Diplomatic Incident

kchellis> So, what’s the problem this time?

socularios> Cleaning up the diplomatic fallout from last night’s dinner at the Isliar Primarchy embassy.

kchellis> What could possibly happen at a Primarchy dinner? Those things are so boring that you’re tempted to shoot yourself in the head just to get it over with.

socularios> Got it in one.

kchellis> What?

socularios> Someone invited Chemelé Sarithos.


socularios> Who only made it through the appetizers before announcing “Bored now”, then drawing her sidearm and – leaving the party. In a manner that gave the Ambassador’s mother a case of the vapors, spoiled the atmosphere for the rest of the guests, and ruined the soup, too, confound it.



kchellis> Did she offer any explanation beyond that?

socularios> She’s a three-hours-prior restore. And before you ask, she said that if it was that dull, she probably didn’t want to remember even the part she was there for.

kchellis> Right.

kchellis> I’ll draft the formal apologies if you’ll dragoon our idiot cousin into making some informal apologies. I presume we’re assuming that the Primarchs wanted to generate an incident to get something out of us?

socularios> That we are. Any suggestions on the dragooning?

kchellis> Chemelé’s been living debtstyle for a while now, so talk to her grandmother, Kiril. No-one crosses Old Lady Sarithos, especially not her new least favorite grandchild.

– Ministry of State & Outlands, “Oops” memeweave

Trope-a-Day: Body Backup Drive

Body Backup Drive: Standard practice in civilized transsophont space, using cloned replacements grown specially – or, for budget body use, travel, or temporary copies, any one of a large number of premade ‘vatjobs’. These replacements are designed never to be fully sophont on their own, though; their brains are designed to run the Universal Noetic Architecture platform, with a very simple maintenance OS to keep the body healthy when someone’s mind isn’t inhabiting it.

Questions: Leonine Contracts, Illusory Promise, Resurrective Eidolons, and Intentional Communities

I might be jumping the Trope-a-Day queue a bit, but do the eldrae recognize the validity of the concept of a Leonine Contract?

In particular, how would they analyze the situation in the Chesterton quote at the top?

Well, fundamentally in ethics, there ain’t no such thing as a Leonine Contract in that sense.

(I say “in that sense” because there are fraud, coercion, and things that look like contracts but aren’t1, none of which count, along with mixed forms like good old Vaderian “altering the bargain”, some of which are classed with leonine contracts even though they aren’t, technically speaking.

Most relevantly, though, there’s no doctrine of unconscionability – i.e., the notion that a contract is unenforceable because no reasonable or informed person would otherwise agree to it – on the grounds that all people legally competent to sign contracts are by definition reasonable persons capable of informing themselves, which classifies those who do not inform themselves as bloody stupid2. And inasmuch as the Empire has a social policy on that sort of thing, it’s to not protect people against the consequences of Being Bloody Stupid, because that’s how you end up with a polity full of helpless, dependent chumps.)

But leaving aside all such instrumental considerations, the fundamental ethical reason why there ain’t no such thing as a leonine contract is that the concept of one necessarily implies that you can compel the service of other sophonts (or their property – say, their food – which is part of them by the principle of el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal) without their informed consent and no, just no, even if you are starving. Not even a step down that road of treating sophs as instrumentalities. That’s how mutual-slave-states end up rationalizing all their bullshit. So not happening.

That being said, in the latter situation given in the aforementioned Chesterton quote, what an Imperial citizen-shareholder trying that one might run into are the Altruism Statutes, which are basically the statute law backing up Article V (Responsibilities of the Citizen-Shareholder), para. 4 of the Imperial Charter:

Responsibility of Common Defense: Inasmuch as the Empire guarantees to its citizen-shareholders the right to, and the means for, the common defense, each citizen-shareholder of the Empire is amenable to and accepts the responsibility of participating in the common defense; to defend other citizen-shareholders when and wheresoever it may be necessary; as part of the citizen militia and severally from it to defend the Empire, and its people wholly or severally, when they are threatened, whether by ill deed or cataclysm of nature; and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our ancestors and our cultures both common and disparate.

…which makes doing so in itself a [criminal] breach of their sovereign services contract, belike, because they voluntarily obligated themselves in the matter.

(Although I should also make it clear that someone rescuing you from a situation they themselves did not create is owed recompense by the principle of mélith. If you value your life (which people who are still alive presumptively do), you owe the one who preserved it in due proportion.)

Plus, of course, this sort of thing is basically fuelling your extremely unenlightened self-interest with a giant pile of burning reputational capital, which apart from being bad for you in general, is likely to be particularly bad for you the next time you require the volunteered assistance of your fellow sophs…

Given the central place sacredness of contract has in Imperial society, what do Imperial law and eldraeic ethics have to say about illusory promise?

(And as a follow-on, even if there aren’t any legal, moral, or ethical obstacles as such, what will the neighbors tend to think of someone who’s constantly hedging their bets by resorting to them whenever they try to enter into a contract with someone else?)

Well, the first thing I should say is that there are far fewer examples of it under Imperial contract law than under most Earthly regimes I am familiar with. The obvious example that constitutes a lot of it is “lack of consideration” *here* – whereas Imperial contract law, being based on the ancient-era laws and customs of oaths, doesn’t require consideration at all, and simple promissory statements to the effect of “I promise to give you one thousand esteyn” are legally binding in a way that “I promise to give you one thousand dollars” isn’t.

Of the remainder, some things are similar (the Curial courts will impute meaning on the basis that everyone is assumed to be acting in good faith, for example, and a contract to which one does not agree – the website terms and conditions changed without notification, say – is no contract at all, as mentioned above.) But in other cases – say, the promise of the proceeds of the promisor’s business activities, where the promisee doesn’t specify any particular activities and thus leaves open the option of ‘none’ – the Curial courts will point out that that is a completely legitimate outcome within the contract and so there’s no cause for action. Read more carefully next time.

So far as people who try to deliberately play the sneaky-weasel with this sort of thing – I refer you to my above comments about unenlightened self-interest and giant piles of burning reputational capital. Getting a reputation for doing this sort of thing without a damn good reason for so doing, preferably explained up-front, tends to rapidly leave a businesssoph without anyone to do business with…

Is it possible, even after the loss of a particular personality pattern in death, for a “close enough” pattern as to be effectively identical to the original person to be forensically reconstructed from secondhand sources (such as archived surveillance footage, life logs, individual cached memories and sense-experiences, and the like)?

Theoretically, you could make an eidolon (technical term for a mind-emulating AI based on memetic analysis) that would meet that standard – which is what makes them useful for modeling purposes – then uplift it to sophoncy; but in practice, “effectively identical” would require the kind of perfect information that you aren’t going to be able to reconstruct from the outside. The butterfly effect is in full play, minds being the chaotic systems they are, especially when you’re trying for sophont fidelity (which is much harder than just making a Kim Jong Un eidolon good enough for political modeling): you miss one insignificant-looking childhood incident in your reconstruction and it swings personality development off in a wildly different direction, sort of thing.

And it certainly wouldn’t qualify for legal purposes, since the internal structure of that kind of AI system doesn’t look anything like a bio-origin mind-state.

In split-brain scenarios, would each half of the brain be considered a separate, independent mind (regardless of whether or not they’re the same person) under Imperial law?

That depends. It’s not strictly speaking a binary state – and given the number of Fusions around of different topologies and making use of various kinds of gnostic nets, there is pretty extensive legality around this. The short answer is “it depends approximately on how much executive function is shared between the halves, much as identity depends on how much of the total mind-state is shared”.

Someone who has undergone a complete callosotomy is clearly manifesting distinct executive functions (after all, communication between the hemispheres is limited to a small number of subcortical pathways), and as such is likely to be regarded as two cohabiting individuals (forks of the pre-op self) by Imperial law.

And if they do eventually diverge into independent personalities (or originated as such upon the organism’s conception — say, if it began life as a single body with two separate brains with minimal cross-communication), what are the implications for contract law and property ownership?

That’s pretty much by standard rules. In the split-brain case, you’ve effectively forked, and those rules apply: property is jointly owned (with various default rules in re what is and is not individually alienable) and all forks are jointly and severally liable for the obligation of contracts until and unless they diverge.

In the polysapic (originating that way naturally) case, or the post-divergence case, they’re legally separate individuals who just happen to be walking around in the same ‘shell; ownership and contracts apply to them separately. That this sets up a large number of potential scenarios which are likely to be a pain in the ass to resolve should be sufficient incentive not to pursue this way of life unless both of you can coordinate really well with each other.

Could one mind ever possibly evict another?

Only if the other signed over his half of the legal title to the body to the one, which would probably be a really bad idea if he wasn’t planning to depart forthwith anyway.

Are there any particularly good examples of successful intentional communities in the Associated Worlds?

(Not including the Empire itself, even if it counts on a technicality; looking for more things on the smaller end of the scale.)

Oh, there’s lots of ’em, at least if you allow for a rather broader scope of purposes than the Wikipedia article would suggest. Within the Empire, the most successful example would be the metavillage or metahabitat phenomenon, which is exactly what it says on the tin – a village or hab designed specifically to appeal to people with common interests, and to memetically, architecturally, functionally, etc., synergize with those interests: a writer community will have large libraries, many coffee shops, plentiful sources of inspiration, and lots of quiet walks and nice places to sit and write, for example. A space enthusiast community might even have a community launchpad! And the lifestyle is spreading elsewhere, too.

There’s also the First Distributed Exclavine Republic, which again, is exactly what it says on the tin. Planned habitats designed to Imperial social norms scattered all over the Worlds. And then there’s the various monasteries, retreats, and the like of the Flamic church.

I haven’t a huge number documented elsewhere in the Worlds – and in any case wish to save the ones I have for spoiler-free future use – but there are a lot of them. Remember the Microstatic Commission and its thousands of tiny freeholds? Well, those tend to exist because of the ease of anyone with some idea they want to build a community around being able to launch a hab into some chunk of unclaimed space and set one up. They’re very popular ideas in this particular future, both affiliated with larger polities and entirely independent.


1. The obvious thing here being software EULAs and other such instruments which you don’t get to read before implicitly consenting to. The general reaction of a Curial court to that sort of thing is “haha no”.

2. Which is why the law does permit contracts – like, say, many of *here*’s credit card agreements – that permit one party to unilaterally alter the terms, provided you give your informed consent to them as per normal.

Granted, it is also widely held *there* that no-one capable of anything resembling functional cognition would ever sign such a thing, so it’s not like they show up very often.


Trope-a-Day: Backup Twin

Backup Twin: What you acquire when your incarnation insurer thought you were dead, but it turns out you weren’t.

(They do try very hard to not let this happen, but the trouble is, the more checking you do, the more time you get to stay dead for if you are, in fact, dead under difficult-to-ascertain circumstances rather than simply missing.

Choosing exactly where you want the balance between the risk of staying dead and the risk of acquiring a twin is one of those things you just have to do when you buy incarnation coverage.)

Trope-a-Day: Tastes Like Purple

Tastes Like Purple: Comes along with switching bodies and having sensory modalities available to you that aren’t part of your natural heritage. Until your mind and brain both adapt to the new information they’re receiving, you tend to spend some time staggering around babbling about how everything tastes like purple, looks like F sharp, and smells like orthogonality.

The other common situation in which it occurs (leaving aside dreamer’s honey and other fun recreations) is when an adult is fitted with a neural lace, rather than having one grow naturally. In the latter case, you see, it learns how to speak brain right along with the brain; in the former, it has to figure it out after the fact, which bedding-in process has results much like the above until everything’s bedded in properly.

Trope-a-Day: Twin Maker

Twin Maker: While teleportation doesn’t exist, mindcasting, forking, and reinstantiation, along with more exotic sophotechnology, can create much the same effects.  (Although, in mindcasting, the first step is to perform an orderly shutdown, because while you can happily transmit a static mind-state vector, transmitting a running one is a much more complicated procedure that requires special software and is in any case impractical over any distance long enough to invoke light-lag, since it’s kind of hard to think when half your brain is a couple of seconds away from the other half.)

But, by and large, no-one gives a crap, because the generally accepted answer to the philosophical conundra involved, in conformance with the established fact that souls are software objects, is pattern identity theory, and continuity of consciousness does not matter –  or as it’s put for the layman, if you think like you, and feel like you, and act like you, and remember being you, then you are you for all legal, practical, philosophical, and other purposes. Yes, even if there are now two of you, at least until you diverge.  Get over it, already.

Trope-a-Day: Resurrection Sickness

Resurrection Sickness: For the most part averted; being reinstantiated from a pre-mortem backup (or the use of a bug-out transmitter before actually becoming dead) leaves you with no memories of dying, since that never happened in your continuous timeline, and so it’s not there in your incrementing memory string to cause your PTSD, flashbacks, etc.

It’s even often averted in cases of actual post-mortem reinstantiations, whether from backup or from a read dead brain, because it’s possible to edit these things, and while remembering your death is occasionally useful (say, for the military purpose of remembering not to do whatever dumb thing you just did again), it’s more usually not the case, and why suffer through the consequences if you don’t have to?

Trope-a-Day: Only Mostly Dead

Only Mostly Dead: Slightly alive.

Namely, the state between corporeal death (what medical science, say today, calls “dead”), and the point at which your brain has decayed sufficiently that the very best scanning technology and interpolation can no longer reconstruct a mind-state sufficiently accurate to meet the legal definition of “close enough to you to be you” (information-theoretic death).

The degree to which I regret that prior usage prevents me from actually calling this state “only mostly dead” in-universe cannot possibly be overestimated.

Trope-a-Day: Loss of Identity

Loss of Identity: Given how often it’s done (see: Body Surf), everyone in a modern transsophont civilization is pretty clear that body-swapping doesn’t cause it.  The mind is not the plaything of the body – fundamentally, at least, even if it may distort the way it plays out.

Strictly speaking, say the Empire’s sophotechnologists, identity could be defined by the logos, the personality organization algorithm, alone.  It’s the unique, volitional, free-will-granting thing, after all – but that’s much the same standard as reincarnation might be said to use; sure, it’s the same soul, but when you throw away all the memories and personality…

Thus, for practical purposes, there are legal standards concerning exactly how much of the mass of archetypes, subpersonalities, personae, agents, talents, memes, memories, etc., etc., that make up the rest of the mind you can grossly edit or remove over how much time before you are no longer, in the eyes of the law and (practically speaking) everyone who knows you, the same person.  To avoid committing de jure cognicide on yourself, stay on this side of the line.

Trope-a-Day: Emergency Transformation

Emergency Transformation: This is another thing that tends to happen a lot – not so much for the Imperials themselves, who are used to changing bodies, and for that matter substrates – “at home I’m a humanoid; at work I’m a squidbot” –  like other people change suits, but as you might expect from people who do that, they do keep the appropriate scan-and-compile machinery around when a friend of theirs seems to be about to get dead, because, well, the standard medical treatment for that is to have your brain scanned, your mind-state compiled, and your selfness reinstantiated in another body equipped with proper universal noetic architecture.

This works about as well as you might imagine when you consider the number of people in the universe who remain fundamentally uncomfortable with the algorithmic view of mind (“souls are software objects”) even if they aren’t actual biochauvinists/carbon chauvinists, or who are concerned that some immaterial essence isn’t going along with the transfer, or some such.  And, of course, the Imperials are about as equipped to deal with this one as they are the Cloning Blues (“What sort of fucked-up society spreads memes like this around anyway?”) in the sense of not really having much empathy for any position quite so weird.

And there’s only so far slapping people upside the head with science will go.  Or explaining yet again that if you think you’re you, and remember being you, and act like you, then you are you to within all relevant standards of you-ness, ‘kay?  And, hey, you got immortality, light-speed-plus travel and optional superpowers out of this deal, so could you maybe stop whining for a minute and learn to enjoy not being dead already?

Yeah.  Like that.

Trope-a-Day: Easy Sex Change

Easy Sex Change: Reinstantiation (see Body Surf) into a body of the appropriate sex, if available, will do it instantly; meanwhile, if that’s not available or desirable, a day or two spent in a medical vat while the proteus nanomachines take you apart and reassemble you appropriately will do the job.  Neuter and hermaphrodite are, of course, also options.

Of course, this just changes physical sex.  Gender identity and sexual orientation are different matters – which are dealt with by appropriate editing (animus-anima remapping, et. al.) of the relevant regions of one’s mind-state vector to suit – a service usually offered by the same clinics that offer the physical change.

(See also: In Just Seven Days…)

Trope-a-Day: Death Is Not Permanent

Death Is Not Permanent: The entire purpose of the noetic backup and reinstantiation technology.  And given that people can keep redundant backups spread out across multiple star systems (a standard feature of your incarnation insurance), actually inflicting permadeath on someone is really damn hardDeath Is Less Expensive, too, since while keeping a clone-body of yourself on standby is a premium service, walking around in an off-the-rack body – or just living as an infomorph – while they grow you a new custom job is less so.

(It’s got a lot cheaper since the first people did it for, oh, a few billion esteyn.)

Destructive Scan

“This didn’t come off a noetic bridge.”

“Of course it — this is perfectly legiti –”

“Rule number one: don’t fib to your reincarnator. You’re handing me this soph’s mind-state. If you can trust me with that, you can tell me what I need to know to bring him back right.”

“No, it’s –”

And it’s right there in the file header – Mark III Aruaz & Qal Industrial Nanocrucible. And looking at the rest of this file with the eye of experience, I’d call this a partially trimmed dump of a chopped head you shoved in there when it was about, hm, three hours old and warm, or rather longer if you chilled it.  Am I close?”

“You don’t need to –”

“This is what happens when you need someone who knows what they’re talking about. This ain’t Honest Harí’s House of Headwrangling & Budget Resurrection, and those amateurs couldn’t turn this back into anything you’d see outside a petting zoo. So, shall we stop dancing and get down to business?”

Trope-a-Day: Cloning Gambit

Cloning Gambit: As mentioned under Mundane Utility, the Imperials routinely use their cloning, body-swapping and mental-editing-forking-merging technology to resolve problems as routine as being invited to two parties on the same night.  And the same technology is used to routinely reinstantiated anyone who dies, either from the record stored in the vector stack in their head, or from an earlier backup stored off-site.

In short, Cloning Gambits abound.

Trope-a-Day: Brain Uploading

Brain Uploading: Pervasive and universal, just about.  The Eldrae, after all, being naturally unaging, find the notion of accidental death rather unpleasant, and so took to this technological advancement with enthusiasm; and, as rabid technophiles, even more so once the other technologies it enables – reinstantiation, mindcasting, forking, gnostic overlays, etc. (unlike a lot of universes, there are no convenient laws preventing you from screwing around with mind-states in all the ways you might expect to be able to) – came along; and now are enthusiastically selling immortality to the entire rest of the Galaxy, or at least everyone they can reach.  (And, incidentally, considering governments that ban this sort of thing as, essentially, being morally, if not legally, guilty of the mass murder of everyone who dies in their jurisdiction and would have preferred not to; immortalists vs. ephemeralists is a major galactopolitical issue.)

To the point, in fact, that modern – and thus highly engineered – brains come with the technology (“noetic architecture”) for minds to hop in and out designed right in.

Also, this is how you reach the afterlife (see Deus Est Machina).

Trope-a-Day: Body Surf

Body Surf: Pretty much anyone can do this – even the pure biosapiences with the aid of some Very Large brain scanning technology – but since they can mostly only enter bodies they have brain ackles for, which mostly means “owned or rented”, reinstantiation isn’t the sort of problem that the more possession-type body surfers are.  And it’s also quite useful when you consider, well, how you don’t want to take your fragile meatbody with you when working construction on a framework hanging a couple of hundred miles over the solar photosphere, and you really don’t want to take your construction ‘shell home to the family.  Or, of course, when one of your bodies finds a way to get dead.


The nodes of the public notification channel had snapped back to full operation within milliseconds of the pinch going off, and geotags bloomed in carmine distress across the wreckage below.  She noted approvingly the grounded flitters upstream of the wrecks, their drivers already moving in with unpacked emergency kits, foamsteel spray to cap venting slush and LiME to break through stubborn wreckage.

”Put us down there,” she directed. ”Yeah, by the crush.” A StellEx freight wagon – it must have been near the center of the flux – had spun out and crashed, swatting a half-dozen flitters out of the sky on its way down. The ambulances accompanying them were falling behind, collecting the merely wounded from the trailing wreckage.

Leaping from the rescue flitter at a low hover, she landed at the run, waving her credentials – Cerí Oriane-ith-Meliane, revivifier – at the constabular sequester-claim, and shifted overlays to stack-pings and danger-warnings only. The first stack was nearby, a corpse hanging through the windscreen of a flitter’s front half, impaled on the shattered diamondoid. She reached for the neck, pulled it down, and slipped her pithing knife smoothly through dead flesh and photon-cable alike. With a twist, the gleaming walnut of the vector stack popped free.

She dropped it into the embag at her waist, then looked about for the next ping-tag. There, inside that wreck. A spray of LiME and a few heartbeats’ pause embrittled the thin metal of the hull, and a kick shattered it like glass.

Shit. It’s a live one. The man inside the shattered flitter was still breathing, though barely, eyes glazed with agony. She made the call in moments – near-full-body burns, unsalvageable – and pressed a hissing euthspray to his neck. And then, again, it was the pithing knife’s turn.

And on to the third…

Slowly Awakening


Who am I?  What am I?

Noetic reinstantiation is in progress.  Secondary noumenal systems and incrementing memory string load incomplete.  Please wait, avoiding intensive cogitative activity.

Sensations and images flicker through my consciousness: Warmth, brightness, color, rough textures, old aches, the taste of sweet fruit.  The feel of an organic body from within.  Eldrae.  I am — I was eldrae.

Running though the old stone-lanes as a child.  The feel of dog’s fur under my hands, and a poke from a cold, wet nose.  A double sunrise, clouds staining the sky green and red and gold.  Bathing in the hot mineral springs on Adírdis.  The scent of Calcíë’s hair —


Please hold all queries until incrementing memory string load is complete.  New associations may interfere with engram binding.

A golden liquor that tastes of smoke and stone.  Breakfast at a café near dome-edge, watching the ethane cascade down the water-ice cliff.  Laughing at our first attempt to learn to dance in microgravity.  Disassembling a plaser in a tearing hurry, while the room shakes around me.  The acrid smell of regolith as I take off my breather.

Confusion.  Running down a river of wine with a mass of fire in the shape of a woman while the cold-gas thrusters laughed in the methane sky…

Apologies.  Errors in the mnemonic merge-update process have produced engram cross-links.  Retrying.

Sipping wine in front of a roaring fire, my wife by my side.  Cold-gas thrusters hissing as we ride a boat down a river of oil, under the green-blue haze of Galíné’s sky.  The feeling of exasperation, my hands deep in the guts of the partly-upgraded house brain.  Walking in the garden, flowers bright red and purple against green-blue leaves, with the scent of rose and honey and old wood tickling my nose…

Incrementing memory string load complete.  Please claim your identity.

I am…

I am Elyse Adae-ith-Atridae isil-Cyprium-ith-Avalae Erinlochos, ion-Tiryn, iel-Airin, mis-Eliéra-en-Palar.

Dynamic mind-state analysis confirms mental integrity.
Am-I-Me service confirms continuity of identity; Identity Tribunal concurs.
Current mind-state backup transmitted to incarnation insurance provider.

Noetic reinstantiation complete; initiating corporal awareness.

For the first time since my death, blinking at the bright light on never-before-used retinas, I open my eyes.