(And now a metafictional document of introduction which, in a fictional universe, someone might have just handed “you” a copy of when you stepped out of the starship.
Those of you who’ve read Accelerando may notice something of a Stross pastiche lurking behind this one; that was deliberate, back when this piece started out as a writing exercise I was using to help in my internal world-development process.)
“Order, Progress, Liberty”
– official, Charter-enshrined motto of the Empire
Welcome to the Empire of the Star and the Eldraeic Transcend. Whether you plan to make the Empire your new home, are travelling on business, or are simply paying a visit, the Ministry of State and Outlands welcomes you, and hopes you enjoy your stay. This introductory memeplex is designed to orient you, and explain the most important things you should understand in order to make your entry into Imperial society smooth, and your stay an enjoyable one.
Since you are reading a copy of this presentation, you have presumably already arrived in the Empire, whether to a planet, orbital habitat, drift habitat, or sovereign city-ship within one of the star systems of the Imperial Core or held by the Empire within the greater Associated Worlds, or to an Embassy Ship or Imperial Exclave outside the Imperial territorial volume, and are now awaiting processing as an inbound traveler.
If you have travelled to any of these other than the first, or the local planetary environment is hostile for your species (please consult the display boards or contact your Entry Officer), we recommend internalizing the supplementary memeplex “Space and Death – Avoiding the Latter in the Former”, even if you are a spacer or other habitat dweller; Imperial environmental protocols and emergency procedures may differ from those you are familiar with.
If you arrived by physical travel, i.e., by starship, you are presently waiting in an inplacement lounge while deep-scan inspection of your exoself and current ‘shell is performed. If you arrived by mindcasting, you are presently occupying an inplacement buffer with the rest of your party while similar inspection is carried out on the exoself code and other data packages (including but not limited to ‘shell models, genetic sequence information, etc., for body reconstruction) transported with you.
The Imperial Guard of Borders and Volumes wishes to apologize for the delay, inconvenience, and intrusion involved, and asks for your understanding that such procedures are necessary to protect the Empire and its citizen-shareholders from contagious disease, toxic memes, thought-viruses, embedded assembler meta-command attacks, Trojan retroviruses, and other such dangers to the public safety. Thank you for your cooperation.
Once the required inspections are completed, you may leave the inplacement lounge/inplacement buffer. (Mindcast travelers should note that body reconstruction and/or ‘shell instantiation is not normally performed until entry procedures are complete.) The next stop in the inplacement process is a meeting with the Entry Officer assigned to you.
(If contraband was detected which does not pose an immediate public safety issue, you will be escorted to an Imperial Customs Officer to discuss that matter before proceeding to see the Entry Officer. If the contraband’s presence is not malicious; i.e., not a deliberate attempt to violate Imperial law, then the inplacement process will proceed as normal once the contraband has been disposed of.
Note that the Empire imposes no duties or excises upon goods imported to or exported from the Empire. The only contraband items the Imperial Customs concerns itself with are those illegal to possess without a public safety license or degree of sanity (see: Ciëlle Sanity Scale) which the visitor does not possess; which violate Imperial intellectual property law; or which pose a direct threat to public safety.)
The Entry Officer will verify your identity according to your passport and cognimetric data, if applicable (see: self-sovereign individual), and log them with the Office of Foreign Wanderers. If you are traveling to immigrate to the Empire and plan to acquire citizen-shareholder status immediately, the Entry Officer will then direct you to your Inplacement Officer, who will assist you through the remainder of the immigration process.
You may be refused entry at this time if deemed a security threat (including holding a citizenship of a polity on the threat nations list or membership in a proscribed organization), a public health risk (due to contagious disease or insanity; travelers for the purposes of medical treatment should indicate this and their use of appropriate infection control precautions to their Entry Officer), possessing a criminal record including convictions on charges valid under Imperial law, or having been previously deported from the Empire. All others are welcome to enter and visit the Empire for an indefinite time. No further permissions, visas, or petitions are necessary to acquire and occupy domiciles, to work, to attend academic institutions, or otherwise to participate in any specific activities during your stay.
For other visitors the next step to enter the Empire is to affirm, under alethiometric verification, and place on record by signature or seal your commitment to abide by the rules of the Fundamental Contract during your stay in the Empire:
I, affirmer’s full name and/or identifier, hereby affirm my agreement and attachment to the principles of the Fundamental Contract; that all sophonts are endowed with certain absolute and inalienable rights; that these rights are to life and property, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia; that all sophonts are equal in their exercise and retention of these rights, without privilege or priority; that sophonts cooperate amongst themselves in separate and coadunate action to secure them; and that they do so freely and by their own sovereign will.
Therefore, as a free and self-sovereign sophont of recognized competence, I hereby agree, consent and reaffirm my binding to the rights and obligations of the Fundamental Contract which underlies the civilization of the Empire, on my own behalf as well as that of my guardianship; consenting to be guided first in my actions by the Rights of Domain, of Defense, of Common Defense, and of Fair Contract; and accepting freely the obligations attached thereto to guard the absolute and inalienable rights of my fellow sophonts as my own; and in full understanding that should I Default from this, my own rights shall therefore be abeyed until the default is amended.
Given under my hand this day date,
Witnessed this day by Entry Officer’s full name and/or identifier, who, as a citizen-shareholder in good standing of the Empire and an adherent of the Contract, pledges surety in the light of the Flame for the competence of the signatory and the validity of this Affirmation.
Entry Officer’s signature
Be advised that any breach of the Fundamental Contract during your stay in the Empire may be considered grounds for immediate deportation.
You will also be required to affirm and place on record by signature or seal your acceptance of form I-180, “Responsibilities of the Visitor”, which binds you, the visitor, to abide by the law of the Empire and to pay the Empire Services Fee on any income derived from work done or from other sources within the Empire, while within the Empire.
Finally, the Entry Officer will issue you with a temporary ID. This identity cylinder contains a Universal holding your personal identification information, and will function in all ways to identify you to your fellow sophonts (see: public identity tag, panopticon tag) and to Imperial and private-sector infrastructure (see: the self-aware city, the self-aware home) during your stay in the Empire. You should, and indeed are required to, keep this identity cylinder on your person at all times during your stay, and it should be returned to the Exit Officer at the time of your departure to foreign.
And with this, entry procedures are completed.
Imperial society is extremely wealthy (see: cornucopia, post-scarcity) within the scope of standard energy/demand exchange-value transfer systems (see: hypercapitalism, agoric-annealing economic system; if you are unfamiliar with such exchange-value transfer systems, study the supplementary memeplex “The Ethics of Greed”). Money (see: exchange-value notation) exists, and is used for commercial transfer of values including all goods and services, but basic subsistence items (including but not limited to atmosphere, nutrition, energy, bandwidth, and cornucopia feedstock) and a wide variety of post-scarcity commodity goods (for a strict definition, study the supplementary memeplex “Industrial Economics in the Post-Nanofac Age”, but this can be assumed to include most common devices that do not require intellectual property input, scarce resources, or personal services) are available for minimal cost-of-construction/externality-plus prices from any of a large number of commercial autofac systems, which is to say, for de minimis cost.
Be advised that many interstellar banking institutions outside the Empire, even those which participate in one or more Imperial Banking & Credit Weave gateway programs, are not set up to handle micropayments or aggregated picopayments of this low magnitude, and thus the use of autofac systems may require that you transfer funds to an Imperial banking institution for this purpose.
Doing so, or depositing a letter of credit, can generally be done as soon as you have completed entry procedures. Most Imperial banks are willing to open accounts against letters of credit for visiting travelers, and maintain branches in starports specifically for this purpose.
Our Advice to You
To be considered a competent individual within Imperial jurisdiction (see: minors), you must hold a quantity of self-signed tort insurance (see: insurance bond alternative) adequate to cover the full risk spread of routine activity, as defined by the IQI (Insurance Quota for Independence). You are advised to make purchase of tort insurance your first priority, since certain legal privileges are denied to, and many organizations will decline to contract with, anyone not carrying sufficient tort insurance. In addition, the consequences of a lawsuit for someone not carrying tort insurance may be severe, as Curial courts are empowered to collect any and all property a losing defendant possesses, up to and including the defendant himself (see: distraint, legal consequences of self-ownership).
Additionally, while the cost of routine health care is also minimal within the Empire, since health care is a market good, visitors are advised to purchase standard health coverage against the possibility of accident during their visit. Medical personnel and institutions are under no obligation to provide treatment if payment cannot be arranged.
Most agents arranging travel to the Empire can arrange tort and health insurance coverage as part of a travel insurance package. If you have arrived without previously making such arrangements, or if you intend to remain for an extended period, insurance agents are available within the starport to enable you to purchase adequate coverage. Those intending to remain for an extended period may also wish to purchase incarnation insurance and avail themselves of noetic backup services against the possibility of accidental death.
(Warning: neither the Empire nor noetic backup service providers operating therein assume any responsibility for legal or fiscal complications resulting from your home polity’s legal position on the identity and personhood of the reinstantiated, including refusal to readmit you on your return, nor are they able to intercede with your home polity’s government on your behalf.)
While the Empire is polyspecific and polycultural, it operates on the basis of a common interlanguage (Eldraeic), ontology (the Imperial Ontology), and a common set of defined intersophont interactions and etiquette as a baseline; the Common Social Protocol and Common Economic Protocol. Basic translation software and editions of the Imperial Ontology, CSP and CEP are made available at no cost in every starport by the Ministry of State and Outlands as a courtesy to visitors. It is strongly suggested that you avail yourself of these facilities, at minimum, if you are not familiar with Imperial praxis and etiquette.
Further guidelines for coexisting with your fellow sophonts may be found in any number of publications. The Ministry of State and Outlands recommends “Madame Allatrian’s Garden of Exquisitely Correct Etiquette” as the ideal guide for the outworld visitor who wishes to present himself in the best possible light and avoid giving unintentional offense.
Be advised in particular that the Empire operates on the basis of pacta sunt servanda; UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you enter into any oath-contract, given word, promise, or other fiduciary, contractual or promissory arrangement, no matter how casual it might appear by the standards of your own or other societies, without full intention and capacity to carry through said fiduciary, contractual, or promissory arrangement. Imperial law and custom mandates the most severe censure for default.
As a visitor to the Empire, you enjoy the same fundamental rights as any free individual and many of the civic rights of an Imperial citizen-shareholder by courtesy. You enjoy the ownership, under Imperial law, of your mind (mind-state vector) and body (‘shell), including intellectual property rights over your memories and, where relevant, individual genome (excluding common species genes, race-and-clade specific genes, and copyrighted biomodification genes), of your frame (individual appearances, phenotypes, styles, fashions, logos, and so forth), and of any property which you have transferred into Imperial jurisdiction along with yourself.
The Empire is a Society of Consent; a society in which the absolute and inalienable rights delineated in the Fundamental Contract form the basis of all legislation, and in which government operates via unanimous and mutual contract of its citizen-shareholders to provide civilization-infrastructure services while placing only the most minimal restrictions upon individual liberties.
Thus, many activities that have been or are considered crimes in other societies are legal in the Empire. These include but are not limited to: freedom of speech (including art, political views, scientific theories, and so forth), freedom of self-mutagenesis (see: morphological freedom), freedom of gnosis (see: cikrieth lifestyle, derivatives, forking, Fusions, gnostic overlays, mental architecture, mind-machine interface, mnemonesis, psychedesign, Self-Fusions, synnoesis, and vastening), freedom of movement and residence, ownership of property (of whatever kind; stipulating that no sophont entity can be considered property within Imperial jurisdiction), freedom of contract, personal privacy, and acts of association/disassociation (including but not limited to friendship, formal relationships (see: branches, circles, coadunations, corporations, marriage, and contract relationships), and sex (see: sensory mapping, neovirginity, xenophilia)), communication, and commerce between consenting competent (see above) sophonts of any species, race, clade, and gender, providing that such acts do not violate the rights of any other sophont or the strictures of Imperial law.
Furthermore, some activities are prohibited under Imperial law which may have been legal in your previous jurisdiction. These include: chattel slavery, willful deprivation of ability to consent or deny consent (see: semislavery, conscience redactor), interference in the absence of consent (see: Right of Domain, meddlement), invasion of defended privacy, non-consensual cession of privacy (see: anharmonic indecency), distributing your private identity key (see: cypherclerk), breaking one’s given word (see: breach of promise), passive accessorism to crime (see: Altruism Statutes), possession of strategic nuclear, biological, chemical, self-replicating nanotechnological, near-luminal high-mass kinetic or similar weapons (see: instruments of regrettable necessity) without formal licensure (see: public safety license) and a “high optimal” sanity rating (see: Ciëlle Sanity Scale), coercive assimilationism (see: hegemonizing swarm), unlicensed reproduction (see: Citizen Eugenics Board, dysgenesis, Reproductive Statutes), maleficial memetic transmission (see: toxic memes, proscribed groups, Riot Act), genetic or memetic theft (see: intellectual property and self-ownership), and informal acts of violence or non-consensual physical or virtual contact on whatever scale.
We would advise that the following activities, which remain legal in the Empire, be avoided for your safety unless you are previously familiar with them. These include: breaking promises given without one’s word (see: cut direct, reputation network), entering into financial contracts which waive one-body inalienability (see: distraint), entering into indentures without well-defined termination provisions, giving out your exoself access codes (see: brain hacking, thought-rape) to non-bonded practitioners, selling copies of your mind-state vector, the use of various chemical, cerebroergetic, or software psychotropes (see: dreamware, drugs, hedonic inducer, thought-viruses) without proper preparation, or undergoing mental modifications which abolish individual identity (see: Fusions, subsumption, threshold of identity, zombie).
If you are in any doubt as to your ability to avoid such illegal or unsafe activities, you should consider signing a Declaration of Situational Mental Incompetence and appointing a guardian-overseer to prevent you from engaging in them. Commercial artificial intelligences are available to serve this purpose according to standardized criteria.
If You Want To Stay
A surprising number of visitors to the Empire enquire about the possibility of permanent immigration. If you are interested in exercising this option during your stay, be advised that you may acquire Imperial citizen-shareholdership at any time at any Imperial Services office. The process requires a permanent affirmation of your attachment to the principles of the Fundamental Contract; affirmation, under alethiometric verification, and signing or sealing of the Imperial Charter to assume the rights and responsibilities of the citizen-shareholder, as defined in sections III.III, III.IV, and III.V of said Charter; and purchase of one citizen-share in the Empire at the current floating market price. Further information is available from any Imperial Services office upon request.
Be advised further that the Empire explicitly does not recognize non-consensual limitations on an individual’s right to emigrate from another polity, including but not limited to emigration restrictions, time-limited exit visas, involuntary servitude obligations, and irrevocable citizenship.
Once again, welcome to the Empire! On behalf of the Ministry of State and Outlands, we hope your stay is enjoyable and productive.