The Hadrian Wall
This article presents a very abstracted way to resolve information searches across an interstellar information network
Limitation of information propagation
Since information doesn’t travel faster than light, it must then travel physically via jump ships. This means that information packages can never be more recent than the minimum time required to jump to a given information source. The Empire provides the X-courier service to regularize information propagation, but there is a distributed system that works even better for out of the way systems.
Most ships are equipped with the software to cache local information. Before jumping, it updates to the most recent version of packages from the nearest highport. After a jump, it upload its encrypted content anonymously (in principle) to the nearest highport. New information is merged with old, thus creating a new package that gets pulled on request (or pushed) by all other ship/world/stations. Packages are encrypted in such a way that any editing of its content would destroy the package. The key to such encryption is usually available for purchases and procedurally changes overtime. Urban legend claims that some people can break this encryption. If this is true, then locally edited KM would be in conflict with the highly redundant sets being transacted on an ongoing basis.
The Empire issues official updates as Knowledge Models (KM). KMs are large graphs of Entities and their relations. Primary text is not included, although a short paragraph summary is included as meta-data. These KMs are complete and standardized ontologies: all entities are classified in their own context. KM browsers are essentially expert systems applying firsst-order logic on KMs. The UWO (Terrans) are including more extensive unstructured text meta-data. The UWO also provides a KM update system with a public decryption key. However, a crowd-maintained Terran Wikipedia is also available with a public key.
Most world maintain their own KM as portable system/world Internet. There is often one official KM and a number of unofficial (public) ones. Parallel Internet also exists and are called realms, with private decryption keys. However, many ships tends to delete these prior to jump unless they themselves are subscribers to such realm. It is standard policy for X-couriers to delete nodes in the KM for which they do not have a valid encryption key. Terran UWO ships, even the Navy and civilian authority ships, do not delete such packages.
There is very little pulling of information: data mostly travels using the push model since the time to respond to a push request would be measured in weeks.
Any browsing done within 1 light-second of a world Internet access point is done live, otherwise, it is performed offline on KMs, with possible pull requests when within less than 12 light-hours.
What’s in a package?
Treat KM packages as contact with particular knowledge skills. For example, a low resolution package may have Area Knowledge-12 (Empire), which has a fair chance providing a general answer to a question about the Empire. Specific questions are going to be penalized, say at -2 for a system specific query, -4 for a world one (use your judgement). Most packages will instead have a more specific skill such as Area Knowledge(Terra)-21. Such package would include high-resolution of the world (Google Earth-like). Also, keep in mind that packages have timestamp and high resolution data tends to get become obsolete faster.
Use the Research Skill of a character (or an expert system) to construct reports requiring the analysis of multiple queries. Research is capped at the level of the package’s resolution.
Standard resolutions are the following:
Minimal:8, Basic:10, High:12, V. High:14, Expert:18, Definitive Authority:21
Common package scope:
- ’pedias (Public): Area Knowledge, History.
- News (Public, private): Current-Affairs(event|financial|poltics)
- Expert system feed(Private): Market Analysis, Intelligence Analysis, Engineering, etc.
Hand waiving data
Assume that a ship have access to high resolution package at the subsector level, v.high at the system level and Expert when directly connected to a world’s Internet (Also includes full-text content when online). reserve Definitive Authority package for particular occasions after a PC acquire it using either a purchase, a computer hack or a special favor from a contact or a patron. Keep track only of particular packages when it matters to the story.