Worldbuilding: Intellectual Integrity and Non-Utopia

So, in things to think about, let’s talk about intellectual integrity. Or, more specifically, let’s talk about a citation I’m taking from Paean to SMAC (Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri)’s discussion of the Intellectual Integrity technology, and specifically this:

That this is tied to a technology called Intellectual Integrity is quite intriguing, if one is willing to entertain the idea for a moment.  What would it mean for a society to have real intellectual integrity?  For one, people would be expected to follow their stated beliefs to wherever they led.  Unprincipled exceptions and an inability or unwillingness to correlate beliefs among different domains would be subject to social sanction.  Valid attempts to persuade would be expected to be based on solid argumentation, meaning that what passes for typical salesmanship nowadays would be considered a grave affront.  Probably something along the lines of punching someone in the face and stealing their money.

This is essentially the way Imperial society works, thanks to talcoríëf and the efforts of socio-intellectual movements past; there’s a very good reason why teir, typically glossed “honor”, has a lot more to say about self-integrity and intellectual integrity than a human take on its gloss would normally imply.

(Take advertising, for example: it has substantially less glitz – not zero, because you can make a valid and sound argument to someone that this product is awfully shiny and will be found pleasing by them, or that it concretely reflects their abstract values, but simply shrieking SEX! STATUS! MOOOORE SEEEEEX! at maximum volume fails utterly – avoids glossing over details, and in general is much more in-depth – for a product launch, you can pretty much expect interviews and Q&A with the design team regardless of what the product is – and personalized.

Meanwhile, the ongoing parade of SALE! SALE! SALE! tends not to happen, mostly because it’s not terribly effective on people who are (a) aware of hyperbolic discounting, and (b) cured hyperbolic discounting. And in general, if you’re in the Imperial market and trying to compete on price,  you’re doomed. Such price-based advertising as there is tends to consist of automated feeds to AI procurement agents.)

All of which is to say, in non-utopian terms, if you aren’t accustomed to maintaining a certain luminous clarity and consistency of thought, and you move there, you are going to be on the receiving end of certain social consequences. At best, that means spending a lot of time having all the cracks in your Weltanschauung poked into and levered apart by people first trying to understand, and then earnestly trying to help you with your philosophical problem.

At worst… well, self-inconsistent is no more a complement than unprincipled, which amounts to wilful self-inconsistency – or attempting to defend self-inconsistency – which latter has cast a black stain of ickiness over concepts like pragmatism or compromise, due to their frequent invocation to defend self-inconsistency. And let’s not even start on “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion!”, the responses to which are starkly unprintable1.

So, basically, if you don’t enjoy the cut and thrust of debate and/or staring unflinchingly at the consequences of your beliefs… don’t go, ’cause you won’t like it there.


Footnotes:

1. These responses will, eventually, concede that you do technically have, freedom of thought and all, the right to your own opinion however ludicrous and inconsistent it might be. However, they will go on to state, that does not include the right to be taken seriously, the right not to be mocked and shunned by all cognitively capable people, or the right not to be labeled the dumbest piece of crap that ever crawled out of Waste Reprocessing and evolved the power of speech all across the public reputation networks. Which is not defamatory, because it’s obviously true if you believe that.

Trope-a-Day: What You Are In The Dark

What You Are In The Dark: Teir (honor, in the Eldraeic sense) and the Code of Alphas are very, very clear on this point.  Honor is not face or reputation; they are not honor.  They are nice rewards for it, but you should throw them away unquestioningly if the necessity to choose between them comes up.  It doesn’t matter if no-one else will know; you can never escape knowing, and by knowing, being.  (And even if you redact your memory afterwards, you’ll always know that there’s something you couldn’t know.)

Trope-a-Day: Honor Before Reason

Honor Before Reason: While it has occasionally been claimed about the Empire (mostly by people who have more experience with I Gave My Word than with their Combat Pragmatism, which is more confusing that enlightening on that point), if you were to ask – or observe – an actual Imperial on that point, they would point out to you, and support with a small pile of ethical calculus, game theory, etc., that given a couple of preconditions, namely:

That your values are slightly more sophisticated than mere survival – and actually, quite a lot of the time even if they are only mere survival – or shameless backstabbing fuckery for its own sake;

And that your honor-code is well-developed and comprehensively thought through, honor being cognate to neither stupidity nor thar;

Then honor is reason, the apparent lack of practicality is functional if you take the time to look at the Big Picture and iterate, the apparent denial of a value may well satisfy a metavalue, and the entire question that the existence of this trope presupposes is invalid.  So.

(Of course, this still looks very much like playing it straight to people who are less, ah, willing to do whatever is necessary to abide by their extraordinarily valued principles/values/metavalues.  To plagiarize the applicable line from Dragon Age II, “What would the eldrae be without principle?  You, I expect.”)