Mammary cannons optional
September 27, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Science fiction that deals with people having the ability to download information directly to their brains?

Are there any sci-fi books, movies, whatever that examine the repercussions of being able to download information to your brain (so for example, downloading books straight to your brain in lieu of reading them)?
posted by Lobster Garden to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Johnny Mnemonic.
posted by scruss at 3:32 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Geoff Ryman's Air.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:32 PM on September 27, 2012

That's basically how they learn how to do things in The Matrix.
posted by brainmouse at 3:34 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

In George Alec Effinger's Budayeen trilogy, a commonplace bit of tech is to put jacks in your brain that allow you to plugin and swap skill and personality chips; though the protagonist initially distinguishes himself by keeping his head pure.
posted by bl1nk at 3:36 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're looking specifically for stuff that deals with the actual repercussions of this technology, right? Not just examples? Again, Air is a great example of this. It posits a sort of "airborne Internet" being tested on a remote village in a former Soviet bloc republic.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:37 PM on September 27, 2012

It deals with having things like TV shows and news beamed directly into your brain, but Feed by MT Anderson is a contemporary YA classic that deals with how this can go very wrong.
posted by itsamermaid at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2012

William Gibson (again), Neuromancer and its microsofts.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:40 PM on September 27, 2012

Yes, sci fi that deals with the repercussions of this idea and is at least one of the main conflicts in the story would be ideal. Thanks!
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2012

Joss Whedon's short-lived TV series Dollhouse dealt with something like this; it centered around a corporation that could transfer skills, traits & entire personalities into the brains of its employees/indentured servants/captives. A few "epilogue" episodes and a comic book series dealt with dystopic future repercussions once the technology got loose.
posted by bcwinters at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2012

Feed by M.T. Anderson.
posted by mollywas at 3:48 PM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Altered Carbon, by Richard K Morgan deals with something similar - Rather than downloading stuff into your brain, you can download your brain into new bodies.
posted by spatula at 3:56 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

A few of Greg Egan's stories have this as an element. Off the top of my head, it occurs in Diaspora and in Permutation City. In fact, in both it goes beyond downloading information and all the way to being able to re-engineer one's own mind on the fly, not just knowledge but values, ways of thinking, etc.
posted by stebulus at 3:59 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

One episode of The Prisoner hinged on this idea.
posted by jquinby at 4:00 PM on September 27, 2012

Spatula beat me to Altered Carbon. In the 'consequence of such technology' column, it's at heart a hard-boiled detective story. Based on the detective being hired by someone who was murdered in the space between their brain backups. "I want you to find out who killed me last week."
posted by bartleby at 4:01 PM on September 27, 2012

It's important to the plot but not a major driver of it, The Genesis Machine by James P. Hogan.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2012

One of Us by Michael Marshall Smith.

I can also recommend the rest of his stuff which is not in this specific niche.

Also, MeFi's OwnTM jscalzi's Old Man's War Universe features the transfer of consciousness between bodies, similarly to Altered Carbon. I also recommend those books.
posted by Jakey at 5:09 PM on September 27, 2012

If you don't mind a YA scifi novel: Devil on My Back features a society where everyone wears infopacks to download information directly to their brains. As a result everyone believes what the computer tells them, and everyone has stopped thinking for themselves. The story is about the main character's escape from that society and later returns to attempt to fix what went wrong in their failed utopia.
posted by Aliera at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2012

There's an episode from the 1990s new Outer Limits ("Stream of Consciousness) where almost everyone gets all their information through implants. Only the rare "disabled" person who can't use the implants knows how to read, and one of them plays an important role when something goes wrong with the data system.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:58 PM on September 27, 2012

Doctor Who (the Christopher Eccleston Doctor) - The Long Game
posted by starvingartist at 8:14 PM on September 27, 2012

I think a lot of Greg Egan's short stories are better than his novel-length works, and this is a theme he comes to a lot.

Michael Swanwick's Vacuum Flowers and Stations of the Tide both turn on aspects of this.

Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall, a bit hard to find but good.

Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi.

Seconding the recommendation for GAE's Budayeen stories.

Taking a slightly different tack, so perhaps not exactly what you're looking for, Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky.

You can get some thoroughly unreliable narrators if their minds are subject to editing mid-story and they don't know about it.

If simple personality downloading/transference is enough (as opposed to being able to go in and add/remove/modify memories or opinions or traits) then there's John Varley's Ophiuchi Hotline/Nine Worlds books; WJW's Voice of the Whirlwind; a whole bunch of Singularity fiction and "I've been restored from backup and must find my own murderer!" stories.
posted by hattifattener at 9:07 PM on September 27, 2012

On the movie front how has Blade Runner not been mentioned, and cheesy though it is, Total Recall? PKD's work is usually more about perception and the loss of consensus from consensus reality, but it's only a short hop to there from brain downloads.
posted by hattifattener at 9:12 PM on September 27, 2012

I seem to recall this is one of the abilities that people have in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Though it comes up more to solve a problem or two and isn't the main focus of the novel.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:10 PM on September 27, 2012

Profession by Isaac Asimov.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:18 PM on September 27, 2012

The kids' TV show Joe 90 was based on this, the hero being a 9 year old boy who could load other people's knowledge into his brain when he put his special glasses on. Also every cyberpunk book ever.
posted by w0mbat at 3:07 AM on September 28, 2012

Charlie Stross' Accelerando has something like this (as well as the reverse, the ability to upload one's brain onto other hardware).
posted by attercoppe at 7:09 AM on September 28, 2012

Seconding Aristoi. I love that book.
posted by cereselle at 7:52 AM on September 28, 2012

The brain-computer interface in 3001: The final odyssey
posted by abdulf at 8:09 AM on September 28, 2012

John Varley's Steel Beach has some interesting stuff about this.
posted by Zed at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2012

The Stargate SG1 episode "Learning Curve" dealt with this in a pretty decent episode.
posted by buttercup at 4:14 AM on September 29, 2012

« Older How to locate a telephone co demark box   |   Decode these Chinese characters, please! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.