Question Update

Hey, folks, guess what? Super-busy-development-crunch-time is done, and back to regular development-crunch-time. So while it may not be full-time writing for me, at least I might get some fiction done this month.

Anyway, on to the questions…

Under the heading of “the laws and customs of war”: Do the Associated Worlds have anything analogous (in spirit if not strictly in letter) to the Roerich Pact, or the ideas underpinning it?

(For reference: http://www.roerich.org/roerich-pact.php )

It’s almost certainly covered in the Conventions of Civilized Warfare section of the Ley Accords. That said, there are going to be some very careful allowances of wiggle room in there – the Repository of All Knowledge has its own favorite way of dealing with cultural artifacts people are endangering unduly.

An odd thought I had while reading some of the back catalog: Do the eldrae have a term for, or any “literature” on, the state that could be described as “the incorrigible and ironically irrational belief that you are the only rational person in the room / on the Planet / in the Universe”?

There are almost certainly a variety of terms in the professional lingo, but you might be looking for quor vaníälathdar, which would translate as “total ultracrepidarian”; i.e., one who opines beyond their knowledge on every topic.

(Or, at least, that is the one I presently have the vocabulary handy to express.)

Another approach would be to describe them as failing the eighth and fifth virtues of talcoríëf; caution and argument. The former, which reminds you that it is not rational to fail to anticipate your own errors; and the latter, then, in the sense that those who wish to fail must prevent their friends from helping them – and assuming your own rightness is an excellent way of doing that.

(The Twelve Virtues of Talcoríëf are essentially a culturally-translated equivalent of this. Except that *there*, they teach you this sort of stuff pretty much as soon as you can scrape up two neurons to rub together.)

So the Empire in the modern day has very strong exit rights, but what was situation post unification of Eliéra but pre interstellar colonization? In particular how does a society of consent handle people having children who don’t have the ability to live anywhere other than a polity they didn’t consent to be born into?

Brave New World had its Savage Reservations and its islands; in those days, the Empire had its “Outside”. If you didn’t consent to truth, justice, and the Imperial way, you were perfectly free to go and live on the healthy-sized chunk of land designated “Outside” against exactly that circumstance.

(It’s not like there’s an obligation to provide you with a choice if you don’t like the menu on offer, but who wants to hang on to a bunch of malcontents?)

What exactly is “semislavery”? I’ve seen isolated references to it crop up, and a few ideas suggest themselves from what context is available, but it would be nice to see what the official definition is in Imperial jurisprudence.

Semislavery, or Deprivation of Ability to Consent, is defined thus in the short form:

The crime of editing (deprivation) or building (semislavery) sophont minds in such a manner that they always obey you and cannot conceptualize the notion of not doing so, or form the volition to act upon it.

Or, to put it another way, it’s building sophont minds with imposed false worldviews such that they volunteer to freely act as if they had no free will, and thus always unquestioningly act as you would have them act.

(It’s not technically slavery, in the same sense as the use of say, conscience redactors, pyretic inhibitors, or loyalty compulsions, not to mention more history’s more crude methods – but it’s close enough for there still to be a pyrolysis chamber waiting with your name on it.)

 

Questions and Answer Time Again

Yes, it’s that time again.

Before I get started on the actual Qs and As, though, I said to myself that I was going to link to this: Current Affairs’ “Some Puzzles For Libertarians”, Treated As Writing Prompts For Short Stories, over on Slate Star Codex, in which Scott Alexander takes the usual collection of weak-man arguments and beats them to death with a rather witty shovel. I approve, and so do the people in my head.

A random thought that occurred to me: Given that the eldraeic lifespan is such that such matters could theoretically come into play, does Imperial property law account for continental drift and other such tectonic activities?

To an extent. Certainly it includes guidelines for resolving issues brought up by more common and minor tectonic activities – earthquakes, volcanism, fault-slip, erosion, and so forth. (One presumes, although I haven’t looked into it, they have some procedure for resurveying property lines in California when the San Andreas jiggles its way along another foot of displacement, and it’s probably like that. If they don’t, please don’t disabuse me of the notion; I’m enjoying the delusion of competence.)

Not so much for continental drift, mostly because it’s really, really slow, and so far hasn’t proven to be much of an issue on the ten-thousand year time scale that the Empire’s existed for (using Earth as an example, we’re talking sub-kilometer adjustments over that span, almost all at sea), or rather less on planets that have continental drift.

And it’s probable that well before it becomes a bigger issue, someone will want to fix the whole continental drift issue, anyway. While an active interior is good for a living planet, like so many things in nature, it’s consequences also bloody inconvenient and need to be taken in hand by somesoph who knows what they’re doing.

I was reading somebodies blog, and thought, literally

“this person is a Plutarch for people”

(in that they see a web of debts and transactions and operations, and seek to optimize in a way that generates value)

Is that facilitator or not-politician caste behavior?

That’s mostly an executor darëssef function (although hardly limited to them; see also, say, plutarch arbitrageurs and hearthmistress symposiarchs, et. al.), and specifically the profession of the path-pointers, who specialize in optimal go-betweening and xicésésef, which latter is very similar to the Chinese guanxixue, although without the negative implications.

Something that could serve as either a question or a “plot bunny,” at your discretion:

It is often said that “You cannot fool an alethiometer” — but that presumes that the alethiometer itself is functioning as intended.

So what happens when one is tampered with and / or breaks?

The self-test, anti-tamper, and external verification (as in, a physically separate verification system that you plug the thing into) systems all light up a pleasantly bloody shade of crimson, and go “eeeeeeeee”. These things are used, after all, to verify matters of great importance, and are designed, built, and audited appropriately.

Also, if you’re using it in any sort of formal proceedings and have an operator even half awake, the results will be off as you walk through the test question series. It doesn’t just give you a true/false indication, after all – it’s doing dynamic mind-state analysis in real time. If you’re going to tamper with it, you’ve got to do so in a way that generates a plausible alternative readout that matches all your observable actions and reactions, otherwise you’ve got the mental equivalent of bad lip-syncing going on.

(And if the questioner can smack your ass or insult your mother without generating the appropriate characteristic spike in the readouts, that’s all kinds of probable cause right there.)

Now, there are ways to fool basic alethiometric verification, especially when it comes to past events. (Sophont memory, in many cases, is fallible – look at human memory, which rewrites itself every time it’s remembered, and that aside, this is a universe in which memories can be edited, deleted, spliced, folded, spindled, and mutilated; or you can come up with some memory-duplication trick such as the one seen in Minority Report, or some other such device.) This is why the Curial courts don’t treat it as a sure thing and gather confirmatory evidence from forensics, alibi archives, Oversight’s public monitors, data trails left behind, etc., etc., and why sophisticated alethiometers will pull in some of that themselves to perform second-layer truth-checking: “Subject is telling the truth as he recalls it, but the public record actively contradicts this. Recommend deep scan for redactive signatures.”

But the weak spot to attack is pretty much never the alethiometer itself. It’s actually much easier – ironically enough – to fool yourself into not knowing that you’re lying, or knowing that you ever fooled yourself into not knowing that you’re lying, or…

(And leaving no traces behind in physical or data evidence, too, but if you can pull off the former, that should be easy!)

Segueing from the specific to the general: Do Imperial law and eldraeic ethics acknowledge anything approximating “non-contractual duties of commission” and “privileges of necessity” as expounded upon here: http://www.friesian.com/moral-1.htm#commission ? Particularly, do they have formal necessity defenses or anything like them in either tort law or criminal law?

On the former: no. There’s no such thing as a non-contractual duty of commission, because that would imply that you could be obligated by something other than your own power of contract, which we know is not the case; and everything not obligatory is supererogatory.

(There are certain things that might look similar – say, the Responsibility of Common Defense et. al. from the Charter – but those are actually contractual duties of commission which you obligated yourself to on signing up to join the community of civilized folk. A self-sovereign autonomous soph doesn’t have any of those.)

On the latter: there is a necessity defense, and also its close cousin the justification defense. With the exception of “necessity in the heat” cases (say, grabbing someone else’s shotgun in a life-or-death scenario, and giving it straight back to them), which in any case have the tendency of being settled non est over a beer, the courts look with a very jaundiced eye on necessity pleas, and you’d better be able to show that you exhausted essentially all your legal options first. If you plead necessity when you stole to feed your starving children, you’re going to need to be able to show that (a) your children are starving, and (b) that the local community is entirely devoid of employment opportunities, eleemosynary organizations, and people willing to help you when you asked. You did ask, right?

The legal principle *there* is not Necessity does not have a law, it’s Ill means poison all good ends, and if you argue that you’re the exception, you’ll need to hit legal standards of proof for that.

(Justification is even harder to get away with, since a plea of justification amounts to “I was right, and the law is wrong, and it should be changed by precedent in my favor”. It’s arguing “well, he needed killing” and having the court rewrite the rules on preemptive self-defense to include your reasoning. It has happened, but if you’re going to try out this one, have a really good argument ready.)

First off what would the Empire think of the Yeerks either as a fictional construct if a culture where to independently invent basically the Animorphs books or a real group if they were to encounter an actual species like that? If you haven’t read Animorphs or just don’t want to touch the copyright issues involved in mentioning them by name I want to know how they would react to a sophont species that is a sophont parasite and semi-obligate slaver. One that is basically a slug with the ability to take over a sophont host body. Most of them are fine with this set up, but a small minority will only infect willing hosts (they can act as muses/live in psycodesigners instead of living control collars) and a much larger group strongly want the ability to have bodies without slavery but are willing to infect unwilling hosts when that is what is available. Hope thats an acceptable question, will have more in the morning.

I’m not, alas, familiar with that ‘verse in particular, but as it happens, this is something I’ve thought about given another very similar species in functional respects, Stargate SG-1‘s goa’uld.

The thing is that semi-obligate is functionally equivalent to not obligate. (I mean, sure, being a sophont without much ability to do anything without a host body to possess means the universe has kind of handed you a shit sandwich, and yet.) Which is good, because that means you aren’t actually anathematic.

Since the rule is consensuality, they have no issues with those who go the Tok’ra route (of mutually willing symbiosis), and would be more than happy to sell non-sophont empty bodies by the gross to those looking for them. But if you go around possessing the unwilling, it’s not going to go very well for you. Best to leap on that first opportunity to get a non-slave body and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, belike.

Given the importance of consent and free will in the Eldraeverse, how are age-of-consent/ maturity test issues handled, when a self requires a development period before it can be fully autonomous?

Tort insurance; more here. Basically, when a tort insurer is willing – by virtue of your demonstrated competence and responsible nature – to let you self-sign a note large enough to meet the Insurance Quota for Independence, you are no longer a minor in the sight of the law. Not all things are directly tied to the IQI – for some activities your counterparties will want to know that you have rather more cover, if you didn’t figure out that it would be a good idea to have it yourself – but it’s the figure that the Empire wants to see before they let you become a citizen-shareholder, so it’s commonly used as the definition of “majority”.

(Specifically as regards age of consent, see the comments on the IQSC, here.)

So, question about Eldrae entertainment of the do they have something like this variety. In the Amenta setting that has eaten rationalist tumblr they have cleaning based entertainment as a distinct genre both as something that is added to other types of shows https://that-book-yellow.tumblr.com/post/170156399171/sparkler-trail-blackoutlandish and as a standalone thing https://that-book-yellow.tumblr.com/post/169986145399/sparkler-trail-sparkler-trail-theres-this. Given the Eldrae’s aesthetics about cleanliness do they have something similar? If not why not?

Damned if I know. Maybe?

(On one hand, I can’t think of any reason why it specifically couldn’t exist. On the other hand, cleaning is the sort of tedious and mundane activity best left to non-sophont robots; while it’s important work that has to be done, Lubricating and Checking Tolerances of Turbine Shaft Bearings: The Movie is not what you might call a potential blockbuster hit, either. On the gripping hand, a culture with high weirdness-support and a large population can support all manner of weird niche media. So.)

I gather that Imperial guns have more penetration ability than modern firearms, but how much more? In particular can military longarms like the IL-15i punch through enough things to meaningfully change infantry tactics by making it impractical to find cover in many environments? Really more compare and contrast of legionary tactics vs modern ground warfare would be interesting, but the cover thing jumps to mind as a potential major change.

To some extent: while penetration ability has increased, materials science has also made a lot of objects tougher than they used to be. So there’s less cover around, given that former light cover now isn’t useful as any kind of cover, but it’s not as drastic as it might be.

Another side of this is that there’s a limit to how much you want to dial up the penetration (although this varies a lot between weapons); the problem being that if you make an ultra-penetrant weapon it has a nasty habit of passing right through its target and expending most of its energy on the distant landscape, whereas you might prefer that it did more damage to the target and less to the collateral. (Similar to the superiority of soft-nose or hollowpoint rounds to full metal jacket for killing vs. wounding.)

(As a side note: the most immediate thing I suspect we’d notice that affects legionary tactics – well, apart from the clouds of drones and semi-autonomous mechagrunts doing the heavy lifting – is the death of most camouflage. Given the signature of even light infantry power armor, there’s not a whole lot of point in visual stealth, except for specialized units, and so there has been something of a return to the age of military bling and dressing to intimidate impress.)

The charter posts give some info on how the cost of citizenship is set, but doesn’t say how much it is. Do you have an approximate number for the setting’s present/a feel for how qualitatively expensive it is for the average new shareholder?

This is an area where I try to avoid presenting hard numbers, mostly because that’s likely to come back and bite me on the ass, but feel-wise —

It’s not particularly cheap. You’re basically providing the investment capital whose resulting revenue stream is going to pay for your Citizen’s Dividend and most basic services for the rest of ever (although at least there’s not inflation), so in that respect, it’s like saving up enough money that you can live off the interest/dividends/etc. without depleting your capital. On the other hand, that’s less than it might be, because post-common-material-scarcity has brought the cost of living (in monetary terms, that is; in prosperity terms it means the living is exceedingly rich) down quite a lot.

To come up with a decent comparison – and I reserve the right to change this if I think I was wrong – it’s probably something of the order of buying a nice house in a good neighborhood, in some suitably average city *here*. Fortunately, it’s an investment that will more than repay itself over time.

(Most poorer immigrants either find a sponsor, or take advantage of the Empire’s laissez-faire immigration policy by spending some time as a non-citizen resident earning the money to buy their citizen-shareholdership. The Imperials like this option, because this helps select for people likely to prosper in their society.)

I was reading up on the Core War and had a passing thought: what kind of threat would be necessary to cause the Republic and the Empire to team up with one another (however reluctantly) and what would be the Imperial reponse should the Republic start getting eaten by say, a pissed-off God-sophont? Vice versa?

You’ve got an example right there in the form of the Leviathan Consciousness. Existential threats tend to focus the attention wonderfully.

On the latter: offer to help, ’cause ex-threat. As for what happens if they don’t want the help and yet obviously need it, both sides have plans for what amounts to “invade these idiots to help them out before they get themselves killed and us along with them”. The Admiralty calls theirs CASE LAMENTING OVERLORD; the Exception Management Group probably has something similar.

Addendum to my last missive: precisely what in the nine hells was the thing the Republic was making use of for their stargates? And has the Empire got plans to deal with such things aside from just buggering off into unknown space as quickly as relativity allows?

An archaeotech wormhole-maker someone working for the early days of the Propulsion Group mined from a dead weakly-godlike’s brain.

And most of those things don’t need dealing with at that level. Vulture archaeologists dig up archaeotech relics all the time, and most of them are relatively harmless, and even most of the ones that aren’t only cause localized annihilation.

Otherwise, though, of course. The responsible parties try to have response cases around for everything: CASE DEMIURGE EMBALMED deals with resurrection seeds, just as CASE DEMIURGE WILDFIRE handles active perversions, and that’s before we get into the exotica like CASE SCISSOR REVISION (hypothetical time travel that breaks the laws of time travel),  OPERATION VACUUM AVALANCHE (oops, physicists accidentally the universe), OPERATION EPOCH SHATTER (hacking the simulation to see if it is a simulation, with timing-channel attacks on quantum physics), or get as far off the map as OPERATION BLACKWATER BISHOP (Outside Context Problems, bearing in mind that all of the above are Inside the Context).

How does the empire treat sportsmanship? how much exultation in victory is considered appropriate before it becomes offensive to other competitors? Likewise are competitors expected to be stoic in defeat or does exceptionalism encourage declarations that you intend to come back and win next year?

Ah, well, to answer this one, I should start by dropping a reminder of the Imperial attitude towards relative measures of status/achievement (basically, it’s irrelevant) versus absolute ones, and for that matter identity-based status (even less relevant), and how that affects the sporting world.

Specifically, spectator sports are significantly less popular *there* than *here* (unlike participatory sports), and also most sports place much less emphasis, if any, on interpersonal competition. It’s not absent – inasmuch as you can’t have, say, a martial arts tournament without pitting people against opponents – but it’s not really the point.

Underlying this is that the eldrae find it very difficult to care about relative ability. Being faster, higher, and stronger than Joe, here, might mean that you’re awesomely excellent, or it might just be that you’re the least sucky schmuck on the schmuck-pile. They care about their absolute awesomeness, which means your modal athlete isn’t competing against other sophs, they’re competing against their past selves and the constraints of the universe.

So to bring this back around to the original question, you can exult all you want in victory, because you’re not exulting in defeating other competitors. The exultation is that in the past, you wished to become stronger/better (tsuyoku naritai!, a concept which I badly need to translate into Eldraeic), and now you have succeeded in that endeavor. Had you failed to improve or declined in performance, even if you still surpassed that of all other competitors, you would not see it as a victory. And absolute measures, unlike relative measures, aren’t zero-sum: one’s gain isn’t another loss. You don’t take anything away from anyone else by becoming more yourself.

(Indeed, thinking again of martial arts tournaments, it is far from unheard of for the victor from our perspective, having defeated all of his opponents, to acclaim one of those he defeated for having become most, while deeming his own improvement lesser, even though he might be stronger in an absolute sense.)

Thought you might enjoy this article here. And might as well ask: How did the eldrae eventually resolve *their* analog to the “adblocking arms race,” if indeed it isn’t still ongoing?

Heh. Well, blocking would be much easier *there* anyway, inasmuch as IIP is not an anonymous system: since all traffic requires user/device certificates from the sender, and while not all but many documents come with their very own digital imprimatur, rejecting all traffic from a given identity is downright trivial.

But in any case: it wasn’t much of a race, because as you may have noticed, heh, the locals *there* are rather better when it comes to failing to fail at coordination problems. The consumers of ad-supported media understood the relevant mélith, which is to say that you are paying for these goods with polite attention (these are the people who didn’t even skip ads in the days of video recorders because, y’know, we have an understanding here); and in return, the advertisers (see also notes here) felt little need to violate the implicit terms of this arrangement by upping the intrusiveness to asshatly levels, which in any case would not have been to their advantage. Such conflict as there was ended with a whimper, not a bang.

And, of course, the cultural expectations with regard to privacy are also different. Imperials consider commercial organizations working hard to figure out what they want, like, or might consider interesting to be a positive good.

Spending as much time as we do to block information-collecting used for these ends comes across as putting a comical amount of effort into making your own life less convenient by making it harder for the desire-satisfaction sector to satisfy your desires, and why the heck would anyone want that?

(Outworld, of course, your mileage will vary. In the Rim Free Zone, for one, the v-fog is often more than thick enough to obscure vision, and visitors are advised to make use of some truly vicious network and memetic firewalls.)

 

October Stuff

In honor of the coming holiday, a terrifying thought I had:

According to “The Blood-Brain Barrier” (and other incidental mentions elsewhere), it’s possible to target, edit, and alter the will if you know what you’re doing.

By implication, this means that it must be possible to *erase* someone’s will entirely with a personalized “nolitional” payload.

It would be an incredibly subtle and terrifying assassination method. Your target would be almost physically untouched and retain most of their sensory and cognitive functions, but the one thing that makes you a person would be as utterly destroyed as if you had taken a bullet to the brain-pan.

It’s certainly possible to build a p-zombifier, yes.

On the other hand, it’s not all that subtle (at least to societies that have sophotechnology, since coring out the logos will show up on a mind-state display like a claidheamh mor on a chest x-ray); and since – per the Cíëlle Vagary, etc. – logotic activity is most relevant in instants of chaotic choice, if you p-zombify Kim Jong-un, all you get is someone who can’t choose not to be Kim Jong-un. While not completely unuseful, leaving ethics aside for the moment, this is much less useful than one might think. 🙂

Given the emphasis on and discussion around the eldraeic take on “cold justice,” particularly in the recent post on the “Bonfire of the ‘Elites’,” I figured it would be appropriate to ask this one: Did the Empire ever develop anything parallel to the body of law and jurisprudence of equity (and its derived equitable remedies) that arose *here* from the English chancery courts that were established to “temper the rigor of the law”?

Equitable remedies have always been available in Imperial law, where applicable and just; unlike Earthling common-law systems (up until recently, in some systems), there has never been any distinction between law and equity. (Similar, although this is as imprecise as all Terran analogies, to the Scottish situation.)

(Not, of course, to “temper the rigor of the law”; if the law is just – and since the justification for the existence of the law hinges upon that it is just, which is to say, is as accurate a reflection of the Platonic ideal of perfect justice as possible – then any departure from the rigor of the law is, eo ipso, unjust. If the law is not just, then the only thing to do is change the law until it is.)

Okay, tomorrow morning AD, we have First Contact with the Eldrae. The day after, Corvus Belli gets access to an excellent intellectual property AI legal council and starts to put out the licensing and publication rights for their miniatures wargame, “Infinity”. They don’t make the mistakes that Games Workshop makes when trying to license their IP.

What would the game-playing public think of the game and how well would it do?

Don’t think I can commit to a position based on what the web alone can tell me, alas.

What would the eldrae think of [toppling] dominoes, seeing as they’re displays of entropy at it’s finest?

On the contrary, they’re lovely ordered complex systems producing a desired and desirable end result. Sure, they produce entropy as a by-product of their operation, but so does everything else: it’s a broken universe.

(On a related note, what of victims who become either implicitly or explicitly complicit in their own victimhood?)

I’m talking about, to use a specific case, the situation that Patty Hearst fell into where, after initially being kidnapped, she was so thoroughly reprogrammed that she actively aided and abetted her captors’ further illegal activities because, in her own words, “The thought of escaping from them later simply never entered my mind. I had become convinced that there was no possibility of escape… It simply never occurred to me.”

Unless you can prove reprogramming in the technical sense – thought-viruses, overshadowing, coercive fusion, bodyjacking, et. sim., such arguments do not gain you much sympathy. Because, y’know, you have free will and the capacity to choose – and whatever your position on that *here*, in the Eldraeverse not only will mainstream philosophers tell you that hard determinism is incoherent, but the sophotechnologists and physicists will chime in and point out that they’re only a skosh away from being able to point at the widget that makes it work – and can exercise them unless you’ve been technically deprived of that capacity (your hypothetical “nolitional” payload, for example), and so bloody well ought to have.

(If available, you would definitely be better off trying for the duress – committed-lesser-crimes-to-prevent-a-greater-one – defense, but it wouldn’t have been in her case.)

It doesn’t help much that the eldrae in general, being constructed differently and very disinclined to submission, do not see much Stockholm Syndrome, et. al., per the bottom answer here, and thus do not consider it part of “human nature” the way we do.  Here, that’s victimization that could happen to anyone; there, it makes you an undiagnosed parabulia case, and in the modern era, the Guardians of Our Harmony and your tort insurer both will be wondering how exactly you went undiagnosed for long enough for this to happen.

(And since you don’t grow up in a mature information society without learning something about memetics, or a philosophically mature society without learning some formal ethics, an inadequate memetic immune system is no defense either.)

This, naturally, flavors the sympathy you get if you victimized yourself, in much the same way as if you were an undiagnosed schizophrenia case; people feel bad for you because you’re fundamentally broken and need fixing. It also tends to evaporate much of it when the choice you made under its influence was to go from victim to victimizer.

Nor does the meme rehab prescribed in such a case excuse you from paying weregeld and reparations: you still chose and acted, and that’s still on you.

[As a side note, actually, the schizophrenic has a better defense available: if you shoot at your hallucinatory monsters and hit someone, you don’t have mens rea because you responded reasonably to the data you have. That’ll play for an insanity defense.]

(Continued from earlier…)

What, specifically, is the issue at stake that makes such a conclusion unacceptably psychotic? I can understand why they might object on grounds that it’s morally pessimal (to use your terminology from a previous discussion) not to “abstain from the very appearance of evil,” and how in a positivist sense it might be abnegated by an Imperial citizen-shareholder’s commitment to maintain a specific standard of what locally is defined as sanity,

I’m going to assume this has effectively been answered by the earlier comment on the layered shells of ethics.

but as for its applicability to the general mass beyond the confines of the Empire’s own reach, and particularly to a self-sovereign individual under no contractual constraints to behave otherwise:

Law is local (the Doctrine of the Ecumenical Throne notwithstanding, and in any case, that’s less of a legal principle and more of a good excuse); ethics are universal. The Empire’s citizen-shareholders are more than happy to export and apply – on a personal, non-legal level – their views on what constitutes virtue and lack of same to the entire observable universe.

(As a tangential aside — though one I’ll come back to later — it seems that this is the necessary justification that allows anyone, and not just the particular victim(s), to shoot and kill an offender for what we would regard as relatively petty offenses if they deem it necessary under Imperial jurisprudence.)

I note that you have the right to defend self, others, and property by lethal force in the moment; this doesn’t extend to a generalized hunting license for anyone who has committed a crime and who hasn’t been formally outlawed. (Although since everyone has the right of arrest upon probable cause provided that the alleged criminal is handed over forthwith to the Constabulary or to a Curial court for arraignment, crimes committed while resisting arrest can blur this a bit.)

As has been greatly emphasized elsewhere, the eldrae place a high value on informed consent in their dealings. How would they respond, however, to the idea that consent is not a thing that can merely be passively solicited, but something that can be actively manufactured or engineered — as espoused (and largely developed) *here* by men such as Edward Bernays (1)(2) — by controlling what information passes through the various filters and “gatekeepers” on its route from the source to the general public, and by dictating how that information is presented

I believe the relevant snarky soundbite is: “No-one can manufacture your consent without your consent.”

Or, possibly, “Isn’t that called persuasion?”

There are certain constraints on what’s permissible by way of information control (extraordinarily limited) and by way of bad information (prohibitions on YGBMs and basilisks, but also in re choice-theft on defamation, falsification of information, falsificiation of entelechy, claiming false attachment, assumption of false identity, etc., etc.; the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive). But inside those limits —

On the one hand, it’s a mature information society. Information is everywhere, from a million sources which have their own point of view on everything except the facts. Learning to sort through this for truth and picking out the intentional memegineering is a basic life skill; failing to do your due diligence and just believing any damn thing you’re told, especially if you outsource your cognition to one particular source, is a kind of wilful stupidity that receives absolutely no cultural respect whatsoever. (This is why, say, advertising is the way that it is *there*.)

On the other hand, of course people and their coadunations will try to persuade you of things, and dress up their ideas in the nicest possible attire. That’s how you get things done in civilized society when you can’t force people to do things your way; sell the product. Persuasion, advertising, memetic engineering, a little manipulation – these are the polite tools of a society that’s renounced compulsion, and are refined accordingly.

Incidentally, this is where some of those grayer eikones come in: the intrigant who can persuade people into an extended series of individually positive-sum interactions and, by doing so, achieve a greater goal is greatly respected for their social-fu. On the heights, this is how the Great Game is played.

Conveniently, it also encourages the play style in which everyone wins.

So let’s say that you’re a rookie vigilante righter-or-wrongs out on your first day. And let’s say that on your very first case, you honestly interpret the scenario in entirely the wrong way, and thus botch things in the worst way possible. Maybe the “thief” you caught red-handed was actually some sort of contracted retrieval specialist hired by the property’s true owner to recover it, and the building they were trying to break into was where the thief was storing it. Or maybe those robed thugs you blew away with gusto after you caught them accosting a defenseless old man were actually actors in a public performance of *Julius Caesar*.(*) Either way, while you can safely say that you acted without malice and with the best of intentions, you did exactly the *wrong* thing given the situation. What’s most likely going to happen to you once you go through the Imperial justice system?

Contracted retrieval specialists – or to give them their local name, asset repropriators – have v-tags and bonds, so that’s not a mistake you should make.

Anyway: assuming that everything is as it seems on the surface (i.e., you genuinely tried to do the right thing, you just fucked it up, and you weren’t negligently incompetent), you’ll have to pay the reparation – just not the weregeld. There won’t be meme rehab, either, because there’s no homicidal tendency to correct.

(This is standard procedure for cases whose intent is adjudicated as error in judgment/non-wilful negligence.)

((As a side note, this sort of thing is very unlikely to be someone’s career choice, given the local crime rates and Constabular efficiency. If you want to make a career out of unlikely scenarios, you’d probably be better off hanging out your shingle as a professional unicorn hugger, or some such. They’re much more likely to exist.))

 

August Questions

(also, questions from August; and since it’s a slow month, I’m going to throw in some questions from comments, too.)

It’s been pretty well established that the eldrae place an immense value on pride and personal achievement, to the point that they hold people in contempt for trying to put on airs of false modesty — but what about those messy situations where they “come by it honestly” in the sense that, however much they do genuinely try to strive for excellence and self-respect, *can’t* take pride in their accomplishments because something inside of their own head won’t let them honestly perceive their own self-worth?

I am, in short, asking about the eldraeic take on that big tangle of warped mentality and self-image which, in various combinations and contexts, goes by such labels as “depression,” “bipolar disorder,” “manic depression,” “obsessive-compulsive disorder” (particularly of the “intrusive thoughts” variety), the “Jonah complex,” and “impostor syndrome.” (I’m guessing that, given their ethical perspective on fraud, that last one especially would appear to put its sufferers in a particularly nasty double bind, at least if they’ve internalized Imperial ethics enough to be concerned by it.)

I also want to clarify that I’m asking at least in part for the historical perspective, back in the days before these things could be fixed with a single quick visit to the local psych-surgeon.

(I take a moment to note for non-long-term readers that the baseline temperament for eldrae is one which we might call hypomanic; the average human is really quite the gloomy, depressive sort.)

Well, you’re going to be in for some suffering, aren’t you?

Not, for the most part, from people going after you for false modesty/humility; by and large, people are smart enough to tell pose from pathology.

But from people who decline to accept your false self-image and will call you on your involuntary bullshit LOUDLY AND DISTINCTLY. Possibly with gestures and other emphatic devices. Get used to being told that you are grievously undercounting your own awesome. A lot. By people who are entirely uninterested in hearing any demurral.

(And also inasmuch as even without psychedesign having advanced to the point where such things are fixable routinely, that doesn’t stop people from trying to help you. If you have a problem – and this applies every bit as much to mental disabilities as physical ones – there will be people earnestly trying to fix that problem.

It’s not like you have to volunteer as a test subject for every new idea that comes down the pipe in fields from neuroactive pharmaceuticals through transcranial magnetic stimulation, alternative-frequency lighting, atmospheric modification, color-aroma environmental treatments and feng shui, all the way to cognitive therapy, guided meditation, religion, and trained emotional support/anti-bullshit service animals – but it’s for sure and certain that they’ll all be on offer. For you, and for science.)

This makes me wonder a couple of things. Actually, I’ve been wondering many things about the Imperial attitude towards games and that liminal line between “game” and “reality”, but I’ll just drop two of the most relevant down the spillway and keep the floodgates barred for later.

First, what do they make, in general, of the idea that a game, by virtue of being a space with differently defined rules from reality, is “just a game”?

Two things:

  1. Well, that’s obviously not true, since there are plenty of simulation spaces with differently defined rules from reality that aren’t games. What makes a game a game is that it expresses ludic intentionality.
  2. They would also like to take issue with the word “just”. A game, like any form of media, is a concretized idea or set of ideas. A game that was “just a game”, i.e., which was neither truthful nor beautiful, wouldn’t be worth playing.

In particular, I’m asking what they would make of the guy who is generally easygoing in the real world, but really gets into the act when he roleplays as the “bad guy” in a game setting, or (for instance) always chooses to play as the Space Nazis whenever everyone plays Space Nazi War Simulator: The Movie: The Game: Limited Platinum Gold Game of the Millennium Edition (with obligatory horse DLC).

On that topic, well –

(A digression, first: namely that there aren’t many play-the-villain games around due to a lack of market, except for fairly anodyne strategy games and the like, for the same sort of underlying reasons as seen in various previous discussions of media and genre. Where PvP conflict is called for, developers prefer to have antagonists who aren’t simple villains; where it’s at least possible to embrace any playable side without soaking your mind thoroughly in filth, and preferably where there’s a pathway to a perfect ending in which with enough hard work everyone can win. In Eldraeverse!Mass Effect, for example, synthesis would be considered the objectively best ending because you can save everyone, even the Reapers.

There just ain’t a whole lot of call for Objectively Terrible People Simulators.)

– while games aren’t real, people are, and choices, they would say, reflect character. If you spend a whole lot of time faithfully roleplaying Space Nazis: The Mass-Murdering Fuckheadry, it does suggest there’s something hinky in your brain-pan.

Much like we might regard people who voluntarily play FATAL, say.

(And especially the implications this has not only in games, but in things like theater, film, etc.)

In such media, of course, things are somewhat different. Someone has to play the Space Nazis, after all, otherwise the protagonists couldn’t space-magic-fist-of-doom them.

And that would be a tragedy.

Also, do they recognize the phenomenon of Video Game Cruelty Potential, and if they find it particularly distasteful (as I’m sure no small number would, based on previous discussions), what sort of measures would they take to implement Video Game Cruelty Punishment whether inside the game world or outside?

Yes, they do, yes, they do, and it’s mostly done via  a snifter of Guilt-Based Gaming with a heaping helping of Reality Ensues, for local values of reality. Which is to say, actions have consequences, and asshats have consequences happen to them, either directly or via the fact they’re continuing in a world that responds to their actions and which they made crapsackier. Mostly in-game, but the Xbox Live reputation system has nothing on what the rep-nets’ll do to you.

(This isn’t to say you can’t play any of the strains of renegade Shepard, to go back to my Mass Effect example. You can play Commander Grouchy Maverick No-Time-For-Your-Bullshit just fine, with a side-order of throwing mercenaries out of windows and punching disingenuous assertions, quipping all the while. The petty backstabbing, being an bastard to your crew, and casual genocide, that’ll come back to bite you in the ass.)

((Now, the people who spend time tormenting their Sims and starving their virtual pets, they’ve probably already come to the attention of the Guardians of Our Harmony and been cured of their nasty case of cacophilia, or else just plain euthanized.))

And another thing that comes to mind: You’ve mentioned that the eldrae don’t really do “friendly insults,” but do they do “in-character trash talk”? And is there a general understanding (on this and other matters) that “What happens in the game, stays in the game”?

As long as it remains strictly in character and in-game, yes. There are already strict social rules about proper management of one’s valessef, and this is just an extension of those.

What is origin of the Photonic Network? Who created its founding AIs? Or is it actually an abiogenesis silica-quantum civilization?

The ancestors of the Photonic Network dates back to one of the Precursor periods (specifically, the passage of the spinbright circumgalactic migration through the area of the Worlds in roughly -102,000), but since said ancestors weren’t sapient at the time, they didn’t pay much attention to recording historical information. (Trying to get useful information out of their ancestral data is like, for example, trying to deduce the 21st century from a random Linux machine’s /var/log/syslog.)

It is commonly assumed that they’re somehow connected to the spinbrights, but since most of what’s known about them comes from archaeologically-recovered trash dropped in passing, that doesn’t help very much.

Here’s one that possibly keeps the Fifth Directorate up at night: What if it’s possible to obliterate all free will everywhere in a stroke simply by gaining root access to Elsewhere and tampering with the source code that governs the mechanisms of sophonce itself?

“Well, then, we’d be utterly, cosmically, and paracausally fucked, wouldn’t we?”

– abstracted final report, OPERATION EPOCH SHATTER,
on CASE EPOCH SHATTER BRAAAAAINS

A couple questions (regarding this):

First, echoing the unanswered comment in the Slate Star Codex link: What of “Goodness” / “Virtue” — the third leg in the classical triad of transcendental values?

“What is virtue if not the bringing of truth into conformance with beauty?”

Virtue, in this worldview, is that quality which makes the world-as-it-is closer to the world-as-it-ought-be.

Second: What would the eldrae make of the notion that — as was common in much classical and medieval thought here on Earth (cf. http://www.iep.utm.edu/m-aesthe and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beauty/#ClaCon ) — not only is there an Absolute Beauty such that any perfectly rational creature with perfect knowledge who encountered an object instantiated with its properties must necessarily recognize that it is perfectly beautiful (and therefore that any sophont that doesn’t recognize it as not merely beautiful but The Most Beautiful X Possible Anywhere-and-When must necessarily be either imperfectly informed or imperfectly rational, and in either case objectively wrong); but that such a standard must necessarily exist in order for Beauty to have any meaning as a concept whatsoever?

(There are, needless to say, multiple scholae of aesthetics.)

The first thing to mention, obviously, is the distinction in concept between the words aelva (“beauty”, which is objective) and delékith (“pleasing”, which is ambijective). (There is also méskith (“attractive”, which is even more ambijective.) But equally important to note is the place structure of the word – aelva literally means:

SUBJECT is objectively beautiful in aspect ASPECT by aesthetic standard STANDARD

This would reflect the view of the majority of those scholae that there are multiple types of beauty, and as such multiple associated standards of it. (Although a definitive catalog has yet to be produced.) Very few of said scholae would argue that the path between beauty and ugliness is a linear scale rather than a fractally branching tree, although some would argue that the various end points all reflect a single law of metabeauty. Of such debates are many academic papers made.

Now, if you want a more straightforward philosophical debate, consider the problem of whether ugliness is likewise multiplex, or singular. (In this case, most would say singular.)

Of course, each of these standards must necessarily exist. Any concept that can’t be quantified doesn’t exist.

So have the eldrae ever encountered anything like the Worm-in-Waiting?

http://imgur.com/gallery/Vsgip

.

Not in the specifics, but it’s an old galaxy filled with Precursor-era leftovers, elder-race Powers, and other assorted weirdities. Everyone runs into one sooner or later. The relevant scientific discipline, however, is pretty clear about the appropriate response to barely-understood offers from incomprehensible entities.

“Don’t.”

– Applied Theology for Beginners

“Seriously: don’t.”

– Intermediate Applied Theology

“Unless you have yourself progressed in understanding to the point that the deal on the table is as clear as the most perfect vacuum: still don’t. And if you have, don’t try it without an angel to watch over you.”

– Advanced Applied Theology for Fully Bonded Practitioners,
Classified By Independent Auditors As In An Ongoing State of Self-Aware Rationality:
An Inadvisable Guide

There’s a reason they call people, organizations, and governances that try this sort of thing “necromancers”, and it ain’t for the cool robes; it’s because a ridiculous percentage of the time you’re making a Faustian bargain without even knowing it, and will end up as a perversion’s finger-puppet.

(And as it’s the end of the day right now, you can have the last three on Saturday.)

June and July’s Questions

(Somewhat belated, for which I apologize, but day-job-wise, it’s been a hell of a month. Actually, it continues to be, hence the dearth of postings in August, and now I’m about to ship off to Maryland for a week on a business trip, so…

Yeah.

Sorry, folks.)

Without further ado, let us commence:

Another question, in particular reference to A Good Man (https://eldraeverse.com/2012/04/05/a-good-man/): Would our titular “good man” have come under near as much scrutiny if, instead of going for general atmospheric distribution, he had instead just bottled the stuff and handed it out at sporting events, donated it to soup kitchens, passed it around as a seasoning when he had people over for dinner, etc., without explicitly revealing what the “secret ingredients” in his “special sauce” were?

Only insofar as it would have been harder to catch him at it, and inasmuch as the smaller the scale of your atrocities, the lower the relative urgency of dealing with you compared to whatever other atrocities are going on at the same time. Not less important, mind you, merely less urgent in the ISS master limited-resource-allocation algorithm of which target(s) get hunted down, mind-ripped, and archived in the inaccessible depths of the Aeon Pit today.

As per monthly question & provided I am paid up in full:

Would love to see a write-up of some alien ships. The Múrast in particular.

Ah, múrast designs. Can do. For anyone not remembering my species in detail, the múrast are methane-breathing, multiheaded serpents who originated on a Titan-like homeworld, and have a biology therefore rooted in ices, hydrocarbon sludges, and plastics. They are a biologically casted society (assembler, thinker, technician, worker, refiner), and most curious of all, possibly, the thinker caste are polysapic; they typically have around five minds each.

A múrast icehull – I can’t really give you the details of an individual múrast ship class because they don’t build them to class spec – looks something like a flying baroque cathedral, if baroque cathedrals were (in the gross details) radially symmetric and lacked a down direction. But that’s not how they start out. They start out as comets.

When a múrast sept needs a starship, they go out and grab a comet, and then start shaping it, burrowing into it, and adding machinery as necessary. A typical example has three or four main chambers: there’s a near-spherical “nest” chamber in the center of the mass where the assemblers (the caste responsible for breeding/building new múrast) and the refiners (food-producers/food-storers/biofactories) dwell; an ovoid “bridge” from which the thinkers command the icehull from a half-dozen consoles each, still buried but nearer to the leading edge, and an “engineering” chamber near the trailing edge where technicians and workers tend the main drive (typically a non-torch fusion thermal, or something of that ilk, with teakettle thrusters for fine maneuvering; i.e., they’re slowships, but the múrast mostly aren’t in a hurry).

Cargo vessels include a large hold volume somewhere accessible from the outside; often using simply cutting out and refreezing the ice in lieu of a mechanical cargo door. Military vessels are similar, except the hold is filled with racks of AKVs – or, in some cases, kinetic impact vehicles (i.e., flying icebergs) flown by members of the only-slightly-sophont worker caste.

The rest of the internal space is taken up with a “maze” swarming with more technicians and workers – auxiliary machinery tends to be melted into the ice here in convenient locations, as do various bits of “crew quarters” and “storage” – and, of course, the ice and incorporated sludges and slushes itself, which serves as food, replenishment, and remass, expanding the maze as the trip goes on. (When it runs out, it’s time to either graft on or jump ship to a new cometary body.) Múrast passengers just join the crew in the maze; the odd passengers of other species must bring a suitable cabin module of their own, or travel steerage.

Múrast biology is fairly vacuum-friendly; the ornate look of the ships comes from the workers and technicians who swarm over the outside, too, in flight, polishing and carving and generally buffing the icy brightwork to a mirror shine. The best theory on this is that it’s the sept-level equivalent of twiddling one’s fingers to ease deep-space boredom.

I’ll throw in three quick summaries of other species ships:

Sefir ships are the ones that I’ll never design in detail unless I need to, because they epitomize Boring, But Practical. Basically, they’re ISO Standard Human Spaceships, per the trope: boxy frameworks, mostly in haze gray, with maybe the odd logo or two slapped on the side. Conventional and middle of the road in essentially every way. Species which care more about aesthetics and less about low-bid procurement rules roll their eyes or break out in laughter or tears. Sometimes both.

Linobir ships are what you might call… culturally distinctive. It’s not quite a planet of hats situation, but what must be admitted is while the linobir themselves have a varied culture, the vast majority of linobir who own their own starships are space mercenaries, or other kinds of hired muscle, who turn certain cultural traits right up to eleven.

As such, the [stereo]typical linobir starship is instantly recognizable by, at the stern, the pusher plate of the Worlds’ loudest, dirtiest, and most importantly most powerful drive system, and everywhere else by all the turrets, blisters, bays, and barrels caused by strapping on whatever weapons systems they could get hold of literally everywhere they’ll fit; i.e., it’s a bundle of strapped-together guns that fires nukes out of its ass.

Any of the hull plating that’s still visible under all of that tends to be covered in advertising the crews’ abilities to kill things and break people.

Esseli starships are semi-organic. (Unlike the link!n-Rechesh, they aren’t dogmatically attached to biotechnology for relatively unsuitable purposes such as hulls – although they are made by biotechnological means – or drive systems; although their hulls do have a distinct curvy, organic shape to them, and very organic-looking mechanical tentacles.)

Step inside, on the other hand, and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that you’re wandering around inside the warm, pulsing veins of a living creature, because you’re wandering around inside the warm, pulsing veins of a living creature (with, fair to say, a bionic fusion torch). The esseli are perfectly comfortable with using organic life support, shipboard information systems powered by ganglia, doors reminiscent of heart valves, fleshy control nodules and neural tendrils as user interfaces, and lots of similar tech on the squishy, slightly moist side.

(It is entirely untrue, however, that passengers are occasionally digested by esseli ships. They incorporate every standard biotechnological safeguard against unintentionally eating sophonts or their commensal lifeforms, and such would, as well as being rude and inhospitable, be ill-suited to their metabolism – they were, after all, engineered to eat fuel slush and occasional space rocks.

…and the odd hijacker.)

What would be popular on the Eldrae version of television? Or to broaden the question…’Mass media’. Do they go to the movies? 

Yes, indeed. From the incomplete list back in No Such Thing As Alien Pop Culture of things which the canon currently has named examples of – music, an extensive literary culture that includes popular novels, graphic novels, watchvids, InVids, slinkies, virtual-reality games, virtual-reality cosmoi, alternate-reality games, regular computer games, RPGs, board games, mechanical toys, recreational dueling and non-combat challenges, haut cuisine, participatory sports – they would fall under watchvids. (And this does include movie theaters, regular and drive/fly-in, because movie-as-social-experience is a subtly different genre from movie-as-personal-viewing.

Would something like ‘Iron Chef’ work…would ‘Days of Our Lives’ be in it’s 300th year? Would the times of the korásan be ‘Game of Thrones’ analogue?

Hm. Well, okay, let’s see what I can come up with by way of generalizations and specifics. One thing to bear in mind is that as you might expect, speculative fiction is very popular even among the widely varied mix that popular culture *there* is.

Some genres have trouble with the culture: soap operas are very limited for the reasons mentioned below about Days of Our Lives; sitcoms aren’t absent, but are limited in their presence and style by the local sense of humor; reality television is just plain absent for exactly the same reasons as the previous two are limited.

Game shows are present, but are not exactly the sort of thing we’d recognize as them: they have to incorporate very little of an element of chance, and be pitched at a level appropriate to an audience and contestants with quantum computers and Internet access lodged firmly between their frontal lobes, raised in an intellectual hothouse culture. This gives rise to shows like One Hour Mastery (learn a new skill in an hour well enough to impress our judges), Civil Engineering Challenge, Extreme Theorems (can our amateur mathematicians prove these unsolved hypotheses before time runs out?), and Science The Shit Out Of It (a very loose translation).

Likewise, there are talk shows, but they are appallingly high-brow by here’s standards: you aren’t getting celebrity gossip and personal issues, you’re getting Eliezer Yudkowsky Discusses The Finer Points Of Bayesian Rationality With The Panel.

(Popular science shows also have that same level adjustment – and that speculative fiction? Writers need to listen to their scientific advisor, because while the audience is willing to suspend its disbelief in your handwavium, it won’t put up with baryon sweeps or temperatures below absolute zero.)

The horror genre doesn’t play very well; an Imperial audience watching our example of it will spend all their time waiting for the monster to be punched in the face with a space magic fist of doom and will not be happy if they don’t get that payoff. (Eldrae in particular are really, really bad at being scared. They also have no respect whatsoever for stupid, which makes most horror-movie protagonists epic failures at attracting audience sympathy.) At that point, it’s more or less moved into action-adventure territory.

This affects the disaster movie genre, too, to a lesser extent: basically, anything from an earthquake to a zombie apocalypse can be good movie fodder, but the plot needs to include the essential elements of How We Triumphantly Overcame Adversity, Saved Our Asses, and Fixed Our Shit, Only Better. Canon example: After Rockfall, an RPG along the lines of Fallout with a heavy rebuilding-civilization slant.

(There’s also their quirky “construction/achievement drama” genre, which produces epic dramatizations of Touching Heaven: The Building of the Interworld Trade Center, and suchlike, which play well because there is an endless market for stories of Awesome Sophs Doing Awesome Stuff.)

To be specific, then, Adamantium Chef would definitely work, and gains some extra levels when you consider the amount of offworld biologicals available, and all the fun of biochemical compatibility. Hell, there’s probably Adamantium Pharmacist, too.

Days of Our Lives analog is rather less likely, since the whole soap opera genre is a casualty of the change in ratios between NTs and SFs per The MBTI Lens ; by and large, as said, the media of ideas is primary, which is not to say that plot and character elements aren’t important: Buffy the Vampire Slayer would work just fine because it has those coupled with ideas, although it probably doesn’t have a direct analog because of its core concept being subverting assumptions that don’t exist *there*.

Game of Thrones works, both for the above historical analog and because fantasy is a big part of the speculative-fiction genre.

Other shows and movies *here* likely to have analogs or port reasonably well with some care and attention would include, to give a necessarily incomplete list of examples, Eureka, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy – actually, throw in Iron Man and certainly the first Captain America, early House, Indiana Jones, Leverage, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Mythbusters (again, perform appropriate level adjustments), Sherlock, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Star Trek (only with less technobabble and communism; its analog To Boldly Go is established as taking ideas directly from declassified Imperial Exploratory Service mission reports, much as its more military cousin that might be loosely analogous to somewhere in the middle of Babylon 5/Star Wars/etc. grabs them from the declassified Military Service equivalents), Warehouse 13 … and I’m pretty sure at this point I’m revealing that I don’t actually watch all that much television, aren’t I? (You could dramatize some of our video games, too, for that matter – the InVids of Dragon AgeMass Effect, or Destiny would fit just perfectly.)

A question about the Fifth Directorate-is there some things they won’t do? Is there some acts that if the only choices are “we do this unforgivable thing or EVERYTHING dies,” the answer is “we die”?

Yep. Figuring out where the boundary lies is the job of the Operational Ethics Working Group, a.k.a. DREAMING MALIGNITY, whose professional abyss-gazers are specifically tasked with figuring out how much of a monster it is permissible to become in order to fight monsters.

I can’t give absolutely firm guidelines for where it is, because they don’t have any: by definition, they’re operating in the realm of excursive ethics, or for the Culture readers out there, Special Circumstances. But it’s easy to come up with some specific examples:

Given the choice of the Hive, for example, it’s a pretty clear-cut case of time to walk away from the Worm Gods, give ’em the finger, and choose extinction, on the grounds that becoming one’s antithesis – i.e., an entropy-worshipping horde of omnicidal maniacs – is not merely extinction-equivalent, but actually more negative than that in any reasonable ethical calculus.

On the other hand, when confronted by such an antithesis, murdering their gods and cleansing the remains from the universe using anything up to and including ontopathogenic weapons, while outside the boundaries of non-excursive/optimal ethics – well, it starts to seem downright reasonable.

There is a lot of territory in the middle for negotiation.

…and I’ll throw in an unpaid July question as a free bonus to the questioner who wished to know why the equal protection clause of the Imperial Charter doesn’t mention race, sex, age, orientation, etc., etc., etc.:

(a) What, “all/any/each citizen-shareholder(s)” wasn’t clear enough for you? When they say “all” in those parts, they mean it.

(b) The same reason that we don’t feel the need to specify that such equal protections also extend to mustache-wearers, artichoke-eaters, hat-featherers, Monopoly players, HBO subscribers, or people who have noses.

Think about it.

 

May’s Questions

So, yes, answers. But before we get to those, remember the reference to fanfiction being written in “Things You Are No Longer Allowed To Do In The Imperial Military Service“? Mark Atwood points out the following niftyness in a comment:

The anime series “Gate – Thus the JSDF Fought There!” was originally JSDF fanfiction written by a JSDF soldier while he was serving in the JSDF, and published on a reddit-like service in Japan.

…so, reality continues to be just as strange as fiction. Good for it. 🙂

First question:

So what, exactly, are the story behind and the specific “sins” of Magen Corporate and the Isliar Primarchy? In the first case, I’ve been able to piece together hints that it has some sort of tenuous connection with the Empire of the Star (or at least the general eldraeic cultural penumbra) from certain hints elsewhere, but the latter pretty much only seems to exist as a teaser in the “What Do You Mean It’s Not Political?” Trope-a-Day.

The Isliar Primarchy don’t really have sins. They’re too damn boring to have sins. Let me explain thus:

The Primarchy? They are an entire planet of people with sticks up their butts. Indeed, it is safe to say that they have the highest Stick-Up-Butt Coefficient of any studied population in the known galaxy. They are highly conservative, highly traditional, and strongly distrust any offworlder ideas and indeed anything else less than a thousand years old.

(I’d elaborate, but seriously, I’m falling asleep here just thinking about them.)

As for the Magen Corporate, it was founded by a cabal of Renegade plutarchs who didn’t think any of those pesky ethics should interfere with the pure unfettered pursuit of profit, and whose self-interest lacks a degree or two of enlightenment (which, much to their annoyance, their loyal cousins are not shy about pointing out actually impairs their pursuit of profit).

It is hard to overstate just how much people from the Empire, plutarchs especially, loathe the Magenites and all their works, because while ignorant barbarians might have a small excuse for being ignorant, these shit-fucking heretics damn well know better and every quantum of exchange-value that passes through their hands is a desecration of the holy principle of greed itself.

(One can only look forward to the Exceedingly Hostile Takeovers, really. About which more anon.)

…and that would seem to be it for this month. Remember, $1 and over patrons, you get one free question a month! Don’t be shy about using it!

 

Question: Plea Bargains

Y’all get May’s first question the day it arrived, ’cause it’s an easy one:

So what would Imperial jurisprudence make of the notion of the plea bargain?

Sarcasm, mostly.

The way the more dyspeptic members of the College of Judicature would put it, there are two possible outcomes from a plea bargain as various polities practice it:

The one is that a guilty soph gets away with the due consequents of a lesser charge instead of the appropriate one, which is obviously contrary to all principles of justice and balance.

The other is that an innocent soph is railroaded into compensation, weregeld, and so forth for fear of the consequences of a greater charge if mistakenly found guilty, or by the cost of mounting a defense. Which is even more contrary to all principles of justice and balance, even if they were to accept the notion that this isn’t the actual intent of the system – namely, to provide cheap and quick “justice theater” in lieu of the more challenging task of providing actual justice – which proposal they find risible on its face.

And to sum up, any “justice system” that incorporates the notion has lost all right to be called such without, at the very least, emphatic sneer quotes, and any misbegotten wight proposing such an abomination in their justice system should rightly call down the wrath of Saravoné Herself, descending from the Twilight City in fire and fury to beat aforesaid wight soundly upside the head with Her scales until all the stupid has left the building.

Cough. Readjust monocle.

…so, um, they don’t care for it much?