Eldraeic Words of the Day: Talisqor, Aelvaqor, and Alathqor

talisqor: (from talis “truth” + qori case tag: standard): the perspective of truth; objectivity, science, and mathematics; reality-as-it-is; existence; history; positive claims.

aelvaqor: (from aelva “beauty” + qori case tag: standard): the perspective of beauty; ambijectivity, art, and the numinous; reality-as-it-ought-be; creation; mythology; normative claims.

alathqor: (from alath “wisdom” + qori case tag: standard): the perspective of wisdom, that attained by the simultaneous affirmation of both talisqor and aelvaqor in fullness, dwelling in the eye of the paradox; see also tarev i-alathqor, “the task of wisdom’s perspective”, the Flamic challenge to bring about the perfect marriage of the two in an unflawed universe, the March of the Flame Against the Fall of Night.

(I must at this point acknowledge a great debt to Scott Alexander and his own worldbuilding project, Raikoth; those familiar with it or his blog posts about it on Slate Star Codex will no doubt have felt a sense of familiarity on reading the words above. The ideas expressed in that particular link helped greatly to clarify some ideas on the shape of the Imperial noösphere I’d been kicking around for a long time without fully congealing, arising from my own ruminations and various inspirations – notably, for one, Pratchett’s Hogfather – so all credit where it is due.)

The MBTI Lens

It occurred to me that I hadn’t posted on this specifically before, and it might be interesting to those of you who might be interested in the construction equipment behind the curtain.

Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types? Well, if not, you might want to become familiar with them before you continue with this post, ’cause otherwise it will make no sense.

Take a look at this table which shows the frequencies with which the various personality types appear in the (human, Earthling, American) population:

mbtiNow, consider that we live in a world built by the standards of and for, to a large extent, the majorities of Sensing types (73%) and Feeling types (60%). And specifically that the rarest group, the iNtuitive Thinking (“Rationals”) make up no more than 10% of the population.

Now invert it, and consider what a world would be like in which it’s the NT Rationals whose corner dominates the chart, and where the Intuitives and Thinkers are the more common functions seen in the other types, too1.

If it seems familiar to you after spending time reading here, that’s because this exercise was part of my original worldbuilding process.

(Disclaimer: the author is an INT[J|p].)

1. The world also caters more to Is than our very much built-for-Es in many ways, *there*, although that’s a subtler effect and one less reflected in the raw numbers.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Troubles

So I just scribbled down some notes on the physical representation of the exval, the Accord on Trade’s exchange currency:

Exval notes are denominated in powers of two, from 20 through 27. Of these, the 1 exval and 2 exval notes bear a line-work drawing of the seal of the Conclave of Galactic Polities, and a stylization of the opening paragraphs of the Accords, respectively, while the 128 exval note bears a similar line-work drawing of the Conclave Drift itself.

The five middle notes, however, the 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 exval notes bear designs representing and selected by the five Presidium powers, although in the same line-work style; and to avoid giving any sense of precedence or priority, which design is applied to which note is rotated for each printing, although the dominant background color is not. (The confusion this causes among visually-oriented users of the exval’s physical currency is widely considered an example, among libertists, of how politics prevents us from having nice things.)

…you can pretty much blame the Leagues for that, incidentally. (The Empire taking the position of “oh, ffs, give us the one, we know that we’re awesome and that this argument is petty”, the Photonic Network having no use at all for physical currency, and the Echelons, while not immune to the lure of this sort of thing, being quite prepared to chill at least to the point of abstaining.)

But the really big political argument at the time was in the League of Meridian, over whether they wanted the sixtyfour (the highest denomination, value- and hence status-wise) or the four (of which there are the most around and thus get your design seen, whereas the sixtyfour is about as rare in use as the $50, or maybe even the $100).

…at least it kept the Senate and Congress of the League Assembled out of trouble for a couple of weeks.


Eldraeic Word of the Day: Daríë

daríë: (a respectful title for) one whose accomplishments are known and admired, but do not extend to those of an Excellence or Exquisite; could reasonably be glossed “lord” or “lady” in the nominative (rare usage), and “ser” or “sera” in the vocative (common usage). In the modern era, with the obsolescence of the servile darëssef, functions as a general-purpose term of address for any sophont whose competence and worth is known or politely presumed.

from daráv (“person”), and íë (honorable affix).


A Note: On the Flames of Purification

This is a note providing some background on one of the traditional Imperial methods of execution, namely, the flames of purification (as described here) for an ongoing comment thread here (relevant part quoted below):

Let’s also not forget that the eldrae themselves have had a historical penchant for burning certain heinous offenders alive in a manner which was not itself a quick, easy, or painless death. This seems to imply that the concept isn’t quite as foreign to the eldraeic standards of sanity as it would appear at first blush — and thus that, in a sense, Imperial history itself was driven by the actions of certain creepy-ass psychotic motherfuckers, since they seemed to have no problems inflicting that on other people.

The relevant point here, though, is that the agony is not the point. And since every crime – and every wrong action – involves mens rea as well as actus reus, what the point is is very much the point.

It is, to use a comparable example, the intent that makes the difference between using flamethrowers to clear bunkers, destroy nanofog, and deny areas (acceptable under the Conventions of Civilized Warfare) and, say, using them to extract information or just to roast prisoners alive for the vengeance-lulz (very much not).

And what you’re looking at there was a theological error. As mentioned in its description, fire is a force that transforms (hence its use in cremation) and purifies. The purpose of the flames, like the name says, is to purify, as roasting ore burns away the dross and leaves the shining metal. That it happens to also hurt like hell is merely a side-effect, and not even a desirable side-effect.

(This isn’t, some sort of “suffering is good for the soul” notion; it’s merely applying cleansing force for desired effect. While unlikely that anyone particularly cared about the feelings of the certain heinous offenders in question, it should nevertheless be fairly easy to imagine various chymists and ktenologists of the early era in question attempting to compound non-euphoric analgesics of sufficient potency as to make it possible to immolate them without them actually feeling the pain of it – both because all that screaming has undesirable psychological effects on the euthanatrists who must carry the job out, and because it makes executions so dreadfully inelegant.)

Now, what might be a better example are certain early cases of judges indulging their taste for irony, say the flaying in Inisvaen in -43, or the documented practice of responding to say, cases of child or animal neglect with a crow’s cage for the sake of balance; to which they might well respond that few worldbound, uncontacted civilizations are fortunate enough to come into existence in a state of ethical perfection, and must learn by progress over time along a path paved with errors.

(Of course, if you have met other civilizations which do have their shit together, this excuse obviously no longer applies.)

As a side note, for those curious, the standard form of the death penalty for the non-especially heinous was a single sword thrust through the heart (delivered by a professional ktenologist), which was replaced with the firing squad when sufficiently reliable firearms had been invented. (These methods being selected as suitably quick and surgical, while also allowing the condemned the courtesy of meeting their death on their feet and with whatever dignity they could muster, rather than being put to sleep like an ailing pet.)

If repentance is noted, or clemency due (and yet insufficient), the condemned may receive the opportunity to volunteer for “chains and pyres” – i.e., the chance to earn their honor back by volunteering for any of a range of adequately suicidal tasks, which can mean anything from joining the Legion of the Dead1 to becoming a sophont test subject – rather than a conventional execution, or at the least being offered a pistol with one shot and the chance to choose to do the right thing.

  1. Note: this isn’t one of those “succeed at your mission and receive a pardon” deals. If you are in the Legion of the Dead, it’s because you owe the Empire a life – you’re in the Legion to die, and the Legion will send you somewhere where you can die usefully and with honor. That’s what you’re getting: and if you qualify, that should suffice for you.

Eldraeic Word of the Day: Ulquordaëälathdar

ulquordaëälathdar: (lit. “impossible-knowledge-person”, derog.) Agnostic; (Flamic) an adherent to the Agnostic Heresy; one who holds that certain or all knowledge cannot be known, i.e., is intrinsically unknowable, rather than simply unknown, or circumstantially unknowable due to lack of necessary epistemic tools or cognitive capacity.

from ulquordaëlin (“impossible”, itself from ulquor, the degree quantifier of absolute absence, and daëlin “probability, chance”), alath (“knowledge”) and dar (“person”).


How Much Future?

I’ve recently been asked elsewhere, “how far into the future is your setting?”

Well, since it’s not connected causally to Earth, even fictional Earths, and technological development in the ‘verse didn’t necessarily take place in the same order or at the same rate as it did here, that’s a mite hard to say.

Let’s have a go, though. As a start, I’ll reprint the foreword I wrote for The Core War and Other Stories, explaining the eras of Imperial history as the local historians would divide them up:

Era of Hand and Fire (prehistory – 0)
Defining technologies: none.

To a certain extent, designating everything before the year 0 part of the Era of Hand and Fire, that period without particularly notable defining technologies, is misleading. On Eliéra, the term refers to everything pre-Imperial, from the Empire’s own precursor nations back through the Ungoverned Era and the Drowning of the People, through the time of the korásan, and extending into what little is known of the mythical era before the Winter of Nightmares (~ -14,500); however, there obviously exist elder races and Precursors in the galaxy with far older histories than this. (The historical specialists who study such things usually consider them separate subjects entirely from conventional history.)

Era of Brass and Chymistry (0 – ~720)
Defining technologies: clockwork automata (clanks); early chemistry.

The historical convention is to date the Era of Brass and Chymistry from the Empire’s founding year. Its seeds can be found earlier in various locations, especially in the smiths of Telírvess, the alchemists of Eume and Baryvekar, and the artisans of southern Selenaria. However, it is generally acknowledged that the opening and encouragement of free trade and transit by the Empire, as well as its encouragement of scholarship and progress, helped those seeds find fertile ground and grow.

Of particular note is the personal patronage and entrée to the Court of Courts given to a hitherto obscure Inisvaen natural philosopher, Sung Iliastren, later known as the Father of Science, by Empress Seledíë III Selequelios.

Era of Steel and Steam (~720 – ~1400)
Defining technologies: steam power; advanced metallurgy; Stannic cogitator.

The transition to the Era of Steel and Steam is dated at approximately 720, a compromise date between various competing inventors of different types of steam engine, and also notable for the recent publication of Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves’s Technepraxic, beginning a still influential philosophical movement espousing technology as an integral tool of sophont aspiration.

Electricity was known through much of the later part of this era, but received only intermittent attention; the Empire at the time was in the throes of the Middle Consolidation, and between this and industrial megaprojects such as the World Shafts, development concentrated on refining existing steam technology to its peak.

(Advancement to and through this era and the next may seem relatively slow; the reader should bear in mind the effect of the low and slow-growing eldraeic population on the overall rate of progress. In later eras, forward progress appears to slow once more, but this reflects rather the sheer breadth of research possible in the modern era, vis-à-vis the number of minds available to do it.)

Era of Captive Lightning (~1400 – 2050)
Defining technologies: electricity; electronic computers; robotics; industrial automation.

The approximate start of the Era of Captive Lightning begins with the breakout of electrical technology into common usage, starting with simple motors and illumination devices but developing relatively rapidly. Relay-driven computers, mere electrical imitations of the existing Stannic cogitators, soon were replaced by “electron plumbing” valve-based computers, replaced in turn by semiconductor electronics and then spintronic devices. Electrically-driven, electronically-controlled robots soon took over from the steam-driven, mechanical “clank” automata, and found new roles that the old machines were incapable of filling, permitting full industrial automation at last.

Era of Bit and Light (2050 – 2287)
Defining technologies: mature information technology; optronics; ubiquitous computing; intrasystem space travel.

While the defining technologies of the Era of Bit and Light were optronics, enabling hyper-fast photon-based computing devices, quantum computing, and a mature information technology, the era itself is dated from the flight of Phoenix Zero, the Spaceflight Initiative’s first manned orbital craft. Intrasystem space travel blossomed during this era, with the establishment of a first orbital space station followed quickly by more, colonies on Eliéra’s moons, and expansion into the rest of the system, including the first steps towards the ecopoesis of Talentar.

Era of the Genome (2287 – 2594)
Defining technologies: genetic engineering; wet nanotechnology; uplift.

Genetic engineering had been known for a long time prior to this era, but the application of optronics and quantum computing to genomics and proteomics permitted a rapid expansion of its capabilities. The genetic blossoming of the 2300s began with the first true neogenic organism – based entirely on novel genetic material – in 2287, and continued to produce advances in biological modifications, new species and adaptations, and wet nanotechnology based on biomimetic structures and systems throughout this era, up until the creation of the dar-bandal, the first true uplifts, just in time to be met by the first digisapiences.

Era of Mind and ‘Weave (2594 – 3016)
Defining technologies: artificial intelligence; mind-machine interfacing; noetics.

Artificial intelligence, again, had been applied as a discipline for centuries before the era defined by it. The Era of Mind and ‘Weave, rather, is defined specifically by the awakening of the first truly sophont artificial intelligence in 2594, an intelligence demonstrably possessing the same self-awareness, consciousness, and volition found in other sophonts. The same studies of sophotechnology, the technologies of the mind, produced revolutionary developments in mind-machine interfacing, in the ability to modify the sophont mind in various ways, and the ability to translate organic minds into digital form and transfer them easily between bodies and substrates.

Era of Diamond and Ice (3016 – 3922)
Defining technologies: dry nanotechnology; subluminal interstellar travel.

The Era of Diamond and Ice takes its name from two events: First, the Diamond Crash of 3016 that heralded the start of the era of dry nanotechnology, as carbon-organizers proved capable of manufacturing diamond in arbitrarily large quantities at almost no cost. Further developments in dry nanotechnology permitted the creation of various forms of makers and eventually the first true cornucopia machines, ushering in the start of the Prosperity.

Second, early in the era, Kasjan Lyris and his colleagues initiated the Deep Star program, sending subluminal colony ships (capable of only around one-third of the speed of light) to stars near the eldrae home system packed with equipment and colonists in cryonic freeze; a program which would lead to the foundation of the Thirteen Colonies and the first contact of the eldrae with an exotic species, the galari of Galáré.

Era of Starfall (3922 – 5014)
Defining technologies: stargates.

In 3922, the Era of Starfall began with Imogen Andracanth-ith-Andracanth’s invention of the stargate, permitting faster-than-light transit between the two halves of a stargate pair once they had been positioned. The first stargate pair developed was used to connect Eliéra with the nearest colony world, Víëlle, beginning the Reunification.

Shortly after the Reunification, and the introduction of the galari to the home Empire, Empress Eledíë II charted the Imperial Exploratory Service and awarded a generous charter to Ring Dynamics, ICC, with which the expansion process of the stargate plexus that has continued to the present day began.

Era of Bright Shadows (5014 – 5599)
Defining technologies: seed AI; the Transcend.

In 5014, the first crude seed AI, a digisapience capable of autoscience and autopotence, and thus recursively modifying itself to attain postsophont levels of intelligence, was demonstrated under laboratory conditions by an independent research group on Wynérias.

After various experiments and incidents demonstrated both the potential and the dangers of this technology, a plan was proposed and approved by general plebiscite for the layered, progressive implementation of the Eldraeic Transcend, which was implemented progressively over the next one hundred and fifty years, until the Transcend reached its full flowering on Calencail 12, 5175, ushering in the collective consciousness that would remain coextensive with the Empire from then on.

Current Era (5600 -)
Defining technologies: emergent ontotechnology.

Dated somewhat arbitrarily, for the moment, from 5600 – the year in which the Transcend moved its core operations into the specially-constructed Cirys swarm of Corícal Ailék – the current era is most marked by ongoing, seemingly never-ending efforts to maintain peace and nurture Order, Progress, and Liberty in the meta-civilization of the Associated Worlds, and the slow emergence of ontotechnological miracles from the loreworks of Transcend-aided philosophers, scientists, and engineers.

The Core War itself, at the time of writing the most recent event in – and therefore the present time of – the Worlds begins in the year 7122.

So, if we approximate it – well, leaving aside for a moment technological paths we never went down (clank automata, for example, or Stannic cogitators, which we most closely approximated with Babbage’s engines but never implemented at scale) we’re probably parallel to the mid-to-late Era of Captive Lightning; we have semiconductor electronics, but not spintronics, our information technology is growing up, and we might be in the early stages of ubiquitous computing. We have, of course, already been to the moon, but space travel in the ‘verse came late because of the quirky local gravity, so that alone isn’t enough to move us into the Era of Bit and Light. Meanwhile, we definitely don’t have the technologies or developments associated with the later part of that Era, or with the following Eras.

So that dates us sometime around their 1900-2000. Since at the latest date of writing it was roughly 7100, that’s 5100-5200 years ahead by their calendar; adjusting for year length, call it 4,700 T-years ahead, or so.

But there’s about eight kinds of handwave in that, so slap some very generous error bars on that figure.