Reaction Time Enhancement
One common improvement offered to many sophonts in various manners are reaction time improvements. That is, reducing the latency between perception and physical action.
Early experiments with these techniques were allegedly disastrous (from the few records which survived the Technocalypse.) The earliest methods allegedly bypassed large sections of neural matter with either electronic or photonic links grown in place by carefully entrained nanotech. These failed drastically as the amount of processing which takes place in the baseline spinal cord became rapidly evident, causing the bypassed humans to learn to walk and perform other 'unconscious' actions (eating, hand-eye coordination, etc) consciously.
Later versions tried what effectively became a destructive replacement of neurons in the body with nanotic devices. After multiple quite messy failures, a handshaking protocol was enabled which allowed for normal neural patterns to continue until the entire synaptic structure had been mapped and interfaced with. Once the nanites were 100% synchronized with what the neurons were doing, they 'cut over' and removed the biologic systems from the link. This worked well until one of the people involved in the study attempted to learn a new physical skill (lo-g fandango, allegedly) and discovered that the new substrate, while capable of improving reaction times dramatically, was unable to 'learn' new skills.
After many trials this was overcome by increasing the nanotic processor load in the spinal region back to near human neuron densities, increasing the weight of the people by a noticeable amount.
Once this was overcome, additional problems were discovered. One person's spinal implant 'woke up' (allegedly after a sophont-activation virus was introduced by some radical FreeMind believers) and demanded emancipation and an independent sensorium, identity, and corpus.
While this was going through the public eye, an augmented soldier apparently ran amuck at an off-base recreational establishment, causing three fatalities in less than a tenth of a second. The security film was slipped to an international news outlet, and became quite publicized despite the military attempting to suppress it.
It was later established that this soldier was AWOL and had not received the required 'step down' coding, reducing her reaction time to normal. It was further established that a practical joker's hand buzzer had startled the soldier, causing trained reaction to take over without fully conscious control. The military was eventually ordered to cease such augmentation, even as many others sought it for their own means.
Text by John B
Initially published on 23 October 2004.