Trope-a-Day: The Alternet

The Alternet: Lots of them, if you will, independently invented on lots and lots of worlds. (The Empire’s version is the Dataweave, operating on IIP and mesh network principles.) And then there’s the extranet, which is the Internet-of-Internets that links all of these internets together, although in practice everyone refers to all the networks that aren’t their specific local one as “the extranet”.

It supports most of the same functionality and more (say, pervasive augmented reality, mindcasting, and exomemory transfer, to name three examples), although with certain limitations that the Internet generally doesn’t have to worry about, like light-lag [and the associated possibilities of fun with ansibles] and planetary alignments…

Trope-a-Day: Twin Maker

Twin Maker: While teleportation doesn’t exist, mindcasting, forking, and reinstantiation, along with more exotic sophotechnology, can create much the same effects.  (Although, in mindcasting, the first step is to perform an orderly shutdown, because while you can happily transmit a static mind-state vector, transmitting a running one is a much more complicated procedure that requires special software and is in any case impractical over any distance long enough to invoke light-lag, since it’s kind of hard to think when half your brain is a couple of seconds away from the other half.)

But, by and large, no-one gives a crap, because the generally accepted answer to the philosophical conundra involved, in conformance with the established fact that souls are software objects, is pattern identity theory, and continuity of consciousness does not matter –  or as it’s put for the layman, if you think like you, and feel like you, and act like you, and remember being you, then you are you for all legal, practical, philosophical, and other purposes. Yes, even if there are now two of you, at least until you diverge.  Get over it, already.

Darkness Within (20): The One Who Leaves

Z minus four minutes:

Damn it.

Well, I’ll try, sister. I’ll try hard.

Last parts are mounted, the couch from the cutter – right through the forward viewport – and the spare PLSS pack. Software tests clean. The script is ready to shut me down on Gutpunch‘s servers and reboot me on the substrate’s temp space when I give the word. The gyros are spinning up to threshold. It should be time to hit the black.

What have I forgotten?

What have I forgotten? I know –

Shit and ash, I almost forgot a spotter!

Z minus one minute:

Lucky there was one in the DC locker. Anyway. Air’s very tight, so cut her free and make the life support switch first. Aft tether, aft tether, fore tether, fore tether. Good, floating free. Now —

Enter unlock code into the PLSS.

PLSS<-Safety instruction one-four-eleven-niner-six-two. Lock motion enable.

Hyperventilate. One deep breath. Two deep breaths. Three deep breaths, and hold it.

Rotate safety check valve to closed.

Unfasten security turnbuckles, left and right.

Depress eject switch. PLSS will float free and alarm will sound, much appreciated, yes, I know, shut up!

Have assistant place replacement PLSS in position – or, in this case, back up, press shoulder-blades against the interface panel that’s part of the acceleration couch and wait for connectors and latches to engage —

— to engage —

Move forward, move back, and try it again.

Still nothing.

Oh, hell. No panicking, now, Isif, work the problem. Pull free and check the connectors.

Feed line, looks clear. Return line, looks clear. Data connector – shit, that pin’s bent. Tools — no time. Will a finger fit? No. The taste of carbonic acid on my tongue. Unclip — the tiedown rings. Okay. The end of the spotter will fit. Find the leverage. Looks eyeball-straight now. Good enough? Have to be.

Rotate back. Press against the panel again.

Thunk.

Gods, that was too close. Connectors show blue. Fasten security turnbuckles.

Rotate safety check valve to open.

Exhale.

Inhale.

PLSS<-Safety instruction eleven-one-three-eight-seven-four. Lock motion disable.

They’re right. Sometimes canned air can be worth tasting. One breath, self, that’s all the reflection you have time for. Bring your mind over here.

candle_router<-!transferflag exec

Packing for mindcast commencing. Personality execution terminated.

 

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Trope-a-Day: Emergency Transformation

Emergency Transformation: This is another thing that tends to happen a lot – not so much for the Imperials themselves, who are used to changing bodies, and for that matter substrates – “at home I’m a humanoid; at work I’m a squidbot” –  like other people change suits, but as you might expect from people who do that, they do keep the appropriate scan-and-compile machinery around when a friend of theirs seems to be about to get dead, because, well, the standard medical treatment for that is to have your brain scanned, your mind-state compiled, and your selfness reinstantiated in another body equipped with proper universal noetic architecture.

This works about as well as you might imagine when you consider the number of people in the universe who remain fundamentally uncomfortable with the algorithmic view of mind (“souls are software objects”) even if they aren’t actual biochauvinists/carbon chauvinists, or who are concerned that some immaterial essence isn’t going along with the transfer, or some such.  And, of course, the Imperials are about as equipped to deal with this one as they are the Cloning Blues (“What sort of fucked-up society spreads memes like this around anyway?”) in the sense of not really having much empathy for any position quite so weird.

And there’s only so far slapping people upside the head with science will go.  Or explaining yet again that if you think you’re you, and remember being you, and act like you, then you are you to within all relevant standards of you-ness, ‘kay?  And, hey, you got immortality, light-speed-plus travel and optional superpowers out of this deal, so could you maybe stop whining for a minute and learn to enjoy not being dead already?

Yeah.  Like that.

How Unlikely Are We?

“The difficulties of interstellar travel are widely underestimated.  Within the stargate plexus, even simple ships — capable of only relatively low accelerations, capable of being built by cultures little more capable than those which have developed orbital flight, and requiring no extraordinary skill for a single sophont to pilot and maintain — can travel between star systems in a matter of weeks or months.  The capital and operating costs of such ships are high, but are not out of reach of a small consortium or well-off individual entrepreneur.  As such, worlds and cultures throughout the constellations connected by the plexus have blossomed, spreading civilization across the Associated Worlds and out into the Expansion Regions; and those cultures and their people which possess basic spaceflight capability can indulge freely in interstellar travel freely for colonization, trade, exploration, even tourism, at costs which are low enough to keep it from being the exclusive preserve of an elite, wealthy class.”

“Further, the stargate plexus binds the Associated Worlds together, in what may be an even more significant way, by acting as a carrier for the extranet.  While not instantaneous, since the Luminal Limit still applies between gates in the same system, communications can cross the entire width of the plexus in a matter of weeks rather than centuries, and most delays within polities are mere hours or days, even if not ameliorated by broadcatching, caching, and the use of AI and fork agent-proxies.  While light-lag and other delays and inconveniences in communications maintain separate cultural regions even within individual systems, as well as across the Worlds as a whole, that such communication, broadcast of media, and free exchange of information are possible and within the ready grasp of almost anyone in the Worlds with access to any sort of terminal does a great deal to create a common metaculture and understanding from core to Periphery.  (An effect which is only enhanced in those polities whose citizens have access to and cultural mores permitting the use of mindcasting to travel as data, at extranet speeds.)”

“All of this is to forget that in order for this to be possible, the stargate plexus had to exist already.  Let us examine how unlikely this truly is: the construction of artificial wormholes requires simultaneously an advanced scientific and technological culture, enough wealth to invest in the construction of multi-trillion-exval stargates and the new industries required to enable their construction, an adequately long-term viewpoint to make such investments seem viable, an existing lighthugger technology able to transport the distal wormhole terminus to its destination, and, most unlikely of all, such a multi-millennial genius as Imogen Andracanth to make the particular breakthrough permitting controlled wormhole inflation and stabilization without first possessing a mature ontotechnology.  Of all the thousands of civilizations known in the Associated Worlds and beyond, only two have ever made this discovery independently – the Empire, and the Voniensa Republic.”

“Without these miracles – I do not believe that this understates the case – could an interstellar civilization be possible?  I will not say that it would not; it would be possible to imagine a loose confederation of worlds, or a meta-empire, held together by slow light-bound trickles of information and low-speed lighthuggers bearing high-value data, supremely precious low-mass cargoes, and the occasional colonization mission – at least among the immortal or extremely long-lived.  But with only lighthuggers available – ships the size of mountains available only at high capital cost, requiring millions of tons of antimatter and deuterium to fuel at the cost of billions of exval, with large and skilled crews making much longer commitments in terms of wall-clock time and even more yet in empire time, no thriving, cosmopolitan association such as we now enjoy could have come into being.”

– Linde Valentinarius, An Overview of the Flowering