Today’s relevant shout-out goes to Destiny: Rise of Iron for its depiction of a nanotech bloom as something other than the traditional (boring) homogeneous gray goo:

Meet SIVA:


So many of the probable phases, all on display: the hard-shelled geoms (which I conceive of as processing nodes) and bundles of organic-looking transport/processing motile cables, both growing together and through other objects; hazes of foglets, both being excreted by other constructions and moving independently; and (not pictured), streams of liquid nanite soup glowing lava-like with the radiant heat of active [dis]assembly.

If you’re looking for a visual reference for what I envision rampant nanite blooms to look like in the ‘verse, you could do a lot worse.


The Importance of Murdering Gods

Jade Nekotenshi asks:

So, I was reading Meditations on Moloch, by Scott Alexander (, 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.

Theology and Destiny

No, not that destiny.

This Destiny.

Specifically, the Books of Sorrow, the history of the Hive, which you can read on this page here if you scroll right down to the bottom (OBVIOUS WARNING: HORRIFIC SPOILERS LIE THERE.), and in particular VI, XI, XV, XVII, XIX, XXXII, and XLVII seem highly relevant to Flamic theology.

Or anti-theology, rather.

While officially, at least, Entropy has not personification, or cult, or gospel in the Eldraeverse…

If it did, though…

If it did…

It would sound just exactly like that.

Trope-a-Day: You Can’t Fight Fate

You Can’t Fight Fate: According to everything known about temporal mechanics, the universe is a block universe – which is to say, while local causality violations are possible (effects can, sometimes, precede causes), global causality violations are not (effects, nonetheless, always have causes).  Or to put it another way, while predestination paradoxes are permitted – and enforced – grandfather paradoxes are not.  The probability of any event-chain that might lead to a global causality violation is always zero, and anything which happened in the past, even if it involves the future of your personal timeline, will necessarily happen.

You can sometimes fiddle fate, because what you think you know about the past is not always what actually happened in the past; but you can’t fight it head on.  Free will may be stronger than destiny, but it’s not stronger than causality.

Then You Will Meet Your Destiny

So, seeing as we’ve recently considered human cultural artifacts that might prove popular in the Eldraeverse after a hypothetical first-contact-real-soon-now, here’s one for you.


Seriously, it fits perfectly, especially thematically. You’ve got the epicity and idealism, the mythopoetry of things (assuming you read the grimoire cards), the clash of Light and Darkness, technology from Near Future Hard right up to the point of Sufficiently Advanced Techno-Miracles (ontological weapons, even!), Blue and Orange Morality, and the definitive proper attitude towards grimdarkness, namely that it exists to be punched in the face with your space-magic fist of doom. Hell, the Traveler’s even a dead ringer for one of the Transcend’s synapse moons.


(Seriously awesome ass-kicking to the tune of Immigrant Song also doesn’t hurt.)

…seriously, if Bungie *there* were to port this to full-immersion virtuality and sell it on the Imperial market – half a trillion copies sold, easy. At minimum.

(And, I sidenote, if you were to imagine a variant of the game set at the shiniest heights of humanity’s Golden Age, that would probably be about as close to an Eldraeverse video game as there could ever be.)

The CPU of Fate

To primitive peoples, the world is a place of telos.  Created for a purpose; moving towards a purpose; ending with that purpose.

Of course, as they develop the scientific method and practice it assiduously, they rapidly come to learn that there is essentially no teleology to be found in the universe, and the closest thing to destiny one may find in operation is the inexorable unfolding of acyclic causal graphs along time’s arrow.  (Later discoveries add a smidgeon of chaotic indeterminacy at the smallest scales to power the whole thing along, and should they happen upon the rare conditions necessary to travel along time-like curves, the causal graphs in question turn out to be potentially cyclic, after all; but none of this changes the overall picture.)

Even the discovery of the fascinatingly nondeterministic algorithms which power what we presume to be volition, while they may introduce free will into the universe, do not give it purpose.  And they are themselves, indeed, merely another product of the inexorable unfolding of causality’s chains from a chaotic beginning.  We are; that is true, but we are not for.

At this, the weak and simple often retreat into nihilism – void of purpose given to them, they deny all purpose – or merely engage in grand denial of the question.  Stronger and more mature civilizations conclude that the lack of aboriginal purpose does not necessarily mean a lack of all purpose, and proceed to draw one from their current position in the universe, or forge one for themselves as an act of will.

Of course, very few conclude that the optimal solution for a world lacking telos is the construction of an instrumentality capable of imposing it on top of causality’s mechanical meaninglessness, and of those, only one has carried it through to implementation.

And if you’re inside the Transcendent light-cone, here’s how it works.

– Introduction to Moiric Architecture and Implementation, Cala Cendriane-ith-Cendriane

Trope-a-Day: The Chosen One

The Chosen One: Again per Because Destiny Says So, the people whose timelines are meddled in by the local weakly godlike superintelligences on the grounds that their existence, or something they will do during their existence, is necessary to their designed Optimal Future.

Somewhat subverted inasmuch as what the Chosen One eventually does may be something whose significance is completely incomprehensible to anyone without the acausal-logic-enabled quasi-omniscient viewpoint of a weakly godlike superintelligence, and may even be little more than happening to be the right butterfly in a chaos cascade.

Trope-a-Day: The Chooser of the One

The Chooser of the One: Per Because Destiny Says So, any of the transcendent seed AIs who feel a need to meddle with the future and have the sort of view of the world to enable them to do so reliably.  Generally does not come with Super Empowering, for reasons which lesser intelligences suspect to amount to “Both inelegant and inefficient”.

Trope-a-Day: Because Destiny Says So

Because Destiny Says So: In some cases, played straight due to the tendency of the Transcend (and other potential acausal-logic using seed AIs) to whisper in their own ears from the future; however, while they do apparently intervene in people’s timelines for the sake of their Optimal Futures, a combination of the even-if-you-could-formulate-the-right-question-you-couldn’t-understand-the-answer effect and the nature of predestination paradoxes means… well, good luck getting anything out of them on the topic beyond “Further information is not available at this when-where,” Chosen One or not.

(Averted in mythology.  Laryssan, eikone of fate and destiny, is portrayed as asleep – and voluntarily so, in order to spare the universe the chains of absolute predestination that would result if she was actually awake and thus aware of all the possible links of cause to consequence throughout time.  How much influence the dreams of Laryssan had was something of a matter of theological debate back in the day.)