Building the Spacesuit of the Future

For astronauts flying in space, spacesuits are a must-have accessory. But spacesuit technology has come a long way since the dawn of human spaceflight. Tonight, MIT professor Dava Newman will discuss her BioSuit spacesuit design and you can watch it live online.

This may well be of relevance to Eldraeverse readers – as well as space enthusiasts in general – because as it happens, this is the proposed spacesuit design that I modeled the Eldraeverse’s standard vacuum suits off of.

Trope-a-Day: A God Am I

A God Am I: Averted, mostly.  The Transcend (and its eikone archai) are perfectly aware (and will point out to the confused) that they aren’t omnipotent – that’s what the “weakly” in weakly godlike superintelligence means – merely extraordinarily powerful, intelligent, and possessed of limited prolepsis via clionomic calculation and acausal logic.  And, to steal a line from Schlock Mercenary, merely trying to do what a god would do, were one in their position.  (The same constraints, whether acknowledged or not, also applies to all other evolved seed AIs.)

The difference is, I grant you, often somewhat hard to spot from the baseline (for which read “mortal”, if you like) point of view, but it is nonetheless there.

(As a side note, I am amused to observe that the quotation taken from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in the fan fiction section of the trope page is as good a description of what the Transcendent Core considers its purpose as I might imagine, bearing in mind my limitations in attempting to imagine the thought processes of a weakly godlike superintelligence:

“To understand everything important there is to know about the universe, apply that knowledge to become omnipotent, and use that power to rewrite reality because I have some objections to the way it works now.”)

Also, a common delusion (well, the degree of delusion is up for argument; your theology may vary on what is necessary to qualify – although the leading edge of Galactic technology can deliver most miracles to order, see No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus, and so it can often be a perfectly accurate self-assessment) among the most serious vastening cases and nascent unstable seed AIs.  At least for the former, it usually wears off after the intoxication of computing power starts to become routine, the information flow becomes a little more manageable, and the urge to cry out “I see everything!  I know everything!  I am everything!” quiets down a bit.

Trope-a-Day: No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus

No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus: Its aversion and playing straight would both be played out in the event of any first contact with Earth, around the first time someone tried to convert one of the offworlders, ’cause, y’know, water into wine?  Nanobots do it all the time.  Magical super-fast healing?  Built right in.  Walking on water?  This gadget makes surface tension your friend.  Come back from the dead?  Any time you like, soph, body bank’s to your left!

And then the denial sets in.

Trope-a-Day: Global Warming

Global Warming: Yes, it happens.  The usual result, at least in the civilized worlds, is massive technofixes, from the brute force (say, giant orbiting sunshades with solar panels on the back) to the subtle and ecological; usually coupled with an extensive program to move industries off-world, into orbit at the very least.

These tend to be the preferred methods because people are perfectly aware that anything you do to atmospheric composition is the relatively easy version of this problem to solve.  But at least visible from that point on most tracks of technological development is the second heat crisis which is about literal waste heat being discharged into your atmohydrosphere, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics says there’s bugger all you can do about that, short of moving the work being done elsewhere, or giving up on this whole technological-civilization thing altogether.

And competent societies can at least try to think more than a decade or two ahead.

Trope-a-Day: Giant Flyer

Giant Flyer: None of the major worlds documented thus far have truly Giant Flyers; some of the ones with lower gravity have some pretty large flyers, but gravity-scaling doesn’t make them terribly strong, rideable, or dangerous.

Well, perhaps I should say terrestrial worlds.  A few life-bearing gas giants (and, once the engineers started working on the problem, suns) have Really Giant Flyers, as in whale-sized.  Do they count?  They’re mostly aerostats, not aeronefs.

And, of course, who knows what those guys who want to reinvent the mythologae the way they should have been will come up with next week…

Trope-a-Day: Giant Enemy Crabs

Giant Enemy Crabs: The tennoa are merely crablike – radially symmetrical, for a start – and breathe chlorine, but since their obligate utilitarianism puts them at odds with the rest of the Worlds at predictably regular intervals, well, they can play this one pretty straight sometimes even so.

Most of the crab-bots are pretty chill, though.

Trope-a-Day: Ghost Planet

Ghost Planet: Quite a few of them, in various locations – the Galaxy is veritably knee-deep in elder-race litter; as mentioned elsewhere, this gives the existential-threat people something to worry about, and also enables companies like Probable Technologies, ICC to make an entire industry out of archaeology.

(Since I oopsed and didn’t post one yesterday, this is the first of two tropes-a-today.)

Trope-a-Day: Ghost in the Machine

Ghost In The Machine: Averted.  Souls are software objects; there are no supernatural qualities whatsoever to sophont life, and even if you can pull out the software, recompile it, and stick it in another body, the only thing that’s being transferred is data.

It would always be possible to consider the logos/personality organization algorithm, the weird non-deterministic chunk of mathematics that appears to produce volition as something of this sort, I suppose; or in a weak Cartesian-theater sense the consciousness loop, even if all it does is organize your cognitive processing into a narrative thread, and it’s entirely possible to build minds without them if you’re okay with the resulting weirdness.  But in no case is there any ghost present; it’s just the “program in the machine”.

(That all being said, of course, when asked geth-type questions like “Does this unit have a soul?”, the Imperial answer is unambiguously yes. Inasmuch as “soul”, in modern sophotechnologist jargon, is slang for “personality organization algorithm”, which is to say, that thing which makes you you.)

Trope-a-Day: Genre Savvy

Genre Savvy: This is what the science of memetics (applied) will do for you.  (And as has occurred to me more than a few times since starting this project, TV Tropes itself is a pretty good example of memetic research in action.)  Since people do, by and large, do a lot of thinking in terms of semiotics and memetic analogies, there are entire disciplines of applied memetic training having to do with spotting the memes in play and leveraging them for personal advantage…

Trope-a-Day: Genocide Dilemma

Genocide Dilemma: The remarkably cynical view of the Conclave of Galactic Polities on this particular issue is that, yes, genocide is wrong and very, very illegal.  On the other hand, some species, polities, religions, or other groups are just so determinedly xenocidal that so long as they exist, they’re going to be starting wars and making someone miserable.  On the gripping hand, if someone insists on attacking you, you’re allowed to defend yourself even if they keep attacking you until you’ve self-defensed them all to death, which by and large solves the problem to the satisfaction of what has always, so far, been a working majority of the Accord.

Trope-a-Day: Genie in the Machine

Genie in the Machine: The classic example here is the classic cornucopia machine (available in all good Imperial appliance stores or catalogs!) with its friendly, helpful artificial intelligence to help you find the right tools for what you want to do, and then build them for you…

…despite the essential benignity of the device, however, people still manage to get themselves into trouble with them, because they’ll help you to do what you want to do.  They expect you, however, to already know if what you want to do is stupid, illegal, or merely incredibly dangerous.

It’s astonishing how many civilizations let people run around without having figured that out.

Trope-a-Day: Genetic Memory

Genetic Memory: Exists naturally in a few places, of course. That terrestrial biology, et. al., happens to use different storage mechanisms for genetic and memetic information is purely a local quirk, not a law of nature.

But better known is that those wacky bioengineers, the esseli (remember them?) have invented ways of encoding memory information into plasmids, and organs to produce and read them.  So, have those built in or, um, retrofitted, and you too can pass your genetic memories around – and, indeed, to your offspring if you think to have them equipped with the same organs.

But they haven’t made it naturally heritable, yet.

Trope-a-Day: Generican Empire

Generican Empire: Well, the thing to remember here is that the Empire of the Star was named long before it ever got into space (and has many stars, besides).  It’s actually named after a philosophical symbol rather than anything physical.  (In fairness and trope-compliance, they could have called it the Eldraeic Imperium, or some such, except (a) back on their own world at the beginning they didn’t feel like offering up such a blatant statement of world-conquering intent, and (b) once they got out among the stars, they didn’t want to sound like a bunch of race/species-obsessed jerks.)

By the time it acquired the alternate soubriquet of the Eldraeic Transcend, evidently people figured they’d already established their credentials on the polyspecificity front.

(The third alternate name, the “Bright Empire”, is actually a given-in-scorn-adopted-in-pride name originating with a news editor’s slip of the tongue and an unfortunate phrasing in an interstellar explorer’s autobiography; as such, in the Imperial mouth, it can make you sound isolationist, hegemonic, or even belletrist, and in the outworlders’, either distinctly pro-Imperial or distinctly sarcastic, and should thus be used with caution.)

Anyway, back on topic: most star nations hang some sort of non-generican name on themselves.  The ones which don’t are often considered suspicious, maybe even likely to be rogue – sort of the way that, on Earth, any country calling itself a Democratic People’s Republic is definitely some sort of creepy-ass dictatorship.

Averted somewhat by the “Associated Worlds”, which isn’t all that creepy – it’s just that a name that Generican is all that the various people included under that moniker could agree on.  They are all worlds (well, mostly, but the drifts that disagreed didn’t push that point too hard) and they are loosely associated, at least galactographically.  Everything else may vary.