Hi guys! Today’s comic touches on gatekeepers and technology. It’s a theme that figures heavily in the next Rachel Peng novel*, but won’t get too much more time in the comic. I pulled a segment from the upcoming novel if you’d like a sneak peak. It’s set in Mako’s office, where he and Santino have been hard at work to make the chip user-friendly. They haven’t made much progress.
As always, this is a rough draft. There’s no need to point out errors!
“We don’t know what the long-term effects will be,” Mako said. “Five, ten years from now? I might have the most splendid of brain cancers.” He rapped a superstitious knuckle on the wooden desk.
“But say the implant is safe.” Santino picked up the conversation. “Say Mako and I find a way to put controls on what data it can access, and there are no medical side effects whatsoever. Why wouldn’t everyone want one?”
“I…” Rachel flapped her hands uselessly. Because they shouldn’t! was one of those arguments that wouldn’t go her way at all. “They probably would.”
“They absolutely would! It’s the next generation of smart phones. More utility, more capacity—”
“Farmville in your head,” Mako added. “Major selling feature, right there.”
“—and don’t forget the collective.”
“No.” Rachel shuddered. “God, no! It’s bad enough with just us. There’s no way I’m going to add every single Verizon customer to my psyche.”
“Exactly,” Mako said. “So, we’ve got a lot of bugs to work out. Damping down the communal elements of the collective is almost as important as making sure the average schmuck can’t take control of a nuke. It’s not going to happen any time soon.”
“It will happen, though,” Santino said. “Eventually. Then the really big problems will start to show up.”
“Don’t.” Rachel held up a hand. “Just don’t.”
The men ignored her. “The implant isn’t cheap,” Santino continued. “What was it, about ten million per item?”
“If you figure in research and development costs, yeah,” Mako said. “But production costs are still incredibly high. It’s a quantum organic computer, so you’ve got to grow each device so it’ll be compatible with its user. Not everybody will be able to afford that.”
“Barely anybody, really. Just the upper class.”
“And then you’ve got a society where the wealthy are blended into their tech.”
“Not to mention each other—we might be able to downplay the role of the link, but there’ll always be some element of collective consciousness involved. So it wouldn’t be the usual issue of the Haves and the Have-nots… This’ll be one where there’s a small group of people who are intrinsically connected to each other, and to the tech which runs the world.”
“And those outside of the new collective will be a fuck-all ginormous group of people who won’t be allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table.”
“Ever. It’ll be a whole new dimension to the usual stratified societies.”
“Jesus.” Rachel looked around for an uncluttered surface. When she didn’t find one, she dropped on the floor and put her head in her hands, the familiar scratching of a stress headache beginning behind her eyes. “This is what the two of you do in your spare time? Sit around and discuss how we’re going to destroy civilization?”
“Pretty much,” Mako said, shrugging. “Or save it, really, if we can find ways to kill these problems before they get traction.”
“OACET didn’t invent the implant. Who decided we were the gatekeepers for this clusterfuck?”
“You did.” Santino was an unpleasant combination of smug pink and jealous green. “Going public put a face on it.”
*Really have to come up with a title for this one.