How I Met Your Mother

The air whirred when she stepped into the room.

That wasn’t all that unusual. Lots of bravos would spin a sphere or two around their heads as an impromptu weapon or threat display. Some of the more dangerous ones could manage three, with a coin-flip chance on whether what made them dangerous was the odds of them losing their grip on the third.

She had twelve.

Not sharing a track, either, like an idiot’s shotgun. She had them spinning at different angles, weaving in and out of intersecting orbits, in what was on one hand a breathtaking display of psychokinetic prowess, and on the other hand was a blatant statement that she could kill everyone in the bar between one breath and the next.

Cocky bastard, thought I. Then again, I bought her a drink.

Air Wings Sold Separately

Bringing the what-the to warfare once again, and following on from both the unquestionable success of Nuclear War In A Can™, and their earlier semi-portable combat drone product Janissary In A Drum™, Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC once again provides a new terror to the battlefield with the release of Brigade In A Bottle™.

Another in their line of self-decompressing nanopaste products, Brigade In A Bottle™ is a pre-programmed assembler system designed to be supplied with raw materials (chiefly metals and industrial plastics, although the paste is designed to forage; the accompanying manual suggests junkyards, disused factories, and captured enemy equipment as potential sources) and electrical power in the field. When these are supplied, the paste uses fast-burn nanoassembly techniques to manufacture, in a matter of hours, a brigade-sized mixed unit (a fighting strength of 4,664) of Jaeger 4400 mechagrunts and Warg 216-A hunter-killer houndbots, primed with command codes ready to join your tactical mesh.

The experienced reader may perceive the single flaw in the product: these are last-generation combat mechanicals, rather than the sleek leading-edge machines you might expect from a company with Eye-in-the-Flame’s reputation. As the product developer explains, though, this is a side-effect of the rough and ready, error-prone nature of field nanoconstruction, which cannot accurately reproduce recipes with the fine tolerances and exacting detail available in commercial nanofacture. As Brigade In A Bottle™ is chiefly intended for use in the creation of disposable shock troops for use in on-alert security systems, diversionary maneuvers, emergency reinforcement, and asymmetric warfare, this may not prove too great an impediment to its success.

– product announcements column, “Destruction Review”

Undistress (1)

IMS Sukórya’s Joy, Cerulean Ocean, 1340 Gradakhmath 3

It began with a signal.

We were three days out of the White Silver Gates when the signal came in. It was late, but while I would have usually been manning the wireless office alone, my junior, Shioi Morotai, was working with me that evening. We had a full load of moguls aboard on the Sybarite Deck keeping in touch with their offices, and a fever for the novelty of a wirelessgraph had swept the rest of the ship, keeping us working at the message backlog.

The hour was rising into Candleglass when the alerter rang. I glanced by instinct over at the dedicated set tuned to the distress frequency, but it was cold, with nothing but a soft hiss coming from the monitor. Next to it, though, the company set was lit up and blatting out our callsign.

I gestured Shioi to take over the message I was transmitting, and she slipped into my place in a moment, picking up in mid-word without hesitation, while I grabbed a message pad and shifted my headset’s plug to the company set, just in time for the callsign to break into a high-speed spatter of dits and dahs.

Looking back on it, that should have been suspicious. I knew the hand of all the company operators, and this was none of them. More than that, Shioi had the finest and fastest hand of them all, and even she couldn’t have produced a signal so perfectly regular, or transmitted the meaningless cipher-groups as quickly and cleanly as a message in clear.

The message repeated twice, then came to an end. I checked my transcription against itself, then ran it through the cipherwheel, and gaped at the result:

EX ILDATHACH / FARCANTER LINES / COMMODORE — IN SUKÓRYA’S JOY / MASTER — PRIORITY — BE ADVISED WE HAVE RECEIVED THREAT TO VESSEL — MEASURES UNDERWAY TO NEUTRALIZE — PROCEED TO POSITION 077.4 DEGREES 2,320 MILES FOR RENDEZVOUS WITH SUPPORT — MARIATIS — ESSENTIAL ONLY NECESSARY CREW INVOLVED AND PASSENGERS NOT INFORMED OF THIS — MAKE NO FURTHER COMMUNICATIONS REGARDING THIS MATTER — THESE INSTRUCTIONS HIGHEST MANDATORY PRIORITY — ENDS.

The message made no sense on its face. I looked again at the nonsense word in the middle, though, spun the locks on the safe by my knee, and pulled out the envelope inside, the code words shared only between Farcanter Line ships and the fleet commodore. The red card within bore a single word.

MARIATIS

– Olivét Cendriane, wireless second, eighteen hours before the event

Learn To Live With Them

‘Live free or die’ is a statement of ideals and preferences. It is not, and never will be, the policy of this corporation.

Esémélí Estantel,
syndic of the Riverside Eubiosis Foundation,
in a Corporate Conflux debate over the marketing of life-extension technologies,
beyond the Consensual Cultural Region

Better Than Vacuum

roidsteel: The worst metal in space.

Roidsteel is spacefarer’s pot metal, refined using crude field techniques from sideritic asteroids. (The term roidsteel derives from the largely nickel-iron composition of such bodies.) The “classic”, if such a term applies, refinement of roidsteel calls for melting the body using a solar mirror, while spinning it to concentrate and rake off stony slag, and finally forming it into ingots or sheets by thrust-forging. In practice, the production method varies widely, since roidsteel is a staple of field repairs carried out with inadequate equipment.

The properties of roidsteel cannot be given exactly, since the composition of each sideritic asteroid differs, and the production of roidsteel rarely makes any attempt to control its composition beyond basically nickel-iron; substantial quantities of various impurities – often valuable metals in their own right – are always present. Thus unreliable, the accepted uses of roidsteel are cobbling together an emergency hull patch, armor plate, or spar to enable one to limp to a nearby cageworks, at which point the roidsteel can be sold at average-density value to a refiner and a proper repair be implemented.

Should someone attempt to sell you goods made from roidsteel, take your leave and don’t look back.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

First Factor

There are those who have commented extensively on the military advantages, when considering the rise of the Empire, of highly disciplined legionaries able to cast obstacles aside or strike down enemies with lightning, all through force of will.

Far fewer have considered the greater advantage, in economic terms, of the humble farmer who, from his hilltop, may plough and seed a hundred furrows with a gesture.

“From the Mud to the Stars: An Agricultural History”, Ailil Ophris-ith-Ophris

Give It Time

This is a little pastiche of Plutarch on Alexander the Great that I hacked together as a brief illustration of attitudinal differences. I like it enough to share it:

“Alphas grinned when he heard from his astronomers that there were billions of worlds in the heavens; and when his friends asked him the cause of his mood, he answered: do you not think it a worthy challenge that there are billions of worlds to conquer, when we have not yet conquered one?”

Synnas Anaxianos, The City and the World

Shell Game

90. Don’t play the shell game on Paltraeth. They use a different kind of shells.

145 Things Not To Be Done In The Associated Worlds

The Paltraeth variant of the game is played using three obsolete artillery shells and a sledgehammer. In theory, one of the shells has been defused, and the challenge is to find the dud. In practice, this is a con trick with extra concussion.

It is inadvisable to play this variant without quality armor and a current mind-state backup.

A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Intellect Property

DORJE (FREE VERGE) – In a punitive innovation repugnant to all civilized polities, Corporate Fejj-Doval (a major corpclan on Dorje, an associate world of the Rim Free Zone, specializing in deprecated media) has posted the mind-state of one Parden il Vrane par tak, formerly par Fejj-Doval, for public extranet download. Fejj-Doval alleges that il Vrane had been maintaining a blacknet publishing intellectual property held by them, although in accordance with Dorjan custom, they were not required to demonstrate this in order to secure an arrest order against il Vrane, and goes on to state that in accordance with the principle that “he who obstructs trade becomes trade”, he who appropriates their intellectual property becomes their intellectual property, to dispose of as they will.

It is estimated that up to eight million copies of il Vrane’s mind-state have been downloaded thus far.

While no official action has yet been taken by any star nation of the Worlds in response to the condemnation of Corporate Fejj-Doval by the Conclave of Galactic Polities, the Warden-Bastion Compact of private law providers, and treaty bodies in the Free Zone, at the time of writing no fewer than seven sequestered claims-of-responsibility have been deposited with Imperial banking institutions (most under 24 year expiration-disclosure) for eleemosynary hunter-killer worms designed to euthanize non-self authorized il Vrane instances.

– from the Independent Worlds Router, early 7131

Hustle

Opportunity Profits

In the Thousand Precise Protocols of the Integral Accountant, opportunity profits are defined as effectively the opposite of opportunity costs,

Opportunity costs represent the potential value one misses out upon when choosing one alternative over another. Because opportunity costs are, by definition, unseen, they can be easily overlooked. Understanding the potential missed opportunities when one chooses one path, or one investment, over another allows for better decision-making.

Opportunity profits, therefore, represent the value one gains from choosing and acting upon an alternative, which, implicitly, other people have thus far chosen not to pursue. For example, an odocorp which constructs a bridge over a river reaps, in addition to the profits deriving directly from the construction and operation of the structure, but also an opportunity profit; their legitimate reward for having demonstrated foresight in seeing the need, willingness to accept the risks involved in the investment, and the boldness to seize the opportunity.

Perhaps the most famous example of opportunity profits (other than the Empire’s major odocorps) would be those of Ring Dynamics, ICC, whose seizure of the opportunity of the moment to parlay their development of stargate technology into a long-lasting dominance of interstellar transport is, if you will pardon the expression, textbook; although this also provides an example of a lost opportunity profit, since the Laserider Network lost its investment in the deep space lasers rendered obsolete by the advent of the stargates.

– from an introductory Imperial economics textbook, circa 3000

Following The Money

From: Toríno Lanada (Economic Attaché [Vonis Prime Mission], Diplomatic Attachment WG, Active Operations PWG, Second Directorate)
Memeweave: All-Seeing Eye/Voniensa Republic/General
Cc: Intentions Analysis PWG
Subject: Shell colony economic anomaly
Authenticity: 4E11; SENDER, RELAY (4/4), RECIPIENT
Security: EYES ONLY ORANGE ICE SHADOW
Distribution: Executive & Analysts
Date: 7142 Yrnaes 11, Studious falling 14

Be advised that as of this date we have identified and confirmed a number of anomalies in the financial reports submitted by a large number, approximately 20%, of the Republic’s Shell colonies to the Central Financial Group. Such anomalies (detailed documentation to follow by non-expendable communications) vary significantly in detail, but serve the identical function of minimizing the apparent economic product of the colonial economies in reports used by the Central Financial Group to determine the remittances due to the central governance.

This practice appears to have been adopted in the wake of the Council of the Republic’s decision to increase remittances (to a demand of 30% of economic product) to restore cuts made to Core system distributions, these cuts in turn having been made in order to fund the Fleet rebuilding programs called for after the Core War. Such restorations were necessitated by increasing social instability on several of the Republic’s most heavily populated Core systems, including Vonis Prime itself.

In light of the increasingly fragile state of the Republican economy and the increasing divisions now manifest between the Core systems and the Shell, I request greater resources be allocated to determining specific expected fracture points and shock vectors therefrom resulting, as well as additional asset allocations to prominent Shell colonies identified in the detailed documentation if Intentions Analysis concurs that these are high-probability event whenwheres.

– Lanada, ExSec

Haz Beans

Neither somewhere you can visit, nor even somewhere you can see up close – it being found deep within a restricted system – it would nonetheless be remiss to omit Ómílarith, the 14th moonlet of the gas giant Bunker (Arvael IV), in the Palaxias (Imperial Core) system.

It should be obvious from the massive docking facilities built into the moonlet’s northern pole and the radiator structures of its southern tip that it has long been converted to military purposes, as has much of the Palaxias System, but Ómílarith, unlike much of the Bunker sub-system, has not been converted for gas mining, nor for antimatter storage, and nor is it a simple warehouse like the structures that surround Depot (Arvael III) with a set of metallic rings.

It is, however, a cryonic storage facility, and one dedicated to a single good.

Bioweapons? No.

Milspec bodies? No.

Pharmaceuticals? No.

Ómílarith is home to the miles and miles of tunnels lined with cryocels, each holding in perfect preservation one more ton of the seed, the fruit-pip, of the Esklavea sendaren plant.

It is, after all, well-established that the Imperial Navy runs on esklav to a far greater extent that it does on deuterium, antimatter, or even paperwork. No-one is entirely certain what would happen should the beverage cease to flow – whether the Empire’s military operations would simply grind to a grouchy halt, or contrariwise, whether the Navy would sweep through known space like an angry, migrainous wildfire – but even fewer are willing to take the chance of finding out.

Against such mischance, the Imperial Strategic Bean Reserve stands ready.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

Selectivity

The Habtech’s Peace referred originally to an agreement brokered between the various mercenary companies engaged on each side during the months of drift-habitat fighting that characterized the latter phase of the Black Web War, and continues to refer to similar agreements (again, usually between mercenary groups) up to the present day.

Under a Habtech’s Peace, all combatants engaged in extended combat operations aboard a drift-habitat or other hostile-environment shelter agree to

  • refrain from using control over or sabotage of structural, main power, thermal control, life support, attitude control, or orbital maneuvering systems as a weapon of war;
  • refrain from conducting operations in such a way as to impair the operation, repair, or maintenance of these systems, or in a manner that places key elements of them at risk;
  • permit the passage of identified habitat technicians through and between the combat zone and occupied areas as necessary, without let or hindrance;
  • refrain from making use of identified habitat technicians as agents of sabotage or espionage;
  • actively refuse any offers of intelligence from identified habitat technicians;
  • and so forth.

The purpose of such an agreement should be obvious: operations in such environments offer all too many scenarios in which all sides of the conflict lose, in the destruction of the asset over which they are fighting and/or a mass-death event which destroys or renders combat-incapable both sides. Death for death’s sake is in no-one’s interest.

While combatants often cut a course very close to the line, a Habtech’s Peace is rarely violated, and in such cases mercenaries and mercenary-support organizations adherent to the Iron Concord will often join forces to punish the offender. (It is widely believed that the lack of participation of polity forces in these arrangements is due to the lack of ability – in most cases – to punish defectors.)

– from an article in Blood Cheques and Bullets, 7282Q1 issue

Give Way

“Okay, let’s go over how the traffic priority controls work. You can up-priority by paying a small fee, with a promise to pay more if your higher priority becomes relevant. The fee goes to us, the later charges to every vehicle that’s inconvenienced by yours. Or you can down-priority, which is free, but nets you a small payment every time the road-grid can pick you to ‘lose’ rather than another vehicle.

“But people don’t understand how the vehicle priority algorithm works underneath.

“It doesn’t affect vehicle speed, or routing, or any such. We can’t run vehicles efficiently at multiple speeds over the same roads, after all. No, what the traffic priority setting does is affect the way the road-grid handles resource-contention decisions where two vehicles require the same resource – odoblock, say – simultaneously, and resolving this deadlock require that one vehicle be selected to ‘lose’, which we define as a set of parameters including increased travel time, increased travel cost, vector changes outside the passenger comfort envelope, user preference deviations, and so forth. In those cases, the lowest priority ‘loses’, and where multiple vehicles share the same priority, a random function decides the loser.

“That’s a simplification, but it’s close enough to true. It’s most visible with emergency response vehicles, which naturally have a hard-coded top priority, but if you carefully study the patterns of traffic around some other vehicles over time, you can see the algorithm at work. Sleeper cars and fragile cargoes, for example, have their comfort envelopes weighted higher so other vehicles ‘lose’ to them when a maneuver is required. Bulk freight without deadlines is usually deprioritized for the potential savings, so statistically speaking, robotrucks ‘lose’ more than regular traffic.

“So why do people think that these don’t do anything?

“Well, how often do you think the road-grid system needs to make resource-contention decisions?”

– Eimil Murianos, odocorp engineer, IBC live interview

They Also Sell Anti-Shame Drugs

ATTENTION, SHOPPERS!

CUSTOMER CONFIDENTIALITY IS NOT GUARANTEED
BUT MAY BE PURCHASED AS A RANGE OF AFFORDABLE OPTIONS

Hush (Ex. 16)
No-one will be told that you were here, but your information will be retained in my records.

Shopper? I Hardly Know Her! (ExV. 256)
I will forget that you were here, and identifying information will be removed from my ledger; the purchase will be attributed to “Some One”. Your presence will also be deleted from security footage et al. Warning: control of your presence information with regard to infrastructure not owned by me is outside the scope of this option.

Passing Without Trace (ExV. 384)
As above, except that both identifying information and the item(s) in question will be removed from my ledger; the purchase will be listed as “Some One bought Some Thing”. To maintain ledger consistency, the identity of the items will also be removed from their record of purchase.

Concealing The Backtrail (ExV. 512)
As above, except that the identity of the supplier(s) of the item(s) will also be removed from the record of purchase.

As an extra-cost option to the above, I will also undertake to contact my supply chain for these items and purchase similar confidentiality services on your behalf. Pricing for such additional services will begin at cost plus ExV. 128 for the first hop (per item), with the per item charge doubling for each additional hop. Undertaking to purchase such confidentiality services does not imply that such services are or will be available, or that they are or will be effective; no warranty is implied.

SPECIAL OPTION: AUTOCONFIDENTIALITY

That’s Not Mine, Officer (ExV. 128)
Your purchase of these item(s) will be redacted from your memory and transaction records will be anonymized. (Custom inoffensive false-purchase records can be added as an extra-cost option. Memories not included.)

I Was Never Here (ExV. 256)
Your purchase of these item(s) and your presence here surrounding this transaction will be redacted from your memory. (Custom inoffensive false-purchase and false-supplier records can be added as an extra-cost option. Memories not included.)

A 12% discount applies if this option is purchased in combination with “Shopper? I Hardly Know Her!” or any of the options above which include it.

Induced Startup Dysphoria

Most bionic implants are designed to be controlled by simple mental commands in the same way as natural body parts; originally by painstaking training of the sensory and motor cortices to recognize the device and its functions, and in more recent times by engraving neuralware device drivers into the augmentee’s neural net. Either technique permits the use of an implanted device to be as easy and unconscious as flexing a muscle, rather than requiring the clumsy use of mnemonic sequences, narrative command phrases, or entoptic interfaces.

The problem with this, on the other hand, is that it bypasses the brain’s normal learning-to-mastery sequence, and until one is accustomed to the operation and functionality of such a device, it really shouldn’t be quite so easy and unconscious to use. That twitchy reflex that causes you to drop your drink and knock over your chair is merely a cause for mild embarrassment, whereas that twitchy reflex that causes you to pop off a cluster of micro-missiles and burn down the bar with your laser eyes is a cause for significantly more embarrassment, not to mention substantial liability and criminal charges.

Thus, induced startup dysphoria. This piece of neuralware exists to partially counter the effect of the neuralware drivers and make the implant feel unnatural and/or uncomfortable – to a mild degree, and continuously diminishing on a curve – for an appropriate acclimation period (usually defined in terms of a number of activation cycles) – in a manner which deters the brain from incorporating it into reflexive or non-deliberative-cognition-based actions until the augmentee has had the opportunity to properly internalize its functions. Mayhem beyond this point can safely be assumed to be intentional.

(Often, less scrupulous augmenteries in the black and red market segments omit the provision of an ISD module. It is unknown how many unintentional firefights this practice has started, but since many of these augmenteries leave the client’s new implant disabled until they have left the back office, it seems certain that they’re aware of the issue. As in every other business, you get what you pay for.)

– Augmentery’s Almanac

Parallelism

It’s about divergences in computer technology —

Or in other words, some conversations elsewhere have made it evident that it would be useful to have some of these things out here for discussion, and since this is going to involve comparisons to Earthling ways of doing things, it’s going to be a worldbuilding article rather than an in-universe one.

Some of this has been implied previously – for those of you who remember the little piece I wrote on programming languages in particular, in the opening phrase “The typical computer in use in the modern Empire remains the parallel array of binary-encoded Stannic-complete processors that has been in use since the days of the first settled Stannic cogitator architecture”.

So what does that actually mean?

Well, it means that while the individual elements of computation would be familiar to us – if you are reading this, you are almost certain to be doing so on something describable as a binary-encoded Stannic-complete processor – how they were arranged took a sharp left turn way back in the day.

Most of our computing is fundamentally serial. We may have fancy multicore processors these days, but we’re still pretty much scratching the surface or real parallelism; most systems are still operating in a serial paradigm in which you work on one task, switch to another, work on that, etc., etc. If you write a complex, multithreaded program, it may look like things are happening in parallel, but most of the time, they won’t be.

For various reasons – which may have something to do with the relative ease of adding power to the old brass-and-steam Stannic cogitators by adding more processor modules vis-à-vis trying to get faster reciprocation and higher steam pressures without exploding; or it may have something to do with older forms of computation involving hiring a bunch of smart lads and lasses from the Guild of Numbers and arranging them in a Chinese room; or… – once they got into the electronic (and spintronic, and optronic) era instead of trying to make faster and faster serial processors¹, designers concentrated on making processors – with onboard fast memory and communications links – that could be stacked up, networked, and parallelized really well, complete with dedicated hardware and microcode to manage interprocessor links.

(You could look at something like Inmos’s Transputer as similar to early examples of this.)

Open up an Imperial computer, you’ll find a neat little stack of processor modules meshed together, working away on things in parallel and passing messages back and forth to stay coordinated. In modern designs, they share access to a big block of “slow memory”, possibly via one or more partially-shared caches, just like here‘s multicore processors do, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of the parallel design.

And this architecture doesn’t change with scale, either. From the tiniest grain-of-rice picoframe found in any living object (three processing cores for redundancy, maybe even only one in the tiniest disposables) to the somewhere-between-building-and-city-sized megaframes running planetary management applications, they’re all built out of massively parallel networks of simple processing modules.

[Digression: this is also where the gentle art of computational origami comes into play. In the magical world in which the speed of light, bandwidth, and information density are conveniently infinite, you could fully mesh all your processing modules and everything would be wonderful. In the real world in which light is a sluggard and bit must be it, you can only have and handle so many short-range communications links – and so computational origami teaches you how to arrange your processing modules in optimally sized and structured networks, then stack them together in endless fractal layers for best throughput. More importantly, it teaches the processors how to manage this environment.]

[Second digression: having spent a lot of time and effort producing simple, networkable processor cores, this also rewrote a lot of how peripheral devices worked – because why would you waste a lot of time fabbing specialized silicon for disk controllers, or GPUs, or floating-point units, or whatever, when you could simply throw some processing cores in there with some “firmware” – for which read “software flagged as tied to hardware feature flag foo, instance bar” – and get to the same place?

So, for example, when you think “printer”, don’t think “dumb hardware operated by a device driver”. Think “processor that knows how to draw on paper; all I have to do is send it a picture”. Pretty much every peripheral device you can think of is implemented in this way.]

This has also had rather a profound effect on how everything built on top of it works. I spent quite some time discussing how programming languages worked, along with MetaLanguage (the bytecode that these processors have more or less standardized on speaking) in the above-linked post, but you may note:

Polychora: a general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language designed to support object-, aspect-, concurrency-, channel-, ‘weave-, contract- and actor-oriented programming across shared-memory, mesh-based, and pervasively networked parallel-processing systems.

…because once you grow to the size – and it doesn’t take much size – at which programming your parallel arrays in relatively low-level languages similar to Occam begins to pall, you start getting very interested in paradigms like object/aspect/actor programming that can handle a lot of the fun of massively parallel systems for you. This has shaped a lot of how environments have developed, and all the above language environments include compilers that are more than happy to distribute your solution for you unless you’ve worked hard to be egregiously out-of-paradigm.

And the whys and hows of WeaveControl, and the Living Object Protocol.

This has also, obviously, made distributed computing a lot more popular a lot more rapidly, because having been built for parallel operation anyway, farming out processing to remote nodes isn’t all that more complicated, be they your remote nodes, or hired remote nodes, or just the cycle spot market. Operating systems for these systems have already developed, to stretch a mite, a certain Kubernetes-like quality of “describe for me the service you want, and I’ll take care of the details of how to spin it up”.

In accordance with configurable policy, of course, but except in special cases, people don’t care much more about which modules are allocated to do the thing any more than they care about which neurons are allocated to catch the ball. In the modern, mature computing environment, it has long since become something safely left to the extremely reliable optronic equivalent of the cerebellum and brainstem.


Now as for how this relates to, going back to some of the original conversations, starships and AI:

Well, obviously for one, there isn’t a single computer core, or even several explicitly-designed-as-redundant-nodes computer cores. There are computers all over the ship, from microcontrollers running individual pieces of equipment up – and while this probably does include a few engineering spaces labeled “data center” and stacked floor to ceiling with nanocircs (and backing store devices), the ship’s intelligence isn’t localized to any one of them, or couple of them. It’s everywhere.

If your plan to disable the ship involves a physical attack on the shipmind, you’ve got a lot of computing hardware to hunt down, including everything from the microcontrollers that water the potted plants on G deck to the chief engineer’s slipstick. You have fun with that. Briefly.

As for AI – well, digisapiences and thinkers operate on the same society-of-mind structure that other minds do, as described here. When this interrelates with the structure of parallel, distributed computing, you can assume that while they are one data-structure identity-wise, the processing of an AI is organized such that every part of the psyche, agent, talent, personality, subpersonality, talent, mental model, daimon, etc., etc., etc., is a process wrapped up in its own little pod, off running… somewhere in what looks like a unified cognitive/computational space, but is actually an arbitrary number of processing cores distributed wherever policy permits them to be put.

(If you choose to look down that far, but outwith special circumstances, this is like a biosapience poking around their brain trying to find out exactly which cells that particular thought is located in.

Said policy usually mandates some degree of locality for core functions, inasmuch as light-lag induced mind-lag is an unpleasant dissociative feeling of stupidity that folk prefer not to experience, but in practice this non-locality manifests itself as things like “Our departure will be delayed for 0.46 seconds while the remainder of my mind boards, Captain.” Not a big deal, especially since even protein intelligences don’t keep their whole minds in the same place these days. They wouldn’t fit, for one thing.)

But suffice it to say, when the avatar interface tells you that she is the ship, she ain’t just being metaphorical.


  1. Well, sort of. It’s not like hardware engineers and semiconductor fabs were any less obsessed with making smaller, faster, better, etc. processors than they were here, but they were doing so within a parallel paradigm. “Two-point-four-billion stacked-mesh processing cores in a nanocirc the size of your pinky nail!”, that sort of thing.

The Glittering Web

Red-Gold Routes:Red-Gold Route, taking its name from the common practice of coloring the territorial volume of the Empire gold, or gold-bordered, and that of their satrapies and client states shades of red on political maps is, in definition, a long-distance route used by the the Imperial Merchant Navy in which all the ports of call are in Imperial territories, clients, or trade stations. This emphasizes not only the usefulness of the route as a means of connecting the Imperial metropole with the greater galactic empire, but also the strategic security of being able to connect (and travel between) distant possessions without having to rely on making stops in, or passing through the sovereign territory of, another polity. The definitive description of the Red-Gold Routes and their status is to be found in the navigational charts and rutters published by the Imperial Post-Courier Star Packet Company, ICC.

A similar term, the Red-Gold Beam, refers to the dataweave communications routes that allow packets to reach their destinations without ever transiting non-Imperial segments of the extranet (an option for which can be set in the routing headers). The communication lasers themselves, naturally, are frequency-multiplexed and are in any case invisible from off-axis.

See also: arterial; Far Star Station; Golden Band; Golden Interstar; Spice Way Program.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Thematics: Delicious Ideals

Herewith some thoughts on thematics, inspired by today’s quest for matcha-flavored Pocky, a fine and delicious product of the Ezaki Glico Company, Limited.

I observe, on their corporate web site, the slogan “Pocky is about sharing happiness and bringing people together.”

And I observe introspectively just how very much I want to believe that in an entirely unironic fashion.

That when you look at the multinational candy industry, and scrape away the layers of issues caused by terrible legal and regulatory environments, and dipshits who practice clichéd dark-side capitalism, and dipshits who accuse everything of being clichéd dark-side capitalism, and get right down to the core of things, the Founder, CEO, and Etc., really did start out as a small boy who grew up with a dream of being Willy Wonka and bringing truly awesome chocolate to the world, and held hard to that.

[And, y’know, apply liberally and literally across all other industries. I’m not just talking about chocolate, obviously.]

How is this about thematics, I hear you cry?

Because this is the universe where – because the people thereabouts take ideas seriously, and thus take ideals seriously – such quaint notions are literally true.

(And where bitter postmodern cynics will be beaten with delicious chocolate-coated biscuit sticks until they give in and acknowledge that actually, they do spread happiness after all.)