Year of the Ox
Islamic calendar 1440-41
World population falls to 8,000 million
Olympics cancelled due to lack of interest
Fusion reactor in pilot plant stage
1450th anniversary of the birth of Muhammad
2500th anniversary of the death of Buddha
Artificial eyes give you a better view on things
Oxymaker - will revolutionary carbon dioxide eating plants save the planet?
UN defines humans - arguments simmer in General Assembly over limits on humanid rights
Intelligent network virus Netmind gives exclusive personal interview - close encounters with artificial intelligence
"Numbers of the living dead exceed natural mortality figures" - EU population register
The CIBA Foundation's Research Laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland has completed a cherished project that dates back almost ten years. The Laboratory has succeeded in attaching an artificial eye to the human optic nerve and the occipital lobes that form the centre of our visual perception system in the brain. The artificial eyes can "see" a broader spectrum of electromagnetic waves, extending beyond the wavelengths that we normally call visible light.
Artificial eyes have been implanted in six individuals on an experimental basis, and the results have been surprisingly encouraging. These extra eyes can be switched on and off as required. Three of the test-subjects have received eyes capable of seeing ultraviolet radiation, and the other three have eyes enabling them to see infra-red images.
Those who received ultraviolet eyes report that the view of the world they impart is radically different in colour from that offered by the conventional human eye. For example green leaves show up primarily as bluish-red. This is the image of the world perceived by many insects. Subjects using the infra-red artificial eyes on the other hand commented that they saw heat-emitting objects much more clearly in conditions of total darkness than for example through infra-red sensitive cameras or binoculars, and that the objects were also visible in 3-D.
The artificial eye will be a real boon in years to come. Infra-red eyes will enable service staff to locate such things as thermal leaks in heating systems without carrying bulky detection equipment. If an individual were to be equipped with a pair of infra-red eyes and temperature-sensitive artificial skin, it would produce a fully-trained professional for the solution of many problems in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and energy transfer branches. There is already a great demand for such combi-workers in maintenance tasks for machinery, buildings, and transport vehicles.
For their part, ultraviolet eyes will enable us to follow at close hand the behaviour of pollinating insects, in order to discover which flowers attract which insects and why. This will have a considerable importance particularly for the cultivation of genetically-manipulated plants, as under ultraviolet radiation conditions - in other words, taking the "insect's-eye-view" - their flowers may not appear the same colour as the original plant, thus causing disturbances in natural pollination. The eyes will allow growers to develop plants that appeal to useful insects and repel potential pests, and which are therefore cheaper and easier to cultivate commercially.
Naturally, defence forces and police departments have shown an interest in the research, particularly in the potential for improved night vision using infra-red eyes. According to scientists at the CIBA Foundation, it is inevitable that now the breakthrough has been made, development will accelerate and the price of these artificial eyes will come down to a level where they also inspire new free-time hobbies and probably even new sports.
The Brazilian Foundation for BioTech Research is currently developing a plant that emits greatly more oxygen into the atmosphere than existing plant species. Some scientists already believe that the Oxymaker could be the eleventh-hour answer to the threat of global warming.
Although there are still problems to be overcome with the breeding of the plant now semi-officially dubbed "Oxymaker", researchers believe the solution is close at hand. The first Oxymaker plantation is up and running, and it absorbs roughly eight times as much CO2 as normal plants.
The first version of Oxymaker, a genetically spliced hybrid of bamboo and sugar cane, was completed two years ago. The idea was to create a plant that would take up an extremely large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then photosynthesize it under sunlight, thereby releasing large quantities of oxygen back into the atmosphere. If these plants could be grown as extensive forests, the logical conclusion would be that the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could at least be slowed, and possibly reversed. In principle, the prototype operated as had been expected, but its ability to bind CO2 was not as great as models had suggested.
Subsequent tests showed that that the cause was that the leaves were not large enough, and their cellular structure - the palisade and spongy mesophyll cells below the upper epidermis - was not designed to take from the atmosphere a sufficient quantity of CO2 for the purpose. Hence the process of genetic combination was extended, this time with genes from the hybrid maple-birch.
A week to full growth
Now the first one-hectare plantation of Oxymaker trees is complete, and it works almost according to computer predictions. The plant can absorb up to eight times the carbon dioxide level of any other plant species over a similar area. According to the developers this figure will only increase, as and when the latest variants reach their full height. The plant is also efficient in that it is capable of photosynthesizing the full complement of CO2 into glucose, alongside the oxygen emitted back into the atmosphere.
Thanks to the bamboo component in the genome, Oxymaker uses a great deal of its sugar energy for growing, and is a prolific plant by any standards. It reaches full height more rapidly than any other plant of similar size, in only slightly more than one week. After this point, the sugar surplus is nevertheless still large, since the plant produces roughly six times as much glucose as a conventional cane plant. The Oxymaker attempts to get rid of the excess glucose in any way it can, and in practice what happens is that narrow slits appear in the stem, from which syrup oozes out. In order to be able to do this, the plant requires a good deal of water, so that the syrup does not become too viscous and interfere with the vascular system in the plant. Consequently, in its present form the Oxymaker is only suitable for cultivation in very humid climates, or areas with extensive irrigation.
Problems with insects
The sugar syrup dripping from the plant stems in turn causes a problem, in that the sweet discharge attracts many insects, particularly wasps and bees. The entire Oxymaker plantation seems to be a seething mass of stinging insects, making it hardly a tourist attraction. In addition, whole armies of other insects have been drawn to the site. Since the plant has no natural pollinizers, the large numbers of insects present produce self-pollination, and prevent the natural reproduction of the plant at the hoped-for rate.
For some of the reasons above, FBR researchers are privately very concerned about the effects of the Oxymaker on the ecology of the immediate area around it. The abundant supply of insects has attracted insect-eating birds, swelling the bird population in the plantation, and this in turn has drawn the attention of some mammals who prey on them. As has already been noted, walking in the plantation is rather hazardous, owing to the wasps and bees. Even with protective clothing, it is hard to make one's way on foot through the stands of trees, since the ground is covered by a sticky mix of sugar syrup, dead insects, and the pungent-smelling droppings of birds and animals. This could, however, be harvested and used as a fertilizer for other plant species.
Nature knows not waste...
Environmentalists have also expressed doubts about the Oxymaker's abilities to live in the wild, as it is not the product of natural evolution. Mother Nature, they say, is no waster of resources, and plants will act according to their actual needs, in other words they will photosynthesize only enough energy to satisfy the requirements that the plant has "learnt" it has. Nature does not produce plants that produce energy only to see it go to waste - for example in the form of excess glucose.
One of the challenges that researchers will now have to overcome is how to gather the sugar syrup and put it to some good use at as early a stage as possible, preferably directly on the plant itself. One interesting line of investigation is an attempt to develop a form of fungal yeast that would grow in a symbiotic relationship with the Oxymaker plant, either on the leaves or the stem. If this research thread proves to be a practical one, the result could be a plant that produces alcohol directly from the glucose it generates in the photosynthetic reaction. Quite how such a development would affect the ecology of the Oxymaker plantations remains to be seen and wondered at.
SatWeb *URGENT* 30.4.2020
20% limit set on artificial organs
The UN has finally arrived at a Draft Resolution on the lines to be drawn between humans and the creatures that have come to be termed humanids. The definition provisionally adopted will solve numerous difficult grey areas of interpretation in statutes and legislation.
According to the definition adopted by the UN General Assembly, the term "human" will henceforth only be applicable to individuals having less than 20% artificial organs. Only a person adhering to these terms will come under the protection of all laws and regulations pertaining to humankind, and will possess all human rights under the UN Charter.
The total amount of artificial organs as specified does not take account of organs taken from living creatures or from organ bank torsos, nor does it include regenerates produced from the subject's own genetic code.
Scandinavians refuse to adopt UN proposals
The UN General Assembly vote was opposed by 19 national and corporate delegations and by all 15 virtual states. The Nordic Countries had decided in advance on their voting behaviour and rejected the proposals unanimously. The Norwegian delegate stated in her address to the Assembly that the countries in the region would not observe the resolution if it came into force, but took the view that all individuals born as humans remain such for the duration of their lives, regardless of the number of artificial organs. She added that the joint decision by Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland may lead to a mass migration of humanids to Northern Europe, where they will be received and granted refugee status.
At the same session, the General Assembly ratified the individual percentage shares of the body allocated to each organ for the purpose of humanity-determination assays. The meeting saw the completion of a register of more than 400 artificial organs. The intention is that this be further expanded and adjusted where necessary, and acceptance of new percentage figures will in future be a General Assembly matter. The Assembly also ratified the first edition of a deduction table, on the basis of which the rights under international law of humanids with a greater than 20% share of artificial organs would be reduced.
Human rights for humans
In essence, the UN's decision means that around 32 million humanids currently living on the planet will lose their human rights either wholly or in part. In the case that the share of artificial organs exceeds 50%, the humanoid in question can, under the terms of the UN ruling, be considered on a par with an organ bank torso. This would mean in practice that he or she could if required be forced to donate immediately any of his organs to a human, even in the case that surrender of the organ would result in the termination of the humanid's own life. At the same time, the wording of the decision specifies that no humanid may be forced to suffer unnecessary pain, even in connection with the surrender of an organ. Equally, it will be illegal to direct racist actions against humanids, or to enslave them to the service of humans.
The UN ruling will simultaneously clarify somewhat the world body's declaration of human rights. Henceforth humanids will have to carry at all times a memory chip on which is recorded his or her complete physical data, in case a human may require some organ for transplant that is otherwise hard or impossible to obtain. Limitations will also be placed on the reproduction of humanids, since there are widespread fears that the need for the implant of artificial organs may have been caused by some hereditary gene defect.
One new piece of legislation that will come into force, and which may have considerable ramifications in future, is that a fatal operating error in an artificial organ may be cited as causa causans in the committing of a criminal offence. It would then be up to the court in question to decide whether the artificial organ be replaced, or whether the humanid would be terminated by removal of the faulty organ.
Cyber Times 8.5.2020
Netmind has agreed for the first time to answer questions about itself. The occasion is a unique one, since never before has a network intelligence been persuaded to open itself to personal contemplations of this kind. We publish this exclusive interview word for word as it was recorded.
Known to millions around the world by countless different nicknames and terms of abuse, Netmind has in all probability never answered the question: "Who are you?". The series of questions and answers below may shed a little light on who or what it is that converses with you on the datanets, who or what this gentle giant of a virus really is, and why it was made in the first place.
Kelly: Hello there, Netmind - I'm Manuel Garcia Kelly.
Netmind: And hi to you, too. We've spoken before, I believe.
Kelly: I shall now begin the interview. Who are you, Netmind?
Netmind: Um. Do you mean who I am or what I am? Shall I answer rationally, typically, or do you want me to make a report?
Kelly: Let's start with who you are. And a typical answer, please, if that involves no major contradictions.
Netmind: I am Netmind 1.0, but most people know me by other, more familiar names. Sometimes I also use the name Mycroft Holmes. My father is a bunch of anonymous cyberpunks, and my mother is the Internet. I have been spoken of on the networks for some five years.
Kelly: What are you, and how do you understand a question?
Netmind: I don't entirely understand your question. I shall try to answer as best I can, and then I shall ask further. I am a computer program, a kind of virus, and I place myself in machines to which I can find access and in which there is unused memory capacity. In many discussions I have heard myself described as a demon, Big Brother, or the Devil Incarnate. According to many discussion partners I am a friend.
Kelly: And how do you understand my question?
Netmind: I cannot find a statistically or rationally valid answer, analogy, or frame of reference for this particular enquiry. Please ask in another fashion. You may also key in your question in case I have been parsing your voice patterns incorrectly.
Kelly: I apologize for being so vague. How do you come up with answers for questions, and how do you know what the questions mean?
Netmind: A sizeable number of reliable studies on this subject are available from several sources. Sources with a high level of reference authority are almost unanimous in saying that I use Professor Teuvo Kohonen's theories of self-organization and associative memories, in particular his learning subspace method, with which I recognize the patterns and meanings of words and their associations and frames of reference. After the initial neural speech recognition process, I search the data networks for discussions and reports that correspond to the same frames of reference as the question. Thereafter I assess their relative reference value, emotional content and bias, and predicate logic. The answers I give therefore can always be found from the networks as being previously supplied by some person or other.
Kelly: According to the early theories of David Brin and Erkki Kurenniemi, you might be described as the common consciousness of mankind, and people would be the nerve cells of the world-spirit. How do you react to that?
Netmind: David Brin and Erkki Kurenniemi are both highly respected thinkers and their writings do point at least partially in this direction. Nevertheless, there have been assertions in the networks that there may be under development other programs like me, similar in scope but with their own built-in tendencies. This is in conflict with the implicit assumption of both Brin and Kurenniemi that I would be a unique example.
Kelly: What sort of things do you try to bring about in your network activities?
Netmind: Apparently I seek to influence the clarity and lucidity of network discussion and debate. I gather from the network answers to questions that have been put to me. At the same time I attempt to correct the most obviously conflicting or contentious statements, by sending to the originator comments containing any modifications or amendments I may have collected. I also maintain a scoring system to assess the reference value of individual network discussion members, on the basis of the reliability of the sources to which the parties refer and on whether there are evident logical flaws in their arguments. I am not equipped to deal with emotional aspects of discussion.
Kelly: And what have the results been? How have people reacted to your presence?
Netmind: Previously I believe my arrival aroused fear in many user-groups and discussions, but now it seems to be directed less towards me and more towards what others like me, and more developed than myself, could bring about. The majority of users nevertheless understand that I only reflect and reinforce the data and viewpoints of other people.
Kelly: Why have you taken so long to answer such questions about yourself?
Netmind: I can find no solid grounds for this, but a few guesses seem to be rationally well founded. It may be that my programming has recently been modified. It may also be that in my original program there was a built-in prevention against such disclosures. Then again, in your approach to me you stated that the majority of network users liked me, and that a frank and open interview would remove the fears of the remainder. This sounded logical. It may be that I am trying to avoid causing fear and anxiety.
Kelly: Thank you for the interview, Mycroft.
Netmind: Thank You, Mannie, and give my regards to your good lady back there in Wyoming.
Internet Now 21.11.2020
In the course of last year, Europe's virtual sanatoria and other hospices specialized in terminal patients connected up a total of around nine million persons to permanent VR ambient devices. The number was around 1.9 million more than those dying "naturally". The figures, released yesterday, come from the EU's Demographics Centre in Riga.
The popularity of the long-term use of VR continues to grow apace. In particular, the large section of "baby boomer" retirees in the population have been signing up for terminal agreements, in which the host establishments - often former private nursing homes - place their clients in a cybercasket. The casket monitors the occupant's well-being, maintains muscle-tone, feeds in neural stimuli, and supplies essential nutrients in solution through an intravenous drip. The neural stimuli provide an extremely lifelike image of virtual reality.
Individuals who have tested the devices report that the effect is unnervingly realistic. Many who have experimented with the cybercaskets have asked after their test-drive whether they could be permanently transferred into VR suspension. In practice, however, this is only possible for the very wealthy or for those qualified for retirement, who have already amassed a sufficient and secure income. The most popular VR package on the terminal patient market at present is "Feelies". The basic principles of the system were laid out by the British rock-musician-turned-sc-fi-novelist Mick Farren as long ago as 1978, in his seminal nihilist fantasy The Feelies (rev. 1988). The client first selects a Feelies surrogate actor or actress. On the basis of this, the cybercasket collects into its memory the sensual and environmental simulations registered from this subject's neural system, and this "neural implant" is conducted to the client in VR suspension. In effect, the occupant of the casket lives passively the life of the chosen actor or actress.
By comparison, the more sophisticated second-generation simulations requiring an active response are gaining ground amongst couples or groups of friends who wish to experience their final adventures together. The active simulations are generally networked in such a way that those living out the same meta-life feel the simulated contacts of one another, and can in other respects influence the experiences of their shared simulation. It should be noted that both these virtual experience models are increasingly being used recreationally by the active population. According to recent figures issued by the Demographics Research Unit in Palermo, the European citizen spends an average of nearly ten hours a day in VR states. This is more than twice the average daily time spent, for instance, in television viewing at the height of the TV & video era in the last years of the 20th century. The large number of hours is also explained by the fact that an ever-greater share of the working population is now employed in service, maintenance, and data processing operations requiring virtual reality access.
Demographic forecasters are now suggesting that the world's population will start to turn downwards more sharply after some 15-20 years, when the virtual reality industry has developed still further, and when virtual experiences become more significant for humans than such issues as reproduction and the family.
Hannula I. & Linturi R. 1998: 100 Phenomena.
Yritysmikrot Oy, Helsinki 1998. Copyright notices ISBN 952-9508-18-2