The Holodeck: How Do We Get Started? Science by Mark E Deardorff

Source: Star Trek’s Holodeck: What Happens in Star Trek (in this case) stays in Star Trek.

In yesterday’s blog, I showed the rather imponderable amount of energy requiring conversion to mass sufficient to replicate a fourteen and a half Stone Dr. Moriarty. Aside from putting the evil Doctor on a crash diet, different strategies will be required. We must find existing tools that will provide mass, at least the illusion of mass, the feel of mass, the experience of mass.

Current VR is not the answer

The state of Virtual Reality is not reality or virtual. It just provides three-dimensional imagery that illusionally immersively fools the participant’s mind. The participant must willingly suspend disbelief. A person unwilling could look beyond the description to the actual boring reality beyond. Unfortunately, VR never delivers on its promise of a world of wonder when the wonder has always existed beyond the pane separating the desperate from the actual reality.

Next Step: Inert Ferromagnetic Particles

There are two types of fields that exist at a macro level – gravitational and electromagnetic.  The other two, the strong and weak forces occur at the quantum levels and are not particularly helpful in our case. (Though not necessarily in the future.) Of the two macro fields, the electromagnetic is easily manipulable by humans. The easiest thing to manipulate with an EM field is a ferromagnetic metal. Ferro implies Iron (Fe.) Small particles of iron in a rapidly varying and constantly refreshed EM field might provide the type of thing that could create a shell of particles sculpted to the appearance of a human form, or any form ultimately.

It could be modeled after 3D printing or direct sculpting. It depends more on the efficiency of the algorithm and speed of transfer.

A primary problem is still related to the sensation of inertia and elastoplastic response of the system. An active magnetic field could hazily model these effects.

Semiautonomous Nanites Under External Active Field Control

Nanites with minimal intelligence – ability to engage other nanites, move relative to one another, etc. – would, with guidance speed operations of the computer algorithms designed to control the entire system. Much of the system described above would still be operative, but nanites engaged with one another would solve a major problem, creating an elastic response to an action to its surface.

The relative motion and attachment would be commanded with simpler statements thereby reducing the size of the code base and the amount of time devoted to processing a single refresh pass.

The System Above Under AI Control

To add randomness, or more appropriately unexpected behavior, answers to random questioning, non-linear game sequences with text created on the fly, artificial intelligence is an imperative tool. This again adds complication and computing cost. It must be fast and exist for each character created during a session which could,theoretically, be unlimited. This is particularly true in an non-comparable system such as West World where the AI is included in the package. To do it remotely requires bandwidth to handle the capacity for significant bits of information.

Sessile and Plugged In

When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer (1984) he described Cyberpunk as a genre for the first time in Science Fiction. A plugged-in word of virtual reality where humans sat, understanding that they sat, a peered into a system of computation.

A system that we seek is one of appearance and experience. Where our purposive thoughts of action are converted to beliefs of experience and a sense of reality. In this world, we believe what we see. Yet all the while we know of our sessile state. Like a barnacle on the hull of an ocean liner, we are under the control of another an stuck until, somehow, we pull the plug.

Pulling the plug is where the paranoia begins. For if we have fallen under a despot of Electronia, how will we know? If we have been entranced by a Svengali having us believing that while we pick a few grapes gifted to her that we are not actually industrial spy’s taking trade secrets to sell on a dark website?

The point is simple, we don’t and won’t. This is the problem with plugging in.

Sessile With Non-Invasive interface

This scenario is similar to that above with the need for implanted hardware but not a port to receive wiring. Headgear or remote transmission of telemetry is sufficient here. The availability of memories (applies to Sessile and Plugged In above) if available to the control system could be manipulated and incorporated into the VR world significantly improving the experience. In addition, in a Strange Days (1995, Lightstorm Productions) style, by incorporating actual experiences of other humans (or animals, for instance) to provide a unique unexpected rush of emotion particularly if those sequences (snuff sequence) are picturing the moment of de-commencement.

Active With Non-Invasive Interface

The “Final” type of system (quotes because there will be other similar systems and never a truly final system) is a system where we are fully in the system but our bodies walk, run, and climb through the system.The bodies are real and simulated. The real bodies may also be enhanced with other personas. The body to whom we are making love we may see as Brigit Bardot or Brian Eno though it may be our real life lover. The shootout with Gary Cooper may be our children with (hopefully) virtual bullets that still knock the target down. Enough physical reaction to deliver some reality. West World without robotic mayhem.

That is not to say that an autocrat may not arise. A virtual or real dictator co-opting and enslaving a population of “plug-ins” expecting that the slavery they are experiencing is a game scenario for group solution. There comes a time when even the most touched among the group comes to realize his captivity and starts jumping frantically at cage and keeper.

Identity Theft In a Virtual World

Now identity theft becomes more than pin numbers, routing numbers, account numbers. no longer is it a numbers racket. It is a mind game. Shuffling coconut shells on a card table on a street corner. “Which one was your mind under?” “Sorry. Wrong one. Here. Have a generic until you remember how to ID the original.”

Sad story that can’t possibly happen, right? If writers of science fiction like Philip K. Dick and George Orwell can conceive of plausible ways that in recent years have borne fruit, it is not a difficult leap to the subterfuge at hand.

How do we protect ourselves? The same way the wise protect them now. Among other methods, some Draconian others straight forward, backups as an example. Acknowledging we are discussing future tech, a concomitant safeguard would be a built-in cranial backup, detached from the brain while the rippled and fissured organ protected by a thin coating of bone sits entranced by a piece of advanced living, possibly organic, software, a highly dense fast piece of memory sits waiting to engage the brain and reload the users personality and memories if tampering is detected by built-in algorithms or by outside intervention.

Another method is even more obvious. Don’t engage in a distributed system in the first place. The US consciousness is suffused with the lessons, too often forgotten, of mass distortions of judgment by citizens having no right not to know better opening attachment of pictures of relatives they don’t have or pictures of graphics guaranteed to titillate. Emotions over reason. What has education wrought?

The future may hold no physical reality, only a virtual world, a place for our minds to avoid the madness brought on by exposure to the virus of a world schlepped to destruction at our own hands or missing the last train to points cosmic yet unrevealed to the unwashed. The Fermi Paradox answered by burying our virtual heads in a virtual sandbox of a life domain of a function space powered by the Energizer bunny keeping our bits of information alive in a perceptual regime with all the reality and diversity of an algorithm as complex as allowed by the laws of probability with stochastic boomerangs.

Simply put, this may be an arc for which a civilization of weak-kneed people fearful of its capacity to rise to the challenge of tomorrow may retreat. The final succor for a people too afraid to venture forth where oxygen is sparse and cosmic rays slice DNA. The remnant, the Luddites, the ones that said, “Don’t go, thar be monsters!” Yes, thar be monsters. Monsters to tame and understand. Planets to investigate and colonize. The Earth is a small place and it ignores us and the rest of the pesky life that chose to spring forth. It will be just as happy with us as without us. Yes, we gave it oxygen. But it, for the most part, continued to ignore us. It did not slow or increase its climatological cycles appreciably though we recently assisted in that a bit.

We just didn’t get. Time to think hard about vamoosing out, not to Mars that’s just a show for the cameras. We need to go much further to places where cosmic catastrophes will not threaten the entire DNA pool of the Gaian species. That is, far enough so that a supernova or gamma ray burst will not devastate all life within a radius that includes the planets and active probes that contain DNA.

A Mars colony has benefits in the short-term. But the species benefit is a long-term issue and must be addressed. This is where the real people (DNA) go – the strong – the insightful – the brave. Those who fall into their VR universe, unless it employs a way to excise itself from the effects of the physical universe, will end sooner or later.

Sorry for the little polemic. Got carried away! 😉

Star Trek’s Holodeck: What happens in Star Trek (in this case) stays in Star Trek! Science by Mark E Deardorff

Source: Star Trek’s Holodeck: from science fiction to a new reality – PC & Tech Authority

As “Ooh!” and “Aah!” the Holodeck was in The Next Generation. It has no more chance of becoming a reality in the sense in which it was presented then the economy of the Star Trek universe of the same series.

Generating the smarts, the intelligence to drive the story logic and problem creation for mysteries or training programs is not an issue as long as the writers actually create good scripts, a lost art in The Next Generation.

Holographic projection in real time is not a technological impossibility either. It won’t have the smoothness, at least not in our lifetimes.

The problem comes when one wishes to simulate hard surfaces and, more importantly, inertia. Hard surfaces require resistance, a reaction to force. There must exist a field that can sense and respond to a movement to oppose the action. Magnetic fields won’t work unless you have a high iron diet!

And there are no physical fields of which I am aware that will, under machine control, resist your movement without some form of aversive punishment. I think the idea is for a little push back. If you touch a person, tactile resistance to skin makes sense. Of course, a retributive slap makes sense in other situations, you masher!

Inertia, the ability to maintain motion against a resisting force, requires mass. A holodeck is empty. No mass just laying around to use. Mass must be found to give the characters designed for interaction for the living users some semblance of reality. They must feel real to the spacemen on leave in the Holo-House of Ill Repute, or the wrestler working out for the Sector 7 Olympics with a simulacrum. Either of these cases must resist forces placed on it by the user. When the wrestler lunges, the user must feel it’s force in proportion to its mass and force of its musculature. It must work as expected.

The Holo-deck is a tool, not just entertainment. In fact, it’s purpose is at least eighty percent of the mission and the rest, morale.

So how do you get mass out of thin air? Simple. Einstein gave us the formula in Special Relativity, E=Mc², Energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light in a vacuum. Once we decide how much mass we need, we can calculate the energy requirements. How simple!

A famous episode was a Holmes-Watson show where Moriarty appeared and took flight beyond the bounds of the Deck! Ignoring that oddity, let us calculate the energy cost of creating that amount of mass. Let us say Moriarty weighed in at 175 lbs. Yes, English, that would be 12.5 Stone. 1 Stone = 6.37 Kg. Moriarty weighs 79.54 Kg. C = 300,000,000 m/s. The mass, in this case, is the rest mass, M∅.

E = 79.54 x 9 x E16 Kg m²/s² = 7.16 x 10^18 Joules.

The Hiroshima bomb was 15 Kilotons which is equivalent to 63 Terajoules, that is, 63 x 10^12 Joules. Moriarty requires roughly 72 x 10^17 / 63 x 10^12 which is appr. equal to 10^5. In other words, the starship Enterprise would need to generate the energy of 100,000 Hiroshima bombs just to create enough mass in order that Moriarity feels like Moriarty when Picard as Watson punches him. A lot of match heads just for some recreational sleuthing!

We can’t stop with the body. The puppet must be motivated. Subcutaneous musculature, blood pumping, skin flushing, heart beating, breath panting, sweat dripping, everything must fit the image of a man that acts the part. Seated and contemplatively intellectual or loquaciously manic, any mood must satisfy the illusion of reality. The inert mannequin must live.

And to do that, more energy. But the rest is a paltry sum compared to the amount needed to create. Applying it, however, will be more difficult. Active fields, as discussed above, will be required not just to resist humans but to move inorganic matter. This is all technology not even in the sights of science, merely the dreams of futurists.

Sorry to be your buzz kill Betty, but facts are facts. There are too many important things to do in this world for the unwashed to imagine that things happening in a Virtual World are the same things that happen in a Holodeck. Aside from the fact that a Holodeck comes with a green screen and a CGI staff, VR gives no tactile feedback of the type experienced on the pretend starship Enterprise.

By far, the best way to enjoy a Holodeck in this day and age is to learn Improv.

Click here for Part 2: The Holodeck: How Do We Get Started?