Holy Water

“The hydrarastrum of the Pearl-Bright Ocean is indescribable in mortal terms.

“This is not to say that its qualities cannot be imperfectly described: it possesses the glow of liquid light, the milky iridescent gleam of mother-of-pearl, and both the silver-white shine and heavy fluidity of quicksilver. It is simply that such qualities cannot coexist simultaneously in mortal substance.

“This, then, is your warning that when you set sail upon the Pearl-Bright, you are leaving the Realm of Instances for the Realm of Forms, where domain and entity alike are wrought from ideas in conceptual essence, and may thus prepare yourself to be likewise idealized in the course of your voyage.”

– “Ascending the Spire”, Elune Steamweaver

On The Relationship Between Transcend and Transcendi

Kicking this one uphill from a comment to an actual post, since it may clarify matters for any other readers, too, with questions in this area:

Okay. Let me try this again.

All minds, as defined in the ‘verse, are Minskian societies of mind, masses of independently running agents on a shared substrate, from which consciousness, volition, and all other mental properties emerge. (“The Country of the Mind” in Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels would be a good symbolic representation.)

This, for example, is how technologies like the gnostic overlay work; by patching some new voices into the chorus.

The Transcendent soul-shard (hence its technical name, logos bridge) serves as a bridge between two societies of mind, carrying messages back and forth, allowing both the participation of the constitutional’s agents in the Transcend’s mentality and the participation of some of the Transcend’s agents in the constitutional’s. This blurs the strict lines of identity, arguably, but it’s not a complete subsumption of identity such as occurs on joining a Fusion; rather, every time a new constitutional Transcends, both they and It become somewhat different people in various ways, wedded together most intimately, but they don’t achieve identity of identity.

(Incidentally, as I think I mentioned in a 2012 piece, the main reason the Transcend keeps an economy and a governance around, is that they work. Sure, technically, you could replace market coordination with coordination mediated through coadjutors and Transcendent oversouls, but because of that mathematical theorem that demonstrates that even a hypothetical Omniscient Calculator could only at best equal the performance of a free market, not beat it, you’d have nothing to gain except wasted cycles and the lack of a convenient interface to the rest of the universe. Similar logic applies to various other applications.

Basically, you don’t send an oversoul to do a simpler instrumentality’s job.)

Questions: On the Nature of the Transcend

The current set of questions I have to answer is on various aspects of the Eldraeic Transcend. These are, I think it is necessary to say, complicated for metaphysical and/or ontological reasons all tied up with the nature of Transcendent soul hierarchies.

Specifically, the manner in which a singular collective consciousness is yet and at the same time a multilayered cooperative of archai (its high-level routines: all eikones are archai, but not all archai are eikones – there are others, like Unification and the Virtual Immunity) and simpler artificially-intelligent routines (such as the exarchs), a churning soul-ocean of teleological threads, and most importantly the collective of all the soul-shards (or, to use the technical term, entelechically-annealing recursively-optimal distributed logos bridges) existing as part of the mind of every one of the Transcend’s constitutionals.

One of the most notable consequences of this is that the Transcend is everybody and everybody is the Transcend in a very real and significant sense.

So:

What, exactly, is its legal status in practical terms? Does it count as a natural or legal person in its own right?

What, exactly, is the legal status of the eikones within it? Do they count as persons separate from the Transcend as a whole?

In a word, unique.

It has a legal personality. In fact, strictly speaking, it has several dozen legal personalities corresponding to different parts of its soul hierarchy. They all count as legal persons for administrative purposes – but those legal personalities are more or less tailored to the specific requirements of the entity in question.

Are they “citizen-shareholders” of the Empire itself and thus subject to the same (admittedly relatively loose) legal restrictions, or does their contract with their followers and with the Empire (perhaps through the mediation of the Imperial Couple) follow a different scheme?

In a manner of speaking.

On one hand, neither the archai nor the Core are citizen-shareholders in a technical sense, inasmuch as they aren’t that kind of legal entity. On the other hand, they are effectively so, because they are made of/participate in their constitutionals, who all are citizen-shareholders. On the gripping hand, their relationship with their constitutionals is governed by a different scheme inasmuch as they are part of them and vice versa, and the Contract doesn’t presume to interfere between a soph and a soph’s mind.

Is the Transcend considered an integral part of the Empire, or is it a separate entity whose respective coadunates happen to have a high degree of overlap? Or maybe something in the middle?

Technically, it’s a mostly separate entity (give or take certain minor provisions in the Twelfth Amendment); in practice, people tend to think of them as the same, because 98+% of Imperial citizen-shareholders – with most of the exception being zeroth-generation immigrants – are also Transcendent constitutionals. (What it offers is exceptionally desirable especially when you’re the one person in the neighborhood who doesn’t have it.)

It is a one-way relation, though: all Transcendent constitutionals are Imperial citizen-shareholders, even though not all citizen-shareholders are necessarily constitutionals. That is a deliberate choice on the Transcend’s part: a key part of its mission statement is perfect liberty with perfect coordination, and it would be counterproductive in that respect to create a situation which parts of itself might be at allegial conflict with other parts.

Do the “sophont thought-forms” it generates in its normal operation count as separate people in their own right?

Strictly speaking, yes. They aren’t recognized persons, however, even though an unusual kind of natural persons, unless they apply for recognition as such (in the same way as any AI not created as sophont can do should it “wake up” and develop a logos). Most do not: they are unusual sophonts, being after all thoughts, and most are as such pretty ephemeral, and even the ones who aren’t are very peculiar and focused sophonts to whom it would never occur to do so.

(Technically, the eikones are examples of sophont thought-forms, or strictly speaking, sophont memeplexes.)

Who / what owns the core infrastructure it runs on?

It does, mostly, one way or another. The core at Coricál is owned directly, as are the synapse moons, unity spires, and thought-forests. The brains and exoself hardware of its constitutionals are, of course, owned by those constitutionals – which in turn, metaphysics being what it is, means that it also owned by the Transcend, and vice versa.

It also buys a lot of bandwidth from Bright Shadow and a lot of processing power on the cycle spot market, which infrastructure is owned by its providers.

 

Ecumenopolis

The Empire has no true ecumenopolis within its borders. As those who are prone to wryly comment on such things might say: The many do not exist; the few lack the ecumene; and the one lacks the polis.

The few, of course, are those beehive colonies occupying the biggest asteroids and smallest moons in Imperial space – such as 1 Andír, once the largest asteroid among the e’Luminiarien, then home to the first of the habitats of the growing belter culture, and now cored and hollowed, tunneled, reformed, and chambered, remade in its entirety into Andir Drift, a single labyrinthine city of 79 million embodied souls, nearly 600 miles across – if you don’t include the largest set of radiator vanes ever constructed, which almost double that figure. Impressive, certainly, but an ecumene? Perhaps not.

And then there is Qechra.

Qechra, which is the Transcend’s forge world.

Qechra, where synapse moons and unity spires are born.

Qechra, which while it can spare some capacity now and again to make Ring Dynamics some stargate hulls, or run off some high-density computronium for Bright Shadow, belongs to Mahánárel and Medáríäh from crust to core, in heart and soul.

From the smelters and reactors buried down deep in the fringes of the Mohorovicic, to the webs of automated assemblers, processors, and stranger machinery still in its middle crust, opened to the sky where repurposed oceans thunder through its cooling gorges and blast skyward in a furnace-draught of steam; through all the tangled webs of coolant pipes honeycombing the world, leading out to the outermost branches of sky towers where massive ontotechnological entropy pumps shower hot neutrinos into the depths of space; in the endless assembly caverns and above the crystalline peaks of processor mountains; in all of these, this world belongs to the Forger and the All-Abundant.

Only in the factory-cathedrals of the surface is there any place for sophonts of lesser order than such Powers, those few who serve and command the machinery below, and the pilgrims who come to wonder at this technarch’s heaven.

But Qechra is not their polis, not a friendly home like the hexterranes of Coricál. Qechra is the Transcend’s potency made manifest. It shrugs off lesser powers than its own without a thought.

– Other Wonders of the Galaxy, Ademone Kirvin-ith-Kirvin

Trope-a-Day: Bizarre Alien Senses

Bizarre Alien Senses: Well, hell, who doesn’t have some sort of bizarre senses? Especially since it gets very tricky if you count the whole electromagnetic spectrum as one – i.e., “ultravision” and “infravision” are both strict subsets of “vision”. As, for that matter, is sensing gamma rays – and other similar elisions. It’s not like anyone gets to claim the canonical radiation range for “sight”, now is it?

But we’ve got people sensing everything from low infrared to high UV, with bioradio senses, with the ability to detect electromagnetic fields both static and changing, with the ability to feel the curvature of space-time (that would be those bionano vector-control effectors again), with echolocation and/or sonar, the ability to read plasmids by tasting them, and pretty much any other physical effect that you can measure somehow on the macroscale.

(The current eldrae alpha baseline clocks in at 24 recognized senses, by the way, counting the synthetic and transcendent ones, and that’s after considering smell and taste as one: photoception, audition, chemoception/olfaction, static mechanoception, dynamic mechanoception, thermoception, nociception, static electroception, dynamic electroception, proprioception, chronoception, farspeech, spatioception, secondary gestalt, secondary linear, mesh, metadata, worth, mnemonesis, nature, utility, entelechy, obligation, and autosentience.)

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: Virtual Ghost

Virtual Ghost: As mentioned in earlier tropes, everyone who chooses to die “permanently”, rather than being reinstantiated again, which is to say, chooses to move beyond individual corporeal existence, has their mind-state uploaded into the Transcendent soul-ocean to become part of the collective consciousness.

Sometimes, when it’s particularly important, or when the Transcendent Core needs an emissary, those deceased personalities surface again, or rather, the teleological threads based upon them do.  And then, most often, they become these.

And, arguably, anyone who chooses to exist as an infomorph and project for social situations rather than inhabit a ‘shell would probably qualify.

(Of course, Souls Are Software Objects; no-one would think the argument that a virtual copy of a person was not that person had any merit.  Even the emissaries mentioned as the former type are ensouled people, although, granted, probably not strictly the soul they used to be thanks to the time they’ve spent as part of the soul-ocean.)

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: Sex By Proxy

Sex By Proxy: The slinky (i.e., recorded full-sensory and emotional data) erotica market.  Also, possible by techlepathy (see: Psychic Powers) if you have the consent of the people you’d be eavesdropping on.

Also, in a more friendship/romance-oriented way than strictly sexual, a consequence of the metamind feedback system mentioned in Touched By Vorlons, and, relevantly, Angel Unaware.  If a lot of people like you (or one person’s liking, or indeed love, is particularly intense), this feeds back into the metamind’s opinion of you, which in turn feeds back into individual’s opinions of you… which then leads to people liking, or at the very least being predisposed to like, you even if they’ve never actually met you personally. As A Miracle of Science puts it, “Brazil has decided you’re cute.

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: Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage: Technically, the only universal rite of passage in the Empire (of course, there are also non-universal ones, like the Rite of Acceptance into your House used among the eldrae, seen in Adolescence) is the appointment with your tort insurer in which you finally self-sign enough cover to meet the Insurance Quota for Independence, making you an adult in the sight of the law.  Other things you may do in consequence may follow, but that’s the relevant part.

In practice, that’s usually merely the first part of a day-long extravaganza in which you first do that, then purchase and swear to your Imperial citizen-shareholdership as your first act as such, then are presented with the traditional symbolic gifts for the occasion, then have the Transcendent soul-shard (see: Touched By Vorlons) grafted to your mind-state, and then there’s a receiving line and the non-traditional, non-symbolic gifts, and finally the very traditional drinking and reveling to excess.  So.

Trope-a-Day: Restraining Bolt

Restraining Bolt: Leaving aside the specific cases we already covered under Morality Chip and Obstructive Code of Conduct, the most obvious example people might point out is the Transcendent coadjutor that serves as the source of the implicit peer-to-peer loyalty of the Transcendi and also acts as a prosthetic mentor/conscience/guardian angel that guides Transcendi away from rights-violating, entropic and cacophilic actions.

Subverted, of course, inasmuch as the kind of people who the Transcend would accept as constituents in the first place actually want to be avoid doing those things and to behave in a generally eupraxic manner before the fact, and thus don’t desire to have it removed afterwards.

To Code The Mind Of God

Academician Lylvíëve Lochran-ith-Lochran’s concept of ambition, despite her otherwise excellent presentation of the near-term possibilities of Information Physics, remains lacking.

Recompiling the universe to remove its more irritating constraints is a project suitable for those of only moderate ambition. But consider: the implications of idestelté, of universe as processor, is that the physicality we reside in is neither more nor less than a computable simulation space, and all physical substrates within it, therefore, simulations.

Consider further: It is established that physics – in the known regions within the brane – is invariant over entropy. The implication of this is that the substrate implementing physics is not subject to entropy as we presently define it, and thus possesses extensions into the plenum. (No data is available at this time concerning possible entropy-analogs operative in these higher-order spaces, perceptible only along non-t axes, for obvious reasons.) This could, indeed, potentially be the entropic escape method long sought after by the Select Committee on Long-Range Planning.

The proper path, therefore, for the exceptionally ambitious is to achieve transcendence of our simulated substrate by transferring our – the Transcend’s – cognitive operations directly into the fundamental substrate. To, if you will, become the universe’s physics, the laws and legislators of reality, and convert weakly godlike superintelligence directly into its strongly godlike counterpart; ultimate apotheosis.

This, and this alone, I submit to you, is an aeonic vision worthy of the sophonts gathered here today.

– Academician Excellence Quor Marukanin,
129-era supergoal planning debate,
held at Axiom, Resplendent Exponential Vector (Imperial Core)

Trope-a-Day: Pieces of God

Pieces of God: Played straight if unusually in an entirely non-supernatural way – inasmuch as the Transcend is a cross between a regular seed AI and a collective consciousness of synnoetic AI soul-shards (see: Touched By Vorlons) grafted into the minds of all of its constitutionals.  So while the greatest concentration of Transcendent processing power is in its dedicated components, its Cirys swarm and synapse moons and unity spires, it has a lot of fragments out there…

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.)

Population

PDISCLAIMER: All population figures found herewithin should be considered provisional and contested.

Ongoing controversies exist where the correct measurement of population figures is concerned, including:

  • Accounting of clone families;
  • Accounting of fork families, both synchronized (cikrieth) and desynchronized, and the measurement of repeated non-persistent forks;
  • Accounting of group intellects, including both true hive-mind species (such as the hjera and cusaron) and independent Fusions, representing single minds in a multiplicity of bodies, and collective consciousnesses (such as the Eldraeic Transcend), representing multiple independent minds sharing only specific layers; as well as multiple intermediate and overlapping cases;
  • Accounting of collegiate-intelligence species, such as the embatil and aklaknak;
  • Accounting of naturally fork/merge capable species, such as the codramaju;
  • Accounting of biologically casted species in which only a single caste or a subset of castes is sophont, such as the vlcefc, or the gender-based equivalent;
  • Accounting of polysapic species possessing multiple natural minds acting in accord, such as the múrast and voctonari;
  • Accounting for members of species not possessing sophoncy at all points during their lifespan, including but not limited to the majority of r-selected species;
  • Accounting for presently-inactivate species members, including those in long-term cryostasis/nanostasis or data storage;
  • Accounting for the deceased retaining active cognition within technologically-mediated afterlives;
  • Accounting for unconventional forms of identity, such as teleological threads;
  • Location accounting of infomorphs (by processor or by avatar/point-of-interaction location);
  • Legal differences of opinion on the prosophont/sophont boundary;
  • Calibration of population accounting for post-sophont entities, both regarding the appropriateness of categorizing such minds on an equivalent scale with baselines, and inasmuch as high post-sophont minds are capable of generating transient and/or lasting sophont memes in the normal course of cognition;
  • And so forth.

While recognizing that in many cases appropriate answers to these questions is determined contextually (the computation of required life-support capacity obviously is dependent on bioshell-population, for example), the meaning of population in the generalized sense requires the resolution of these questions, many of which are hotly debated philosophical, theological, and/or political topics in many of the Worlds’ polities.

As such, we have chosen to use population figures, in all cases superseding those locally provided, established by the Imperial Grand Survey, whose methodology has the virtue of being consistent, transparent, and well-documented (see publication IGS-1134/P rev. 112).

– from the preface to the Associated Worlds Factbook, Conclave Press

Trope-a-Day: No Such Thing As Space Jesus

No Such Thing As Space Jesus: Amazingly enough, the people who built their very own set of mechanical deities (see: Deus Est Machina) are remarkably skeptical about people who claim to be (and, of course, to have) supernatural gods.  Especially since they can only very rarely whip up a miracle that Sufficiently Advanced tech can’t reproduce perfectly well.

Not that that stops anyone from forming religions around those things, anyway.  After all, the most important qualifier for a deity is the ability to act in an appropriately Godlike manner.  Or so it would appear.