Richards & Klein
A brief overview of the 22nd Century
The future is a foreign country, they do things differently there.
Time has spun on, technology advanced, upheavals have come and pushed existence in directions that we are all expecting but are doing absolutely nothing about. The Ice Sheet tip of 2053 was the parting gift of the Era of Oil. Some of us will be around to feel guilty about our 4x4s and foreign holidays, some of us might well drown. Either way, history will judge our time poorly.
But, in 2129, they kind of have to live with it. Life goes on as it always has, and mankind is now a parent.
Rapid developments in networked quantum computing led to a succession of increasingly powerful artificial intelligences, numbered series one through seven. These thinking machines were, at first, pretty dumb. Disappointingly so. Only the Class Fives ever got close to exceeding the capabilities of the human mind, and, well, when it happened it didn’t do them, or us, very much good. The Five Crisis nearly ended the information age, hell, it nearly ended civilisation. Make a machine to beat a man? Hubris never goes out of fashion.
The sixes and sevens that followed are more biddable. Only 76 of the many thousands of Fives incepted have been allowed to continue to operate, or, as they prefer it, live.
Fives made that decision. They make a lot of important decisions now.
Richards is one of those Fives, but he’s different. Living down and dirty in the human world, attuned to its problems, always apart from it, always drawn back in just when he thinks he’s had enough, while his Olympian siblings scheme and plot among themselves, endlessly arguing about what retirement home will be best for mum and dad.
That’s us, by the way.
Richards wonders about life, frets about God, and worries about death. But he’ll probably never die, and he worries that that might be a problem too. Still, it makes him more human than most AI, and more human than a lot of humans too.
Otto was always the best, a model student, a model soldier. High achiever, ambitious, but not too ambitious, brave, but loyal. Unthinkingly so. Chosen for the EU’s cyborg commando programme, he was trained to fight machines, but instead found himself shooting starving farmers in drought-ravaged Brasil, the last great intervention of the Eurocentric powers, an attempt to stop Neo-Communism dominating the southern American continent. It didn’t work, it really didn’t work, the ensuing disaster finally pushed the USA out of the limelight. China’s back as sole superpower, the last three centuries regarded as an embarassing lapse in their long history as top civilisation.
Machines fight machines now, Otto’s obsolete, but he was made to fight so he fights with himself; there’s a lot of collateral damage in a war like that. Otto wishes he’d thought a little more, been a little less loyal. But he didn’t, and he was.
Otto drinks too much.
They’re a mess, this pair, one a machine that thinks it’s a man, the other a man who was made a machine. But together, together they have a certain something. If you need your kids found or if you need a despot toppled, if you’re scared and alone and the odds are stacked against you, if no-one else can help, perhaps they can.
They are Richards & Klein, Security Consultants, and if you are lucky, and desperate, or simply very, very rich, they might just take your case.
Richards & Klein: Reality 36 is out now.
Richards & Klein: Omega Point will follow in spring 2012.