Here are two pages of text on technology meant for a ten-page introduction. What more is needed? What ought to be cut?
Flat Black has limited technology based on a conservative projection mostly of known principles, though the Eichberger drive and the planet-wrecking catalytic thermonuclear explosive are admitted as enabling devices. The products and processes available are based on ForeSight’s tech level 8, with TL 8.5 as uncommon cutting-edge stuff from the “Suite” of highest-tech colonies. In terms of GURPS 4th ed terms that is roughly TL 10 (standard) with TL 10 (advanced) as the bleeding edge; the tech path is conservative hard SF. It’s not literally safe-tech, but safe-tech-like results ensue because artificial sapience, developments that change the human mind and transform the human brain and body etc. have not been very commercially successful.
Nanotechnology did not work out as Drexler predicted. There are no matter compilers, and microscopic robots with nanometre-scale cogs and cams turn out to work only in highly favourable conditions. In Flat Black molecules are assembled out of feedstocks by designer enzymes and artificial organelles: nanotechnology is biotechnology. The solar-powered nanotech factories that make drugs and chemical feedstocks, and that produce nanoscale composite materials, are deep-rooted perennial crop plants. The micron-scale robots are designer bacteria. These things are improved biology, but they are subject to the fundamental limits of biology. Machining and moulding are better and cheaper for many operations. Kevlar and epoxy grow on shrubs but magnets and copper wire don’t, and aramid-reinforced epoxy panels for aircars are formed in factories the better to meet tolerances.
Some things that were originally done by machines are done better or cheaper by designer organisms—most exowombs, for instance, are biological rather than electro-mechanical. Designer organisms may be made by either of two methods. The crude method is essentially to 3D print the organism using cultured cells, a method also used for surgical graft material. The sophisticated and much more difficult approach is to design an ontogeny, a course of growth and development that is viable from zygote to adult, encode it as a genome, and breed the desired organism. An exowomb can be used, or such organisms can be designed to reproduce. Until recently the later method could only be used to produce variants on naturally-evolved forms: within existing phylums, say. But recent advances have allowed the production of new phylums.
Food crops are perennials that produce harvestable packets of macronutrients more like Beltian bodies than fruits. Annual tillage and replanting is rare, and most people don’t subsist on seeds any more. “Artificial” meat is produced by feeding plant foods to artificial organisms that grow masses of redundant flesh which can be harvested without harming them.
Medicine is highly advanced. It is routine work to create a specific antibiotic or synthetic vaccine for a given bacterial or viral pathogen. Routine care and a system of anagathics that are widely used (“Eugerione”) effectively halve the rate of aging, so that in rich societies people are still working at 120 and can survive to 180 or two hundred. Cutting edge medicine has for some years offered a (very expensive) treatment that halts physical aging completely.
People from wealthy societies wear designer microbiomes on their skin, in their mouths and guts, etc. These protect them from certain diseases, optimise digestive function, supply nutrients, and produce a perfumed or inconspicuous body odour.
Superficial treatments available as cosmetics will suppress hair growth or induce the skin treated to grow hair of a desired type, or will adjust pigmentation semi-permanently. Minor modification can produce e.g. horns or scales.
Surgical methods include grafting sections of tissue, organs, and limbs 3D-printed using cells cultured from the patient’s stem cells or immunologically compatible designer cells. This can repair any non-fatal injury except to the brain. It is also used for body modification and enhancement, but the control of extra limbs and faculties installed after early childhood is difficult. It is in fact possible to design neural circuitry and wire up brain tissue by using micromanipulators to arrange dendrites and axons and set synapse thresholds. This technology is used to build “android” soft-tech robots, and it can be used to repair brain damage, but it is not popular in other uses because few people actually want their selves messed with in that way. An overwhelming majority of people understand that destructive brain scanning is death, and feel that any gross changes to the relevant parts of the brain compromises the self.
There is a less blatant technology for changing people’s minds. Technicians with the appropriate scanners can detect and measure how exactly a person’s brain responds to given stimuli, and from that calculate their loyalties, affections, resentments, and a myriad dimensions of personality. Reliable but not quick or cheap, this technology is used for testing recruits when the stakes are high. Working delicately, psych-techs use carefully-crafted stimuli, high-precision magnetic resonance inducers, micromanipulators on cranial endoscopes, and switchable drugs to alter the function of parts of the patient’s brain, adjusting mental function and suppressing or inducing memories. This “psycho-technics” is using in treating mental illness and for “rehabilitating” criminals and other unruly folk.
Development psychology is well understood, and has become the basis for an engineering discipline called “psychoengineering”. Psychoengineers design paedagogies and courses of formative experiences for children, and when these programs are properly executed they are largely successful in promoting the development of the intended psychological characteristics. This doesn’t raise programmed people, but it is capable of promoting intense loyalties, strong ethical principles, high levels of diligence, resilience, honesty, courage, temperance, humaneness—or the corresponding weaknesses and vices—in a fair to high proportion of people.
It is fairly common for people who enjoy vigorous sports to have their bodies reinforced to withstand the likely impacts and wrenching injuries. Police officers and soldiers get more extensive modifications to protect their CNS, circulation, and vital organs from piercing, cutting, and explosive damage, but they prefer wearing external armour to the most extreme reinforcements available—which are confined to practitioners of violent sports, criminal enforcers, and people who want to look like thugs and don’t mind a lifetime of discomfort. Apart from that bionic modifications are not common. The cyborg link and sensorium jack have some advantages over wearable controls and a Visor (VR/AR display), but the latter are much cheaper and easier to charge and service. Apart from that tools and weapons built into the body are inferior to ordinary ones.
Underwear and linings for clothes may be made of fibres that destroy scurf and micro-organisms, slicing up cells and catalysing their material to produce only carbon dioxide, water, and a trace of salts; such underclothes clean the wearer and don’t need frequent washing. Many other materials are similarly self-cleaning, including soft furnishing and household surfaces, tools, vehicles…. This property, especially combined with the actions of dumb cleaning robots, is the curse of crime-scene investigators.
Surveillance systems (where) installed record faces, bodily proportions, and gait for identification. People sometimes wear masks on their faces and modify their gait with weights on their wrists and feet and splines across their joints in efforts to prevent recognition.