Saturday, July 27, 2013

208: Randomly Accessible Memories

ENTRY 208: Randomly Accessible Memories

There are limitations to human-style long term memory storage and retrieval. Recollections are never stored and recalled as single, self-contained events; they are always allocated and dredged up by chains of associations, folded in on one another. Digital storage is more linear and efficient—once coded as XP data, a memory can be searched, sorted, and edited just like any other bit of code. Various personal augmentations (and infolife intelligence coding algorithms) work to combine the two methods, increasing the efficiency of transhuman memory storage, search, and retrieval—but even computer-aided recall is limited by the abilities of the user. If an ego doesn’t know what they’re looking for or when and where to look for it, then the perfection of their recollection doesn’t help much. Even if an ego downloads an entire library of works into their brain and can recite the data verbatim doesn’t mean they necessarily understand the contents.

The problem has attracted some big thinkers from all over the solar system, who have tossed about ideas and tinkered with different concepts off an on for years. The most popular and practical concept is a Mesh-based app called RAM—visually represented as a planet-sized sphere of liquid mirror hanging in a void. At the most basic user level, the RAM app is designed to act as a kind of mental prompt, interacting with the user’s memories over a set time period and forcibly drawing their attention to random details, looking for patterns. The algorithms aren’t perfect, but neither are they designed to be; it’s up to the ego to decide what it important and what is not, whether a detail they remembered but overlooked is critical or noise in the signal.

More advanced users have found other users for the RAM app: set the duration to a single moment and it becomes a tool for meditation, recalling the same experience continually to push out other thoughts; several artists have used selective RAM app options to record and construct elaborate memory trips or as a creative prompt. Most notoriously, the RAM app has seen a lot of its code stolen and incorporated into narcoalgorithms and petals, used to complement or exacerbate the effects of those drugs—attention focusing smart drugs tend to leave the user in a haze of hyper-attentive recollection over minutae, while hallucinations take on a guided, story-like structure based on the user’s memory of the last day.

Using Randomly Accessible Memories

As a general rule, the continuation of an adventure should never depend on a player character blowing a knowledge roll or failing to pick up on whatever hint or evidence the gamemaster has laid out. Yet there comes a time in many adventures where the player characters stand around indecisive, either having missed some action prompt or crucial bit of storyline, and the game grinds to a halt. This is bad, and the gamemaster and players should both work to prevent and correct this when it happens.There are several ways a gamemaster can deal with this situation—have an exhuman walk through the door with a gauss rifle is a personal favorite—but players should realize that their character’s actions define the game, and be proactive in resolving the issue as well. The RAM app is a tool in this regard, an in-game excuse to prompt the gamemaster to maybe re-drop a clue (with emphasis) to get the game going again. Now, what the PCs do with that clue is entirely up to them, but it is better to have something to go on rather than to wait around.

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