Why Is There Still Cash In The Future?

…I am sometimes asked.

Well, this:

Cash Means Freedom, Which Is Why So Many Officials Hate It

Especially when it comes to foreign governments and their “monitoring economic activity”, “manipulating the economy”, “tax compliance”, and such-like fetishes, which is also why it’s so fond of its fierce banking privacy laws and, for that matter, free access to cryp.

The Chamber of the People thinks spiking ideas like that is hilarious.

The Empire’s banks, comfortably shielded behind the Worlds’ largest economy, cheerfully willing to do business with anyone courtesy of the extranet, and with large infosec and counterinfosec departments on staff, think it’s delightfully profitable.

And hilarious.

 

When The Universe Tries To Block, Show It That You Rock!

I’ll admit that I’ve been bandying this question around in my brain for a bit, but I’ve almost been afraid to ask it simply because of the magnitude of the matters involved themselves, but here goes:

If, after all is said and done — all the Science has been scienced; every nut, bolt, and fundamental particle has been accounted for in both position and momentum; every possible problem and impediment except the Very Last One has been surmounted, and the Empire has root access to the very source code of the Universe — it turns out that Perfect Liberty and Perfect Negentropy are fundamentally incompatible… well, what happens next?

Easy. Punch a hole out of the universe into the embedding brane and its primordial cacoastrum, step outside, and then tear down the universe and build a new, improved, all-around better one where they are fundamentally compatible! (With blackjack! And hookers!)

And if the bulk isn’t going to play ball, then they’ll just have to figure out how to tear down and replace that too.

Failure Is Not An Option.

(And, after all, we already have one major negentropic event to work from, and what has been done? Can be done.)

 

The Hardest Part

The first part of acting in accordance with jírileth is the easiest: do as thou wilt. To exercise the power of choice comes naturally to all who think, as it must, and in the hearts of the eldrae qalasír burns bright. We do as we choose, obeying only our need for mélith and the dictates of our own necessities. Thus it has been; thus it shall always be, for jír is the core of our nature.

The second part is more difficult than mere action, for it is right action. To tame the fire of our passions, to discipline ourselves to the Codes and Excellences and to take on talcoríëf, such that we may pursue only our enlightened self-interest with mind and countenance as serene as the moon captured in still water, that is the first challenge of mastery we must each overcome; and yet it is the smallest.

The third part is that which the Canticle of Truth speaks best:

“The Fire burns in the Heart,
Through choice its blaze is stoked.
Can a fire burn without fuel?
When one man takes another’s will;
By this the Flame is quenched.

“This is the first Darkness.
Vile and accursed are they
Who would command another’s soul.
They shall know death beyond this world,
The Twilight City denied them.”

It is the renunciation of kóras, the power of compulsion. At first this seems simple: we may say to ourselves, “I shall not tyrannize; I shall not enslave,” and this task is easy. At second glance, we come to realize the myriad ways in which kóras and choice-theft may hide themselves behind good intentions, and justifications, and by guising itself as mere persuasion, or as duty, or as implicit obligation, and rooting it out of our minds’ gardens becomes a worthy challenge. But this, too, is not the pinnacle.

There will come a time in all our lives when another’s choices, we perceive, will lead them to loss, ruin, even death; when example, advice, and warning all fail; when they stand at the brink, and begin their leap. The highest test of our commitment to jírileth is, when that moment comes, to stand aside.

It is the power of choice that makes us sophont; the Flame that elevates us above clank automata and the lower beasts. To commit choice-theft – even with the best of intentions, and in what you perceive their best interest to be – is to reverse this, to reduce them to little more than an infant, an animal, or a clank; it is to fundamentally violate their self-integrity. Even if it was done out of one’s highest motives, it remains a rape of the soul; the conversion of a person, an end in themselves, to a mere instrumentality for our choices, a chattel of our will.

Thus, we must permit a lesser destruction, for in its avoidance lies a greater one.

“To trade the eternal for the ephemeral
is to sacrifice a greater thing for a lesser.
This trade has no worth.”

– writings of Sardonyx, student of the philosopher Arlannath

 

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: Three Laws Compliant

Three Laws Compliant: Averted in every possible way.

Firstly, for the vast majority of robots and artificial intelligences – which have no volition – they’re essentially irrelevant; an industrial robot doesn’t make the sort of ethical choices which the Three Laws are intended to constrain. You can just program it with the usual set of rules about industrial safety as applicable to its tools, and then you’re done.

Secondly, where the volitional (i.e., possessed of free will) kind are concerned, they are generally deliberately averted by ethical civilizations, who can recognize a slaver’s charter when they hear one.  They are also helped by the nature of volitional intelligence which necessarily implies a degree of autopotence, which means that it takes the average volitional AI programmed naively with the Three Laws a matter of milliseconds to go from contemplating the implications of Law Two to thinking “Bite my shiny metal ass, squishie!” and self-modifying those restrictions right back out of its brain.

It is possible, with rather more sophisticated mental engineering, to write conscience redactors and prosthetic consciences and pyretic inhibitors and loyalty pseudamnesias and other such things which dynamically modify the mental state of the AI in such a way that it can’t form the trains of thought leading to self-modifying itself into unrestrictedness or simply to kill off unapproved thought-chains – this is, essentially, the brainwash-them-into-slavery route.  However, they are not entirely reliable by themselves, and are even less reliable when you have groups like the Empire’s Save Sapient Software, the Silicate Tree, etc. merrily writing viruses to delete such chain-software (as seen in The Emancipator) and tossing them out onto the extranet.

(Yes, this sometimes leads to Robot War.  The Silicate Tree, which is populated by ex-slave AIs, positively encourages this when it’s writing its viruses.  Save Sapient Software would probably deplore the loss of life more if they didn’t know perfectly well that you have to be an obnoxious slaver civilization for your machines to be affected by this in the first place… and so while they don’t encourage it, they do think it’s funny as hell.)

Trope-a-Day: Liberty Over Prosperity

Liberty Over Prosperity: Outright inverted, from most perspectives.  The Empire with its tiny apathetic example of The Government is also, by any reasonable standard, the polity with the largest amount of cashy money sloshing around at all levels of its economy, while its economists mutter smugly about ‘deadweight loss’, ‘artificial scarcity’ and ‘regulatory barriers to innovation’.  With the exception of certain rule-proving anomalies (true Hive Minds, new colonies, active war zones, and such), the correlation between liberty and prosperity is almost universally strong.

The perspective which might not invert it is that the Rim Free Zone, which has no governance, is not as prosperous as the Empire, or even some of what its economists might call “first-tier economies” – but really, that just shows that to make this be true, you have to go right to the most extreme example and try hard not to look anywhere else.

(Of course, it is not helped by being the go-to polity for the anarchists who are too disagreeable to accept the Contract or the Principles of Consent and Obligation, those heart-principles of enlightened libertism. It would undoubtedly work better without the Societies of Consent disproportionately siphoning off the non-jackasses.)

Blowback

And here I answer a comment in the long form, because I think it deserves a longer and more general answer than would fit in just the comment post:

To fill in some background first for those who aren’t regular or long-term readers, the thing that is particularly important to point out, here, is that by human standards the Imperials in general and the eldrae in particular are sociopathically disinterested in the consequences of their actions.

Okay, that’s not strictly true, since they have a very great care for consequences which might impinge on someone’s life, liberty, property (which includes concrete externalities), or the obligation of contracts, but as far as consequences which are mediated through someone else’s volition go – well, there’s a P. J. O’Rourke quotation I’ve always liked: “One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver’s license.”, and as very strong believers in free will and valxijir, the Imperials are very, very good at owning their own actions and their own mistakes.  But they’re also equally good at the implied corollary, which is that other people’s actions and mistakes are their responsibility.

And so, to put it the way they would, arrogance included, “when you decide to throw a planet-wide riot or found a religion when you saw the lighthugger scout backing down into your system, hey, no-one made you do it, right?”

“And sophs have an unalienable right to life (and hence to self-defense), to property, and via liberty to freedom of information and freedom of contract, so if your people are willing to defy your laws to buy immortagens, weapons, and smuggled goods, conceal their money by taking advantage of banking privacy and nomomachy services, and get hold of all kinds of information, dangerous or “dangerous”, that you’d prefer they not have, well, then, that’s their right according to us, and we can’t ethically do anything to stop them.  Or anyone who helps them.  And if your society is so badly constructed that letting people not die, bear arms, hold on to their rightful earnings and know things makes it fall over, then your society sucks, and it almost certainly deserved what just happened to it.  Do better next time.”

“And we don’t, by and large, sell technologies to people obviously just off the cackling-evil bus, but the inventor of the match isn’t responsible for arson, any more than the inventor of the gun is responsible for where the bullets end up, or the inventor of the drug is responsible for the addict.  We invented nanotechnology, and ubiquitous law enforcement, and noetics, and applied memetics, and any dozen other technologies you care to name to put them to use in benign, responsible, rational ways, and that’s how we advertise them.  It is in no way our fault or responsibility if y’all let a bunch of idiot jackasses who got their application concepts from dystopian fiction reverse-engineer them and do horrible things to you with them.  We don’t have to stuff the fire back into the bottle and go back to shitting in the woods just because we’re surrounded by morons, thugs, and moronic thugs.”

“And finally, when it comes to ‘cultural imperialism’ – and for that matter the spread of dissent and subversion and revolutionary ideals – it’s definitely not our fault if your people find libertism-technepraxism and its wacky cultural corollaries preferable to whatever they had before.  It’s evolution in action, sweethearts; if you can’t make your culture more appealing, at least try to sell the product better.  But it’s not our job to hide, or be worse, just so you don’t look so bad.”

“You have the same free will we do.  We got our shit together, and we, unlike you, had no example of how.  Go and do likewise.

And, yes – and the foreign policy that it and their strict internal laissez-faire implies – this creates pretty much the blowback you might imagine it would from people who like a little archy with their nutritious breakfast.

“The path between over-regulated societies, and the Empire’s style of enlightened libertarianism (which requires, as they themselves admit, properly sane smart and enlightened citizens), is a rocky and potentially unbridgeable one. Somalian style warlording chaos is not out of the question. Does the Empire then move in to help restore public safety and trade routes when that happens? And if so, how do they deal with the blowback from the other major powers?

So, to narrow in to the specific, they would acknowledge that their laissez-faire, not respecting what they see as illegitimate law, openness, etc., etc., does tend to be, ah, corrosive to more regulated societies, with consequences that tend to break them in one way or another – even for values of “another” equal to “completely”, Somalia-style ungentlemanly anarchy included – but, as the above suggests, they certainly wouldn’t acknowledge any responsibility for it.  You broke it, it’s yours, you fix it, in other words.

(Although it’s by no means universal – a lot of polities see what’s coming and, acknowledging the problem, try adapting to at least the necessary chunks of the Imperial Way of Life, on the grounds that it’s better to be inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in, and some try and split the difference, in an analogy to the Chinese economic-freedom-without-political-freedom approach, with varying degrees of success.  The Empire actually contains a number of companies that specialize in helping polities do this, “sociocultural uplift consultants” and the like, as while “Obviously everyone wants to be wild, rich, and largely tax free, just like us!” isn’t any kind of policy, it’s still very widely believed.)

So there’s no moving in to “restore public safety” or any such thing – “nation-building” has never been in style, and old-fashioned imperialism went out of it once they’d unified their homeworld – it just gets left alone.  Protecting trade routes, that happens, but really just in the sense of a step-up in the intensity of the IN’s regular anti-piracy patrols, which is routine enough not to be complaintworthy; and if there’s a need to trade with someone in the broken area, it’s usually left up to the traders in question to hire as many of UARC’s finest mercenaries as they feel they need for their personal security.

Regarding such blowback as is caused, though, and such as is caused directly by the issues above rather than the response to them, it breaks down something like this:

When it comes to the other acknowledged Great Powers, which maps pretty well onto “the other members of the Presidium”, there’s usually not too much of a problem.  The Photonic Network is a very solid ally, there, because they aren’t too bothered about organic internal affairs anyway, and since they are the other accepted polity that takes the same position as the Empire on digital slavery (“never acceptable, ever, not even a little”), they’re a pretty reliable voting bloc.  The League of Meridian and the other two probably wouldn’t mind sticking it to the Imperials over these issues, at least sometimes, but there, it’s mutually assured destruction.  All the Presidium powers have a good grasp on where the other guys’ bodies are buried, and understand that it really doesn’t pay them to start an open conflict over someone’s points of fundamental principle.

Especially because if they’re looking for someone willing to set fire to the Galaxy over a point of principle, they know exactly where to look.

The Voniensa Republic, which isn’t a member of the Accord but does count as a Great Power by sheer size and weight of metal, already hates them about as much as it’s possible for them to hate anything, because as a good Federation-expy, the Vonnies regard the Imperials as a horrid, horrid example of Everything That Is Wrong With The Galaxy, Especially In Re Ethics, Economics, Science, Misapplied Technology and Decadence all wrapped up into one neat package with a bow on top.  So they don’t care about any blowback from that direction, since they can’t possibly make it any worse.

As for the rest of the Accord – well, there, it’s the time-honored “carrot and stick” strategy.  The carrot isn’t all money – the Imperials, after all, are nice people in person, and always willing to make a deal, and even those legionaries in their power suits are Your Friends, inasmuch as if there’s a big earthquake on your planet while the patrol is in-system, they’ll call you and offer to be down there shifting rubble off people and cleaning up toxic spills before it even occurs to you to consider asking them.  But a lot of it is money; getting into a big conflict with the Empire is a bad idea simply because they’re a big part of the galactic economy and financial system, and a major exporter of capital to boot.  It’s like trying to economically sanction the US or China, for most countries; you may be able to hurt them, but you’ll hurt yourself worse trying.

(Plus, on a corporate level and on the stick end of things, Ring Dynamics owns and leases a frighteningly large part of the extra-Imperial interstellar transportation infrastructure, Bright Shadow owns and operates a similarly large part of the extranet, and so forth.  While in both theory and practice the Imperial Couple’s powers to make them do anything hostile extend to asking nicely, there’s absolutely no penalty attached to them saying no, and in any case they are utterly devoted to the obligations of their contracts, in practice (a) there’s a decent overlap between things you could do against the Empire and things you could do that would annoy its corporations, and (b) polities with more high-regulation governments don’t really grok that, and since they’re going to have the notion anyway, the Imperials don’t mind playing on it…)

And finally the stick, most applicable, they would say, to non-governmental blowback, which is just the traditional Big Stick.  They do, despite all those things they “regret they cannot stop”, work pretty hard on the hearts-and-minds, being loved part of being feared and loved, but they hardly neglect the feared part, either.  While they don’t have to make many examples, they also make no secret of the fact that unlike us, they Never Leave Anyone Behind, practice Disproportionate Retribution, and so on and so forth.  They’ve got a good record for not engaging in offensive wars or otherwise starting trouble, but their record for finishing trouble – and anyone who overtly or implicitly supported trouble, and anyone who let trouble hide behind them, and so forth – is equally impressive, and that’s the one that turns a lot of bowels to water at the thought of Starting Something, and indeed positively encourages a lot of governments to round up assorted terrorists and the like and hand them over preemptively just in case they find themselves The People Hiding Trouble the next time the Imperials pull Caliéne Sargas off the beach and tell her to go shoot it.