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MessagePosté le: Dim 27 Sep - 23:29 (2009) Répondre en citant Back to top

The Cognitive Union

The Cognitive Union is a slave state. While it presents itself as a socialist heaven, the truth is that free will is almost nowhere to be found in its population. The Union is a scare story come true, a frightening example of what technology can do when used to the wrong ends.

Every citizen of the Union is a cyberslave. They have a slave mesh implanted in their brains from a very early age. These meshes allow governmentinstalled computers to monitor individuals for rebellious thoughts, and dole out punishment or simply remove them when they appear. Ideas of freedom, self-indulgence, chaos, or individuality are scoured from the mind, leaving nothing but obedience and respect for the Union. Even those in charge have been raised in this way — there is no secret conspiracy of unimplanted people behind it all. Everyone genuinely believes in the cause, because they’ve been brainwashed into it from inside their own minds.

Union members typically wear drab clothing, in greys and browns, occasionally decorated with marks of rank or honor. They speak well, and are willing to enter into debates easily. Escaped Union members (and there are few) find it hard to break these habits. Union leaders are often extremely charismatic, with extensive social science training and the technology to back it up. Most Union citizens belong to the armed forces by default, and are equipped with impressive nanotech and stringtech weaponry, preparing them for what seems to be an inevitable war between the Union and its foes. Only the Stardwellers have a higher overall level of technology.

Who actually runs the Cognitive Union is a question many people ask. The Union tells outsiders that it is a meritocracy — ruled by those who are judged to be the best rulers by virtue of their past actions — but in truth, that just sidesteps the question. What most people really want to know is who does the judging. When everyone in a Union design firm realizes (thanks to their implants notifying them) that Joe Smith has just become the best choice to lead their firm, who made that decision? When a new colony subconsciously organizes around the person with the best combination of reasoning, charisma, and administrative skills, how did they know? Who’s really pulling the strings here?

No one. No one who’s still alive, anyway. The Cognitive Union is effectively still run by the people who originally programmed the civilization’s first major wave of slave implants.

In the early days, the group that would eventually become the Union was just a large community of like-minded folks who believed in the power of teamwork and unity. As happens in all groups, there eventually arose people who wanted to take advantage of their well-intentioned fellows. The community responded to serious criminals — murderers, rapists, and the like — by attempting to reform them rather than simply putting them away. The emerging technology of neural meshes provided an interesting new option, one that was embraced and tested extensively. Strokes of genius melded memetics and neural conditioning, and suddenly, rather than maximum-security prisons full of high-risk felons, the nascent Union had entire towns full of grateful, productive, helpful, friendly, and brilliant citizens. After all, what would any government rather do — spend fifty thousand dollars on keeping someone in jail, or ten thousand making them a productive member of society?

Eventually these ex-cons pulled together, organizing themselves into the intellectual equivalent of a worker’s union. It wasn’t long before other citizens asked for the same treatment the criminals got. After all, didn’t they deserve to be happy and brilliant too? And if not them, perhaps their reckless children?

After many years this union spread so far and wide, with such effectiveness and acclaim, that the community officially accepted it as their representative, subsuming itself into this group. There were dissenters, of course, but most of them left, finding other civilizations to blend into. The last group left over three hundred years ago, and the Cognitive Union was secure.

The Union is part communist state, part totalitarian regime, and part the meritocracy it claims to be. There’s no exact word in English for its type of government, because... well, what do you call manifold cross-linked mind control as a government form? It looks and acts like a utopia: zero crime rate, brilliant designers and artists, everyone working for common goals, no private property, and most people happy for a significant portion of their lives. On the surface It’s a very attractive life.

Behind the scenes, the slave implants are still there, working away, conditioning children and adults to be this way. Thinking of being angry and breaking a law (or just a window)? Too bad. Depending on your psych profile, the implant will either give you some negative feedback — pain, guilt, and so on — or simply remove the thought and any memories of it from your brain.

Thinking of leaving to start a new civilization, or join another? Too bad. Wondering what life might be like without these implants? Too bad. Even without their implants, they’ve been brainwashed from inside their own minds since they were born. Of course they believe. How could they not?

Every so often, Union members will get this odd compulsion to do something. Perhaps they’ll want to join a particular group of people, or take up a certain profession, or donate money to a particular cause. They won’t know why, but they’ll do it, because their implants say so. And they’ll be happy about it, because their implants say so.

That’s why most people refer to Union members as “cyberslaves.” In the end, there’s no question of who’s really in charge.

The Union, Replicants, and Logicians are loosely allied, but do not share any planets. The Union scorns the Masqueraders, Tao, and Roamers as lacking seriousness, and seek to show all others the benefits of joining the Union.

Common Name: The Union
Emblem: Interlocked gold rings, symbolizing both interdependence and eternity. The color both symbolizes both gold’s imperishable nature, and brings to mind wedding rings, and thus tradition.
Inspector Status: Non-citizen with no rights. Only slaves are citizens in the Union.
Benefit: Union members must take an additional Core Value at level 6 or higher. This may be a cause or a person, but may not be an abstract concept. They have a total of five Core Values.
Core Values: Obedience, Order, and one other of the player’s choice (see below).

Obedience allows Union members to resist attempts to take them away from the Union or to make them disobey their superiors. Obedience helps to mold the Union into a cohesive whole by making resistance to authority an anathema to them.

Order is used to resist attempts to provoke riots or other such criminal acts. Such things are rare, but they do happen . They also ensure that Union citizens remain lawful and orderly while visiting another civilization. It’s also very tough to talk Union members into breaking the law, wherever they happen to be. Union members who still have their implants will have these two CVs at the maximum possible rating. Deserters may choose lower levels of them. The Union also encourages its citizens to become involved with other causes (thus, all of them do so). Union citizens are among the most socially responsible in the entire universe.

An Evening in the Cognitive Union

It’s another gorgeous sunset in the Cognitive Union. I swear they put extra little scattering particles into the atmosphere, just to make it prettier. Of course, the fact that I can pick a dozen different views of it that other people are broadcasting helps too. The guy with the infrared vision is getting quite a show.

The day went by quickly, as Thursdays often do. They’re a busy time for those of us at CerebraScape. Thursdays are when the new mindscape lenses ship, and there’s always a last-minute scramble to fix bugs, add last-minute tweaks, that sort of thing. It’s fun stuff. Everyone who works for CS does well in a pressure-cooker kind of environment. This week was all custom jobs, so we had to push the general releases off until next week. I must have clocked about 750 hours of fast-time this week, maybe 200 of that just today. I could check and find the exact number, of course, but I don’t really care. We got it all done and sent out, and that’s the important part.

Tonight I think I need some exercise. I spent a little too much time up in the infosphere, not enough time in analog space. The electrical twitch-muscle stuff some people do is fine with me, but I prefer a nice run.

After the sun goes down I head over to the park and do a few laps around the pond. I was never that interested in nanotech, but I have plenty enough to feed my mesh extra light and see well in the dark. There are kids playing hide-and-seek in the darkened trees, a couple of people playing lawn sports, even a few swimmers tonight. This part of the Union really speaks to me; I like the 30-hour days and the thinner air, the collection of cognitech engineers they have going on. It really helps to have us all closer together; infosphere lag is such a pain, especially when your mesh is ramped up to thirty times speed.

Once I’m done I join some of the folks doing calisthenics on the beach, and then cool off with a nice stroll home on the slidewalk. Everyone smiles and waves, and I greet them as I go past. There’s a moment when I’m crossing the street that I have the urge to look up, so I do. A few other folks on the street look up too. There’s a shooting star going past — no, wait... that’s something else. I watch it until it passes out of sight, a point of blue light with tiny flashes around it. I consider checking the local infosphere to see if anyone else got a better look, but drop the idea. Whatever it is, the authorities will take care of it — and I even got to help.

Everyone does their part around here.

Finally I get home. I’m good and tired; I’ll sleep well tonight even without using any lenses. The apartment looks just a little empty to me; nothing’s missing, of course, but maybe it’s time to think about having a social life, looking for a partner. On a whim I toss my name and tags into the social sifting pool; we’ll see if someone interesting comes out.

I take a minute to just look out the window before bedtime. The city is as beautiful by night as it is by day, a million lives working together. My last thought before I sleep was, “this is a good place to live.”

A Cerebral Conversation

“Hey, stranger.”

“Hello. Care for a seat?”

“Don’t mind if I do. My name’s 77B-R9.”

“Mechanican, I presume?”

“Yup — though you probably guessed from the chrome, eh? You seem like you’re not from around these parts, if you catch my drift.”

“I’m a visitor from the Cognitive Union. My name’s Gaur.”


“I see our fame has preceeded me.”

“Um. Yeah. Uh, can I ask you a question?”

“Ask away.”

“Why do you do it?”

“Live in the Union, you mean?”

“No, I get that alright. I mean, I was born in Mechanica, I live here. It’s just what most people do. Makes sense. I mean the... um... the mesh thing.”

“I assume you’re talking about the behavior modification.”

“Yeah, the, uh... aw hell, the cyberslave thing. Why? I mean, why do that to yourself?”

“I should probably let you know that you shouldn’t use that word. I can tell you didn’t mean to offend, but some of my friends get touchy when they hear it. I can definitely tell you that the word ‘slave’ is unwarranted, though. I get paid, I’m treated well, I can go anywhere I want — I’m here, right? In the home of my supposed enemy?”

“Yeah, but how can you tell this is where you want to go? How do you know it’s not just what some guy decided was right for the Union? I mean, couldn’t you be a spy or diploweapon and not even know it?”

“Ha, well, if I’m a diploweapon, I suspect you’re in a great deal of trouble. But as for the rest... let’s talk about an unenhanced person first. Say, an Old- Worlder. They get inexplicable urges too, right? Hormonal and irrational thoughts, things they want to do and don’t know it?”

“Ok, I’ll grant that. But there ain’t no one behind it; that’s just the way they are. Born and raised that way.”

“Right. And you Mechanicans, you keep your endocrine systems — or simulations of them, perhaps — to provide your brains with the emotions and urges too, right? You need them to keep you human.”

“Yup. Turn into the Logicians otherwise.”

“But you don’t follow all your urges, or you’d be an animal, in the same way that without the urges you’d be a robot.”

“Yeah. So what does this have to do with your... um... what should I call it?”

“Well, I think the thing you’d be most interested in hearing about are the civic development schemata, which are the things that make our civilization happier and more productive. What relates our conversation to the CDS is that it’s like an extra organ system for all of us in the Union.”

“It’s not an organ, though, it’s technology.”

“Then think about this: what happens to the mind of someone who gains a new and vastly different capability?”

“Nothing. He just has to cope with the new ability.”

“But that’s the thing — coping. It’s a process. It changes how you think about things when you can suddenly sense things happening half a mile away. You learn a new way to think about privacy. When you can crush a building with your hand, you learn a new respect for the fragility of the world. You can’t tell me that’s not a change.”

“Changing your mind and changing your brain are two different things.”

“I hate to say this, but if you check out the infosphere...”

“... Shit. Ok, I give. But I still say there’s a big difference between some gland telling you to do something, and someone’s programming telling you so. I mean, they could tell you anything.”

“But look at what they tell us: go do the job you’re best suited for. Go where you’ll be happiest. Meet the people you’ll be friends with for the rest of your life.”

“But... But how do you know they’re not just making you happy?”

“Well, brain scans and mesh diagnostics, of course. But really, it does seem an awful waste of processing power to be deluding every Union member into thinking they’re happy, day in and day out. Doesn’t it seem a lot easier to you to actually use some psychohistory and actually put us into a configuration that’s worthwhile and productive?”

“Shit, I don’t know any psychohistory. All I know is they could be telling you anything.”

“This is going to sound a little mean, but I think what it comes down to is this: you don’t trust your leaders — or even one person around you — to do what’s right if they’re given access to your mind. And in the Cognitive Union, we have that amount of trust. Think about it.”

MessagePosté le: Dim 27 Sep - 23:29 (2009) Back to top

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