Bailout Device

Image from Steve Bowers

A "bailout device" is any class of personality-preserving backup devices capable of safeguarding its own survival and seeking its own reimplantation. In most "civilized" polities, these kinds of devices are considered horribly illegal. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to tell a "legal" backup device from an illegal one without invasive inspection.

The idea behind the bailout device is that it behaves as an ordinary "inline" backup under normal circumstances. It operates as an extension of the user's neural circuitry, keeping an up-to-date copy of the user's memories and conscious state, and even allowing the user to tap its resources for day-to-day mental operations. It can be shown through brain scans that, in a properly integrated backup implant, much of the user's mental processes "reside" in the implant itself. The backup continually monitors its host's vital signs, and in the event these vitals drop precipitously, the backup goes into a "hibernation mode," encapsulating the mental processes of its host and placing them in an unconscious state as it broadcasts a distress beacon, requesting retrieval and reimplantation.

This can have a few drawbacks, particularly in situations where a distress broadcast might attract hostile attention. Some backups are endowed with the ability to sense their surroundings, to some extent, and determine when it is "safe" to call for help. Others are built with the ability to "feed" themselves from their environment, most commonly by cannibalizing the corpse of their former host. Some are self-locomotive, and can extract themselves and crawl away from their host to seek safer shelter.

What differentiates a "bailout" from a standard backup is that the bailout doesn't stop with passive measures. It actively seeks out new host bodies to implant its conscious cargo in. These are sneaky, self-powering, self-motivating devices that cannibalize ALL of their host in order to build up massive power reserves. They then move out in search of a new host, looking particularly for areas like bedrooms, bathrooms and the like where beings of comparable physiology are likely to be the most unsuspecting and vulnerable.

When they acquire a target, they follow it and wait until it becomes "accessible." Then, they approach and forcibly implant themselves into that target's central nervous-system. Nanotech agents contained in the device then go about restructuring the nervous-system of the new host to "run" the stored consciousness of the old. The result is that, in the morning, a person who went to bed one individual wakes up another. The original consciousness is destroyed in the process of the hijacking, but the old consciousness is preserved.

It takes a special kind of person to purchase and use a bailout implant. These tend to be individuals more concerned with the preservation of their own existence than with the safety and sanctity of other intelligent creatures. For whatever reason, they are either unable or unwilling to use other, more acceptable backup technologies. They are also commonly used by embodied transapients who hold very little regard for the "lesser" minds of physical modosophonts, but who prefer the physical modosophont "experience" to a life in virch for the more visceral rush the primitive bodies give them. Some are hunters, seeking "dangerous game" to test their mental prowess on a physically level playing field. Though these are rarely bested by their prey, they can rest assured that, even if the impossible were to happen, and they were to "lose" a hunt, they would ultimately be the ones to get the last laugh.

Because more civilized polities abhor both the bailout mentalities and the consequences of their use (the utter destruction of one intellect for the sake of another) bailouts are most commonly found on the fringes of civilized territories, where law is lax or enforcement is weaker. Occasionally, though, they do turn up farther in. Efforts by advanced polities to enforce prohibitions against the purchase and implantation of bailouts has sparked a kind of arms race, in which bailout technology has taken steps to make itself smaller, more stealthy and more efficient in pace with law enforcement detection and interdiction methods. A few bailouts bear the mark of high transapient design, sporting capabilities that let them "hide" from angelnets and spoof themselves as legitimate devices.

From their early emergence, shortly after re-embodiment technology became available, to the present day, bailout devices have grown steadily more advanced and consequently more terrible. They have found application not only as backup devices, but as hijacking devices for creating "zombie" populations, subverting vulnerable military forces and other similar "dirty trick" offensive tactics. A popular use among warring transapients on the fringe is to dump billions of these devices onto a rival's polity "under the radar" and let them slowly spread and subvert the native population.

Bailout devices are not limited to subverting biological bodies. Models have been developed to subvert a wide range of substrates. In general, they represent a class of manufactured parasites that attack intelligence and intelligence-supporting structures, rather than life-supporting biology. Following in the banal tradition of infective nano-agents, symbolic viruses and other "intellectual blights" that have darkened the promise of information technology since its inception, bailouts are not the first of their kind, and they will most certainly not be the last.

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Development Notes
Text by David Jackson
Initially published on 12 September 2006.