Eldraeic Word of the Day: Cagál

cagál (n.): faeces; excrement; shit; solid animal biowaste.

Note for translators: This is the word you’re looking for, which serves equally for technical, medical, and casual usage. It is not considered pejorative or vulgar per se, but certain comparisons or equivalencies may be depending on context.

Variants include tracagál hanat (shit-house, an outdoor biowaste disposal facility); tracagál neth (shittery, an indoor biowaste disposal facility, as distinct from the customarily separate lavatory [washing room]); mézcagál ([metaphorical] shit, archaic term for a useless substance, no longer in common usage due to its high value in ecopoesis and closed life-support systems); and traäshíël mézcagál (starshit, colloquial term for iron, and by extension, any common and mostly useless waste product).

Eldraeic Word(s) of the Day

sashír: Most usually glossed “glamour”, sashír refers to a willfully accepted ambijective illusion embracing and enhancing beauty (aelva) and attractiveness/pleasingness (delékith); a concept foundational to high culture (meressif), fashion, and the personal arts.

raïthal: The plenum; the “universe”; the cosmos as a whole. Literally “all objects/entities”, it conveniently expands to encompass all new discoveries that broaden the scope of existence; other terms are required, for example, to designate one particular universe-manifold and its adjacentia.

And somewhat inspired by a discussion on the Discord concerning demonyms:

eslév es raïthal: Difficult to gloss due to most languages’ lack of a commutative equivalency operator – perhaps “Empire :: Universe” – this slogan beloved of such Ecumenical Throne adherents as the Above All, One Imperium Movement, Society of the Golden Chain, and Architects of the Cogs of Utopia, implies that the Empire is/belongs to/is a property of the universe, and vice versa, and that each shall transform the other.

 

Response: The Path of the Righteous Man…

…is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.

– Ezekiel 25:17, the Quentin Tarantino Version

In which I address some recent comments e-mailed to me which, I believe, for the most part represent a profound misreading of the corpus at hand, but which nonetheless raise some points I might as well answer.

I suppose it’s slightly unfair of me to go off on you without giving you some background on where I’m coming from, but that comment chain touched a little on an issue that I’ve been turning over in my head for a long while, both in my worldbuilding as a core theme of the storyline within the setting (one of these days I’ll actually write it down instead of building “castles in the air” in my imagination…) and in my own life: What is the nature of violence? What is the proper role of force in relations between two rational creatures? Is it possible for a “reasonable person” to desire the death of another — even if they would never act on that desire outside of certain “acceptable” boundaries? In cases where retaliatory force is justified, where does the boundary lie between “acceptable” and “overkill”?

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a pacifist (although certain strains of pacifism have probably influenced my thought in the course of my investigation),

As I’ve implied before, say, here for example, pacifism is very poorly thought of in Imperial culture, because in their opinion it’s a self-justifying morally supine position; which is to say, it’s the position of “First they came for the $VICTIM, and I did not a single gorram useful thing because it was more important to me not to get my hands wet.” Shrugging at evil to its face, and saying, “Well, at least I didn’t…”.

Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness.

And accursed is he who leaves the weak to suffer what they must.

but I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to the use of force by one being capable of reason against another, where are essentially two elements, each of which is a morally and ethically independent consideration from the other: The external *means and circumstances of application*, and the internal *motivation of the applicator*; or, in short, the “use of force” vs. the “will to kill.”

The “use of force” consideration is essentially what people talk about when debating the merits of “coercion” vs. “self-defense.” In that sense, I consider myself a conventional believer in the Non-Aggression Principle: Initiating force — even non-lethal force — without cause is always wrong; using retaliatory force — even lethal force, and even *wittingly* lethal force — is right when done in an appropriately proportional manner to deflect, oppose, or counteract an illegitimate act of force.

(Note that, above, I’m drawing a distinction between a *witting* — performing an action with foreknowledge of a certain or highly probable consequence; the desirability of that particular consequence being, for the moment, irrelevant — and *willing* — that is, acting with the intention of causing a specific consequence.)

However, that seems to be only half the battle.

Violence against another living thing is, in a fundamental sense, an inherently entropic act: The violent actor is expending energy by applying force against an ordered system (the living target) with the aim of causing that system to break down and expend its energy chaotically. It would seem to me that acting with the specific intention of causing that sort of outcome is, essentially, acting with the desire for entropy to win, however limited the scope of that particular “victory” may be.

If entropy is a thing that should rationally be avoided, then it stands to reason that a reasoning sophont is no more capable of willing the death of one of its peers and remaining rational at the same time, than it is that one can desire the destruction of the Universe Entire and remain rational. This is a consideration entirely independent of the *external* context of the use of force.

Here is the obvious question they would ask at this point:

Is it moral to cure cancer?

Obviously it is when you can use sophisticated medicine to retrain the cancer cells into being honest, upstanding members of their tissue.

But what if you’re using carcinophages, or chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, or old-fashioned surgery to cut the tumor out? That’s entropic in the exact same way: you are forcibly destroying an ordered, living system, and you are, in fact, hoping for your tightly-focused entropy to win this small victory. Is that wrong?

No, says the Healer’s Code, because what the above argument fails to recognize is that the tumor is an entropy generator which is itself destroying a more complex ordered system, and the position you are in is having to apply this focused entropy in order to preserve that greater system.

(There is more on this here from the point of view of the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety, and this should also illuminate just how far Imperial doctrine goes to use minimal force for necessary effect. As residents of a planet that bans quiet assassination in favor of mass warfare, I don’t think they’d be willing to accept correction from us on this point.)

I have, in the past, described the Imperial justice system as surgical in its approach. This is the underlying truth: some cancers have to be cut out, in order to save the patient. It is an unfortunate circumstance that such things exist at all in the first place, but since they do, this is the choice with which one is presented.

(At this point, usually someone complains that you can’t compare a sophont being to cancer.

Indeed you can’t, they say. The cancer is merely programmed tissue acting out its programming; its destructiveness is entirely unintentional, no more willful than a mosquito, a virus or a falling rock. The sophont, on the other hand, has the power of choice, and willingly chose against the good; it is thus far worse and merits destruction substantially more than, say, the unfortunate bacteria we poison with vancomycin to save sophont lives.)

In short, I believe that it’s possible to act in a way that any third-party observer with knowledge of both the cause and effect would consider to be justifiable self-defense, while also being guilty of murder because you acted with *murderous intent* independently of whether the action itself was the correct thing to do at the time. Even if you balk at calling it “murder” and ascribing to it the culpability thereof, I still consider it a species of viciousness that should be neither tolerated nor encouraged.

Or, still more briefly: While *wittingly* causing someone’s death may be justifiable if one does so for the right reasons, *willingly* causing someone’s death is always wrong — even if the circumstances and the actual actions taken are exactly the same in both situations.

(Or, perhaps more pointedly: “While lethal force may be unfortunately necessary to deal with the worst sorts of scum, anyone who both claims to be rational and *willfully* kills or causes the death of another soph — or endorses such an action — is either deluding themselves or committing the most dangerous and fundamental sort of fraud possible.”)

To which the obvious follow-up question would be:

Is it immoral to be happy that you’ve cured cancer, even if you had to kill the cancer to do it?

…no.

And while the ignorant can be educated, the primitive uplifted, and the sick-in-mind cured, likewise, it’s not immoral to be happy that you have killed a walking sophont cancer whose very existence made the world around them worse. The doctor has repaired the future life of her patient and those around him; the sentinel has repaired the lives of everyone who would otherwise have been harmed, directly or indirectly, by the ex-soph in question.

This is, so far as their ethical calculus is concerned, an inarguably good act of entropy-minimization.

What worries me when I read things like the excerpt from this post ( https://eldraeverse.com/2016/12/04/a-question-grab-bag/ ) below:

But once you have cold-mindedly ensured that you have the right target and have done the proper strategic and tactical planning, then go ahead and strike down upon those who attempt to poison and destroy your brothers with great vengeance and furious anger, and other colorful metaphors. It is… appropriate. Empowering one for such unpleasant necessities is what wrath is for.

I refer you here to the empowering paradox of passion and reason.

Or from here ( https://eldraeverse.com/2014/05/31/the-bear-necessities-historical-trivia/ ):

After hearing the testimony of the children and bystanders, the Near Orbit District Court ruled that ‘***they needed killing***; jolly well done’.

The people in question were child kidnappers. If that’s not an example of people whose existence poisons the world and who need killing both individually and as a class, who in all the world is?

And slogans like:

> Civilization has enemies; kill the bastards.

ObReference in canon, from here:

The official motto of the Imperial Military Service is “Between the Flame and the Fire”. Unofficially, the paraphrase “civilization has enemies; we kill the bastards” has been usually tolerated.

Which is to say: it’s an unofficial military motto. (I’ll leave it to any actual veterans reading this to supply examples of the real thing, by which standard this is kinda milquetoast.) This is the self-summary and mutual reminder of the rough men who stand guard on the walls mentioned below. If you want a good reference for actual sentinel attitudes, it’s here. (Scroll down.)

I should like to draw your attention to this part:

We live in Utopia.  We have no war, no crime.  No disease, barely any injury, and certainly no death that can’t be easily reversed.  Thanks to the autofac, we’ve never known poverty, and we live on worlds where no-one for generations ever has.  In societies where, by the Contract and the Code and the tireless efforts of archai like Unification, we can always trust, people always care, and happy endings always happen for good people, which is to say, everyone.  We go through our lives without experiencing more than the briefest moments of the mildest pain, or even inconvenience, and few but the eldest of us remember the true taste of suffering, or injustice, or fear, or loss.

That’s right, folks. Remember, the Empire was founded by people who, essentially, read through some trope pages for things like Mary Suetopia, and Sugar Bowl, and said: Yes. This is right, this is true and beautiful, this is how the universe ought to work. And then made both it (locally) and themselves that way. They have the sort of rates of crime, social dysfunction, anomie and alienation otherwise best seen “once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria”. (At least if you discount the monster attacks.)

So let’s just look at our world though today’s twitter, as an example.

  • The “Leader of the Free World” is an orange fascist who would lose an intellect contest with a bowl of jello.
  • At least two of our supposedly-civilized, advanced, etc. countries run concentration camps specifically for children.
  • Then there’s the ongoing #MeToo scandal, in which it seems increasingly clear that much of Hollywood and more than a few other places are stuffed with people now suffering social sanctions for things that, *there*, would unquestionably count as rape, straight up.
  • Not to mention all those places in the world where such things and even worse variants on them don’t even go remarked upon.
  • And at this point, I’ve stuck to things that even the average human finds offensive. I haven’t even started touching on things that are specifically offensive to Imperial sensibilities…

And there are lots of places in the galaxy that are just like us, though the details differ, and I’m not talking about the Iltine Union or the Theomachy of Galia. I’m talking about places whose self-image is at least as smug as that of the average First World country.

There are certainly, all praise to Rúnel, plenty of more civilized places than Earth around – hell, even the Vonnies do somewhat better – but nonetheless, if the hainadar appear sometimes to be channeling the attitude of the Roman legionary watching the dark forests across the Rhine, or the guards posted along the Great Wall – well, that’s because they do see themselves as the thin indigo line between the warmly-lit, gentle garden of civilization and a never-ending parade of savages and atrocities, and have perfectly legitimate reasons for so doing.

They want them on that wall. They need them on that wall.

You want to explain to them how they’re wrong about that, Earthling? Maybe tell them how the barbarians haven’t earned the name a dozen or two times over?

Myself, I think it’s a bloody miracle and possibly a tribute to self-control and respect for freedom of choice that what you get is attitude, overt and covert manipulation towards improvement, and a few Renegades – and not, say, The Ultimate Crusade of Ultimate Destiny…

Is that — and I hope you interpret this as coming from a friend expressing concern, and not an enemy seeking to condemn — something of this distinction is being either lost or glossed over without serious examination, and that all this talk of “barbarians” tacitly divides the Universe into an “elect” chosen few and a vast mass of “damned” whom it is alright to want to kill provided you can find the right opportunity to do so — even if the eldrae themselves might find such a view abhorrent if presented that way, I worry that that’s what their philosophy towards force and violence adds up to when all the pieces are put together.

…which would be justified, if it came to that, not by some sense of the elect, but by the things that its carefully selected targets have actually done and continue to do.

If you see a murder, a rape, a kidnapping, a robbery, etc., then by ethics and the Contract and the Charter, you are obliged to intervene to stop it, and if stopping it and preventing it from happening again and again and again requires it, then in the absence of proper formal process, whether or not you want to, you are obliged to do so with lethal force.

But more, if you see people who fit that latter definition, you should want to, because you should want to do the right thing, and when faced with cancer, the right thing is to cure it.

This argument does not lose any of its force when you scale it up; an organization, or a culture, that institutionalizes these things is no less guilty than an individual that does so. The problems with the Ultimate Crusade of Ultimate Destiny are (a) its impracticability – as demonstrated in the small by our various failed efforts at nation-building – and (b) difficulty in appropriately handling the majority – the ignorant, the primitive, and the mind-sick. These make the slow extension of cultural spheres, educational efforts, and the aforementioned overt and covert the optimal path in the long run, Renegades and proscribed groups notwithstanding. But there’s nothing wrong with its ethical justification.

Because, as it turns out, the wild universe is dark and full of horrors.

 

Eldraeic Phrase of the Day: Tramézashíël Eslévár

el tramézashíël eslévár (n.): Empire of the Star; the largest and oldest eldraeic polity.

Broken up, this phrase reads: tra (DESCRIPTION OPERATOR) – méz (METAPHORIZATION OPERATOR) – ashíël (star) — eslév (empire) – ár (PREDICATION OPERATOR), which is to say in long-gloss, “the empire which is like unto a (metaphorical) star”. Replacing this with the English “of” is acceptably inaccurate for such an imprecise target language.

It should also be noted that eslév is linguistically unique, appearing only in this phrase (and abbreviations thereof: el eslév unambiguously refers to “the Empire”). It is not used to represent any of the other possible meanings of “empire”; the technical meaning of a union of multiple peripheral polities beneath one metropole, for example, is el vielmóniramóníë (loosely, “a commanding country-of-countries”).

It has no strict root-based etymology; rather, eslév is a nonce coined for its conceptual resonances: it resembles, for example, proto-Cestian words for “created” or “our creation”; Selenarian terms for “lunar crescent”; various Silver Crescent words with meanings approximating to “celestial”; a Veranthyran term meaning “propriety” or “high culture”, and so on and so forth.

April Questions

It’s known that the eldrae (and Imperial culture generally) place a premium on rational belief, but they also place a great amount of value on preserving extant diversity of beliefs and opinions inasmuch as they can be reconciled with rationality.

Given this, what do they make of Aumann’s Agreement Theorem and the assertion at its root — that all truly rational sophonts with accurate knowledge of one another’s beliefs must (and, by eldraeic moral standards, should) eventually converge on a single “correct” belief?

In the presence of complete and unambiguous information and upon matters in which there is a correct answer, certainly, this is trivially true. However…

More particularly, what of the further derived implication — by combining the above logic with an acceptance in pattern identity theory — that all truly rational sophonts must and should eventually converge into a particularly kind of Bostromian singleton that I am tentatively dubbing an “aumannsoph”?

…inasmuch as the sphere of factual matters on which there is a correct answer is dwarfed by the sphere of matters of taste, upon which there isn’t, any such convergence is necessarily limited to a mere fragment of the noösphere.

And now, some older questions I dragged up while cleaning out my inbox (not all, but many):

We hear a lot about “childhood” being a modern concept in human culture, that as soon as children were physically able to do adult work they would, so no one would think about their formation etc.; how do the Eldrae approach the question “childhood: exist or not?” or its definition?

“Ah, yes, ‘childhood’. We have dismissed that claim.”

Okay, that was glib. Let me ‘splain.

The elephant in the room, of course, is demographic. For humans, childhood (in which, since it is ambiguous, I include adolescence) takes up roughly one-fifth of the lifespan, and so there are a lot of children around. For eldrae, childhood is a tiny, insignificant chunk right at the start of the lifespan, and so there aren’t.

This changes the shape of things in a lot of ways. For one thing, even if they were to conclude that schools per se were a good idea (unlikely), running one would require an enormous catchment area to find enough pupils. For another, it means that a child’s primary interactions are not with a “peer group” of other children, since there are very unlikely to be enough in their vicinity to make one; they’re with their muse, their extended family and other adults.

(An Imperial shown the way we raise children on Earth would thus conclude that nature had greatly favored them in their demographics, since if you expect children to grow up into civilized, responsible adults, they can hardly do so from other people who don’t know either, and yet this is what we surround them with. Feh.)

Anyway. To return to the core topic, childhood, the way they think about it, is the process by which one turns from a squalling bundle of id, via a learning process of play and education and emulation and general becoming, into an actual person. (Amy points out that that implies children aren’t people, which isn’t really what I intend since they are obviously sophonts with personhood, but they aren’t, y’know, fully-able-to-assume-the-rights-and-responsibilities-of people.) Which makes it obviously really important, but is so as a process, not the per se way we tend to think of it.

So on the one hand, children are introduced into society early on – there’s no “children should be seen and not heard”, and certainly no off-in-the-children’s-society-ghetto. You attend the dinner parties, you join in the conversations around you (and the adults in those conversations are expected to extend you the same courtesy as any other participant, and while to explain, not to condescend), and so forth, and you are given real responsibility – with the real authority that goes with it – as soon as you can handle it, because that’s how you learn to adult.

(And, indeed, are also held responsible; far from considering, say, bullying in childhood to be just one of those kids being kids things, your would-be bully is setting himself up for My First Court Appearance, possibly followed by My First Judicial Redaction.)

On the flip side, the importance of play is also recognized, and indeed is, if anything, more so, because eldraeic society never derived a “put away childish things” syndrome. Obligatory C. S. Lewis quotation:

“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

In Imperial culture, adults are allowed to play, and to maintain a sense of wonder, and to be (childishly) enthusiastic about things, and thus find it easy to join in with such things when raising their children.

(By comparison, our common notions of adulthood appear relentlessly jaded, desperately in need of de-sticking, or both.)

Or: Education in general.

Ah, education. Well, this is something else that is very different *there*. Partly that’s because of the demographic issues mentioned above (in the absence of schools, early education is generally in the hands of the parents and extended family, for example, who tend to take extended child-raising sabbaticals), but it’s also due to a significant difference in educational philosophy. Specifically, our educational system is based on a Prussian model for turning out industrial factory workers, and as such education is often a distinctly secondary objective of education, as it were, compared to inculcating conformity, obedience, and routine. (The prevalence of bells to regulate the school day, for example? Based on factory shift-changes.)

This would not work at all well in their society, which considers anything achievable through conformity, obedience, and routine to be something best achieved by clockwork automata, clanks, or non-sophont robots. There simply aren’t enough sophont minds around to waste them on that sort of thing. Intelligence, reason, creativity, and hustle are the things that are valued – and not just in claim, but in actuality – and so that’s what they optimize for.

So to break down their education system, it has four stages: pre-natal, fundamental -divided into the Triad and the Decad – and higher.

Pre-natal education is the province of a little technological wonder called the axiom feed, which can imprint knowledge directly on the brain. It’s somewhat limited because the brain is obviously very early in development at that point, but much as early childhood stimulation is important to promote brain development, that’s most of the axiom feed’s job. Get started early, so to speak. It also works to imprint some survival instincts that nature skipped over: staying afloat in water, exhaling and closing the eyes when exposed to vacuum, an aversion response to standard perhazard warning signs, that sort of thing. It also prepares the way for further education by priming the brain with the basics of language, and suchlike.

Then we get to the fundamental education, which is the universal part, usually delivered at home, taught by parents, tutors, and one’s muse, which is capable of answering virtually any question, and acting as a storyteller, ethical guide, playmate, and general companion. It’s also something that concentrates heavily on how to think: innovations like the neural lace, mnemonesis, the Transcend, etc., mean that there’s essentially no limit on how much information an individual can access as easily as their personal memory. There is no particular need for students to spend endless hours acquiring data: what they need to learn is how to convert that into knowledge and ultimately wisdom.

And so we have the Triad and the Decad. The former is purely concentrated on the how of thinking: its three courses are Eldraeic Language and Grammar, i.e., how to express yourself in precisionist-grade language; Logic and Thought, which covers epistemology, formal logic, Bayesian probability, mathematics, statistics, the Great Art of Memory, the scientific method, simulation techniques, and pretty much every other sound cognitive technique anyone’s ever heard of; and Rhetoric, Aesthetics, and the Civilities, which covers the art of functioning in society like a gentlesoph.

The Decad, following it, is the Imperial version of a liberal arts education on steroids: its ten courses are intended to cover everything that an Imperial gentlesoph should know:

  • advanced logic and mathematics;
  • business, finance, and economics (the world, after all, runs on trust, contracts, and enlightened-self-interest);
  • domestic arts;
  • engineering;
  • ethics and civics;
  • fine arts (both the appreciation of and the practice of – traditionally, one is supposed to learn two of the latter, one to serve to amuse one’s companions, and another to decorate one’s domicile and provide one with the ability to construct personal gifts);
  • history of civilization;
  • literature of civilization;
  • martial arts (taught both as excellent forms of exercise and builders of character and self-discipline, but also for the secondary reason that even in these enlightened and civilized times, one may be called upon to defend one’s or another’s person and property or react well in emergencies; while not a full exploration of the field, completing one’s basic schooling will teach you how to fight unarmed, with the blade, and with the gun, simple information warfare, basic tactics and strategy, simple survival techniques, and field medicine);
  • and natural philosophy (which is to say, science, and a much broader general education in it than schools *here* typically provide).

(This is, of course, perfectly indifferent to what we might think of as gender roles. Imperial culture delivers its best how-can-you-possibly-not-know-this to the man who can’t sew on a button or bake a soufflé along with the woman who can’t repair her own plumbing or build a bookcase.

Also, if you are under the impression that Imperial culture sees Heinleinian generalists as a baseline standard, you’re not wrong. Specialization may not be for insects, but premature specialization is the root of much incompetence.)

Mastering all this typically takes you from birth to somewhere in the 15-19 range. (Since there aren’t schools, everyone obviously completes it at their own pace.)

This is also where the rigorous part is, inasmuch as there is a great premium placed on self-control and competence during the period of fundamental education, simply because as an Imperial – well, freedom demands discipline, living life by one’s own qalasír demands discipline, and wielding the power natural to (bear in mind, for example, that everyone has technological psychokinesis and so can literally kill people with their brain) and the superempowering technologies granted to you really demands discipline.

There are no “high-school dropouts” *there* . If you don’t pass the Triad and the Decad, your competence is insufficient to achieve the IQI, and you will therefore never achieve majority, and therefore citizen-shareholdership, and by virtue of both access to anything that might be dangerous. As for self-control: well, any young citizen-intendant who doesn’t learn to show an adult’s self-control will likely be culled by the age of 12 or so, simply because they’re too bloody dangerous to keep around. This is acknowledged as harsh, but also as regrettably necessary; when temper tantrums can shatter bones and blow out walls, you can’t afford to permit them.

Following that, and into what the Empire would consider adulthood (contrary to the way we often seem to see college students as some sort of extended adolescents, given how we expect colleges to treat them), comes higher education, which starts then and finishes… well, finishes when you’re dead. Education is something that may be most intense at the start of your life, but when you live forever, you either climb on board with the notion of continuing education, or you end up somewhere between a zombie and a fossil.

Such higher education is when you specialize: often taking multiple individual courses of interest from multiple different institutions, which term in their praxis includes anything from universities, guild academies, remote learning courses, traditional apprenticeships, and so on and so forth, even including autodidaxis once evaluated. Degrees aren’t earned by completing specific formal paths (and so are often not “in” any particular subject), they’re earned by demonstrating a particular quality and quantity of education, which in turn lead you up the academic exultancy from a mere Academician (you earned at least one and get to wear an academician’s chain on formal occasions) all the way to the coveted title of Polygnostic (have earned many and performed original research both in and across multiple fields, and receive a complimentary entrée to the Court of Courts). A typical first round of higher education might last thirty years or so to turn out an individual of astonishing competence and flexibility.

(Beyond that, well, over a lifetime, people will probably spend decades more attending to their education, accumulating dozens of degrees in a variety of subjects.)

Or: Hell, kids’ games and their integration into the culture in general.

Some of this territory has been covered above (mentioning, for example, the importance of creative play), but I’m going to need to do some more creation before I can really give specific examples, I’m afraid.

One thing worth mentioning, though, is the number of games that are designed to be educational without being, well, obvious “education games”. As per Gilbert and Sullivan:

For he who’d make his fellow creatures wise
Should always gild the philosophic pill!

And so there are lots of games that fit that criterion; their equivalent of Monopoly, for example, is a game which is to trade as chess is to warfare, and one wins by creating the best positive-sum outcome for all players. There are mere brain-stretchers like ithréth, which is similar to four-dimensional go; lariärleth, which translates ecological and ecopoetic principles into a mahjongg-like setting; and so on and so forth.

It seems that antimatter is heavily relied upon as an energy storage (and source if there are better ways to make the stuff) – like in most science-fiction, actually.

One thing that seems surprisingly rarely used is the micro-black-hole/singularity generator. It seems to be the Singularity inductor I’ve seen referenced in “going critical”.

A singularity inductor isn’t a generator, per se, but a contraterragenerator. Basically, it’s a micro black hole that’s kept close enough to its evaporation point to produce prodigious horizon radiation. By feeding mass (all matter) into it at a rate which keeps it in balance, then collecting and segregating the horizon radiation (50-50 matter/antimatter), you’ve got a very efficient way of converting matter to antimatter.

(And one which, conveniently enough, can be operated by societies well below the level of technological sophistication needed to build one.)

The difficulties I perceive are that it either is very, very heavy or emits lots and lots of energy, it’s very small (and emits a lot) and as such is hard to feed, you have to keep it electrically charged to keep it where you want with magnetic fields, and if small enough and you stop feeding it for too long, it emits more and more, then blows up, then if you’re still there you are left with one less generator. Also, just in case, I would never let them anywhere near a planet surface or a populated civilian installation.

However, with the level of technology in the Eldraeverse, it would seem like a pretty affordable mass-energy converter, a bit higher-end than antimatter but more practical once you master it. Also, it could be used as a weapon to a pretty devastating effect: a neutralized black hole will pass through any conventional defence and will blow up at a precise instant that can be calculated to be right in the middle of the target. Though that’s for a step higher than the generator, technically. (And it gives dramatic explosions when a ship drive fails in combat, and it gives “Eject the core!” and such some actual meaning).

Seeing them used so rarely, I wonder what I’m missing about those. Is there a reason why they aren’t more prevalent in the Eldraeverse?

They’re actually fairly widely used for contraterragenesis (although not so much by the Empire, which has the Dyson bubble at Esilmúr, which produces antimatter in quantities so great that they store it in lumps the size of moons; it does, however, sell them as export products, as seen back here).

As for why you don’t see them used more often in starships for power generation and weapons systems, the answer boils down to one thing: mass. Even the tiny microholes used as contraterragenesis cores are hundreds of thousands of tons of mass-energy that you have to haul around, and if you’re going to start firing microholes at people, that’s a smaller but still huge mass you have to haul around… per shot, along with the equipment and energy you need to implode it and form the hole, not to mention then accelerate to fire.

Vector control and other space magic can make the practicalities of that easier momentum-wise, but conservation of energy is still very much not your friend. No-one’s found a hack for that law yet. 🙂

Not so much a question as an idea that I thought might be particularly suited to the eldrae mindset: A beverage that is marketed not so much for its quality (though it would undoubtedly have high-quality taste), but for the “gimmick” that, in order to drink it, opening the packaging itself involves some sort of test of skill.

Think like our world’s Ramune (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramune) with its glass marble seal, except tailor-made for a species for whom doing transcendental calculus in their heads as a hobby while also enjoying a nice, cold drink probably isn’t exactly unusual.

Already canon, at least in the notes! Academiciale (and yes, the portmanteau is almost as bad in the original Eldraeic), one of the indie synthdrinks not produced by the Lovely Atom Synthetic Drinks and Liquors Company, ICC, comes with an individualized puzzle in the neck of every bottle. Solve to open.

Ironically, it also has noötropic properties.

What cultural meanings are attached to colors in the core cultural zone?

It varies considerably, because there are more than a few cultures within the core cultural zone, but I can offer a few generalities:

  • Gold is, as ever, the color of wealth. Because gold.
  • Solar yellow, a little to the orange side, is a holy color, the hue of the Flame.
  • Indigo, the color of blood, represents nobility and exaltation. (And yes, these are the colors used in the flag.)
  • Turquoise, intermediate between blue and green, represents life.
  • Crimson is the color of diplomacy; heralds, messengers, and couriers wear it or are trimmed in it to indicate their status. Likewise, if you want to parley and/or surrender, you fly a crimson flag to indicate that. (This isn’t because it’s the color of blood, because it isn’t; it’s just because crimson stands out very, very well.)
  • Pale gray-blue, the shade of the sky on a still, rainy, gloomy day, is the shade of mourning for those who die untimely.

 

For the record, what was the fate of the assassins (and the people who presumably dispatched them)?

Once their weregeld was paid, they were released accordingly. They were, after all, guild professionals, not just some random thugs off the street, and there are certain courtesies attached to that. One need not punish the hand for the deed of the brain, as it were.

As for the mandarins of Ochale who dispatched them?

They were assassinated, of course.

This sounds like a specific example of a broader question: if you accidentally instantiate a fork of yourself, what do you (plural) do?

Hope you can agree with yourself.

…But seriously, this and other comments scattered hither and thither on the matter, referring to it both directly and indirectly, lead me to believe that eldraeic stylistic conventions (and, by extension, the cultural mores of those under their influence) are governed by a sort of cultic devotion to the idea of “the unfashionable human body” (or whatever you might dub the local analogue).

Well, yes, that’s pretty much what you would expect from fervent believers in the principle of improving everything until it’s asymptotic to perfection, no?

But more to the point: being utterly gorgeous is your birthright, thanks to generations of bodysculptors and gene-wranglers. If you go to the public baths where everyone walks around naked, your eye-blinding, heart-stopping, stupefyingly unsurpassable beauty is… well, it is impressive, but it doesn’t stand out among everyone else’s eye-blinding, heart-stopping, stupefyingly unsurpassable beauty, unless you’re of a particularly exotic clade or into custom body design.

If you want to stand out as an individual, fashion is the way to do it, because what you were born with, everyone you know was born with, and there’re only so many variations to go around.

Why the Photonic Network keeps everything shiny, polished, gleaming, and in perfect working order same degree, if not more so, as the Empire? Do they have certain psychological and/or ideological reasons like the eldrae? Or is it something they are inherited from their distant, spinbright ancestors?

It’s a common personality quirk of AI whose native realm is the virtual. Data doesn’t erode, break down, stop working, etc.; it’s always perfectly, Platonically, pristine. This tends to manifest as something looking similar to OCPD when it comes to dealing with messy, entropic physicality.

And how much “real” Vonnies are shiny? Our typical ST level? Or even less?

The Republic’s hardware looks fairly like the Federation’s, TNG era; which is to say, it looks like it’s trying to be shiny and modern, but you don’t have to scratch the surface very hard to realize it’s kind of plasticky and cheap, and that there’s a surprising amount of asceticism (ever notice how empty most crew quarters look?) for a supposedly post-scarcity culture.

And why the Photonic Network does not run patrol fleets?

The easiest way to explain why they don’t is to explain why the Empire does.

Which is to say: like the British, and later American, empires, it’s a maritime empire, or at least the spacefaring equivalent of a maritime empire. and a hegemony – albeit a gentle one – an architect of galactic civilization. As such, trade is its lifeblood, and its far-flung interests (all those stargates, and so forth) are the vessels through which that lifeblood flows, the need to defend which leads directly to the omnipresence of the Imperial Navy.

The Photonic Network isn’t, and isn’t. It has a much smaller merchant fleet and is much more concerned with its internal affairs than with any grand designs to reshape the universe in its own image.

In short: it doesn’t need them, and it doesn’t care enough to have them anyway.

I do have to wonder: Are there any “AI-supremacist” movements out there? (I.e. organizations that exist on the opposite end of the spectrum that claim that pure digisapience is “the wave of the future” and that any meatbound intelligence that willingly remains such is a “primitive throwback,” regardless of their openmindedness to AIs or sophotech enhancement)

That would be the Electron Reign, who are generally regarded as just as big a bunch of whackos as basically every other supremacist movement out there.

Could we at some point get an “in-depth” look at the Antithetical Heresies — causes, signs and symptoms in thought and behavior, common paths of progression and “terminal failure modes,” corrective measures you can take if you suspect you or someone you know might be falling into one?

…there may be more said on the topic when and if I receive an inspiration, but you do realize that in this general form that’s like asking the Pope for a complete and comprehensive taxonomy of sin, right?

 

Eldraeic Word of the Day: Serev

serev (n.): Blood, or other primary life-fluid (e.g., myneni crystalplasm, codramaju suspension, mezuar sap, etc. – even, to stretch a metaphorical point, digisapience electricity.)

A word notable for its use in many metaphor-based compounds and etymological cousins, notably seredar (“blood-person”, or paramedic); seredhain (“blood-war”, or war of extermination/genocide); seredáné (“blood-precursor”, or genetic parent); sereglés (“blood-key”, or biometric security system); sereqártill (“blood-price”, or weregeld); seredelefí (“blood-oath”, a contract secured on one or both parties’ lives); and saráv (justice).

 

Yes, It Does

A quick question with a quick answer:

How would a virtuous eldrae answer the eternal question “Does this dress make me look fat?”

Honestly and accurately.

But then, if you had spent any time at all in their cultural sphere, you’d know better than ask damn silly questions that you don’t want an honest, accurate answer to. Or, at the very least, you’d know what you were about to get.

(To generalize, if comforting white lies and other forms of sugar-coated bullshit are something you look for… man, are you in the wrong culture.)