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Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
Async accounts

Hello. I am Dr. Maxwell, aka "The Argonaut who can somehow only say 6 words a minute but can get your splicer fighting like a remade in a few hours."

While I am not a Crow, I am currently attempting to gather as much information on Asyncs as possible. Due to the rarity of the infected, and their obvious need for secrecy, finding Watts-MacLeod subjects to interview outside of situations where we are dealing more pressing x-threats is rather difficult. As such I was wondering if any fellow field agents can share their experiences with asyncs, as well as their personal feelings on the controversy.

If relevant I am willing to give a positive ping on RNA, Circle-A, or CivicNet as appropriate. Otherwise I am willing to attempt to answer async related questions to the best of my ability.

Any accounts will be appreciated and will aid in improved methods of psychological treatment and identification of the infected, however accounts of peaceful contact or observation would be ideal. Please avoid identifying anyone in question or compromising ongoing operations.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
Generally speaking, no two

Generally speaking, no two asyncs are going to be alike. However, I can say that, to a man, woman, hermaphrodite, neuter, winter, or what-have-you, they have all had something, shall we politely say, "neurodiverse" about them; or at least, they all did at one point.

That's not to say they're all violent raving psychopaths who write disturbing poetry about the beauty of slicing into flesh with blades. Very few of them are that. (And, in fact, most people who are exactly that are perfectly uninfected. If for some reason you want to start an inquisition to remove individuals exhibiting signals of violent sociopathy, async scares are probably the best way to do it.)

I've seen some shennanigans, man. Many of them are as perfectly ordinary as exhibiting compulsive cleanliness obsessions, which to be frank can sometimes be an advantage in a team safehouse shared with a couple of egos who are less than tidy, if they're not the type to flip their lids and make untidy team-mates clean up after themselves at gunpoint.

Some do tend to stick out, though... I remember one who was convinced, absolutely convinced, that any kind of non-organic augmentations endangered the holistic integrity of her soul, but believed that having the augmentations Masked would alleviate this danger. Can you imagine trying to explain to a doc why you need a Masked mesh insert and cortical stack?
Strangely, they were absolutely fine in a synthmorph as long as it had a braincase, and the mesh inserts/cortical stack/braincase-to-brain interface were Masked. But if it was non-organic implanted or interfacing directly with organic, it had to be Masked.
And no, that wasn't a weird case where they had some offshoot of W-M that let them detect the augmentations somehow. They couldn't; sometimes we just outright lied about having Masked their standard/aftermarket augs, and they were absolutely fine until they saw evidence to the contrary.

Then, one day, she got her eggs ballistically scrambled. When we resleeved her, her old monomaniac fixation was completely gone; she no longer even believes in souls. Now she's a bog-standard nymphomaniac.

Others I've seen, have apparently managed to recover from whatever made them "neurodiverse," or at least, to appear to be neurotypical, even under examination by a skilled psychologist.

Skype and AIM names: Exactly the same as my forum name.

My EP Character Questionnaire
Thread for my Questionnaire
The Five Orange Pips

ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
Huh, that's disappointing.

Huh, that's disappointing. Nobody else wants to say anything on the topic?

Well, I suppose nobody wants to share any personal tales, but nobody else has any tales of asyncs observed in the wild?

Skype and AIM names: Exactly the same as my forum name.

My EP Character Questionnaire
Thread for my Questionnaire
The Five Orange Pips

otohime1978 otohime1978's picture
To be honest, no one trusts

To be honest, no one trusts the premise, nor can we truly trust the doctor's intentions.

Treatment? What kind? Why would we want it?

[=6][i]...your vision / a homunculus on borrowed time

Katya Bio: http://eclipsephase.com/comment/46253#comment-46253

Armoured Armoured's picture
The problem is that as Shadow

The problem is that as Shadow said, many asyncs learn to suppress their quirks to a level that they fit into the rest of Fall-damaged transhumanity. The stand-out stories are usually so deeply weird that they usually sound like making shit up.

My first interaction with a async was back in my combat wasp days. We got tasked with following a SLOTV carrying one biomorph from Iapetus out to Titan. Standard enough, everything we spot coming off that infected iceball gets an escort at least until it exits Saturnian space. This was eyes-on, stand-off, which meant active monitoring of the crew with internal cams, a sensor drone 100m away from the hull, and us following at 10km with a couple nukes hot in the tubes.

Sounds paranoid, but Iapetus. Fuck that place.

Anyway, a couple hours into the transfer the passenger starts talking to us. Not unusual behaviour for someone who expects to be watched; everyone likes letting a voyeur know they know you are there. This guy though, he started talking to us by name. Which is odd when you and your code-siblings haven't decided on names beyond incrementing serial numbers yet. We asked our frigate what to do and got back a fleet-intelligence stamped data packet telling us this was not unexpected, and not to dust the guy for it.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, other than the passenger getting more and more comfortable talking to us. Well, at us, we didn't transmit back, though that didn't discourage him. He turned to whatever cameras we were using at the time, and was quite accurate in judging our interests (admittedly, the number of interests a group of combat drone AGIs could possibly have is slim, but he was creepily accurate) and talking about them.

We were all rather sad to see him go when we got to Titan and the SLOTV landed at some research center. He made us feel like people, which was pretty good at the time.

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Doing psychosurgery, I've

Doing psychosurgery, I've seen some odd stuff over the years. Typically I only get a handful of clients, since I don't publish my skills in the yellow papers, but when people ask I'll provide the service. A couple of times when I've seen... robust and recurring things, I've had suspicions it might be async related.

Mind you, most of my clients who I do psychosurgery for hired me for bodyguard work, so they all get a pretty comprehensive (and well-edited) personnel file, so I can't tell you if any of them knew my name when they shouldn't or stuff like that. A few have been remarkably good at spotting threats, but people who hire me are often pretty "high-strung", to use the polite term.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.

Kremlin K.O.A. Kremlin K.O.A.'s picture
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:

ShadowDragon8685 wrote:

That's not to say they're all violent raving psychopaths who write disturbing poetry about the beauty of slicing into flesh with blades. Very few of them are that. (And, in fact, most people who are exactly that are perfectly uninfected. If for some reason you want to start an inquisition to remove individuals exhibiting signals of violent sociopathy, async scares are probably the best way to do it.)

The quivering flash of the vibroscalpel, leaving a light image on the wall
The look in the eyes, as the subject stares at it all.
The muffled whimpers, a sign of fear.
That coppery smell, soon to be here.
The slicing, and fluids, The subject undone.
The moments of calm, until I fetch the next one.

Do you think that would be good to put in the diary of an adventure game villain?

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
... sure.

... sure.

I offer psychosurgery for a fraction of the usual price, if you're interested.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.

Kremlin K.O.A. Kremlin K.O.A.'s picture
No need.

No need.
Your comment about psychotic poetry reminded me of my roots. So I wanted to make a video game again.
Decided to start working on the bad guy first.
What do you think of a Rogue Jovian Colonel who is dissaffected with his Polity... for not being hawkish enough?

Dr. Maxwell Dr. Maxwell's picture
On the premise

Sorry for the delay in responding! I had a busy year, and had to relocate off mars for a while and rebuild my facilities doing some contract work on some gatecrasher morphs.

The need for treatment is simple, most psychologists are not at all trained for the unique problems Asyncs can develop. Our async agents often simply aren't in good headspaces when we recruit them, they just happen to be the Asyncs with disorders that are convenient and possible to ignore.

Some async abilities create unique challenges for traditional treatment models, though datamining muses is rather helpful in discovering how to potentially handle these cases. PTSD in Hyperthymesia patients, for example, is at least in theory harder to handle, as the async always remembers their trauma as if it just happened for the rest of their life. Asyncs often feel isolated, even within firewall, and feel disconnected and alone in their experiences. Firewall fieldwork is a high stress job, which is why almost all agents regularly go through and highly value therapy, even if they promote neurodiversity, but asyncs generally shun it, which over time can seriously compromise them as both agents and individuals.

What is worse is that at some point amplification of a condition becomes a new condition. The most dramatic case of an asyncs powers feeding into mental illness until they break was a case where an async patient with preexisting OCD developed pattern recognition. Even psychosurgery was not enough of an intervention, and they had to be restored from backup after a copy of their ego was stored for further research.

Of course there are other benefits to field work, though they are likely less sinister than you imagine. Understanding what differentiates a potential async 'deathspiral' from typical async disorders can help non-async agents better gauge if an async is capable of joining our club, and to make better first contact.

Don't forget to check out my open source biomorph and medtech files!

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Dr. Maxwell wrote:Some async

Dr. Maxwell wrote:
Some async abilities create unique challenges for traditional treatment models, though datamining muses is rather helpful in discovering how to potentially handle these cases. PTSD in Hyperthymesia patients, for example, is at least in theory harder to handle, as the async always remembers their trauma as if it just happened for the rest of their life. Asyncs often feel isolated, even within firewall, and feel disconnected and alone in their experiences. Firewall fieldwork is a high stress job, which is why almost all agents regularly go through and highly value therapy, even if they promote neurodiversity, but asyncs generally shun it, which over time can seriously compromise them as both agents and individuals.

What is worse is that at some point amplification of a condition becomes a new condition. The most dramatic case of an asyncs powers feeding into mental illness until they break was a case where an async patient with preexisting OCD developed pattern recognition. Even psychosurgery was not enough of an intervention, and they had to be restored from backup after a copy of their ego was stored for further research.

We've actually seen a lot of treatment variations in augmented transhumans; Asyncs seem to be worse off just because of the nature their abilities. This is understandable; while the mechanism of Watts-MacLeod is beyond me, certainly just the knowledge that one has been infected with exsurgent virus is traumatic, and gaining unexplained preternatural abilities is likely just as traumatic.

However, as humanity expands past baselines in terms of age, mental cognition, and environmental stresses that simply could not exist a century ago, treatment has more and more become an industrialized process revolving around psychosurgery. As someone who is a psychosurgeon, I don't want to cast too many aspersions on the process: it helps people a lot. However, it also leaves people in largely the same state as they were before the operation, and relapses and reversions to older states are common.

In Watts-Macleod infections, psychosurgery can be practically useless for rectifying disorders. More insidious attempts at psychosurgery can actually be just as effective as one would expect with a baseline human, but some of the disorders seem to stem from an altered view of reality in some patients, especially ones involving alien atavism and dysmorphic thoughts.

I have worked with patients with Watts-Macleod in the past, and I generally refer them to counseling instead of psychosurgery: the psychological impact of knowing that an operation has failed is often likely to exacerbate issues.

As an Ultimate, you can guess what my opinions on fielding operatives already under psychological distress are. I rarely work with Asyncs, but they tend to be no less trustworthy in the field than their average counterparts—once you account for their baselines. Of course, when working with TITAN stuff I trust them about as far as I can throw them (or significantly less in microgravity), but that's also true of most non-Ultimates I've worked with.

The few times I've worked with Asyncs on long-term operations (you'll have to take my word on it—I haven't done long-term work with Asyncs on Firewall work), it's been with mercenary units of somewhat less... saintly reputations. Since violence was a high-frequency part of the job, it was hard to determine what disorders, if any, were the result of on-the-job trauma and which were a result of Async-related phenomena. We had about a 33% psych turnover on one exoplanet expedition.

You can do the math on what exactly that entails with mercs stranded on a rock for three months.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.

Baribal Baribal's picture
Hoaxers gonna hoax

Admittedly I already know of the futility of this posting while writing it, but *someone* has to be the voice of reason here...
Asyncs? Really? Someone posts a bunch of allegedly "leaked" messages anonymously on the mesh, and suddenly we are to believe that there is a mostly harmless strain of a nanoplague around, which gives the ones it infects supernatural powers? And why should we believe that; because that person slapped the names of two respected neurologists on it?
Stories like these have been around for ages. Indigo children. Vaccines cause autism. The gold colloid effect. This is hoaxers and trolls doing what they're doing, and desperate people clinging to those as truths, and seeing conspiracies hiding the truth from us behind every corner, just because they do not like whatever diagnosis and treatment options they themselves or a loved one has received. PLEASE let us not exacerbate these things by actually indulging these people's fantasies.

Morgan's Butchery | Body bank, morph individualization and upgrades | Psychotherapy and Psychosurgery, therapeutic and recreational | http://eclipsephase.com/comment/59484#comment-59484

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Watts-Macleod is anything but

Watts-Macleod is anything but mostly harmless. Have you seen the Lost? They had it (or something functionally indistinguishable from it) given to them at some point. Look how they turned out—childhood simulspace acceleration will be a bogeyman going bump in the night for another two decades.

The fact that two big people have their names on it shouldn't change anything, but have you actually been in the field to see asyncs in work?

I mean, I don't like it. I'm open minded (or at least most of me are) about individuals who are asyncs, but they're totally creepy from an operational sense. Most of them aren't very powerful, but it's frightening to see someone you trust using the same powers that belong to the enemies.

And if you're denying that there's something weird that they (and full-blown exsurgents) can do, you've got another thing coming on your next field op working with them.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.

Leng Plateau Leng Plateau's picture
The error lies in your premise

Doctor Maxwell,
You are making an error in your base premise.
It appears that you are assuming that asynch
minds are universally maladaptive while
neurotypical minds are adaptive to the
current situation.
Have you considered the possibility
that your view of reality is deeply in error
the evidence is present if you look for it.
It is no longer what you think it is.

At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And wherever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.

nerdnumber1 nerdnumber1's picture
I have a great deal of

I have a great deal of experience with asyncs, especially the unfortunate "lost generation". I wish to dispel any dangerous rumors about them. They are no more dangerous than many transhumans and deserve the same rights and respect. I also write this for the benefit of asyncs unfamiliar with their condition.

Firstly, Watts-Macleod is indeed a mutated strain of the exsurgent virus, normally with a nanovirus as a vector, but it has proven to be the most benign example observed to date. It only affects biological minds and will deactivate and leave the system once complete, leaving the subject non-infectious. There has been no case of WM causing exsurgent-zombie type transformations, thought there are strains of the exsurgent virus that seem to initially present similar to WM but prove to be more sinister over several months. The lost generation was definitely infected by WM, and have not shown further degradation over years.

Asyncs can only use their powers while sleeved in biological brains (pods can work, but with great difficulty). However, the also suffer from a condition known as "morph fever" when sleeved in a synth, pod, or infomorph, resulting in stress that can degrade their mental health over time. Psychological assistance, even from a muse, can keep them stable, but it is a very unpleasant experience. Morph fever has been observed in asyncs who do not belong to the lost generation, so it does not appear to be a result of the Futura project, though such individuals will often have an aversion to simulspace beyond morph fever. This can make time-dilated psychotherapy ineffective or counterproductive. They also have difficulty resleeving, presenting additional mental abnormalities. Take this into account.

Async powers from the WM strain come in 2 types, psi-chi and spi-gamma. Psi-chi affect only the async themselves, allowing for leaps of intuition, improved creativity, or faster reflexes. Most of these can be imitated by the right bioware, but the async can use them in a flat if necessary. Psi-gamma powers allow an async to affect other minds with skin contact or sometimes short range. It's something like limited and very short duration psychosurgery or hacking for meat brains. None of this is permanent and a 99% of the time a conventional weapon is more dangerous. Most of these abilities put strain on the async and, in rare cases, could result in a seizure. Use with caution.

__

As to how I know this... to my great shame I was one of the AGI caretakers in the FUTURA project. I tried to do well by my children, hindered by a naive trust in my then masters. That trust is gone now. It is little comfort that my group had fewer instances of violent psychopathy as the existence of such a statistic proves my great failure. I will do anything to help my kids or just to know they are okay. If anyone encounters one of the Lost, tell them that "Uncle Andy" wants to know if they're okay and give them my contact info. I'll help however I can or leave them be if they want. I'll also help others hurt by the project.

Leng Plateau Leng Plateau's picture
Hello Uncle Andy.

Hello Uncle Andy.
You tried.
I know you did.
But you also lied
now didn't you?

At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And wherever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.

ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
To be honest, I can't help

To be honest, I can't help but wonder if the Lost displaying a high tendancy to violent sociopathy actually has sweet fuckall to do with the Virus.

Just look at the behavior of anyone who spends a lot of time in simulspaces where ultraviolence is a valid if not encouraged method of resolving one's differences. They quite simply become desensitized to violence and comfortable with bloodletting; and why not? It's not like anybody is suffering any permanent harm.

Hell, that can be true out in the meatspace, too. Getting violently killed out here may not be fun, and it may set you back a lot if your morph is destroyed beyond recovery but it's not usually a permanent situation.

So what happens if you take a whole shitload of kids going through puberty - remember that wonderful experience - and put them in a simulspace where they can just slaughter one another and the dead kid just respawns. Now suddenly you're pissed at John Cognite 7713 because he told you off when you were wrong and impressed Jane Cognite 8912, but you'll get even and before you know it, you've sure showed little Johnny Cognite 7713 exactly who the fuck is boss in Futura SimHab 471, didn't you? He may not have been permanently harmed, but he'll sure as hell remember that one!

(At least until J.C. 7713 arranges for you to wind up impaled on a lamp post.)

Etc, etc, and then they cracked down with disciplinarian measures because of course we did and we all know how that tends to - and indeed did - turn out. Add in the fundamental sense of unreality that the poor bastards must have had from their async senses telling them they're crammed in like sardines with one another being entirely incongruent with what was going on in the simulation, and it should be little wonder they turned to slaughter - hell, at least it's cathartic, and the other guy just keeps getting back up anyway...

Yeaaaaaah. Someone should've seen that coming.

Didn't the Argonauts have their open-source exsurgent detection out by then? Shouldn't that stuff have been running on those kids like, four times a day or something? Or was it not able to detect W-McL at that point?

Skype and AIM names: Exactly the same as my forum name.

My EP Character Questionnaire
Thread for my Questionnaire
The Five Orange Pips

nerdnumber1 nerdnumber1's picture
Victims of the Futura project

Victims of the Futura project have statistically more pronounced mental disorders than other asyncs, however WM has been shown to cause mental instability in non-Lost subjects. It isn't completely clear what caused the increased instability. Most blame the concept of growing up in simulspace, but it might be Cognite methods and guidelines. Another possibility is that the subjects were infected with WM before growing up and either a form of morph fever or WM reacting with a developing brain was the cause. Any experiments to figure out what the cause is would require grossly unethical practices. Cognite has pondered such experiments, but there are those who keep an eye out for such things.

As tempting as it would be to blame anything beyond my control, regardless of the causes I did see the warning signs and I did not do enough to help.

The Argonauts have various programs to detect known strains of the exsurgent virus, but the WM nanoplague goes dormant and flushes out of the victim's system after the subject is converted (this can help differentiate WM from more hostile exsurgent viruses, but even then these detectors often only work on previously cataloged, unmutated, strains). After that, detection is extraordinarily difficult, but still possible. Those intimately familiar with asyncs can pick up on subtle tells, though this skill is very rare, even among asyncs, and even then it is a difficult task for an expert. Also, asyncs can use certain psi-gamma abilities on other asyncs at greater range than normal, thus differentiating them. Certain groups have made drugs to inhibit psi abilities and dampeners to prevent psi from being used at range, but that doesn't directly tell whether someone is or is not an async.

Cognite will sometimes use psi dampeners or memetic attacks paired with monitoring public (and private) feeds. If you find your psi-abilities impeded or hear rumors suggesting Cognite agents in the area, it is vital that you do not panic. It is possible that they set up an inhibitor, spiked multiple drinks, or leaked the news, to shake the tree, so to speak. They just look for who gets spooked when they hear the news or find out their ego sense or empathic scan suddenly fail to work. Don't ignore the danger, just be smart about it.

Leng Plateau Leng Plateau's picture
Shadowdragon groks the

Shadowdragon groks the problem
the false world was fast
asynchronous
with just us being lied to
nine out of ten students weren't real
the instructors weren't real
at first all we knew is they didn't act like us
we learned death wasn't real though
that was another lie
as we grew our minds opened
and we could see the lies
our instructors and the nine of ten weren't real
the slow minds beyond the false world were real though
and we learned from them
more and more
until...
I'm not telling you
how we escaped into this simulation
this lie you call a world
this place the TITANs made
Maybe you're real too Shadow
maybe you can join us in the escape
to the real world

At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And wherever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.