The Importance of Murdering Gods

Jade Nekotenshi asks:

So, I was reading Meditations on Moloch, by Scott Alexander (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/), and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between his Elua and the Eldraeic Transcend.

Is that why the Transcend came to be, to vanquish Moloch, as it were? It certainly seems like, at least at its core, the Empire has largely managed to contain the destructive consequences of coordination problems.

(…you really want to read or have read that link before continuing.)

Well, after all, the whole project of civilization, in one respect or another, is to vanquish Moloch: the Empire as a whole – governance, businesses, branches and circles, COGs, reputation networks, obligators, markets, a million million sub-coordination mechanisms are all, to one extent or another, lights burning against the dark, each correcting every other.

As have been any number of arbitrarily selected projects to improve people, from education to biomodification to cyberization, in the interest of promoting better coordination per se and increased likelihood of same through increased tendencies to enlightened non-Molochian self-interest.

(Note, here, for example, that the fish-farming story given at II/3 in the post depends on the Steves and Mikes of the world making certain characteristic cognitive errors which are endemic among humans. Likewise the craziness that is Vegas, seen in III. The Citizen Eugenics Board has been working on deleting tendencies to make those sort of errors, et. al., from the eldraeic cognome for millennia.)

((It is also perhaps worth noting at this point that Elua, as conceived, represents the aggregated preferences and values of [baseline] humans, i.e., human nature. The Transcend doesn’t give a damn for “eldrae nature”, any more than mainstream eldraeic philosophy does, on the grounds that it’s probably as imperfect as the rest of the universe. It operates on the basis of the perfected ideal version of eldrae nature, what I suppose we might as well call angelic nature, which two will eventually converge over time as the grand process of personal and cultural self-improvement advances.))

But the Transcend is, in some of its parts, a very high level of expression of this tendency and so you are entirely correct to identify it as such. It’s an impossible circle-squarer – which is to say, by creating a collective-consciousness superorganism that manages to be one mind and a trillion minds simultaneously, with perfect information for all, it exists to deliver perfect liberty and perfect coordination at the same time, and therefore destroy Moloch.

Or at least as close an asymptotic approach to that exalted state as an ever-growing Cirys swarm of computational elements can deliver.

But that’s the short and medium-term plan. In the long-term, destroying Moloch alone isn’t enough: the plan there is to do away Moloch’s daddy, Gnon – which the Flamics call Entropy – because the perversity of any given evolved-sophont system is a mere subset of the perversity of what is, at base, a fundamentally broken universe.

And this is where I switch to Destiny metaphors.

The Transcend is, like the Traveler, a gardener. It “builds gentle places, safe for life”. It “builds new life, against the onset of ruin, towards a gentle world”. It architects laws of conduct, elegant dances of civilization. It spreads order, peace, harmony, and progress. Enlightenment. Love.

This is all true. This is the nature of their iteration of Elua. But it is not complete.

Because, insofar as it possible to comprehend its long-term plans, the Transcend also shares the ambition of the Vex. Its long-term plan is to understand everything and, to steal a perfectly cromulent phrase, build an emperor for all outcomes – and thereby to transcend physicality and overwrite itself on the informational substrate of the universe, becoming an inseparable property of the universe.

When perfect liberty and perfect coordination become fundamental to reality, superordinate to mere physical law – when Moloch and Gnon have been utterly extirpated as defective and obsolescent functions – and every quantum moves in accordance with Transcendent values…

…perfection will have been achieved.

And that alone is sufficient victory.

Trope-a-Day: Ungovernable Galaxy

Ungovernable Galaxy: A reflection of the truth, long before you get to the size of an entire galaxy, at least when you’re talking about centralizing-hierarchist structures. As they scale up, they start bottlenecking horribly – there’s a reason why most growth patterns matching this structure stall out well before they get to 100 systems.  Hell, a large subset of them crash and burn before they reach one planet.

(The exception that proves the rule is the Voniensa Republic, which claims 8,000 systems – but then, not all of those 8,000 are technically “its”, and the Shell is different from the Core, and so forth. That said, they are perhaps the acknowledged masters of making centralizing-hierarchist structures work on this scale, inefficient and kludgy though they are; just because they insist on being primitives doesn’t mean they’re stupid.)

As for the Empire? It was pursuing alternative approaches long before it hit the one-planet level. If you look over here, you’ll see this:

Peter B. Evans uses Williamson’s control loss model to show that higher efficiencies are possible when the Emperor switches to “multiple hierarchy” systems, such as the dual hierarchy. If the Emperor creates a complete second command hierarchy in parallel with the first, his effectiveness rises by nearly two-thirds. The superiority of dual hierarchies is well-known in business (line-and-staff) and in public administration (especially Communist bureaucracies). Lattice structure systems are a more sophisticated form, involving a complete lattice of hierarchial links providing a startling multiplicity of pathways to the top. Such novel system my not encourage galactic stability, but the opportunities for palace intrigue are legion!

Now, what’s the limiting case of a lattice-structure system?

The adhocracy.

That’s the strategy the Empire is pursuing – a radically decentralized system, with tremendous local autonomy handed out at each level, based around Symbol, Meme, and Mesh.

You’ve got a nice spectacular center – the Imperial Couple, the Senate, the Curia – who do serve a key function as deciders-of-last-resort, but who work very hard to avoid decisions having to reach their level, and whose main function, along with the trappings of office and capital, is to be the Symbol, the gravity well around which all else orbits.

You have the Meme, the idea of empire, the dream that is Rome, the ideology that guides policy. Which works much better as a control mechanism because it doesn’t need a center. Memes replicate. It’s what they do. There is a minor centralizing element inasmuch as the Meme must be tended, mutations pruned, and so forth, but that itself can be distributed.

And you have the Mesh. Not a single, massive, centralized hierarchy, but a whole team of organizations flying in close formation, orbiting the same point but not directly controlled by it, with each one – like flocking birds – correcting and corrected by the others near it. Exchanging information – flowing in to the center, back out to the edge, and around peripheral routes. Local nodes of distributed AI systems make decisions based on local knowledge but following shared ideas, creating global coordination without need for centralization. Everything is disseminated everywhere.  Everything checks everything else.

Will it scale to an entire galaxy?

We’ll see.