Trope-a-Day: Empty Shell

Empty Shell: A ‘shell running the Minimal Maintenance Architecture, as they do when no-one’s currently occupying them. It provides for maintaining autonomous functions, interfacing with the systems of a body hotel, diagnostics, and teleoperation, but little more.

Also, of course, createable in all the traditional and several non-traditional nasty ways by bad people.

(That Power, for example, that conducts research into the nondeterministic, paracausal aspects of the logos by running millions of simulations of the same events on captured mind-states, looking for variations, slowly stripping away fragments to find what makes the difference, until there’s not much more than one of these left. They may call its simulation spaces “death cubes”, but they’re really “helplessly wishing for death cubes”…

…fortunately, it’s an urban legend.



Trope-a-Day: Baleful Polymorph

Baleful Polymorph: While a transfer and not a polymorph, there are certain distinctly not-nice people who find it… amusing… to upload their captured enemies’ minds into, say, their tropical fish rather than just keep them in dead storage, if it turns out they might be useful later. Although, really, spending a lot of time in a fish tank is positively benevolent compared to some applications of perverted sophotechnology, if it comes to that.

On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)


Questions: Identity

Some identity questions from Specialist290:

We all know by now the contempt with which a good citizen-shareholder regards the continuity theory of identity,

For new readers not familiar with the Eldraeverse status quo and thus who might not know by now, the dominant theory of identity in the technologically advanced parts of the Worlds is Moravecian pattern identity theory, which the locals would sum up thus:

“‘I’ am the equivalence class of all sufficiently ‘me’-like processes.”

– Fundamentals of Sophotechnology

Continuity identity theory (i.e., that identity depends on continuity of consciousness) is by and large disdained because empiricism kicked it repeatedly in the head as neurology, cognitive science, and eventually noetics and sophotechnology developed. If none of sleep, comas natural and induced, major seizure disorders (which disrupt all electrical activity in the brain, personality and consciousness included), transcranial magnetic suspension of consciousness, or being cryonically frozen down to meatglass half a degree above absolute zero, then thawed out and woken up again break your continuity sufficiently to stop you being you… well, thus they refute it.

but as far as the consensus of those who give serious thought to such matters goes, how does mainstream Imperial philosophy view the other two extreme points on the personal identity triangle:

1. The idea that there is no such thing as a substantive, continuous identity at all, but only a series of momentary perceptions that are constantly destroyed and regenerated moment-to-moment, and that there is no identity that exists in “the present” because the brain can only compute events and perceptions that occurred in its subjective past; and

I suspect the mainstream view there is simply that it’s a category error – the equivalent of looking at a film and saying “there are only individual frames”, or looking at an object and saying “there is no object, all there are are atoms”. Or possibly looking at a drawing of a three-sided figure, and after observing the paper and the graphite marks on it, demanding to be shown which part of it the triangle is.

“Fix your reference frame”, in short.

2. The idea that the only necessary and sufficient cause for a sophont’s identity is the mechanism of sophonce itself, as all other possible determinants of a personality can be reproduced outside of a sophont mind, thus making the statement “There is only one numerically identical person, who is all sophonts in all places and at all times” true?

That one’s harder to refute inasmuch as no-one has yet – despite their best efforts – figured out how logoi (personality organization algorithms) actually work, even if they can grow them from seeds (at which point they tend to be unique). It is rendered even more complicated a question because logoi are non-deterministic algorithms, and executing a mathematically identical logos twice may and probably will produce different results.

(Here’s the really wacky thing. That’s not a property of the substrate. That’s a property of the mathematics. It doesn’t matter how you execute the logos or what you execute it on, certain operations will always produce non-deterministic results. Philosophers there tend to assume this is a product of whatever piece of fractal intricacy spawns volition and paracausality and other interestingly bizarre properties of the sophont mind, and then argue endlessly over the details because it turns out that describing it in noetic math is within delta of infinitely easier than explaining what it actually means.

Whether or not there is an identical mechanism for sophoncy buried inside all of them or not, and for that matter whether or not any of the things currently considered part of the logos can be reduced to conventional deterministic algorithms in the same way that the rest of the mind can, in the absence of Research Not Appearing In This Book, be left as an exercise for the late night dorm bull session of choice.)

That being said, the man on the street would probably point out that just because you can reproduce an alternator outside a car doesn’t mean that the car no longer includes the alternator… and a mind-state stripped all the way down to a logos won’t even run.

Additionally, are (or were) there any notable polities, creeds, or other associations that hold (or held) views close to these extremes in the Associated Worlds?

Not yet, canonically. Although I can see the latter spawning any number of wacky religious movements along the way.

(Continuity identity is probably the second most common – found among more backward civilizations, appealing as it does to pre-sophotech primitives because it matches their intuitions about how things work.)


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: Split Personality Merge

Split Personality Merge: Averted.  You don’t try and merge two minds (an operation routinely carried out to remerge forks) while they’re running, seriously.  This is a very complex operation carried out on static mind-states, and while there may be some conflicts in the resultant merged personality, there’s still only one person in there afterwards.

Vagaries of Thought

“…some of the greatest enthusiasm for p-zombies as a product, rather than as a concept, came from social science research – finding itself in a position to become an experimental science at long last, as the accessibility of entities which by definition behaved as if they were conscious sophonts without actually being conscious sophonts, to within multiple-nines fidelity, would permit them to run full societum simulations without running into the ethical constraints which dogged even small-scale, consensual experiments previously, and derive meaningful results from their study.

“That this is not a more common practice is the result of two principal factors:

“First, that the nondeterministic element in the mathematics of the logos, providing as it does a degree of paracausality in sophont action, far from being lost in the averaging of the remainder of the multiple-nines fidelity of the simulation, rather proved the trigger for chaotic clionomic excursions: it became apparent even in early studies that this paracausality often specifically manifested (or rather, in societum simulation, failed to manifest) in whenwheres of catalytic effect. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as the Cíëlle Vagary, consistently renders the most interesting simulations disjoint and predictively unuseful.

“Second, populations of p-zombies, even more so than singletons, are creepy as hell.”

– A History of Applied Sophotechnology,
Atania Cíëlle