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  • The future is pipes

    The future is pipes

    Postby ari » Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:07 pm

    No intent to turn this into any kind of a thing, so I'll just list out the points of where I figure Lant and Resplendence would eventually go. Again, this is not a thing. This is not a story that's meant to have consistent or interesting themes or conflict, this is just me being frustrated at not finding it in myself to write one:

    Lant starts out being a place vaguely similar to the northern half of Sweden in maybe the eighties or nineties, more seventies-ish in the west and north. It's cold, heavily forested, and fairly sparsely populated. Resplendence starts out as a city on the coast of Lant where the telluric currents allow for a very high level of technology, even easier in some ways than on Earth with its relatively simpler laws of nature - it is a cosmopolitan place, economically vibrant, libertarian. It often chews people up and spits them out, but there's plenty of space in "Resplendence's halo" - a ring of compact exurbs full of grey cencrete housing projects surrounding the big city.

    Over time, Resplendence's dominance in the nation increases. Computers in the city become ever more powerful, and business is dependent on the data processing capabilities. Over time, a communication network is built that is strictly based on central servers in Resplendence. Homes and businesses have big bulky terminals, those in more fortunate places connected with fiber optic directly all the way to the city, some by copper cables.

    The difference becomes greater. AI development booms in Resplendence. The terminals start making better decisions than any human can. Life in Lant does remain much the same both in appearance and practice, though. Unlike with us on Earth, you can keep secrets from the network. If you do a stupid thing at a party, it might well be that there's nobody around with a camera, because cameras are bulky and slow affairs. It's just that you can talk to the computer (or, if you don't have a microphone - which is entirely likely because there are no really good microphones) and it'll talk back just as intelligently as a person, and more so. Imagine a gas station in the Swedish countryside, except with the computer from Star Trek - because that's what where much of social life of the Lant of this era occurs in my mind.

    Thing is, the AI just keeps getting better. It happens over decades, but it happens. At maybe about a hundred years from where people start noticing that the computers *know* things. They intuit meaning from the tiny details of not just what you say to it, but the timing of your keypresses and the revelations about your brain structure that come from the typos you make. They understand your anxieties and know your dreams. They know about what people have done without ever being mentioned. This is not due to any change in Lant - it's simply that Resplendence has come to a level where the intelligence in the city is capable of understanding people better based on an offhand comment made by someone barely related than people understand themselves.

    Resplendence itself at this point has come entirely overwhelming to outsiders. You can still go in the city, the train station still exists, the planes still land at the airport, you can even take a car. But where the city once used to be filled with people who don't make any sense, it's now the city itself that makes no sense. The walls glow in chaotic colors, the buildings shift apparently dangerously (although they still make sure to never actually hurt you). The air in Resplendence speaks to you. None of this is because the Resplendent have any particular intent to make themselves seem incomprehensible or superior. Quite the opposite, in fact - they consider themselves Lantian, even if their cybernetic bodies would break down instantly if they left the city, and they owe it to the rest of the nation to be honest. At a smaller level of difference, that honesty might manifest as an earnest explanation of the complexities of what they do and how they live - but at this point, it is just far too much for unaugmented minds to take.

    While there is little travel, there is a large amount of trade. Physically, the form it takes might seem unfair: Resplendence produces very little for the outside, but buys enormous amounts of metals and other resources which arrive at the city in a constant stream. But then, as far as the Lantians are concerned, they aren't exactly getting the short shrift. They *know* what to do in lives to be happy and fulfilled while still finding challenge, for the price of sending some really rather uninteresting stuff to the city. It doesn't even cause more than a little social unrest when it comes out that the AI models of Lantian citizens, by which Resplendence actually is able to have this insight into their lives, are actually advanced enough to be known to be conscious copies. In an important way, at this point the population of Lant, even the part whose physical bodies is outside of the city, still exists more inside the city (if you count their moments of conscious experience).

    Anyway, it goes on like this. In Lant, life is good, although somehow it still pretty much looks the same as ever, only with a lot less bullshit. In Resplendence, life is... something, though I'm not going to take it upon myself to think of words to describe what the hell they are doing. Oh, well, actually there's some things they do that make sense. For one, they build cooling fins.

    See, fusion power - yes, that old thing - is difficult even for the Resplendent, and it takes a lot of power for them to figure it out. Let's say the telluric currents work so that you require a ridiculous amount of computing power for it to work or something. Anyway, what they start doing is building massive amounts of it. Hydrogen fusion plant (using plentiful seawater as fuel) here, enormous computing farm probably running millions or billions of souls over there, multiply by as large a number as you can fit in the area. You know what that makes? It makes a hell of a lot of heat.

    I didn't really do the calculations, but I think it would probably get to be enough to make some neat things happen pretty soon. For one, there's going to be a bit of a storm. Like let's say an unending nation-sized hurricane. In the middle, there is Resplendence, glowing with the enormous amounts of heat that have to come out when it not only converts all of that energy while doing computation, but also keeps the computers themselves cold (which means they have to convert that much more energy and put out that much more heat). I don't think there's going to be much life that's going to last within several kilometers of the city within the wind and the heat. Think of it like a tiny bit of the Sun taken down to the planet, because it sort of is.

    Life in Lant goes underground. Well, some of it - obviously those that would enjoy an uploaded life have gone to be uploaded by this point. But it's okay to not want to do that. While Lant's technology isn't getting any better, an imperceptibly minute fraction of one forgotten corner Resplendence's oldest server farm is enough to provide perfect organisation to efforts to build new safe habitats.

    I wouldn't mind if things got a bit wonky from this point on. Maybe Resplendence is finally able to slightly change the rules of the telluric game. One thing I was kind of dreaming about is that they start building pipes to carry the heat out and radiate it away from different parts of the planet. Then there could be underground villages of people who have sworn off having anything to do with the wisdom of the computers but depend on the city anyway like let's say they run heat engines off Resplendence's cooler pipes. Maybe grow thermosynthetic plants on it... well, that's too simple. The reason you don't see thermosynthetic plants in reality is that it's just very difficult to exploit thermal gradients in biology - some say it's "low-grade energy". But I don't want to think of them as having technology good enough to run electric power plants and electric lights off it. Maybe stirling engines turning massive spinners on which they grow kinetosynthetic plants (plants that grow by feeding on mechanical energy).

    There's probably going to be dead points on the surface where it's not just enough that there's the storm, but it's deadly due to high-energy radiation (used by the city to vent its waste heat). The storm's going to be big enough that there's no way you can sail a ship on the surface on a good part of the planet... but if you *do* have a massive consistent storm on the surface, then you might also have some quite fast ocean currents that it pulls with it, so an underwater sailing ship might be feasible. That sort of stuff.
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    Re: The future is pipes

    Postby Verion » Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:01 pm

    ari wrote:it is [...] libertarian.

    I'm listening... :-D
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