“Ze’s a blank! Ze’s a blank!
Ze has no social rank!
Cops will throw hir in the tank!
For living like a crank!”
“Ballad of a Blank”, Corey Godzilla.
Blanks are also known as “nullos” or “the zeroed”. A blank cannot be found in official records. A blank does not legally exist. Typically they minimize their Web footprint. The ultimate objective of a blank is to become Zeroed (GURPS 4e Book 1 p.100).
Blanks are often confused with fringers or Isolates; the terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Blanks often live with fringers or Isolates, but very few fringers or Isolates are actually blanks.
People have various reasons for going blank. Some a criminals, and may be dangerous. Others are paranoids, runaways, discontents, drop-outs, hermits, minimalists, Isolates, technophobes or eccentrics. Contrary to popular belief and fiction, very few blanks are secret agents. Living as a blank poses too many restrictions to movement for an effective covert operation.
Famously, a number of artists have gone blank, often preceded by considerable publicity. Typically this is intended as a sabbatical. Many have returned to society after a period of time, claiming to be drawing on their experiences for their subsequent creations. Certain individuals have never been heard of again, and their fate is unknown. Several are known to have intended their life as a blank to be only temporary.
Becoming fully blank is not easy. Ideally they have arranged for the deletion of any records that may be used to identify them. Fifth and Fourth Wave encryption systems make this very difficult, as do multiple backups across the Web and in air-gap facilities. In some societies there may also be physical records that will need to be destroyed or stolen. Going fully blank takes the right connections and lots of money. Remaining wealth my be converted into a more physical form. It is a popular meme that blanks have secret hoards of precious metals and gems. In fact, a hoard may be more practical items such as medicine, rations and ammunition.
Some blanks will have cosmetic surgery to change their appearance, race or even their gender. Fingerprints may be removed or reconfigured. Virtual Interface Implants (VII) are usually removed, or at least deactivated. Very rarely, an implant may be kept but air-gapped so it can still run an AI, but cannot connect to the Web or other systems. Such units may be needed for tasks such as language translation or recognition of useful and harmful plants. Typically blanks lack Web or VI-based abilities, memes, skills and advantages. Pop-culture references will be lost on them, for example. Likely capabilities for blanks include local area knowledge, stealth, survival and scrounging.
It is possible to be born blank. Children born outside the mainstream medical system may not be officially registered. Some individuals in rural or wilderness areas may be blank without knowing it. Humans who become blanks in this manner may not take the “Genefixed” advantage nor upgrades, unless a clone of a genefixed or upgrade. Runaway bioroids that pose as humans may be effectively blanks.
Some individuals go blank simply by disconnecting from the Web, adopting a new name and changing location. They stay blank by avoiding anything that may identify them or draw official attention. Assuming a new nationality may hinder authorities from locating the correct records.
Living as a blank is difficult in a world where nearly everything involves the Web or a computer. “Always paying cash” is problematic in a world where transactions are usually virtual and very few physical coins and banknotes actually exist. Blanks often barter or use alternate mediums such as casino chips.
Avoiding surveillance is another concern for blanks, especially in societies where most people have VII or wearables. Blanks avoid areas where such devices and cameras are common. Some will try to avoid being directly viewed by anyone who may have an implant. Some blanks choose to live in rural or wilderness areas or within certain types of Isolate communities. More live in abandoned buildings in decivilized urban areas, often with fringer communities.
Fifth and Fourth Wave societies contain a small number of blanks. Blanks are more common in Third Wave societies, particularly those in transitional developing societies. Going blank is often a reaction to the technological and social changes the society is undergoing. Becoming and living as a blank is generally easier in such conditions since surveillance and record infrastructures may not yet be as fully developed as in Fifth and Fourth Wave communities.
Legal status of blanks and how they are treated by authority varies. Some officially “don’t exist”. In some countries it is felt that ignorance of true identity does not invalidate an individual’s basic human/ parahuman rights. In others, being a “non-person” may result in the blank being subject to various petty or major abuses. Blanks live on the edge of the law, if not outside it, so it is usually easy to find some crime to charge a blank for. Likely charges include vagrancy, squatting, trespass, tax-evasion and lack of legal identification. In some societies it is illegal to not have an electronic bank account. Some blanks are wanted criminals, so authorities are often keen to establish a blank’s actual identity.
For the population in general reactions to blanks range from pity to suspicion and fear.
Note: The above section was written in a THS Earth-based context. I believe I first encountered the idea and term “blank” in an episode of “Max Headroom”. The concept can be applied to various other science fiction or modern scenarios. The alternate term “nullo” was taken from GURPS Cyberworld.