Technology pervades all aspects of existence in Eclipse Phase. Most individuals understand that unless humanity suffers another event like the Fall or they personally suffer some very serious and unlikely accident, they are unlikely to permanently die. More people are now planning for a very long future. For most people these schemes are fairly minimal, but they often include an awareness that few, if any, relationships are likely to last an entire lifetime. However, functional immortality is only one of the many wonders of the modern world.
Living with Infotech
For anyone with basic mesh inserts or an ecto (meaning about ninety-six percent of the population), life is filled with data. For people with the best implants, all information available on the mesh is available at a thought. For everyone else, it only requires a brief pause to access and understand it. When someone pauses and looks a bit distracted in the midst of a conversation, everyone understands they are accessing data and lack the implants to allow them to do this subconsciously or via multi-tasking. As a result, when a group of people are discussing a topic and no one immediately knows an answer to a question, such as the title of a performer’s first vid, within a few seconds everyone has this information. Similarly, when someone walks through a garden, with a glance and perhaps a brief thought or small finger motion, they can call up detailed data on each and every species of plant that sits in front of them. Individuals going to remote areas that are out of normal mesh broadcasting range almost always either carry a farcaster-link with them or download truly vast amounts of data into their implants or ecto so they can continue to access all the data they might need. Since even a basic implant can hold vast amounts of data, lack of storage space is rarely an issue.
Access to such a vast amount of easily available information has resulted in a variety of cultural responses. Being able to quote from any vid, old movie, book, or historical speech is now trivially easy and can be done with a few seconds of thought. While children and young teens often play by interjecting large amounts of semi-appropriate famous quotes in their speech, most adults only do so for emphasis and in moderation. People who quote from other sources too often are considered dull and unimaginative. Recognizing such quotes is quite easy, since someone can simply set their muse to alert them to the nature and identity of all lengthy quotes they hear.
All experienced mesh users also learn (typically as children and teens) how to avoid taking too much time out from conversations to check facts or access information via the mesh. Teens regularly mock their fellows who pause too often or too long in conversations to look up further information on a topic someone mentioned, or who spend too long trying to assemble facts to support an argument. Terms like “meshed out” or “drooler” are used by teens to mock each other into learning how to be both discreet and faster in their information searches, at least when also interacting with others. While adults rarely engage in the same sort of direct and obvious mockery, people who get too lost in casual or conversational meshbrowsing are widely viewed as socially inept. As a result, implants that allow multi-tasking or temporarily speed up thought are in great demand, since they allow individuals to do extensive research and rehearse each statement they are going to make without a moment’s pause. People who can afford such software almost always seem more suave, charismatic, and intelligent than those who do not.
All this means that those who lack all mesh and AR access—individuals known as zeroes—present a stark contrast to the rest of transhumanity. To most people, zeroes seem slow, forgetful, and almost unbelievably dense, while to zeroes, even people who only possess ectos or basic implants seems brilliant, witty, and able to comprehend things with almost inhuman speed.
Attitudes towards AGIs
The vast majority of transhumanity blames the Fall on rogue seed AIs (self-improving artificial intelligences). As a result, any AIs that are not crippled or somehow limited from improving themselves—including the AGIs (artificial general intelligences) that were common and growing in number before the Fall—are completely illegal in many habitats, or at least heavily regulated. The Fall ended only slightly more than a decade ago, and many transhumans consider AGIs and the TITANs that murdered their homeworld to be one and the same.
In addition to strict anti-AGI laws, there have been occasional riots and mass panics surrounding facilities still performing AGI research, which has pushed most such research into isolated settlements. Nevertheless, there are still people passionately devoted to AGIs; some see them as the next step in posthuman evolution, others value all sentience, and still others actually worship them. However, AGI supporters have learned to keep their opinions private in mixed company, lest they be branded an agent of the TITANs.
In some spots, mostly in the more anarchistic outer system, attitudes towards AGIs are more relaxed and AGIs may even be openly welcomed. These places recognize that AGIs are not the same threat posed by seed AIs and it is unfair to punish one for the actions of the other. Naturally, these places are havens for the AGIs active in transhuman society, who otherwise must disguise their true natures.
In the tightly-controlled inner system, the hypercorps and the Planetary Consortium foster anti-AGI sentiments both as safety measures and as protection against possible competitors. This latter point is one of the things that makes them attractive to some people in the outer system; they understand the great advantages their factions gain assuming, that is, that those AGIs share your goals and ideals.
Attitudes towards Mental Abberations
In the post-Fall solar system, technology can alter people’s minds; controversy about many of these alterations remains. Few people have trouble with the idea of creating short-term forks using the multi-tasking augmentation or some similar process that insures the forks will be re-integrated within a few hours. However, the idea of long-term forks, and especially of allowing forks to gain access to their own separate morphs, troubles many people. Since there are not enough morphs to go around in the first place, providing morphs to a fork strikes many people as selfish and wasteful. As a result, on the rare occasion that people sleeve one of their forks, they typically provide it with a synthmorph to avoid the social stigma associated with using more than one body at a time.
Forks that exist for more than a few hours inspire discomfort in many people because the forks begin to diverge slightly in personality. Most people find the idea of two different and distinct versions of themselves to be somewhat disturbing. While there are habitats (mostly in the outer system) where forking is a regular part of daily life and forks often exist independently for a day or two, most visitors find such habitats distasteful and bizarre.
However, while voluntary forking is still regarded as somewhat odd, involuntary uses of this and the associated mental technologies are so horrifying that they form the basis of much lurid crime fiction. Someone being unknowingly mind-napped and having an involuntary—and often secret—fork created is something that people regard with abject terror, despite it being quite rare. Similarly, while mental surgery to correct psychiatric problems or as punishment for various serious crimes is frightening and disturbing in its own right, illegal brain hacking draws horror and disgust from almost everyone in the solar system. Penalties for involuntary forking and mind hacking are exceptionally high. In many habitats, they are among the few crimes punishable by death (including the destruction of all backups and forks).
Privacy is a prized possession for most inhabitants of the solar system, but it is so rare that for many people it might as well be a foreign concept. In the 20th and early 21st century, privacy consisted of two concepts that are now completely separate—the ability to remain unnoticed or anonymous and the ability to avoid unwanted intrusion. The first is largely absent from the lives of most people in the present day. Anyone who uploads anything to a non-private portion of the mesh understands that anyone who wishes to do so can gain access to it. Likewise, anyone who spends time in a public place understands that anyone can learn where they went, what they did, and what they said due to the ubiquity of meshed, sensor-enabled devices. As a result, everyone’s public life, both on the mesh and in person, can be transformed into an easily searchable database. Almost everyone keeps such a record of their own lives, commonly known as a lifelog. Most people allow their lifelogs to be public, understanding that anonymity is now an archaic concept.
While the interiors of private dwellings remain free from continuous surveillance, almost all habitats have emergency sensors in every building providing a full record of events to emergency service workers and AIs in case of problems such as dangerous chemical leak, a sufficiently large fire, an explosion, loss of air pressure, or some other equally dramatic and potentially dangerous event. Both the events of the Fall and the fact that almost all of humanity now lives in habitats surrounded by hostile environments mean that such sensors are standard fare. A few habitats do not allow emergency sensors in private dwellings, but most people regard these habitats as potential death traps. These emergency sensors do not record anything other than the absence of potential dangers if they are not triggered by specific events. This limitation allows individuals privacy within their own residences—as long as they are certain no one has planted a secret recording device in their home. Ultimately, remaining unobserved is a matter of both care and trust, and everyone understands that most of the time everything they do will be part of the vast public record.
In vivid contrast, the freedom to avoid unwanted intrusion is carefully prized by the inhabitants of the post-Fall era. Unwanted personal or data intrusion into someone’s private dwelling or personal electronic files is a crime in most habitats and a serious crime in many. Also, while both the mesh and augmented reality are filled with all manner of AI-mediated adware, most of it has evolved to be relatively benign and to provide non-intrusive suggestions about goods, information, and services that are likely to be of legitimate interest to the targeted person. An individual’s muse filters out unwanted advertising. While it is certainly possible to create advertising that can hack through any muse’s filters, doing so is usually illegal.
Unwanted AR intrusions are similarly limited. During the early days of AR technology, there were serious problems with users being overwhelmed with unrequested and distracting input as many said, the mist got very thick indeed, so both law and custom changed to prevent such invasions. Today, most people expect to only experience data that they are looking for or that they might be interested in, and that any data they are not interested in will quickly vanish. Being surrounded by a large amount of unwanted AR data is not just annoying and distracting, it is also deeply frightening, because it means that there is a serious problem with either the habitat’s mesh or the person’s electronics it could even mean that the entire habitat is under direct attack by infowar weapons.