The Blood-Brain Barrier

From: Alvis Antarianus, Expansion Renewal Union
To: Heriath Calliste, Inevitable Justice Foundation
Subject: Re: Cleaning up the Union once and for all

Look, your proposed operation is well designed. I’ll give it that. But there’s no chance whatsoever that it’ll pass the Senate. Galactic Relations or State Security’d kill it in a heartbeat even if Military Affairs were to let it pass, which they won’t.

Even if you can persuade all the right people that it’s a worthy cause, preemptive occupations are a dead letter for a reason, and it’s not just a few faded scrolls at State & Outlands with a peace addiction. Academician Doctor Excellence Selidië Cíëlle killed them the moment she figured out how to meme-map a mind-state and back-port alterations to the original living brain. She gave us desire control, meme rehab, psychedesign, and the Guardians of Our Harmony, but she shot the knees out from under the belligerati doing it.

People can tell themselves that they won’t crack under torture, even when it’s a nerve stapler or a death cube. They can tell themselves that they can resist any bribe, withstand any temptation, not succumb to any cunning memetic campaign, and intimidate or plain murder any of their neighbors who do. There’s even some damn fools who convince themselves they have the mental integrity to shrug off a YGBM.

But no-one, no-one, can resist psychedesign applied directly to their brain, and everyone out there knows that.

The Conclave of Clionomy have run the vectors on this. Our reputation for ethical stringency keeps people calm and trusting, under normal circumstances. But take a voluntary trip down into the tar-pit, and you’re going to get rumors and propaganda flying about how we’re mass-reprocessing people into good little libertist meme-bots, or weaponizing infectious nanotech that rewrites the loyalty circuits of people’s brains, or some such bitswarf, and if their projections are right, that has a high probability of taking us to CASE SKYSHOCK RED and a hard civilization kill event within two years, five at the outside.

You know they’d be lies, and I know they’d be lies, but try to imagine just how terrifying literally changing someone’s mind would be to a paranoid peon with a poor grasp of consensuality.

Maybe you could try pitching it to the waserai ambassador?

– Alvis



2016_R(Alternate words: range, relay, racing, and reinvent. In this case, repair was chosen because it was the only word which was submitted independently twice.

With special thanks to Jennifer Linsky on G+, whose article post finally let me break a week-long creative block.)

Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders?

I’m not an arachnophobe. Not, dammit. I had that taken out years ago, I’ll have you know.

And I know all the good reasons why your repair-clanks are the shape they are. Multiple legs for maximum flexibility of stance and attachment and wielding many tools at once. Multiple eyes to examine a work-piece from all angles and in several different spectra. A rounded central body to minimize the possibility of scratches from sharp corners.

And that’s not hair. It’s just that branching fractal nanomanipulators look… fuzzy, to the naked eye.

But put a couple of dozen of them in one place, all swarming over the job together chittering at each other in modulated-binary, and…

Well, anyway. You just take care of it as you see fit, and I’ll sign off on it when I get back. I’m off to see a soph about some follow-up psychedesign.


Trope-a-Day: There Are No Therapists

(Missed this last night, oops, so have some catch-up.)

There Are No Therapists: Averted, if technically true.  Which is to say, these days, you take your mental problems – or indeed, any mental imperfections you feel you might have – to a psychedesigner, who will edit your mind-state to not contain whatever problems you had, then pour it back in your head.  And there’s no particular stigma to it; if anything, there’s one the other way round, given how one is supposed to be all self-improvementy, polishing your mind into a shiny jewel of self-integral perfection included.

(Quality, of course, varies.  A qualified professional, as certified by the Guardians of Our Harmony, the Noetic Society, or their equivalents can remove mental traumas so skillfully it’s as if they were never there, or faithfully reproduce the effects of successfully processing and integrating them.  At the other end of the scale, there are street “psychedesigners” who will solve the surface appearance of your problems – by which hopefully they mean the conscious part, not just the external part – by imposing a bunch of compulsion-inhibitions into your mind and leaving you with that “head full of barbed wire” feeling and a good chance of more mental damage than you had when you started.)

Aftershocks (3)

From Elyse Corídatry, Psychedesigner Excellence, to Advisory Panel, Involuntary Dysfunction Eleemosynary COG, and Adm. Gileon Cularius, Imperial Navy, greetings.

Gentlesophs, I understand the urgency of your desire for good news concerning the status of the 14,934 mind-states entrusted to the care of the COG by Adm. Cularius, but must regret to inform you that this is an extremely complex piece of repair work. The changeling AIs used by the Iltines in their weapons systems were produced by methods that are, by our current standards, extremely crude as well as grossly unethical.

While I remain confident of eventual success, the Iltine weapon-programmers were, if you’ll pardon me, a bunch of semi-competent butchers stacking wire-and-tape jobs twelve deep. None of these are capable of operating in an organic, robotic, or even infomorph ‘shell at this time; this is the easiest of the problems to repair, since motor and sensory cortices can be patched with standard models. However, aversive and proversive conditioning have garbled the emotive-promotor loops all to dark and hash, and there’s noise all through the supporting structures. The majority of pre-installation memory is nothing but garble to wipe, and the rest of them will take considerably longer to unthread and reroute back to something resembling sanity, and as for the primary personality encoding structures, well, I can’t patch over the problems in those if you give a damn about who you’ll be instantiating at the end of this process.

Give me six months, and I’ll tell you if it can be done at all. A year after that, you might start seeing results.

(Unless there’s any chance you can get me one of the Iltine project team’s mind-states…?)

Trope-a-Day: Mind Over Manners

Mind Over Manners: This is not usually much of an issue with standard-issue Psychic Powers, which in the Eldraeverse are essentially organic neural WiFi, designed for communication and not permitting arbitrary mindreading (you need a SQUID and some rather complex software for that), but the Common Social Protocol does include detailed etiquette for farspeech, appropriate levels of exchange, etc., in just the same way as it does for, well, regular speech.

Of course, there are psychedesigners and redactors and sophotechnologists and other people who can use other means of mind reading and control. In their case, it’s played very straight with their professional standards – often enforced (in the case of most, by professional bodies; in the case of the Eupraxic Collegium and Guardians of Our Harmony, by law) using its own means; i.e., to practice professionally, you volunteer to have your colleagues regularly examine your mind to make sure that your ethical standards are where they should be. And, of course, most violations of them also violate the criminal law.

(Which is why you don’t want to go to a back-street psychedesigner, because there’s usually a reason why they don’t have a guild certificate.)

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: Mental World

Mental World: Not really extant, but virtually simulated, “mental worlds” are sometimes used by noeticists and sophotechnicians as fancy ways to diagram, observe, and interact with the myriad agents that make up a mind of any serious level of complexity. (Something like the Country of the Mind from Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels, et. al., if you like, although more explicitly as a metaphorical user interface.)

Wandering around in one of these, or something halfway between it and Cyberspace, is also a privilege granted to those attending a contemplationary who have been granted an audience with one of the Transcend’s high-level routines.  Of course, the experience of the Mental World is a little bit different when you consider that you’re inside an entity whose thoughts are entities on the same level of complexity as all of you, or possibly rather more.

Trope-a-Day: The Fog of Ages

The Fog of Ages: This didn’t so much happen to the natural immortals of the setting, but then, the natural immortals weren’t all that natural, having been designed into immortality by one particular group of Precursors, and it is generally believed that a few memory upgrades came with the deal.  While it probably would have eventually – well, these days, they’re using offloading extra memory and cognitive processing to the cloud and its ultratech nanocomputronium cores, so it’s unlikely to ever come up in the future.

It can, which is relevant where immortalist proselytizing comes into play, affect people who’ve just taken an immortagen and nothing else, but, well, if it bothers you, they also have this nice catalog full of brain upgrades, memory-management techniques and advertisements for memory-redaction and psychedesign services right here, and they’d be happy to sell you some.

Being Too Clean

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators, to Mettáre viKoruaz, viKoruaz, viHanic, and Siblings, greetings.

With regard to your communication of the 3rd inst. with our client, Ordene Psychedesign, ICC:

Without prejudice, our client expresses regret at your client’s dissatisfaction with the performance of their product, AnAddiction™.  Nevertheless, we beg to point out that;

Firstly, the product did function as designed.  By your client’s own admission as stated in your communication, the modification of the neural loops of the basal ganglia limbic pathways by the AnAddiction™ nanomachines produced an absence of the psychological addiction to catecholamine rríyek-4/CrystalFugue™ which, as you indicate, was your client’s purpose in purchasing this product.

Secondly, further without prejudice to the validity of the claims that you make regarding the effect of the product, post-usage, upon your client’s personal relationships (p. 2-4 of your complaint) and religious faith (p. 5), our client freely stipulates that, should such behaviors extend to the degree of behavioral addictions in a clinical sense (ref. Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed., p. 479), the AnAddiction™ product would also remove the limbic pathways promoting such behaviors.

However, we would draw your attention to clause 14 in the purchase contract-waiver, signed by your client before purchasing the AnAddiction™ product, which states that the product should only be used on brains reflecting otherwise healthy/optimal mind-states, in a clinical sense (ref. Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st ed., p. 29), for the removal of specific single addictions or general addiction, and in particular to subclause 14(a), which makes specific mention of AnAddiction™’s indistinctive removal of all addiction-promotor loops exceeding the clinically determined indicator level, and refers you for more details to the relevant case studies (Identification of Pathological Promotor Loops in the Sophont Brain, Journal of Neuronanopharmacology, Imp. U. of Almeä Press, v. 517) and the AnAddiction™ clinical trials.  Per clause 14, our client does not recommend and specifically disclaims liability for use of AnAddiction™ on non-healthy/optimal cases except under the supervision of a professional bonded psychedesigner.

As such, we would advise you that our client does not intend to offer a settlement with regard to your proposed suit, and it is our opinion that the claims you cite are meritless under applicable commercial and contract law, and that our client will prevail should this matter proceed to litigation.

Lorcis Tridecimus Vianath-ith-Vianne, obl.

for and on behalf of

Lorcis Vianath-ith-Vianne & Selves Pty., Bonded Commercial Obligators
Ordene Psychedesign, ICC

The Job Free Market (3/3)

It is important to realize, when working in the Empire, that your connection to your employer is defined strictly by your contract.  There are rarely benefits attached to it (the tax system does not advantage providing them, and the locals almost all prefer additional fungible money), nor are there specific laws governing working hours or other working conditions.  (Despite this caution, the latter are almost universally excellent; Imperial businesses have operated on the basis of the need to optimize the productivity of a highly skilled and formerly sharply limited labor pool for a very long time.)  It is entirely up to you to manage how much you want to work in any given period, when and how much vacation time you wish to take (by not taking contracts, or if you are on a time-bounded contract, by negotiating for what you consider a reasonable “duty cycle”), and what other conditions you are prepared to accept.  In almost all cases, all these conditions are negotiable, much more so than you are probably used to.

Likewise, while Initiatives may have suggestions for and even be willing to sponsor certain training – in exchange for contract considerations on your part – your professional development is also entirely in your hands.  If you intend to have a career of any length, you will need to put aside money and time for ongoing education, training, and downloadable skillsets to keep up with the current state of the art.

In short, you must learn to manage yourself.

Another consideration you must pay attention to is the requirements of a given contract where tools and facilities are concerned.  Some contracts require you to use the Initiative’s facilities and equipment, or facilities and equipment contracted-in by them; some require you to use your own, or facilities and equipment you have contracted for the use of; yet others permit either, at your choice.  This is something you must pay attention to in particular, since the remuneration you are looking for obviously will differ in each case.

You should also make sure that your tort insurance covers the work you intend to perform.  (In addition to professional indemnity cover, your tort insurance should also cover you for health -emergency-and-third-party breaches; if you are, for whatever reason, unable to perform as your contract requires, your counterparty will seek to recover the costs incurred by that default, or of hiring your temporary or permanent replacement, from you or your insurer.)  Typical tort insurance covers both professional indemnity and breach cover for most non-specialized professions, but tort insurance purchased as part of a travel insurance package may not, and specialized professions may require additional cover.  You should check the precise details of your coverage before accepting any contract.

As a final note, please be aware of the nature of the Empire’s job market.  You will be competing in a job market which is largely occupied by highly educated transsophonts accustomed to using intelligence-enhancing biomods and implants, gnostic overlays, mnemonetic skill downloads and other such technologies to enhance their competitive advantage.  This is half of the equation that produces the Empire’s infamous quality standards and intolerance for anything less than the absolute best at all times.

The other half is the near obsessive-compulsive dedication which Imperials manage to bring to their work.  Don’t be misled by their relaxed attitudes outside work, or by the generally short working week which most of them work on; while at work, everything changes, and they have no patience with short-cuts, sloppiness, or failure to keep up.

If you aren’t fully prepared to do what you have to to succeed in that environment, which may well include brain surgery, psychedesign, and many other items from the transophontist menu, don’t go.  It will just be a very expensive way to fail.

– Working in the Worlds, Kernuaz Alliés

Trope-a-Day: Becoming The Mask

Becoming the Mask: Played straight with gnostic overlays, the special kind of downloadable knowledge/skillset that overlays values or other personality aspects onto the person using them (see, for instance, the constabular overlay and objectivity overlay mentioned under Incorruptible Pure Pureness).  Long-term users of given overlays tend to find themselves adopting the value-sets, personality traits, etc., encoded into the overlay.

This technology is also used therapeutically, in the ultratech version of cognitive therapy.  Wearing Cheerfulness 1.17 around everywhere for a year or so genuinely will train you to be a happier person.