O, What a Tangled Web

There are those who accuse us of being shamelessly manipulative. Of always subtly and secretly weaving our webs of contract and obligation, favor and xicé, ideas and influence to make the world come out just exactly the way we want it.

To these people I say: you are absolutely correct, of course. How else would anything get done in a mature and civilized society? A few words here, a quiet whisper there, which together with some mutually advantageous deals done yonder move the world towards betterment – this is surely the very height of civilization.

At its best, the Great Game turns what might otherwise breed conflict and resentment into a series of elegant positive-sum intrigues which all can be proud of their association with, and the architects of whom may be admired for the accomplishments of their cunning, not loathed for their violations of the Contract. At its worst, it is still not the use of force.

There are those, too, who claim that we apply our manipulatory arts to every other race in the known galaxy, subjecting them to our intrigues will they, nil they. This claim, in its former part, is accurate. We have yet to meet any part of the galaxy – including our own – that does not brook some improvement.

As for the latter? It is true that we offer access to tools, ideas, and contracts without troubling ourselves overmuch whether the recipient would have sought them out on their own, but nonetheless, we offer. We do not compel. It is true that to decline may not be to the recipients’ ultimate advantage, but opportunity cost is implicit in time’s arrow, not in the opportunities to which it is attached.

To complain that we are harming them by offering them greater possibility is assuredly mere squallery even by the lax standards of the Periphery.

(And it’s even less fun being a pronoid conspiracy theorist.)

Apologia pro Imperium Meum, published anonymously

Trope-a-Day: The Chessmaster

The Chessmaster: The various weakly godlike superintelligences as they attempt to outmaneuver one another in the search for that Optimal Future; even more so when they’re playing against lesser intelligences.

Also, everyone with a socially-focused valxíjir or estxíjir who lives long enough, to one degree or another.  After all, they’re all engineered geniuses with lifespans long enough that time horizons of decades can be shrugged off, centuries are entirely reasonable, and millennia are not out of the question, and a certain tendency to delight in their own cleverness.  How else could they be?

Of course, the sheer numbers involved tend to generate one long, ongoing, Gambit Pileup, but that just adds to the fun!

Trope-a-Day: Gambit Pileup

Gambit Pileup: The more or less inevitable, continuous, and ongoing consequence of people who see social-fu as something to be mastered every bit as much as any other excellence; a society that despises violence and coercion – and, for that matter, outright fraud – and as such places a premium on the ability to get people to do what you need or want them to do without resorting to such things; and a whole lot of people who are far too clever for anyone’s own good.

Everyone, and every organization, has a plan.  Anyone who tells you otherwise has two plans.  Minimum.  (The incomprehensibly ultratech machine-gods, of course, have ALL THE PLANS.)

That four eikones (Éadinah, eikone of night, darkness, subtlety, espionage, and deeply-laid plans; Leiriah, eikone of mists, illusions, deceptions, trickery, wit and intrigue; Úlmirien, eikone of rogues, shapeshifters, more trickery, epiphanies, unwonted revelations, and sudden paradigm shifts; and The Unnamed, eikone of seals, secrets, mysteries, and that which you are not cleared to know) find this sort of thing entertaining, useful, and eo ipso worthwhile – and in a couple of those cases being essentially incapable of playing anything straight – only adds to the fun.