Self-Dying

CAPITOL, YANOK ARCHIPELAGO, TORKATAN CONGERIES – Protests were reported today outside the Imperial embassy here in Capitol Drift over the recent death of a citizen of the Congeries during a tour of the Core worlds.

Ra Adom Underhull was struck and killed by an groundcraft on Ellisar (Imperial Core) late last year, one of only fourteen vehicular incidents reported in the Empire in 7204.

Her case has attracted some controversy both within and without Imperial space, since as a member of the pro-public-privacy group Behind the Veil, Underhull was wearing full-coverage clothing patterned with adversarial images designed specifically to impair the operation of commonly-used sensor algorithms, and had placed the Universal issued her at entry into a sealed embag. (This latter practice was one which had already led to several warnings from the Constabulary.)

A statement issued at the time by Silverwing Motors, ICC, the designers of the groundcraft in question, offered their condolences to Underhull’s family, but, while noting that the vehicle had detected her and begun obstacle-avoidance routines shortly before the collision, stated that they could not reasonably be expected to build systems secure against deliberate and technically sophisticated attempts to sabotage their operation.

The Constabulary coroner concurred with this, and returned a verdict of death by misadventure secondary to traumatic amentia, or as it is unfortunately also known, “death by stupidity”.

It is this verdict that forms the root of the controversy, with opinions varying from those prevalent in certain outworlds that one should be protected fully even from the consequences of one’s own actions, or that this once again highlights the intrinsic dangers of automation, to the common opinion among Imperials that one cannot in all reason possibly expect to be kept safe when engaging in acts of profound unwisdom, such as deliberately blinding safety systems or taking an evening stroll through a minefield.

Consensus on these matters remains as unlikely to be reached as ever.

– the Imperial Infoclast

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: Service Sector Stereotypes

Service Sector Stereotypes: Played differently due to low-pop demographics and high-wealth culture; namely, waitstaff (for one example) are near-universally highly professional and competent in order to justify the expense of having them at all (the low end of the restaurant market automates the job away).  (Also, “service with a smile” is only partially played straight; much like the rest of the Imperial commercial universe, it is very much understood that all business is by mutual consent and, per the above as well as general civility, you will not be permitted to get away with abusing the employees.)

Trope-a-Day: Script Reading Doors

Script Reading Doors: Played oddly straight – the ability of people’s neural laces and muses to override local hardware, if they think of so doing, can create some of these effects – the ones involving staying open for longing looks, or operating stealthily, or while people are conversing through it, or other cases where the people involved could logically think of it in advance.

And automatic door circuitry is smart enough to understand who has permission to go through doors, or when someone has been v-tagged as going to a specific location, and the difference between someone walking to a door and walking past a door – but still, they’re not perfectly script-reading, even if they are much better at predicting intentions that purely proximity-sensor based automatic doors.

Trope-a-Day: Scale of Scientific Sins

Scale of Scientific Sins: All of them.  Absolutely all of them.

Automation: Of just about everything, as exemplified by the sheer number of cornucopia machines, AI managers and scurrying utility spiders.  Unlike most of the people who got this one very badly wrong, however, in this Galaxy, almost no-one is stupid or malicious enough to make the automation sophont or volitional.

Potential Applications: Feh.  Anything worth doing is worth doing FOR SCIENCE!  (Also, with respect to 2.2 in particular, Mundane Utility is often at least half of that point.)

GE and Transhumanism: Transsophontism Is Compulsory; those who fall behind, get left behind.  Or so say all we – carefully engineered – impossibly beautiful genius-level nanocyborg demigods.  (Needless to say, Cybernetics Do Not Eat Your Soul.)

Immortality: Possibly cheating, since the basic immortality of the eldrae and galari is innate – well, now it is, anyway – rather than engineered.  Probably played straight with their idealistic crusade to bring the benefits of Avoiding That Stupid Habit You Have Of Dying to the rest of the Galaxy, though.

Creating Life: Digital sapience, neogens (creatures genetically engineered from scratch, rather than modified from an original), and heck, even arguably uplifts, too.

Cheating Death: The routine use of vector stacks and reinstantiation is exactly this.  Previously, cryostasis, and the entire vaults full of generations of frozen people awaiting reinstantiation such that death would bloody well be not proud.  And no, people don’t Come Back Wrong; they come back pretty much exactly the same way they left.

Usurping God: This one is a little debatable, inasmuch as the Eldraeverse does not include supernatural deities in the first place.  On the other hand, if building your own complete pantheon of machine gods out of a seed AI and your own collective consciousness doesn’t count towards this, what the heck does?

Trope-a-Day: Our Doors Are Different

Our Doors Are Different: Well, sometimes.  Automatic, yes, just about all of them as at the Imperial level of technology (or, indeed, the modal level for the Associated Worlds) throwing an actuator on there is cheap, and people are carrying things in all hands often enough that it’s handy not to have to set them down to make the door open.  (Of course, most of these aren’t automatic, so much as operated by thinking “open” at them.)  Also, in microgravity, finding leverage may be annoying for much the same reason.

Leaving aside blast doors, vault doors, and other such things with locking mechanisms designed to survive someone letting off a nuke just outside, etc., and the cog-style spacetight doors designed to be openable regardless of pressure differentials, most of the rest of the Different Doors are the gratuitously fancy non-rectangular-and-with-multiple-moving-parts styles that serve no useful purpose whatsoever except for letting architects and interior designers show off as much as possible.  Which is to say, they don’t so much serve an out-of-universe desire to show off how cool and sciency and futuristic everything is, as an in-universe desire for… well, that.

Special note here to the really fancy swarm-doors made of large numbers of nanomachines pretending to be a wall that essentially melt away to create an opening, or even around you to create the effect that you just melted right through the wall, leaving it intact behind you.  Very expensive, but damn shiny-looking.

And, of course, to the biotech heart-valve or sphincter-based doors.

Labor Theory of Value

(I was going to post the next chunk of Before the Phoenix today, but it’s not quite ready yet. So, here’s a quick wee thing instead…)

In the Conclave of Galactic Polities, Ambassador llin-Terl-an of the Palnu Sodality put forward a measure – supported by others of the Socionovist Association – proposing a system of voluntary interpolity fund transfers for the support of those individuals deprived of employment by imported cornucopia and other “industrial magic” automation technology.

Speaking for the Empire, Presiding Minister Calis Corith pointed out that his polity had, by the definitions contained within the proposal, all-pervasive deployment of industrial magic and an employment rate of zero, and thanked those supporting the proposal for stepping forward to financially ease the citizen-shareholders’ negative-value labor deficit at what would surely be a great cost to themselves.

The measure was tabled for further study.

– from the Imperial Infoclast