More Questions: Security, Reputation Economy, Pattern Identity

Clearing the backlog a little again…

On “Securing Security“:

Specialist290: ‘I’m guessing, though, that in their own courts of law, the Imperials would view the refusal to voluntarily provide access to such a device as an aggravating circumstance in itself?’

Tony Harris: ‘If I’m reading Alastair’s posts right, Imperial society considers ones “stuff,” including one’s personal data, to be as much a part of one’s person as their own limbs.

The right to be to “secure in one’s own person and papers” (including data) is taken VASTLY more seriously in the Empire than anywhere on this planet.’

The latter, in a word.

Specifically, you retain that right unless they can actually indict you for something. A Curial court addressing a criminal matter can subpoena your data after arraignment, but then, it can also subpoena the contents of your brain, so that’s a relatively minor consideration. But you have to be indicted first on the basis of an actual case to answer – law enforcement does not get to go on fishing expeditions through your person, papers, and personalty in the course of an investigation if they can’t muster up the necessary burden of proof to indict you.

But even post-indictment or post-conviction: ordering third parties to create circumvention tools, as uncompensated takings of labor, even? That would violate their contractual obligations? That would weaken everyone‘s security and thereby punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty? No, no, no, a thousand times, NO.

(Legally speaking, though, the investigators can ask you for access to data, etc., and you can refuse to permit it. The law takes into account that people may have many reasons not to provide such access, and enjoins the courts that they may not consider such evidence, even circumstantial evidence, in favor of guilt, and the courts do so.

…that said, if it turns out later that the reason you refused to provide such access was to cover up someone else’s criminal act, then that’s sufficient to have just got yourself charged with misprision of felony, which in Imperial praxis covers the responsibility of everyone to report any crimes of which they are aware. But that’s a somewhat different issue.)

Also from Specialist290:

Given that the eldrae place immense importance on both everything having a quantifiable exchange value and every sophont having a strong reputation, have there been any groups that have tried to combine the two into a single mechanism (a la Cory Doctorow’s “whuffie”)?

A few undoubtedly have, but so far no-one’s solved the fundamental problem that reputational capital ain’t quite like financial capital: when you spend it, you still have it, or ought to, because obtaining something in exchange for niceness doesn’t make you a worse person while obtaining something in exchange for money does make you poorer. Since the economy isn’t actually post-scarcity, that so far being impossible, this makes those attempts prone to distressing outbreaks of volatility and “reputation runs”. Leaving aside the problem that reputation in different areas isn’t really comparable and may be assessed differently by different people when computing metascores, hence the proliferation of rep-nets and meta-rep-nets with different emphases.

The two are highly intertwingled, of course, with discounts and freebies and exclusive access, etc., offered to people with high appropriate rep , and even the odd case of the opposite (say, the Ephemeral Contract rep-net, used to penalize bad customers as well as bad customer service), but there’s not yet a pure reputation economy out of the experimental phase.

Less of a question and more just some thoughts on a comment, from Zarpaulus:

Your consciousness is only a small part of what makes you, you. How many of your decisions can you fully explain? How many actions do you perform automatically?

When you sleep your consciousness is on minimal power at many points but your subconscious is working the whole time. It’s like putting a computer on “sleep mode”, it’s still running, just with as little power as possible. Even comatose your brain is still functioning.

Maybe it might be more appropriate to say that consciousness isn’t an app, it’s the gestalt of everything your body is doing. There’s no separation of Mind and Body.

Frankly, the idea of “pattern continuity” stinks of Cartesian Dualism. And I thought Descartes’ philosophy sounded like “I can’t accept that the world would be so cruel otherwise, therefore God exists.”

I’m going to come right out and say it: The problem I have with dualism is pretty much matched by the problem I have with what I might call anti-dualism, except that alliteration is fun, so I’m going to call dualism-denial.

I mean, sure, there’s no Cartesian dualism. We’ve refuted that. There is no magical mindstuff, no nonphysical soul plugged into the pineal gland, none of that. The brain is not an antenna sticking into the cognitive realm. So far so good.

The problem is when people then assume that refutes all kinds of dualism, like property dualism or what I would call metalevel dualism, or informational dualism.

Which is to say: there is such a thing as a triangle, not just graphite marks on paper. The Pythagorean Theorem exists in a sense distinct from the molecular vibrations caused by someone expressing it. There are definable things called Microsoft Windows, or Word 2016, or ThatAwesomeNovel.docx that are distinguishable from the pattern of magnetic domains storing them. Likewise, there is a thing called a mind which is distinguishable from three pounds of neuron soup, even though – like all the others – it is expressed in the structure of the neuron soup. (Or of the magnetic domains, or of molecular vibrations, or of graphite marks.)

Specifically, it’s the abstract information encoded in them. Which can’t exist without a substrate, certainly, acknowledging physicalism this far, but is no more identical to that substrate than the concept of arithmetic is identical to a copy of Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992.

tl;dr Minds are concepts, information entities. I am my mind, a complex algorithm giving detailed instructions how to meMy brain is the physical instantiation/substrate of that algorithm. The rest of me is that brain’s vehicle, manipulators, and support system.

And pattern identity is no more than saying – well, if you image the hard drive of a computer, extracting all the encoded information, and copy that image onto new hardware (or even into a virtual machine) and then boot it up, and it behaves in exactly the same way and has the same stored data and is in all relevant ways indistinguishable from the original, then in every fundamental sense, it’s the same computer, innit?

Likewise, all copies of the same mind-algorithm are the same mind, ergo the same person. Selah.

(As for the consciousness argument: I’ve seen that a lot, mostly from people claiming that the studies showing that we initiate actions before our narrative thread of consciousness becomes aware of it somehow refutes free will. Which has always struck me as obvious nonsense, unless we’re assuming that the mind constitutes only those bits of it we can look at (from an internal point of view).

…which is to say, my spreadsheet solves mathematical problems. It isn’t not solving problems simply because it only shows me the final results. Likewise my mind – which is to say, I – am not not exercising volition simply because I only output the final result to the narrative-thread-of-consciousness display device.

It’s only a problem if you define “the mind” as “the conscious, self-reflective self and that alone“, but all that proves is that you can get nonsensical results if you pick a suitably silly definition to start with – which is why, to draw this lengthy digression back on topic, is why they reject continuity identity theory. Placing special emphasis on that one subroutine, the narrative thread of consciousness, is mistaking a part for the whole.)


The Fault, Dear Humans, Is Not In Our Tools, But In Ourselves

An interesting little article here from Charlie Stross (h/t Winchell Chung), concerning China’s new “credit score” system that incorporates all sorts of other social information and which looks to be shaping up into a horrendous mechanism of total social control, the way they’re using it.

This, of course, is relevant to our SFnal interests around here, seeing as the Empire, among other polities of the Worlds, is very much into the use of reputation networks and gamification for all sorts of purposes.

…of course, confronted with this sort of thing, the great and the good *there* pretty much shrug. Of course outworlder barbarians turn simple, benign technologies into grotesque engines of mass oppression! That’s what barbarians do, definitionally – what do you expect from korasmóníëdwelling madmen, hardwired for conformity and for seeing said conformity as a virtue, with no civilized sense of tratalmir ulkith? It certainly shouldn’t be that they’d use empowering technologies in rational, life-enhancing ways like us decent, civilized, letter-and-spirit-of-the-Contract-adherent folks.

In short: shit happens in the Periphery.


(It ruins their society-level rep score, though.)

Trope-a-Day: Mary Sue Topia

Mary Sue Topia: Well, of course. If you don’t want one of these (especially with regard to, say, No Poverty), what’s wrong with you? (And, for that matter and rather more smugly to say, if you don’t have one of these, you aren’t trying hard enough.)

Of course, the reason that it’s “a perfect society filled with perfect people” is that, well, it got that way by eliminating all the assholes. In the first place, they have neurosurgery for that these days, and considering that society is filled with incentives – like, say, the way that microtorts and the Ephemeral Contract rep-net will drive the cost of living of people who are dicks to service staff through the roof – not to be one, people go and have themselves fixed.

(And those who don’t want to do that generally find the local atmosphere intolerable enough to find their own way out.)

Trope-a-Day: Karma Meter

Karma Meter: Reputation networks are everywhere, functioning as effectively a public record, social network, and barometer of public opinion for everyone.  Of course, there’s not a particular standard of karma in use – they exist for all kinds of different groups and different themes – to steal an example I’ve used before, the Iniscail City Righteous Enforcers of Social Propriety and the Lechers of Iniscail aren’t exactly using the same metrics, never mind the special rep-nets for businessmen and scientists and celebrities and Fusions and drivers and every other interest group you can possibly imagine.

Swirl them all together – by professionals into meta-rep nets and by each individual who decides what matters to him and how it should be weighted – and everyone has their very own Karma Meter to measure everyone else by.

(A special note, here, should go to the Public Exclusions COG, which runs a private-sector kind of ostracism by looking for people whose aggregated/averaged cross-network meta-rep score falls below a threshold of public acceptability, and then offers them money to renounce their citizenship and depart forever.)


Multiple Jeopardy

AIÖ (IMPERIAL CORE) — The Watch Constabulary announced today the capture of more instances of Werg yilKorin hinAnkar, estrev and sole member of the Shrouded Suns Selfdom, a criminal syndicate based out of the Sivrin Freeworlds, notorious for their ventures in blacknet operations, infojacking, reputation gaming, identity fraud, loansharking, forknapping, brainspiking, genetheft, semislavery and sophont trafficking.

The three captured instances, Werg.1032, Werg.1033, and Werg.1120 were executed upon verification of identity, under the sentence of death passed against their lineal fork-ancestor, Werg.37, in 4982.  At the present time, the Constabulary estimates that 383 instances of yilKorin remain at large.


Amlia Larathyr-ith-Larathyr                          (net amalg. points: 22,384)


Very Reliable (+25 : Service Gate, ICC)
Complete 1,000 contracted jobs in sequence with highly positive recommendations from your counterparty.

Learn to Steer (x2) (-5 : Viëlle Skyway Association and Associated Rep-Nets)
10 people have given you a >1 drop while you were driving on manual.

Smokin’ Hot (+10 : Lechers of Iniscail and Associated Rep-Nets)
The Lechers of Iniscail appreciate you greatly.

Can’t Say Anything Nice (x4) (-10 : Metaconnectix, ICC, and DSP User-Rep Amalgam)
You’ve been banned from another memeweave?

Secret Achievement (+25)
You must be a member of this branch to view its private achievements.

It’s Cold Inside, Too (+10 : Stellar Express and Associated Rep-Nets)
50th interstellar voyage in cryostatic steerage class.

My Kind of World (+5 : Delphys Visitor’s Association)
Unlocked at: Delphys Interstellar Starport
First geosocial check-in on Delphys.

You Eat What You Are (+5 : Weird Freakin’ Achievements COG)
Unlocked at: Gianeth and Selves’
That’s five check-ins at an autophagy restaurant.  Guess you just love how you taste?

A Factual Opinion

Senator Glandyth Muetry-ith-Muetry (Imperium Bellipotent – 13th): “…let the record show therefore, gentlesophs, that my honorable colleague is an immitigable ass.  Furthermore –”

The colleague in question, Senator Arvenix Quendocius-ith-Quendocius (Assertive Benevolence – 142nd), moved to object, but was preempted by the President of the Senate.

President of the Senate: “Senator Muetry-ith-Muetry, I must ask you to withdraw that unparliamentary remark.”

Senator Glandyth Muetry-ith-Muetry: “On a point of order, Mr. President, I claim privilege for that remark under section XIV.4 of the Senate Rules, which states that true statements on matters of fact are always admissible.”

President of the Senate: “I do not see the applicability, Senator Muetry.”

Senator Glandyth Muetry-ith-Muetry: “If I may draw your and my honorable colleagues’ attention to the board, these are the reputation network scores of my honorable colleague, Senator Quendocius-ith-Quendocius.  As can clearly be seen from the ninth-percentile score in the Capital Consciousness rep score and the sixth-percentile score in the amalgamated courtesy rep score, my honorable colleague is clearly considered an ass by those citizen-shareholders with whom he has interacted recently – as a matter of recorded fact.”

“I withdraw, however, the ‘immitigable’, since I am unable to demonstrate it to the required degree, and for that I apologize to my honorable colleague.”

Various Senators rose and cheered; or rose and cried shame.

– Proceedings of the Senate, two years after the mainstream release of rep-net technology

Counterpoint: Tourism

My colleagues have spent most of this issue telling you all the conventional reasons why you ought to visit the Empire: the outstanding natural beauty, the many places of historical significance, the music, the food and wine culture, the chance to experience their literary, gaming, and entertainment culture up close, or even just to witness all the eccentricity on display.

I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t.

Firstly, it’s all so wretchedly anodyne. For a land notorious for its decadence – and it is decadent – it has all the bohemian credibility and counterculture of a consciously-designed theme park. Something about Imperial libertism has converted every imaginable vice from drug parlors to autophagy restaurants into friendly, commercial experiences that simultaneously defang the shock one might rightly feel at some, and robs the others of even the slightest frisson of transgressive pleasure.

Second, one of my colleagues mentioned, when discussing how safe the Empire is to visit thanks to its ubiquitous law enforcement, the to-be-avoided experience of collecting a half-dozen on-the-spot fines for littering on your first day there. Well, while the Imperial legal system is notoriously rigid, that’s not the true visiting-the-Empire experience. That would be discovering that due to the equally uncompromising use of reputation networks and the near-complete lack of any public-privacy or antidiscrimination laws, you’ve been deemed Officially Not Polite Enough to customer service staff and are paying 120% over market for everything.

Then there are the weapons. Yes, we know it’s just the local political climate – and incidentally, unless your idea of a pleasant holiday is a knock-down drag-out argument, don’t use that word or any of its derivatives; it’s almost reflexive – but everybody, everybody is carting a gun and probably a sword around, too! That they make a point of how low their rate of violent crime is compared to the Worlds’ average does not make this look any better; given that, why would well-adjusted people need to carry all that hardware around?

But most of all, it is the subtext of the entire experience. In small doses, it’s not so bad, but on any extended visit, the sheer flawlessness of the place starts to hurt the eye.

We all want to make our worlds better, our lives better, our selves better. But there’s a point beyond which further improvement is counterproductive.

And this point comes well before I start looking around desperately for any scrap of litter, any accumulated dirt, any stain, crack, or hole, any building – not acclaimed as historical – with some signs of wear on it, any traffic that’s not moving with exacting regularity, or just one single solitary person who is not one of the eldritch-beautiful people.

There’s no fuzziness to the Empire at all. No soft edges, no comforting blur, nothing that’s been permitted to be less than its idealization, and the result is a place that is profoundly disquieting for those of us from locales with more realistic expectations.

And if disliking that makes me an “entropist”, well, that’s why I won’t be going back.

– from the Empire-centric special edition of Worlds Traveler magazine

And Stay Out

Public Exclusions Citizen Oversight Group to Melqar Riffym, greetings.

Citizen-Shareholder Riffym,

We at the Public Exclusions COG have been monitoring your reputation and meta-reputation scores (underlying data provided by the Exuberance Monitor COG [link]) for some time now.  Are you aware, citizen-shareholder, that your amalgamated meta-reputation score is one of the lowest on current active record, at -10.337 on the normalized-logarithmic rating scale?

Chief contributors to this low amalgamated meta-rep score are your reputation scores with the Anteion Benevolent Circle (-10.412), with the Mer Dinévál Righteous Enforcers of Social Propriety (-10.543), with the Merchane Ethics Commission (-10.346), with Gallantry’s Garden (-10.912), and our analysts were particularly unimpressed by your score with the Dataweave Vituperation Index (-11.901).

To paraphrase, sir, you are a crooked, obnoxious, vituperative blight upon Imperial society and the Worlds in general, and under our commission from the Plurality, we would like to cordially invite you to be so elsewhere.

The sum of 125,000 esteyn has been placed in contractual sequester for you with the Seranth Merchancy Bank, these funds to be released on presentation of:

(a) formal documentation indicating that you have renounced your Imperial citizen-shareholdership;

(b) an operative smart-contract in which you agree to depart the Imperial territorial volume henceforth and agree not to re-enter the Imperial territorial volume for a period not less than 864 years;

(c) a transportation ticket valid for departure from the Imperial territorial volume.

As is our customary practice, details of our offer and the reasoning behind it has been posted to our public notification channel, which is made freely available for hortatory purposes.

Signed and authenticated,

Rienne Lyris-ith-Larynath Vévelestréy for and on behalf of

Public Exclusions COG