Copier Humor

The Rogue State’s Guide To Imperial Diplomacy

diplomatic cruiser: an embassy with guns on it

diplonought: an embassy with continent-cracking guns on it

neutral: a place where you don’t shoot at the embassy, and it doesn’t shoot back

ally: a place where the upgunned embassy is probably on your side

client-state: a place where the upgunned embassy is definitely on your side

satrapy: a place where they don’t bother putting guns on the embassy

diplomatic immunity: a courtesy awarded by host nations to diplomats in return for the reciprocal courtesy

diplomatic impunity: “I have a dreadnought. Your argument is invalid.”

peace delegation: see diplonought

– printout found in a duplicator, Conclave Drift

Winds of Winter

“Eight million esteyn,” Merith Amézel said, gazing out at the blanket of white dusted across the plaza, hiding the mosaic that, on clear days, reflected the Thunderbird Applied Meteorology logo. “Eight million. That is what your damnfool stunt cost us.”

A cough came from behind him, but he didn’t turn.

“Let’s recap, shall we? You retasked three orbital mirrors and four echelon mirror systems to heat the ocean and put moisture into the air, along with creating shepherding air currents to ensure the moist air traveled along the right path and gained enough altitude to freeze. You redirected upper-atmosphere vectors across half the southern continent to put a cold downdraft in the right place to drop the ground temperature, and then deployed half the local fleet of cloud-seeding drones to ensure it precipitated out as snow directly over Cant Maris. Then used the same systems again to wrench those upset weather patterns mostly back into place. Do I have that right?”

“I also,” a soft voice said, “had the area swept with laser brooms to make sure we had a clear, bright sky today.”

“And you had the area laser-swept.” He turned, at last, and fixed the dar-e’sevdra standing before his desk with a gimlet eye. “At a total cost of eight million, one hundred and forty-two thousand, nine-hundred eighty-five esteyn, and requiring your co-workers to spend something like the next two months working overtime to get the ripples damped. Would you care to justify this series of actions?”

The feathers on his errant Regional Weather Supervisor’s wings ruffled, but she stood firm, and looked him in the eye. Merith approved.

“No justification. I take full responsibility for my actions, and -“

“No, Regional Weather Supervisor Leiril, I’m not looking for a formality to put on your contract termination. It’s your motives that I want to know.”

“The new colonists.”

“The ones who came in from Tessil on Wind-Carried Leaf?

“I had a few drinks with a group of them a couple of weeks ago, and they were talking about never seeing snow at Winterlights on Tessil, and how disappointed they were that they still wouldn’t, Cant Maris being in the southern hemisphere, so I thought maybe….”

“…you could give that to them?”


Merith’s lips quirked. “A rather better reason than most. Very well. Consider yourself relieved of duty for the next two weeks, and we will be exercising clause 4/v/i of your contract with respect to a penalty equivalent to two months’ average consideration. Dismissed.” He swiveled back around to face the window, and the blanket of snow beyond.

What!? I, uh, mean – what? The cost…”

“Did you think you were the only one?” he said, noting approvingly a group in the distance negotiating the terms of a snowball-deléhain. “We’ve given ourselves near-godlike command of the forces of nature, and temptation is what it is. Everyone who’s ever made it to Senior Regional Supervisor has a wild-weather incident on their record, so we budget for them. One wild-weather incident,” he added warningly. “But we can hardly be more severe to you than we all have been to ourselves.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” She paused for a moment. “If I may ask – what was yours?”

“Extreme skywriting.” Merith grinned at her over his shoulder. “Look it up in the records, if you like. Now leave an old man to watch his clients play.”

Worldbuilding: Theory of Mind

So, let’s talk about Theory of Mind.

Well, okay, not that theory of mind. The theory of how minds work in the ‘verse, and so the theory behind most sophotechnology, since this topic has come up on the Discord recently.

(Much of the below was heavily inspired by Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels, in my opinion one of the best pieces of SF exploring psychology and cognition. I heartily recommend it.)

The first division sophotechnologists make in analyzing mind-states is logos and psyche, or to give them their longer names, personality organization algorithm and incrementing memory string.

The logos has been discussed before. It is, for sophont minds, where the magic happens. Volition, paracausality, nondeterminism, all that good stuff. It’s also a seed crystal for mind. Drop a logos into a free energy medium where quantum computation is possible, and it’ll start spinning out mind around itself, like a seed crystal in a supersaturated solution. This is how digisapiences are made, for example.

It is also, unfortunately, mostly a black box, although some studies and classifications of it have been made from the outside. (Imagine how pleased that makes the AI wakeners.) Further study is ongoing, but poses both extreme technical and equally extreme ethical problems.

The psyche is everything else. So what is everything else?

(Actually, let’s get one special case out of the way first. That special case is the consciousness loop, a specialized agent which organizes your narrative thread of consciousness. This is the agent which is responsible for autosentience – self-awareness – to whatever degree you have it, that endless stream of status updates on your thoughts that runs through your head.

Note: it’s not in charge of anything. It’s just a glorified journal file that brings order to chaos. This is why those experiments seem to show that you acted before you thought of acting; the decision was made elsewhere in the psyche. What you think is you thinking of something is actually just that thought being written to the log…

…humans do not have very good autoscience. For one thing, just think of the sheer amount of cognitive activity going on that you remain completely unaware of.

And for that matter, autoscience is not a strictly necessary part of minds at all! Self-awareness is not a prerequisite of even quite advanced cognition, although it is needed for sophoncy.)

The psyche is essentially a Minskian society of mind, a frothing sea of agents – mental subroutines – running independently and, for the most part, in parallel. Individual agents are no more than scraps of mental code – major mental structures come from their agglomeration into larger routines of various types: talents, memes, memories, subpersonalities, and so forth. The interaction of all of these, the chorus, produces the mind as we know it.

The most basic agents arise from evolution and brain structure. Some remain that simple all the way through: the agent responsible for, say, heartbeat doesn’t need much more to perform its function. Others are spun out by the logos – simple builders, shapers, generators. Yet more are generated by other agents or higher structures, the mind shaping itself according to archetype and input from memory and sensorium.

But the key to understanding the mind is the higher structures. These include:

Primary personality: The primary personality isn’t, if we’re being strictly technical, very different from a subpersonality in structure; its distinction is that it has emerged during individuation as the dominant voice in the chorus. It is the structure most readily identifiable with the conscious self, but that’s at best only a limited part of the picture – it spends much of its time enmeshed with subpersonalities, talents, and agents all of which color it a great deal, and of course also with the logos.

Subpersonality: Among the largest of structures, each reflecting a major personality aspect. (You can find a whole bunch of Jungian archetypes here.) Probably the best known are the animus/anima/animin, the gender-modeling routines, but there are also things like occupations (your “on-the-job” personality), parental models, your with-this-group-of-close-friends personality, etc., etc. They aren’t independent; they mesh with and color the primary personality when brought forward.

(If one were to devise a theory to explain plurality/dissociative identity disorder in this paradigm it would be subpersonalities which had grown to the point of overshadowing the primary, or become independent primaries; they may also have accompanying sets of talents which are exclusively or mostly-exclusively invoked by them, which adds to the complexity when it comes to determining legal divergence of identity.

This is also something that can be and is done intentionally to produce useful mental subfunctions, similar to Aristoi’s daimones.)

Talents: Talents are smaller complexes of agents encapsulating particular skills, or parts of a skill, called forth when they are required. “Skill” for these purposes includes instincts, emotions, and so on and so forth. “Anger” is a talent – or set of talents – every bit as much as, say, “Tying a Tie” or “Tightrope Walking”, or “Administering Kubernetes Clusters”. They are not necessarily passive; the “situational awareness” talent-cluster is entirely capable of making itself known when other cognitive activity triggers it, for an obvious example.

Memes and memories are both actually subclasses of talents, in this sense: a meme is simply a talent encapsulating an idea, much as a memory is simply a talent encapsulating a remembered concept, in each case along with its various associative linkages. These are mostly passive until something happens to poke their associative linkages: things like PTSD are what happens when they aren’t passive enough and force themselves on the primary personality.

The talent class also includes mental models, mini-eidolon talents formed in the image of other minds for the purpose of predictive empathy.

Implications for Identity

Identity is… messy. Even identity of primary personality doesn’t constitute identity of identity, since there is so much else intermeshed with it that goes to make up the mind. Especially since, being a chorus, virtually all of the elements that go to make up a mind can be shared, even without going to the level of a conflux or a Fusion.

Thus, to a considerable degree, identity is also arbitrary.

For legal purposes, identity is defined by delta-divergence of the mind-state entire, even those parts that may be shared.

For practical purposes, individuality is defined by legal identity plus substrate separation. Hence, immediately after Bob forks, Bob is now a single identity, but two individuals.

Implications for Sophotechnology

This nature of the mind also enables other sophotechnologies. Situational subpersonalities and parapersonalities, for example, work by injecting a full subpersonality into the chorus. Skillware and microskillware operate by injecting talent-level routines, as does mnemonesis by injecting memory-formatted talents. Other technologies, like memory redaction, work by isolating and removing specific talents and patching the associative linkages; other thought-viruses add to these effects by temporarily suppressing some subpersonalities or talents and promoting others, while full psychedesign or meme rehab effects this permanently.

(This is a delicate art due to the complexity of the chorus and its internal balances, but it’s basically what therapy – making use of the mind’s self-editing capacity – and other psychiatric treatment is doing now, indirectly, rather than by direct mental surgery.)

Even such interface technologies as cathexis, synnoesis and vastening work, ultimately, by integrating outside cognition into the chorus, as do collective-consciousness systems like confluxes, Fusions, and the Transcendent soul-shard. (Although with that last we then get into the complexities of soul hierarchies, which is beyond the topic of this post.)


“A number of high-biotech polities have taken the immune system as a model for their military forces. What seems an exotic, even amusing quirk when looked at from the point of view of rank titles and equipment designations is much less amusing when you’re drowning in sticky goo, encapsulated, and actively being digested.”

– A Virus Speaks: A Memoir of the Myriasoma War