Sunday, 19 March 2023

Post-Singularity Hardcopy Concepts

Chatbot evolution, deepfakes. conspiracy and counter-conspiracy and counter-counter conspiracy. re-editing of children's books (is your copy of 'The Twits' pre or post-purge?), all of this and more leads me to think about The Record, and its fragility.

So I come to imagine forms of post-reality hardcopy, for when you absolutely postitively MUST calm ever motherfucking in the room.

It needs to be readable to the *naked eye*, (the statements of trusted witnesses that they have seen the hardcopy, reporting directly and in the flesh to others, will be the only real form of proof most will recieve). This is a human thing and is about proving things from one human to another in a world where any digital or transmitted inormation, even through a single screen, like that of an electron microscpe, could be suspected.

It can be the creation of machines but better if it is purely hand made, must be reasonably robust, not decay, at least not if cared for, hard, preferably impossible, to alter and amend


Close-weaved calligraphy - using a scribe to write fancy letters that mesh with each others negative space, both fore and aft but also with each line above and below. I think this was used in rennaisance/early modern counrtly letters, or at least special and expansive designs were placed to fill pages specifically to prevent any additions or amendments to whatever the king etc may or may not have said


Ceramic - could literally be a fine china cup with the contract/text interweaved through it under the sheen

Cut into Gems - you would have to examine these with a spyglass at least. Combining gemcutting with close-weaved calligraphy would make a record easy to transport, worth preserving and hard to alter.

Glass - if a record could be etched in so much the better, if some substance relevent to the nature of the record was included in the glassblowing even more so. Maybe a rare radioactive isotope that decayed at a set rate? That could give you a date? Or combine glass and organic so a leaf or something is part of the artefact.

I feel most metals are out, too easy to melt and reconfigure.. Maybe etched right on the edge of a high-grade blade?


Bone or ivory is another material that could be treated roughly as a 'brittle synthetic' with scrimshawed or etched intra-calligraphy.

Shell? Could writing somehow be introduced to the natural growth patterns of a shell?

Grown-over wood - carving things into wood sounds good as the interaction between the grain and carved text might make it hard to alter, maybe there could be some way to use the fact that wood can be grown over and around things to 'seal' a ceramic document?

Skin - tattooing might work, combining the fidelity of a named person and their reputation with the record written into their living skin

DNA alteration to make a bunch of apples or whatever produce certain words - sounds a bit overdone and not that useful but could be a handy way of mass-replicating a single record. (Apples etc have the name of god or whatever in them all the time, it shouldn't be too hard to get a single tree to produce a name or symbol).


What else can be created and 'read' by humans, but is very hard to alter once it has 'been' created?

I want to say; very high grade silk weaving - but the fact that it is 'woven' means it can be 'un-weaved' and re-made.   Is there a form of weaving which is *fundamentally* un-un-weavable - that it simply cannot be taken apart and re-assembled once made, even by super-tactile robot hands?

Urban Planning? - you could pay to have the streets of a suburban or urban development effectively 'written' as a cypher of your agreement or record. This would have a natural loss over time but it would take quite a long time and a supreme degree of effort to erode the symbology. The systems of build environments have a tendency to replicate themselves. 

How about chemical processes that remain meta-stable but degrade if they are disrupted or interrupted?

Super-clockwork that remains stable so long as it runs very, very slowly, but degrades rapidly if it is sped up slowed down or stopped  in any way?

There must be some systems or methods in engineering that are useless or low-utility because they are coherent so long as you don't fuck with them, making them too sensitive or finickity for building r engineering but maybe quite good for this purpose?


  1. Oral History Plus: Just have multiple people reading the thing, out loud, constantly. Forever. Since we can trust certain people under certain circumstances, just maintain this set of people and circumstances perpetually.

    Something written on the side of a high altitude solar-powered blimp. Very easy to have it self-destruct if tampered with. The extreme version of this is an orbital billboard with the message on it.

    1. Like the 'books' in the Farrenhight Ray Bradbury story.

      The horror of running out of ad space on the moon...

  2. Some ideas:

    -Delicate coral growths in carefully-controlled aquarium - even just immersing the tools to re-carve the coral can introduce chemical contamination plainly evident by the ensuing die-off

    -Writing suspended in supercooled water - disturbing the water to edit the writing causes it to freeze instantly - perhaps the writing itself is performed with dyed algae or somesuch, and the freezing causes the algae's cells to burst and become illegible

    -Technique: The document is written with a complex cipher built-in that translates it into, say, Le Morte d'Arthur - if subsequent copies have errors in that translation, they have surely been edited - perhaps this cipher is kept semi-secret to prevent edits from being written around it - secluded scribes with their own ciphered documents and records that become allusive and obscurantist, alchemical-Rosicrucian

    -Blocks or beads with magnetic sides which when dropped together will reassemble themselves into the document - brought together only when this document is required to be read, otherwise stored separately with different parties to prevent study and replication of how the whole comes together

    -Carve it into the fucking moon, so bigly it's visible from Earth

  3. This deviates slightly from your "readable to the naked eye" brief, but if you want something that is maximally difficult for machines to forge, I think it helps to think about things which are maximally difficult for them to read in the first place. We already live in a world of 3D printing, synthetic diamonds, and lab-grown meat, after all, where there are cameras and microphones everywhere and AI has been trained on vast databases of images and audio. The other senses are much harder for it to parse (for now at least), so what about:
    Touch-based writings encoded in scars on a person's skin. Ideally you could take a leaf out the ancient Ionians' book and carve text into someone's scalp before letting their hair grow back, after which the letters would be invisible to passing surveillance cams but easily traceable by another human's fingers.
    Taste-based communication. Dynasties of supertasters learn a complex language of flavour combinations and subtle pairings, which enables them to pass on information via cooking meals (into which the recipe itself is also encoded, obviating the need for written or oral instructions which can be intercepted).
    Smell-based messages which work in a similar way, being based on ciphers of multilayered scents within a perfume.

  4. Chirographs - multiple copies of a text on a document that is then cut up - would be a medieval solution. Cf. Tallysticks, which I suppose comes under 'Grown-over wood'.

    1. Not exactly futuristic, but it did just occur to me that uniquely marbled paper would be another possibility.

  5. Slabs of hard, high melting point corrosion-proof materials like Steel or Titanium would probably suffice and would be less prone to accident. It takes a comparatively large amount of energy to modify them, and doing outside of a specialized workshop is all but impossible. Decreasing the size of the script demands greater precision of any modification, theoretically increasing security, although it also decreases the lifespan.

    It is more likely any attempt at fraud would focus on gaining access to the medium and replacing it with a forgery, rather then modifying the existing message.

    These more exotic media like silk, chemical processes, exotic matter or the nervous systems and shells of sea-slugs have the drawback that they are all relatively vulnerable to entropy. In general, the finer your resolution, the more vulnerable it becomes. If you want something to stay, blasting it into the face of the moon or boring it into your crust renders it relatively change-proof.

    We may assume that in the post-reality world, any conventional cryptographical techniques using solid media are rendered ineffectual by Quantum computers. The use of quantum cryptography, already a technique in use by banks today, is theoretically the most secure way a message can be encrypted, although the process might require significant computation power and would thus be exempted.

  6. I think I may be misunderstanding the premise. Some of the proposed ideas seem to focus on a "hard to alter" requirement, but several of them seem like they could just be replaced. Like, sure it's hard to weave an extra phrase into this text-in-silk without ruining it, but couldn't you just weave a new one with your desired text and replace the original? Or replace a whole tank of supercooled water with one containing your desired message?

    I guess I'm asking, what sort of use cases are the "hardcopys" intended for? In the real world it seems like important hardcopy things (cash, handwriting samples) focus very much on "hard to replicate" rather than "hard to alter" since forgery is their main threat.