Trope-a-Day: Kill and Replace

Kill and Replace: A tactic – and with modern sophotechnology, a lamentably obvious tactic – used by lower-tech and lower-ethics intelligence agencies, for whom fast-growth cloning (or even radical plastic surgery) and programming is the best they can manage – rather than the implantation of overshadowing gnostic overlays used by the technological sophisticates among shady organizations.

Trope-a-Day: Deep-Immersion Gaming

Deep-Immersion Gaming: Sort of an inevitable consequence when the standard gaming rig involves full-sensory virtual reality of such quality as to be indistinguishable from reality, except for necessary departures of awesome. Although most people put together more imaginative avatars than looks-just-like-themselves.

(Now, the real deep-immersion gaming comes when you add a gnostic overlay that makes you believe that you’re your character and suppresses the memory of having been you, for the serious authenticity devotees. Ultimate realism, with only a slight to moderate chance of mental trauma. Personality shifts not included.)


On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)



So, Gregory Johnson was asking about education:

On a tangentially related note (to firmish SF), how does education work exactly, in your universe? It has been implied in several places that skills get basically downloaded (or can be), while it still takes to age 18 or so to be educated to Ph.D. levels. What does education really LOOK like?

Well, indeed, they can be. Data-sets, skill-sets, and so forth can be downloaded across the dataweave (mnemonesis), or even pulled out of the collective consciousness (remembrance), along even with personal memory sequences (exomemories). Indeed, dynamic mnemonesis enables you to remember any data on record as if it resided in your own memory. Advanced gnostic overlays permit the download of entire partial personalities, instincts, professional mindsets, and other similar temporary mental modifications.

The problem, of course, is that just having the knowledge won’t do a damn thing for you on its own. Grab some chump off the street and download a full knowledge of, say, proteomics into him, and all he’ll get is an uncomfortably full sensation in the brain-pan. The problems are two-fold: first, learning is associative, and without something to hook onto, said knowledge will be inaccessible. Second, it is a matter of processing power. Downloading knowledge into a mind that never learned to think doesn’t suddenly enable it to, whatever its genetic gifts.

So, education – about which I am only going to speak in general terms in case I want to use it later – is much more focused on teaching people how to think than on learning facts; facts are easy to acquire. The “primary” education initially focuses almost solely on this (logic, metaphysics, epistemics), followed by a “secondary” education that is their equivalent of a liberal arts education, which provides the very broad-based core that such modules you download later can hook into, along with the lots of practice needed to synthesize the gentle art of thinking.

(It’s actually rather broader than what we’d classify under that name – the traditional strands in it could be given as Advanced Logic & Mathematics; Business, Finance, and Economics; Domestic Arts; Engineering; Ethics & Civics; Fine Arts (both appreciation and practice); History; Literature; Martial Arts (both armed and unarmed); Natural Philosophy/Science. So, y’know, that this is what they expect any reasonably educated person to have good knowledge of might explain a few things…)

As for the hows, they don’t have schools (both for reasons of population demographics and because, well, they’d be absolutely terrible at doing this kind of education, rather than the kind of fact-and-discipline-centric kind we use). Education at this level is home-based, delivered by parents, the child’s muse, and companion AIs (and, of course, mnemonetically, for raw facts). Stylistically, it’s integrated into day to day life (since learning, they find, sinks in best when it’s fun and easy). Much of it is also practically-based; children are rather more integrated into society and work, and as such learning by doing – usually in whatever eclectic things strike their fancy – forms a great part.

By the time that this period is over, its average “graduate” has the equivalent of at least a couple of degrees worth of educational achievement, albeit widely spread and electic.

Now, as for higher education, it’s similar to ours; one attends classes at (or remotely from) a university. The distinctions would be that it’s very unstructured: organized by the class, and the degree one comes out with is just a matter of total achievement, not a specific pattern; and that there is little point to lectures in their paradigm, since information is easily conveyed mnemonetically. Instead, courses concentrate on class and lab time – discussion and practice at practical application are what synthesize and integrate the mnemonetically delivered knowledge with your core self.

Also relevant reading: Powers as Programs, Skilled but Naive, Neural Imprinting.

Trope-a-Day: Manchurian Agent

Manchurian Agent: You might at first think that given the advanced sophotechnology of the Empire and some of its peer civilizations, with appropriate technologies for mental editing, gnostic overlays, and thought-viruses, that Manchurian Agent would be something that happened an awful lot.

But no, largely because with appropriate technologies for mental auditing, this sort of thing rather stands out – even when civilians go to have a routine backup made (After all, that much change in these unusual ways? Triggers the caution-and-review alarm.), and certainly when people in sensitive positions undergo their routine audit to make sure no-one’s pulled exactly this kind of thing.

Which is not to say that there isn’t some devious mental skullduggery going on from time to time, but it has to be a heck of a lot subtler than this for the agencies responsible to get away with it.

Trope-a-Day: Skilled, but Naïve

Skilled, but Naïve: The consequence of relying too much on mnemonesis and gnostic overlays to download distilled knowledge and skillsets.  They can, and will, grant you extraordinary, even superhuman, technical skill.  Excellence is guaranteed.  You will outperform any mediocrity, even any average professional you ever meet on raw talent alone, because you have been given a magnificent instrument.

But it’s the integration of the downloaded knowledge with your core self that lets you play it like a virtuoso, and there’s no artificial substitute for that.  Just experience and practice.

Trope-a-Day: Brain Uploading

Brain Uploading: Pervasive and universal, just about.  The Eldrae, after all, being naturally unaging, find the notion of accidental death rather unpleasant, and so took to this technological advancement with enthusiasm; and, as rabid technophiles, even more so once the other technologies it enables – reinstantiation, mindcasting, forking, gnostic overlays, etc. (unlike a lot of universes, there are no convenient laws preventing you from screwing around with mind-states in all the ways you might expect to be able to) – came along; and now are enthusiastically selling immortality to the entire rest of the Galaxy, or at least everyone they can reach.  (And, incidentally, considering governments that ban this sort of thing as, essentially, being morally, if not legally, guilty of the mass murder of everyone who dies in their jurisdiction and would have preferred not to; immortalists vs. ephemeralists is a major galactopolitical issue.)

To the point, in fact, that modern – and thus highly engineered – brains come with the technology (“noetic architecture”) for minds to hop in and out designed right in.

Also, this is how you reach the afterlife (see Deus Est Machina).

The Job Free Market (3/3)

It is important to realize, when working in the Empire, that your connection to your employer is defined strictly by your contract.  There are rarely benefits attached to it (the tax system does not advantage providing them, and the locals almost all prefer additional fungible money), nor are there specific laws governing working hours or other working conditions.  (Despite this caution, the latter are almost universally excellent; Imperial businesses have operated on the basis of the need to optimize the productivity of a highly skilled and formerly sharply limited labor pool for a very long time.)  It is entirely up to you to manage how much you want to work in any given period, when and how much vacation time you wish to take (by not taking contracts, or if you are on a time-bounded contract, by negotiating for what you consider a reasonable “duty cycle”), and what other conditions you are prepared to accept.  In almost all cases, all these conditions are negotiable, much more so than you are probably used to.

Likewise, while Initiatives may have suggestions for and even be willing to sponsor certain training – in exchange for contract considerations on your part – your professional development is also entirely in your hands.  If you intend to have a career of any length, you will need to put aside money and time for ongoing education, training, and downloadable skillsets to keep up with the current state of the art.

In short, you must learn to manage yourself.

Another consideration you must pay attention to is the requirements of a given contract where tools and facilities are concerned.  Some contracts require you to use the Initiative’s facilities and equipment, or facilities and equipment contracted-in by them; some require you to use your own, or facilities and equipment you have contracted for the use of; yet others permit either, at your choice.  This is something you must pay attention to in particular, since the remuneration you are looking for obviously will differ in each case.

You should also make sure that your tort insurance covers the work you intend to perform.  (In addition to professional indemnity cover, your tort insurance should also cover you for health -emergency-and-third-party breaches; if you are, for whatever reason, unable to perform as your contract requires, your counterparty will seek to recover the costs incurred by that default, or of hiring your temporary or permanent replacement, from you or your insurer.)  Typical tort insurance covers both professional indemnity and breach cover for most non-specialized professions, but tort insurance purchased as part of a travel insurance package may not, and specialized professions may require additional cover.  You should check the precise details of your coverage before accepting any contract.

As a final note, please be aware of the nature of the Empire’s job market.  You will be competing in a job market which is largely occupied by highly educated transsophonts accustomed to using intelligence-enhancing biomods and implants, gnostic overlays, mnemonetic skill downloads and other such technologies to enhance their competitive advantage.  This is half of the equation that produces the Empire’s infamous quality standards and intolerance for anything less than the absolute best at all times.

The other half is the near obsessive-compulsive dedication which Imperials manage to bring to their work.  Don’t be misled by their relaxed attitudes outside work, or by the generally short working week which most of them work on; while at work, everything changes, and they have no patience with short-cuts, sloppiness, or failure to keep up.

If you aren’t fully prepared to do what you have to to succeed in that environment, which may well include brain surgery, psychedesign, and many other items from the transophontist menu, don’t go.  It will just be a very expensive way to fail.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés

By Their Warnings Shall Ye Know Them

Structural Metallic Oxygen
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Not for use in reducing atmospheres or vacuum.

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Please check biochemical compatibility coding before consuming or tasting.

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By entering voluntarily you accede to compliance with applicable private law (see v-tag).

Trope-a-Day: Becoming The Mask

Becoming the Mask: Played straight with gnostic overlays, the special kind of downloadable knowledge/skillset that overlays values or other personality aspects onto the person using them (see, for instance, the constabular overlay and objectivity overlay mentioned under Incorruptible Pure Pureness).  Long-term users of given overlays tend to find themselves adopting the value-sets, personality traits, etc., encoded into the overlay.

This technology is also used therapeutically, in the ultratech version of cognitive therapy.  Wearing Cheerfulness 1.17 around everywhere for a year or so genuinely will train you to be a happier person.

Trope-a-Day: Incorruptible Pure Pureness

Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Not overwhelmingly more than any other reality (although the emphasis Imperial-style moral teachings put on self-integrity, importance of probably helps make people substantially more resistant to temptation).  And, of course, remember Blue and Orange Morality, which does, ahem, offer a somewhat different slant on the qualifications for what exactly the right thing, and indeed, the greater good are.

(This remains true even into the Transcendent era; the protections implicit in the collective consciousness ensure mutual loyalty and benevolence between its members; not necessarily towards the rest of the universe.)

Played straight with certain special types of minds: the Ephors of the Curia, for example, are essentially artificial intelligences constructed out of the law to judge the law, and are utterly, 100% loyal to the Fundamental Contract, the Imperial Charter, statute law, and precedent, in that order.  They can’t be corrupted, bribed, influenced, or swayed by emotional appeals.  The concept of higher motivations than The Law simply doesn’t exist in their mental universe.

The other example that leaps to mind is the use, in some professions, of specially-designed gnostic overlays – mental add-ons which supplement personality rather than replace it, and in these cases, specifically, plug-in values.  The constabular overlay is used by on-duty members of the Watch Constabulary, and those deputized and self-deputized, and includes those values deemed necessary for those members of society paid to and permitted to use necessary force, including strict adherence to the law, respect for the rights of their fellow citizens, incorruptibility, and so forth.

Another interesting one is the objectivity overlay, widely used among some journalists who are writing not for the editorial pages.  Plug this one into your head, and it suppresses personal opinions, interests, and assorted other emotional and subjective considerations, while leaving you still competent to do your job.  It guarantees your ability to write unbiased, fact-based stories, however appalled by yourself you might be when you take the overlay off.