Thursday, July 25, 2013

Communication Breakdown

With human-descended cultures and associated xenosopohonts spread out over 3000 cubic parsecs, hundreds of thousands of forms of communication are in use. While regional trade languages exist, the problem is mostly side stepped by the use of translation software. Upon arriving in a new place and connecting to its metascape, any necessary translation software integrates itself seamlessly with a visitor's netlink. Only the most backward or isolationist habitats deny complete translation, and even most of those find it expedient to allow limited translation of signage, official communications, and the like.

The visitor will hear speakers in their native tongue (though their netlinks will note the actual languages used), unless they utilize more primitive visual-only links, in which case the translation will appear as "subtitles."   For those with a need to blend in, direct neurologic download of language software is employed. This was once more widespread, but it's susceptibility to hacking proved its undoing.

The most notorious of these attacks was caused by the "23 Enigma" virus in the time of the Radiant Polity. It is believed to have been perpetrated by a hacker collective called the Nova Mob, though there was never any official statement of responsibility. The virus was named for a quirk (or perhaps a signature) in its code that left its victims unable to speak the words "twenty-three." Instead, they would replace it with a close approximate ("twenty" or "twenty-five," perhaps). The virus was a bit of nanomachinery, phage-delivered into the microbial vector employed to carry the translator code to the brain of biologics. The changes caused a global aphasia and lowered stress tolerance, leading to explosive reactions when communication with anyone was (predictably) ineffective. This reaction was particularly pronounced against moravecs and infosophonts, likely by design.

The malware vector was aerosolized, so it spread quickly throughout habitats. Quarantines were put in place, but these were often policed by bots, which only intensified the anger of the populace. It was weeks before the virus was contained in the most places and civil order restored.

For years afterward, it was a frequent conspiracy theory in the noosphere that hacks of Enigma 23 existed that were more subtle, that shadowy forces were using it to surreptitiously shape the language (and therefore the thought process) of the populace.

10 comments:

Porky said...

This is the stuff, where the fi starts getting very strange, and possibly beyond the scope of the sci. Way back when, I followed up your recommendation of Pontypool and I'm glad I did, and I recommend the short story All the Anne Franks if I haven't yet.

Porky said...

I almost didn't spot the nod there. I probably had the same relationships in mind when I did the 23rd in the Hogintu by numbers series. Linked loosely with that, Humanspace Empires seems like a good fit for playing in the Strange Stars.

Also, re the Titans and related themes, have you been following the Trek series running at The Secret Sun? It ties in very well.

Trey said...

@Thanks Porky. I'll check that story out. Humanspace Empires is a good fit, though a little bit more modern sci-fi information tachnology would be in order.

I have not been to the Secret Sun recently, but obviously I need to!

Porky said...

It's up to part nine already, which means a whacking great backlog given the length of the posts, but a skim through should give you the gist, and it probably gets more relevant to Strange Stars as it goes on.

Francis Lee said...

Thank heavens for the universal translator!

Tim Shorts said...

Trey you are really making me want to run a sci-fi adventure. I really like where your going with this.

Trey said...

@Fran - It comes in handy.

@Tim - Thanks, Tim. Glad I could be inspirational.

Chris said...

It's amazing just how good translation software is already getting. I can't give my students take-home compositions any more in French class, because such a large proportion of them cheat and use translation software. In the old days, it came out as gibberish and was easy to spot. Nowadays, no so much. It's not perfect yet, but it's good enough that it can write second-year-level French as well as any second-year French student.

Robert Parker said...

"...lowered stress tolerance, leading to explosive reactions when communication with anyone was (predictably) ineffective."

Having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insaaaaaaane
Communication breakdown

Trey said...

@Robert - It's always the same. :)