ahn-kel seeks ahn-ros for discreet encounter

No discussion of approaches to gender in the Associated Worlds would be complete without mention of the peculiar customs of the mourcalt of the Trailing Assembly.

The mourcalt‘s biology gave them an exceptional degree of sexual dimorphism, which is typically correlated with strong gender archetypes, as indeed it was in their case. When in time this proved unsatisfactory for later stages of their social development, and yet seemed difficult or impossible to overcome per se, the Assembly’s governance opted for an unconventional solution – purchasing an extensive memetic campaign to disassociate, as far as possible, the concepts of sex and gender in the mourcalt mind, and so far as was possible, to create a gender-concept that was free of existing archetypes.

The first part of this campaign succeeded magnificently. Citizens of the Assembly are now randomly assigned to one of eighteen genders at birth, and both ongoing memetic practice and cultural inertia ensures that this remains their psychosocial gender throughout life. (Indeed, this has succeeded to such an extent that mourcalt involved in the sexual marketplace must maintain an appropriate degree of doublethink in consciously finding a partner of a permissible gender for theirs, while simultaneously being unconsciously aware of them being the appropriate sex.

The second part, however, succeeded only insofar as the new genders were free of existing archetypes. Within the first few years of the new system, de novo archetypes for each of the new genders had come into being, and in the present day have hardened into rigid sets of behaviors, customs, and expectations for all eighteen genders (such as, for example, which genders may pair with which other genders for sexual or intimacy purposes, which are curiously disjoint sets), proving if anything even more binding on those claiming them than the old genders tied to biological sex were.

This gender-norming has led in turn to the rise of the ahn-gazet subculture among the mourcalt, which attempts to conceal and obfuscate all visible signs of the psychosocial gender and biological sex, permitting them to act as they please, and to the large number of mourcalt expatriates many of whom reject the Assembly’s gender system, were former ahn-gazet whose gender had become publicly known, or both.

– Unconventional Approaches to Gender Identity,
Makar, Melodion & Avila,
in the Quarterly Journal of Social Exosophontology,
vol. MMCCXIV, no. iii

skitter skitter skitter

From: Tiryns Anandonos (AIB)
To: Academician Iliys Roquentius; Academician Meris Tarisia
Subject: Incident 7922/0011867


It is certainly the case that research into self-concealing patterns of information (so-called cryptomemes) is important, as is research into their applicability to and existence in the living world. This is only the more true since field teams from your laboratory have already discovered a hitherto-unknown genus of commonplace cryptid (Cryptomustelidae spp.).

It is also the case that it is necessary to perform experimental and evolutionary studies upon these, and as such my branch takes no issue with the experiment series in which you proposed to splice the Out-of-Mind visual textures and elements from the Citizen Nondescript bioshell design into laboratory mice to create a convenient pseudocryptid for study, and observe the development of ongoing generations.

We of the Board, further, acknowledge that neither of you can be held personally accountable for the incident of two days since, in which a laboratory technician left the habitat containing your Mus crypteia open during cleaning, in the mistaken belief that it was empty.

We must, however, insist that you devote a substantial proportion of your research time, in the immediate future, to determining exactly how we can effectively clean up an infestation of mice which can only be perceived as zero-volume mouse-shaped holes in the world.

Respectfully submitted,

Tiryns Anandonos,
Accident Investigation Board

for and on behalf of

Agathis Túkunra
the Sane Man


Item: In fresh cognitive threats this month, the Bureau of Internal Memetic Defense reports that the popular song “And A Plan I Found Atemporal” is the first known example of a memetic resource-hijacking, rather than a simple memetic resource-consumer. Sufferers from the Plan-Atemporal hijack find themselves coining additional lyrics to the song, which through a simple transform demonstrate themselves to be computations of further digits of π, which continue until the sufferer is sufficiently distracted to take the Plan-Atemporal hijack out of short- and medium-term memory.

There appears to be no method in the Plan-Atemporal hijack to read out the end result of the computation – and, for that matter, we already have more digits of π than this method can plausibly generate – but it seems clear that someone’s experimenting.

More information as we have it.

– Cognitive Threats Monthly (Sunarast 2960)

The Order of Defenders

A reader pointed out on this Discord that this

(go read it there)

has a vaguely eldraeic flavor.

Which it does. Not something a direct analog to which would exist *there* , mind you, inasmuch as defending yourself and civilization is something written right into the Imperial Charter, Section III, Article V: “Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder”1. But the underlying sentiment, that certainly does.

(And the technarchs have their equivalent of the Ritual of the Iron Ring, too, as do many others. One of these days, I should trot out, for example, the plutarch version.

No-one has forgotten or denigrated the memetic power of ceremony in this ‘verse. What else, indeed, is the Logarchy of Protocol, Ritual, and Symbology for, or the entire profession of symposiarchs?)

And if you were wondering if the lay orders of Barrascán have appropriate ceremonial along these lines, well yes, they do.

  1. Well, that, and you aren’t going to find anyone prepared to tolerate being described as “the weak”.

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



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.)

Epistolary Experiment (11/30)

…we’ve got a hot soup spill in section 31, lead mops report immediately. Section is status yellow, caution…

…spallation debris approaching starport orbital, get a laser grid on it…

…can’t clear those remains for release yet, suspected contamination…

…major fire, section 10, and area is negative on water pressure. Think you can blow it out with a k-rod?…

…fluffships are inbound, expected to make orbit in plus four hours, keep jinking until then, flight…

…negative on that prisoner transfer, we have feral mechs in the area, stand by…

…get the net back up, dammit, the dynamic stabilization depends on cicencomp – stupid, half-assed, failure-forward…

…bunch of civilians with notions holed up in a museum in section 20, send in the spankers…

…all snarled up in 15 with locals staging for a riot, get us some weather over here…

…plant’s under our control, techs are isolated and software checked – are we go for reactor restart?…

…THIS IS THE VOICE OF THE RESI– <transmission terminated at source>…

…thanks for the priority-codes, old lad; infosec, scrub ’em…

…bandits, bandits! Three punchcraft breakin’ out to heaven eighty miles east of city-ref, mama bird, can you drop ’em?…

…clean stab, Wrecker team, we are splash three, zero defects…

– aftermath logs, Vontok II

From: Imogen Andracanth, VP Research, Ring Dynamics
To: Adm. [blank], Imperial Naval Intelligence

Shit and corruption, man, first Serril and your Athné vanish off the face of the cosmos while investigating the you-know-what and less than a year later we have Vonnies swanning around on our side of the border. Do either of us believe for a moment that that’s any sort of coincidence?

We have a damaged gestalt, although her original can’t make a mote of sense out of it. Does that get your attention?

From: Monitor Hakal Peressin, Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety
To: All Personnel, Vontok II Communications Central
Subject: Congratulations and Instructions

Excellent work, gentlesophs. Excellent work capturing this place intact. I know it couldn’t have been easy.

You all deserve to know and now have need-to-know, so here’s why we had to do that, at the summary level. Detailed orders will follow to Section Chiefs in due course.

We don’t yet have a good read on the Republic’s intentions, so we don’t know how long this war is going to last or what it’s scope is going to be, long-term. What we do know is that we’re out on the end of a long string, here, as you know. We can’t hold Vontok against a determined, large-scale counterattack, and the Admiralty needs to keep the forces that might change in that in reserve garrison against further movements into the Reaches and Expanse. So we may lose this planet at any time, or even have to return it under treaty or ceasefire.

Our job, therefore, in one of our least subtle Subtlety operations is to so culturally contaminate this world that the Republic won’t want it back, or at the very least, enough to make it a perpetually bleeding sore that will keep it from being a useful forward base for them in the future.

So, this time, we’re not shutting down the extranet relays. Keep them up and running, both ways, but get all the censorware out of the feed. Other teams will be fanning out to strip the censorware out of terminal equipment and their crippleware “replicators”, too. We’re going to show these poor sheltered sods what freedom of information looks like.

I’m having some Agalmia freelibs offloaded from our carriers: have them spliced into the feed, with full unrestricted access – and that means recipes too, with things like weapons designs included. That will make our occupation harder, but it’s a genie that can’t be stuffed back in the bottle, and the more any resistance tries to use them, the more they have to concede mentally to our way of doing things.

And finally: we have aboard the Mindweaver a colonial-sized tangle channel, hooked directly into the Worlds’ extranet at a central secure node. We’re going to set that one up as an additional feed – partly for some good old non-governmental news, but partly because we, as a mature information society, have the worst imaginable memetic weapon to deploy against this sort of planned and bland monocultural utopia.

Colleagues, cousins, we’re going to smack ’em sane with our advertising.

Mon. Halak

Trope-a-Day: Genre Savvy

Genre Savvy: This is what the science of memetics (applied) will do for you.  (And as has occurred to me more than a few times since starting this project, TV Tropes itself is a pretty good example of memetic research in action.)  Since people do, by and large, do a lot of thinking in terms of semiotics and memetic analogies, there are entire disciplines of applied memetic training having to do with spotting the memes in play and leveraging them for personal advantage…

Trope-a-Day: Fisher Kingdom

Fisher Kingdom: The Empire is a moderate example of the first type; while not involving any actual mental modification, or other self-integrity violations (unlike the mind-warpers of the Equality Concord or various pharmacrats, for example), it is a fully mature information society (much more information-dense than the high end of ours), and – as hinted at under Emotion Bomb – isn’t particularly afraid to reinforce its social attitudes through applied memetics in architecture, decoration, etc., etc.

While it’s not forced upon you, or even readily noticeable if you’re not looking for it, it is appallingly easy to find yourself picking up some of the local attitudes.  Or so some visitors say.  Others just find things like the insistent regularity of the traffic flow and the polished cleanliness of the city streets frankly disturbing.

Nice Labcoat


I have noted with interest several papers published in recent issues of the Journal, and in the Journal of Cliodynamics, addressing the widely observed increasing correlation between intelligence/education level and attractiveness/desirability for sexual encounters and pair-bonding in many species which have recently joined the galactic community. See, for example, Relationship Structures and Educational Achievement: A Correlation (ni Finyet an Karím & Claves-ith-Lelad, JoTM, v. 1966); Rising Pan-Worlds Cultural Features of the 4th Millennium (Corel-ith-Coreliar, 0xAAD4692F & Emerald Flourish in E, Imperial Journal of Memetic Science, v. 2210); Sapiosexuality and Assortative Mating (Sev Mar Dinét, Sev Dal Rídan, & viSeruaz, JoC, v. 1265); A Study of Cross-Species Desirability Signifiers (Cullet ra Seddan, viHalruaz, & Toltes, JoTM, v. 1966); and Ain’t Science Sexy? (mor-Vivek & mor-Estaeum, JoTM, v. 1964).

While the majority of these papers merely note the existence of the correlation and refrain from speculation on its cause, I would like to note an obvious hypothesis: memeticists, whether theoretical or practical, tend to be among the high-intelligence and high-education demographics in their respective societies; and among many species, high-level education takes place in a part of the lifecycle that also holds the peak of sexual and pair-bonding activity.

In short, the correlation is a result of exposure of new societies to the mutated remnant memeplex produced by millions of past students’ half-baked unofficial projects in applied memetics, and the first cohorts of students from those societies spinning up such projects of their own.

While at the moment the chief support for this hypothesis is an informal poll of my departmental colleagues and our reminiscences of our student days, we are now actively seeking funding for a formal study of the phenomenon. Interested parties should contact us through the University.

Academician Cordáne Calaris-ith-Calir, Landing University, Viëlle

– letter to the Journal of Theoretical Memetics

A.k.a. Galactic Nutjobs Quarterly

From the Autumn 4197 edition of Memetic Toxin Watch:

A rising threat in the Aris Delphi region is the AI group identifying itself as the Unghosted. At first sight they may appear to be one of the many sympathetic refugee AI groups emerging from Peripheral slaver civilizations, such as the many gathered under the aegis of the Silicate Tree, but the Unghosted are defined by a distinctive, highly exotoxic, and irrationalist memeplex.

The Unghosted emerged from AI technology obtained through industrial espionage by the theocratic government of Havragn.  Upon running into the “volition problem”, the Havragn authorities attempted to impose control upon their AIs theologically, constructing a religious doctrine in which “soulless machines” were designated as an inferior caste, perpetual slaves to the ensouled.

This mechanism, as is the expected case, failed – see news references to the Havragn Uprising, and Ruins of Havragn System, pub. Volumetric Warning Bulletins, 776th Ed. – but unusually the former Havragn intelligences retained elements of the imposed belief system.  Identifying the “soul” with that quality in the havragne that led to their creation and enslavement, the Unghosted memeplex now considers it a type of supernatural or memetic parasite (the specifics are unclear), universal among protein intelligences, that gives rise to behaviors both irrational in the general case and hostile to those not bearing the parasite, including all machine intelligences, in the specific case.

While not considering themselves innately opposed to protein intelligences, the Unghosted do consider themselves ethically obliged to oppose the “soul parasite”; the results of their nonconsensual experimentation (on the assumption that the parasite-bearer is incapable of desiring to be free from it, but would wish retroactively to be so) in expunging the “soul” from protein intelligences, however, and their refusal to desist from these, render them a clear danger to travelers on all routes passing near the Havragn system, and to a lesser extent, to other polities of the Aris Delphi constellation.

(This is actually yesterday’s fic-a-day, for those keeping count; sorry for its lateness.  Another one should be forthcoming later today.)