How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

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clockworkjoe clockworkjoe's picture
How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

The idea of syndicates such as Nine Lives intrigues me but I have a hard time picturing how they make their profits. The main book lists these activities:

Stealing backups
Forced uploading
run illegal infomorph-slave colonies
run pit fights
Smuggling egos out of hypercorp indentures

But to me the problem with these activities is that I can't see enough profit to justify the risk. One would have to imagine that Nine-Lives is despised, feared and hated. A lot of people especially the hypercorps would love to wipe them all out. So they have to make a LOT of money to justify the risk.

The core issue is the value of an ego/fork - how much is one worth on the open market and why would you want one versus a limited AI/muse? Obviously some egos are high value - CEOs with inside knowledge, celebrities, or technical savants. However, it sounds like Nine Lives deals in bulk egos - they just grab as many as they can and sell them cheap. Getting high value egos would require teams of specialists on missions that require time, effort and resources. Furthermore, high value egos often have ways to retaliate - allies and patrons etc.

Controlling/enslaving egos also sounds pretty daunting - psychosurgery for behavioral control and/or tasping (to make them addicts) is time consuming and dangerous (damaging the ego no matter what) what work would you have them do? Even with controls, you couldn't trust them. Unskilled labor (manual labor, prostitution, etc) could be done by AI.

The only way I can see this work is if nine lives limited their exposure to risk and squeezed as much profit as possible out of the egos they had - pit fights would be expensive as hell, for example. They would get bulk egos from hypercorp escapees - using smuggling methods to minimize their risk - losing some escapees would be ok as long as they didn't get caught. Then they would get a small number of other egos for specific clients/market needs - perhaps one celeb has her backup stolen and made into a delta fork to be placed in pleasure pods - an engineer is kidnapped and uploaded so they can create compliant slave beta fork technical support forks. In any case, they only take maybe one or a few people a month if that. Once they get someone, they always have them. But if they raise too much attention they get raided/harassed.

Anyway, that's my preliminary take on it. What do you think?

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
Re: How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

If the psychosurgery can sufficiently alter who the ego thinks they are, then they'll be whoever they are told they are. Like a person with amnesia, told that they are someone, they're likely to grasp on to that rather than doubt it as they won't have anything else to go by, then its merely a matter of having these egos stripped of their identities and histories and left with their skills (ala Jason Bourne who is a crazy murder assassin spy that doesn't know why he is as such).

Also if these raw egos have valuable information or skill, it might be possible for a lot of them to be placed into some sort of isolated server farm and forced to program or practice some sort of skill for their masters, kept from seeing the outside world, like in matrix.

Just a couple ideas. I too am a little curious on what the ego market is like and the legality and illegality of things in it.

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

As you pointed out, there are basically two markets here;

High-value markets of celebrities, skilled professionals and so on. These people turn a significant profit for a single ego. Therefore, a targeted extraction becomes worthwhile.

Low-value, bulk markets with lots of people of moderate or limited skill. They aren't worth enough to go after individually. You just take targets of opportunity. If Joe down in communications decides he needs some more cash, he might copy all of the egos passing through his farcaster and sell them to Nine Lives for a little chink. But Nine Lives isn't going to start breaking knees to get access to that.

In this regard, it's similar to spammers. You have a few cases of spear-phishing, trying to get the bank data of Bob Millionaire, and millions of cases of automated tools just grabbing what business is immediately available. However, people like stories, so when they hear about one big wig getting targeted, they assume that's pretty common and something they need to be afraid of.

There isn't that much risk from it. Most of the work can be automated (watching for unencrypted transmissions, an email drop box, automated psychosurgery bots). And ultimately, the hypercorps benefit from it too, since it depresses labor prices.

Modifying a fork isn't that hard. Doing it RIGHT is, but this is Nine Lives. Take your ego, fork it ten times, run each through an AI-guided brain blender, if one succeeds, sell it. Destroy the rest.

Why buy a broken ego over an AI? Egos have that human touch. They can also have skills over 40. They're 'safer' than AGIs. They don't require programming to learn a new skill, so they're more versatile.

It's not a great business, but it pays the bills.

Janusfaced Janusfaced's picture
Re: How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

I am figuring there is the third market; psychosurgery experiment subjects.

I mean, psychosurgery has huge potential but far from perfection. So researchers are eager to study more and more. And unethical ones are more than eager to conduct unethical research, like ego experiments. And more diversified subjects mean more diversified experiments.

About infomorph-slaves, I think it is quite hard to put them under control, especially in societies slavery is illegal. You will need constraints like isolate worlds(like slave colonies), psychosurgery conditioning and/or neural pruning.

Your average, everyday, normal, plain and dull transhuman

Janusfaced's outpost(writtern in Japanese)

Tango Tango's picture
Re: How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

To me having a large ego database equals to a great intel asset; if these egos were from the same general location, the better. From there, you could sniff all sorts of things from societal structures to concrete eye witness accounts on whatever events went down. What if the morph's hardware memory banks were packed in the ego, too? Now that would be a gold mine.

So yeah, i see a market for "your average Joe" -egos, tho i think just about anyone interested in 'em would buy them in bulk for the reasons mentioned above.

- "Mom's chicken soup, maybe?"

mack2028 mack2028's picture
Re: How do soul-traders make money and run operations?

they are likely a base high cost purchase thats goes up rapidly as they get more skilled/useful and since you can just copy them it is an all profit business. In addition many of the egos are stolen by use of criminal syndicate backup insurance programs giveing them accesses to all kinds of criminals, and merchs which could be extremely valuable without exposing them to much risk.