Recently I discussed numbers 10 through 6 in my top ten list of fictional technology.
Since then people have been clamoring for my top 5 list….ok only one guy asked about it….but still…
#5) The Delorean from Back to the Future movie
A time travel device was of course one of those immediate no-brainer things that had no choice but be on my list. I’m sure Man has been wishing for this ability since we new could distinguish the past from the present from the future. There would be so much to see in the past that would be incredible to witness. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Maybe that’s is the topic of another post. I guess it’s no surprise that the other side of that coin, the future, has a special allure for me. The sheer potential of the future……seeing what humanity becomes, what we achieve technologically, sociologically,…and pornographically is incredibly compelling. Hopefully I wouldn’t arrive to a future filled with zombies or even worse….billions of Jenny McCarthy clones.
To see this future I’d choose to use The Delorean from Back to the Future with it’s flux capacitor, gull-wing doors, and flaming skid marks. The version I’d want would of course have the after-market add-ons including the hover conversion and Mr. Fusion package thank you very much.
There have been many examples of time-travel devices but many of them concerned me; not because of the grandfather’s paradox but the fact that they were stationery. Imagine you time-travel to an unknown future and there happens to be a wall built where you and your time-machine are. Talk about a short trip. I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy the jet packs and the robot pleasure droids because my atoms would be fused with some carbon-plaster atoms in the wall of some foglet smart-house.
Therefore, I always liked the idea of a mobile time-machine. Get some altitude where there’s little chance of a building appearing and just cross your fingers that some bozo in a jet-pack won’t get in your way.
Plausibility Factor: 0%
This one is tough to rate because time travel is a relative thing. Travel into the past looks impossible in principle for many reasons (grandfather paradox, no cause and effect, entropy etc) so that gets a 0%. Flying cars will eventually happen and any relative velocity technically propels you into the future faster than if you were on the ground so that could conceivably receive a %100. But, realistically, a time-traveling car even remotely similar to the Delorean will not happen, hence the 0%. If you want to seriously travel into the future, a car won’t do it; either orbit a black hole or hop into a spaceship and travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light.
FRIENDLY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
#4) AI Geronimid from Acephalous Dreams by Neal Asher
I’ve always wanted an artificial Intelligence (AI) at my disposal. I’m not talking merely about a computer as smart as a human or a little smarter. I have the android Data for that. I’m talking about a level of smarts unachievable in baseline version 1.0 humans. I’m talking orders of magnitude smarter than an Einstein or a Hawking. Imagine what such an intelligence could learn and discover (and then tell only me)
I have to use the word friendly in my description because the inadvertent creation of a decidedly unfriendly AI is a genuine concern that scientists today are anticipating and trying to steer around. Since AIs will likely self-evolve to a certain extent, we need to make sure they have the highest chance of emerging as benign entities instead of ones that will think of us as a lowly carbon infestation and spray us with a can of AI-created HomoSapien-icide.
The AI named Geronimid is a good example of the type of AI that I’ve been describing. In the story Acephalous Dreams, The AIs were transcendentally intelligent yet they also cared about people. They could for example examine your brain and understand everything there is to understand about your personality. Ummm…on second thought.
Plausibility Factor: 100%
Some people still don’t think that an artificial intelligence is possible. Arguments that there are quantum effects that critically underpin consciousness are not borne out by the evidence. There’s also no evidence supporting the idea that only squishy biological tissue using electro-chemistry can host a mind. The substrate of consciousness will likely be far less important than the way that matter is organized and how the components interact with each other. Once we achieve artificial human-level intelligence, then greatly exceeding that level should be fairly straight-forward if for no other reason than just speeding up the processes involved.
FASTER THAN LIGHT SPACESHIP
#3) Enterprise NCC 1701 J from Star Trek Enterprise series
The Enterprise is such an iconic starship, I’m glad I was able to include it in this list. This is no ordinary Enterprise though as the designation “J” above indicates to the true Trek geeks out there.
Captain Kirk’s Enterprise from the tv series carried the designation NCC-1701. The letters after 1701 (A, B, etc) started with the Trek movies and continued with the new Trek series. Picard’s Enterprise in Star Trek The Next Generation for example was NCC-1701 D. So where the hell did J come in? Well the last Star Trek Series: “Enterprise” had an episode in which an Enterprise ship from centuries in the future (the 26th century) made an appearance. This was the NCC-1701 J and it’s probably one of the coolest Enterprises and Starships I’ve come across? Why?
Granted, the details are sketchy. But based on what was in the episode and what the actual designer of the ship had in mind I think you’ll agree it was one kick-ass ship.
First off, this ship is from the 26th Century and all Trek Tech is cooler the farther in the future you go.
And talk about big, this ship is two miles long, much bigger than any other Enterprise. This is so big that parks and universities are actually in the ship. So big that the generally speedy turbo lifts are too slow. They are all replaced by site to site transporters.
What about speed you ask? This ship goes beyond warp drive, even beyond transwarp technology. Apparently, it travels primarily by folding space allowing it to actually venture to other nearby galaxies.
Few other details are available unfortunately but I’ve heard enough.
I picked an Enterprise for this list for other reasons. All later generation ships with this name have things in them that are so cool and so useful that they belong on any top ten list all by themselves. I am of course talking about transporters and holodecks. Picking the Enterprise then automatically includes this technology as well and turns my top-ten list into a surreptitious top-twelve list.
Plausibility Factor: 0%
There’s tons of plausible Tech on any Enterprise but this category was all about a faster than light starship and nothing in science indicates that this is possible. The faster you push matter the faster it obviously moves but when you get close to the speed of light it takes more and more energy to increase your speed by smaller and smaller increments. To actually push a ship to light speed would require an infinite amount of energy. Wanna go faster than that? What’s infinity plus one?
Folding space would actually be a viable method for exceeding the speed of light except for one thing…you’d need much of the energy contained in the universe to fold it.
INSANELY USEFUL TECH
#2) The Krell Machine Forbidden Planet movie
I’ve always love the science fiction movie Forbidden Planet from 1950s. I generally prefer more modern sci-fi movies but this one is still totally watchable half a century after it was made and has one piece of epic tech…
The Krell Machine
This machine is a gargantuan underground monstrosity created by an incredibly advanced race called the Krell with some amazing stats:
It’s 20 miles cubed or 8000 square miles
It’s self-repairing so It can last for millenia
It’s powered by 9200 fusion reactors
And that’s just the hardware.
This machine is controlled by the mind and can instantaneously project solid matter anywhere on the planet. In any color or shape for any purpose, even biological forms. That makes this probably one of the ultimate pieces of technology- you can create anything you need and have it appear in front of you just by thinking about it…pretty sweet.
There’s a downside though. The monsters from your subconscious or id can also control the machine which is why the entire Krell race died overnight in the story. I have a work-around though. I would have the machine create a device so that only my voice or keyboard command can operate the machine. Take the id out of the loop…problem solved. That was easy.
Plausibility Factor: 80%
The scale of the hardware itself seems possible though it would be one hell of an engineering project. Even reading someone’s mind is probably possible with the appropriate introduction of very advanced tech into the brain. I have a problem though with the idea of “projecting the matter” anywhere on the planet. That seems suspiciously similar to Trek-style transporter technology which is generally considered close to impossible.
#1) SNARE(Siris Nanocyborg Ascension Regimen) from Orion’s Arm website
This is basically a device to upgrade the software and hardware that makes up a human being.
This is described in the fascinating Orion’s Arm website. This site is a science fiction world building project….many authors contribute images, descriptions, and stories about humans, meta-humans. and civilizations 10,000 years from now. I love it because it’s a great combination of not only hard science fiction but creative ideas and many of the technologies that I believe will one day really exist.
One of these bits of tech (SNARE) is good enough to make my number one. This decision may be even more subjective than the others but let’s see if I can convince you to appreciate what a cool idea this is.
The SNARE consists of two objects; a hypodermic containing 10 cc of a photo-nanite solution and an external control unit that contains a computronium core on which the aptly-named “ascension software” runs.
Computronium is basically super-dense computer components. This stuff is created and designed in such a way that it is at the physical limit for programmable matter given its mass. Imagine a computer a million times better than our best today, shrink it down to the size of a cell and then put a billion of them together, that’s computronium.
The first thing this device does is upgrade your brain. It turns your brain into computronium while you’re fully conscious and aware. Your train of thought is never interrupted during the nanite conversion process. This is actually quite important because that means you are arguably still really you when the process is done and not some self-deluded duplicate. This is called the continuity problem and I love the fact that Orion’s Arm makes a concerted effort to deal with this subtle yet key concept.
If you want, the rest of your body can be upgraded as well. Unfortunately, the author does not go into much detail about what happens here except the fact that the nervous system is replaced with an alternate that functions at the speed of light to keep up with the now souped-up brain.
Now your hardware upgrade is complete. Next step is your software upgrade.
This step upgrades your mind in a series of incremental leaps. Each one augmenting the capabilities of your speedy new mind by something like an order of magnitude. The specifics of each of these steps are described to you by a very intelligent software program which always asks you if you want to go to that next level of intelligence. If you don’t want to then you can always upgrade later (just don’t turn on that auto-update feature).
I figure, I’d do a partial upgrade for a while so I can at least relate to un-augmented humanity for awhile. Then, after an unspecified period of time, perhaps many years, I’d complete the entire upgrade to experience reality in ways simply inconceivable to me now.
Plausibility Factor: 100%
Nothing described here seems impossible to me. It could take a great deal of time before it’s possible to upgrade people in this way but it is clearly feasible. The scope of our ken and the sophistication of our technology is advancing at an incredible and ever-increasing pace. If things go like I plan, our cultural technology will eventually catch up to the sublime complexity of evolved biological technology and likely surpass it. It’s difficult at first to think of living organisms as machines but that is what we are…incredibly complex machines. We’re clearly on a path to figure out this machine and eventually upgrade it.
Just don’t pick me to be a beta tester of that upgrade.