Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Cyberpunk World: Now You See Me, Now You Don't

The article: Invisibility cloaks: Now you see me, but for how much longer?

Invisibility cloaks. Science fiction, right? Even better, fantasy! (see: The Arabian Nights or Harry Potter, etc., etc., etc....)

Think again.

Like the jetpack, aircar, and hoverboard, the invisibility cloak is now a reality. You can't buy them now, of course; the technology's still in the research stage, and the military and police demand first dibs Or Else. However, the cloaking device is more cyberpunk than those other sci-fi cliché technologies. Like teleportation as used in Alfred Bester's 1950s proto-cyberpunk classic Tiger, Tiger a.k.a. The Stars My Destination, cloaking is the wet dream of assassins and terrorists. Just look, for instance, at Spanner Chapter One...

Here's how it works. You're a terrorist, secret police agent, black ops super soldier, or serial killer. You put on an invisibility cloak (or your uniform is a cloak) and switch invisibility on. Now you can kill without anybody knowing you're there; your victim will look like Abu Alhazred being eaten alive in the middle of the souq by the demon Yog Sothoth.

There's three problems. One, no cloaking device will ever be able to hide your fingerprints or footprints. Observant Trackers and CSIs will still be able to see what you left behind and follow the clues all the way back to you. Two, cloaking involves materials that bend light rays, so it will never be perfect; you'll still be visible to the trained eye or special goggles. Third and worst of all, you never know if you yourself are being tracked...

Soon the cyberpunks and other science fiction writers will lose control of this technology. Very soon, it'll be all over the spy, terror, and police thrillers...

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