The Truth Is In Here

True Tales of the Worlds: Recently selected as the Least Truthful Newsbytes for the 69th year in succession, True Tales of the Worlds is the Associated Worlds’ longest-running comedic-speculation journal, memetic experiment, and/or example of untreated delusions. Having recently turned 4,000, we present here a selection of recent headlines, all of which, we feel, live up to the standard set by the front-page story of their first ever issue, “Holy Shit, Planets Actually Spherical”.

  • Alleged Leytra Star Just a Blue-White Hallucination
  • Three-Ended Wormhole Discovered: Duplicates Expedition
  • Dropped Comet Made of Cheese: Colonists Surprised, But Surprisingly Delicious
  • Every Star Nation Secretly Ruled by Lizard People (Except the Empire of the Lizard People)
  • Empire of the Lizard People Secretly Ruled by Different Lizard People
  • Transportation Cartel Cover-Up – Galaxy Only Twelve Million Miles Across!
  • Many-Colored Shooting Stars Expected After Explosion of Candy Freighter
  • Universe Not Hollow, Claims Scientist, And We Live On The Outside
  • Giant Space Yeast Found In Beer Nebula
  • Giant Space Yeast More Awesome Than Giant Space Amoeba, Scientists Agree
  • Panspermia: Space Currents or Self-Pleasuring Deity? Very-Large-Baseline Images You Won’t Believe!
  • Conclave Votes To Raise Luminal Limit
  • Let My People Go, Ring Dynamics!: Interview With a Giant Space Worm
  • Lord Blackfall Converting Sun To Private Hyperyacht, Threatens ‘Global Warming’
  • Precursor Artifact Found in Public ‘Fresher: Scientists Now Searching For ‘Hyperspace Poop Moon’
  • Sen Shari Demands Hope Hegemony Dye ‘Eyesore’ Nebula
  • League Treasury Buys Three-Ended Wormhole, Pays Half Price
  • Plans to Soft-Land Moon of Sedria in Original Location Move Forward, Citing Benefits to Science, Tourism
  • Vordon’s Empty: “Detuned Heterodynes” Hire All The Mercenaries As Roadies For Upcoming Galactic Tour
  • Eye-of-Night Spontaneously Emits Mint ’53 Atomo: Science Team Takes Rocket Ride
  • Mermaids Make First Contact, Protest Moon-Landing Plans
  • Eels! Why?

If you are currently asking yourself why, consider the True Tales‘ never-changed masthead:

“The Truth Shall Enrich”

– A Star Travelers’ Dictionary

Why Did I Do That?

Of the various forms of mind control available today, the most subtle and horrible is that of overshadowing.

Overshadowing occupies the middle ground between full possession – in which the invading mind replaces or suppresses the host mind, which is either destroyed or unconscious during the period of possession; and black puppeteering, in which control is asserted at the sensory/motor interfaces, and in which the host is conscious (although not necessarily receiving sensory input) but rendered unable to act.

Sophotechnology recognizes that virtually all forms of cognition function as a society of mind, in which a variety of mental routines, from the primary personality down through subpersonalities, archetypes, self-and-other models, and mere invoked talents interact to create the mentality entire. Selfness – the location of primary executive function – migrates during mental processing between these routines, with that most apt to handle the present situation taking a foreground role under, in healthy minds, the guidance of the primary personality.

Overshadowing functions by introducing one or more additional viral routines (similar to a gnostic overlay) into this chorus, which can take control in unguarded moments and carry out its programmed functions while making full use of its host’s memory base, invoked talents, and in sophisticated examples, even higher-level routines to determine ways and means.

The true horror of this is seen after the fact: in conscious sophonts, the consciousness loop functions as a journal file recording and organizing mental processing into a self-narrative, and such consciousness loops assume that all mental processing is legitimate mental processing. As the cliché goes, you can’t perceive that you’re insane. As such, from the conscious perspective, the host perceives the actions of the viral routine as their own, and will weave them into their self-narrative with such post-hoc rationalizations as are required to make them fit.

As such, while no civilized polity would hold an individual ethically responsible for actions taken while overshadowed, it is often very difficult to persuade overshadowing victims that this is the case, especially since secondary mental structures may have formed to support the rationalizations, leaving behind motivations for a given behavior even after the viral routine which initiated in the past has been removed. For this reason, treatment is a lengthy process requiring sophisticated mind-state analysis, preferably including differential analysis against pre-infection backups.

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed.

Money, Money, Money

A longer-than-fits-in-the-margin response to a comment on the last post:

How do you make money, the symbol of exchange-value, properly match the actuality of exchange-value?

Have a fully backed currency (eg gold) and do really nasty things to anyone who so much as thinks of the possibility of maybe theoretically devaluing (read: cheating) it.

Not only no, but hell no.

What is a currency? Well, it’s a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value, each of which has its own requirements. To function as a reliable store of value requires, inter alia, that its value remain stable across time.

This has generally proven problematic for both fiat and commodity (i.e., including “backed”) currencies. But first, let’s look at what that definition actually means. A single unit of currency is nominally a quantum of exchange-value, representing 1/[money supply]th of total exchange-value. So what’s total exchange-value?

Answer: total exchange-value is the production of the entire economy denominated in that currency; all the goods and services which people are willing to trade for using it.

To be a reliable store of value implies that what yesterday’s unit exchanged for today’s unit will also exchange for, and that tomorrow’s unit will exchange for what today’s unit exchanges for. To make this happen, ceteris paribus, the money supply must precisely track total exchange-value.

(There are obvious complications in accounting for this, inasmuch as it should, for example, avoid changing the value of money due to secular expansion and contraction of the economy, but should not attempt to compensate for, for example, decreases in prices due to, say, increased resource availability or improvements in total factor productivity. Which is to say, you have to carefully separate authentic shifts in value from those which are merely caused by your own scarcity mismatching. But let us assume away these complications for now.)

This is problematic for fiat currencies partly because figuring out total exchange-value is a hard problem (we do it, for example, mostly by looking at long-term price changes after the fact and applying a bugger factor by eyeball), but mostly because governments find it very hard to resist the urge to screw around with monetary policy. And inflation is awfully convenient if you get to keep the seigniorage, since it essentially functions as a stealth asset tax.

Aurifer was built to solve the former problem; the latter one? Well, that one is hard unless you happen to have people who really, really love money to put in charge and prevent it from being debased.

This is really problematic for commodity currencies, though, because you can’t control the money supply at all. What you have is what you get, and the value of your currency wanders all over the map just like the price of every other commodity. As Robert Houghton mentioned in the previous post’s comments, the experience of the Spanish post-Mesoamerican conquest is instructive, as their gold-glut-driven hyperinflation is the perfect go-to example for “but though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy”.

Which is to say: properly-managed fiat (which isn’t really fiat at all, because it is backed by something, just something abstract – which is what really backs all currencies, in the end – but I digress) may not be the best game in town for a reliable store of value, it’s just the only game in town.

Electronic currencies can be messed with, and the only reason the Eldraeverse gets away with it is because the guys obsessed with things like the rule of law, property rights and such also just so happen to be the top dog.

Technically, the Empire gets away with it because they just so happen to have the aforementioned money-lovers and a friendly fiscal god, not to mention the real check-and-balance, a free market in currencies rather than a de jure or de facto state monopoly.

The rest of the Worlds may, and indeed does, vary.

(We shall avoid making jokes about the volatility of the one mercury-based currency out there, or the stability of those based on (radioactive) power metals.

But we shall take a moment to note that the ergcred goes into crisis with every new power-plant megastructure that comes on line, the Bantral labor-hour [back when the People’s State was a going concern] traded externally for rather less than Chthonic Railway tokens, the linobir bloodnote’s worth depends on which clan issued it and what they’ve killed recently – as is its physical makeup, more often than not – the gAu’s value is inversely proportional to distance from the Core Markets, and the Kameqan thal is worth EXACTLY WHAT LORD BLACKFALL SAYS IT IS.)

IRL, gold will probably do just fine if the population keeps growing to keep pace (roughly) with the amount of gold out there (don’t forget, hardly anything reacts with / corrodes it). The Eldraeverse is often just a tad more utopian however.

Though mind you, the energy cost of stripping a planet / solar system / whatever of all its gold is going to be pretty high, perhaps even to the point where it’s not cost-effective to do so. The highest figure I’ve seen for gold on Earth is ~2.5 million tonnes (the lower figures are under 10% of that however), discounting the estimated 20mt in ocean water (GLHF filtering all that though)… combine that with the likelihood of finding much gold in asteroids (probably low, assuming denser asteroids tend to form / hit planets earlier than lighter ones), and there may not be THAT much [insert rare metal here] available.

This turns out not to be the case.

The best estimates I’ve seen for mined gold through all human history is on the order of 180,000 tonnes, with the USGS estimating that there’s maybe 50,000 more to mine, with some awaiting discovery on top of that. Not counting currently unexploitable sources like ocean water or mining the planetary core.

Let’s look at one particular example right here in our solar system: 16 Psyche. That particular asteroid is a nickel-iron metallic (i.e., probably chunk of the core of a protoplanet), and as such is much higher grade ore for both iron and all the other metals amalgamated into it than anything that exists on Earth now, and probably ever. It’s also about 120 miles across.

The iron alone is worth about $10 quintillion, before we even start looking at the gold and other precious metals. Ain’t no population can fuck fast enough to keep pace with that.

(On one hand, I might be stacking the deck a little since 16 Psyche is by far the biggest metallic asteroid out there. On the other hand, it’s a quintillion-dollar motherlode of the kind of ore that makes smelters do the dance of joy that is sitting right there, right now, just waiting to ruin incautious commodity traders’ whole decade, and there’s no point in pretending it ain’t.)

tl;dr When I wrote that the Age of Space was accompanied by the price of gold dropping to around where the price of iron used to be, and the price of iron zeroed out, I wasn’t just pulling numbers out of my ass.

(In-‘verse, when they want to drive this point home to people from peripheral worlds, they take them to see Celestial Mechanics, ICC’s main gravity tractor. The one that uses about 10% of Earth’s entire historical gold production – or a little over twice the total US gold reserves – neatly divided into kiloton slugs, as ballast.

This is assuming they didn’t get the point when some scruffy free trader filled his hold with exotic native handicrafts in exchange for the spare set of trimming weights that’d been slopping around the ship’s locker since ever, for a cool 10,000% profit margin.)

Fully backed (and crypto-) currencies are also nice in that nobody has central control over them when it comes to policies like printing money. Oh sure, you could have built up a secret stash of gold/BTC/etc, but that’s not nearly as easy as typing a few numbers into a computer to create new money. Plus, someone might (a) realise this, and factor your secret stash into the market prices, (b) steal it, or (c) destroy it (insert Bond reference here ).

That same quality, though, makes them lousy stores of value, because without the ability to match the money supply to the total exchange-value, you end up with either inflation, or deflation, or worse, both. Cryp has its virtues in terms of fiscal stealth, and as an investment, but it sucks as currency, because it fails one of the major purposes of the stuff.

Finally, stuff like gold has the handy trait of working at much simpler tech levels, for want of a better phrase. If that Carrington Event fries an eldrae colony’s electronics and they’re out of touch for a year (I’m sure they have fancy solutions, but it’s the principle not the specifics I’m concerned with), gold will still work just fine.

The solution is called “use the coinage as coinage without verifying it for the moment”. It’s not like the Empire wasn’t using gold, etc., coinage for centuries before anyone invented practical electricity.

But they were also aware that what gave that currency its value wasn’t the metal, it was the little engraving saying “By Our Imperial Word, One Esteyn”. Now that’s a promise you can take to the bank.

But it turns out that creating a liminal hyperintelligence that indwells your currency such that it can regulate its own value from a fiscally omniscient perspective works modestly well

I’m just a bit dubious about how this might work across anything more than planetary distances. Surely lightspeed lag would cause problems if this currency is seeing a lot of use? “Fiscally omniscient” sounds iffy to me.

There is FTL communication available, note (see “tangle channels”), but the important thing to make this work is that the instance-syncing can keep up with the speed of economic transactions. Where there’s light-lag, Aurifer’s instances updating each other is slower, but so is transaction clearing, so it can still keep up.

The Lover of Money

“How do you make money, the symbol of exchange-value, properly match the actuality of exchange-value? Every civilization struggles with that, except the ones who give up and treat the mismatch as an opportunity to steal from the future… But it turns out that creating a liminal hyperintelligence that indwells your currency such that it can regulate its own value from a fiscally omniscient perspective works modestly well. Once people come to terms with the notion of spending tiny particles of god, anyway.”

Rilia Cheraelar, Economist Excellence,
on Aurifer, the Fiscal Mind

The Sleepers’ Deal

The third Cirys sphere in the known galaxy, unless you count the one the Photonic Network have under construction, is to be found in an unconnected system, perhaps twenty light-orbits to nadir of the Qulomna Maze. A computronium matrioshka, this is the “homeworld” of the Sleeper Estivation, one of the better-known of the elder races. Not that that’s saying much.

It can even be visited. There’s a dedicated lighthugger route out of Empta (Qulomna Maze)along which Equivalent Exchange makes a run every fifty years. At no charge to her typical half-dozen or so passengers, moreover – the crew are paid well in high-level computation or fragments of forgotten lore, enough to make them wealthy beyond the dreams of antimatter merchants.

And why would you want to take five decades out of your life to visit it? Well, because the Estivation has an offer for you. No strings attached.

They will tune your mind. Submit a copy of your mind-state to the Sleepers, and they will return you better. Able to think faster, and more clearly, creatively, intuitively, incisively. More perfectly attuned to your goals. The you that you wish you were. (People have investigated many of these copies for hidden traps over the centuries, and none have ever been found.) And finally, since it’s a copy, not a live edit, you don’t have to replace yourself with the new, improved you unless you think it really is an improvement.

Everyone does, of course. The Sleepers are very good at what they do.

And the price? Ah, there’s the catch — you let them keep a copy of you.

Hopeless optimists like to think the Sleepers are bored and lonely, and want company in their virtuality. Less naïve souls assume that the mind-states are being strip-mined for knowledge about the state of the galaxy, amusing memories, or software components. Or, if you listen to the cynical, there’s nothing to say that they aren’t being used in societum simulations, as sophont gamepieces or creativity farms, turned into infovore chow, or brute-force simulated across a trillion death-cubes by postsophont scientists caring nothing for lesser minds.

But then, that’s someone else’s debt to pay now, isn’t it?

Cultural Crossovers #13: Captain America – Civil War

Here we go again, into – this time – a land of some controversy:

  • Your codewords are pleasantly random, but the ISS would have picked a language that wasn’t theirs to use. Of course, Russian Hydra was probably trying to frame the rest of Russia.
  • We do love paranoia jokes.
  • The Falcon’s drone is adorable. So is the (later) fact that he named it.
  • Angry man with a power fist.
  • Moving things with your mind, eh, everyone does that. Molecular sorting with your mind, now that’s special.
  • Grenade in your own still-manned vehicle? Ah, Hydra. An organization that somehow persists despite being most lethal to its own men and contractors.
  • Aww, thank the drone. Machines need love too.
  • Oops.
  • That is some nifty sophotechnology.
  • Also, Tony Stark continues to act like a plutarch, seeding the future. Looks like his relationship is not in good shape, though, which, shit.
  • Yes, that was entirely Tony’s fault. Not like Ultron had, y’know, free will or anything, even if his creation was, charitably, a Very Bad Idea.
  • Okay, is everyone on this planet stupid? The only person who can reasonably be held responsible for those deaths was the guy who set off the bomb vest; the only legitimate criticism of the Scarlet Witch is that she didn’t save as many people as she could theoretically have saved in the optimal case – despite saving the crowded marketplace – and the only one in a position to expect perfection is a god.
  • Someone give that girl a hug, an explanation of the above, and arrange some more training scenarios.
  • And seriously, has no-one heard of collateral budgets? Because the alternative scenario here has Hydra walking away with a bioweapon, which I’m sure would end with hugs and bunnies.
  • Basically, RATIONALITY TRAINING FOR THE EARTHLINGS, PLEASE.
  • Hey, you didn’t say “through the door”.
  • Oh, god, it’s you. This will go well.
  • Ah, yes, here come the control freaks trying to use this to seize authority they haven’t earned. Rather the opposite, in fact.
  • Well, we’d call ’em “awesome adventurers”.
  • The only thing worse than trying to guilt people with pictures of them saving millions of lives is that they actually buy into this bullshit.
  • Do you seriously think you have any jurisdiction over Thor?
  • Correlation, causation, and also how is oversight supposed to prevent challenges? Especially when for a lot of that time they had oversight, and look how that worked out.
  • Oh, Tony, what the hell happened to you? You used to get it. Now you want to hand over control to the same people you once flipped off in Congress? So you fucked up once; unstir your damn brains. And do whatever you have to do to get Pepper back, for the love of hats. She betters you.
  • Yes, it’s the UN. A different, bigger collective-irresponsibility organization. Responsibility is always personal. Also, how many of those 117 delegations do you think might be, in the light of past history, Hydra-influenced?
  • And Agent Carter delivers Best Quotation posthumously: “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, *you* move’.” Now there’s something worthy of a standing ovation.
  • Captain America: still the best followee.
  • So: back under control or a fake?
  • You really didn’t agree with your father about the accords, huh?
  • And the first thing the new boss does is issue a kill-on-sight order for someone known to have been involuntarily brainwashed. Nice ethics, there.
  • Guess it was a fake, if Zemo is still learning to pronounce the command codewords.
  • And they’re also making the same mistakes as Hydra, like sending a bunch of mooks after the guy who they ought to know is capable of kicking all their asses.
  • Still make a pretty good team, huh?
  • Oh, look. New player. With shiny new claws.
  • Well, that’s one way to requisition a car.
  • In the next week, local clinics will be full of people who tried mounting skimmers the way Bucky just mounted a motorcycle. (A week after that, the microskillware goes on sale.)
  • “You’re a criminal.” “…and a good man.” At least if anyone imported Pirates of the Caribbean, too.
  • So, maybe the answer is synthetic amygdalas all around.
  • Oh, so you’re the smiley jailer? Cute.
  • Again, T’Challa, brainwashed.
  • Ah, yes, “due process”. We have dismissed that claim. You’re a Ross, all right.
  • Ah, this is a bifurcated-qalasír tragedy after all. The mistakes love helps us make…
  • That’d be a pinch, and your vetting procedures suck.
  • A wristwatch repulsor. Nice.
  • Is that… Howard Stark’s attempt to recreate the super-soldier serum? Shit, Hydra are lucky they didn’t end up with a whole pile of Crimson Crania. Or Hulks, funny as that might be.
  • The mantle of “government stooge” fits you poorly, Tony. Especially for that jackass.
  • Everyone’s doing insect themes these days.
  • Secret identities; still less than explicable. Also, curious view of responsibility, but the urge underneath kinda-sorta translates.
  • Thanks, Clint. Haven’t heard many people make that much sense today.
  • And, Vision, seriously. You haven’t figured out doors, but you’re entirely clear on emotional manipulation?
  • We very much like Agent Carter Jr.
  • Yep, there’s the other insect dude. And, man, this is the whole collection of people who do the right thing in the technically wrong way for unapproved reasons.
  • Brainwashed, dammit, does no-one remember that?
  • Right there with you, Spider-Man. And why not have a chat during a fight? Just don’t get distracted.
  • You know, those cars belong to someone. I mean, a certain amount of collateral damage, sure, but still.
  • Yes, please read the hazard markings before throwing things.
  • Oh, yes, the collective good. The favorite excuse of everyone wanting to do the individual bad. Damn utilitarians.
  • Uh, he ran because you were trying to kill him, maybe?
  • The only way for an ant to fly!
  • We’re with Spider-Man on the holy shit quotient of that one.
  • (We’re not even asking how badly that screws physics.)
  • Yes, Vision, a catastrophe you helped induce by your actions to prevent a catastrophe. Please consider this a learning experience.
  • And does anyone on the planet except Cap understand what brainwashing is? And that the person who undergoes it is also a victim of one of the worst crimes possible? Someone who is by definition not culpable? Someone you help?
  • And it’s a big submerged gulag for the Avengers. The audience is pretty damn sure Ross has been pleasuring himself nightly to the thought of this place ever since we first met him back in The Incredible Hulk. Nice choice of people to align with, Tony. Seriously.
  • Well, ain’t that interesting. But then, we figured personal revenge was on the menu as soon as we heard “Sokovian”.
  • Oh, gods, the sheer exquisite cruelty of it. Zemo, you bastard. For all the ethics of it, hearts in the audience are bleeding for Tony right now. Well, for everyone, really, but…
  • …and even for Zemo.
  • The humanity of Earth’s justice continues to impress. Just kill the poor bastard. He’s already lost everything but his life; torturing him subsequently is in even poorer taste than usual.
  • Nicely done, Cap, both the rescue and the reaching out. Also, graciously done, T’Challa, for forgoing revenge in favor of helping another victim, even if belatedly.

So, from the Imperial perspective, a magnificent movie. But gods’ teeth, what a tragedy, and while there is no question as to which side the audience will come down on, the sympathy is felt all around.

(And the audience is culturally primed to expect the Subsequent Triumph, and the Redemptive Actions of Tony Stark. It will not be happy if it doesn’t get ’em.)