October Stuff

In honor of the coming holiday, a terrifying thought I had:

According to “The Blood-Brain Barrier” (and other incidental mentions elsewhere), it’s possible to target, edit, and alter the will if you know what you’re doing.

By implication, this means that it must be possible to *erase* someone’s will entirely with a personalized “nolitional” payload.

It would be an incredibly subtle and terrifying assassination method. Your target would be almost physically untouched and retain most of their sensory and cognitive functions, but the one thing that makes you a person would be as utterly destroyed as if you had taken a bullet to the brain-pan.

It’s certainly possible to build a p-zombifier, yes.

On the other hand, it’s not all that subtle (at least to societies that have sophotechnology, since coring out the logos will show up on a mind-state display like a claidheamh mor on a chest x-ray); and since – per the Cíëlle Vagary, etc. – logotic activity is most relevant in instants of chaotic choice, if you p-zombify Kim Jong-un, all you get is someone who can’t choose not to be Kim Jong-un. While not completely unuseful, leaving ethics aside for the moment, this is much less useful than one might think. 🙂

Given the emphasis on and discussion around the eldraeic take on “cold justice,” particularly in the recent post on the “Bonfire of the ‘Elites’,” I figured it would be appropriate to ask this one: Did the Empire ever develop anything parallel to the body of law and jurisprudence of equity (and its derived equitable remedies) that arose *here* from the English chancery courts that were established to “temper the rigor of the law”?

Equitable remedies have always been available in Imperial law, where applicable and just; unlike Earthling common-law systems (up until recently, in some systems), there has never been any distinction between law and equity. (Similar, although this is as imprecise as all Terran analogies, to the Scottish situation.)

(Not, of course, to “temper the rigor of the law”; if the law is just – and since the justification for the existence of the law hinges upon that it is just, which is to say, is as accurate a reflection of the Platonic ideal of perfect justice as possible – then any departure from the rigor of the law is, eo ipso, unjust. If the law is not just, then the only thing to do is change the law until it is.)

Okay, tomorrow morning AD, we have First Contact with the Eldrae. The day after, Corvus Belli gets access to an excellent intellectual property AI legal council and starts to put out the licensing and publication rights for their miniatures wargame, “Infinity”. They don’t make the mistakes that Games Workshop makes when trying to license their IP.

What would the game-playing public think of the game and how well would it do?

Don’t think I can commit to a position based on what the web alone can tell me, alas.

What would the eldrae think of [toppling] dominoes, seeing as they’re displays of entropy at it’s finest?

On the contrary, they’re lovely ordered complex systems producing a desired and desirable end result. Sure, they produce entropy as a by-product of their operation, but so does everything else: it’s a broken universe.

(On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

I’m talking about, to use a specific case, the situation that Patty Hearst fell into where, after initially being kidnapped, she was so thoroughly reprogrammed that she actively aided and abetted her captors’ further illegal activities because, in her own words, “The thought of escaping from them later simply never entered my mind. I had become convinced that there was no possibility of escape… It simply never occurred to me.”

Unless you can prove reprogramming in the technical sense – thought-viruses, overshadowing, coercive fusion, bodyjacking, et. sim., such arguments do not gain you much sympathy. Because, y’know, you have free will and the capacity to choose – and whatever your position on that *here*, in the Eldraeverse not only will mainstream philosophers tell you that hard determinism is incoherent, but the sophotechnologists and physicists will chime in and point out that they’re only a skosh away from being able to point at the widget that makes it work – and can exercise them unless you’ve been technically deprived of that capacity (your hypothetical “nolitional” payload, for example), and so bloody well ought to have.

(If available, you would definitely be better off trying for the duress – committed-lesser-crimes-to-prevent-a-greater-one – defense, but it wouldn’t have been in her case.)

It doesn’t help much that the eldrae in general, being constructed differently and very disinclined to submission, do not see much Stockholm Syndrome, et. al., per the bottom answer here, and thus do not consider it part of “human nature” the way we do.  Here, that’s victimization that could happen to anyone; there, it makes you an undiagnosed parabulia case, and in the modern era, the Guardians of Our Harmony and your tort insurer both will be wondering how exactly you went undiagnosed for long enough for this to happen.

(And since you don’t grow up in a mature information society without learning something about memetics, or a philosophically mature society without learning some formal ethics, an inadequate memetic immune system is no defense either.)

This, naturally, flavors the sympathy you get if you victimized yourself, in much the same way as if you were an undiagnosed schizophrenia case; people feel bad for you because you’re fundamentally broken and need fixing. It also tends to evaporate much of it when the choice you made under its influence was to go from victim to victimizer.

Nor does the meme rehab prescribed in such a case excuse you from paying weregeld and reparations: you still chose and acted, and that’s still on you.

[As a side note, actually, the schizophrenic has a better defense available: if you shoot at your hallucinatory monsters and hit someone, you don’t have mens rea because you responded reasonably to the data you have. That’ll play for an insanity defense.]

(Continued from earlier…)

What, specifically, is the issue at stake that makes such a conclusion unacceptably psychotic? I can understand why they might object on grounds that it’s morally pessimal (to use your terminology from a previous discussion) not to “abstain from the very appearance of evil,” and how in a positivist sense it might be abnegated by an Imperial citizen-shareholder’s commitment to maintain a specific standard of what locally is defined as sanity,

I’m going to assume this has effectively been answered by the earlier comment on the layered shells of ethics.

but as for its applicability to the general mass beyond the confines of the Empire’s own reach, and particularly to a self-sovereign individual under no contractual constraints to behave otherwise:

Law is local (the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding, and in any case, that’s less of a legal principle and more of a good excuse); ethics are universal. The Empire’s citizen-shareholders are more than happy to export and apply – on a personal, non-legal level – their views on what constitutes virtue and lack of same to the entire observable universe.

(As a tangential aside — though one I’ll come back to later — it seems that this is the necessary justification that allows anyone, and not just the particular victim(s), to shoot and kill an offender for what we would regard as relatively petty offenses if they deem it necessary under Imperial jurisprudence.)

I note that you have the right to defend self, others, and property by lethal force in the moment; this doesn’t extend to a generalized hunting license for anyone who has committed a crime and who hasn’t been formally outlawed. (Although since everyone has the right of arrest upon probable cause provided that the alleged criminal is handed over forthwith to the Constabulary or to a Curial court for arraignment, crimes committed while resisting arrest can blur this a bit.)

As has been greatly emphasized elsewhere, the eldrae place a high value on informed consent in their dealings. How would they respond, however, to the idea that consent is not a thing that can merely be passively solicited, but something that can be actively manufactured or engineered — as espoused (and largely developed) *here* by men such as Edward Bernays (1)(2) — by controlling what information passes through the various filters and “gatekeepers” on its route from the source to the general public, and by dictating how that information is presented

I believe the relevant snarky soundbite is: “No-one can manufacture your consent without your consent.”

Or, possibly, “Isn’t that called persuasion?”

There are certain constraints on what’s permissible by way of information control (extraordinarily limited) and by way of bad information (prohibitions on YGBMs and basilisks, but also in re choice-theft on defamation, falsification of information, falsificiation of entelechy, claiming false attachment, assumption of false identity, etc., etc.; the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive). But inside those limits —

On the one hand, it’s a mature information society. Information is everywhere, from a million sources which have their own point of view on everything except the facts. Learning to sort through this for truth and picking out the intentional memegineering is a basic life skill; failing to do your due diligence and just believing any damn thing you’re told, especially if you outsource your cognition to one particular source, is a kind of wilful stupidity that receives absolutely no cultural respect whatsoever. (This is why, say, advertising is the way that it is *there*.)

On the other hand, of course people and their coadunations will try to persuade you of things, and dress up their ideas in the nicest possible attire. That’s how you get things done in civilized society when you can’t force people to do things your way; sell the product. Persuasion, advertising, memetic engineering, a little manipulation – these are the polite tools of a society that’s renounced compulsion, and are refined accordingly.

Incidentally, this is where some of those grayer eikones come in: the intrigant who can persuade people into an extended series of individually positive-sum interactions and, by doing so, achieve a greater goal is greatly respected for their social-fu. On the heights, this is how the Great Game is played.

Conveniently, it also encourages the play style in which everyone wins.

So let’s say that you’re a rookie vigilante righter-or-wrongs out on your first day. And let’s say that on your very first case, you honestly interpret the scenario in entirely the wrong way, and thus botch things in the worst way possible. Maybe the “thief” you caught red-handed was actually some sort of contracted retrieval specialist hired by the property’s true owner to recover it, and the building they were trying to break into was where the thief was storing it. Or maybe those robed thugs you blew away with gusto after you caught them accosting a defenseless old man were actually actors in a public performance of *Julius Caesar*.(*) Either way, while you can safely say that you acted without malice and with the best of intentions, you did exactly the *wrong* thing given the situation. What’s most likely going to happen to you once you go through the Imperial justice system?

Contracted retrieval specialists – or to give them their local name, asset repropriators – have v-tags and bonds, so that’s not a mistake you should make.

Anyway: assuming that everything is as it seems on the surface (i.e., you genuinely tried to do the right thing, you just fucked it up, and you weren’t negligently incompetent), you’ll have to pay the reparation – just not the weregeld. There won’t be meme rehab, either, because there’s no homicidal tendency to correct.

(This is standard procedure for cases whose intent is adjudicated as error in judgment/non-wilful negligence.)

((As a side note, this sort of thing is very unlikely to be someone’s career choice, given the local crime rates and Constabular efficiency. If you want to make a career out of unlikely scenarios, you’d probably be better off hanging out your shingle as a professional unicorn hugger, or some such. They’re much more likely to exist.))

 

Questions: Leonine Contracts, Illusory Promise, Resurrective Eidolons, and Intentional Communities

I might be jumping the Trope-a-Day queue a bit, but do the eldrae recognize the validity of the concept of a Leonine Contract?

In particular, how would they analyze the situation in the Chesterton quote at the top?

Well, fundamentally in ethics, there ain’t no such thing as a Leonine Contract in that sense.

(I say “in that sense” because there are fraud, coercion, and things that look like contracts but aren’t1, none of which count, along with mixed forms like good old Vaderian “altering the bargain”, some of which are classed with leonine contracts even though they aren’t, technically speaking.

Most relevantly, though, there’s no doctrine of unconscionability – i.e., the notion that a contract is unenforceable because no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it – on the grounds that all people legally competent to sign contracts are by definition reasonable persons capable of informing themselves, which classifies those who do not inform themselves as bloody stupid2. And inasmuch as the Empire has a social policy on that sort of thing, it’s to not protect people against the consequences of Being Bloody Stupid, because that’s how you end up with a polity full of helpless, dependent chumps.)

But leaving aside all such instrumental considerations, the fundamental ethical reason why there ain’t no such thing as a leonine contract is that the concept of one necessarily implies that you can compel the service of other sophonts (or their property – say, their food – which is part of them by the principle of el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal) without their informed consent and no, just no, even if you are starving. Not even a step down that road of treating sophs as instrumentalities. That’s how mutual-slave-states end up rationalizing all their bullshit. So not happening.

That being said, in the latter situation given in the aforementioned Chesterton quote, what an Imperial citizen-shareholder trying that one might run into are the Altruism Statutes, which are basically the statute law backing up Article V (Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder), para. 4 of the Imperial Charter:

Responsibility of Common Defense: Inasmuch as the Empire guarantees to its citizen-shareholders the right to, and the means for, the common defense, each citizen-shareholder of the Empire is amenable to and accepts the responsibility of participating in the common defense; to defend other citizen-shareholders when and wheresoever it may be necessary; as part of the citizen militia and severally from it to defend the Empire, and its people wholly or severally, when they are threatened, whether by ill deed or cataclysm of nature; and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our ancestors and our cultures both common and disparate.

…which makes doing so in itself a [criminal] breach of their sovereign services contract, belike, because they voluntarily obligated themselves in the matter.

(Although I should also make it clear that someone rescuing you from a situation they themselves did not create is owed recompense by the principle of mélith. If you value your life (which people who are still alive presumptively do), you owe the one who preserved it in due proportion.)

Plus, of course, this sort of thing is basically fuelling your extremely unenlightened self-interest with a giant pile of burning reputational capital, which apart from being bad for you in general, is likely to be particularly bad for you the next time you require the volunteered assistance of your fellow sophs…


Given the central place sacredness of contract has in Imperial society, what do Imperial law and eldraeic ethics have to say about illusory promise?

(And as a follow-on, even if there aren’t any legal, moral, or ethical obstacles as such, what will the neighbors tend to think of someone who’s constantly hedging their bets by resorting to them whenever they try to enter into a contract with someone else?)

Well, the first thing I should say is that there are far fewer examples of it under Imperial contract law than under most Earthly regimes I am familiar with. The obvious example that constitutes a lot of it is “lack of consideration” *here* – whereas Imperial contract law, being based on the ancient-era laws and customs of oaths, doesn’t require consideration at all, and simple promissory statements to the effect of “I promise to give you one thousand esteyn” are legally binding in a way that “I promise to give you one thousand dollars” isn’t.

Of the remainder, some things are similar (the Curial courts will impute meaning on the basis that everyone is assumed to be acting in good faith, for example, and a contract to which one does not agree – the website terms and conditions changed without notification, say – is no contract at all, as mentioned above.) But in other cases – say, the promise of the proceeds of the promisor’s business activities, where the promisee doesn’t specify any particular activities and thus leaves open the option of ‘none’ – the Curial courts will point out that that is a completely legitimate outcome within the contract and so there’s no cause for action. Read more carefully next time.

So far as people who try to deliberately play the sneaky-weasel with this sort of thing – I refer you to my above comments about unenlightened self-interest and giant piles of burning reputational capital. Getting a reputation for doing this sort of thing without a damn good reason for so doing, preferably explained up-front, tends to rapidly leave a businesssoph without anyone to do business with…


Is it possible, even after the loss of a particular personality pattern in death, for a “close enough” pattern as to be effectively identical to the original person to be forensically reconstructed from secondhand sources (such as archived surveillance footage, life logs, individual cached memories and sense-experiences, and the like)?

Theoretically, you could make an eidolon (technical term for a mind-emulating AI based on memetic analysis) that would meet that standard – which is what makes them useful for modeling purposes – then uplift it to sophoncy; but in practice, “effectively identical” would require the kind of perfect information that you aren’t going to be able to reconstruct from the outside. The butterfly effect is in full play, minds being the chaotic systems they are, especially when you’re trying for sophont fidelity (which is much harder than just making a Kim Jong Un eidolon good enough for political modeling): you miss one insignificant-looking childhood incident in your reconstruction and it swings personality development off in a wildly different direction, sort of thing.

And it certainly wouldn’t qualify for legal purposes, since the internal structure of that kind of AI system doesn’t look anything like a bio-origin mind-state.


In split-brain scenarios, would each half of the brain be considered a separate, independent mind (regardless of whether or not they’re the same person) under Imperial law?

That depends. It’s not strictly speaking a binary state – and given the number of Fusions around of different topologies and making use of various kinds of gnostic nets, there is pretty extensive legality around this. The short answer is “it depends approximately on how much executive function is shared between the halves, much as identity depends on how much of the total mind-state is shared”.

Someone who has undergone a complete callosotomy is clearly manifesting distinct executive functions (after all, communication between the hemispheres is limited to a small number of subcortical pathways), and as such is likely to be regarded as two cohabiting individuals (forks of the pre-op self) by Imperial law.

And if they do eventually diverge into independent personalities (or originated as such upon the organism’s conception — say, if it began life as a single body with two separate brains with minimal cross-communication), what are the implications for contract law and property ownership?

That’s pretty much by standard rules. In the split-brain case, you’ve effectively forked, and those rules apply: property is jointly owned (with various default rules in re what is and is not individually alienable) and all forks are jointly and severally liable for the obligation of contracts until and unless they diverge.

In the polysapic (originating that way naturally) case, or the post-divergence case, they’re legally separate individuals who just happen to be walking around in the same ‘shell; ownership and contracts apply to them separately. That this sets up a large number of potential scenarios which are likely to be a pain in the ass to resolve should be sufficient incentive not to pursue this way of life unless both of you can coordinate really well with each other.

Could one mind ever possibly evict another?

Only if the other signed over his half of the legal title to the body to the one, which would probably be a really bad idea if he wasn’t planning to depart forthwith anyway.


Are there any particularly good examples of successful intentional communities in the Associated Worlds?

(Not including the Empire itself, even if it counts on a technicality; looking for more things on the smaller end of the scale.)

Oh, there’s lots of ’em, at least if you allow for a rather broader scope of purposes than the Wikipedia article would suggest. Within the Empire, the most successful example would be the metavillage or metahabitat phenomenon, which is exactly what it says on the tin – a village or hab designed specifically to appeal to people with common interests, and to memetically, architecturally, functionally, etc., synergize with those interests: a writer community will have large libraries, many coffee shops, plentiful sources of inspiration, and lots of quiet walks and nice places to sit and write, for example. A space enthusiast community might even have a community launchpad! And the lifestyle is spreading elsewhere, too.

There’s also the First Distributed Exclavine Republic, which again, is exactly what it says on the tin. Planned habitats designed to Imperial social norms scattered all over the Worlds. And then there’s the various monasteries, retreats, and the like of the Flamic church.

I haven’t a huge number documented elsewhere in the Worlds – and in any case wish to save the ones I have for spoiler-free future use – but there are a lot of them. Remember the Microstatic Commission and its thousands of tiny freeholds? Well, those tend to exist because of the ease of anyone with some idea they want to build a community around being able to launch a hab into some chunk of unclaimed space and set one up. They’re very popular ideas in this particular future, both affiliated with larger polities and entirely independent.


Footnotes:

1. The obvious thing here being software EULAs and other such instruments which you don’t get to read before implicitly consenting to. The general reaction of a Curial court to that sort of thing is “haha no”.

2. Which is why the law does permit contracts – like, say, many of *here*’s credit card agreements – that permit one party to unilaterally alter the terms, provided you give your informed consent to them as per normal.

Granted, it is also widely held *there* that no-one capable of anything resembling functional cognition would ever sign such a thing, so it’s not like they show up very often.

 

On Thanks, And The Meanings Of Thanks

In appropriateness for Thanksgiving, the question of the nature of thanks.

In an etymological discussion on Google+, back in July, which some of you may remember, in which various languages’ ways of saying “thank you” were discussed and their comparative original meanings – in terms of obligation, or gratitude, or mercy, or indeed the fascinating etymology of the Japanese arigato, I was asked how Eldraeic does this. And so, I answered, and I thought while I was at it I would save the substance of that comment for today’s blog article:

It is, of course, a somewhat complex question filled with tasty nuance. Sadly, it is also a complex question filled with etymological detail which I didn’t have to hand then, and since my brain has been busy with other things in the meantime, I still don’t have now, which teaches me to put things on the back burner, I guess. Still, while I don’t have those details available because I have yet to work out how these words would have run in Cestian and Selenarian and so forth before determining their descendants in good old modern Eldraeic, I can talk somewhat about meanings.

Of course, in Eldraeic, it’s all about obligation. Because of coválír and mélith, which for new readers are defined over here, and I talk some more about how they play out in language here. To Eldraeic’s original native speakers, and to those Imperially acculturated, obligation is a spiritual value, a founding principle of civilization, and a measure of moral worth all wrapped up in a single package. And for eldrae, in particular, it’s something about which they get instinctually twitchy in ways that humans simply can’t feel, so.

Thus, there are three combinations in Eldraeic that take the place of our “thank you” / “you’re welcome” pair. In either of the first two, the thanking party opens with “I am indebted”. The first possible response here, used for originating transactions, amounts to “It is known/acknowledged/recorded.” (The word here, based on the etymological notes that I do have, is now specific to this circumstance, but links back to older words relating to knots, tieing, weaving, etc., which is how they used to keep account-books in archaic times.)

I should also point up, probably, that while this might seem cold by human standards, declining to acknowledge/record someone’s offered debt is essentially blowing it off as not worth enough to bother with, which is a particularly insulting way to start a fight provoke someone to a duel. Yay for cross-cultural misunderstandings.

The other one, used for closing transactions when one is cancelling an existing debt, is “It is repaid,” which – oh, hey, more etymology – has links with words meaning “it balances”.

The third form is used in things like, say, buying something and paying for it right then, when the obligation is both incurred and paid off at the same moment. That one’s a worn down form of the old obligator closing that runs something along the lines of “Thus is our contract written; thus is agreement made.”, and it’s said each to each, probably simultaneously, at the close of the deal. You could also think of it as analogous to the Jacksonian “Deal”.

These apply, of course, principally to solicited transactions. Unsolicited ones – well, in their view of the world, you can do something that benefits someone else for your own internal reasons, but you can’t do something for them without their consent – because that would indebt them to you without their consent, and that’s something that only slavers, outworld barbarians, and other terminally uncultured people do. One can, however, declare oneself indebted to someone for something they didn’t do for you, which starts off the whole elegant verbal dance in which they try to persuade you that you’re not indebted (’cause they had their own internal reasons or another debtor, and got paid already) without insulting you by repudiating your debt, and you try to persuade them otherwise…

One might well ask how gratitude fits into this paradigm. Answer: badly, as we conceive of it, ’cause gratitude would imply a sense of indebtedness, and that would be incorrect and inappropriate because the debt has been either acknowledged as an obligation or already paid. It is done, and carrying it further would be a gross solecism.

What they do have, on the other hand, is appreciation – something which, per coválír , has its ties to such words as “appraise” acknowledged much more plainly that in human cultures, because they’re not ashamed to express value as value . Eldraeic is a language in which it is entirely reasonable and appropriate to say “I value your existence/this series of transactions/the [commercial/personal/etc.] relationship/your willingness to participate in this transaction” straight out, which while far from something that it’s appropriate to say every time you buy a cup of coffee, is something one might express to one’s frequent counterparty/regular butcher/favorite barista, etc., etc., as a statement appended to whichever of the above is relevant to whatever transaction you’ve just engaged in.

(It’s also the most appropriate statement to use to respond to things done that benefit-you-but-aren’t-for-you, which in most cases do not generally warrant going to the lengths of declaring oneself personally indebted.

This phrasing is also used to acknowledge gifts – given with no strings attached, for which there is a specific verb, “to-give-in-appreciation-of-your-value”, which I would more readily gloss as “to gift”, at least if we ignore blue-gifting – compliments and other such expressions, and so forth.)