Fallout 101 World Encyclopedia Entries (Technology and Society) & a pair of Essays on Technology, Religion, and the System

September 11, 2009-Notes about the following section: Originally when I began writing Fallout 101 proper (The first chapter of the novel in its current form came into being in September of 2008), I was writing these brief-ish entries about the sorts of technology that existed in the world and the manner in which it worked. Since then, I have been having difficulty even writing full chapters, given the chaotic form that life has taken on in the months proceeding, and so I have only a few of these (finished, at least) to share with you. Someday, I would definitely like to write more, but at present I feel my time is best spent on writing the actual chapters.

#01 - Technology - Reconstructor

For this post, I thought I would detail how the reconstructor, as seen in Chapter III, might work.

The reconstructor (or "Vendor" as it is more commonly known among lay people) is roughly analogous to 3D printers in limited use today. From the wikipedia entry about 3D printing:

"One variation of 3D printing consists of an inkjet printing system. Layers of a fine powder (plaster, corn starch, or resins) are selectively bonded by "printing" an adhesive from the inkjet printhead in the shape of each cross-section as determined by a CAD file. This technology is the only one that allows for the printing of full color prototypes. It is also recognized as the fastest method.
Alternately, these machines feed liquids, such as photopolymer, through an inkjet-type printhead to form each layer of the model. These Photopolymer Phase machines use an ultraviolet (UV) flood lamp mounted in the print head to cure each layer as it is deposited.

Fused deposition modeling (FDM), a technology also used in traditional rapid prototyping, uses a nozzle to deposit molten polymer onto a support structure, layer by layer."

There are already a large variety of methods that make something like the reconstructor possible. Where the reconstructor of Fallout 101 differentiates itself from current-day 3D printers is in the categories of speed, interface, and application/usability--three qualities that increase dramatically with each iteration of technologies in modern society.

Interface: When our heretofore nameless main character uses the reconstructor in Genesys, it interfaces directly with his brain to determine what he needs through a series of menus that are generated in part by his subconcious, allowing him to sort through them with relative ease. An experienced user would hardly notice the effect, placing orders almost unconsciously.

As well, the reconstructor taps into his bioelectric field for power, essentially turning him into a man-sized battery (though normally, wireless power generated at a local energy-plant would run the machine, or even a backup power unit).

Application/Usabilitity: While connected, the machine reveals to him that it has roughly 3,000 KVUs of variable state materials remaining. A KVU (or Kardham Varrs Unit) is a unit of measurement that exists solely within Fallout 101's universe. (According to the mythos of the world, the KVU was created primarily by Doctors Rick Kardham and Angela Varrs during their tenure at the Avis scientific research facility. In addition to determining an appropriate measurement for the "printing material"--or, VSM (see bottom)--the KVU had an extraordinary effect on monetary systems; this will be explored more in-depth in later entries.)

Note: A single KVU is approximately 1 metre by 1 metre of any kind of material when laid out at a 1 centimetre thickness. A standard reconstructor printing cartridge contains 1,000 KVUs of a solid mixture of metals and organics called VSM* (variable state material) solution that are shaved off from the printing cartridge on a molecular level to form new objects.

Speed: Calculations are performed instantaneously, with the only limiting factor of most reconstructors being the efficacy of their equipment (though some prototype models were able to overcome many of the physical barries of the early 2030's versions). Even with older models, most objects could be created in less time than it would take a present-day cashier to ring them up. Some things, like complex electronics and certain nano-fiber clothing, can draw out the process considerably due to the precision work required.

(Another note: the model seen in Chapter III is one of the originals. Seeing as how it was not located in a heavily populated area, it was one of many that was never deemed necessary to upgrade.)

For further information on resource gathering, the technology behind the reconstructor's interface, and on the many technologies that it can create, please refer to the Fallout 101 encyclopedia.

* VSM is an acronym also used to specify a silky smooth material used in clothing that is capable of strengthening upon impact with an object or breaking apart when told to do so by a small electric charge from the multi-use tool called "Aura" (which is essentially the Swiss Army knife of future electronic devices.)

# 01 - Society - Idest

“Interlude pt. I” takes place in Idest, the first city to have ever been built without human labor. In addition, the majority of the city—set to accommodate a population of half a million plus—was built in less than a year and was endowed with a viable infrastructure for its continued existence without a single human present. This remarkable achievement was made possible by the development of a variety of A.I. systems* in the early 2020’s that allowed for non-stop construction based on human/A.I. jointly designed city plans. As well, sophisticated modular housing techniques—allowing buildings to be pieced together from existing parts, yet maintain a modern and appealing aesthetic—decreased construction time drastically.

Another remarkable aspect of Idest is its “clear sky act,” the effects of which are observed during “Interlude pt. I” As Maria contemplates her situation, she watches cars enter and exit the Paramount Human Arts Center, appearing as if out of nothing and then dissolving into the night as they leave. This phenomenon, while quite commonplace to her, is a result of the technology of full-passthrough light preserving cells that render an object completely invisible through the use of 360 degree light replicating technology powered by an ultra-efficient energy cell. While this technology is available worldwide, Idest is one of the few cities in which it is used so ubiquitously.

The second piece of the act decrees that there must be zero light horizon visible from city lights, thus allowing a clear view of the stars at night. The argument presented for this is that “man must be given every opportunity to marvel at the nature of the world he lives in, lest he lose his sense of awe.” This goal was accomplished through intelligent city planning, with many light sources shaded beneath canopies of trees, and advancements in lighting technology that increased safety as well as reduced the amount of nighttime light.

*[While the social and economic results of manual labor shifting onto the shoulders of A.I. will be discussed later, it is important to make mention of a few issues surrounding the use of A.I.’s themselves, namely the distinction between the two main varieties of A.I.: Artificial Life and Artificial Intelligence.

At the time of Idest’s construction, it was considered cruel and inhumane to put Artificial Life, category one or greater, to work. (In short, a category one is an Artificial Intelligence capable of expressing humanlike emotions, whether mimicked or real. A category ten Artificial Life would, if such a thing existed, be indistinguishable from a human and fully capable of contemplating the nature of both self and existence.) Thus, a set of guidelines were created, not unlike the Turing test, to determine the level of independent thinking that a machine was capable of, with an emphasis on showing that all machines being used were simply tools, just as the computer had been before them.

In reality, standardized sets of code had been in use for years that had long since been tested and approved for use, but these measures were taken in an effort to stanch renewed cries of “slave labor” and “robot rebellion”.]

Future encyclopedia entries on Idest will address the evolution of the traffic system and the automobile as well as waste disposal, economy, and the role of A.I. in society. Remember to come back every Sunday for a new chapter.

[note: Upon future revision, I apologize for not having made any new entries since these originals. I'd still like to, though, so I hope I can find the time to do it between new chapters.]

The System is a Little Frayed at the Seams (An Essay)

In life, there are certain things we have control over—such as where we decide to work, or go to school. And there are other things that are out of our hands. Even then, the things we feel we have control over could slip away at any moment, and the things that we feel are beyond us—such as the state of the world; and sometimes, the state of our own lives—are really more up to us to determine than we realize.

One of the strange and unique things about existence is that we each, essentially, live in worlds that are separate from those of the people around us in all but the most superficial of ways—i.e., the physical. And in fact, it is merely our perception of the physical that determines how we feel about it, and which, in doing so, determines what is there. (“One man’s heaven is another man’s Hell,” right?)

Because, if you really think about it, which is more important: an object (say, a toy from your childhood), or how that object makes you feel? To someone else, that toy that elicits nostalgia is maybe just another piece of useless junk on the pile. And that is because the majority of this world is relative to the person perceiving it.

But then there is this remarkable thing that happens when enough people believe the same thing: sometimes, whatever it is begins to seem like the “right” thing or the “wrong” thing, or, stranger still, the “Reality” of things. The statement, “History is written by the victor,” is evoked here. But for a more relevant example, just look at advertisements, which say, “Coca cola – cool! Beer – Manly! Thin and pretty – Important!” When, really, it’s all inherently meaningless and, oftentimes, incorrect.

So while pure water might, in fact, be the best thing to quench your thirst, people instead think of a Coke. Or while fruit and salad and vegetables might be both the best thing for them and the best tasting thing, properly prepared, people say, “A Big Mac would really hit the spot,” in large because that’s how they’ve been conditioned to think… well, and also because the food is physically and psychologically addictive. (Just think about the weird cravings you get for Mickey D’s and tell me there isn’t something unnatural about that.)

But, as a species, we would be perfectly happy without McDonalds, Frito Lay, and T.V. dinners if we had never had them in the first place. So, sure, this food is probably comforting to those of you who grew up with it, or eat it all the time, but it is far from ideal. And yet it has become a part of our diets anyways. (Sort of like how we use shampoos and conditioners with ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which has been suspected to be a carcinogen and to cause canker sores when used in toothpaste. And who cares if it doesn’t cause cancer? Just the fact that we suspect it should set off warning bells in the public consciousness. Sort of like how certain Red food dyes (No. 2, 40, and 106, according to an Oxford Toxological science journal) cause DNA damage in mice. I mean… holy fuck, are you serious, American Food Industry? Is it really that important that our disgusting, store bought pastries are that particular shade of pink or whatever?)

But if water and natural foods really are so much better than Coke and Cheetos, why don’t we eat them instead? Wouldn’t we, as a society, be able to see through the bullshit of T.V. ads? And if these ads aren’t informing us with anything valuable, on the whole, then why do they work so well?

It is because they suggest a unifying image of a new reality that we all create. And a reality that, in the grand scheme of things, is about as “real” as the idea that ‘women are less intelligent/competent than men, and thus are incapable of voting rationally,’ or that ‘people of differing skin colors are subhuman'... Both ideas since determined to be fallacies by a significant enough number of people that they are now unacceptable to most; both ideas which were once considered indisputable truth by just as significant a number of people.

Now, you might ask, “What, exactly, is the ‘Grand Scheme of things’ then?

And the answer is simple, really. (Because let’s take things one step at a time.) The Grand Scheme is this—we are a species that has lost pieces of its nature and has settled on reclaiming it through watered down visages labeling themselves as “Freedom,” “Liberty,” and “Love.”

We call cars, money, and the internet “Freedom.” We call ‘Not getting shot at, or beaten by the police on the way to work,’ “Liberty.” We call “I don’t want you to be how you are, but I love you anyways; and, I worry because I love you,” “Love.”

But we have become the worst kind of prisoners—the kind who shut ourselves in cages and mindlessly throw aside the key. When things are “Good enough,” when we believe that you have to have “good days and bad days” and “That’s just how life is,” you aren’t giving yourself full credit for your power to completely change the world. And I don’t mean the material world—I mean the world you live in and the way you see things.

On the news, we hear about war and poverty; death and decay; financial collapse. People are depressed; drugs are required; there isn’t enough money for health care for everyone… etc. We might even think, “I should lose weight; get a shiny new pair of tits; eat [insert brand] food,” and we hardly even know why anymore because there is so much information in the world! You are assaulted by ads all the time, espousing conveniences and products and trying to get into your head in any way they can think of.

And so we forget. We forget that shampoos and soaps can smell great and work great and not have harmful chemicals in them; we forget that all these time saving devices—microwaves, canned foods, etc.—are only freeing up time for us to work our asses off at a 9-5 grind, and they are also unsatisfying, unhealthy, and not worth the sacrifice we are making for them. We have given up free time so we can work more to pay more for land, gas, cars, entertainment, and everything else.

But here’s the thing: We don’t have to. We just don’t know any better on the whole. Corporations pay for everything, and they dictate perception. They employ lobbyists to tell Congress what to do (using money to persuade them, naturally), which tells us how to think. I mean, just look at milk, from cows. You probably think, “Milk=calcium=good,” right? But where did you get that perception from? Probably all those “Got milk” ads, I bet. I know I did.

And if we weren’t so busy being inundated with advertisements which pay for us to watch the television that helps us escape from our lives which help us ignore the world and ourselves until we finally fucking die, maybe we would get up and go for a walk through the woods, play in the streams, drink in the ephemeral beauties of Earth… maybe then we would have a use for all that calcium we’re trying to keep in our bones.

Walk into any New Age bookstore though, and you will find a totally different perception of reality stacked upon the shelves. A perception that says that we are all inherently the best of the best and the worst of the worst, and capable of anything. And that the only way to change the world is to start with ourselves and decide, each of us, on our own, what is right for us; simultaneously the most selfish and selfless thing you can do—by becoming a better human, you are making every facet of your life better, as well as the lives of those around you (at least the time they spend interacting with you.)

Which reveals an interesting aspect of humanity: what truly and genuinely benefits one truly and genuinely benefits all. (And I’m not talking about getting a new car—that can be both positive and negative and it’s all relative—I mean recognizing the deep, beautiful nature inherent in all of us and wading through all the muck and bullshit passed down through the generations.)

Because here’s the truth: We are a beautiful species, deep down. And sure, it might be a little buried, but it’s there. We are each fully capable of saying, “You know what? I am ready to be happy,” and picking up something like “Autobiography of a Yogi,” or “The Tao Te Ching,” or, Hell, even the Bible! But read the new testament like you mean it, guys; the poor thing has been so thoroughly swamped in cultural mythos that a vast number of people simply rely on other people's perceptions to tell them how to feel about it, either demonizing it without attempting to understand it, or simply taking it for granted that when priests and pastors say "focus on this," that they should.

But think about how many of the clergy don’t, at all, embody what Christ was talking about, and can only seem to remember the one painful-seeming moment in his life; because we are a culture that, insanely, equates pain with love. (“I hurt you because I love you,” sound familiar?) And so we wear crosses around our necks--exalting the "sacrifice" in physical pain--and wait for Christ to come back to Earth and save us, instead of following the path of love and joy that he taught and saving ourselves right now.

And here’s the amazing thing: If everybody got to go to their exclusive Mormon/Christian/Whatever “Heaven”, those of us “left behind” would have a heaven all our own. Because this Earth is Heaven, it is “The Garden of Eden,” it is Paradise. It is simply frightening to believe that because it means that we, humanity, are what needs to change, and not the world around us.

And while change is hard, the source is simple, too. It is love. That’s all. Just love… made of compassion, empathy, understanding, and grace. Love for ourselves… For the people around us... For life and all its qualities. For the beauty of the ups and downs. The dark and the light. For death as our liberating, rejuvenating companion day to day, rather than an entity of which we are afraid.

Because life without death is crowded, confusing, and out of balance. And life without love is monochromatic. And the Earth without us is a confoundingly beautiful rock floating through space, with no one to appreciate it, muse over it, and love it as we should ourselves.

An Essay On Technology and Religion

Notes about the Essay: I apologize for the fairly rough nature of the following essay. I would like to note that I whipped it out in about 30 minutes before trudging off to a soul sucking job while living in Portland, and have yet to get around to rounding the edges and clarifying certain concepts that currently require greater logical leaps to understand than I would like... Just so you know...

The Essay:

In the scientific community, there is often a great divide between those who believe in god and those who do not; as well, those who are religious in addition to God-belief.

The reason I have chosen this topic to write on is because of something I noticed while researching certain elements of Fallout 101’s plotline. I found that there is a tendency for religious scientists to feel that there is a limit to how much technology can grow, specifically with relation to Artificial Intelligence, and that they often felt this way because of two things: the computational properties of silicon and its limitations, and because of God’s relationship with man.

Before I get any deeper into this, I would like to mention that I am personally non-religious and undecided on God. I am only pointing out what I see. However, I do have one belief—there will always be progress, even if it comes with some amount of regression at first. (For example: Cars help us to get around, but they are also loud, dangerous, and need roads paved where trees might have once been. Eventually though, we will develop the technology or methodology to allow high-speed transport and nature to coexist. That is my philosophy.)

The things that often most interest me about science and religion are the places where they overlap, even as seemingly opposed entities. For example, the Big Bang is often interpreted as some manner of God energy; of course, it is unleashed over the course of billions of years instead of seven days, but time is endlessly open to interpretation.

Even then, there are many Christian-faith oriented scientists who are opposed to the idea of true Artificial Intelligence ever occurring in our world. It seems to me, however, that their religion supports this idea based on the following philosophy: ‘God created man in his image and likeness.’ These words can, again, be interpreted in numerous ways, but the way I read them is that we are each unlimited in our capacity to create; indeed, equals to the creator. This is not a matter of hubris, because, if that philosophy is true, then we must all be equals, having stemmed from the same place.

For proof of this idea, you need only look to child birth. One of our most basic tendencies is to create human life, equal in every way to the life that God is said to have created. And I believe that this extends far beyond that tendency.

In truth, the desire to create life isn’t a desire to “outdo God,” or to “become more powerful than God,” because we hacked the system and found a way to create a form of life that didn’t come to exist in the same way that we did. It is a desire to continue the natural process of growth and creation by accommodating the nascent aspects of the world that we now live in. (Such as overpopulation and discontentment on a global scale, which wouldn’t have been a problem thousands of years ago.)

To understand this better, consider the following: in small groups of, say, 15 to 30 families, we could create an infrastructure out of environmentally appropriate vegetables and fruits that would easily support each family on a few acres of land. (Of course, this is assuming they are in a somewhat forgiving climate; which, for 15 to 30 people, is not a difficult circumstance to accommodate.)

The goal of this example is to create families who are not only healthy and alive, but happy, too. And in fact, these families wouldn’t have to ‘work’ much at all to live—they could spend their days being in touch with the earth (gardening), breathing the fresh, clean air, enjoying the shade of their trees (which are self sustaining), and finding solace in the silent touch of nature. And when they ate their fruit and their vegetables, the food would be pesticide free; in addition, it would taste like nothing we can buy in a grocery store today, and be completely healthful.

This is the ideal towards which we, as a species, are moving: green foods, green cars, and relaxing jobs/daily routines. (Okay, eventually, America.) And in fact, Artificial Intelligence is one of the greatest supporters of the trend towards this manner of existence, which means that natural process supports Artificial Intelligence.

And while there is a lot to be said for changing the way we live—we do NOT need that many cars on the road all the time for everyone to have a good quality of life, in addition to the opportunities that America, for example, prides herself on providing—there is also the truth that creating something new is a lot easier than changing the way that people live.

(And dictatorship is out of the question; playing with people’s emotions is like playing with an atom bomb.)

So what this leaves us with is a need for a much-improved infrastructure. Which is something that A.I. can provide, assuming we find a way around the limitations of silicon, and open our minds enough to create software that will lead to full A.I.

So, given the general disposition of religions towards sentient technology, doesn’t it seem that technology is just man’s way of expressing the same creative urges that God is said to have had in creating us? Which, then, would support the idea of man as an extension of that creator, much in the same way that our children are extensions of ourselves? Indeed, if I was God, I believe I would want my creations to be better and happier than myself. Otherwise, I probably would have just said “fuck it” and blown everything up by now.

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