Random Stuff/Questions

Randomness: I’ve just rewatched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Thus, for anyone who wasn’t around the first time it came up, this is your reminder that wuxia is a good model for what classical melee combat looks like in the ‘verse – only glowier, since space magic, unlike qi, has that as a side effect.

(It only gets crazier when done in microgravity.)

Question: how much are the Imperial Couple permanently vastened by on their coronation; and why?

In the modern day, quite a lot. Coronation comes with a semi-Fusion with the Imperial Presence, which is one of the Transcend’s archai, in addition to serving as a repository for the memories – or, in the earliest cases, the eidolons – of all their predecessors.

(The same thing applies to the various Ministers of the Throne, although on a more temporary basis, who have a synnoetic relationship with the appropriate member of the Ennead, the nine archai which correspond roughly to the Ministries – the Comptroller, the Warmind, the Signet, et. al.. A busy meeting of the Stellar Council can burn through a lot of cycles.)

Why? Well, who can afford a competence gap?

More Randomness: This story; which can be summed up as “Ontario initiates basic income pilot program; people make decisions based on program as it was explained to them; new government cancels program abruptly; people whose decisions were retroactively made bad are really, really pissed at being stabbed in the back”.

Makes an excellent case study for EX0487: Exosophontology of Mass Coercion, I deem. Probably in that subsection titled “Democracies: Naturally Treacherous or Just Incompetent?” (See, this is why we think social contracts, being all implicit and unilaterally modifiable, are what is technically known as “bullshit”. Actual contracts, now those are something you can build a society on.)

Question: In lieu of my previous question: What does the local culture make of the idea of what TVTropes calls the “Humongous Mecha“?

Mostly, that it’s a damn silly idea. Let’s take what could be a perfectly respectable armored vehicle, then give it a huge target profile, a statically unstable single-point-of-failure (in the sense of “shoot it in the ankle, it falls over”) locomotion system and probable ground pressure issues, then strip off some of the ranged weaponry and replace it with melee-range kit.

Then let’s throw the designer out the airlock for thinking any of that was a good idea.

Whatever coolness factor it may have is entirely overwhelmed by the audience’s awareness of just how many Idiot Balls the responsible parties were holding. They may have a certain intimidation factor going for them, but there’s already plenty of that available, and if you need to turn it up to eleven, there’s always the Fight In The Shade maneuver.

(Walkers, they have, for handling certain types of terrain, but they’re sensible low-slung spidery-legged types.)

Randomness: Marines 3D-print a barracks. The world gets a little more like Starcraft every day.

But we have not yet gone full ‘verse until they can print a version with a bioprinter inside that goes on to 3D print Marines

Question: On the subject of pronouns (and particularly Japanese pronoun equivalents): Does eldraeic have any that would fill the role of kisama ( 貴様 ) or onore ( 己 ), for those moments when you really need to call someone out?

It’s not a pronoun, but it is an affix that can be attached to a pronoun. Or anything else, of course.

(And it’s not defined yet, so I can’t quote it for you.)

More coming, but let’s go with this for now…


Trope-a-Day: Always on Duty

(We now return to our regular trope-a-day schedule, back in the letter A.)

Always on Duty: One of the distinct advantages the Imperial governance would claim it gains from its system of diarchy, with the Imperial Couple, et. al., is that properly used, it ensures that major policy decisions – especially in moments of crisis – are not being made by people who are sleep-deprived into stupidity.

Questions: Pattern Identity and Succession

More from Specialist290, because it’s post-dinner:

A few small questions regarding pattern identity and the metaphysics thereof:

1. Are there any possible scenarios where two forks of the same personality can diverge from one another significantly enough for them to be regarded as different persons, when the result of either individual pattern shift would not have resulted in enough variation in the pre-fork pattern to constitute a legal change in identity?

In the fork case, it’s the divergence that matters. Actually, it’s almost always the divergence that matters – usually, the only time you’re comparing to a backup is immediately post-reinstantiation to check that the process was carried out correctly, or in the event of some accident or missing-person scenario when there’s some doubt.

Anyway, for fork divergence, it’s always difference from each other that matters. Difference from some pre-fork backup is irrelevant.

2. A purely hypothetical case:  If, without the intervention of any causal agency, two individuals are found to have such closely-matching patterns of personality that one would have been considered a fork of the other had one been created as an act of will, would they still be legally the same person? (Put another way:  If, by blind chance, someone had such a fundamentally identical life experience to your own that your memories would be practically interchangeable to the extent that you could easily mistake your memories for theirs and write off any divergences as a product of your own faults in recollection, would the two of you be considered the same person?)

(Put yet another way:  Could a doppelganger fork arise out of pure synchronicity?)

Hypothetically, yes, they would be – although they would have to be identical on a rather deeper level than just consciously recalled memories. As the legal and philosophical principle puts it, íthal íthalavar: “A is A”, or “a thing is itself”. Two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

Of course, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation based off the number of bits contained in any one mind-state vector suggests that this could happen considerably less often than once per universe-lifetime, so it’s not like there’s case law on the point…

And Mark Atwood asks:

Which reminds me of an ongoing question I’ve been having. Is being the a member of the Imperial Couple a time-limited term of service, or is it “until (permanent?) death, abdication, or removal”. Given they were immortal even before the tech takeoff, someone could end up being the Lord of some city state for a very very very very long time…

There are no term limits for that particular office. (Or most, but there’s a fair amount of diversity so I’m not saying there are none anywhere.) By wording of the Imperial Charter, you can have it until death, permanent incapacity, abdication, or impeachment.

That said, they are subject to the not-a-law-but-relatively-firm-custom of the Six-Century Rule which suggests to everyone that you find a new career after three centuries1, i.e. 432 Imperial years, if they haven’t done so already. That was never a firm term limit for anyone mostly because if it required someone to leave in the middle of a crisis, that would be a bad idea, right?

So, anyway, I had the dates of the first 15 Imperial Couples handy, and the average reign is rather shorter at 285 years, almost entirely due to abdications. (High of 505 – Alphas I, making sure his empire stuck – and low of 100.) That is almost entirely because it’s a really damned hard job that would age you quickly if you, well, could. I imagine it’s quite a relief to be an Emperor Emeritus with no more pressing Imperial obligations than to sit in the Privy Council and quietly kibitz.

(I’m sure there are some veryn old rulers around in various backwaters, though. I don’t think anyone minds, or in most cases, has noticed.)


  1. Because they changed the calendar after they made the rule. The Calendar of Rhoës used 72-year centuries. Of course, no-one but scholars has used said calendar for nearly 8,000 years at this point, so the main function of the name these days is to confuse and disorient people learning about it who aren’t masters of horological trivia.

Trope-a-Day: Ruling Couple

Ruling Couple: The Imperial Couple are – as really, you should have been able to guess from the name – this trope.  Diarchies in which the co-rulers have equal authority and mutual veto was the governing tradition of Cestia long into pre-Imperial history (in fact, most Cestian political offices worked this way), was continued into the Union of Empires as a way to emphasize the equal status of Alphas I of Cestia and Seledië III of Selenaria in that, and then, due to demonstrably providing welcome redundancy, versatility, and an additional check and balance to the executive branch, found themselves written into the Imperial Charter as they were.

Imperial Succession

In a comment in the previous post, there is some curiosity as to how the Imperial Couple is selected. So, behold, I answer:

It’s semi-hereditarian. The heir is notionally picked from among the members of the Imperial family, in an attempt to capture the hereditarian advantage of having someone trained for the job lined up, not just some random schmuck1; especially since the Imperial family also serves the Imperial Couple as a talent pool for extraordinary tasks so they can get an idea of what their on-the-job performance is like.

But it’s not directly primogenitive, etc.: the current incumbents get to nominate their heir from among all the possible candidates, so if Mr. Firstborn wants to succeed to the throne, he’s got to work hard at putting himself out in front of the rest of his generation. And also any really exceptional candidates from outside, because succession-by-adoption is also part of how the system works.

After that, first, in order to be nominated in the first place, you have to be, well, a couple. This is a diarchy; the system’s not set up to have singletons on the Dragon Throne. It would eliminate checks and stabilization factors that are supposed to be there. (You also have to be a happy, well-adjusted, non-dysfunctional one that’s capable of working together successfully, but that pretty much goes without saying.)

(Now, as for triads and other topologically-different marital forms, to broach the obvious question: well, it will be an interesting day, Charter-law-wise, when one of those is the best candidate for succession, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

After being nominated, as a check to ensure the process is working properly, they have a triple gauntlet to run:

First, the Senate can veto successions they don’t approve of, which eliminates anyone who either lacks the arete to lead – which, eldrae being eldrae, culls everyone who isn’t an adequately polymathic genius with a history of achievement in multiple fields to prove it – or who can’t garner enough support to lead.

Second, the Eupraxic Collegium can veto anyone who doesn’t meet their strictest standards of sanity and rationality, because no-one wants a crazy person on the throne, even a well-hidden one.

And third, they have to be accepted by the Imperial Presence, the composite mentality of Imperial Couples past dwelling in the Transcend’s mind, as a subset of itself.

…but after fulfilling all those hurdles, then they get to be the officially designated heirs.

1. Just to continue a little on the theme of the Democracy Is Bad trope, while I’m at it, the Imperial opinion of the sort of people we put in charge of various executive branches on Earth is that while the process does ensure that they have some talents in the areas of rhetoric, amateur memetics, and graft, their gifts in the areas of actual leadership and sovereign administration wouldn’t qualify them to run a lemonade stand in, y’know, civilized parts.

Trope-a-Day: Requisite Royal Regalia

Requisite Royal Regalia: It comes in four parts, each a pair of items, one for the Emperor and one for the Empress: the Crowns, the Keys, the Seals, and the Swords.

Crowns: There are the official Great Crowns of the Empire, of course, great heavy things in the shape of entwined dragons of five different metals, with eyes of black opal, and pearls and shining iöseraz in their mouths.

Of course, they have the slight disadvantage of being bloody heavy, and so are brought out only on formal occasions, by which I really mean occasions formal even by the standards of the Court of Courts. The rest of the time, the Imperial Couple wear their working crowns, simple braided circlets of platinum and (red) orichalcium.

(It’s the orichalcium that makes it Imperial, of course – while being able to cook the stuff up in alchemic nucleus-rearranging machines these days has brought the price down considerably from the days when it has to be scraped in tiny fragments out of Precursor ruins, and there aren’t any sumptuary laws that would prevent anyone who wanted to from having themselves an orichalcium tiara made, it’s the courtesy of the thing.)

Keys: Possibly the most symbolically important part of the regalia, the Imperial Couple each have a key – as do the President of the Senate and the Ephor President of the Curia, which is to say, the co-equal heads of the Imperial government.

These keys open the locked covers of the master ceremonial copy of the Imperial Charter, penned in exquisitely expensive calligraphy on equally exquisitely expensive pages, which master copy is brought out only when one of the aforementioned notables is being officially crowned, appointed, or otherwise sworn into office by the other two. But most importantly, they signify their function as the primary executors of, and the foremost servants of, the Contract and the Charter.

Seals: Not the privy seals, of course, which the Imperial Couple wear on their fingers like everyone else. This is the Great Seal of the Empire, which comes in two halves, one side each, and is rather larger than most privy seals, by nature of the significance of the thing. (It’s also rather larger than most organizational seals, but then, the Empire’s rather larger than most organizations.) It’s a big chunk of gold, mostly unornamented, and a little worn. It is, after all, a working seal. (And these days incorporates some nifty data-encryption hardware.)

The Seal, however, is not carried by the Imperial Couple themselves – that job belongs to the Imperial Dogs, who wear the halves on chains around their necks when the Seal is not actually in use.

(History does not recall the precise origin of this custom, but knowing Alphas I, it’s a fair bet that it had something to do with the utility of putting the device that could validate all manner of important Imperial documentation in the all-day-and-night personal care of someone who could bite off the hand of anyone who tried to relieve them of it.)

Swords: The Great Swords of the Empire aren’t greatswords, and indeed, are not all that impressive. Simple teirian, one with a wyvern-skin wire-wrapped hilt and one with one of plain leather, and complete with a few nicks and dings that just won’t polish out. That’s because they didn’t start out being symbolic; those are the original working swords of Alphas I and Seledíë III, and both of ’em got more than a little work done in their day.

That’s where they get their symbolic significance from, which probably makes them even more so. (They don’t work much these days, however, although it’s still theoretically possible that they might. They are, however, kept in condition against that possibility.)

(Also, although not royal, the President of the Senate has a large, long-hafted, double-headed axe. It’s sort of like the traditional parliamentary ceremonial mace, except a little more emphatic. Fortunately, since the Guardians of the Senate came into existence along with the Senate, it’s never actually had to be anything more than ceremonial…)

Trope-a-Day: Modest Royalty

Modest Royalty: Subverted.  For a couple of reasons: first, the problem with leading people who aren’t impressed by claims of authority by right, or to put it another way, the problem with leading by virtue of your displayed arête, is that you have to display it.  Second, humility is not an Imperial virtue, and pride, however, is.  To be the part, it helps to look the part.

(This, of course, also applies to everyone who isn’t royalty, too.)

This is not, however, the Ermine Cape Effect, because Imperial runér from the Imperial Couple on down are the Royals Who Actually Do Something, and need to dress functionally sometimes.  It’s just the right kind of functional.  When doing the business of the Empire, for example, the Emperor may well be wearing something as relatively non-regalian as the US President’s suit, but it is undoubtedly hand-made (see Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap), constructed from the finest materials, and otherwise just as signifier-bearing.  In other words, they can do subtle; subtle is not a problem, because their people understand and know to look for subtle.  They just can’t do modest, because modest is just fundamentally wrong.

But compare: What’s Up, King Dude?