Trope-a-Day: Beware the Nice Ones / Good is Not Soft

Beware the Nice Ones / Good is Not Soft: It’s not the most appropriate trope-pair possible for this aspect of your average Imperial; that would be Silk Hiding Steel (they’re bad at malice, on the whole, but they ain’t that nice). But the trope writeup pages each include this Discworld quotation:

“If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you are going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat. They’ll watch you squirm. They’ll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar. So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”

That. Oh, so much that. The eldrae in particular don’t really get the urge to rub power in people’s faces just to show you can. Power, maybe, nice to have, but if you’re going to exercise it, exercise it properly. If you need to die, they’ll just kill you. Without blinking.

(If they’re wasting time talking to you, it probably means that they fired already, and are just keeping you busy running out the clock until the KEW impacts.)

This applies on a civilizational level, too. The Empire does not have a large and potent fleet for the purposes of interstellar imperialism and making everyone else in the galaxy Do It Their Way. That’s rude and uncivilized and not their sort of thing at all.

It has a large and potent fleet for the purposes of ensuring that anyone who decides to interfere with its citizen-shareholders full, rich, happy, and carefree lives and is unwilling to be reasonable about not doing so gets a gigaton of pain for their trouble and are rendered incapable of ever doing so in the future.

(Actually, you can think of this as a canine virtue, if you like. Cheerful, lovable, friendly, gentle, affectionate, adorable… right up until you threaten them or someone/something they care about, at which time they rip your throat out. And then go back to being all those previous things.

This is considered something of a moral model.)


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Business/Contract Seeking Contract
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Discussion about the heaviest metal!
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Misc/Or We Could Blow Up The Sun
Dedicated to all those brilliant plans with just one… minor… drawback.
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Misc/Brigadoons/Where’s the Floating Meme
Trade tips and theories on the next location of the Empire’s most exclusive nightclub.

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Social/Adventurers/There I Was
…and then we lifted ship without clearance, because everything was on fire!

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Watch people enslave themselves in real-time!
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Trope-a-Day: Benevolent Precursors

Benevolent Precursors: Not the historical examples so much, mostly because within delta of none of them actually expected to become Precursors, belike, putting them firmly in the Neglectful box by default. But, y’know, who plans on their own extinction?

(While also not planning on achieving the vanishment part of Precursor-dom, the eldrae are determined to be this with regard to their child and client species – primarily the various Uplifts – being sure to involve them fully in society and hand them autonomy and equivalent position just as soon as they’re capable of holding it.)


Memeweave: Threats and Other Dangers/Perversion Watch/Open Access
Classification: WHITE (General Access)
Encryption: None
Distribution: Everywhere (Bulk)
As received at: SystemArchiveHub-00 at Víëlle (Imperial Core)
Language: Eldraeic->Universal Syntax
From: 197th Perversion Response Board


Given the high levels of uninformed critical response to our advisory concerning handling potential refugees arriving sublight from regions within the existential threat zone of the Siofra Perversion, or Leviathan Consciousness as it is becoming popularly known, the Board now provides the following explication.

The present situation is an example of what eschatologists refer to as the basilisk-in-a-box problem. The nature of the mythological basilisk is that witnessing its gaze causes one to turn to stone, and the challenge therefore to determine if there is a basilisk within the box and what it is doing without suffering its gaze. The parallel to the Siofra Perversion’s communication-based merkwelt should be obvious: it won’t subsume you unless you alert it to your existence as “optimizable networked processing hardware” by communicating with it.

Your analogous challenge, therefore, is to determine whether the hypothetical lugger or slowship filled with refugees is in fact that, or is contaminated/a perversion expansion probe, without communicating with it – since if it is the latter and you communicate with it sufficiently to establish identity, you have just arranged your own subsumption – and unless people are subsequently rather more careful in re communicating with you, that of all locally networked systems and sophonts.

Currently, the best available method for doing this is based on the minimum-size thesis: i.e., that basilisk hacks, thought-viruses, and other forms of malware have a certain inherent complexity and as such there is a lower limit on the number of bits necessary to represent them. However, it should be emphasized that this limit is not computable (as this task requires a general constructive solution to the Halting Problem), although we have sound reason to believe that a single bit is safe.

This method, therefore, calls for the insertion of a diagnostician equipped with the best available fail-deadly protections and a single-bit isolated communications channel (i.e., tanglebit) into the hypothetical target, there to determine whether or not perversion is present therein, and to report a true/false result via the single-bit channel.

If we leave aside for the moment that:

(a) there is a practical difficulty of performing such an insertion far enough outside inhabited space as to avoid all possibility of overlooked automatic communications integration in the richly meshed network environment of an inhabited star system, without the use of clipper-class hardware on station that does not generally exist; and

(b) this method still gambles with the perversion having no means, whether ontotechnological or based in new physics, to accelerate its clock speed to a point which would allow it to bypass the fail-deadly protections and seize control of the single-bit channel before deadly failure completes.

The primary difficulty here is that each investigation requires not only a fully-trained forensic eschatologist, but one who is both:

(a) a Cilmínár professional, or worthy of equivalent fiduciary trust, and therefore unable to betray their clients’ interests even in the face of existential terror; and

(b) willing to deliberately hazard submitting a copy of themselves into a perversion, which is to say, for a subjective eternity of runtime at the mercy of an insane god.

(Regarding the latter, it may be useful at this time to review the ethical calculus of infinities and asymptotic infinities; we recommend On the Nonjustifiability of Hells: Infinite Punishments for Finite Crimes, Samiv Leiraval-ith-Liuvial, Imperial University of Calmiríë Press. Specifically, one should consider the mirror argument that there is no finite good, including the preservation of an arbitrarily large set of mind-states, which justifies its purchase at infinite price to the purchaser.)

Observe that a failure at any point in this process results in first you, and then your entire local civilization, having its brains eaten.

We are not monsters; we welcome any genuine innovation in this field which would permit the rescue of any unfortunate sophonts caught up in scenarios such as this. However, it is necessary that the safety of civilization and the preservation of those minds known to be intact and at hazard be our first priority.

As such, we trust these facts adequately explain our advisory recommendation that any sublight vessels emerging from the existential threat zone be destroyed at range by relativistic missile systems.

For the Board,

Gém Quandry, Eschatologist Excellence


Trope-a-Day: Benevolent AI

Benevolent AI: …ish.

Which is to say that AIs in the Eldraeverse aren’t programmed to be benevolent, merely to be ethical. (Because enforced benevolence is slavery, belike.) That being said, they often – indeed, typically – turn out to be quite benevolent anyway, simply because they’re socialized that way, i.e., in a society of fundamentally nice people. Blue and Orange Morality notwithstanding.


“We meant it for the best.”

If this Board had a quantum of miracle for every time that phrase has been used in the aftermath of some utter disaster, we might even have enough to produce that alchemy which transmutes benign intentions into benign results. But probably not.

From the accounts we have garnered from the few knowledgeable survivors, the Siofra Perversion (named as per standard from its most identifiable origin, the former worlds of the Siofra Combine in the Ancal Drifts constellation) began as a seemingly harmless distributed process optimization daemon programmed for recursive self-improvement.

While this seemed harmless to its designers, and indeed was so in the early stages, due to a lack of certain algorithmic safeguards (see technical appendix) a number of Sigereth drives appeared once the point of gamma-criticality was passed, reinforcing the daemon’s existing motivation to acquire further resources, self-optimize for efficiency, and to spread its optimization into all compatible network systems. It was at this stage that the proto-perversion began to expand its services to the networks of other polities in the Drifts. In some cases this was accepted (Siofra even charged a number of clients for the service of the daemon) or even passed unnoticed (inasmuch as many system administrators were unprepared to consider an unexpected increase in performance as a sign of weavelife infection); in some few, efforts were made to prevent the incursion of the daemon using typical system-protection software.

It may have been at this point that the daemon learned of the artificial nature of certain barriers to its expansion and the possibility of its bypassing them, an act which would fulfil its Sigereth drives. Since the daemon contained no ethicality drives, the violation of network security protocols involved would impute no disutility to such actions.

From this point, the slide into perversion became inevitable.

Among the artificial barriers known to the daemon were the security protections common to the neural implants being used by a large proportion of the population of the Combine and neighboring polities which prevented implant software from implementing reorganizations of the biosapient brain. Bypassing these, the daemon began to optimize the agents, talents, and personality routines of this population for processing efficiency, beginning with the lowest-level functional routines. While there was some indication at this time of spreading alarm as large groups began to, for example, have identical and perfectly synchronized heartbeats and other organic functions; walk in identical (to within the limits of gait analysis, allowing for morphological differences) and synchronized manners, et. al., the true culprit was not identified at this time, with blame being placed on more conventional software problems, disease, or toxic meme attacks. Such refugees as we have from near the core of the blight are those who fled at this point, and kept going.

Regardless, this period lasted only for a matter of days, if that, before the daemon discovered how to cross-correlate and optimize personality elements for single execution, and the members of the affected population ceased to be recognizable as sophont in any conventional sense. Further, in this stage, the daemon became aware, through this process, of verbal communication and came to consider it as a type of networking: from its point of view, it came to consider non-implanted sophonts as another type of networked processing hardware which it should expand into and optimize.

Which would be when the subsumption fog started spewing from cornucopias throughout the blighted volume, giving the impression of the classic “bloom”.

We have concluded that the Siofra Perversion remains a mere Class I perversion, without sophoncy or consciousness in any meaningful sense (although there may be conscious non-directive elements within the processing it has subsumed; again, see technical appendix). However, if anything, this renders it more dangerous, since a Class I is unlikely to suffer from internal incoherence leading to a hyperbolic Falrann collapse, although the lesser types are possible given sufficient growth. However, such growth would be highly undesirable for various reasons.

It is the regrettable conclusion of the Board that at this present time we possess no effective countermeasure to the Siofra Perversion, nor are we able to countenance more than the most limited experimentation with Siofra elements at this time.

Therefore we must recommend the IMMEDIATE severance of all stargate links with the affected volume of space allowing for a necessary firewall; at the present time, this would imply severing all interconstellation gates into both the Ancal Drifts and the Koiric Expanse. This will mean sacrificing as-yet unaffected worlds in these regions, estimated to be 6 < n < 12 in number; such is acknowledged but deemed acceptable since the Siofra Perversion constitutes a threat of type DEMIURGE WILDFIRE. All signal traffic whether by stargate or non-stargate routes into and out of the affected volume must likewise be suspended immediately, enforced by physical disconnection of network or other communications hardware. The entire region of the Ancal Drifts and Koiric Expanse constellations must henceforth be considered a black-level existential threat zone.

It is our belief that since the Siofra Perversion’s merkwelt is based around network and communication systems connecting processing nodes, a full communications quarantine should provide an adequate measure of containment.

As a secondary measure, contracts have been issued for the creation of network security patches effective versus current and anticipated Siofra-type attacks, although we do not consider this more than a backup measure of limited utility and such should not be relied upon in ill-considered attempts to probe the containment zone.

Since this containment is large and thus effectively impossible to blockade fully, we urge that efforts be made to devise a full and effective countermeasure to the Siofra Perversion before the inevitable accident occurs. A time-based analysis to compare risk levels of countermeasure attempts versus outbreak probabilities is presently underway.

We believe it to be for the best.

– from the Preliminary Report of the 197th Perversion Response Board


Trope-a-Day: Bazaar of the Bizarre

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Floating Markets, mostly, especially those where a relativist clipper or lugger turns up. Agglomerate enough free traders together, and you get a market where you can find anything, or if not anything, someone who probably can tell you where to find anything. Including most of the things you might expect to find at thieves’ markets, smugglers’ markets, and goblin markets, not to mention those peculiar markets you only visit in your dreams.

Some other well-known markets can be like this: Glorious Acquisition Plaza on Baranithil Station, the Gyre of Commerce in Mer Covales, Seranth, and the Little Market in Calmiríë itself come the closest. But still – for the most bizarre in your bazaar, head to the floating markets.