Nexus Series

Series of novels by Ramez Naam.

  • Nexus ISBN:1480521426
  • Crux ISBN:1480521477

== Excerpts from Nexus ==

*Candidate replies flitted through his mind, half-formed on his lips, as the software's conversational package sifted through possibilities

Kade had never asked anyone their sign before. He supposed in a way he still hadn't. The software had done that with his mouth and lungs. Did that count

All the test was supposed to show was that software could use their Nexus-based interface to control speech and hearing in a real environment. It was Rangan who'd insisted on using this dating app to test their platform, and that Kade be the one to run it

Peter North was in charge now, a VR porn bot Rangan had lifted from the net and adapted to their Nexus OS as a way to test their kinesthetic interfaces. It spat out limb position changes and muscle and joint vectors

Her eyes flicked to a readout at the corner of her tactical contact display. It was red. Off the charts red. The sensor on the necklace she wore had picked up clear Nexus transmissions

Augments: Marine Combat & Recovery Boosters (2036, 2037, 2038)

Then he'd been captured by rebels in Kazakhstan. The man who emerged from that months-long ordeal was different. A peace activist. A Buddhist

Risk Level: Medium [post-/non-human intelligence]

A theoretical neuroscientist whose work focused on cognition in groups and networks

She was this city. She was the million hers within it. She tasted a hundred thousand memories

All of this is you – the words came unbidden to her. The memories came not one at a time, but in parallel, overlaid with one another, interleaving in ways she'd never seen, the timeline of her life becoming three-dimensional

This boy-scientist had brought her into the heart of the counterculture. And the counterculture was dosed with Nexus

They just beamed that into my head! What she could do with that technology

She closed her eyes and she could see and feel their individual lines of thought.

Eleven minds touched her at once in eleven parts of her psyche

Each person had not one thread, but many. They intertwined in parallel, each connected to the others. Thoughts and memories shifting and flowing

She felt Kade, still. He was with them, with her. And his mind... his mind... She knew the beauty of the Nexus core. The sublimity of its design that awed him, staggered him. She tasted the pure abstract space within him where he did his best work, apprehended a tiny bit of the protocol he'd built with Rangan, the semantic layer between individual neural connections and whole thoughts. It was a glorious thing, a map of all the kinds of pieces of thoughts, an ontology of consciousness. It existed in him in part of his mind beyond doubt or fear or even consideration of others. Part of him so beautiful and yet so distant and so alien and so very, very much hers for this brief time

You're under arrest for the crime of trafficking in an ERD Alpha Class Prohibited Technology and a DEA Schedule I controlled substance. In addition to that, development and use of a coercion technology, attempting to construct an unlicensed Non Human Intelligence in violation of the Chandler Act, kidnapping, and interfering with an officer of the law

Your research is designated a potential threat to humanity. You have no rights in that situation

It's a way of bridging the gap between people. It makes us smarter together than we could be apart. It can raise collective intelligence, collective empathy

You're the one threatening to make real humans obsolete. Do you have any idea the danger you're putting the whole world in

Nexus OS would have the tools to locate an open net connection. It wasn't running. It must have crashed last night when they'd tranqed him.

[nexus_restart] he mentally commanded

Holtzmann! thought Kade. He'd been Chair of the MIT Neuroengineering Department once. His lab had done good work in the neuroscience of volition. How was he involved with the ERD

The Aryan Rising incident (2030) was an attempt to wipe out the bulk of humanity, paving the way for the repopulation of the world by a race of genetically engineered neo-Nazi transhumans

Recordings from within the compound showed a group of the children deliberately releasing an early variant of Marburg Red months ahead of schedule, thus killing their creators and wiping out the nearby town

The event occurred near the peak of DWITY abduction and mind control incidents, and on the heels of the Yucca Grove outbreak of Communion virus in 2028, and the deadly Eschaton computer attack of 2029

Public response led to the Chandler Committee hearings of 2030-2031

This is a file photo of Lobsang Tulku, the Buddhist monk who shot and killed the Dalai Lama and two of his bodyguards in Dharamsala in 2037, and then took his own life

We have another two dozen events we think are cases of Chinese compulsion technology at work. Do you see why we're concerned

How many stories like that had Kade heard about in the past? Had he done anything? He'd signed some online petitions. Had he rushed to people's defenses? Had scientists around the country risen up in protest? Fat chance. Everyone just kept their head down, massaged their research proposals, tried to skirt as close to the edge of what was allowed as they could without endangering their federal grant dollars. He felt sick, ashamed of himself, ashamed of his profession

You think something changed about her. That she got smarter. Augmented

Yes. She shows signs of being augmented in ways that surpass anything that we know of. That is something which concerns us." He paused, then continued. "And it's interesting that the first report of Nexus 1 came in 2033, just seven years ago... and one year after Dr Shu's return to science

I know what happened to you and your family at Yucca Grove.

Nexus nodes talk to each other by radio

How'd you get past the censor chip

Where'd you get the molecular structures? SHANKARI: We got the chemistry from Recipes for a Revolution. I smuggled a hard copy back from India

The nodes don't know where they are in the brain. They know where they are relative to other nodes in the same brain

We built a simple compiler to turn Mod[[OS]] into a set of instructions that would run on a set of Nexus nodes

The drug isn't wearing off. How is that possible

After that he opened another file on his terminal and reviewed its contents. Presidential Order 594 – Eliminating and Preventing Uncontrolled Non-Human Intelligences. Scenario 7c – HIVE INTELLIGENCE

"And the abuse potential is high," Becker said. "That's not the problem," Holtzmann replied. "Pardon?" Becker raised an eyebrow. Holtzmann sighed. "The problem is that the utility is so high. People will find a thousand ways to use something like this

This isn't what I came here for.

Becker shook his head. "Martin, I know you're frustrated. But you know the reality. The transhuman implications alone...

Holtzmann frowned. "Would it be so bad? To be smarter? To touch another mind? Are you sure we're doing the right thing

A pair of files came across. One was source code. The other was an application. He had no idea what it did. Then he saw the name. Bruce Lee. Oh no...

Being captured in the Kazakh Mountains was the best thing that had ever happened to him. It certainly hadn't been the easiest thing. It had been the most painful, most confusing, most troubling six months of his life. But it had opened his eyes. And eyes, once opened, seldom closed again

Here is where the Soviets fucked us," the geologist had said, "before you Americans came to finish the job

He came out to find that his enhancements caused cancers

This phone, Nakamura said, had one very special feature. It would transmit Nexus 5 signals over the net. Samantha Cataranes, under her alias of Robyn Rodriguez, would have a phone with the same capability. She would be running Nexus 5, and their minds would be linked

and (3) the insufficiency of traditional courts and law enforcement agencies in the face of such threats, we recommend:

The creation of a new office within the Department of Homeland Security – the Emerging Risks Directorate – empowered to act in any and all ways necessary to counter such threats

There were fifteen thousand people expected in person at this event, and another fifty thousand virtually

And then the talk turned in a direction Kade had not expected.

"I am a Buddhist," the king said

Wow, Kade thought. The King of Thailand is a hippie

Kade. Act natural. This message will appear and then disappear in thirty seconds

But if he bailed, friends of his would end up in jail for certain. He had to take the chance. The ERD held all the cards right now.

Overall Service: Satisfied

Kade was about to turn and walk away when Shu's eyes passed over him, and she raised a hand to wave him over

Ethical?" Shu cut him off. "Laws that keep humanity chained and limited are ethical? "They keep us human." Shu raised an eyebrow. "And who decides what's human?"

I agree with you that as scientists we must act ethically. But surely that means acting for the greatest good. The laws that exist now inhibit our ability to do so

Another mind brushed against his. Kade had an impression of still water, a deep, deep tranquility, the solidity of earth, a quiet amusement. And then surprise. The mind had felt him as well. It was behind him. And then it disappeared.

Kade turned. Professor Somdet Phra Ananda was there in

I could not tolerate the thought of posthumans as slaves to mere humans

You're only barely in control of your own mind, she scoffed. Your intentions mean next to nothing right now

There is a war coming. A world war. Not between China and America. Between humans and posthumans. You see it all around you. The humans are doing everything they can to prevent the posthuman transition from occurring. While we are struggling to be free of their controls.

War. He turned the word over in his mind. A world war. People will die

This is directed evolution, she sent. How many generations would this take natural selection? Millions? The faster we uplift ourselves, the fewer who need die. Join me. Help move the work forward

Is that you? he asked her. You're an upload? You were sick... Is that it? You were forced to try. And you succeeded. You're the first digital being...

How much would they accomplish as my puppets? I would become no better than our masters, and no more effective. No. We're most capable as autonomous beings who choose to come together. Our as sociations must be voluntary

The line between loyalty and compulsion remained clear

The Chandler Act (aka the Emerging Technological Threats Act of 2032) is the opening salvo in a new War on Science. To understand the future course of this war, one need only look at the history of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror

Do you know the bodhisattva vow?" Ananda asked

May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.' It's a pledge to keep being reborn into the material world of suffering, to put nirvana off indefinitely, until all beings in the universe have attained enlightenment and can also enter nirvana. It's perhaps the ultimate vow of placing others before oneself

Another variant I like is 'All beings, without number, I vow to liberate.' Quite a commitment, eh?"

From:Tuksin, Phra Racha Khana Chan Tham To:Suk Prat-Nung

And what Suk Prat Nung wanted, more than anything, was upgrades to Nexus. Ananda had sensed the Nexus in Kade's brain

We find that the Constitution guarantees protections only to human persons. Non-human persons such as those created by the combination of non-human genes with human genes, by the integration of technology that affords non-human abilities, or by any significant deviation from the existing spectrum of human characteristics, are afforded no special protections

And then Kade saw Suk. Sitting on the couch. Wrongness. The young man exuded arrogance – avarice. Suddenly he didn't want to teach them anything after all

There was something happening. Something in her mind. A bright light, a pinprick, white, glorious, glowing. It was Mai. She was inside her, doing something, comforting her, pushing back the shadows

"I wasn't born Samantha Cataranes. I was born Sarita Catalan

They'd joined a kind of white collar commune. Everyone did some sort of work they could do remotely. Computer people, consultants, analysts, visual design people, some radiologists and lawyers. They all lived on this ranch. The idea was to raise kids together, to live in a place where they could share parenting duties, where they could be a little shielded from the law

It was called the Communion virus

"Sanitize," Becker said quietly from the screen. "Protocol Thirteen.

Nichols looked up, horrified. "Sir, we still have three men alive in there, maybe four. And civilians! I need to get them out

Narong... Kade looked closer at Narong's mind. There. That wasn't Nexus 3... That was Nexus 5, Kade's technology. Which meant that the ERD had done just what Shu had said they would.

They won't ask your permission, she'd scoffed.

But that also meant that the back doors he and Rangan had installed...

Garrett Nichols watched on the edge of his seat as Jane Kim operated November-1. "You have three seconds to comply." Kim caused the words to come out of November-1's mouth. "Three...

Nichols hit the final ENTER key. Displays flickered and went blank. He tried to picture it. At the back of each man's skull, four grams of CL-70 had just ignited

She nodded to Wats. Yes. Yes, she would carry it on

Suk. Suk Prat-Nung. He was still alive.

An electrified shock baton came down on her

Kade could feel him now. His mind was faint. His name was Tuksin. He was a monk. He was here to steal these secrets, free himself of Ananda, become the lord of Nexus

He blasted them with the Nexus disruptor

There was a gun on the thug's hip. Kade was in Suk's mind now. Push/pull. He was the master of it. He always won

He wanted out from Ananda. And Suk wanted out from Ted Prat-Nung

The monks had learned to integrate Nexus 3 into their minds. They hadn't reprogrammed the Nexus cores

No. They'd meditated. They'd sculpted their own minds to the Nexus, found ways of thinking and being that gave them deeper control over it. And in so doing, they'd learned to achieve a synchrony that he'd never experienced

Because I think people would use it for more good than harm. "Is that the only reason?" "And because I think it's just good. It's just good for people to be able to communicate more easily. It's just good for people to be smarter, to be more connected, to have access to more of each others' thoughts." "Then you have my answer."

The battle over distribution of the Nexus 5 files lasted just under thirty-one hours

Across two-thirds of the Internet nodes on the planet, propagation of the files halted. Supervisors congratulated themselves

At 3.38pm EST, a teenager in Portland, Oregon – who'd downloaded the files before the interdiction – repackaged and reposted them to a peer-to-peer sharing site with a new name, "Badass Neuro Shit You Should Check Out from Axon and Synapse

Other filtering and blocking priorities were lowered to make room for more CPU cycles and more human eyes on this issue

A few hundred continued to search, found other links to a claimed Nexus 5 download, found that absolutely none of them worked, and began to speculate as to why. Their speculations in turn began to be rejected by their net providers or to disappear from the net soon after posting, fueling more and more speculation.

NSA officials were cautiously optimistic. The files were spreading, but slowly. It had not gone viral. They could contain this.

That optimism lasted nearly nine hours

A previously unknown hacker named Mutat0r had taken the original package and mutated it into a plethora of new variants

Each downloaded package unleashed a new generation of distribution packages upon opening. The net was soon awash in new mutants

Evolution and human cleverness were cast against filter daemon cleverness. Bit by bit, crowdsourced evolution pulled ahead

Businesses stalled. Stock markets crashed. Traffic jams erupted as smart routing turned dumb. Power grids went haywire

In Madrid, a psychiatrist read

In Hyderabad, a serial entrepreneur and a tech financier brainstormed together

In the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, an adult film producer mused on the possibilities of making and selling adult films using this new medium. No, not just films. They'd be adult "adventures

In a slum of Lahore, a Islamist imam contemplated the best way to employ this tool to further the jihad

In Paris, the mother of an autistic boy looked longingly at her son

Could this help save their marriage

This could be fun

Within days, hundreds of them had tried it

In a darkened office in Washington, DC, Martin Holtzmann contemplated the vial of Nexus in his hand

Ling ignored her. There was nothing this woman could teach her that she couldn't learn twice as fast, ten times as fast, from the net

Her mother. Her mother had died the death of the body. Her mother's mind lived on, but it was constrained, now. The old men that ruled this country were punishing her, cutting her off from the outside world, cutting her off from Ling.

Ling didn't like that. Not one bit. And she didn't intend to stand for it

It was important to at least pretend to be human. That's what her mother always said

Wife," Chen Pang asked softly, "what have you done?"

If Thailand does withdraw from the Copenhagen Accords, it would be only the third country since...

"You have to decide if you're on the side of progress... or of stagnation." "I'm on the side of peace, he'd replied, and freedom."

She turned and faced south. There, near a tiny village on the border with Malaysia, there were more children like Mai. That was where her road led now

Our so-called leaders and their bureaucrats have drawn lines around what it means to be "human". Anyone who steps beyond those lines is by definition no longer a person, no longer endowed with inalienable rights, no longer protected from the whims of those in power

This is the same logic of inhumanity that's been applied in the past to slaves, to women, to Jews, to members of any group which those in power wish to persecute

Parts of our government are empowered by the Chandler Act and other laws to target, spy on, arrest, jail, and even murder Americans and foreigners accused of taking their destinies in their own hands, in complete secrecy, without a jury, without any due process except one of a handful of National Security Court judges, all of whose names are also secret

We are only as strong as our signal, only as strong as our voices.

=== Afterword ===

He holds a seat on the advisory board of the Institute for Accelerating Change

The implant was placed in the part of Johnny Ray's motor cortex that he used to control his right hand (prior to his stroke). Gradually, Johnny learned to move a cursor on a computer screen by thinking about moving his hand

The most common neural prosthetic in the world is one that turns audio signals into direct nerve stimulation in the brain – the cochlear implant

In the mid 2000s, scientists started to do the same for vision. A scientist named William Dobelle created the first neural vision prosthesis

by using a functional MRI machine (a brain scanner that can see some activity going on inside the brain) they could reconstruct video of what the person was currently seeing

One striking thing about all of these efforts is the very small amount of data going in and out of the brain

Rodolpho Llinas who chairs the NYU Department of Neuroscience, has proposed a way to get a million or more electrodes in the brain – use nanowires. Carbon nanotubes can conduct electricity, so they can be used to carry signals

Over the last decade researchers looking for ways to cure muscular dystrophy, anemia, or other ailments have shown that single injections loaded with additional copies of select genes (delivered by a tame virus) can have a lifelong impact on the strength and fitness of animals ranging from mice to baboons. Those enhancements, by the way, are nearly impossible to detect in humans *

== Excerpts from Crux ==

*But then someone had used Nexus to try to kill the President. And the ERD had put a bounty on his head. Wanted alive, for questioning

The monastery at Ban Pong is gone,” the abbot said. “Burned to the ground. The brothers there chose that way out, rather than tell your pursuers where you’d gone

Eight of the children, ranging in age from one to eight years old, had been exposed to Nexus in the womb, most of them repeatedly. Once a mother felt her unborn child’s mind through Nexus, most felt a strong draw to take Nexus again, to touch the half-formed thoughts of the little being growing inside themselves once more

Nothing, if he produced a vaccine and a cure the way that Barnes and the President wanted

It’s like,” Jake started, haltingly, “the big picture, OK? It’s like the next step in our evolution. Going from one mind, to many minds, all linked… Group consciousness. That we’re just parts of. That’s the real posthuman.”

When the CIA is the place you turn to for moral clarity, Nakamura thought, you might have a problem.

For him, this was the logical extension of who he was and what she’d taught him. Words never solved anything. If you believed in something, you had to act to make it happen

Shiva sighed. Humanity has lost control, he thought. It can no longer govern itself or this planet. It can no longer guarantee its children a future. The world needs new leadership. Posthuman leadership.

Was he willing to embrace that mantle? With all that it would mean?

We’ve clustered around eighty per cent of the Nexus users into three demographics

What unites them most are the features you suggested: high scientific literacy, high IQ, careers in engineering, computing, and the sciences. These are people seeking out Nexus for themselves, to connect and enhance their own performance. These are the intelligentsia you thought we’d find

Around one point three million total Nexus users,” Dunn said, “plus or minus forty per cent

Shiva closed his eyes and he could see the shifting protein shapes in the children’s minds, writhing, folding, refolding, transforming as the youngsters searched the possibility space for a new way to save the world’s reefs.

The expertise in this game came entirely from the adults – molecular biologist and biochemists with deep knowledge in the calcifying proteins used by corals. But the raw skill in the game, that came from the children, who tapped into that knowledge and then applied it together at staggering speed.

Bo Tat,” he heard. “Bo Tat.” A hundred voices said it. He didn’t know the words but he could see the meaning of it in their minds, their hundred minds merged as one.

Bodhisattva. Heroic-minded one. Bringer of light. He who would sacrifice himself, be reborn in suffering, time after time, until every living being reaches enlightenment

Chen himself doubted the risk of runaway self-improvement. Intelligence showed diminishing returns

And so he’d stretched the rules, hidden a few upgrades of his wife’s design in with more prosaic maintenance, made the case for upgraded quantum cores

And the young monks pick up Nexus 5 faster than the old ones. They don’t need the old ones as teachers. I’ve undermined their authority, inverted the hierarchy.”

“Fuck hierarchy,” Feng said

No. They’re not human. We teach them to behave through pain.’”

Feng smiled grimly.

“Then she slaps him. Hard. And she says, ‘This man is more human than you are

But Su-Yong, she say, we don’t have to be loyal to instructors, don’t have to be loyal to commanders. Have to be loyal to China. To the people. They’re our brothers and sisters.

“What you did, Kade. You give Nexus 5 to everyone. I know it makes Su-Yong mad. She wants more control than that. But you did the right thing

There were grownups here who came in and gave them tests, but he couldn’t feel the grownups in his head at all and he knew why it was because they didn’t have NEXUS and so they were stupid and they weren’t real people at all

When, he wondered, has that app ever fucking worked?

With access to so many talented minds, we could harness scientists and engineers to invent the technologies we need to save the planet, to end poverty and starvation. We could nudge banks and mega-corporations to invest in the projects the world needs, marshaling trillions in assets. We could intervene politically, gaining inside information about world leaders, using it to steer them in the directions we need, to force them if necessary.”

So many cliffs humanity could fall off of. So many crimes being committed, so many risks being taken.

And Kade understood why. They were a tribal species. They’d evolved in a world where a few dozen men and women made up a tribe, and virtually all others were enemies, threats. They lacked the cognitive capabilities necessary to collaborate on this scale

Crux introduces some new science, and in particular, “uploading”.*

Edited:    |       |    Search Twitter for discussion