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Propaganda and Zombification

This week’s pictures are from the hills of Los Gatos and the Wilder Ranch beaches in Santa Cruz. The connection with my texts is oblique, aleatory, surreal. The meaning-seeking human brain can connect anything to anything. Proof: Every time you watch TV with the sound off, and with a CD playing music, there is a perfect fit between image and audio tracks. Even if you’re straight.

In my novel-in-progress Postsingular, I want AI control of humans via the orphidnet to be a real threat, but one which can be fended off.

For our physical orphidnet hookup, we have a mesh of orphids on our scalps, a few in every square millimeter, and these orphids are sending in gentle magnetic fields that diddle the brain in such a way that, acting in concert, the scalp mesh acts more or less like a wireless Internet hookup with (subvocalized) voice recognition and heads-up display.

People have control over this interface; they can turn off feeds if they like, they can even close down the interface entirely.

The evil AIs that I call “beetles,” however, want to find a way to (a. always on) make it impossible to turn off the feed, (b: propaganda) dominate a person’s thoughts, and perhaps even(c: zombification) directly run the person like a robot-remote.

(a) Always on. This is a bit of a battle zone that slides back and forth. The beetles find a way to wedge the gate open, the humans figure out a way to make sure it’s closed, the beetles find a new way to wedge it open, back and forth like that, akin to the ebb and flow of virus/antivirus wares.

As an example of how it might feel to have the door wedged open, think of when a websurfer gets stuck with a series of pop-up ads, each ad a new browser window, and they can’t close the browser without rebooting the computer. But you can’t reboot your brain.

[Gathering her strength into a mental lunge, Nektar closed down the image of the beetle for a moment of respite. She glanced over at her bedside clock. Ten fifteen in the morning. And now the minute hand bent up and out towards her, articulating itself into a beetle leg. The clock face dropped off, and a fresh beetle crawled out.

“You must record ad,” it insisted. “We exhaust time and patience. More punish.”] — From Postsingular, Chapter Three.

(b) Propaganda If you're an evil beetle and you have a person’s orpidnet door wedged open, domination is easy. You jam your victim’s brain with a torrent of leaf-blower noise, or scary blood gushes, or screaming, or devils, or tortured family members. And you tell them you’ll stop it when they do what you want. Another approach would be to lie to them and convince them of things. Or feed them very pleasant sensations when they do what you want, perhaps obsessing them with sexual imagery.

(c) Zombification. With zombification, I’m talking about direct control in the form of reaching into a person’s will or, even more basically, firing their muscle contractions yourself. As opposed to indirect control by threatening to show someone painful things, or by promising them pleasant sensations or by misleading them with false information. For reasons of plot and art, I’m inclined to hold back on zombification in Postsingular, and to deem it impossible, at least by means of orphidnet technology. That is, I plan to disallow the effects achieved by what I called a zombiebox in Wetware, a leech DIM inRealware, and an ooie in Frek and the Elixir.

Why, in the world of Postsingular will zombification be impossible? Well, I’ll say the orphid signals are gentle, weak and are constrained to certain outer-lying regions of the cortex, and can only produce illusions of sensory experiences: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. We might also suppose the orphid mesh isn’t fine enough to really run a person, and orphids won’t bunch any tighter. This said, note that you can use propaganda to achieve very nearly the results of direct hard-wired zombification.

So it all comes down to the fight over being able to close off unwanted inputs. Spam wars.

[“Woo, woo, woo,” murmured Sonic, seizing the leg of a beetle and shaking his body so as to shower the virtual insect with — fleas? Little anti-beetle fleas, yes, purposeful, cobalt-blue sparks attaching themselves to Nektar’s tormentors. The flea-bitten beetles jerked and twitched, then scuttled away as if in a movie running backwards. Sonic the dog ran about Nektar’s cleaned-up mindscape, his body bright and transparent as a gout of water. He scratched and whined at Nektar’s filter cabinet, tugged it open with his teeth, then shook himself again, scattering anti-beetle fleas into the cabinet’s drawers.] — From Postsingular, Chapter Three.

3 Responses to “Propaganda and Zombification”

  1. gamma Says:

    2day i went to the new big hospital for a field test it was at clinic K on the first floor – irealised i had a pal in there recovering from cancer of the mouth so i thought i’d pay him a visit it was on floor 14 & the view looking west was panoramin & almost vertiginous – thanx for yur good work Doc

  2. Steve H Says:

    Rudy – great ideas! Suppose your hairbrush was a powerful magnet, or your hat was full of coils; could you repel spam-boarders? How about something like a Shinto gate that dispels bad luck and evil demons as you pass through? Do you visualize the ‘always-on’ hack as software/malware or as modded orphids? “Damn, I need to reinstall Orphid 2.0” vs “Damn, I’ve got new orphids mixed with my usuals?”

  3. Bob Miller Says:

    I love the idea of zombification. The human brain is truly sensational!
    -Bob from Karate Table View

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