Questions: On the Fundamental Contract

[Regarding this] So what happens in those cases where a soph finds that their qalasír demands them to do something that goes against the Fundamental Contract? (More specifically, what’s the moral obligation in those cases where their only possible choices are “Commit an unspeakably heinous crime” and “Repudiate your entire reason for being,” with no middle ground or “third option” conveniently available — and they’re morally aware enough to know that it’s a serious problem?)

Well, if you find yourself in that situation, then you’ve got yourself a difficult problem to solve. The kind of problem that’s likely to end with a corpse of you.

(Civilization as a whole would prefer that it reached that end through your honorable suicide, belike.)

For what it’s worth as a consolation, future composers of tragic operas will consider your story excellent source material.

(From a comment here) Which leads me to a question that’s a little tangential to the original post, but in one form or another has been haunting the back of my mind for a while: Would a contract where one party waives their rights under the Fundamental Contract as part of their contract obligations — and does so voluntarily, and not through fraud, duress or coercion — in lieu of the other party’s discretion be considered a valid contract? (For the moment, let’s ignore whether it would be moral to draw up such a contract in the first place and assume that the relationship is already a fait accompli.)

Or, to put it another way: Can a mentally and morally competent soph willfully choose to surrender their right to choose?

Legally, yes –

(Except that you’re really not, because those rights protect you from things done against your consent, and so contracting them away is isomorphic to giving your consent, so. You can’t give consent for something to be done without your consent, because the Law of Non-Contradiction will come and both slap the stupid out of you and not slap the stupid out of you.)

– that’s how such things as indentures and the Declaration of Situational Mental Incompetence and even some parts of the Imperial Charter work, for example – but with certain provisos; primarily, that as with contract law in general, one must have the legal capacity to contract to make one in the first place, and one of the things that impairs said capacity is everything included in the category of “being bugfuck crazy”.

(Now, it’s not like they’re going to pull an unconscionability doctrine out of thin air and decide that no-one could possibly have intended to sign any contract like X – rational sophonts are expected to grow a quad and pay attention – since even selling yourself into lifelong slavery, excuse me, perpetual uncompensated indenture [distinguished inasmuch as you can’t sell a property right in yourself because you’d have to alienate yourself from yourself to do so, and you can’t] may be less a case of “being bugfuck crazy” and more a case of “being bloody stupid”, from which latter the law does not protect you. Although, in fairness, the former is rather more likely.

But it does give probable cause for the Guardians of Our Harmony to run their checks to make sure that you are not, in fact, bugfuck crazy, and invalidate the contract if it turns out that you are.)

((This probably does not get you entirely off the hook, as such a judgment – while much more likely to save your ass *there* than *here*, due to a rather broader definition of what constitutes unacceptable irrationality – is also going to lose you your tort insurance and demote your legal standing right back to minor-equivalency. Which will suck.))


Snippet: Embracing Inevitability

“This… is a much honored tradition back in the Crescent. When required by our qalasír to do something truly inadvisable, we always sit down with a bottle of whisky and make a long, comprehensive list of all the reasons why we really shouldn’t do whatever we have to do.”

“So you can argue yourself out of it?”

“Hells, no. If we could argue ourselves out of it, it wouldn’t be a matter of qalasír. It’s just nice to have the extent of our imminent stupidity all properly enumerated.”


Weak Will

Today’s question:

Given the importance the eldrae place on free will and freedom of action, what’s their take on the idea of weakness of will?

Well, let’s ask, shall we?


A family of mental dysfunctions manifesting as deficiency of qalasír. Sufferers manifest decreased energy, inability to focus, lack of creativity, diminished emotional response and vividity, lack of self-confidence, excessive risk aversion, disinterest, impaired libido, tolerance of boredom, tiredness, repressability, non-circumstantial humility, and resistability (lack of charisma).

Confirmatory criteria for parabulia of neurophysical (vis-a-vis environmental or memetic) origin in the biosapient brain can include damage to the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, capsular genu, anterior cingulate cortex, or equivalent structures…

– Manual of Mental Diagnostics, 271st. ed


…yep, that’s right. It’s a disease, subject to medical treatment.

This is a consequence of psychological differences. Remember, after all, from their perspective the baseline temperament is hyperthymic (modulo various differences mentioned elsewhere); surfing endlessly down a wave of what a human might call hypomania. One of the characteristics of that is, well, strong will. By human social standards, they’re spectacularly dynamic.

(Or, alternatively, by their social standards, we’re a bunch of pathologically gloomy, unenthusable, apathetic melonfarmers. And, not to put too fine a point on it, in a universe where it’s pretty much expected that in many ways you’ll work like Agatha Heterodyne, party like Pinkie Pie, lead like Miles Vorkosigan with a bottle of creme de meth, and generally consume life in large bites, that kind of sucks.)


Trope-a-Day: The Strategist

The Strategist: Much like the long lifespans and engineered genius tends to turn those with a socially focused qalasír into The Chessmaster, they tend to turn those with a military/strategic focus into The Strategist.  (Dúréníän would approve.  So would Grand Admiral Thrawn.)  Can, on occasion, verge on Mary Tzu – being optimized with trans/postsophont technology, they really are that good.


Legal Variances

“While it is necessary to examine data from early Imperial history (before the instantiation of the Transcend and its immediate precursors, and to an extent even before the advent of modern meme rehab) to see this trend clearly, from the perspective of the typical Worlds criminologist vis-a-vis Imperial forensic psychedesigners, there is a priority inversion in the treatment of certain petty crimes: when scaled appropriately by magnitude on the hir Verkat/ith-Sereda scale, it becomes readily apparent that, for example, littering, vandalism, and graffiti are punished disproportionately heavily with respect to equivalent crimes in the same category.

“The origin of this lies in an unusual qualitative distinction of the Imperial weltanschauung. While never justifiable, the standard ethical calculus published by the Eupraxic Collegium points out that zero-sum theft, for example, typically originates from a methodological defect, the pursuit of worthy ends (profit, or wealth) by unacceptable means. Even a certain subset of assaults or batteries could be considered as defects of end-selection or control-aspected talcoríëf ; again, never justifiable, but understandable, readily subject to redactive correction, and not apparently arising from fundamental defect.

“Negative-sum crimes such as the examples given above, however – along with the residuum of the other petty crimes which arises on examination from cacophilic motives – are deliberate, by-qalasír-chosen, negative-sum attacks on the community of civilized sophonts, and thereby entirely inexcusable as well as unjustifiable. While amenable in the modern era to redactive correction, in prior times it was the view that those who practiced such acts or found them acceptable in a chronic manner were suffering from, at best, an incurable mental dysfunction, or indeed an entropic soul-deformation, and should be removed as far as possible from civilized society lest it prove contagious.

“Even in the modern era, it is notable that a significantly greater percentage of those convicted for crimes of the latter class refuse meme rehab, even when such refusal necessarily invokes the mortal dictum, than those convicted for crimes of the former type.”

– “Reflections on Inter-Polity Discrepancies Within Unspecialized/Common Legal Codes”,
Worlds’ Journal of Criminology & Penology

Satisfaction is the Death of the Spirit

You are immortal.  Even if your flesh fails, your mind and its children can survive to see the stars burn out and the long, cold era of the universe come upon us.

That mind, in turn, engineered for genius and creative brilliance.  All the knowledge of the ages is available to you, swift as thought.  You can master any skill, pursue any study, and be assured of success.

Wealth beyond the dreams of the ages of scarcity empowers you.  The energy and industrial might to reshape the world that was once the purview of only the largest corporations awaits your command.

And your beauty makes the heavens weep.

Congratulations.  You aren’t a nihility.  Your inherited gifts guarantee that.

But since your peers, from the greatest to the least, all possess these same gifts, you are a mediocrity.

Be more than that.  Greatness is not inherited; it is won, wrested from the fabric of the uncaring universe.  Perfection is asymptotic; there is no height that you cannot rise above, no challenge you cannot meet if you are prepared to grasp it, and no limit to the heights and challenges with which the world will provide you.  Do not tell us of your capabilities, your ambitions, or your dreams.  Demonstrate them.  Seize them.  Build them.  Show us that your qalasír measures up to your potential.

Or squander the powers that your ancestors gave you, and in so doing, know yourself forever a soul of a lesser order.

We are the Children of Ithával.  We call upon you to seek the greatness that is your birthright.

We challenge you to be worthy of yourself.

We dare you to surpass us.

I Can Do No Other

“When one of the eldrae says he does a thing for you, a simple request will make him cease; for love or hatred, an emotional appeal may serve; for money, a better offer; for mélith, an alternative of equal price; for oath or contract, release by its terms; for reason or principle, a disproof alone will suffice; but should he claim that his qalasír requires it of him, to abandon his course would violate the truth of his self, and he will not do that.  In the face of this, you must concede, adapt, or fight; there are no other alternatives.”

– Excuse Me, Is That Your Pseudopod?: Xenology for the Laysoph, Galényí Selequelios-ith-Idolos

Trope-a-Day: Badass Creed

Badass Creed: Not the Imperial motto (that’s “Order, Progress, Liberty”), but more of a simple statement the eldrae, at least, have been using in tight situations – those who are not of one of the various institutions that have one of their own – for a very, very long time: “The Flame, Unconquered!”.

The Flame, of course, is meant symbolically; the soul, the will, qalasír, that ineffable quality – so in a sense, this can be read as another variant on assorted other creeds of variable badassitude used by various people and institutions from place to place and time to time in their culture: “In Death, Unbroken”, “We Do Not Serve”, “Unowned, Unconquered, Undefeated”, etc., etc.

More pointedly, though, the traditional duality/opposition to the Flame in classical philosophy is Entropy, death, chaos, the void, the decay of all things and the inevitable heat death of the universe.  And that “Unconquered”?  In the original Eldraeic, that’s the verb-like predicate, and attached to that, well, Eldraeic has probabilistic tenses for describing future events.  Care to guess what tense that “unconquered” is in?

Future simple certain.