Questions: Clearing the Decks

‘Cause I have a backlog left over from 2015, that I haven’t found time to answer yet, and it would be nice to go into 2016 all fresh and pine-smelling. So, without further ado:

…okay, one other thing that isn’t a question. It’s an art suggestion, for anyone who wants it.

A steampunk Xbox controller.

Well, okay, but it is kind of relevant. It’d illustrate the differences in technological evolution – or at least technological packaging between there and here during some of the equivalent centuries. Say, the lack of convenient plastics, because of lack of oil on an artificial, young world, and as such the way that ceramic engineering became a high art. That controller, for example, is almost certainly encased in a tough porcelain-based composite.  Add some nice polished brass buttons, some sapphireglass inlays, and, ooh, see if you can extend the control sticks to thumb-powered 6-axis sticks, and you’ve got your very own alien artifact.

…and now back to the questions:

An odd thought hit me while reading over your recent post on why AIs exist:  How would Imperial law deal with the case of a “malicious uplift” (i.e. granting sophonce to a formerly non-sophont entity that was originally someone else’s possession)?

Good question.

Well, the first thing I should note is that this is probably (for values of probably equal to the writer reserving the right to change his mind) not possible. Which is to say, sapience engineering is a distinctly complicated endeavor, which is usually performed starting at the zygote level. For one thing, it’s not just a matter of building a bigger, better cortex – that cortex might imply skull modifications to hold it, and a metabolism upgraded to support it, and adjustments to senses and manipulators, and so forth. Not something you want to try in the field with a proteus nanovirus; at the least, it’d mean a long stay in a healing vat.

And for another, you can grow a fancy cortex, but you can’t shape it by and fill it with life experience. You have a good chance of ending up with a technically-sophont vegetable.

But let’s say it is possible, as a hypothetical. In that case, it’s a simple enough matter of standard Imperial law, considered in its usual atomic fashion. The new sophont is legally in the same position as any other sophont, with all rights and responsibilities thereof. The uplifter is the de jure parent to such degree as is necessary, as is anyone who participates in the creation of a new sophont, and is also arraigned for theft, having deprived the original owner of the use of his property. (Depending on the opinion of the court of his motives, this may also result in his above-mentioned parental status being abruptly terminated.)

(This may also be complicated by the way in which prosophont creatures (say, non-uplifted dogs), which are the best candidates for uplift, cannot technically be property, only minor associates similar but not identical to other dependents, but the legal effect is much the same.)

Are there any particularly outstanding incidents, whether amusing, horrific, or some macabre mix of the two, from the days when all the fancy wonder-techs that the Empire now takes for granted were still having their bugs worked out?

Plenty. Progress is messy, and there’s a reason there’s a Monument to the Martyrs of Science.

But that would be future story-fodder…

With regard to the Repository of All Knowledge:

In short, its charter essentially reads: STORE ALL THE THINGS!  It does its very best to live up to that, even the part of it that “wastes” tremendous amounts of data space on obsolete records and trivia.  But then, the archivists know what happened to the last people to dismiss “trivia” too blithely, and that’s not going to happen again, not on their watch.

Which raises the question; who were the last people to delete “trivia”? And what kind of appropriately horrible fate lead to…

I do not have the exact details of the incident in question, but in general-outline terms, it’s the case of someone deciding that the centuries-old details of some minor vegetable blight not really needing to be moved to the new fancy records system, especially those ancient boxes of musty-smelling handwritten notes. No-one’ll ever need those, right?

And then a few centuries after that, when it turns out that this epidemiologist really would have found those useful with regard to a much more serious medical issue…

…well, that’s when someone’s rep score just drops a hundred points overnight, and the Aláthiëlans and Atheléites get to preach a lot of sermons about how Information must be preserved, dammit.

Do the various darëssef have any stereotypes associated with them by those on the “outside looking in”?  (Put another way, if you got one representative of the best of each profession at a table at a dinner party and they got into a mock-serious discussion about Who Has the Unquestionably Best Job in the Universe, what are some of the things they’d tease one another over to “prove” that their particular job is better than all the others?)

There are some. But I should note that these are pretty weaksauce stereotypes by our standards, because making sweeping generalizations about large groups of individuals is, well, not really their specialty. I understate. (At least where the things that aren’t actually in the Code are concerned, anyway.)

Something which is only reinforced by the tendency for people to have the sort of lengthy and varied resumes that would make most, if not all, of the people having such a discussion members of several darëssef simultaneously.

But there is some of that. Everyone knows that acquiescents are prone to be somewhat distracted. (Because they might be literally talking to god.) Aesthants are known as mercurial and impractical. (Although in Eldraeic, the latter means “this will be a bastard to implement, but it’s really cool“.) Executors carry the reputation of being somewhat pedantic and obsessive (“And aren’t you damn lucky we are!?” reply the executors.) Hearthmistresses are somewhat more careful and conservative than the average (by local standards, i.e., will make sure you pack a lunch before launching yourself into the unknown reaches of space). Plutarchs are always on the lookout for opportunity and it often seems like they’ll trade anything, anywhere, anytime, with anybody. (“Look, seriously, just pass the salt, okay?”.)  The rúner are very calm, very self-controlled, as if they had to give themselves permission for everything they do. Sentinels are stern, verging on cold, but mostly unteasable because you really, really don’t want to have to do their job.

And go not to a technarch for counsel, for they will provide you with a 600-page dissertation on the problem, related problems, new problems you will have after you solve this problem, solutions to those problems, eight appendices, citations, a note explaining why it was the wrong problem anyway, and a clockwork widget/three-line script that successfully replaces your problem with a completely different problem.

From “Sliding Scale of Shiny vs. Gritty”:

One wonders just how bad the the cognitive dissonance would be (for Imperials) if you engineered thing to look like they were entropic when they weren’t (or vice versa)

The former is merely extremely poor taste. The latter, on the other hand, is probably the smoking gun for some kind of devious fraud and/or criminal conspiracy.

Also, how much spheroid has been explored and charted? Had probes already passed beyond furthermost reach of the spheroid, like Voyagers? If Precursors indeed transplanted “greenlife” from Earth to Eliéra, they must have effective means of cross gulf of tens of thousands of ly without recourse to portal network – namely, some sort of FTL drive.

The Worlds themselves are, approximately, 3,300 light-years from coreward to rimward (about the whole width of the spiral arm they occupy), 4,100 light-years from spinward to trailing, and 2,000 light years from acme to nadir, which is basically the entire width of the galactic disk. That’s about 100,000,000 stars, but of those, only about 10,000 are actually connected to the stargate plexus, so those are the best charted.

Relativistic missions are exploring the others, and pushing out a few light-centuries beyond the borders, but they’re only touching a fraction of what’s there. The ones that look interesting from a distance, specifically; and since the Super-Size Synthetic Aperture – a phased-array telescope with a virtual lens nearly 1,000 ly across – has an absurdly high resolution up to great distances, they’ve got a very good handle on what the targets are throughout the galaxy.

As for the Precursors… maaaaaybe. Or maybe their portal network isn’t there any more, for one reason or another. Or maybe they just didn’t mind travelling slowly. Not everyone necessarily uses the same timescale we are using.

1. So Waserai born hermaphroditic but change their biological sex after fully mature(or circumstance dictates), like some Earth animals?
2. How many aliens are bipedal?
3. So general Eldraeverse tank designs are basically alike Dropzone Commander’s UCM tanks?
4. May I ask rough summary about Safir and Voctonari? If you have notes or conception, of course.

1. Waserai are born as hermaphrodites, and remain so in their pre-pubescent state; after puberty, they adopt a (psychological) gender role, and this determines (presumably hormonally mediated) which aspect of their genitalia matures/dominates and which, well, subsides, for want of a better word. It’s not unknown for this to switch back and forth a few times until they settle down into their adult gender.

It’s also not unknown, although it is relatively rare, for it to change again later in life if something alters their self-image in the right way, and to a substantial extent.

2. “A lot”.

Which is to say, it’s one of the most common body plans (frees up all forelimbs for use as manipulators without multiplying limbs all over the place with the associated energy cost), but while it’s probably the most common, there are still plenty of non-bipeds around, in particular those that didn’t evolve from land animals.

…and I’m not going to get into specific numbers.

p.s. hexapodia is the key insight – Twirlip of the Mists

3. I’m not familiar with Dropzone Commander, so I can’t really say. The IL’s tanks are described here, and in general, there’s a fair bit of similarity between species. They all have to make them work with the same physics, after all.

4. Much detail is waiting to be revealed elsewhere, especially when the unspoken details of their societies become relevant, but…

You could think of the voctonari as spider-aliens, were the main body of the spider to be a cluster of bubbles, each of which contains its own brain. Yep, the voctonari are a collegiate intelligence, polysapic, with multiple minds to every body.

…I would prefer not to say more about the sefir at this time.

From “Trope-a-Day: Genocide Dilemma”:

Interesting concept. I wonder why Galian and a handful of unsavory groups have not yet been erased from face of the Galaxy. Also, I am curious Galian mean certain species, nation, or both.

On the latter, the galians/Galians are one of the cases in which the species and nation are more closely identified than most. (Although there are a few galian expatriate communities who can for the most part never go home again.) The reason for that, is fairly familiar – it’s because the Galians are a bunch of racist jerks with intense disdain for anyone not chosen by their particular god.

As for the former – well, I refer you to these wise words of Lorith Amanyr. I mean, sure, they’re assholes now, but ethically speaking, it would be much better – and much less entropic – to fix them than to just wipe ’em out. And much more intellectually satisfying, too.


After all, it’s not like they pose a serious threat, or anything.

(Also also, casually whacking people you don’t like who aren’t an imminent threat is hard on the reputation, and may encourage other people to clump together into something that is a threat. This would be strategically embarrassing, and the First Lord of the Admiralty and/or the Minister of State and Outlands wouldn’t get invited to the better sort of parties any more.)

I am curious about meaning and definition of these diverse terminologies-digisapiences, neogens, post-technological speciation, polytaxic species, nomads and suchlike-.

digisapiences: sophont artificial intelligences, the ones with consciousness and free will and other characteristics that make them people.

neogens: life-forms that were cooked up from scratch in the lab, not naturally evolved or simple modifications of the same.

post-technological speciation: the tendency of a species, once it develops technology, to take control of its own evolution and as a consequence turn into a set of closely-related species rather than remaining a single one.

polytaxic species: The term itself is somewhat poorly coined: what it refers to is a case in which multiple related species, biologically speaking, evolve in parallel and constitute a joint society, one “species” in the interstellar-race sense. A well-done example would be the Ylii from the game 2300AD; a less well-done example would be Star Trek‘s Xindi.

nomads: Species that have abandoned, migrated from, lost, or otherwise no longer have an identifiable homeworld, just a wandering spaceborne population.

From “Cultural Transfers”:

prehaps Dwarf Fortress would be to thier tastes. after a few scope and graphics upgrades, of course.

Probably not DF, I think. The genre is right – simulations are a very popular genre – as is the degree of complexity (and how), but DF as it is played puts too much emphasis on the And Now Everything Explodes slaughterfest part. The local market would want more constructivity, less breakin’ shit.

Very interesting. How many civilizations have been died out by this stupendous form of stupidity? And how many polities do not recognize civilian rights of AI or restrict/control them through “a bunch of extremely sophisticated coercive mechanisms” or commit other morally reprehensible acts against AI?

Except for the people mucking about with making gods, the former is actually a relatively small number. It takes extraordinary dickishness to annoy people (even people you’ve enslaved) to the point at which they start considering genocide to be the optimal option, and extraordinary incompetence to not have anyone get away in the end.

As for the latter – it’s also a relatively small number, mostly concentrated among rogue Shadow Systems states and less salubrious chunks of the Expansion Regions. (Well, and the Republic, of course.)  Which isn’t to say that there aren’t several other polities that would like to, but there are a number of big players (the Empire, the Photonic Network, even the League of Meridian) who are willing to exchange certain diplomatic words in the interests of preventing this sort of thing. Also, certain bullets.

Also, given the fact that Eldraeverse is a relatively life-rich place, how much percentage of species successfully achieved space-flight independently, without making themselves extinct or at least, stone age and in need of outside assistance?

…that’s not really an answerable question, inasmuch as there’s not really any control as to when in your species’ history the Worlds’ c-horizon is going to overrun your star system and set the answer in stone…


I’m going to say that maybe half to two-thirds of the species in the Worlds’ had achieved in-system spaceflight of one degree or another before that happened, and of those maybe 10% had dabbled in subluminal interstellar spaceflight. And the error bars on that first number are very large indeed.

It’s also very much not the case that those are necessarily the successful members of the interstellar community later on, either, I should note.

Finally, can I safely expect Milky Way Galaxy and beyond would be teeming with life as much as Associated Worlds, or this effluence of life is limited solely to Associated Worlds and other such “pockets”(besides, sapient life-emergence must be frequent enough for 80 worlds or so Meridian League or the likes can be claimed as diverse polyspecific society)?

The state of the galaxy varies from location to location. You can say that about much of the middle third of the galaxy. You don’t find much life in the inner third because that close to the galactic core, the radiation is not your friend in general, and the prevalence of supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, and other such things is not your friend in specific. You also don’t find much life in the outer third, because when you get that far from the core, the systems are generally too poor in heavy elements to support much in the way of life.

In the middle: well, the problem is that while the prevalence of supernovae and gamma-ray bursters is less, it doesn’t go away. The prevalence of life in the region of the Worlds is typical for those chunks of the galaxy that haven’t been sterilized recently, but these effects flatten out bubbles of the mid-galaxy with depressing regularity, making a life-map look rather blotchy.

(Which is just more evidence that the universe is BROKEN and should be FIXED.)

Do the eldrae have any terms used like the english “crazy mofo” where it can be a term of respect for a particularly non-rigid thinker?

Hm. I think… probably not.

On the other hand, they do have “If it’s crazy and it works, it ain’t crazy.” as a well-established idiom.

From “Trope-a-Day: Precursors”:

“Also, reputedly, near-solipsists who were literally incapable of conceiving that another entity’s opinion might actually matter, short of a major mental break.”

They were humans weren’t they?


I’m pretty sure that local sophontologists would diagnose humans as mostly suffering from the exact opposite problem: far too much group-norming to be considered a psychologically well-adjusted species.

Y’know, if they’d ever met any.

How many homeworlds are named “home”, “dirt”, “place were we are from”, “goddess of our ecology”. Or for flying or swimming species, “sky” or “ocean”. I’m guessing: most to all.

Not quite all, but most, yes. At least some of which now have new common names assigned by the IGS.

(Unrandomly selected example: Eliéra would most closely gloss as little harmonious place.)


One thought on “Questions: Clearing the Decks

  1. One wonders just how bad the the cognitive dissonance would be (for Imperials) if you engineered thing to look like they were entropic when they weren’t (or vice versa)
    The former is merely extremely poor taste.

    So, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is right out then?


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