At The Ending Was The Word

Thirty-Six Paths of Illumination, the (n.): A memetic mystery cult designed for the Imperial Exploratory Service by the Word of Command, ICC, the Thirty-Six Paths are designed as a means of handling severe cases of exodeism (q.v.).

In many cases, when primitive species conclude that it is necessary and proper to worship the “Shining Ones”, the “Great Star Gods”, or other such epithets, creative theology leads them to conclude that denials of divinity are merely a test for them, or indicative of avatar incarnation, or some such. In such cases, extreme denials or proof of non-divinity tend to cause severe backlash, societal disruption, and cultural implosion is not unknown, leaving aside the consequences for the unwilling gods.

Thus, the Thirty-Six Paths of Illumination are intended as a pathway to slowly and carefully wean exodeists and their societies from their faith in a manner designed to minimize the resulting personal alathkháln and societal consequences; a thirty-sixth level adept of the Paths is fully aware of the reality of the situation and equipped to join in enlightening those below.

Other visitors to worlds in which exodeism is prevalent and the Thirty-Sixth Paths are in effect are requested to cooperate by non-contradiction with the program, and warned that memetic safeties and countermeasures are woven into the memeplex.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

 

Irony/Indoctrination

2016_I(Today, two words for the price of one!)

The fragrant smoke of jernja cigars drifted across the fantastically carved wooden balcony of the building, one of the many in the Repository of All Knowledge’s complex, where two eldrae were enjoying the changing light as twilight fell across Calmiríë.

“Have you considered, Clovis, the irony of this place?”

“The Library of Lies? A curious archive for an institution devoted to truth, perhaps, but ‘information must be preserved’. And besides, perhaps a measure of truth may be found in the gaps of well-crafted falsehoods.”

“Ah, you mistake my meaning. Consider my profession.”

“The Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy?”, Clovis blinked. “You and yours have spent much time here, mostly in our Phobosophy of Coercion section. If not just to research your targets – what value do lies have to a stratarch?”

“The truth they enwrap. In centuries of railing against us, our system, our ethics, and all like it, our targets have necessarily had to describe it in great and painstaking detail in order that their subjects might be properly indoctrinated in what not to believe. It would be ever so much more effort to subvert them without their valiant meme-spreading assistance.”

 

Mind Plagues

cultural contamination (n.): The passage of memes and their sociotypes between cultures, often with associated unrest, due to contact between them.

Attitudes to cultural contamination vary widely across known space. The extreme poles of this are the Voniensa Republic, whose policy is to avoid cultural contamination to the greatest extent possible, to avoid “interfering with the natural development of indigenous cultures”; and the Empire, which considers that any worthwhile, mature culture ought to be robust enough to cope with a few foreign ideas. (And, indeed, where “primitives” and “barbarians” are concerned, often goes out of its way to cause as much cultural contamination as it possibly can.)

It is a truism of memetics that cultural contamination is always bilateral; it is fundamentally impossible to avoid two-way communication of ideas in the course of social contact, and as such each culture involved in contact will always be contaminated by each other culture. Attitudes to this also vary widely, in this case along tripolar lines. These poles are represented by again, the Empire, which not only considers its own culture robust enough to handle foreign ideas, but actively mines cultures it meets for any good ideas it might not have had itself yet; the Theomachy of Galia, whose obsession with theological and ideological purity causes them to avoid foreign ideas at all costs; and the Annik Sodality, which while enjoying foreign ideas from afar, eschews assimilating or any of them lest they offend the imitated or their own sense of disentitlement.

Finally, since this book is one marketed to the cosmopolitan or would-be cosmopolitan Worlds’ traveller, you too, gentle reader, are a vector of cultural contamination.

Try not to let it bother you.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary

Questions: Persistent Memetic Weapons and Machine Learning

1.  Referring specifically to The Laws and Customs of War:  What exactly is the difference between persistent and non-persistent memetic / infoweapons?  It’s obvious that the big distinction is inherent in the name, but, to be more specific, how to the people in charge of using such weapons ensure that they are properly “infodegradable”?

Very carefully.

Or, slightly more seriously, this is one of those occasions on which I invoke the “I just write about it, I don’t actually have a complete science of memetics stored away” clause. But I can safely say that there are lots of very clever people engaged in threading the needle between “Oops, our economic sabotage meme-weapon got a little bit out of hand and caused the Great Depression” (acceptable collateral damage) and “Oops, our economic sabotage meme-weapon got entirely out of hand and now half a dozen systems have to put up with bloody Marxists for the next half-millennium” (very much not, and the hearings will go on forever).

(Infoweapons, by contrast, are analogous to computer viruses, etc., and as such it’s just a matter of making sure you got your termination conditions and fail-safes set up right.)

2.  Regarding Powers as Programs and Skilled But Naive:  On the one hand, part of me thinks that, if you’re able to trade the raw skill itself by mnemonesis, the same should be able to apply to the experience as well, since that in itself could conceivably be boiled down to the knowledge of “what works and what doesn’t” and the memories that knowledge is associated with, and that, given the setting’s information technology abilities, these experiences wouldn’t be that much harder to swap than the raw skill knowledge itself.

(On the other hand, while typing that out, I came to realize that the idea that “to play as a virtuoso, you still need to practice like one” might still apply in practice even with that caveat I just mentioned:  In an almost evolutionary sense, the skills of yesterday’s virtuoso become the baseline for today’s practice, so that to be acknowledged as a virtuoso now you have to push out your skills even further than before.  Is that basically how it ends up working out in practice?)

The Doctor Who must be seeping into my brain, because the first thing I want to say here is:

“People assume that the mind is analogous to a computer with an attached database, but actually – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… thinky-winky… stuff.”

…in any case.

The first problem here is that experiences are really problematic to swap. That’s because a very large chunk of the mind (the “psyche”, or “incrementing memory string” in the local jargon) is your experiences and the way they shape your mind.

Remember, importing the incrementing memory string diffs is what you do to merge forks of yourself back together again. Importing a whole bunch of someone else’s experience-memories will change your identity – it’s hard enough to do this with your own without running into nasty cross-link problems – which at best will be enough to cross the legal threshold and turn into a fancy way to commit suicide and become someone new, and at worst is merely the fast track to committing suicide and become institutionalizably schizophrenic all in one move.

(There is such a thing as exomemory technology, but while that lets you experience someone else’s memory from their point of view, it doesn’t actually patch it into your mind as if it were your own. You can only learn from those what you would learn from watching the violin prodigy, not from being the violin prodigy.)

The second and bigger one, touching directly on the thinky-winkyness, is that the mind is encoded in what we can call a holistic, associative manner. Everything is interconnected with everything else, and it’s those complex interconnections that make (a) it very hard to comprehend, and (b) everything go smooth.

It’s easy – for values of easy equal to ‘requiring extremely sophisticated cognitive science’ – to scribe raw data into the brain as fact-memory. It’s rather harder, but possible, to encode skill-memories, and gets even harder when you’re talking about the need to go poking around in the cerebellum and all manner of other specialized areas to teach them what they need to know to go with the skill-memories, and that in turn becomes a dozen times more complicated when we have to get into how these interact with hormones, other glandular effects, and that any given body will not respond in the same manner as any other given body even before we start talking about neomorphic shapes.  But it’s possible.

Where it gets impossibly hard is in editing in all the millions of little subtle connections to every other part of the contents of your brain that would have been there had you learnt it in the conventional manner. And without those – and this is a poor analogy – you’re in the situation of someone who tried learning karate from a textbook. Or someone unpracticed with an English degree trying to write poetry for the first time.

(I mean, you can still turn in an expert-level performance, since you have the skills, but that’s not the same thing as having them fully integrated into your self. Like the trope write-up says, it’s about integration and synthesis, about building all those connections that let you do things without having to try to do things.)

Now. That all being said – this is a technological restriction. If you have access to all the powers and power of a Power, in the Vingean sense, and thus are or have a friendly mind which is capable of not only comprehending yours in every single aspect and fine detail, then they can re-envision you as one possible person you would have been had you known these things all along and spool that straight to output. It’s easy for a Power to do that. They write software of greater-than-human-mind complexity every day of the week and twice on Nyxis.

But the gods are very busy, and have better things to do than come running every time someone wants to have learnt kung fu.

 

Trope-a-Day: The Nondescript

The Nondescript: It’s not as powerful as a Perception Filter, or even enough to overcome the truly Genre Savvy, but applied memetics has been used from time to time to put certain intelligence operatives in bodies, or construct storage boxes or other devices, and so forth, which are incredibly easy to overlook and which the mental attention just wanders away from.

Yes, it’s weaponized boredom.

Trope-a-Day: Mind Manipulation

Mind Manipulation: The entire science of sophotechnology, which is to say, the science of mind, both natural and artificial – and the laundry list of technologies derived therefrom: artificial intelligence, Brain Uploading, memetics, psychedesign, noetic backup and analysis…

Trope-a-Day: Manipulative Bastard

Manipulative Bastard: The right (or wrong) kind of professional memeticist (or related professions, such as lawyers – the technical term for one kind, for example is nomomach, freely glossable “war-lawyer”).  The Office of Warrior Philosophy, for example, is full of the militarized subspecialty of this, but it’s hardly the only profession that is.

(On the other hand, also somewhat necessary just because widespread awareness of memetics and its core techniques acts as a sort-of memetic immune system.  The equivalent of the “pick-up artists”, for example, suffered greatly from the “Ooh, who’s a cute little amateur meme-wrangler, then?” effect – which is not to say that the seducers have gone away, but it raises the level of the game considerably when you need the equivalent of a postgraduate education to sneak a loaded meme past the average person’s information-society-grade meme filters.)