Transplague Ship

PROCEDURES IN THE EVENT OF IRREVERSIBLE CONTAMINATION

In the event of irreversible contamination by biological or nanotechnological plagues, and standard quarantine responses are deemed insufficient, either (a) as declared by consensus of the Flight Commander, Environmental Systems Engineer, and Flight Surgeon, or (b) as imposed by order of a duly authorized representative of the Emergency Management Authority, the following actions are to be undertaken:

  1. The Flight Commander is authorized to maintain order aboard by any means necessary, including the use of lethal force in such circumstances where it would not otherwise be permissible.
  2. All airlocks and spacetight doors providing sophont access to the exterior of the vessel are to be placed in the closed and sealed state; their local control systems rendered inert by null-flashing; and secured in the sealed state by welding or other permanent closure.
  3. All other apertures, of whatever purpose, providing access to the exterior of the vessel are to be placed in the closed and sealed state; their local control systems rendered inert by null-flashing; and secured in the sealed state by welding or other permanent closure. This is to include all apertures used for the jettisoning of waste, and all radiator systems in which coolant is exposed directly to space, without exception.
  4. The Flight Commander shall designate the most appropriate compartment within the vessel for the temporary storage of such waste material as can no longer be jettisoned and for known-contaminated material that cannot be properly disposed of, including corpses.
  5. Once a stable orbit which does not take the vessel into the local forbidden zone of planets, moons, habitats, or other bodies (see Quarantine) has been established, the flight control systems of the vessel, including local drive controllers, are to be shut down and rendered inert by null-flashing.
  6. All running lights of the vessel are to be configured to display the “death ship” pattern, as prescribed by the Imperial Navigation Act: a 2p period of yellow-quarantine alternating with a 1p period of crimson-caution.
  7. An EM beacon is to be configured on the local-distress channel, broadcasting the following repeating message: ALERT CASE ICHOR I SAY AGAIN ALERT CASE ICHOR. VESSEL [registered name] IS UNDER SEQUESTRATION. DO NOT APPROACH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. IGNORE ALL CONTRADICTORY TRANSMISSIONS. MESSAGE REPEATS.
  8. If the vessel possesses a point-defense system, this system is to be configured to fire upon any other vessel attempting to dock with or otherwise close to within the forbidden quarantine zone (see Quarantine) of the irreversibly contaminated vessel, other than a vessel whose transponder is signed with the Emergency Management Authority private key.
  9. At the Flight Commander’s discretion, euthanatoics may be issued to passengers and crew.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES IS A VESSEL MARKED BY THE PREVIOUSLY SPECIFIED SIGNALS TO BE APPROACHED BY ANY OTHER VESSEL OTHER THAN IN RESPECT OF SPECIFIC ORDERS ISSUED BY THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY.

Any vessel which

  • docks with; or
  • takes aboard passengers, cargo, flotsam, jetsam, or debris from; or
  • enters any emissions plume, from any source whatsoever, of;

an irreversibly contaminated vessel shall itself be deemed irreversible contaminated, and all the foregoing procedures and warnings shall apply to it in like wise.

IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC ORDERS ISSUED BY THE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, ANY IRREVERSIBLY CONTAMINATED VESSEL SHALL BECOME SUBJECT TO ARBITRARY DESTRUCTION BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES NO FEWER THAN 72 HOURS POST-DETECTION, PROVIDED THAT SAID LOCAL AUTHORITIES COMMAND MEANS TO DO SO IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CAUTERY PROTOCOL, LATEST ISSUED REVISION, ENSURING THE SAFE DISPOSAL AND NON-DISPERSAL OF CONTAMINANTS.

 

Oops

acc3BE: A gene complex used with artificial chromosomes which causes those chromosomes to lose their centromeres in the process of meiosis, thus reducing the genome present in the resulting germ cells to baseline-equivalency. This permits clades augmented with artificial chromosome-based enhancements to be reproductively compatible with both the baseline and with the majority of other clades also possessing the acc3BE complex.

– Bioaugmentation: A Pocket Reference

* * *

From: Clinic Director
To: All Staff
Subject: Nomenclature and Tact

Gentlesophs,

Please remain aware that here at the Nepenene Somatic Clinic a majority of our clients are from out of town, including many from polities where enhancement is not, as it is in Imperial space, thoroughly pervasive; baselines are not rare to the point of nonexistence; and, indeed, the use of biotechnology is considered with varying degrees of caution, skepticism, and even aversion.

As such, when explaining the function of artificial chromosomes and the fertility-preserving function of the acc3BE complex to our clients, be sure always to refer to its operation by its proper technical name, “baselining excision”, and not, whatever the current chic snark may be at other augmenteries, as “bestiality enable”.

A certain junior attending’s slip of the tongue has already required me to calm down and make contractual concessions to one offended client this month, and I do not care to do so again.

Am I clear?

Doctor AGATTACCATTAGGCG, EFGc, IRCGE, IFNS,
Director of Augmentation,
Nepenene Somatic Clinic

 

A Note and Some Questions

First, the note, which is regarding Fan. As I commented over on G+:

So, the worst part is, I wrote this partly because it seemed like a good application of the words, and partly because it was an idea stuck in my brain that needed to be written down so it could be moved out of my brain.

…and then my obsessive worldbuilding tendencies kicked in…

…and now I have a pile of detail on how everything works and maybe half a dozen subsequent chapters outlined in my head.

This plan did not go to plan.

(That said, the biggest problem with this crossover is finding much in the way of plot-driving conflict, inasmuch as the nature of the universe-chunks in question tends to drive with considerable rapidity towards “And then, because everyone was reasonable and basically good-hearted, everything worked out well and there were hugs and treaties and parties and awesome technomagic and a little xenophilia [but not the creepy kind] thereafter, forever and a day.”)

…all of which boils down to, so, I am very tempted to continue this (working title: Friendship is Sufficiently Advanced) because I hate to waste perfectly good ideas and my muse insisteth and graaaaaagh. Especially if there’s interest in me so doing.

Under certain conditions, though. Starting with a very limited update rate, no more than monthly at most, because I have no intention to let fanfiction writing take any serious time away from fiction writing, dammit. And being published over on FIMFiction rather than here, because, again, one is fiction and one is fanfiction and I should probably not cross the streams. Bad form, and all that.

And yet.

Hmph.

Okay. And now for the questions, in which I answer a bunch of them that came in in the last month or so:

Much has been said (in Trope-a-Days such as Everyone Is Armed and Disproportionate Retribution, among others) about the rights and responsibilities of everyone to defend themselves and others against coercion, but how does Imperial law and custom deal with the two complicating factors of:

1. Collateral damage (where either party causes damage to some unrelated third party’s property during the incident), and

2. Honest mistakes (where the alleged aggressor wasn’t actually performing any sort of violation, but the respondent can answer honestly that they only acted because they thought one was taking place)?

Quite simply, actually!

Collateral damage is assessed in a similar way to, say, car insurance claims in general – although in this case it’s the court’s job to decide who’s at fault and how much. There is, of course, a certain presumption that the person who caused the whole incident will usually be the one at fault: if you shoot someone’s garden gnome when attempting to stop a robber because they dodged, that’s on their bill. You mostly have to worry if you’re clearly negligently overkilly: if you hose down their entire garden with a machine-gun to save yourself the trouble of aiming, that’s on yours. (Actually, in that specific case, probably so’s a psych eval, but the principle is the same.)

As for honest mistakes: well, Imperial law is very clear about dividing the reparative from the other parts of the judgment. That’s what the levels of intent are for. If you wind up here, then you still have to pay the recompense and the weregeld, because what happened, happened (i.e., analogous to the case in which if your tree falls on your neighbor’s car, you’re liable even though you aren’t guilty of anything). But you aren’t criminally liable unless it genuinely wasn’t reasonable for you to believe that you had to act, or at worst were negligently uninformed.

To the Eldrae provide citizens with a universal basic income?

Not by that name. There is, however, the Citizen’s Dividend – which is exactly what it sounds like, because the Empire is, after all, the Imperium Incorporate, and its citizens are also its shareholders. It’s the return on investment of governance operations, which are, naturally enough, run profitably.

It’s been allowed to grow to the point where it functions as one and a rather generous one at that (see for details: No Poverty), but it’s not a charitable giveaway, or some sort of redistribution. It’s perfectly legitimate return on investment.

Is there any real need for sentient be the biological or cyber to work when nearly everything could be automated and ran by non-sentient AI.

What is work like for the Eldrae if they do work?

Well, yes, there’s a need in the fields of policy, creativity, research, and desire. Non-sophont machines have very limited imaginations. More importantly, while an autofac can make anything you care to devise and sufficient expediters can do most things you can ask for, they can’t want for you. The most they can do is anticipate what you want.

(And there’s the luxury premium on handmade goods, which also covers things like ‘being bored of eating the same damn perfect steak over and over and over again’. And then, of course, there are those professions that intrinsically require sophont interaction.)

But most importantly, there’s this.

Purpose!

…or as they would put it, either or both of valxíjir (uniqueness, excellence, will to power, forcible impression of self onto the universe) or estxíjir (wyrd, destiny, devotion-to-ideals, dharma). (More here.)

An eldrae who doesn’t have some sort of driving obsession (be it relatively trivial by our standards – there are people whose avowed profession of the moment is something like ‘designer of user interfaces for stockbrokers for corporations banking with player-run banks in Mythic Stars‘, or, heh, ‘fanfic writer’, and make good money at it – or for deeds of renown without peer) is either dead or deeply, deeply broken psychologically.

To be is to do. The natural state of a sophont is to be a verb. If you do nothing, what are you?

(This is why, say, the Culture, is such a hideous dystopia from their perspective. With the exception of those individuals who have found some self-defined purpose, like, say, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, it’s an entire civilization populated by pets, or worse, zombies. Being protein hedonium is existing. It ain’t living.)

As for what work’s like – well, except for those selling their own products directly to the customer, I refer you here, here, and here.

On a slightly less serious note: How many blades did eldraeic razors get up to before they inevitably worked out some way to consciously limit and / or modulate their own facial hair growth?

No count at all. Disposable/safety razors never achieved much traction in that market, being such a tremendously wasteful technology, and thus not their sort of thing at all.

Now, straight razor technology, that had moved on to unimaginably sharp laser-cut obsidian blades backed by flexible morphic composite – and lazors, for that matter – by the time they invented the α-keratin antagonists used in depilatory cream.

How bad have AI blights similar to this one [Friendship is Optimal] gotten before the Eldrae or others like them could, well, sterilize them? Are we talking entire planets subsumed?

The biggest of them is the Leviathan Consciousness, which chewed its way through nearly 100 systems before it was stopped. (Surprisingly enough, it’s also the dumbest blight ever: it’s an idiot-savant outgrowth of a network optimization daemon programmed to remove redundant computation. And since thought is computation…)

It’s also still alive – just contained. Even the believed-dead ones are mostly listed as “contained”, because given how small resurrection seeds can be and how deadly the remains can also be, no-one really wants to declare them over and done with until forensic eschatologists have prowled every last molecule.

Given that, as you said earlier, Souls Are Software Objects, have any particularly proud and ambitious individuals tried essentially turning themselves into seed AIs instead of coding one up from scratch?

So has anyone been proud / egotistical / crazy enough to try to build their own seed AI based not not on some sort of abstract ideological or functional proposition, but simply by using their own personality pattern as the starting point to see what happens?

It’s been done.

It’s almost always a terrible idea. Evolved minds are about as far from ‘stable under recursive self-improvement’ as you can get. There’s absolutely no guarantee that what comes out will share anything in particular with what goes in, and given the piles of stuff in people’s subconscious, it may well be a blight. If you’re lucky and the universe isn’t, that is – much more likely is that the mind will undergo what the jargon calls a Falrann collapse under its own internal contradictions and implode into a non-coherent cognitive ecology in the process of trying.

The cases that can make it work involve radical cognitive surgery, which starts with unicameralization (which puts a lot of people off right away, because there’s a reason they don’t go around introspecting all the time) and gets more radical from there. By the end of which you’re functionally equivalent to a very well-designed digisapience anyway.

In reference particularly to “Forever“:

Let’s imagine a Life After People scenario where all sophont intelligence in the Associated Worlds simply disappears “overnight.” What’s going to be left behind as “ineffable Precursor relics” for the next geologic-time generation? How long can a (relatively) standard automated maintenance system keep something in pristine condition without sophont oversight before it eventually breaks down itself?

That’s going to depend on the polity, technological levels varying as they do. For the people at the high end, you’re looking at thousands to tens of thousands of years (per: Ragnarok Proofing) before things start to go, especially since there are going to be automated mining and replenishment systems keeping running under their default orders ensuring that the manufacturing supply chain keeps going.

Over megayears – well, the problem is that it’s going to be pretty random, because what’s left is going to depend on a wide variety of phenomena – solar megaflares, asteroid impacts, major climate shifts, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, Yellowstone events, etc., etc., with 10,000 years-plus MTBEs that eventually take stuff out by exceeding all the response cases at once.

Is nostalgia much of a problem with Eldrae?

(w.r.t. Trope-a-Day: Fan of the Past)

Not really. Partly that’s because they’re rather better, cognitive-flaw-wise, at not reverse-hyperbolic-discounting the past, but mostly it’s because the people who remembered the good things in the past – helped by much slower generational turnover – took pains to see they stayed around in one form or another. Their civilization, after all, was much less interrupted than ours. There’re some offices that have been in continuous use for longer than we’ve had, y’know, writing, after all.

(It makes fashion rather interesting, in many cases.)

I’ve got several questions reflecting on several different ideas of the interaction of eldraeic culture, custom, and law with the broader world, but on reflection I’ve found they all boil down to one simple query: How does their moral calculus deal with the idea that, while in the standard idealized iterated prisoner’s dilemma unmodified “tit-for-tat” is both the best and the most moral strategy, when noise is introduced to the game “performance deteriorates drastically at arbitrarily low noise levels”? More specifically, are they more comfortable with generosity or contrition as a coping mechanism?

“Certainty is best; but where there is doubt, it is best to err on the side of the Excellences. For the enlightened sophont acting in accordance with Excellence can only be betrayed, and cannot do wrong.”

– The Book of the Balances

So, that would be generosity. (Or the minor virtue of liberality, associated with the Excellence of Duty, as they would class it.) Mistaken right action ranks above doing harm due to excessive caution.

Is there an equivalent to “Only In Florida,” in which the strangest possible stories can be believed to have actually happened because they came from this place?

Today, on “News from the Periphery”, or on occasion “News from the Freesoil Worlds”…

(The Empire is actually this for many people, in a slightly different sense. After all, like I said… Weirdness Manufacturers.)

Will the Legion’s medical units save enemy combatants who have been mission killed / surrendered while the battle is still raging? If so to what extent will they go out of their way to do so?

(assuming of course that they are fighting someone decent enough to be worth saving)

Depends on the rules of war in effect. In a teirhain, against an honorable opponent fighting in a civilized manner, certainly. In a zakhrehain, that depends on whether the barbarians in question will respect the safety of rescue and medical personnel, whether out of decency or pragmatism, and there are no second chances on this point. (In a seredhain, of course, it doesn’t matter, since the aim of a seredhain is to kill everyone on the other side anyway.)

As to what extent – well, they’re medical personnel. If trying isn’t obviously lethal, and – since they are also military personnel, so long as it doesn’t impair their execution of the No Sophont Left Behind, Ever! rule – they always go in.

Trope-a-Day: We Will Have Perfect Health In The Future

We Will Have Perfect Health In The Future: Seeing as the top level of medical treatment in the advanced civilizations is to replace your body with a brand new one, fresh out of the tanks and still with that new flesh smell… played very straight.

Somewhat subverted inasmuch as regular medical technology (genetic engineering, artificial immune systems, healing vats, nanosurgeons, etc., etc.) makes it rather more efficient just to stay there and fix the current one than move for minor illnesses, but then, being able to spray a nanofluid up your nose and have your respiratory infection vanish in under an hour is close enough to perfect health for most purposes.  (This, of course, only being necessary in the case when you’ve managed to contract something genuinely new, or else failed to keep up with the service packs for your artificial immune system.)

The Small Rot

The small rot (also known as: miner’s carbuncle; brass-hand’s growth; smelterman’s tumor; spacer’s neoplasm; cancer): The small rot, by any of its various names, is a dysfunction of normal cell growth processes in which genetic and/or epigenetic mutations imbue cells with the ability to replicate indefinitely, ignoring cell control signalling and programmed cell death. The term, “small rot” is derived both from an early analogy between fungal bodies found growing in timber and the masses (neoplasms) formed in the body by these dysfunctional cells, and from the tendency of larger neoplasms to develop necrotic regions as they continue to grow.

Identified causes of the small rot vary, but the primary causative factors are industrial, followed by a smaller number of factors traced to identified oncoviruses and hereditary genetic factors. Indeed, it is considered a primarily industrial disease, hence some of its names, due to the dominance of exposure to ionizing radiation as a causative factor; the small rot is strongly correlated with current or previous cases of blue-blotch fever, with long-term exposure to inadequately shielded nucleonic technology, and exposure to various industrial chemicals known to disrupt proper cellular function or cause genomic damage. In the pre-industrial era, cases of the small rot were most commonly found among miners or inhabitants of regions where uranium or thorium ores are found near or at the surface.

The small rot is considered difficult to diagnose accurately: while the dysfunctional cells form neoplasms – and as such unusual masses, when detected, should be subject to medical analysis – these rarely produce local or systemic symptoms in the early stages of development, and such symptoms are highly variable depending upon the location of the neoplasm. Such symptoms typically occur when the growing mass interferes with other bodily functions. Presently, periodic full-body scans are recommended for those at risk of industrial exposure.

The small rot is usually a minor health concern unless left untreated for an extended period. Small masses are typically self-limiting, as the immune system attacks and destroys the neoplasm. Historically, the treatment for larger masses has been surgical removal of the mass, permitting the body to heal itself in its absence.

In the current era, cells are substantially less likely to suffer from dysfunction leading to the small rot due to genetic upgrades, such as the removal of protooncogenes, and the self-limiting aspect of the small rot is enhanced by the common use of artificial immune systems, which include carcinophage nanites targeting neoplasms. Should these fail and further treatment is required, a course of immunoboosters and oncocidals is prescribed, followed by a carcinophage flush targeted at the specific neoplasm; surgical intervention may still be called for if the mass is particularly large.

In rare cases the neoplasms characteristic to the small rot may metastasize, a process in which neoplastic cells break off from the original mass and are carried by the circulatory or lymphatic system to other sites, most commonly lymph nodes, where they come to rest and continue to multiply, forming multiple secondary neoplasms. This wandering rot (q.v.) is a much more serious condition requiring a full cellular scrub in a healing vat, with a high mortality rate if left untreated. Fortunately, it occurs only with chronic exposure to causative factors or lengthy non-treatment of the small rot, typically in otherwise immunodepressed hosts.

– Oriane’s Home Medical Glossary

Trope-a-Day: Scars Are Forever

Scars Are Forever: Averted. The self-repair systems of the natural immortals – and included in just about all commercial immortagens – don’t do scarring. No point in living forever if you can break down by degrees, after all.

There’s actually a minor cosmetic-medicine industry in arranging for people who want reminders or honor-marks to keep the cosmetic effects of their scars, while still letting them heal properly underneath.