables, looking after the ship, but he respectfully turned his expressionless mannequin face towards her. Flat mouth face on the holo projection. Brick was staring from the lifted visor of his battle carapace. The pulse gun on his thigh was probably just for comfort. Leaning back on the wall, Zyana was just in her jumpsuit. The Main Deck's light was shimmering on her brownish hair. Focused and calm almond-colour eyes were looking at Ashley.
"We will have to get out of this tin can. We won't be able to execute mission as planned. Descend in exactly an hour! Mnemo how's power?"
"Drop ship charge to be completed in 9 min 47 s. To keep communications, controls and reconstitutor running I wouldn't be able to sustain the Zorgathron for full a inspection."
"Brick, you and Mnemo disassemble the thing and load it on the drop ship then. Manual only. Zyana, prepare the cubes for descent! Get a swarm and don't overdo the power. After you're done take every possible fire arm and stock on first aid. Keep a visual on Main Deck's console and check as often as possible. I want everybody to know where everybody else is at every moment! Constant radio connection!", a short pause.
The three of them stood in silent expectation.
"Good! Let's get out of here!"
"Yes, Chief!"
They made for the exit and Ashley turned to main control. Brick, Mnemo and Zyana exchanged quiet looks then. Brick turned to Mnemo and nodded, holding his tense gaze a bit longer, then proceeded towards robotics. Zyana went to a closed vent on the wall. Placing her hand on the control pad she released a small current, awakening the bots and imputing instructions. The vent opened and numerous small, round bots, the size of mice hovered out of it. They gathered at her feat, like a carpet of bugs and followed her on her way out of controls. Mnemo turned around and stepped closer to Ashley.
"Chief, that was an unusual reading I observed earlier." Sad smiley on the screen.
She turned her head slightly without looking at him, remaining silent for a moment. Exhaling she turned around.
"I don't know what it was and I think it's not friendly, Einie. We need to scram out."
Carefully Mnemo added.
"Fear is a great tool for self-improvement, is it not?"
She smiled. You could not disappreciate him.
"Thank you. Go help Brick, private!" She turned back, facing the screen.
Happy smiley.
"Yes, Chief." Mnemo departed with quiet servo sounds.

Sitting in Command, looking outside through the ship's thick polarized compound glass shield. They were facing the night side of the planet they were orbiting. It was covering the top of the view like a dark patch. In the vast distance behind she could see another globe with a moon circling around the planet. Their edges were bathed in turquoise from the blue sun, which sat directly behind the distant body. The small dots of the stars were completing the serene and quiet landscape. The ship's rotation, supporting the gravity soon turned the view towards the dark side of the planet. She took another moment to vent off completely and looked at the the console. A screen was displaying the schematics of the ship, glowing lines were constituting the "healthy" bits. Half of it was out and the vessel looked as if it had a big black plot in the middle. Propulsion was out, freight decks completely dark, exploration, maintenance, engines - all offline.
She started recording a report for the Space Station. Her composition was returning and she wilfully focused on the memory of the bugger. She could not explain the visceral sensation. Not primal fear, but grappling panic. An urge to take action, no matter what. And the two glowing eyes.

They've named it the bugger out of better understanding. An hour earlier Mnemo had reported additional movement on ship and as soon as they went visual there was a flush of energy, dissipating the power of the cell banks. It was as if the ship found itself in a field that sucked out all of the electricity. After that emergency supply wouldn't be enough to sustain them completely. It was hard to decide where to begin with maintenance. The sun was obscured so no solar, and the orbital drift would make sure they wouldn't see another ray for at least two standard hours. Ashley had taken the SEE to pay a visit to whatever that thing was.

"So what do you think?", Brick was sweating. He had shuffled radio connection for a minute. He wouldn't take his combat skin off, even though he was feverishly labouring with an old-school wrench on the arm of the Zorgathron - the huge, nearly 4 metres tall hulk. A standard colony asset, they were glad now they had one more than ever.
"My reading is showing stable pulse. Med-telemetry is in order. But other than that I am always happy to see the human in things. It is quite interesting. Chief must have really been shocked." Mnemo was dismantling servos at the elbow.
"You don't see something like this everyday," Brick added."I can safely say it worries me. You know you don't just see her go out of her skin, man. And she is doing a full report as we speak. I hope some smart ass doesn't decide Chief needs a demotion."
"Well, earlier telemetry didn't show any movement on ground. We can, based on that, safely assume that the ground site will be more secure than here plus we could not expect any sort of boarding to occur." Mnemo quickly assessed. Flat smile face.
Brick grinned. You could perceive tension in Mnemo's voice as well, but his optimism was comforting. If they stayed here they would learn what was that thing sooner or later. The ground might be safer after all.

Zyana was pushing the trolley towards the deck of the reconstitutor. She was loading cubes in the empty frames and entering details of the contraptions manually. The reconstitutor would be capable of extracting the quantum information from the cubes and propel them on the ground, encoded on a beam of light, essentially teleporting them. Wouldn't work with people. The orbital drift would make sure they had a small window to work with. After that it would be close to four standard hours until they would be able to send the next batch down. While passing on the sunny side it will recharge from solar partially, so power at least was not an issue.
The cubes themselves were boxes, full of self-deployable basic equipment. Used to build shelters - sensors, generators, synthesis units, exploration kits, colonization essentials. Walls on one side and first class hotel rooms on the other. Almost.
The small bots were labouring under a cube, lifting it slightly above ground and she was able to push it on the trolley. Skittering away afterwards, the swarm went for another one, while she was depositing it in what seemed like a big empty revolving cylinder and input it's data. Colonization unit - field bio exploration. Weapons would seem like a better choice, she was thinking. They did not have many.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Escapism or Fiction

Today some of the affluent people are ready to adopt a poor man's attitude. They're ready to dress and act like one; think and swear like one as long as they have a face they can safely present to the public. Still, to say that there is no inequality in society is to deviate from the truth one hundred and eighty degrees. Concentrated wealth has pushed scientific progress, investing large amounts of money into it. One should always remember, though, that the best science has to offer has come from people with pure love for knowledge. People who were ready to think outside the boundaries of nation, religion and regardless of the tribulations of their current times were fully devoting to their work and passion. The greatest strength of the genius had always been humility.

Perhaps there is a lot of aggression suspended in today's, so called, fifty lower percent(most of us here). There is this constant push towards measures of equality in the space of spirituality and religion, and how we should address the exploited, unemployed and employed alike. In reality - generally people who are not quite at the bottom to be frank. The worlds GDP divided by the total population equals about 800 euros a month income per capita. Just think what kind of life you would have to lead if you had about 800 euros a month living wage. Perhaps it would be a perfect more-to-the-left on the political scale setting where prices are regulated, rent and mortgage are perfectly fitted towards the world's fiscal policy, but to even mention these things in that order is to begin writing speculative fiction that is heavy on the romantics side. Observing an affluent family I've had the opportunity of being a guest to, I can say that wealth can also be enriching to society. Not just to the individuals that benefit materially from it. Wealth can also be an agent of cultural enrichment that is not necessarily confined in small pockets and isolated from the public. For instance the house of that family is constantly open to accommodate their guests(myself not necessarily included!); children's classes, workshops, debates and dialectics, gatherings for discussions over tea and large banquets have been held there, providing an experience that is more on the intellectual side of things, rather than the hedonistic. Before somebody points a gun at me I need to say that I am well aware of the obscene differences in income in the world and am in no wise a defender of the abided enrichment of some of the very few privileged individuals out there. Corporate policy of buying freedoms and preferential treatment from governments is one of today's biggest obstacles to progress. And not only progress in terms of money, but intellectual progress as well. Let us just remember that during the Renaissance in Europe intellectuality was a mass phenomenon with people willing to discuss science, poetry, music, art and share their writings and indulge in each other's creative attempts. Life was still hard, but a there was a rash difference between the Dark Ages and Enlightenment.

But the fact that a rich man might be mistreated only because of the amount of money he possesses is also an inequality in a sense. To cut somebody from a group is to propel that somebody in search for social inclusion. Or in simple words: if a rich man is treated badly because of his affluence, then he will necessarily seek the company of other people that will share his status. And that does not bold well for the general society. A good majority of affluent people have worked hard for their status and have often times borrowed sums for education; to start businesses and so on. They are knowledgeable, classy and pragmatic. They have an enriched culture. I am not discussing morality here. In a perfect setting every rich man will have adopted the approach of that family I mentioned earlier. Sharing their house for children's classes, feasts and whatnot. That helps to alleviate so much of the sensation of difference. And it helps to define what one wants of life.

Really? Yeah really!

As often is the case with Hegel's philosophy, or the doctrines of the eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism or Dzen-Buddhism the negative in the world is needed to define the positive. They're really one. Or in different words - the positive cannot exist without the negative. Or the negative helps to outline the positive. In classical Greek drama the Good is having about two thirds of the total time on stage, while the evil has about one third. And quite often evil is transformed at the end. The negative flows into positive. One necessarily wonders - Why all the suffering, then? Not being completely ignorant of the lowly conditions of a significant number of human beings out there, I would like to point out there is a large amount of people self-inflicting sadness upon themselves, none the less. People with resources choosing to devote their mental bandwidth with plethora of possible ideas, not necessarily contributing to some betterment of society. Religion is one such thing. In the, what may appear as slightly dogmatic, doctrine of Baha'u'llah, there is a specific period ascribed to his dispensation on Earth. Just knowing about that eradicates any fundamentalist inclinations from every devout follower of that Faith. Just think about how many religious conflicts have been started with the excuse that a certain prophet had been final, complete;an agent of absolution! So in this case the negative can be described as the necessary ending of the dispensation(that much needed force of destruction) and the positive in the coming of the next prophet plus the absence of fundamentalist inclinations. Two thirds plus one third. Not a bad deal, one might say.

Relative to science fiction? Why not?!

There is an utopian and dystopian approach to writing some of the piecies. With the utopian being some kind of world where there no longer is the need for money(Yes I would love to live there). Some kind of a social heaven, where everything is taken care of by humane science, space travel is equalled to taking a cab and teleportation is possible. And the dystopian being the post modern society, controlled by corporations, oppressed without even realising it and AI taking over, casually dropping anti-matter warheads with mathematical precision. OK these are just two general and very quirky examples, but regardless, the general frame is there. Are any of these likely if the future is rooted in the world of today? I think neither. In fact it is more likely that inequalities will be carried in the future and science itself will not be crucial to alleviating the curse of class segmentation. Morality is the one and only integral to just society. It is perhaps time to say that differences in income do not necessarily have to breed inequality or social tension. Remember that wealth has played it's part in progress. Prosperity, though, should not be attributed only to or identified solely with wealth. It is only when carried to an excess that differences in income, transforms into inequality and continuing down the road through class segmentation, end into oppression. In a way, difference in income contributes to turbulence and progress; lack of extremes and excessed constitute justice and strong moral social foundation. Looking at today's world that might already be a fictional society.

Anyone remember Far-Scape?

Not very scientific, but regardless, the romanticism of it all was the thing that kept it going. A lost human being hurled to the far corners of the universe(or galaxy). Reuniting himself with alien humanoid species on a ship of their own. Speaking common language; having common sensations; feeling for themselves communally. They have differences, but by overcoming them they build a motley crew, who never the less is sticking together and even end up falling in love with each other. Even without having any special abilities and the ETs necessarily being more developed, our human protagonist is accepted for who he is and the adventure continues as they don't submit to any particular existing form of governance but rather seek their own way, overcoming multiple villainous schemes. Some of the characters and situations are quite cliché, but it ended breeding a lot of attention from the public. People loved it. But I wonder: what if the story was about a pirate ship on Earth. During the fifteenth century sailing the seas and picking up different races of humans and overcoming various difficulties, building a strong team and so on. Would then that series have been so popular? Is the lacking scientific explanation and sudden change of scenery to a world so far away, so necessary to produce strong romantic feelings in the audience? Or is it the freedom given to the characters? I think, subtly, most of us dream of a better world out there. But regardless, in science fiction, the science should never be omitted. Social transformation and change are difficult to simulate or predict, but it's much sought after by the public. It is easy to dream after a world where everything is taken care of, but it is hard to imagine how the English language would have evolved in a century, for instance. Both are cases of science fiction. But one is generally much more easy to fall towards to. Star Wars is, they say, highly unlikely. But there is something in the richness of the characters and the adventure in the throughout the universe that keeps people coming back for more. The evil alien leader appears here and there, sending his blood thirsty throngs to fight humanity, but it is much more rare to see an actual dissection of an alien body done in seeking understanding of this new encounter. The second one is more likely and harder to imagine.

Society with diversity but without excessive inequalities calls for imagining morality on a global level that is attributable to the wider public. But how, then, would the villain look and behave? What would be the drive behind the story? Would there be a need of a villain? Remember that the negative is necessarily needed to be connected with suffering and pain. Would it be recognized by the public, if there was no particular 'bad' character in a piece of SciFi, necessarily opposing the protagonist; or our team of do-gooders being able to exist outside of an organized social system. The classical approach is put on your mask and fight evil around every corner. It could also be that in science fiction it will be scientific to describe society that is guilty of it's own suffering, through lack of understanding and inclusion and the fiction part is handled by the attempts done by the society to include stronger moral foundation. Science will only be able to help, but it will be morality that will have the final say.

Sunday, 5 April 2015


The quiet, monotonous clatter of keyboards had a calming effect on Doc. After a while you get used to the background noises of the office and without even addressing them, they become a friend. Much like that grumpy neighbour, who after ten years finally invites you in and you discover that perhaps, people are not so bad after all.
'An enemy is somebody whose story you haven't heard.' She didn't like that saying. She didn't like tolerance. She believed in conversation, progress and commitment to integrity. One could say that these values had no immediate impact on her environment, though. She had spent ten years in this office, immersing herself in the menial aspects of the job. 'Research-assistant' - if that even was a job...sometimes she felt that they were keeping her just because she used to be part of THAT team.

Leaning on her chair she closed her eyes for a minute. Taking small breaks were helping her paint the grey day in shades of fantasy. She put her headphones on and hit play. A soothing, calm voice began pondering on the wonders of nature.
"I remember once," the voice opened. "I was looking in the open air and one of those little and glorious thistle things came around and I picked it up between my fingers and brought it down. And it looked as if it was struggling to escape, just as if you caught an insect by one leg, a daddy-long-legs or something. I thought, it's not doing that, that's just the wind blowing... Then I thought again...Really? Just the wind blowing? Surely it was the structure of that thing, which in cooperation with the wind was allowing it to move like an animal. But using the wind's effort, not its own. It's more intelligent being than an insect, in a way, because the insect uses effort, like a person who rows a boat would use effort. But a man who puts up a sail uses magic. He lets nature do it for him with the intelligence to use a sail, see? Now that's the most skilful art of all. That's perfection!"
Stop. She removed the headphones and listened for another minute to the rich and distant buzz of the department. Conversations between colleagues; machines printing and scanning; phones clattering, hurried steps.

THAT team had grown back an arm. Directly on the damaged limb, like a lizard would do with its tail. It was the arm of a soldier, who had lost the original one in an explosion or combat. Not really important where and how, but why! In war... where people died, cultures were lost, knowledge erased and opportunities stolen. They have used extracellular matrix to aid the growth of embryonic cells. Each little tiny cell had taken the precise position after "consulting" with the DNA of the host. And they have given a new arm to, what was back then, a war hero. It was considered a huge success. Corporate actions were taken to integrate that new technology and quickly to expand it into a full time service for the good of the people. Or at least the people who paid. And those were the military. It was even put in a commercial ad, promoting army service. “Death will approach him from every corner, yet he will not die"* began to have a real meaning for her. Anything Religion had to say, she would not listen to, when she was young. Back then she would not even take a minute break here and there. It would be just the project, the dead-lines, the long hours; filling the emptiness in herself with that love for science and curiosity. But the isolation of somebody who had invested themselves fully to the job also provided those lonely hours spend in relaxation before going to sleep. And after the scientific breakthrough and the short exhilaration, those moments were increasingly filled with thoughts of the on-going war, sifted through the media. There were the promotion ads, the interviews, the corporate meetings, the desire of others to push this further and further. The impressions of the tests done on marines and ...oh Lord, amputations on volunteers. It no longer seemed like the proper thing. It had run away from the vision.

So she had decided to commit fully to the rational study and research for the last time and plan an irrational act for the first. She had "convinced" some of those little cells, populating the extracellular matrix not to take their proper place, while growing and transforming themselves. In Computational Morphogenesis even the slightest, tiniest alteration would produce vastly different results. And with the right spot, the proper enzyme, the precise location in the chain of DNA and assistance of proteins, the alterations were invisible until the growth had begun. Fortunately, that was after the time of the big presentation and public announcements. The success of the project, its fame and the large sums invested in it were much more the undoing of it all. It had gained too much momentum already and the weight combined made it plummet down with severity. After the acknowledgement of its success, its failure was not tolerated.
She was sure that the team could trace it back. She was sure that they would know it was an intervention. If they had the time for it. It all too quickly became a mess with too much pressure and too many opinions from the outside. Money reverted to a different research team and some names were announced "incompetent". Several careers had collapsed and a winter time ensued for the whole research theme. The public would not have any of it. And it would stay that way for at least another decade. Maybe in two more, somebody would follow the trace of bread crumbs and reinvest into the whole theme, reinvigorating the research. She doubted any one would ever find out about her. It was just a tiny small alteration in the process; nothing more than a small brick from the foundation of the tower. And it had all desintigrated. The sound of the crash had muted her footsteps.

Doc wasn't particularly high in the pyramid even back then, so she managed to keep working in the field of science. But she chose to stay invisible. “Assistant-researcher". Breeding simple organs for transplantation. Sometimes she felt like a farmer. The process was so imperfect. But it was accepted because everybody was clear on the side effects beforehand. Often patients' bodies would reject the organs, stopping the blood flow to them. They needed to be treated with chemical medications to prevent the rejections. Sometimes they would even fail altogether in their functions. But it was named progress and it was accepted. She could see where her colleagues lacked fines and brilliance, but she also learned to live with it. Writing long reports was just fine. Putting the comas where it mattered was OK. And she loved the small breaks. A bit of invisibility was not all that bad. She still had access to the high-end equipment and kept up-to-date with the latest outbreaks of knowledge. It was good for her hobby, as well. And the world didn't have to know. Not yet, perhaps.

A vibration from her pocket came and a message from "Techie".
"Glass of wine at 7 today?"
"Why not!?" She typed, smiling.
"The Arms Pub?"
To his friends he was knows as the “Techie”. A like-minded person and, like her fashion an invisible one as well; computer scientist, programmer...hacker. Careful about what he said too. He was the one who had dug out data for the ill-fated project she used to be part of and stored it away for the future. It would have been a shame to let go of all that work just like that. There was place for it. Just not in the world today perhaps.
She put her headphones on and played Nocturnal Sonatas, continuing to generate text. Ten years of service had also earned her that. Her peers didn't mind.

Managing to finish the quota for the day early, she signed off and drove home. It was nice having the roads without the usual rush-hour congestion. End of spring and a late sunshine out there. The sky was clear and the pleasant wind was flowing in through the window. She didn't have to focus much on the rest of the drivers and could relish the trip. Doc didn't have one of those self-driving GPS instalments. They would move slower, anyway.

Coming back to her small house she took a quick shower and went into her living room. It looked something like a nerd's Hi-Tech den of science. An artist's small private altar of creation, which no body was allowed to look at. Neatly organised, a bright lighting from the ceiling illuminated a desk with a large desktop screen. There was a thick pile of documents next to it and a small library on the wall. Biology, Neuroscience, Organic System's Functions, Anatomy, Gardening, Scientific Documentaries, Zoology, Insectology, Medicine, DNA research, Wet Nanotechnology, Engineered Cells. It was a small haven of books on how to build your own Morphogenetic creation. Aquariums were covering another wall. In some, insects from around the world were breezily crawling around or just standing there, trying to imitate their environment in wait for something to happen. Some tanks were brightly lit, high-lighting the flora or fauna contained therein. Some had pipes connecting into them and those were coming out of specific gas bottles. She went through a pressure and quantity check. A habit of hers, she was making sure every day, even though there was enough left for two weeks. Everything in a controlled environment, carefully taken care for and observed to assure every need was met. Microscope, flasks, Petri dishes, small instruments of the trade - injections and miniature forms of cutlery-like utensils, a sterilizing oven, a spin coater device. She could not do everything here, though. It was her home and hygiene was an issue. But between the laboratory and her home she had a lot of freedom. Here was her heart. The large aquarium on top of the table.
There was a grey, metallic mask hanged from the ceiling. It looked something like the old Greek Personae from the theatres. No expression, just holes for the eyes and mouth and no general features. It was smooth, dark, somehow soft and oily - graphite. It was home grown in that big large aquarium. Fungal moss lay on the soil on the bottom. Orange growth was expanding in circles across the surface of the moss. The orange circles had greying bits on top of them. Those were Meta-Engineered Cordyceps mushrooms, feeding on the hosts' proteins and replacing the tissue with their own. This one had been kindly "instructed" to deposit part of the Carbon, so Omni-present in all organic things, on the top in particular patterns. It was slowly forming plaques of carbon allotropes. Every time it did not create what she was after it just lumped together as a piece of graphite. What do you think she was She was happy enough for that. It was single wall carbon Nano tubes; long strands of them, preferably; compounded into a single thread if possible. But adjustments were needed. And that's why it was so fun. It was a fascination with nature rather than shimmers and glimmers in front of the camera.

After the inspection was done, she put on some comfortable clothes and walked out of the house. The rest of the people from the group she was part of were just as important now as her old passion for success. The days were ever more pleasant if you could share them with humans who thought like you did. That, her hobby and her knack for knowledge were keeping the empty house warm and delightful. If she had to rely on old fame she would have probably been lonely today. She knew it.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

On Science Fiction.

Two very different opinions are echoing in my mind at the moment. One of them is Michio Kaku's words 'Science brings prosperity', the other is a close friend of mine, who said 'Science is driven only by desire to control'. Looking around my room today I see a kind of a scholarly cell that has become universal in its function, that is to say is used in more than one ways with(thankfully) relative satisfaction. And science had a lot to say in compressing large amounts of actual space into a tablet, laptop, smartphone and a broadband router. So an immediate conclusion is that science has kept me better connected to the knowledge base out there as well as with other human beings. And it has also provided means of entertainment not only through the easy access to media, but also by easy-to-reach inspiring ideas around which books, games and movies are based.

To say that I have a deep fascination with science fiction is to generously describe me as ...well...'generous' - I still haven't read a piece of SciFi that I can honestly say that I truly love. I like some ideas, but I never felt absolutely immersed or particularly impressed by the worlds drawn in the pieces of work I've read. Not too 'science'-y, not too 'fiction'-y; quite 'drama'-y, though. And here is the slight irony! As I myself am writing SciFi as we speak, probably no body would like what I write - hahaha, who's the loser?! But there is light in the tunnel! I've grown a bit and I, not only see, but also appreciate the hard work needed to produce a whole book, with all the characters and scenarios and 'turn-around's and the plethora of details needed to finish a piece, be it a SciFi or whatever other book. Sometimes I can even see where the author might have struggled for words, where their writing had come to a halt, and leaning back on the chair, hand on their mouth, serious and calm gaze staring into the wall, thinking about how to pick it up again. For that, every author deserves support!

What somebody might call 'critical thinking' to me shapes itself as a dialectical 'other' voice in my mind. It is thinking if the presentation of a certain technology - non-developed at the moment, would be feasible, realistic, economic and properly simulated. A little example. Humanoid robots have been, are and will be popular in SciFi. But modern science says that, even if we had true independent AI (which we don't), humanoid bodies are not exactly easy to engineer. In fact to construct a humanoid is to take away from a very specific physical task, that a particular robot could have been adept at doing and introduce a multitude of tasks that the robot would be mediocre at best. Out of pure pragmatics humanoid bodies are initially highly unlikely, either as mindless and obedient, all-sufficient servants or as temples of independent and unique consciousness. A much more likely scenario would be to house that independent thinking mind into ... any form given, and then realistically lay down the facts and limitations of homo-sapience in a reciprocal conversation. And if we could please, with the help of your computational power and critical thinking, construct a body YOU would feel comfortable with.(Sorry Chappy, I still like you!) Singularity, after all, can have many faces.

What immersion in hardcore modern science does, is that it provides a point of origination to a very wide framework, in which a mind can simulate at will. We do need a solid ground to begin with, though.(Is somebody pointing a gun at me already?) Drama can exist in any fictional situation, but to create drama that exists in properly simulated world in the future, requires acquiescence of facts and insights that are coming from researchers on top of the tide of R&D in academic communities. In a recent work of SciFi I have read, there is an extreme focus on sentient robots depicted as sex machines and all the other technologies just stand in the background unaddressed. Sexual Connoisseurship is what is attributed to them most often and scenarios presenting sexual acts(be them rapes or whatever...yes the robots get raped) fill a significant part of the text. In other words, to have proper sex, we - the hairy monkeys, have invented consciousness and brought it into submission with short circuits that will fry the hardware of we are not obeyed. Such a cowardly act!(I am wondering if this is what it takes to sell the book, though?!...)

But to get back to the very beginning - 'Science brings prosperity' vs 'Science is here to control us'.
I have positioned myself safely in between these two, almost opposite sides. I can definitely see where each point is coming from and I agree with each one of them in a way, perhaps making making myself comfortable in the process? But I truly see the meaning of them both. Science also makes SciFi very interesting and challenging! I mentioned earlier the word simulation. Our brains are actually so good at it. A tool that has served us well in our evolution. The schedules, the buses, the education, the shopping, the planning, the organising, the reviewing, the writing, the conversations we sometimes have with ourselves(if you don't, you must be one of those lucky 0,001%) and so many more activities. We are just good at placing ourselves in a different situation and ponder on the outcomes. Anxiety control can be an issue. But it is, never the less, a fictional simulation(beware). And without solid base in the form of external facts and limits, be it humans, time, ideologies, religion, rules ect. our simulation can be harmful to us. A tool well used is a tool well placed. You don't stick a handle into the screw, in other words.

So Science Fiction as a simulation of what the world would be if... And the "simulation" bit is already handled by the "fiction" in the name. That would leave 'science' to be defined. The predictable, measurable, reproducible, factual, testable on demand. This is the point of origination that the simulation would be right to have. What is today, projected into the future, develops into something different over a period of time, during which the "fictional" had happened. The 'Science' then would include human morality, nature, cosmic principles of behaviour. Further - nature, ideology, technology, religion, all rooted in the 'right now'.  And the beauty of expression needed to glue it all in one continuous flow - start to finish. These sound like quite the prerequisites for writing a piece of SciFi already!! But at the root of it all lies deep curiosity and fascination with knowledge. 

Memory Hunter part 2 - Enigmatic Matron

She headed through the last slide door and found herself in a large round hall. It was the very bottom of the prison. Brightly lit with glass floor, her steps were echoing distinctly against a background of Chopin's Etude Opus 25. The spheric roof was one giant display - a visualiser, at present, gentle waves trickling and fluttering amiably in harmony with the mellow piano tune. On the opposite side of the hall a platform, rising slightly above the floor, emanating a rainbow-coloured light, an upright prismatic beam.
"It's all in there."
The hunter focused on the last detail in the hall.
"All that you came here for."
A tall female figure, sternly posed, addressing her in a tender but patronising way. A walking cane in one hand and ,surprisingly, an old-fashioned remote in the other.
"Do you like what I've done with the place?"
Gentle wrinkles around her mouth and edge of her eyes.
"How do you find the music?"
The hunter felt cold sweat on her palms. The gaze of her "host" - black sharp eyes, under steep eyebrows, piercing her constantly.
"I am the head warden...but I suppose you don't remember that any-more."
She was immaculate in every aspect. Her formal, but pragmatic tight clothing, polished leather footwear, her black hair swooped in a straight waterfall keeping not a hair against the fair skin of her face. The greying bits were a compliment to her posture.
"Please call me Madame!"
Taking insecure steps Jane was circling Madame trying to stay as far as possible, all the same time trying to get close to the beam.
"Oh, don't worry it's all in there."
The piano in the background had come to a dramatic breakthrough.
"But, of course, you will need some extra mentoring to read it", Madame wasn't even bulging, giving her a sarcastic smirk.
Jane had come an arm's reach away form the beam and brought her arm into the light. Momentarily she saw the same old white haze, but this time instead of it being a wide ocean with bees and wisps of light swimming inside of it, it was a flux of waves, flowing into Madame. There was total darkness outside of the Hall, nothing else visible except the blindingly distinct Neural network of the Warden.
"Don't worry, everything that you once were is right there. Encoded" Madame gave her a pitying but understanding grimace "You've done well, Child. Coming so far."
The vision had switched back to normal when Jade brought her arm out of the flux. The odd mnemonic membranes left in glitches of the network of the HUB had been aiding her to move undetected around the prison. 
"Tell me," Madame lowered the volume of the sonata "what have you learned while you were away from here. How does one push without any suspicion into the maw of the beast?
Jane was nothing without her memories.
"You've noticed every little bit of a crumb I've given you" Madame brought her index and thumb together in front of her eyes.
Jane was tired of being somebody's tool and believed that the key was there - in her past. It had to be.
"I will give you that, child" Madame's expression got serious "you've followed a ghost trail and pressed into the unknown without a second thought in your head."
The music stopped and switched to an ocular vision of the prison. The rest of the "guests" were drooling idly abouts, just some kind of breezy, vague interest in the surroundings - casual, composed and easy. Without their memories they had no beliefs and no desires.
"This" Madame pointed with her cane "is the difference between you and them!"
"keep focus, keep focus" Jane was thinking. She was getting unnerved.
"With no game the cat looses interest." Madame turned over to grand the "guests" a pitying look "And the cat likes to play."
"Do you always waste so much saliva?" Jane was perhaps a bit too tense now.
Swinging on her heels Madame gave her a disappointed glance.
"I do hope you haven't become a hoodlum out there. Where is your style...little mouse?" The last word came with a wicked smile.
A moment of silence and Jane realised that it was her turn to speak.
"Give me what I came here for" (indeed where was the style?)
"Not a chance..." a grin "See if you can take it!"
Jane composed herself a bit.
"Have you been down here for so long with these lolly gaggers that you've become not only bored but mad?!"
Madame was serious for a moment "That's the spirit!", the same wicked smile "Little mouse..."
She vanished in a flash of light.
Appeared right in front of Jane "That's the spirit!"
Jane lost it and launched her right in a terrified rage at Madame but there was nothing there.
"Little mouse..."
All too quickly a container formed around Jane, the walls flying from nowhere, assembled together with an metallic clang. She started moving, as if in an elevator. Just enough time to slow down her heart pace. The wall in front slid aside revealing an surreal scape. Everything so white. Various cuboids in all sizes formed the floor and walls of a corridor straight ahead. Pixelised flicker distorted the shapes of some of the bodies. So many empty spaces between them and only a white abyss beyond. Lines with the letters "TRAUMA" were leading straight ahead.
"You can't stay here!" Madame's voice was omnipresent.
The elevator started unravelling itself back into nowhere. Jane ran. Everything behind her was swooped away or faded away in a gust of dust. A little further ahead was a section of the floor missing. Jane accelerated and tossed herself over, only to have the cubes where she was to land on disappearing. She began to fall. A pit formed around her and she felt her weight gradually coming back to her. Slowing her fall she brought her leg close to the wall and started running down on what now was a corridor ahead.
"Your mastery is fantastic!" as if from above.
Jane looked up and instantly crashed into a block. She collapsed on her back and began yet another free fall. Opening her eyes there was nothing except white nothingness. Various trigonometrical forms started appearing around her, falling together with her.
"Feeling more comfortable?" Madame was mocking.
Jane grabbed a cube and stretched it horizontally, by extending her hands. She compressed it vertically with an opposite motion and hopped onto the platform and regained again her sense of weight. She flexed her arm towards a sphere and as if tearing paper motioned the thing bellow her. Stretching both her arms she extended the object into a podium.
"Brilliant!" it came from behind her.
Jane turned and saw only Madame's cane up close and briefly. The solid thud knocked her off and she fell on the podium, her breath gushing out. Gasping like a fish she turned over and stood on all four. Raised her head to see Madame stretching her arm, a gun forming from pixelised bits swarming together.
"It's just a game after all!"
She shot and Jane got pinned to the ground, a sensation as of a giant mixer tucked into her. A few more shots followed. Every time a paralysing surge with an overstimulating pulse. Jane was shaken with every bang, a wave that felt like her body wanted to fly everywhere at the same time. Her head last, followed by a loud beep in her ears and a blurry vision. Wobbling, she stood on four again. Looking up she distinguished three Madames. A friendly grin followed by a cane from the left, a humiliating slap from the right and a kick, turning her over.
A brief stop from the "game". She took in a breath and her sight cleared.
"This place has really turned you into one sadistic bitch!" Jane clutched her teeth. She had but one option.
"Fascinating!" Madame had a girlish blush on her cheeks. She raised her cane and the ground bellow Jane dented up so quickly that Jane was tossed into the air. Madame gestured and Jane was brought in front of her.
"Compose yourself, child."
Jane was in arm's reach from Madame. She activated an algorithm in her body. It would suck the usual amount of flux, but luck was all she had left. The neural reconfiguration setup was compressed in bits and ready to be send over. A touch on the flesh was all that was needed. All her body's electricity had the reconfiguration code encrypted and it just needed to flow into Madame. Jane raised her left...
...and an iron grip clenched her.
"That is too dangerous for you!"
An ethereal enforcer had appeared. The bulky man was grasping her hand tightly.
"And it's also dangerous for me." Madame was seemingly amused.
The guard briskly twisted the arm back and Jane's left shoulder cracked. A desperate cry and she winced, falling down, still gripped the guard.
"This is the whole meaning of re-education"
The man plunged his fist into his victim's stomach. Jane sprang slightly in the air.
"It seems the rats never learn though."
The guard grabbed her head from behind and propelled his at hers."It's just a Mnemosis" she thought. The impact came and with it sharp pain in the skull.
Jane collapsed on the floor. The round Hall was there now. She felt warm blood on her forehead."It's just a much pain..."
Madame came close and used her cane to turn Jane's head towards hers. She pulsed a tiny EMP and the encryption of Jane's current was gone. Her Flux dissipated to the bare minimum.
"Still there I see."
Jane was thinking "the cat likes to play...". Slowly she turned over and tried standing. Fell on two knees, supporting herself with her right. Small droplets of blood dotted the floor beneath.
Madame looked interested still. Their sights met, then Jane slowly looked down..."it's still there" her mind was working.
"Well perhaps now we will be able to service you more properly."
"In her pocket..." Jane's eyes were looking around the room, but not on the one thing she was focused on.
"It's almost a pity, though!" Madame took in a deep breath, as if finishing some tedious chore.
"Once you're done... could you, please" Jane was giving in everything she had "erase all of these memories, as I wouldn't be able to live with the thought of an old and boring crone like yourself."
A twisted smile came to Madame's face and she looked at Jane for a moment more, then turned herself around to walk away.
"That old remote"  Jane's last thought.
Jane stretched her right, painfully suspended on her knees and jabbed at the plastic thing, sat there in Madame's pocket. Madame felt the slipping action and after a moment of realization gripped her cane, preparing herself to strike. It was time to kill. The way a cornered cat would fight for her life.
Those two batteries were all that was needed. A code written in DNA in a cell was picked up and ciphered into the small current, now freshly introduced into Jane's body. A scrambling algorithm, overriding normal electron flux was emitted from the remote. It introduced an over hyping reaction onto Madame's neural network. Convulsed, paralysed, frozen, burning, stabbed her mind was so busy registering all these emotions she was shacking, not even being able to fall to the ground. Visually the entire hall was disturbed and flickering as if repeating her convulsions.
Unable to do more and scared out of her mind Jane stood up and clutched Madam'e larynx. She squeezed and twisted giving in all the physical strength she had. The room no longer flickered. A dead and hollow thump on the floor. A murder in cold blood. No beauty, only fear.
Jane wished somebody could erase that memory.

(Madame is soo cool. Too bad she is also evil. That old remote was the only chance I could think of for Jane while pondering on the encounter between her and Madame. Actually Jane just got her identity! I didn't like the violent bit that much, but it is what it is. Please comment!)