proof of work (obs.): an archaic technique for (usually blockchain-based) cryp mining which ties mining capability to computational power. In its original form, it required transaction blocks to be hashed, which demonstrated time and computational effort put forth, and which would generate a certain amount of virgin cryp until the configured money supply was reached.

While widely criticized for its lack of scalability as transaction volumes grew and the extreme wastefulness of resources (both material and energetic) required¹ to maintain equivalent mining capacity in the face of the ongoing general expansion of computational capability, it nevertheless became a relatively commonly utilized technique in early cryp architectures.

A substantial blow was struck² to proof of work by the algorithmic crisis associated with the Isif Theorem and the Great Slump of 2840. Nevertheless, the concept staggered on for some considerable time afterwards, although the need for increasingly sophisticated cryptographic algorithms and specialized processors rapidly took mining of proof-of-work-based cryp outside the realm of individuals and small organizations. This left only large consortia of various types (and, of course, Powers³) capable of mustering the computational power necessary to participate.

The final death of proof of work did not come until 5193, when the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate – with the assistance of the Fiscal Mind and a specialized acausal logic processor – demonstrated the ability to mine out the entire volume of three newly launched cryps, using dust transactions to rapidly fill new mineable blocks, within seconds of each one’s launch.

– A Core Economic Dictionary, Aurum Press (6900)

  1. For this reason, proof of work was never a popular basis for Empire-based cryps. It is hard, after all, to imagine a domicile less friendly to the notion of deliberately overworking.
  2. Although a prolonged one, as much of the actual striking occurred after the advent of interstellar travel as word of the Theorem spread throughout what would become the Worlds at the speed of communications.
  3. A group whose existence enhanced the flight from proof of work, since those who were already concerned with confidentiality were, by and large, not enthusiastic about currencies seemingly doomed to fall under the control of alien space-gods.

Trope-a-Day: Weird Trade Union

Weird Trade Union: As is to be expected for a Privately Owned Society, the Empire has associations for everything. The Accidental Sapience League, The Belter Work and Welfare Association, the Board of Merchane Propriety, the Council of Forthright Tongues, the Edifacient Sodality of Bakers and Pastrywrights, the Fellowship of Natural Philosophy, the Free Minors’ Eleemosynary COG, the Functionality of Mechanicians and Clockwork Engineers, the Guild of Formal Obligation, the Heralds of the Glorious Atom, the Invisible Exchequer, the Orderly Amalgam of Farspeakers, Senders, and Learned Scriveners, the Society of the Ivory Flower, the Windrider’s Fellowship… and thousands of others.

Of course, none of these are actual trade unions.  Fraternities, mutual-assistance and benevolent associations, professional bodies, standards-setters, qualification-issuers and old-sophs’ networks, yes, absolutely, but the attempt to cartelize the supply of any good or service, labor included, is one of those things upon which the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate frowns very hard indeed.

If you’re lucky, they’ll send someone around to break your legs.  If you’re unlucky, they’ll send someone around to audit you, and the resulting externality-correction fine will make you wish they’d just sent someone around to break your legs.


Trope-a-Day: Screw The Money, I Have Rules!

Screw The Money, I Have Rules!: The subject of any of a few thousand plutarch fairy tales concerning the nature of money as a symbol, and the worthlessness of a symbol without the things that give it meaning.  (The Market Liberty Oversight Directorate, in particular, is particularly harsh on anyone whose approach to money or markets is harmful to said money or markets.)

(And given the very long lives most plutarchs can expect to have in a universe with immortagens, everyone understands that they’re playing the indefinite-iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which the winning superrational strategy is not to defect.)

Higher than High

An interrogation room on Gálish (Sullen Wildlands):

The local agents looked at each other, then back at my aquastor.

“So, your perp has stolen this, this -”

“Sixteen-petabit colonial tangle-channel ansible.”

“Whatever, this trillion-exval widget, and according to your numbers he’s now running a negative-frequency trading scam with it here?”

“On your quaint pre-stellar Second Tier Market? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, gentlesophs. If our UNSUB is after money, he’s cunning, devious, technically brilliant, and incredibly stupid. It’s probably safe to conclude, therefore, that he’s after something other than money.”

– from the lifelog of Nyr Alman, Market Liberty Oversight Directorate


“Smuggling is a prestigious career with a long and honorable tradition – being invented something like seven minutes after trade itself.  Ideologically speaking, the smuggler and the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate are identical in theory, only differing in application.  Markets, like information, want to be free.  Demand leads to supply, which leads to trade, which leads to mutual profit, which leads to prosperity – and rot any corporation, government, or bunch of prodnosed kveth-lickers who say it ain’t so!  Folks have a right to trade, and to buy what they want, and for me to sell it to ‘em, and damned if that changes just ‘cause some jackass tells us elsewise.”

“Of course, there are those who disagree.  That’s what makes it fun.”

– Líse Varavélen, master of IS Favorable Supply Curve

Trope-a-Day: Digital Piracy Is Evil

Digital Piracy Is Evil: Well, on the one hand, it’s not called digital piracy (it’s called Unlawful Duplication & Conveyance, or Unlawful Derivation) and is a lesser crime than theft; and Imperial IP law is different and rather more generous, especially in re patents and discoverer’s licenses (but also in re creator’s moral rights); and DRM (and its cousins, Genetic Rights Management, Fabrication Rights Management, and Experience Rights Management) around here is different, belike.

On the other hand, IP crimes are prosecuted much more vigorously, even on the small scale, because it’s not the money, it’s the principle, belike.  And at the far other end of the scale, any and all of the Galactic Trade Association, the Empire’s Market Liberty Oversight Directorate, Traders in Ideation, ICC, and the Intellectual Property Owner’s Association of the Empire have, well, mercenaries.  Who are quite happy to make mass-pirated-good factories and pirated-data archives in non-sovereign space – and in sovereign space where the sovereignty in question does not feel like cooperating – explode, along with their owners, because those people do not respect their fellow sophont’s rights and they hate people like that.

Trope-a-Day: Corrupt Corporate Executive

Corrupt Corporate Executive: Extensively (albeit not completely) averted in the Empire, inasmuch as in its genuinely free market, without (a) an extensive regulatory state to buy and then use for yourself or against the competition, (b) legislators and other politicians who feel comfortable immunizing you from consequences, or (c) a legal requirement to act in a blatantly sociopathic manner, acting this way is bad for business, and therefore profoundly stupid.  (And, when it does occur, prone to bring the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate down on your head like Rods From Gods.)

Played as straight as reality permits in general, which is to say, pervasive in the corporatist Magen Corporate and the fascist Iltine Union, but substantially less common than the cliché that the generally left-leaning modern Earth media makes it seem.

Passing the Handbasket

To my successor in office:

I’m leaving you this unofficial note to welcome you to the unique position of being an ambassador to the Empire, to pass on a few hopefully useful pieces of advice, and frankly, to wish you more joy of the position than I had, even before the FO recalled me.

I’ve left contact details in the database for my more useful contacts in State & Outlands.  They can help you out on any of the routine administration that comes up under one of the twelve Accords – but only the routine stuff, unfortunately.  I’d also call Meris Solanel-ith-Serquel to your particular attention if you find yourself charged with any special negotiations; she’s a good back-channel contact and willing to tell you directly if you’ve any chance of getting anywhere.  Which most of the time, you won’t.

As for other matters that will come up:

One might be forgiven for thinking that a country with no visa requirements wouldn’t cause you many problems with visitors, but that’s to ignore their willingness to refuse entry to anyone insane (by their – rather broad – standards), and anyone one of their truth machines deems insufficiently honest when signing up to the statement of rights and obligations they require of anyone entering.  Given how much they preen publicly about their devotion to rationality and principle, this catches less people than you might expect, but your staff will still be arranging repatriations on a regular basis.

You might also expect that their equally proclaimed refusal to impose any tariffs or trade regulations would make that a relatively trouble-free area, too.  Here, your problems will come from the home office, as while the Imperial government declines to use such things in response to those we set up, any number of corporations, trade cartels, and out-and-out smugglers will shamelessly connive to circumvent ours – and even our prohibitions on certain products – with the tacit aid of local banking privacy laws and the non-cooperation of the Market Liberty Oversight Directorate.  I have collected and passed on a myriad of eloquent, polite ways to say, “We regret that we won’t enforce your unethical laws for you,” in my time here, and you will undoubtedly collect still more.

Cultural and military affairs are also problematic.  In the name of freedom of speech and information, they insist that people be allowed to publish practically anything and to read anything that’s published, and are not even willing to discuss this issue with us, whatever the reasoning and whatever their notorious data havens may contain.  On the military side, you may be able to get some action taken against a particularly controversial intervention, even if it’s only likely to be getting the admiral in question beached for a few centuries until everyone’s forgotten the issue in question; but so far as they’re concerned, mercenary work is legal, privateering is legal, attempting to overthrow or to subvert someone’s government using any technique that isn’t violent is legal, and while they’ve never actually come out and said that filibustering is also legal…

Go ahead and file some protests on any of these if you like; it’s worth it just to listen to one of their State & Outlands people pour honey in your ear for an hour or three.  But you’ll realize the next day they talked for all that time without saying anything, and I’ll promise you right now, that’s all you’re ever going to get.

And lastly, extradition.  You will face three problems, here.  First, they will not extradite anyone for something that is not a crime under their law.  Second, if their law would impose a more severe penalty than ours for a given crime, and it’s one they consider particularly serious, they will try their hardest to insist that we prosecute him in their courts, so that they need not accept a criminal back.  And third, the inability to reconcile which – in the viKeruaz case – proved my downfall, they may insist on the second at the same time as public sympathies at home demand that he not be prosecuted in their courts.

I wish you the best of luck, and a quiet term of posting.

Sev Din Alar,
Ambassador of the League of Meridian (former)