What if all the information were available to you at the speed of thought?
Today Jay Posey is here to tell us about the Neuro Net – and the journey to technology in his series Legends of the Duskwalker
Neuro Net: The Journey to Technology in the Legends of the Duskwalker Series
It’s a dangerous thing to try to predict the future. As a general rule, I don’t try to do it, and I especially don’t claim to do it in anything I write. But science-fiction wouldn’t be science-fiction without the sciencey bits, and it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to write if we weren’t allowed to play around with interesting ideas. All of that is to say, I don’t pretend to be forecasting where technology might be headed in any of my work. I see myself more or less splashing around in a pool full of what-ifs.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to hear the amazing Vernor Vinge give a lecture at a game development conference in Austin where he spent about a half hour or so just talking through emerging technologies and what kind of world those technologies might lead us to. This was back in the mid-2000s I’d guess. People had probably been talking about smart dust for a long time by that point, but the idea of scattering billions of dust-sized micromachines all over the place that could all talk to each other was something I hadn’t thought much about. After that lecture, my brain was buzzing with thoughts about what a world might look like if connectivity was embedded everywhere you went. Not even embedded, really. Just a natural part of the environment, as much as air.
Add on to that our increasing acceptance of wearable technology, and it wasn’t much of a leap to start thinking about a society where constant connection to the Network was so essential that no one even considered it optional anymore. A world where a lack of connection would be beyond imagining or, if imagined, considered horrifying. (In fact, I think I might have some friends who fall into that category already.) So much a part of life that the vast majority of people would never even consider that connection that could be lost, the way most of us never think about gravity even though we use it all the time.
At some point in there, I started thinking a lot about overlapping advances in research and technology, and how very often a breakthrough in one discipline leads to a quantum leap in another field. Though we’ve still got a ways to go before we get to the Duskwalker world’s level of technology, the development of neural dust is actually heading down the right path. Neural dust is basically a micro-scale array of sensors that could be implanted directly into brain tissue, which could theoretically transmit signal to devices outside the skull. So you know, digital telepathy. Coupled with something like, say, augmented reality contact lenses (which people are working on right now!), you can see how we might end up in a world where Google Glass looks like a 1950s vision of a jetpack.
And then things got a little more terrifying when I started thinking about what it would mean if someone could use all that wonderful technology to hack right into your brain. (Of course, as a writer, I do often find myself wishing I could just plug my laptop directly into my mind, but thinking of it being a two-way street makes the idea a little less appealing.)
The whole internet-in-your-brain idea is pretty much baseline for the citizens of the Duskwalker series. Things get even more interesting when those folks start modifying their bodies further for various uses. Some might use chemicals, others implanted computers, others genetic manipulation. Once we’ve figured out how the human body works, it’s inevitable we’re going to find ways to hack it. We’re already doing it now, of course, so anything that’s going on in my books is probably closer on the horizon than even I give it credit for.
I’m not sure we’ll ever end up in a world that looks like the one portrayed in the Legends of the Duskwalker series. In fact, given that it’s a post-apocalyptic world, I kind of hope we don’t. But whether any of the ideas I’ve built on ever actually come to pass or not, it sure is fun to play around with the what-ifs they present.
Other guest articles by Jay Posey:
Jay Posey is a narrative designer, author, and screenwriter. Currently employed as Senior Narrative Designer at Red Storm Entertainment, he’s spent about 8 years writing and designing for Tom Clancy’s award-winning Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six franchises. He started in the video game industry in 1998, and has been writing professionally for over a decade.