Pacem Appellant

“The best approach to peacekeeping is the sophont-friendly one.

“This is standard doctrine. Most sophonts resent being policed by machines – unfeeling, uncaring, unstoppable. They can’t be negotiated with; can’t empathize; can’t offer even a moment of understanding. A mailed fist without a velvet glove. Thus, our peacekeeping brigades, providing the essential sophont touch.

“This doctrine is supported by every memetic and sociodynamic study that has been done on the topic. The Empire knows this: it produced most of them. Don’t ever think that they don’t know this.

“They just don’t care.

“Should you find yourself cross-assigned with the Imperial Navy on one of their rare peacekeeping operations, you will find that the opinion of their hainadar is that all the peacekeeping in the world isn’t worth one drop of indigo, white, or any other color of blood, and that the people being peacekept stopped deserving such consideration at the moment when they started being people who needed to be peacekept. They keep the peace from high orbit, with surveillance dust and KEWs and standard-issue war drones cruising through the streets with smart hunter micromissiles. Zero risk.

“If it takes a little longer, costs a little more in blood and treasure on the other side… well, it’s all going on their account in the end, isn’t it? Just as it would in their domestic law. No friend ever did an Imperial a favor without being repaid in full, so goes the saying, but on such a secondment, never forget that it goes both ways, to the last duodecimal.”

– excerpt from a lecture given by General Toris Politeran
at the Echelonic Battle Scholium,

Sentrivass (Moerid Nest)

Trope-a-Day: Enlightened Self-Interest

Enlightened Self-Interest: The source of all good things in the universe, and thanks to mélith, a basic principle of life when you’re an Imperial. Doing well by doing good; doing good by doing well.

(Much more reliable than altruism, far less prone to coercive perversion – altruism’s bad enough when it becomes slave morality, but it’s so readily turned into slaver morality – and infinitely less condescending.)

Question: Preemptive Recompense

I have a feeling I know what the answer to this one is going to be already, but just for the sake of clearing the air:

If, knowing that what you are about to do is wrong, you attempt to make restitution before committing the offense (sort of like as a Preemptive Apology but more so), does that still count as an attempt to balance your obligations?

In a word, no. Both for reasons of basic ethics (still a violation of the Principle of Consent), and for reasons of We See What You Tried To Do There, which violates the Principle of Thou Shalt Not Attempt To Bullshit This Court, Son. Ethics is time-asymmetric and thus weregeld isn’t isomorphic to an indulgence.

(With a few minor exceptions for particularly outré circumstances such as relativistic effects genuinely reversing the order of cause and effect for one of the parties involved.)

Which is not to say that people don’t still occasionally do it anyway, or that Renegades don’t come up with the idea or even more twisted versions on it, since mélith is an instinct, but it won’t get you anywhere in standard ethics or law. It is, after all, having a twisted sense of ethics that makes them Renegades.



Questions: Leonine Contracts, Illusory Promise, Resurrective Eidolons, and Intentional Communities

I might be jumping the Trope-a-Day queue a bit, but do the eldrae recognize the validity of the concept of a Leonine Contract?

In particular, how would they analyze the situation in the Chesterton quote at the top?

Well, fundamentally in ethics, there ain’t no such thing as a Leonine Contract in that sense.

(I say “in that sense” because there are fraud, coercion, and things that look like contracts but aren’t1, none of which count, along with mixed forms like good old Vaderian “altering the bargain”, some of which are classed with leonine contracts even though they aren’t, technically speaking.

Most relevantly, though, there’s no doctrine of unconscionability – i.e., the notion that a contract is unenforceable because no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it – on the grounds that all people legally competent to sign contracts are by definition reasonable persons capable of informing themselves, which classifies those who do not inform themselves as bloody stupid2. And inasmuch as the Empire has a social policy on that sort of thing, it’s to not protect people against the consequences of Being Bloody Stupid, because that’s how you end up with a polity full of helpless, dependent chumps.)

But leaving aside all such instrumental considerations, the fundamental ethical reason why there ain’t no such thing as a leonine contract is that the concept of one necessarily implies that you can compel the service of other sophonts (or their property – say, their food – which is part of them by the principle of el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal) without their informed consent and no, just no, even if you are starving. Not even a step down that road of treating sophs as instrumentalities. That’s how mutual-slave-states end up rationalizing all their bullshit. So not happening.

That being said, in the latter situation given in the aforementioned Chesterton quote, what an Imperial citizen-shareholder trying that one might run into are the Altruism Statutes, which are basically the statute law backing up Article V (Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder), para. 4 of the Imperial Charter:

Responsibility of Common Defense: Inasmuch as the Empire guarantees to its citizen-shareholders the right to, and the means for, the common defense, each citizen-shareholder of the Empire is amenable to and accepts the responsibility of participating in the common defense; to defend other citizen-shareholders when and wheresoever it may be necessary; as part of the citizen militia and severally from it to defend the Empire, and its people wholly or severally, when they are threatened, whether by ill deed or cataclysm of nature; and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our ancestors and our cultures both common and disparate.

…which makes doing so in itself a [criminal] breach of their sovereign services contract, belike, because they voluntarily obligated themselves in the matter.

(Although I should also make it clear that someone rescuing you from a situation they themselves did not create is owed recompense by the principle of mélith. If you value your life (which people who are still alive presumptively do), you owe the one who preserved it in due proportion.)

Plus, of course, this sort of thing is basically fuelling your extremely unenlightened self-interest with a giant pile of burning reputational capital, which apart from being bad for you in general, is likely to be particularly bad for you the next time you require the volunteered assistance of your fellow sophs…

Given the central place sacredness of contract has in Imperial society, what do Imperial law and eldraeic ethics have to say about illusory promise?

(And as a follow-on, even if there aren’t any legal, moral, or ethical obstacles as such, what will the neighbors tend to think of someone who’s constantly hedging their bets by resorting to them whenever they try to enter into a contract with someone else?)

Well, the first thing I should say is that there are far fewer examples of it under Imperial contract law than under most Earthly regimes I am familiar with. The obvious example that constitutes a lot of it is “lack of consideration” *here* – whereas Imperial contract law, being based on the ancient-era laws and customs of oaths, doesn’t require consideration at all, and simple promissory statements to the effect of “I promise to give you one thousand esteyn” are legally binding in a way that “I promise to give you one thousand dollars” isn’t.

Of the remainder, some things are similar (the Curial courts will impute meaning on the basis that everyone is assumed to be acting in good faith, for example, and a contract to which one does not agree – the website terms and conditions changed without notification, say – is no contract at all, as mentioned above.) But in other cases – say, the promise of the proceeds of the promisor’s business activities, where the promisee doesn’t specify any particular activities and thus leaves open the option of ‘none’ – the Curial courts will point out that that is a completely legitimate outcome within the contract and so there’s no cause for action. Read more carefully next time.

So far as people who try to deliberately play the sneaky-weasel with this sort of thing – I refer you to my above comments about unenlightened self-interest and giant piles of burning reputational capital. Getting a reputation for doing this sort of thing without a damn good reason for so doing, preferably explained up-front, tends to rapidly leave a businesssoph without anyone to do business with…

Is it possible, even after the loss of a particular personality pattern in death, for a “close enough” pattern as to be effectively identical to the original person to be forensically reconstructed from secondhand sources (such as archived surveillance footage, life logs, individual cached memories and sense-experiences, and the like)?

Theoretically, you could make an eidolon (technical term for a mind-emulating AI based on memetic analysis) that would meet that standard – which is what makes them useful for modeling purposes – then uplift it to sophoncy; but in practice, “effectively identical” would require the kind of perfect information that you aren’t going to be able to reconstruct from the outside. The butterfly effect is in full play, minds being the chaotic systems they are, especially when you’re trying for sophont fidelity (which is much harder than just making a Kim Jong Un eidolon good enough for political modeling): you miss one insignificant-looking childhood incident in your reconstruction and it swings personality development off in a wildly different direction, sort of thing.

And it certainly wouldn’t qualify for legal purposes, since the internal structure of that kind of AI system doesn’t look anything like a bio-origin mind-state.

In split-brain scenarios, would each half of the brain be considered a separate, independent mind (regardless of whether or not they’re the same person) under Imperial law?

That depends. It’s not strictly speaking a binary state – and given the number of Fusions around of different topologies and making use of various kinds of gnostic nets, there is pretty extensive legality around this. The short answer is “it depends approximately on how much executive function is shared between the halves, much as identity depends on how much of the total mind-state is shared”.

Someone who has undergone a complete callosotomy is clearly manifesting distinct executive functions (after all, communication between the hemispheres is limited to a small number of subcortical pathways), and as such is likely to be regarded as two cohabiting individuals (forks of the pre-op self) by Imperial law.

And if they do eventually diverge into independent personalities (or originated as such upon the organism’s conception — say, if it began life as a single body with two separate brains with minimal cross-communication), what are the implications for contract law and property ownership?

That’s pretty much by standard rules. In the split-brain case, you’ve effectively forked, and those rules apply: property is jointly owned (with various default rules in re what is and is not individually alienable) and all forks are jointly and severally liable for the obligation of contracts until and unless they diverge.

In the polysapic (originating that way naturally) case, or the post-divergence case, they’re legally separate individuals who just happen to be walking around in the same ‘shell; ownership and contracts apply to them separately. That this sets up a large number of potential scenarios which are likely to be a pain in the ass to resolve should be sufficient incentive not to pursue this way of life unless both of you can coordinate really well with each other.

Could one mind ever possibly evict another?

Only if the other signed over his half of the legal title to the body to the one, which would probably be a really bad idea if he wasn’t planning to depart forthwith anyway.

Are there any particularly good examples of successful intentional communities in the Associated Worlds?

(Not including the Empire itself, even if it counts on a technicality; looking for more things on the smaller end of the scale.)

Oh, there’s lots of ’em, at least if you allow for a rather broader scope of purposes than the Wikipedia article would suggest. Within the Empire, the most successful example would be the metavillage or metahabitat phenomenon, which is exactly what it says on the tin – a village or hab designed specifically to appeal to people with common interests, and to memetically, architecturally, functionally, etc., synergize with those interests: a writer community will have large libraries, many coffee shops, plentiful sources of inspiration, and lots of quiet walks and nice places to sit and write, for example. A space enthusiast community might even have a community launchpad! And the lifestyle is spreading elsewhere, too.

There’s also the First Distributed Exclavine Republic, which again, is exactly what it says on the tin. Planned habitats designed to Imperial social norms scattered all over the Worlds. And then there’s the various monasteries, retreats, and the like of the Flamic church.

I haven’t a huge number documented elsewhere in the Worlds – and in any case wish to save the ones I have for spoiler-free future use – but there are a lot of them. Remember the Microstatic Commission and its thousands of tiny freeholds? Well, those tend to exist because of the ease of anyone with some idea they want to build a community around being able to launch a hab into some chunk of unclaimed space and set one up. They’re very popular ideas in this particular future, both affiliated with larger polities and entirely independent.


1. The obvious thing here being software EULAs and other such instruments which you don’t get to read before implicitly consenting to. The general reaction of a Curial court to that sort of thing is “haha no”.

2. Which is why the law does permit contracts – like, say, many of *here*’s credit card agreements – that permit one party to unilaterally alter the terms, provided you give your informed consent to them as per normal.

Granted, it is also widely held *there* that no-one capable of anything resembling functional cognition would ever sign such a thing, so it’s not like they show up very often.



2016_U(Alternate words: Undeath, universal, ugly, ultimate.)

“I’m not sure I understand why you’ve come to see me.”

“As I said, I’m the undertaker for Cantrel Steamweaver, of Socket City, Golden Groves.”

“I have had some dealings with him in the past, but -”

“Ah. I see. Perhaps the translation is misleading, and I should clarify. Mr. Janli, I am neither a euthanatrist, nor a funerist. Nor, for that matter, a biological waste recycling specialist. I undertake to handle the mélith-debts and other obligations of the deceased on the part of their survivors.”

“I don’t recall Cantrel owing me anything. Nor do I owe him anything. If you have business of that sort to transact, you’d best speak to my man of law.”

“It is not a financial matter, Mr. Janli. My client currently holds a writ of baculum outstanding against you from the Court of the Beyond. Naturally, he wished to carry it out himself, but under the circumstances was unable. Hence my involvement in this matter.”

“A writ of baculum?”

“It is more commonly known as a writ of assault, permitting a rather direct form of redress at the court’s discretion. A form of limited outlawry, I understand, that the court considered rather poetic, given the case in question. In any case, as you’ll see from the documentation here, we have local approval for its service, and there are certain specific limitations and requirements that must be fulfilled -”

“And you expect me to stand here and just let you beat me?”

“Oh, no, I merely expect you to be distracted by the documentation just long enough to let my assistant slip around behind you.”


“Good day to you, Mr. Janli.” The undertaker scribbled ‘paid in full’ across the writ, initialed it, then tucked it into Janli’s nerveless fingers. “Do keep your copy of the receipt.”

Trope-a-Day: Precious Puppies

Precious Puppies: As a guide to just how straight the eldrae play this particular trope, even where their giant wardogs are concerned, it should be noted that under the list of special cases that is the Ungentlemanly Behavior Act (47, As Subsequently Revised), the consequences of literally kicking the dog are legally recognized as a type of suicide in every single Imperial jurisdiction.

(While there are some people who in private would admit that this constitutes Disproportionate Retribution even by the Empire’s, ah, generous standards for such, there is absolutely no-one willing to court the plummeting reputation score that would attach to anyone who suggested removing this provision, the puppy-hating bastard.  It’s a mélith thing; dogs give essentially infinite loyalty, so that’s what they get in return.)

((And, of course, this is also pretty much what started people off on the Immortagens For Everyone crusade in the first place…))

Trope-a-Day: Pillars of Moral Character

Pillars of Moral Character: Yes, the Imperials too have their own version of that traditional “duty is heavier than a mountain; death is lighter than a feather” proverb.  And could indeed deliver a fine lecture, if needed, on the analog of on and giri – they just call that one mélith.

See also Blue and Orange Morality.

More Questions, More Answers

And more questions arrive:

Here is an interesting what if for you. If you could live in the Eldraeverse would you want to?

They had me at immortality.

Or at post-scarcity.

Or at vastening.

Or at forking.

Or at the Repository of All Knowledge.

Or at, y’know, space.

Or at a refreshing absence of self-appointed gibbering loons under the impression they’re entitled to tell everyone else what to do, or else

So, um, yeah, pretty much.

What parts of Eldrae culture make you personally uncomfortable?

I may be a bad target for this question.

Partly because I’m an SF-reading, SF-writing, transhumanist anarchist. On the Yudkowsky table, my future shock level is somewhere between 3.5 and 4. And while, being human, I have the innate wisdom of squick, I’ve told it to shut up so much due to, well, items one through four above, that these days it barely twinges.

I’m sure there are some things, that I can’t think of off the top of my head – and, yes, that means I do find nothing wrong with that, and I have no problems with that either, have fun going through the index – going on in Imperial space that would make me uncomfortable, permissive society that it is, but for the most part the things that do so – many of which exist elsewhere in the Worlds as a whole – are those things that violate the principles of Consent and Obligation. Which are *there* frowned upon very strongly indeed.

What do you think the hardest cultural difference for you or humans in general to accept would be?

…all of it, in gestalt.

Well, take a look at Blue and Orange Morality and Values Dissonance; and then note that we probably suffer from it worse than most exotic species, because as fellow hominins, we’re close enough to fall into the Uncanny Valley rather than being alien enough to be expected to behave in an alien manner.

And an unfortunate number of instincts we have are just plain wrong by their standards: we don’t respect other people’s lives or their property and especially not their choices, are xenophobic, unempathic, incurious, emotionally labile to the point of hysteria, situationally ethical, obsessed with relative tribal status, and deeply in love with ugliness.

No-one likes to be seen as an inferior species. Especially if they’ve actually studied Earth culture at a shallow level, and come away with the notion that a large proportion of us are the kind of inferior species which, if invited to dinner, is likely to insult their host, take a shit on the table in the middle of the fish course, sexually assault someone over dessert, and steal the candlesticks on the way out, and not doing so is considered coming out ahead of the norm. (Side note: it really doesn’t help that our media does such an excellent job of portraying us as a Planet of Complete Assholes.)

All of which is to say, well, to get along *there* we’d have to completely repress and deny even the slightest, most sublimated trace of envy or enyious-sounding ideas and even a hint of the “there oughta be a law” instinct, cultivate self-control and rationality enough to suit the talcoríëf-esteeming locals (preferably while not losing the capacity for deep passion and childlike delight in things, losing which is also part of their hypothetical critique), find a way to desire neither to lead nor to follow nor to care what the Jones’ are doing, and develop adequately large sticks up our asses about politesse, respect for other people’s stuff, and the principle of the thing – while not showing any weakness on these points, because we will be judged constantly, and especially on what we are in the dark.

Being human and therefore possessed of unavoidably human mentality, it’s hard enough to get my mind into this framework properly enough to write them, never mind trying to live it 24/7. Fortunately, *there*, they have cures for that.

(Note: This may seem harsh, but a thing to remember is that we’re the ones who come with brains hard-coded to relative status hierarchies, and in this scenario. we’d be judging ourselves against people who’ve been engaging in a relentless program of no-holds-barred self-improvement for centuries.)

Do the Eldrae favor punishment, rehabilitation, or something else as a means of combating crime?

Imperial judicial penalties (as handled by the Office of Reconstruction and Execution by the Curial courts, once they’re done), draw from two paradigms: mélith – balance and obligation – and medicine.

So there’s no punishment, per se. By either philosophy, engaging in that is absolutely pointless.

What there is is restitution and cure. The former takes the form of fines: either directly restitutive where economic crimes are concerned, according to the Fivefold Rule (repaying the victim fivefold), or in the form of weregeld. Also, in either case, the criminal is responsible for paying all costs incurred due to his crime, including police costs, court costs, loss-of-income-and-time for the victim and any and all witnesses, etc., that lost time due to the case, and so forth. All debts must be paid, says Saravoné’s Code, and they mean every word of it. (And if you don’t have the assets, they’ll still get it out of you one way or another.)

The latter takes the form of memetic rehabilitation and reconditioning, for virtually all non-violent crimes and minor crimes of violence. Despite the name, this has little to do with rehabilitation in the Western penological sense when, to one extent or another, prisoners are supposed to rehabilitate themselves; meme rehab & recon means being handed over to the psychedesigners, the redactors, and if necessary the brain surgeons.

(On the grounds, you see, that people who cannot grasp and duly follow the principles of consent and obligation, or the Fundamental Contract, are self-evidently insane, and need their mental dysfunction repaired like the faulty component that it is. That being said, the Curia has a tremendous respect for the free will and self-integrity of the individual, and as such meme rehab & recon is not compulsory. If you genuinely prefer dying as yourself to living as your repaired self, you may opt for euthanasia at any time.)

More serious violent crimes (the ones which literally can’t make restitution for their crime because the bill is too high to pay with anything other than their entirety) and cases of incurable dysfunction with or without recidivism are handed directly over to the executioners or euthanatrists, respectively. The intent behind this death penalty, however, is neither punishment nor deterrence (after all, it’s not the severity but the certainty that counts); it’s surgery – cutting out society’s sick parts as surgeons once removed incurable tumors.

(Note: You can put that down under things humans would find culturally difficult to accept, too, inasmuch as the average human, citizens of Western democracies especially, is not likely to be comfortable with a legal system that has but two penalties, brainwashing or death. (But, hey, if you don’t like brainwashing, you can always choose death, right?))

On Thanks, And The Meanings Of Thanks

In appropriateness for Thanksgiving, the question of the nature of thanks.

In an etymological discussion on Google+, back in July, which some of you may remember, in which various languages’ ways of saying “thank you” were discussed and their comparative original meanings – in terms of obligation, or gratitude, or mercy, or indeed the fascinating etymology of the Japanese arigato, I was asked how Eldraeic does this. And so, I answered, and I thought while I was at it I would save the substance of that comment for today’s blog article:

It is, of course, a somewhat complex question filled with tasty nuance. Sadly, it is also a complex question filled with etymological detail which I didn’t have to hand then, and since my brain has been busy with other things in the meantime, I still don’t have now, which teaches me to put things on the back burner, I guess. Still, while I don’t have those details available because I have yet to work out how these words would have run in Cestian and Selenarian and so forth before determining their descendants in good old modern Eldraeic, I can talk somewhat about meanings.

Of course, in Eldraeic, it’s all about obligation. Because of coválír and mélith, which for new readers are defined over here, and I talk some more about how they play out in language here. To Eldraeic’s original native speakers, and to those Imperially acculturated, obligation is a spiritual value, a founding principle of civilization, and a measure of moral worth all wrapped up in a single package. And for eldrae, in particular, it’s something about which they get instinctually twitchy in ways that humans simply can’t feel, so.

Thus, there are three combinations in Eldraeic that take the place of our “thank you” / “you’re welcome” pair. In either of the first two, the thanking party opens with “I am indebted”. The first possible response here, used for originating transactions, amounts to “It is known/acknowledged/recorded.” (The word here, based on the etymological notes that I do have, is now specific to this circumstance, but links back to older words relating to knots, tieing, weaving, etc., which is how they used to keep account-books in archaic times.)

I should also point up, probably, that while this might seem cold by human standards, declining to acknowledge/record someone’s offered debt is essentially blowing it off as not worth enough to bother with, which is a particularly insulting way to start a fight provoke someone to a duel. Yay for cross-cultural misunderstandings.

The other one, used for closing transactions when one is cancelling an existing debt, is “It is repaid,” which – oh, hey, more etymology – has links with words meaning “it balances”.

The third form is used in things like, say, buying something and paying for it right then, when the obligation is both incurred and paid off at the same moment. That one’s a worn down form of the old obligator closing that runs something along the lines of “Thus is our contract written; thus is agreement made.”, and it’s said each to each, probably simultaneously, at the close of the deal. You could also think of it as analogous to the Jacksonian “Deal”.

These apply, of course, principally to solicited transactions. Unsolicited ones – well, in their view of the world, you can do something that benefits someone else for your own internal reasons, but you can’t do something for them without their consent – because that would indebt them to you without their consent, and that’s something that only slavers, outworld barbarians, and other terminally uncultured people do. One can, however, declare oneself indebted to someone for something they didn’t do for you, which starts off the whole elegant verbal dance in which they try to persuade you that you’re not indebted (’cause they had their own internal reasons or another debtor, and got paid already) without insulting you by repudiating your debt, and you try to persuade them otherwise…

One might well ask how gratitude fits into this paradigm. Answer: badly, as we conceive of it, ’cause gratitude would imply a sense of indebtedness, and that would be incorrect and inappropriate because the debt has been either acknowledged as an obligation or already paid. It is done, and carrying it further would be a gross solecism.

What they do have, on the other hand, is appreciation – something which, per coválír , has its ties to such words as “appraise” acknowledged much more plainly that in human cultures, because they’re not ashamed to express value as value . Eldraeic is a language in which it is entirely reasonable and appropriate to say “I value your existence/this series of transactions/the [commercial/personal/etc.] relationship/your willingness to participate in this transaction” straight out, which while far from something that it’s appropriate to say every time you buy a cup of coffee, is something one might express to one’s frequent counterparty/regular butcher/favorite barista, etc., etc., as a statement appended to whichever of the above is relevant to whatever transaction you’ve just engaged in.

(It’s also the most appropriate statement to use to respond to things done that benefit-you-but-aren’t-for-you, which in most cases do not generally warrant going to the lengths of declaring oneself personally indebted.

This phrasing is also used to acknowledge gifts – given with no strings attached, for which there is a specific verb, “to-give-in-appreciation-of-your-value”, which I would more readily gloss as “to gift”, at least if we ignore blue-gifting – compliments and other such expressions, and so forth.)

Trope-a-Day: Even Evil Has Standards

Even Evil Has Standards: Not in general played any straighter than it is in reality – the dumb and brutal kind of space pirate/raider, in particular, is infamous for atrocities – but seen on occasion.  A lot of Renegades, even the gone-plain-and-simple-evil ones, still have their instincts and culture programming, and as such tend to avoid slaving and other blatantly choice-stealing, and often adhere to codes circling around the twisted form of mélith that could be summarized as “those who aren’t asking for it shouldn’t get it”.

I Can Do No Other

“When one of the eldrae says he does a thing for you, a simple request will make him cease; for love or hatred, an emotional appeal may serve; for money, a better offer; for mélith, an alternative of equal price; for oath or contract, release by its terms; for reason or principle, a disproof alone will suffice; but should he claim that his qalasír requires it of him, to abandon his course would violate the truth of his self, and he will not do that.  In the face of this, you must concede, adapt, or fight; there are no other alternatives.”

– Excuse Me, Is That Your Pseudopod?: Xenology for the Laysoph, Galényí Selequelios-ith-Idolos