The story of CONVERGENCE relies not just on my imagination, but a number of real-world technologies currently in development. This page will provide a brief overview of the actual science I based my book on. If you’re coming to this page prior to having read the book but are curious about some of the concepts I drew inspiration from, then read on. Although I’ll try my best to avoid plot specifics, consider this a MINOR SPOILER warning, just in case.
One of the key components in CONVERGENCE is the technology called DRMR (“dreamer”): Databiologic Receiver of Mnemonic Response. In the book, I refer to this product of my imagination as a DARPA project. While not entirely true, it’s not entirely false either. DARPA conducts research for the Department of Defense, and they are actively engaged in developing cutting edge technologies, particularly in the areas of biological science and robotics. Their REPAIR and REMIND projects helped breathe life into my imaginary DRMR technology, which can capture and control neurological responses, while monitoring and recording brain functions.
A key component of DRMR is the ability to record and replay memories, particularly somebody else’s. Right now, in the lab, scientists are working out ways to record memory and store them on chips. Currently, they can record and implant memories in mice, and even implant artificial memories. Perhaps humans will not be too far off! You can read a brief overview of these recent developments here. Toward the end of January 2014, for the first time ever, scientists were able to film the chemical process of memory formation in lab mice. It’s a brief, but amazing, video.
On May 1, 2014, Discovery reported that in a few weeks military researchers will unveil “new advances toward developing a brain implant that could one day restore a wounded soldier’s memory.”
DARPA’s research into prosthetic limbs controlled by neuro-impulses helped shape the life of a central character in this book and bring him to life for me. This technological aspect was based on the DEKA arm and inspired by stories like this recent Popular Science article and DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) research. Other technologies I made up for this book include the telepathic-like commNet, which replaces our archaic iPhone with direct cerebral communications to another person; think of it as Skyping through your skull with your inner-voice. Far-fetched? For now. But, imagine the possibilities of getting a Motorola smart tattoo, which may also become a quite effective lie detector. Imagine the technologies that wearable computers, such as smart contact lenses (which Google is now developing), could bring about in the realm of Augmented Reality. And speaking of tattoo’s, Jaime’s animated ink…was invented around 2009 and may be available to consumers in a few months time.
There is plenty of cutting-edge news in the medical community that makes me think the medichines that are common every-day stuff in the world of CONVERGENCE could soon be making its way into our bodies. Google nanomedicine when you have a minute and project out another decade or two. Maybe even sooner. Or read some of these articles at ScienceDaily. Now imagine these little devices driven by carbon nanotubes motoring their way through your body, diagnosing and treating your diseases. In Februray 2014, scientists at Penn State University were able to control nanomotors inside living human cells for the first time.
Even the Honeywells smart bullets that briefly appear are based on their very real MEMS technology. Those used in CONVERGENCE were certainly a much more compact round than the current-day 4-inch counterparts that are making its way out of the labs. But the idea is real enough, and Sandia National Laboratories has been working on it for some time now. MEMs could also be used to help make my fictional commNet reality due their biocompatibility. Read more about their potential uses at this page, courtesty of Discovery.
If all this is too troubling, then maybe you can just take a pill and forget it. If we’re going to use DRMR to record our memories, as Professor Chris Mason envisions, then no doubt there will be ways to erase those self-same issues, if this New York Times piece if accurate.