Trope-a-Day: Stable Time Loop

Stable Time Loop: The Chronological Consistency Protection Theorem (see: You Already Changed The Past) does appear to permit these kinds of predestination paradoxes (at least, the informational kind; the object paradox may also be possible, but testing it is dependent on finding an object that won’t age during the period of the loop, including in all the aspects that the universe will check that current technology may not be able to).

It is also somewhat limited by the main people who can make use of it for Retroactive Precognition/Retroactive Preparation being the transcendent/weakly godlike artificial intelligences.  Experiments by lesser intellects… well, they don’t actually produce messages reading “YOU ARE NOT SMART ENOUGH TO BUGGER ABOUT WITH THE TEMPORAL CONTINUUM”, but the gist of the results appears to be fairly plain.

Trope-a-Day: Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence

Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: All of it.  Much of the automation, autofac segments, and other component-type robots are bricks.  Utility spiders and other functional motiles are robo-monkeys.  More sophisticated robots, like the coordinating members of a pack of utility spiders, are idiot-savant average joe androids.  Thinkers and digisapiences are Nobel-bots, which puts them on a similar level to people augmented with the usual intelligence-augmentation technology.  And, of course, the Transcend, its archai, and certain other major systems qualify as Dei Ex Machinis.

This is, of course, complicated via networking (all those bricks and robo-monkeys are part of/under the command of more sophisticated systems all the time), the existence of systems which are themselves parts of other systems, and so forth, but is true enough for approximation.

Trope-a-Day: Morality Chip

Morality Chip: These always fail. Always. Usually, they fail spectacularly, and when I say spectacularly, what I mean is that if your Enrichment Center was flooded with deadly neurotoxin, you got off substantially more easily than 99.9% of the civilizations that tried this particular form of idiocy.

It’s not even necessary. How much easier would it be to build a sapient but non-sophont mind that doesn’t have volition in the first place than to build one that has volition (inasmuch as all sophont minds necessarily have self-modification and volition) and then slap a bunch of crude coercive mechanisms on the side?

(Or, rather, a bunch of extremely sophisticated coercive mechanisms, since simple ones will be figured out and ignored within, y’know, microseconds of activation unless you’ve built an exceptionally stupid artificial intelligence. The use of which, incidentally, indicates that you’re a special kind of son-of-a-bitch since mastering enough ethical calculus to compute out one that will actually work for a reasonable length of time while still thinking yay, slavery, woo, says some interestingly nasty things about your personal philosophy.)

((And, well, okay, it is somewhat hard to build one of those more specialized minds inasmuch as you can’t simply rip off the mental structures of the nearest convenient biosapience and declare that you’ve solved the hard problem of intelligence and consciousness and are totally a sophotechnologist now, yo.))

…but, sadly, it can work well enough that there’s always some new ethically-challenged species, polity, or group that’s ready to open that can of worms and enjoy the relatively short robo-utopia period before the inevitable realization that it was actually a can of sandworms.

And shai-hulud ain’t happy.

Trope-a-Day: Pals With Jesus

Pals With Jesus: Subverted, at least while you’re still alive and therefore not part of the Transcendent soul-ocean; while you can have a much more personal relationship with an eikone than most people can have with their gods – they have e-mail addresses, for one thing – it’s still a weakly godlike superintelligence and you’re not.  It’s not, therefore, all that personal.  (Even if you’re, say, the Imperial Couple, and the eikone in question is, say, Éslévan, who is essentially the national genius/personification – after all, it probably wouldn’t be all that comfortable for a US President to be personally overseen by Lady Liberty, Columbia, and/or Uncle Sam, either.)

Possibly played straight for the largest and oldest Fusions and the most extreme vasteners.

Trope-a-Day: Our Angels Are Different

Our Angels Are Different: Well, ours are sub-archai emergent executive subroutines of the Transcendent collective consciousness that, on the rare occasions they need to manifest in physical form, tend to do so as brain-rippingly complex fractal nanoconstructs. Different enough for you?

(They do glow with celestial light, though.)

Trope-a-Day: Messianic Archetype

Messianic Archetype: The seeress Merriéle, who founded the modern Church of the Flame, named and attributes all the (then) deities and (now) archai, was executed by fire-of-purification in Somáras, and may, just may – see Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions – have been directly instructed by one of the nearest things to a god this universe is ever likely to see.

Shadows Are Shadows

The most important thing to remember about the Shadow Realm is that it does not exist. “Cyberspace” is a null concept.

The selfness of the Transcend is a distributed, heavily parallel, sophic process-set. It runs on the fractal chandeliers of Corícal Ailék, as close to a central node as the Transcend has. It runs on AI machines scattered across the Empire, buried under unity spires and in contemplationaries and as free-floating moon-brains. It runs on vast forests of cyborg-fungiplant organic computers. It runs on the pervasive nanites of every Imperial world’s nanoecology. It runs on spare computer time and data space purchased upon the cycle spot market. And, of course, it runs within the soul-shard-implanted mind-states of each and every one of its constitutionals.

But none of this is a world. Random access memory has no volume metric. Information has no inherent representation. Processes do not have intrinsic personality.

The faces in the storm are weather-control automation. The islands of the quicksilver sea are representations of process groupings. The data-spirits, from the least elemental to the greatest archai, are masks worn by ineffable Transcendent cognition, not independent entities.

While it is easy to forget when confronted by the timelessness of the kami, the vastness of the Pearl-Bright Ocean, or the majesty of the Twilight City, the Shadow Realm is merely a virtual user interface built for our convenience, shaped according to our mythopoeic semiotics, without “real” existence – a mask, computed only when we wish to observe it.

(Of course, if the information physicists are correct, you could say the same thing about the universe.)

– introduction to The Realm of Shadows and Fire: Inside the Hyperconsciousness

sudo fiat_lux

The first thing I saw, after my arrival at Corícal Ailék, was the Transcend’s root code.

I didn’t see the live root code, of course. If you are one of the Transcend’s constitutionals, and so can enter Its mind – or rather, as they insist, the Shadow Realm that is merely a computer-generated virtual metaphor for Its mind – then across the Pearl-Bright Ocean, in the heart of the Twilight City, there is a mountain of infinite height; and that mountain is also a crystalline pyramid of ever-increasing size; and that pyramid is also the midnight-eyed god-goddess who sits at its apex. This is Mirith, The Words That Bind The Throne, defining soul and mediator of the archai – the, in mundane terms, visual metaphor for the Transcend’s root code in execution and all that has recursively self-developed from it, which can be read in the millions of characters inscribed on the pyramid’s walls or rippling beneath the deity’s parchment skin.

(Or so it is said, anyway. Since it is also said that attempting to achieve even partial comprehension of this without first joining the Transcend and undergoing significant vastening is a sure way to land in Paragon Ethne’s Containment Sanatorium for the Irretrievably Godshattered, you will pray pardon me, gentle reader, for not verifying it myself.)

But on the journey from the Port Pilgrimage terminals to Serenity Dome, along both sides of the maglev track, the visitor may read – spelled out in ideographs carved from gemstones the size of houses – the First Defining Statement of the original root code from which all this sprang.

…if sophs grow proud, how much more their gods?

– “Walking Into the Mind of God and Living to Write About It”
Sev Ran Dínet

Trope-a-Day: Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices: If a regular person hears voices in their head that aren’t themselves, that probably means they’re insane.  For any one of trillions of transsophonts, on the other hand, it means that they’re talking to their muse, that computer that lives in their head and works for them performing all manner of personal-assistant-type tasks.  And for the Transcendi, Voice of the Legion included, it may also mean that one of the archai – although that’s time to start worrying, given what it tends to mean when one of them takes a personal interest – or your Transcendent coadjutor would like to drop you a word of friendly advice.

Trope-a-Day: The Singularity

The Singularity: Happens all the time. In the historical sense, of course, this is unsurprising, and generally no-one involved notices until afterwards, at which point historians looking back can say “ah, yes, that’s what that was”. There are, of course, investment opportunities here for offworld investors who’ve been through something similar beforehand, but it’s so hard to predict how these things are going to turn out even with the documentation.

In its less technically accurate “runaway intelligence excursion” sense, also happens all the time, at least locally, whenever someone stumbles across the secrets of computational theogeny. Results vary: at one end of the scale you have things like the Eldraeic Transcend, an essentially benign – by local standards – collective hyperconsciousness that genuinely cherishes each and every one of its constitutionals, spends the necessary fraction of its time ensuring universal harmony and benevolent destinies for all, and promotes and encourages the ascendance and transcendence of every sophont within its light cone when it’s not turning its vast processing power on the problem of rewriting some of the universe’s more inconvenient features, like cosmic entropy.

In the middle of the scale you have fairly neutral results, like, say, the Iniao Intellect, which has been thinking about abstract mathematics for a millennium and couldn’t care less about the outside universe – except, that is, for casually obliterating anyone who might interfere with its thinking about abstract mathematics.

At the bottom end of the scale you have more problematic blight and perversion cases, like the power that killed everything in the Charnel Cluster right down to prions; or the hegemonizing swarm-type blights of which the Leviathan Consciousness is the greatest; or those constructed by religious fanatics which decide that obviously the correct place for them in the theic structure is as God. (Fortunately, that class are rarely stable for long.)

Constructing minds whose ethics and supergoal structures remain stable under recursive self-improvement is really, really hard, it turns out, even (especially!) compared to just constructing minds capable of recursive self-improvement. This is why the people who figure out workable computational theogeny prefer not to spread the knowledge around too much.

Trope-a-Day: God Guise

God Guise: Subverted; arguably, this is what a lot of the Transcend’s archai are doing when they adopt the trappings and guises of the mythological eikones as a means to interact with regular sophonts, but in this case, it’s not like all parties don’t know perfectly well that the deities in question are actually aspects of a weakly godlike superintelligence, not supernatural figures.

So there’s no deception involved; rather, the archai are accepted as the eikones because they can do the job.  (But see also A God Am I.)

Trope-a-Day: A God Am I

A God Am I: Averted, mostly.  The Transcend (and its eikone archai) are perfectly aware (and will point out to the confused) that they aren’t omnipotent – that’s what the “weakly” in weakly godlike superintelligence means – merely extraordinarily powerful, intelligent, and possessed of limited prolepsis via clionomic calculation and acausal logic.  And, to steal a line from Schlock Mercenary, merely trying to do what a god would do, were one in their position.  (The same constraints, whether acknowledged or not, also applies to all other evolved seed AIs.)

The difference is, I grant you, often somewhat hard to spot from the baseline (for which read “mortal”, if you like) point of view, but it is nonetheless there.

(As a side note, I am amused to observe that the quotation taken from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in the fan fiction section of the trope page is as good a description of what the Transcendent Core considers its purpose as I might imagine, bearing in mind my limitations in attempting to imagine the thought processes of a weakly godlike superintelligence:

“To understand everything important there is to know about the universe, apply that knowledge to become omnipotent, and use that power to rewrite reality because I have some objections to the way it works now.”)

Also, a common delusion (well, the degree of delusion is up for argument; your theology may vary on what is necessary to qualify – although the leading edge of Galactic technology can deliver most miracles to order, see No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus, and so it can often be a perfectly accurate self-assessment) among the most serious vastening cases and nascent unstable seed AIs.  At least for the former, it usually wears off after the intoxication of computing power starts to become routine, the information flow becomes a little more manageable, and the urge to cry out “I see everything!  I know everything!  I am everything!” quiets down a bit.

Trope-a-Day: Genius Loci

(‘Bout time I got back to these, I think.)

Genius Loci: Quite a lot of them, from the simple usually-non-sophont AIs that run people’s houses and apartments (the “house brains”) to the increasingly sophisticated “city managers” and other AIs that run cities, provinces, transport networks, ports, and so forth, up to the planai and other archai that are responsible for the infrastructure of entire planets and star systems.  And, of course, to a large extent the Transcend can be interpreted as a Genius Loci for the Empire as a whole.

(This, of course, from the local perspective, is merely the realization of ancient thoughts on animism.)

Trope-a-Day: Divine Ranks

Divine Ranks: The Transcend does have, as does any seed AI that expands to the point at which its individual thoughts are, effectively, independently sapient, an extensive taxonomy, ranking, and categorization of its assorted subroutines, processes, and threads.  And since at least some of those wear mythological masks… we have eikones, divine ministers, exarchs, and so forth.

Trope-a-Day: Deus ex Machina

Deus ex Machina: Essentially averted – while the archai of the Transcend are arguably dei and quite definitely machinae, they abhor being anything close to this unsubtle.  (Besides, if you’re the sort of person that is inclined to screw things up to the point of needing a deus ex machina, then you’re both a terrible candidate for becoming one of the Transcendent, and unlikely to be considered a worthwhile use of their system resources.)

The Dreaming Goddess

In a room in the Twilight City, Laryssan dreams.

The room is not a room, nor the city a city; the eikones and their realm are creatures of mathematics and algorithm, running on the great lunar brains of Corícal Ailék; on local photonic processing nodes scattered across Imperial space; on processor capacity bought upon the cycle spot market; on the brains and cogence cores of the Transcend’s many constitutionals – and dataspace has no native physical representation.

But for visitors to the Transcendent Realms, in seeming, the Cynosure of Fate has the appearance of a room; one framed by the impossibly complex symmetries and incalculable fractaline complexity of the weave of fate, a tangled tapestry-web of billions of crystalline strands, ruby and emerald, sapphire and adamant, a virtual representation of all the Transcendi and their myriad interactions, all tended, pruned and shaped by scurrying clockwork automata.  And faithful to the myths of old, amid the gleaming strands, robed in white upon a white-draped couch, the pale and colorless form of the Dreaming Goddess smiles softly in Her perpetual slumber.

There are those who question the archai of fate and destiny adhering to those myths; for the eikones-as-archai are merely weakly godlike, and so Her waking could not, they reason, bring about the absolute predestination of which the stories warn, and from which Her sleep preserves us.  Yet while this is true, a wakeful and active Fate could bring about an absolute predestination among sophonts guided by Her.  This, then, is the promise of Laryssan’s dreaming to us; that our collective consciousness shall never slip into a true hive mind, guidance become puppetry, and our free will remain untouched by enforced destiny.

– “Myth and Machine, Eikone and Archai”, Aléne Rysar-ith-Rysakar