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"Visions of the Metanovel" as Forecast for IFTF

On Thursday I was supposed to attend the Future's Technology Horizons Spring Exchange sponsored by IFTF, the Institute for the Future.

But I’m paralyzed by a flu virus; I walk around in a bubble all day with no relief in sight. In this altered state, I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Zappa. I’ve become obsessed with his “Helsinki Concert” as recorded on Disc 1 of You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol. 2, particularly the last four minutes of “Pygmy Twylyte,” I creep around listening to it on my iPod, and I hear the guitar solos in my head all the time.

Be that as it may, here’s the forecast I would have shared at the Spring Exchange, had I been able to go there. And, hey, virtually I’m there right now, doing this. The following passage by the way, forms the opening to my latest fiction piece, “Visions of the Metanovel,” to appear in my collection Mad Professor (Thunder’s Mouth Press, late 2006 or early 2007).

The Singularity was brought on by some nanomachines known as orphids. The orphids used quantum computing and propelled themselves with electrostatic fields.

The self-reproducing orphids doubled their numbers every few minutes at first, fortunately they’d been designed to level out at a sustainable population of some sextillion orphids upon Earth’s surface. This meant there were one or two orphids affixed to every square millimeter of every object on the planet. Something like fifty thousand orphids blanketed, say, any given chair or any particular person’s body. The orphids were like ubiquitous smart lice, not that you could directly feel them, for an individual orphid was little more than a knotty long-chain molecule.

Thanks to the power of quantum computing, an individual orphid was roughly as smart as a talking dog, possessing a good understanding of natural language and a large amount of extra memory. Each orphid knew at all times its precise position and velocity, indeed the name “orphid” was a pun on the early 21st century technology of RFID or “Radio Frequency Identification” chips. Rather than radio waves, orphids used quantum entanglement to network themselves into their world-spanning orphidnet.

The accommodating orphids set up a human-orphidnet interface via gentle electromagnetic fields that probed though the scalps of their hosts. Two big wins: by accessing the positional meshes of the orphids, people could now effectively see anything anywhere; and by accessing the orphids’ instantaneous velocities, people could hear the sounds at any location as well. Earth’s ongoing physical reality could be as readily linked and searched as the Internet.

Like eddies in a flowing steam, artificially intelligent agents emerged within the orphidnet. In an ongoing upward cascade, still higher-level agents emerged from swarms of the lower-level ones. By and large, the agents were human-friendly; people spoke of them as beezies.

By interfacing with beezies, a person could parcel out intellectual tasks and store vast amounts of information within the extra memory space that the orphids bore. Those who did this experienced a vast effective increase in intelligence. They called themselves kiqqies, short for kilo-IQ.

New and enhanced forms of art arose among the kiqqies, among these was the multimedia metanovel.

In considering the metanovel, think of how Northwest Native American art changed when the European traders introduced steel axes. Until then, the Native American totems had been hand-held items, carved of black stone. But once the tribes had axes, they set to work making totems from whole trees. Of course with the axe came alcohol and smallpox; the era of totem poles would prove to be pitifully short.

There were also some dangers associated with the orphidnet. The overarching highest-level-of-them-all agent at the apex of the virtual world was known as the Big Pig. The Big Pig was an outrageously rich and intricate virtual mind stuffed with beautiful insights woven into ideas that linked into unifying concepts that puzzle-pieced themselves into powerful systems that were in turn aspects of a cosmic metatheory — aha! Hooking into the billion-snouted billion-nippled Big Pig could make a kiqqie feel like a genius. The down side was that kiqqies were unable to remember or implement insights obtained from a Big Pig session. The more fortunate kiqqies were able to limit their Big Pig usage in the same way that earlier people might have limited their use of powerful psychoactive drugs.

If the Big Pig was like alcohol, the analogy to smallpox was the threat of runaway, planet-eating nanomachines called nants — but I won’t get into the nants here…

2 Responses to “"Visions of the Metanovel" as Forecast for IFTF”

  1. gamma Says:

    good stuff stick with Frank don’t try N-LIGHT. (or d0-do -da doo

  2. FRANKEEH Says:

    RAWR nice page i like the art its coool
    im smarter than you hahaha im gammas son number 2!

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