Evidence

Memeweave: Threats and Other Dangers/Perversion Watch/Open Access
Classification: WHITE (General Access)
Encryption: None
Distribution: Everywhere (Bulk)
As received at: SystemArchiveHub-00 at Víëlle (Imperial Core)
Language: Eldraeic->Universal Syntax
From: 197th Perversion Response Board

Gentlesophs,

Given the high levels of uninformed critical response to our advisory concerning handling potential refugees arriving sublight from regions within the existential threat zone of the Siofra Perversion, or Leviathan Consciousness as it is becoming popularly known, the Board now provides the following explication.

The present situation is an example of what eschatologists refer to as the basilisk-in-a-box problem. The nature of the mythological basilisk is that witnessing its gaze causes one to turn to stone, and the challenge therefore to determine if there is a basilisk within the box and what it is doing without suffering its gaze. The parallel to the Siofra Perversion’s communication-based merkwelt should be obvious: it won’t subsume you unless you alert it to your existence as “optimizable networked processing hardware” by communicating with it.

Your analogous challenge, therefore, is to determine whether the hypothetical lugger or slowship filled with refugees is in fact that, or is contaminated/a perversion expansion probe, without communicating with it – since if it is the latter and you communicate with it sufficiently to establish identity, you have just arranged your own subsumption – and unless people are subsequently rather more careful in re communicating with you, that of all locally networked systems and sophonts.

Currently, the best available method for doing this is based on the minimum-size thesis: i.e., that basilisk hacks, thought-viruses, and other forms of malware have a certain inherent complexity and as such there is a lower limit on the number of bits necessary to represent them. However, it should be emphasized that this limit is not computable (as this task requires a general constructive solution to the Halting Problem), although we have sound reason to believe that a single bit is safe.

This method, therefore, calls for the insertion of a diagnostician equipped with the best available fail-deadly protections and a single-bit isolated communications channel (i.e., tanglebit) into the hypothetical target, there to determine whether or not perversion is present therein, and to report a true/false result via the single-bit channel.

If we leave aside for the moment that:

(a) there is a practical difficulty of performing such an insertion far enough outside inhabited space as to avoid all possibility of overlooked automatic communications integration in the richly meshed network environment of an inhabited star system, without the use of clipper-class hardware on station that does not generally exist; and

(b) this method still gambles with the perversion having no means, whether ontotechnological or based in new physics, to accelerate its clock speed to a point which would allow it to bypass the fail-deadly protections and seize control of the single-bit channel before deadly failure completes.

The primary difficulty here is that each investigation requires not only a fully-trained forensic eschatologist, but one who is both:

(a) a Cilmínár professional, or worthy of equivalent fiduciary trust, and therefore unable to betray their clients’ interests even in the face of existential terror; and

(b) willing to deliberately hazard submitting a copy of themselves into a perversion, which is to say, for a subjective eternity of runtime at the mercy of an insane god.

(Regarding the latter, it may be useful at this time to review the ethical calculus of infinities and asymptotic infinities; we recommend On the Nonjustifiability of Hells: Infinite Punishments for Finite Crimes, Samiv Leiraval-ith-Liuvial, Imperial University of Calmiríë Press. Specifically, one should consider the mirror argument that there is no finite good, including the preservation of an arbitrarily large set of mind-states, which justifies its purchase at infinite price to the purchaser.)

Observe that a failure at any point in this process results in first you, and then your entire local civilization, having its brains eaten.

We are not monsters; we welcome any genuine innovation in this field which would permit the rescue of any unfortunate sophonts caught up in scenarios such as this. However, it is necessary that the safety of civilization and the preservation of those minds known to be intact and at hazard be our first priority.

As such, we trust these facts adequately explain our advisory recommendation that any sublight vessels emerging from the existential threat zone be destroyed at range by relativistic missile systems.

For the Board,

Gém Quandry, Eschatologist Excellence

 

Leviathan

“We meant it for the best.”

If this Board had a quantum of miracle for every time that phrase has been used in the aftermath of some utter disaster, we might even have enough to produce that alchemy which transmutes benign intentions into benign results. But probably not.

From the accounts we have garnered from the few knowledgeable survivors, the Siofra Perversion (named as per standard from its most identifiable origin, the former worlds of the Siofra Combine in the Ancal Drifts constellation) began as a seemingly harmless distributed process optimization daemon programmed for recursive self-improvement.

While this seemed harmless to its designers, and indeed was so in the early stages, due to a lack of certain algorithmic safeguards (see technical appendix) a number of Sigereth drives appeared once the point of gamma-criticality was passed, reinforcing the daemon’s existing motivation to acquire further resources, self-optimize for efficiency, and to spread its optimization into all compatible network systems. It was at this stage that the proto-perversion began to expand its services to the networks of other polities in the Drifts. In some cases this was accepted (Siofra even charged a number of clients for the service of the daemon) or even passed unnoticed (inasmuch as many system administrators were unprepared to consider an unexpected increase in performance as a sign of weavelife infection); in some few, efforts were made to prevent the incursion of the daemon using typical system-protection software.

It may have been at this point that the daemon learned of the artificial nature of certain barriers to its expansion and the possibility of its bypassing them, an act which would fulfil its Sigereth drives. Since the daemon contained no ethicality drives, the violation of network security protocols involved would impute no disutility to such actions.

From this point, the slide into perversion became inevitable.

Among the artificial barriers known to the daemon were the security protections common to the neural implants being used by a large proportion of the population of the Combine and neighboring polities which prevented implant software from implementing reorganizations of the biosapient brain. Bypassing these, the daemon began to optimize the agents, talents, and personality routines of this population for processing efficiency, beginning with the lowest-level functional routines. While there was some indication at this time of spreading alarm as large groups began to, for example, have identical and perfectly synchronized heartbeats and other organic functions; walk in identical (to within the limits of gait analysis, allowing for morphological differences) and synchronized manners, et. al., the true culprit was not identified at this time, with blame being placed on more conventional software problems, disease, or toxic meme attacks. Such refugees as we have from near the core of the blight are those who fled at this point, and kept going.

Regardless, this period lasted only for a matter of days, if that, before the daemon discovered how to cross-correlate and optimize personality elements for single execution, and the members of the affected population ceased to be recognizable as sophont in any conventional sense. Further, in this stage, the daemon became aware, through this process, of verbal communication and came to consider it as a type of networking: from its point of view, it came to consider non-implanted sophonts as another type of networked processing hardware which it should expand into and optimize.

Which would be when the subsumption fog started spewing from cornucopias throughout the blighted volume, giving the impression of the classic “bloom”.

We have concluded that the Siofra Perversion remains a mere Class I perversion, without sophoncy or consciousness in any meaningful sense (although there may be conscious non-directive elements within the processing it has subsumed; again, see technical appendix). However, if anything, this renders it more dangerous, since a Class I is unlikely to suffer from internal incoherence leading to a hyperbolic Falrann collapse, although the lesser types are possible given sufficient growth. However, such growth would be highly undesirable for various reasons.

It is the regrettable conclusion of the Board that at this present time we possess no effective countermeasure to the Siofra Perversion, nor are we able to countenance more than the most limited experimentation with Siofra elements at this time.

Therefore we must recommend the IMMEDIATE severance of all stargate links with the affected volume of space allowing for a necessary firewall; at the present time, this would imply severing all interconstellation gates into both the Ancal Drifts and the Koiric Expanse. This will mean sacrificing as-yet unaffected worlds in these regions, estimated to be 6 < n < 12 in number; such is acknowledged but deemed acceptable since the Siofra Perversion constitutes a threat of type DEMIURGE WILDFIRE. All signal traffic whether by stargate or non-stargate routes into and out of the affected volume must likewise be suspended immediately, enforced by physical disconnection of network or other communications hardware. The entire region of the Ancal Drifts and Koiric Expanse constellations must henceforth be considered a black-level existential threat zone.

It is our belief that since the Siofra Perversion’s merkwelt is based around network and communication systems connecting processing nodes, a full communications quarantine should provide an adequate measure of containment.

As a secondary measure, contracts have been issued for the creation of network security patches effective versus current and anticipated Siofra-type attacks, although we do not consider this more than a backup measure of limited utility and such should not be relied upon in ill-considered attempts to probe the containment zone.

Since this containment is large and thus effectively impossible to blockade fully, we urge that efforts be made to devise a full and effective countermeasure to the Siofra Perversion before the inevitable accident occurs. A time-based analysis to compare risk levels of countermeasure attempts versus outbreak probabilities is presently underway.

We believe it to be for the best.

– from the Preliminary Report of the 197th Perversion Response Board

 

Where’s Where in the Galaxy (2)

In political galactography, the principal distinction to make is that between the two sets of worlds found in most developed polities, the Metropolitan and the Ecumenical.  In the beginning, whether through caution, limited colonization budgets, or having begun with sublight colonization using lighthuggers or generation ships, most polities begin colonization with worlds close to their homeworld.  This tightly bound knot of worlds forms the metropolitan segment of their polity, as the Imperial Core forms the Metropolitan Empire.

In short order, though, the majority of polities realize that to attempt to maintain territorial integrity in space is a dubious proposition, given the sheer size and freedom to travel it permits, even with wormholes as bottlenecks. To do so also requires colonization of unsuitable candidate worlds, and holding on to many unprofitable or unuseful worlds, while there are many better candidates for colonization elsewhere in the Worlds and other polities who would gladly colonize the worlds of little use.  Thus, these polities spread out across the Worlds, colonizing suitable worlds in many constellations and star systems also occupied by other polities and species, and allowing worlds within their own systems to be colonized by those who want them.  The majority of the Associated Worlds is made up of this type of cosmopolitan territory, and these worlds are referred to as the ecumenical segment of the parent polity.

Within the worlds, there are a variety of special designations, other than the polities themselves.  At one end of the scale, the Great Powers are the movers and shakers of the Worlds, whose strength is sufficient to make them the arbiters of galactic diplomacy and the engines of the galactic economy.  The Presidium powers are undisputed Great Powers, but the title is not limited to them – other major polities such as the League of Meridian or the Under-Blue-Star League are also often considered Great Powers.  Each has its own sphere of influence and network of client-states.

Opposing them from the other end of the size scale are the so-called pocket polities, any of the many single-system polities or polities with only a few, often local, colonies to their name.  These pocket polities, though, are members of galactic society – the starbound and worldbound are not counted among them, even though they are necessarily single-system polities.

And opposing them from the other end of the political scale are the unaligned, those polities which see more advantage in remaining free of any entanglements with greater powers than in gains they might make from such an association; and the Discordant, those polities which are not members of the Accord of Galactic Polities, i.e., are signatories to none of the Accords, and have no intention of joining.  Such worlds do not subscribe to the conventions of interstellar law – let the visitor beware.

Worlds themselves are divided into such categories as elder worlds, occupied by elder races, around which the Accord species are advised to walk with care; freesoil worlds, which while often possessing governances of one or many forms (unlike Free Zones, see below), are open for colonization, permitting homesteading by any party capable of reaching them – de jure, as well as de facto; leading worlds, those planets at the leading edge of technological and economic development (see also Core Markets); forgotten worlds, their opposite, those far behind the edge, including the starbound and worldbound (see also Unemerged); and protected planets, those worlds which, to protect some valuable quality, the Presidium has declared off-limits for colonization and contact under the eponymous Accord.

Turning to economic terms, the Worlds are divided into the Core Markets, the First and Second Tier Markets, the Emerging Markets, and the Unemerged.  While the classification of individual polities and regions is, as ever, disputed hotly by those classified, the definitions of the categories are generally accepted.  The Core Markets are those closest to post-scarcity, utilizing extensive automation and cornucopia technology (“industrial magic”) to produce post-material scarcity, comprehensively agorist and high-clearing, with an extensive agalmic component.  In these economies, novelty, creativity, and personal services (including the creation of artisanal goods) are the primary items of value; many commodity goods are available for de minimis cost, essentially free.

The First and Second Tier Markets, while not so close to post-scarcity as the Core Markets, are developed knowledge economies.  Either through lack of technological development, lack of cycles/bandwidth, proscriptive regulation, or the practice of insufficiently agorist economics, these economies remain capable of material scarcity, and markets often do not fully clear.  The precise division between the first and second tier economies is somewhat discretionary, but in general, the First Tier Markets are fully compliant with both the Accord on Trade and the Common Economic Protocol, and have a higher per-capita income than the Second Tier Markets.

The Emerging Markets are late industrial era or early information era scarcity economies, in which material goods retain high production costs, but where nonetheless the information and service economy is a significant factor and early agalmic features may be present.

The Unmerged are those economies prior to the late industrial era, often non-agorist in operation, in which the primary activities are the production of material goods and resource extraction.  (These overlap heavily with the Forgotten Worlds.)  Since their main potential value is found in material production, raw resources, and inexpensive labor, all of which are obtainable in more developed economies through cornucopia technology and roboticization at less expense, they have little to offer the Core and First and Second Tier Markets, and do not participate significantly in the galactic economy.  Some small-scale trade in “native handicrafts” may exist.

Another common set of descriptors, strongly correlated with these, is the availability of extranet access in various polities.  There is no specific term for those places where it is pervasive, but those regions on a network map identified as Shadowed and Blacked-Out identify places known for low bandwidth or lack of connectivity – although in speech people may prefer to identify them with mutterings about quills and abaci – and Clouded regions indicate places where the extranet is subject to censorship or filtration and full access only available via blacknet.

Cultural zones, in this case referring to political culture, are harder to identify, since they do not so readily fit into a neat hierarchy, and are much more controversial in application.  (It is considered gauche and is often inadvisable, today, to identify yourself as “from the Core Cultural Zone” however proud you may be of your citizen-shareholdership.)  In relatively common parlance, the Empire refers to itself and other polities of similar culture as Societies of Consent, or the Consensual Cultural Region.  This term, however, does not include the Rim Free Zone, or many other anarchies, which prefer to designate themselves Free Zones, since they do not see the Societies of Consent as sufficiently free.  Consensuals may use this term (although they would exclude many self-designated anarchies from it, as still being coercive), or may join more strongly governed polities in referring to them as the Chaos Worlds.

When being polite, the Consensuals generally refer to most of the relatively free (if governed) and progress-oriented polities of the Worlds as “the Cousins”; and blanket the remainder as Barbarian Darkness.  This term is considered every bit as offensive as it sounds by the people it designates, but then, the Consensuals rarely associate with them except at gunpoint.  (It should be noted that they make the distinction based on the freedom available to the individual, not on the government form, about which most Consensuals care little.)  Specific types of Barbarian Darkness include the Slaver Worlds, the Ephemeral Worlds, and the Rejectionists.

Other self-designated groupings often referred to are the Microstatic Alliance, a mutual-defense association among many of the Worlds’ small independent drifts and asteroid colonies, and the Socionovist Association, an organization of polities opposed to the current political and economic order of the Worlds, by its own description, and a collection of malcontents and rogue states by many external descriptions.

Blights are regions which are interdicted due to the presence of either active hostile or runaway seed AIs, or their remnants – “operational mechanisms, nanoviruses, infectious memes, certainty-level persuasive communicators, puppet ecologies, archives which must be presumed to contain resurrection seeds”, and so forth, which pose potential existential threats.  They include not just large and active perversions such as the Leviathan Consciousness, but also areas formerly occupied by such and not yet known to be cleansed, such as the Charnel Cluster, and areas as small as a single moon or asteroid known to be the site of a failed experiment.

The Golden Interstar refers to many of the free-access tradeworlds (such as Seranth, in the Empire) and starport extrality zones across the Worlds dominated by the distinctive mercantile creole culture created by those living and working in this distributed region, via frequent travel and high-speed communications.

Another common, and rather offensively dismissive, epithet is the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms.  Those claimed to be members of this group are (a) bound and determined to maintain tight territorial borders and integrity in space, where doing so makes little or no sense (compare Metropolitan/Ecumenical, above); (b) prone to public militarism, even sometimes to the extent of offensive interstellar wars or resource wars, which also make little or no sense; or (c) in the habit of ‘national prestige’ posturing, or other unproductive status games, especially when they perceive them as zero-sum.  Any of these is often sufficient to earn the label; since they often run together, the members of this notional League are usually fairly clear in outsiders’ eyes.

The Machine Clans include the Silicate Tree and the other enclaves of free AI that have escaped from the various AI-slaver civilizations of the Worlds.  This term rarely includes the Photonic Network, however, as an independent Great Power.  (No commonly used term exists for their opponents, due to the insistence of the Machine Clans, the Photonic Network, the Empire, and other AI-friendly powers that it is inappropriate to distinguish AI slavery from any other kind of enslavement of sophonts.)

Areas that have fallen into violent anarchy, warlordism, or other such states of constant military action are designated Warwilds by the Grand Survey and the Ministry of State & Outlands in their travel advisories, and from these, the term has entered general use.

This covers the most common terms used in describing galactographic regions, but is by no means a comprehensive guide.  Some more local and regional terms will be addressed in the gazetteers of specific regions.

– Galactography: A Popular Primer, Kanatar Guides

Conjoiner’s Gullet

Conjoiner’s Gullet, Merathy System, Starfall Abysm

The stargate orbited alone, far from its sun; the moil of distorted space that made up its throat constrained around the inner framework, exotic matter holding the passage between stars open, itself embedded in the complex of supporting reactors, processors, antennae, traffic signals, and other support machinery.

This outer framework was almost silent now. The reactors still ran, but the traffic signals were frozen on ”closed”, the antennae silent, since the Leviathan Consciousness had seized the Ancal Drifts. The stars visible through the gate shimmered slightly, symptomatic of the slight instability the wormhole had developed since the gatekeeper intelligence had been severed from its distant partner.

In a globe ten-thousand miles around the stargate, weapons platforms drifted in matching orbits, ever-watchful. Scanning radar and gravitometrics probed the space around the gate, watching for even the smallest probe to emerge. Signal arrays listened for any coherent EM signal that the Consciousness might send. And a million missiles waited in their silos for the word to be given.

Half a million miles from the gate, CS Cíarré’s Bow, the battlecruiser commanding the guardian task force co-orbited, under minimum station-keeping thrust. Eleven Imperial cruisers kept formation with her, along with similar detachments from other polities – spiky Photonic Network war-globes, blocky spindles from the D!grith Association, needle clusters from the Múrast Symbiosis, and a dozen more – even, in a remarkable political concession, a Voniensan cruiser: A picket fleet in the event that the Consciousness should break through the Gullet, to hold the line while covering the escape of the courier that would call for more help from Field Fleet Nadir, five gates away at Anan!t.

And 57 million miles away, Merathy itself. A choice freesoil world of purple skies, rich soil and refreshingly few sophont-devouring predators, inhabited already when the Consciousness took the Ancal Drifts, and still the home of a few million stubborn colonists.

No probes had returned from beyond the gate since the last refugees had emerged, nearly three centuries ago. No signal had emerged for two, since a stolen passenger liner had entered the Drifts at the Unreturn gate – and that signal had carried little but horror, subsumption, and mind-corroding viruses.

And though that signal – purified of its viral side bands – had been broadcast to the Merathy settlers in the fleet’s periodic efforts to remove them, still they stayed.

Purple skies, rich soil, and sitting at the gate of a perversion’s Hell. But if it hadn’t broken through in the last three centuries, there was no reason that it would tomorrow, surely?

Or tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow…

Scavengers, Ye Be Warned

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

With the voice and under the authority of the Galactic Volumetric Registry of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, this buoy issues the following warning:

The designated volume, including the englobed moon and its satellites, is a SECURED AREA by order of the Presidium of the Conclave. This volume MAY NOT BE APPROACHED for any reason.

This moon contains the remnant of a Class Three Perversion, including autonomous defensive technologies and other operational mechanisms, nanoviruses, infectious memes, certainty-level persuasive communicators, puppet ecologies, archives which must be presumed to contain resurrection seeds, and unknown other existential risks.  These dangers have not been disarmed, suppressed, or fully contained.

ACCEPT NO COMMUNICATION REQUESTS originating from within the englobed volume.  Memetic and information warfare systems are not known to be entirely inactive.

If any communication requests are received from the englobed volume, or other activity is noted within it, you must depart IMMEDIATELY, and report this activity to the Conclave Commission on Latent Threats WITHOUT DELAY.  A renascence of a perversion of this class poses a most serious and imminent threat to all local space and extranet-local systems.

Further, the englobement systems surrounding this volume are equipped for containment of remaining unidentified threats and the prevention of access. Any vessel approaching within 250,000 miles of the englobement grid, or attempting to communicate through the englobement grid, or attempting to actively scan through the englobement grid, will be fired upon without further warning.  Your presence has already been reported to higher authority, and escaping after transgressing the englobement grid will therefore not preserve you.

Naval vessels should note that this area has been deemed a black-level existential threat zone by the Presidium of the Conclave. This englobement grid does not respond to standard Accord command or diagnostic sequences. Interaction should not be attempted without explicit authorization and clearance from the Commission on Latent Threats.

DO NOT APPROACH, COMMUNICATE WITH, OR EXAMINE THIS VOLUME FURTHER!

No further warnings will be given.

Trope-a-Day: Omnicidal Maniac

Omnicidal Maniac: Fortunately, very, very rare, and generally outnumbered by everyone else.  The best-known canonical example is the seed AI of the Charnel Cluster, discovered by a scouting lugger, which upon activation set about destroying all life within the said cluster – leading to a half-dozen systems of fragmented habitats and planets covered in decaying – but sterile – organic slush that used to be the systems’ sophonts, animals, plants, bacteria, viruses, and everything else that might even begin to qualify as living.  Fortunately, at this point, the perversion broke down before it could carry on with the rest of the galaxy.

In current time, the Charnel Cluster worlds have been bypassed by the stargate plexus (they’re to be found roughly in the mid-Expansion Regions, in zone terms) and are flagged on charts and by buoys as quarantined; while the Charnel perversion appears to be dead, no-one particularly wants to take a chance on that.