Punching through walls/stages of tech

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 02:04:38 -0500

Well, I went to see the Matrix for the third time. Afterwards, I was wondering what it would take, in terms of biotech, to enhance someone to the point where they could punch through walls. (Trinity from _The Matrix_... Buffy from _Buffy the Vampire Slayer_... I've just got this thing for women who can punch through walls.) Initially I was thinking in terms of metal- or buckytube-reinforced bones, augmented muscles (not sure how they'd work), faster nerves (replace the nerves between muscle and spinal cord with electrical transmission?), buckytubes in the skin, and ATP "batteries" for high mitochondria output.

Later I started to wonder whether punching through walls would create hydrostatic shocks or other basic traumas that would require reengineering on the cellular level, instead of just lacing the body with hacks. Anyway, biotech isn't my specialty, so I'm throwing it to the list. Pre-drextech only, please.


I mentioned this to someone else - "What would it take to implement _The Matrix_?" - and he said something to the effect that the technology didn't exist and we had no idea of how to make it, and I disagreed... anyway, when the dust settled, I had said something to the effect that whether a technology exists isn't a binary value, it's a spectrum. Here's my proposed spectrum:

7.  Available at your local supermarket.
6.  Exists in a few laboratories.
5.  Component technologies work on rats (or other toy domains).
4.  We can hold a conference.
3.  We can do the calculations.
2.  Science fiction.
1.  Fantasy.

Thus FTL travel is stage 1; time travel is stage 2; punching through walls is stage 3; replacing damaged pieces of the brain with chips is, frighteningly enough, stage 4 (I would have said stage 2!); regenerating nerves is stage 5; neurohacking is stage 6; and the Web, of course, is stage 7.

           sentience@pobox.com          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians Heading for Singularity There Is A Better Way