Trope-a-Day: Gaia’s Lament

Gaia’s Lament: Rather strongly averted on Imperial worlds, and always has been even back in the Era of Steel and Steam – it turns out that one of the things that comes along with immortality is the observation that all those problems you expect to crop up in the distant future? They’re still going to be your problems. This translates, via certain other attributes, into a powerful incentive to not shit all over where you eat, sleep, and live.

(In the modern era it helps that the nanoecology makes Gaia’s laments extremely visible right up front, and as such eminently solvable before they turn into big problems.)

It is enforced variably elsewhere, with positive incentives provided by the Accord’s general recognition that garden worlds and their ecologies are really goddamned valuable and thus dim view of people who go around screwing them up – especially since the Accord on Colonization, while not actually a blanket prohibiting things, does make it possible for them to press the notion that such screw-ups shouldn’t be handed any more planets to make a hash of.


Living Object Protocol

So, a little while back I was having this discussion (scroll down) regarding starships, and where exactly the seat of their identity might be said to lie, with particular reference to the Ship of Theseus problem.

And, as it happens, Imperial technology already has a thing or two to say on this sort of question. Let me tell you about living objects, and about the Living Object Protocol.

Of course, the first thing to say there is that while, technically, a “living object” is just an object that implements the Living Object Protocol, it’s still something of an obsolete term. This is the modern age, after all, and you’d have to go to some barbarous outworld to encounter an object that didn’t implement the Living Object Protocol. Even shrubs and rocks, thanks to the nanoecology, implement the Living Object Protocol. In practice, therefore, they’re just called “objects”.

So what is it?

It’s ubiquitous computing, the Internet of Things at its apogee. LOP turns the objects it’s applied to into smart, meshed (wirelessly connected to the dataweave and to objects around them), self-aware, location-aware objects.

At a minimum (the “base subset”) this supports limited self-knowledge. Every object is aware of its own identity (both hard-coded, by type, and whatever its owner names it); it is aware of its creator (designer and manufacturer); it is aware of its owner (and ownership history); and it is aware of its location.

(Which, as recent fic implies, makes it very hard to steal things if the owner left the ackles at default or set ‘em even half-sensibly. In some cases even more so – you stole someone’s phone? That’s not going to let you call anyone but Emergency Response. Steal their gun, and… well, let’s say getting into a firefight with that would be a real bad idea.)

Virtually every significant object – anything more than a bolt – comes with the “informational subset”, too, which in combination can tell you virtually everything about them; their user manuals and other documentation explaining how to properly use and care for them; customer support information and links to object-centric memeweaves; specifications and product data; maintenance procedures and history; manufacturing origins and components/ingredients; fabber recipes for customization; the purchase invoice; proper end-life procedures for recycling and/or disposal. Such documentation is self-updating, with information automatically appearing regarding product updates, recalls, and required service calls, along with geolinks to service centers or downloadable service packs.

Such objects are also readily searchable; it’s easy to track down your favorite mug with a simple query to your home dataweave for its location by name, or even for the locations of every object in your house identifying itself as a mug. Search engines can perform a similar task for objects in the broader world – at least, for objects that you own, or which are flagged for public accessibility.

With little effort, therefore, it’s easy to understand where and what anything is, when and where you got it, how much it cost, what it’s made from, where, and by whom, how to use it, how you should never use it, what other models are available, how it’s evolved from previous versions, how it might change in the future, what other users think about it and how they’ve tweaked it, what creative uses it’s been put to by heteroprax users, and how you might dispose of it safely.

More sophisticated objects also support the Interweave Command/Control Protocol (“WeaveControl”) enabling them to be controlled and commanded remotely, and providing access to both their internal diagnostics, and any sensors with which they’re equipped: your bath can report its temperature and the current water level; your chairs know who’s sitting in them; your milk bottles can tell you if the milk they contain is fresh; and so forth.

Objects which naturally come in groups support cooperative LOP and WeaveControl subsets to be queried or commanded as a group; of which the most obvious example is LOP enumeration. A handful of LOP-compliant Imperial coins, for example, can be ordered to count themselves and report their total value.

Likewise, hierarchical objects automatically cooperate and pass information up and down the hierarchy, the superior controlling and coordinating its inferiors. A vehicle or building’s structural members can cooperatively use their localizers to validate the structure against its blueprint, or compute current stresses and strains in the structure.

SO – in relevant context, want to know whose that starship is, or what that module was part of before you got it, or the maintenance history of that booster, or the fuel status of that drone, or the details of the current consist?

Ask it.

You’ll get a valid answer. The LOP protocols will reject any invalid transfers, identities, or assemblies you try to push through them. So it will always know…


KFirst among the mechal elementals emanating from Syjéral, the Wood Dragon, are the kami, the embodiments of natural objects, and their specialized subtypes, such as the dryads of the forests, the naiads of the waters, and the oreads of the mountains, the overseers of tectonic pressures.

The kami are unique in two respects: first, that while their animating intelligences, too, are self-evolving software agents, the constraints within which their learning systems operate depend on the physicality to which the nanites on which they execute are attached, uncertain boundaries in fractal recursion. Without definitive core programming or concept-bound learning, the kami take their understanding of treeness, or rockness, or oceanness, from the thing itself – the Transcendent thought-forms of nature defining their own world-model and therefore also their own identity and place within the whole.

Secondly, that while the majority of the lesser mechal elementals are functional, the kami serve as an interface between these physically-focused elementals – the soil churners, silt spawn, and stone mothers that serve under the kami’s command, in accordance with their self-defined selfness – and the daughters of Sylithandríël, the planetary archai which embody and oversee the planetary ecology as a whole.

Thus, the kami are, and so the nanoecology as a whole is, reflected in the Shadow Realm’s outermost layer, the Realm of Instances; the endless whisper of their data-exchanges as they negotiate their ever-changing boundaries and the steps of their endless ecological dance makes up the majority of the transactions in this layer, and their collective representation makes up much of the base of the Celestial Spire.

– Concordance of Robotic Systems and Animating Intelligences, Vol. 6, 221st ed.