mithriltabby: Ancient Roman icosahedral die (Game)
[personal profile] mithriltabby

At some point, society is going to get over the novelty of the Information Age and settle into an equilibrium. Desktop information appliances will fade into the woodwork. Fancy consoles will still exist for specialists, but the average home will not have a regular keyboard. (I’m developing this for a Star Wars game as a “just so story” for the apparent lack of laptops, cellphones, and iPods, but it can apply to any high-tech setting.) I’m choosing nomenclature in accordance with Clarke’s Third Law.

The most common Galactic script is Iconic, a “universal written language” with no defined pronunciation. It is a logographic script (comparable to Chinese characters) but designed for information-age usage; the script owes more to dingbats, traffic signs, and emoji than to calligraphy. It is commonly generated by speaking to a computer, though there are also input methods that allow you to type in your favorite language’s phonetic alphabet or make shorthand scrawls that evoke a particular glyph. Iconic’s primary use is navigation and warning signs in spaceports and starships— knowing even a few dozen glyphs is useful— but it has accumulated thousands of glyphs for varying circumstances and can be used as a written language. The ordering of the glyphs can require a bit of puzzling when they’re written out by people whose native languages use different syntaxes, and for all its supposed universality, attempting to translate from one language to another via Iconic is at least as error-prone as getting the original Moby Dick back from the Emoji translation. A dialect called Contract Iconic has a formal grouping notation that makes it less natural to read but absolutely clear when you need to write out something with the precision of legalese.

Anyone old enough to read and write has a personal Sigil, which is a collection of information about them. It includes their name, contact information, affiliations, cryptographic public keys, and at least one glyph that represents them when it is written in Iconic. The glyph can be a photograph or stylized cartoon of the face, calligraphic signature, coat of arms, chop, etc., and is often printed with the person’s name in the script for their native language or a phonetic script adjacent, like Japanese furigana. The Sigil identifies the person in all walks of life, from legal documents to electronic mail to comm calls.

The personal Talisman is a gadget containing all of your personal data, encrypted and secured to your level of satisfaction. It may be integrated into a device like a wrist comlink, embedded in a bracelet or ring, or implanted under the skin (often between the metacarpals of the hand). It communicates with other devices, usually via radio frequency communication or modulating the body’s electric field. It carries the Sigils of everyone you deal with, your security permissions that open doors and start vehicles, your health and financial records, your entire library of text and music and video, and any other data you need to carry around. Other devices are used to access the data, with different security procedures for different categories of data: headphones tucked in your ear canal have immediate access to your music collection, any datapad you pick up has access to the novel you’re currently reading, your voiceprint speaking a person’s name to a commlink in your hand will look up their contact information in their Sigil, but you need to perform detailed procedures to sign legal documents or perform financial transactions. Talismans usually exchange Sigils automatically through a handshake or bow.

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