I now have just one more week to wait. Just a few more days and two enormous events in my life will happen within a couple of days of one another. I will leave school and I will get my Nexima implant. I’m already starting to feel that overwhelming mixture of excitement, anticipation and apprehension. Right now, apprehension is winning out.
For the vast majority of people on Earth, school finishes in the year that you turn seventeen and my birthday was a couple of months ago. The traditional end-of-school-life celebrations are just a couple of days away, with a big party just after that. A chance to let our hair down and celebrate the end of a part of our lives and the beginning of a new one.
Getting one’s Nexima implant is an even more life-changing event, one that cannot happen until you are seventeen or over, for medical reasons. When Nexima first developed their neural implants, right here on the Island that I call home, the barriers to adoption were far-reaching and the safeguards put in place by government agencies were wide-ranging and stricter than almost any regulations before or since.
The chance that a brain implant might harm the brain of a developing child or teenager was considered to be low, but it was not seen to be zero. As a consequence, when initially introduced, almost thirty years ago, the minimum age was set at nineteen. After more than twenty years of success and much more research, the age limit was lowered to seventeen just five years ago. Statistics now show that fewer than one in ten million recipients have any form of adverse reaction to the technology and this risk is seen to be far outweighed by the benefits.
My parents, and my brother, Sam, who is three years older than I am, all have Nexima, and I am considered to be at the lowest level of risk. Even so, the government, through our school, are at great pains to make it clear that we don’t have to have an implant if we don’t want one, for any reason.
Of course, again because of the perceived benefits, the overwhelming majority of seventeen-year-olds do have the implant. In all except the very poorest countries, uptake is almost universal and even in those poorer countries, uptake is growing rapidly as the effective costs continue to fall.
I’m scheduled to have the procedure in six days’ time and, like so many of my friends, and despite my anxieties about any medical procedure, however minor, I can’t wait!
Simply put, Nexima is an almost microscopic bio-electronic device that interfaces with your brain synapses and provides a direct, instantaneous link between your consciousness and the global Mesh. It replaces all the technologies from the early 21st century with one simple, lifetime device.
We learn in history about the development of the fledgling internet, simplistic and inferior grandfather to the Mesh we have today. People had to carry bulky physical devices for communication and information retrieval. People travelled to work using vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and nearly destroyed the planet with their profligacy.
As the population of the planet surpassed eight billion, shortages of energy, food and electronics led to a series of conflicts, the first being between Russia and Ukraine. Far more devastating, however, was the attempt by China to re-unify with the island of Taiwan.
This conflict was driven more by a desire to control the manufacture of silicon-based integrated circuits than it was by nationalism, but was, ultimately, also unsuccessful.
China’s initial attempted invasion was at first withstood by the power and incredible bravery and sacrifice of Taiwan’s own defence forces, but as China committed more and more resources to the attempt, American, Japanese, Australian, Korean and British forces stepped in to support the Taiwanese and the conflict escalated into a bloody, full-scale war.
This was over very quickly, the weapons of 2027 being both effective and efficient. The losses on both sides, both in terms of men and materiel, were colossal, but eventually the combined might of the western nation’s military pushed the Chinese forces back, leaving them literally decimated. Hundreds of aircraft were destroyed and many ships were sunk on both sides.
The conflict, thankfully, stopped short of the use of nuclear weapons, but vast amounts of damage had been done, both actually and collaterally.
In a spiteful parting shot, Chinese forces destroyed almost seventy percent of the microchip production facilities on Taiwan with cruise missiles. Although there had been a concerted effort in the few years before the conflict to diversify production across the globe, mostly as a result of a global pandemic a few years earlier, the shortages created were devastating.
A wide-ranging and long-lasting global recession followed, taking more than ten years to even recover to pre-conflict levels of growth and production. Taiwan rebuilt as quickly as possible, but China was a spent force. They had played their hand and they had failed.
Before the attempted invasion, there had been a tacit status quo. Taiwan supplied China and China stayed quiet. After the conflict, Taiwan simply stopped supplying all electronic devices to China and, as the factories closed and the people grew hungry, the Chinese economy collapsed into virtual feudalism.
The Communist Party of China was unable to control the wrath of a disgruntled population and collapsed. Civil war was avoided by the growth of a truly democratic movement, fuelled by the mostly unemployed working population. They somehow managed to rebuild a government infrastructure, hold truly free elections and help most of their population to get enough food to survive.
This is a long history lesson, but one vital to the understanding of the growth of Nexima. The collapse of the global economy had, for the first time, slowed the speed of climate change by dramatically reducing global energy use and pollution, particularly from China.
As the world slowly recovered from the recession, real progress was finally being made in the use of nuclear fusion for the generation of electricity. The enormously expensive experimental reactor known as ITER had finally proved that power generation could be both cost-effective and sustainable.
While progress on the use of renewable power sources continued through the 2030s, providing a little breathing space, the major economies began to build fusion power plants and scale down their use of fossil fuels. By 2045, sixty percent of all global electricity generation was produced by fusion and this figure has since grown to be the major source of energy, augmented by the ever-reliable renewables.
With this freedom from the limits of expensive fossil fuels, the economies of the earth began to stabilise and grow once more. Research and development in a vast array of long-neglected fields was suddenly once more financially viable and technologies exploded with new ideas and inventions.
The Isle of Man, my tiny island nation home, played an initially very small part in this technological revolution. Growing from the Island’s long-standing foundation in the online gaming, gambling and data management industries, new technology start-ups grew into what came to be called the ‘Silicon Island’, as it began to rival Silicon Valley in California.
By far the most successful development to come from this swirling mass of start-up businesses was the creation of the Nexima Neural Interface. As one of the first truly successful and sustainable bio-electronic devices, it quickly came to be the dominant force in human-machine interfacing.
By the time of the first successful human trials, the Mesh had succeeded and supplanted the internet. Billions of radio-connected devices took the place of the ancient Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies, providing a seamless network that worked almost everywhere.
The explosive growth in machine learning and the so-called artificial intelligence revolution had also shaped the fledgling Mesh with truly natural language interfaces and conversational synthetic intelligences. We came to rely on specialist AIs to deal with complex decision-making and management tasks.
Nexima’s implant fundamentally changed human interaction with this new data network forever. By interfacing directly with the human brain, Nexima chips allowed instant, though-controlled access to the sum-total of human knowledge.
Once implanted, Nexima connects to your speech centre and your optical cortex, providing a visual interface and reacting to your unspoken thoughts. In the same way that you think of each word as you write or type, thinking of writing a question – for want of a better description – asks the Mesh that question via Nexima and you get a response instantly.
You can either choose to ‘hear’ the response or, if it needs a visual representation, then part of your vision can act as a display. More advanced services and connections provide a total-immersion visual and auditory experience, taking over your senses of hearing and vision totally to provide total virtual reality.
Now, more than seventy percent of all adults work from home, even the most complex manual tasks can be accomplished by immersion-controlled robots and all office tasks can be completed remotely.
Children, unable to be connected until they are adults, still get all the benefits of normal socialisation and interaction with others. Of course, that means we still make friends and enemies as children always have.
Nick knows that he’s gay, but he’s also probably aromantic and none of it seems to matter. As he prepares to celebrate the end of school and receive his Nexima implant, he hopes that upcoming therapy can help cure his crippling anxiety problems.
Struggling to focus at his graduation party, a cute guy is suddenly offering to join him. In Peter’s company, Nick feels calmer and more comfortable than he ever has before.
Can Nick find a better state of mind, find love and find a job? What about the AI systems that regulate so much of modern life? What do they have to do with all of this?
Futuristic technology and blossoming sexuality merge together in a gentle tale of slow-growing love and graphic physicality.