Trope-a-Day: Dyson Sphere

Dyson Sphere: The Empire has two, although neither by that name, the concept *there* having been devised by Cirys Minaxianos. One, a Cirys bubble, is at Esilmúr (Imperial Core); a thin layer of light-sail material surrounds the star, held up by photon and solar wind pressure in much the same manner as a statite, and managed by magnetic manipulation and selective releases of solar wind. The material, in turn, is coated with energy-producing solar foil, powering massive arrays of antimatter production facilities.

The other, a three-layered incomplete Cirys swarm is at Corícal Ailék, where the Transcend keeps its brain: the innermost being golden-winged energy-collection complexes skimming the corona of the star and powering the rest of the swarm, the middle layer being fractal chandeliers of organic crystal nanocircuitry, providing the Transcend with its massive processing power, and the outermost being the hexterranes, a lattice of hexagonal habitat-plates providing living space here at the heart of the light.

Moments in History (2)

The official history of Imperial State Security records that Istar Sargas [Alphas I Amanyr’s left-hand man, and founder of the ISS] was assassinated in 742, and control of the Directorates moved to the Imperial Security Executive, at the time a hand-picked body of his division heads.

Unofficial history and frank rumor further records that the assassination occurred in an otherwise unoccupied ISS field office, and that upon meeting the assembled assassins face-to-face, he grinned, told them they were a full eight minutes behind schedule, and flicked his lit cigar into the first of several barrels of blasting powder.

Further information – reliable further information – has not been made available to this author.

– A Shadow History, Sidony Adae-ith-Alleia

Trope-a-Day: Drugs Are Good

Drugs Are Good: The Empire’s culture has no problem with hedonic, et. al., drugs. You have, after all, the right to do anything you want to yourself, and really, they’re no worse than any other form of entertainment.

Especially since you buy them from legitimate businessmen, not “legitimate businessmen”, scrubber nanites let you sober up really damn fast when you need to, standards of quality and purity are maintained, and advances in medical science have abolished addiction and practically every other harmful side-effect imaginable, and along with creating lots of more selective, more entertaining, less awkward/harmful/etc. designer drugs.

Better living through chemistry, man!

Things to See, Places to Go (9)

Silicate Sanctuary Worlds: The renegade digisapiences of the Silicate Tree have two “sanctuary worlds” for biosapiences who flee into their space and are, or have been, of utility to them. These worlds are named Zero One (Galith Waste), a barely eusylithic habitable world and One Zero (Csell Buffer), a eutalentic supplied with scattered colony prefabs. Neither supports much in the way of industry, culture, society, or other reasons to visit, save the all-too-interesting experience of flying under the guns of grumpy ex-slaves who need a reason not to blow you out of space.

This nomenclature alone should give you a fair idea of the degree of wit that the Tree tends to ascribe to protein intelligences.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene


Trope-a-Day: Drop Pod

Drop Pod: The Piton-class drop pod and Fist-class triple drop pods, specifically, the former of which drops a single heavy legionary from orbit to ground, and the latter of which drops three light legionaries likewise. A modified Fist is also used to drop equipment packages.

(Unlike many variants on this theme, these drop pods aren’t intentionally used to damage the enemy, although if one does land on someone’s head, that’s a bonus: it’s hard enough to get a legionary safely to the ground, through flak, with a suicide-burn flight profile as it is without having it try and double as a KEW. Besides, you can always throw a few actual KEWs out in front of it…)

On The Relationship Between Transcend and Transcendi

Kicking this one uphill from a comment to an actual post, since it may clarify matters for any other readers, too, with questions in this area:

Okay. Let me try this again.

All minds, as defined in the ‘verse, are Minskian societies of mind, masses of independently running agents on a shared substrate, from which consciousness, volition, and all other mental properties emerge. (“The Country of the Mind” in Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels would be a good symbolic representation.)

This, for example, is how technologies like the gnostic overlay work; by patching some new voices into the chorus.

The Transcendent soul-shard (hence its technical name, logos bridge) serves as a bridge between two societies of mind, carrying messages back and forth, allowing both the participation of the constitutional’s agents in the Transcend’s mentality and the participation of some of the Transcend’s agents in the constitutional’s. This blurs the strict lines of identity, arguably, but it’s not a complete subsumption of identity such as occurs on joining a Fusion; rather, every time a new constitutional Transcends, both they and It become somewhat different people in various ways, wedded together most intimately, but they don’t achieve identity of identity.

(Incidentally, as I think I mentioned in a 2012 piece, the main reason the Transcend keeps an economy and a governance around, is that they work. Sure, technically, you could replace market coordination with coordination mediated through coadjutors and Transcendent oversouls, but because of that mathematical theorem that demonstrates that even a hypothetical Omniscient Calculator could only at best equal the performance of a free market, not beat it, you’d have nothing to gain except wasted cycles and the lack of a convenient interface to the rest of the universe. Similar logic applies to various other applications.

Basically, you don’t send an oversoul to do a simpler instrumentality’s job.)

Apposite Quotation

Today’s this-very-much-belongs-in-my-universe, courtesy of Borderlands 2 and a New-U station:

“If any idiot ever tells you that life would be meaningless without death, Hyperion recommends killing them.”

Trope-a-Day: Do Not Adjust Your Set

Do Not Adjust Your Set: The obvious canonical example is the Emergency Notification System, run jointly by the Watch Constabulary and Emergency Management Authority, which can send out a signal across the IIP mesh network preempting every device to deliver an emergency notification. Subverted inasmuch as it can be overridden freely at the receiving end, on the grounds that if there’s a gorram emergency going on, people might need to use those devices.

(There is also is counterpart, the Emergency Monitoring System. Separate from the basic functionality in which devices that perceive an emergency happening locally will report it of their own volition, the EMS permits a code to be sent out instructing all devices within a specific area to activate all their sensors and report what they perceive to the WC/EMA. Again, this is optional functionality – no-one has to participate for obvious privacy and property reasons – but rather depends on the authorities being trustworthy and individuals being mutually responsible citizens…)

Everything’s Shiny, Not to Fret

CALMIRÍË, ELIÉRA – The new composition of the Chamber of the People following the 7124 reselection has had little effect on the balance of the Senate, indicate the latest declarations of branch affiliation reported by the Scrupulous Monitor of the Will of the People.

The only statistically significant shift identifiable in the data is a 2.4% shift (0.8% overall) towards Status Quo, which gained 14 out of the 576 Senators up for reselection, these gains coming at the cost of no particular branch. Inasmuch as the Status Quo branch’s platform is one of steadfast opposition to shifts in established policy, it would appear that the Empire’s citizen-shareholders once more continue to be comfortable with the present state of affairs.


Trope-a-Day: Doing in the Wizard

Doing in the Wizard: Played straight in the most literal sense possible: if there’s magic, miracle, or straight-up literary conceit around, you can be absolutely sure that there’s someone *there* figuring out how it could work and/or how it can be reverse-engineered, because that’s how you go about increasing the universe’s net awesome, belike.

(As a culture that downright inverts Measuring the Marigolds, they don’t feel that this in any way reduces appreciation for them; indeed, the entire notion that understanding in some way reduces or destroys appreciation or sense of wonder can surely only be the product of the most profound intellectual confusion.)

Trope-a-Day: Measuring the Marigolds

Measuring the Marigolds: Should you, gentle reader, ever find yourself transported by some magical tornado to one of the locales about which I write, don’t try and explain this one to the locals. Really. Just… don’t.

Expect a lengthy lecture on how The World Is Just Awesome, but can only be appreciated at a very shallow level by those who don’t even try to understand it, and how substituting mere numinous neural self-pleasuring for truly grokking the wonders of the world is grossly inadequate, and frankly the world deserves better of you, Mister So-Called-Sentient-Supposedly-Sapient-Being, than such flagrant and feth-witted mystagoguery.

Or, y’know, a truly spectacular contemptuous snort.


Inalienable Property

(Seeing as we’re discussing the amount of trouble people can get into through bad deals, it seems like an appropriate time to mention a certain generous legal provision…)

inalienable property: Private property not subject to seizure in mediatory proceedings, in collection of a debt, or in bankruptcy.

While any property, in theory, can be seized by a Curial court in re a criminal matter, where mediary matters, debt, and bankruptcy are concerned, the Imperial court system – as a matter of courtesy between citizen-shareholders – stipulates that certain property (When owned outright by the citizen-shareholder. If the equity in the property is held by a lender to whom the debtor is in default, that debtor may always exercise an existing option to reclaim that property.) shall be considered inalienable and not seized by the courts, including:

  • The citizen-shareholder’s primary body and/or server, whether owned or purchased as a service.
  • The citizen-shareholder’s primary domicile and furnishings for same, up to the limits of a basic claim set out in the Homestead Act.
  • The citizen-shareholder’s tort insurance, health insurance, and incarnation insurance.
  • One set of personal weapons for the citizen-shareholder’s defense.
  • One personal vehicle.
  • Clothing (including jewelry) not to exceed 25% of total inalienable property.
  • The tools of, and other required equipment for, the citizen-shareholder’s trade.
  • The citizen-shareholder’s library, including at least one computational and telecommunicative device.
  • Food, necessary medical equipment, and other sustenance.

– Lathenar’s Legal Dictionary, 41st ed.

(The aim, you see, is to recover insofar as possible those assets to which one’s debtors have a moral right, but not to strip anyone to the point at which they cannot effectively recover, nor to make the consequences of failure so harsh as to discourage risk-taking and entrepreneurship. That’s short-term thinking, and the Empire’s plutarchs are capable of seeing well beyond the next quarter…)


The Sanction (also, Questions)

Responding at once to a couple of past questions:

3. Roughly where does the dividing line between “coercion” and “acceptable-if-pernicious exploitation of another’s flaws and failings” lie?

When it violates someone’s fundamental rights and/or their mental integrity (i.e., doesn’t pass through their volition).

To give a specific scenario that relates to a particular longstanding brain-bug of mine: If, say, an “aggressive hegemonizing negative-amortizing subprime lending swarm agent” were to construct and offer a loan contract and payment plan that is tailor-made to exploit a lesser sophont’s overconfidence in their own abilities and failure to fully internalize the implications of the wheat-and-chessboard problem specifically so that the creditor can have a legitimate (or “legitimate”) excuse to Foreclose On All The Things when the impossible-to-pay loan comes due.

That’s non-coercive and non-fraudulent, unless it’s actively hiding things, and so legal. It’s scummy, but it’s legal – and, incidentally, the reason why (given the below on the need to make good choices and the reasons not to protect people from making bad ones) they teach you how to interpret these things in the local equivalent of middle school, which includes a very pointed section on why one must never, ever, ever agree to anything that one does not fully understand.

And on a comment back here:

At what point does the Empire start expressing it’s disapproval of hucksters who find a way to lawyer the letter of an agreement into something that enriches them and leaves the other party f****d?

The Empire doesn’t. (For three reasons:

One: a great and abiding respect for freedom of choice, which necessarily implies not armchair-quarterbacking other people’s choices, and includes even the No-Backsies Principle, in which it won’t undo choices just because in retrospect they turn out not to be the choices that one would prefer to have made.

Two: Because once you start getting into the reasoning behind people’s choices and the values that lead up to them, things rapidly start getting subjective as all hell. The Curia is proud of its elegant system of objective law free from personal bias, but as soon as it starts trying to decide what agreements ought to be acceptable to whom and which shouldn’t be, it’s inserting its personal subjective opinions into matters of justice where they don’t belong.

And finally, Three: Because the more you protect people from the consequences of their bad choices, the more you end up with a civilization full of helpless chumps who can’t make good choices.

The Empire looks at civilizations where this, that, and the other are strictly regulated to avoid the necessity of thought or reading what you’re about to sign, and the courts are more than happy to undo any decision that they deem sufficiently unwise, and so forth, and sees a population of serfs that want to be serfs, because they’ve learned helplessness to the point that they can’t even imagine being able to run their own affairs.

And it wants none of it. People won’t ever achieve eudaimonia if you turn ’em into coddled chattel.)

So, as I said, the Empire doesn’t. Imperials, however, do, via a fine array of socially-mediated consequences.

The Sanction

Now, it seems to me I have perhaps not been clear as to exactly how far these socially-mediated consequences can go. There are, obviously, initial consequences to burning your reputational assets with, say, the Ephemeral Contract and the Desirable Counterparty Meta-Rep Association, inasmuch as you’ll quickly find yourself doing business from an unfavorable position with extra surcharges and restrictions on top. But that’s not the end of it.

Recall that the Empire has a genuinely free free market, and all trades are done strictly by consent; i.e., absolutely no-one is ever compelled to do business with anyone they don’t wish to do business with.

And then there is the Accord of Adamant. (Because it’s both transparent and hard.) It isn’t governmental at all; it’s simply a private agreement among gentlesoph traders – virtually all gentlesoph traders – to shun those who are declared to be acting with very poor form. And, transitively, to also shun those pledged to the Accord who decline to shun when called upon, since that damages the effectiveness of the Accord.

(If you’ve read Wright’s Golden Age trilogy, you can think of them as something like – although not identical to – the College of Hortators.)

Now what you see in the above linked post is what qualifies as a gentle if pointed reminder. “These people aren’t playing by the rules in this business, so don’t contract with them in this business.” That is not the limit. The limit is the sort of thing that the hypothetical asshat with his carefully constructed contracts that, while consensual and within the letter of the law, are nonetheless designed explicitly to screw people over, is going to run into.

Namely, full sanction. In which the Accord posts a call-and-advisory that no-one should contract with you ever.

So much for your bank account. That’s a service, and you’re under full sanction. Get used to dealing in the cash economy.

Except no-one will take your money, because you’re under full sanction.

Want to pay your rent? Full sanction. Buy food and water? Full sanction, or if you’re really lucky, buying bread from gray-market slash-traders at a 50,000% markup. (And gods help you if you’re a spacer, because hab fees and/or air supply services? Full sanction.) Communications? Full sanction. Travel? Full sanction, which includes with the odocorps who own a lot of the actual roads, upon which your presence outside the public right-of-way concessions would now be trespassing. Tort insurance, incarnation insurance, health care? Full. Sanction.

You can’t even beg for alms, because giving them to you? Would break the sanction.

Using the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law is something which the law, definitionally, can’t handle, but other social institutions have ways to ensure that indulging in that sort of thing puts you on a very unpleasant path to one of three ends:

Escalating until you do something for which the hammer of the law will come down on you; or

Fleeing the Empire; or

Starving, alone and freezing, in the dark. (At which point a municipal robot removes your corpse for hygienic disposal and bills your estate for the city’s costs.)

Such sanctions are a pretty useless weapon for an individual, or a group – even a large group – because of the level of cooperation required. But if you manage to be the kind of demented-if-lawful-to-the-letter asshole that society as a whole gets pissed off at, well, society can take away all the benefits of participation that it once offered you without once crossing a single coercive line.


A Conversation, Recorded Eight Minutes Before The Torren Moon Bloom

“Yes,” said the forensic eschatologist. “Your crippling techniques all appear fully operational. Your screening talkers have detected no basilisks or dangerous memetic payloads, and neither have the people screening them. Your emergency-wipe protocols show no sign of tampering, your network links show no anomalous traffic, and there is no present sign of a hard takeoff within the constrained subnet.”

“So it’s safe, yes? And you can report that to the -”

“This is exactly what one would expect to see if your containment protocols worked perfectly. However, it is also exactly what one would expect to see if a four-point-two kilosoph-equiv intelligence wanted you to think that your containment protocols were working perfectly. Leaving aside the implications of your belief that trying to jail something three orders of magnitude smarter than you was a good idea in the first place, which do you think is more likely?”

Trope-a-Day: Distress Call

Distress Call:

<breedlewheep>. Vessel in distress, vessel in distress. Cycle 214. Free trader More Money, More Propellant under attack by forces unknown. Reaction drive disabled. Point-defense laser not responding. Atmosphere venting from multiple compartments. Message repeats.

<breedlewheep>. Vessel in distress, vessel in distress. Cycle 215. Free trader More Money, More Propellant under…

So, yeah. Kind of like that pretty much everywhere, on the standard frequencies you’ll find in the Accord on the Law of Free Space or your local astrogator’s handbook, or if all else fails, on the guard/hailing frequency defined by the hydrogen line.

Not much else to say ’bout it.

(Side note: except maybe the fine custom that has evolved to deal with false distress calls – namely, very politely and insistently salvaging your ship anyway, then letting you have all the fun of navigating the Admiralty Court to get it un-condemned.)


Ultima Ratio Imperii Stellae

(Because a comment thread back a ways suggested a mention of the big dakka that hopefully no-one will ever have to use might be in order…)




Proceed (+/-)? +




[SSP image elided from file]

The ultimate sanction available to the Existential Threats Primary Working Group at this time remains the use of weapons in contravention to Chapter I of the Ley Accords, to wit, weapons inducing severe uncontrolled stellar perturbation up to and including sequence change.

Three weapons systems matching this criterion are currently provisionally available under CASE DYSPEPTIC FLARE, representing extremal response cases to otherwise uncontrollable excessionary-level existential threats. Deployment of any of these weapons systems indicates a willingness to sterilize entire star systems, and in itself constitutes a x-level photon and particle radiation hazard to nearby (range < 868 light-orbits, typical) star systems. These systems are:

  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE SHANK, deployment of relativistic kill vehicle from the deterrent fleet maintained by the Black Flotilla on stellar impact course, inducing megascale coronal mass ejection; and
  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE EMBRACE, use of extended iron-bombing or (untested/theoretical) twist-pinch device to induce stellar core collapse/artificial nova; and
  • DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE, deployment of CALYX HOLLOW or other strangelet device to stellar target, causing supernova-equivalent conversion event.

(WARNING: DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE has intrinsic and unknown black-level-plus existential threat potential, since the energetic conversion event may (p > δ) spread undecayed strangelets at relativistic speeds sufficient to prolong their lifespan,  enabling them to reach other star systems, where they may in turn trigger conversion events; as a worst-case scenario this could lead to self-replicant galactic annihilation.

As such, deployment of DYSPEPTIC FLARE HELLFIRE is absolutely prohibited except when the Transcendent warmind certifies that the x-risk prompting its deployment is of severity/range greater than the projected worst-case result.)

Note that as an extremal response case, deployment of CASE DYSPEPTIC FLARE requires consensus approval of the Imperial Security Executive, subject to override veto by vote of the Fifth Directorate overwatch, and Transcendent warmind approval.

Note also that special release conditions (noted below) apply to DYSPEPTIC FLARE, including but not limited to certified prior release of minimum three non-extremal response cases in failure state; threat (p > 0.5) of SKYSHOCK activity; unlimited collateral budget approval; and strategic ethics stricture <= ABYSSAL.


Communicating ANY PART of this NTK-A document to ANY SOPHONT other than those with preexisting originator-issued clearance, INCLUDING ITS EXISTENCE, is considered an alpha-level security breach and will be met with the most severe sanctions available, up to and including permanent erasure.

Proceed (+/-)?


Trope-a-Day: Digitized Hacker

Digitized Hacker: Most of ’em.

When it comes to wrestling for control of systems in cycle-time – especially where security AI are concerned – speed is a definite advantage. As such, digital crackers and their counterparts, digital sysadmins, are both very common; even if they habitually inhabit bioshells and just run a hot fork of themselves in parallel while on the job.

Trope-a-Day: Detachment Combat

Detachment Combat: A staple of modular technology – certainly any morphmech or modubot that is equipped for combat may well be equipped for this technique, as are legionaries with their carried drones and swarms. In starships, some models of AKV and other small starships (multivector attacks being handy in the furball) can pull it off. And, of course, one can make a technical argument for essentially any carrier or fleet carrier.


Things to See, Places (Not) to Go (8)

Spandore (Diaspora Margin): The formerly inhabitable planet of its system, Spandore was once home to a worldbound species that achieved a high-technology civilization with particular advancement in the fields of biochemistry and genetic engineering.

Unfortunately, several centuries to a millennium before contact (approximately), the planetary civilization wiped itself out in a global war, utilizing a large number of biological, ecological, mutagenic, and teratogenic weapons, along with a smaller number of “salting” nucleonic weapons. The ensuing apocalypse, bolstered by the synergetic effects of these weapons upon encountering each other, destroyed 90% of the planetary population and effectively transformed the descendants of the surviving remainder into monsters as twisted as the thousands of biological weapons systems, both microscopic and macroscopic, which continue to roam the planet today.

Due to the obvious risk potential of these weapons, Spandore is an interdicted planet, protected by an englobement grid. Unlike the majority of englobement grids operating under the aegis of the Conclave Commission on Latent Threats, however, that of Spandore is relatively easy to bypass – in the inward direction.

Since every known attempt to run the grid by those attempting to recover Spandorian biological weapons for their own purposes has resulted in a variety of horrifying deaths before any attempt to leave the planet could be made – the grid beacons monitor and record these events as well as they can from orbital overwatch, and append the resulting recordings to outgoing warning advisories – this author feels safe in ascribing this particular peculiarity to the Commission’s taste for irony.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene