Worldbuilding: Those Wacky Galians

A somewhat snarksome summary written for use elsewhere, which I repost here for general interest:

Theomachy of Galia

A polity controlled by and largely made up of religious fanatics, well-known for despising unbelievers, anyone they perceive as weak, the female of the species, any species1, and for some incomprehensible reason, “all that walks on six legs,” despite their homeworld being void of any hexapedes larger than insect-sized. Unpleasantly militant, ephemeralist, baseline-supremacist, slaveholders, possessors of not-at-all-secret plans to conquer the galaxy for their insufficiently-grovelled-before deity, etc., etc.

Also, in blissful and complete denial of the inability of fanaticism to compensate for technological inferiority, and of the way in which even fellow members of the Socionovist Association consider their outright fondling of the Villain Ball to be slightly less subtle than Snidely Whiplash2.


1. Even in cases such as the qucequql, which considering the qucequql male is little more than a non-sapient wrapper around a gamete packet, makes even less sense than the rest of their doctrine. Also, makes conversations at diplomatic dinner parties downright tedious.

2. Only without the sense of style or the awesome mustache.

February’s Patreon Questions

Without further ado:

If you should encounter a situation where you have, in good faith, undertaken an obligation that is not itself particularly onerous or ethically objectionable, yet you find yourself in a situation where you must either violate some third party’s rights or default on said obligation, what is your best course of action?

(Let’s say, for instance, you’ve taken on an obligation to deliver a particular package to a particular place at a particular time, but in order to do so, you have to pass through a Gate of some sort — and the Gatekeeper is not willing to negotiate passage or pass along the message.)

Well, then you’re screwed, aren’t you?

Your best and indeed only course of action is to suck it up, pay the compensation, and take the rep hit assessed for an involuntary default. (After all, at least it is an involuntary default, so while you’re screwed, you’re not totally screwed.)

That’ll hurt, but that’s what one might call a teachable moment in Why We Don’t make Unqualified Promises Of Things We Might Not Be Able To Deliver, savvy? Did y’all sleep through the day they taught impracticability clauses in contracts class?

I was recently reading an article on the Forbes website about self-driving cars and accident liability ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/omribenshahar/2016/09/22/should-carmakers-be-liable-when-a-self-driving-car-crashes/#7be8eec81f40 ) when a thought hit me that similar matters must come up all the time in the eldraeverse, given the ubiquity of nigh-seamless artificial intelligence .

Which leads me to ask: In an incident where a device that has enough self-agency to make decisions in a “live” environment but not the requisite self-awareness to qualify as a sophont ends up acting in a way that causes injury to person or property, what sort of standards and procedures do the courts of the Empire use to determine who bears the liability?

That depends entirely on who bears the fault, and to what proportionate degree, as is normal in liability cases that end up in front of the Curial courts.

Which, once all the logs from various systems and other applicable data have been collated, is something to be sorted out in court between – to stick with the self-driving car example – the odocorp (as the road and road-grid provider), the car manufacturer (and its software developers and/or wakeners), the car owner (and possibly their maintenance and/or customization provider), anyone else involved (since in the Empire road designs that mingle pedestrians and vehicles are considered Not Done, if you wander into the road and get hit by a car, it’s almost certainly on you), all of the above’s tort insurers, etc., etc.

This can occasionally be complicated, but fortunately the courts have lots of forensic failure engineers on hand for situations just like this.

 

Space Is Crowded… For Space

Something I was reminded of – by some of the comments here (…There Is Only Awesomeness) that suggest an assumption of ground combat as a default – is the surprising emptiness of space in many settings.

(I’m looking at you, Star Trek, where even the freakin’ capital of the Federation, Sol System itself, may have only one starship or even none at all present at any given time. Star Wars is usually better about this, but even then, there’s a lot less traffic than you might expect. And so on, and so forth and forth and forth.)

This is, needless to say, not the case in the Eldraeverse, in any reasonably developed star system.

Orbital space, in particular, is insanely crowded. (See the quote from Manna, here.) There’s the orbital defense grid, of course, but even leaving that aside, there are commsats, navsats, weather satellites (both monitoring and control), orbital mirrors, remote sensors of various kinds, space telescopes, junk sweepers, solar power satellites…

And then there are the orbital stations. Highports, research stations, orbital factories, skyfarms, residences (from city-sized habitats to personal mansions), skymalls, warehouses, control centers for some of the satellite constellations, data havens, propellant depots, autochandleries…

And all the OTVs, commuterspheres, satellite oilers, resupply skiffs, dock-n-snacks, and other small craft bustling about between them even before you get to regular traffic like orbital shuttles, tugs, commercial inbounds, commercial outbounds, the Watch Constabulary’s Orbit Guard…

Basically, near-planetary space is an ever-changing maze. And that’s true for pretty much every developed planet or moon in the system, to one degree or another.

That’d be bad enough if the universe worked on the kind of FTL where you can drop out of hyperspace close to planets. But since it doesn’t, then there’s the rest of the system, which isn’t by any means that crowded (it is, after all, much bigger), but which does still contain —

Long-range commsats and navsats, space weather satellites (and, close in, stellar husbandry arrays), bigger space telescopes, power-beam relays, drift stations (more farms, factories, habitations, etc., for people who like a little more distance), inhabited rocks likewise, transshipment stations for through traffic that doesn’t want to have to go downwell, smelterships, prospectors, rock pushers, comet herders, commercial traffic inbound and outbound, the Watch Constabulary’s Stellar Guard, stargates with their associated space traffic control and defense stations, more propellant depots and autochandleries…

…and, oh yes, the Imperial Navy, which in a valuable core system will mean an actual system garrison, but which even in a small, new colony will imply a system picket. With forward-deployed sensor platforms and AKVs thrown in, even by the minimal one-ship system picket.

All of whom are running their own local-space monitoring systems for space-traffic-control purposes, at least, and who are themselves being watched by SysCon’s own big track-everything-in-the-system arrays.

Which is to say, tl;dr, that your chances of making a successful approach from deep space to your target planet and making a successful landing without being detected are functionally zero, and your chances of doing it without being engaged are within delta of zero. To use an analogy, it’d be like trying to fly a Predator drone from mid-Atlantic and park it in the middle of the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare, past everyone in between, at the height of Thanksgiving traffic. Without being noticed.

Trying to do it with a viable planetary invasion force is like doing the same thing, except that instead of a Predator drone, you’re doing it with the battleship Iowa.

Which, to bring it back to comment-relevancy, means there ain’t no ground combat of any size without enough space battles to brute-force your way past that lot first, and there’s definitely no ground combat that the defenders don’t have all the time that they need to get set up for. Period.

 

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.

A Question Grab-Bag

Clearing the decks on a scale that is large…

So after many back-and-forth sessions involving questions and answers, I’ve gotten the impression that in eldraeic morals and ethics, there’s essentially a continuum with “coercion” at one end, “ideal enlightened self-interest” at the other, and in between a fairly broad space of behavior which, while certainly unpalatable to a large number of people, technically isn’t forbidden as such.

This might be a useful point at which to discuss the difference between ethics and morals in their terms, for which it would be useful to invoke RFC 2119 terminology.

Much like that, it’s a three-level system.

  • There are matters of the fundamental deontology, which are MUSTs and MUST NOTs;
  • There are matters of arêtaic ethics, which are SHOULDs and SHOULD NOTs;
  • And there are matters of morals, which are MAYs and MAY NOTs. (Well, sort of: in the sense that morals are personal and supererogatory rather than essential and obligatory, if you will.)

Such unpalatable behaviors generally fall into the second level.

It’s also rather apparent that the eldrae themselves (and other people like them) probably occupy the extreme high end when it comes to wisdom and foresight with all the technological powers they’ve essentially gifted themselves with. Among those powers comes, essentially, something that would come eerily close to precognition to those not similarly gifted.

With that in mind, a few additional questions:

1. How do those who advocate the principle of non-coercion account for the fact that some people can better predict another’s most likely response to a particular stimulus better than the target themselves can, or have different willpower and self-control reserves?

By and large, on the former, they don’t feel the need to. Your consent is not vitiated by your merely being predictable. (If it was, it’s hard to see how dull people could be interacted with at all.)

On the latter…

2. In particular, what’s the eldraeic take on temptation? Obviously you’re ultimately responsible for your actions and yours alone, but is willfully, continually, and deliberately expose someone to a stimulus for your own ends while knowing that their indulgence may destroy them or end with them in an exploitable position — even if it only comes about “by their own free choice” on the surface according to a technicality — recognized as a form of coercion in and of itself?

…only if it’s a targeted superstimulus, such as something exceeding voluntary persuasion thresholds, or the sort of thing used by a certainty-level persuasive communicator, because those amount to ways and means of rooting your brainz.

Mere weakness of will is a personal defect, not a cause of action. You should work on that, or failing that, go see a psychedesigner and have that fixed.

(After all, you can always walk away. They have the freedom of speech, not the freedom to make people listen to them.)

3. Roughly where does the dividing line between “coercion” and “acceptable-if-pernicious exploitation of another’s flaws and failings” lie?

The bright line is very clear: it’s coercion if it violates the principle of consent, specifically, to quote:

No sophont may act upon the person or property of another, except through the other’s memetically-shared consent, in response to an action-correspondent memetically-shared request.

For legal-ethical purposes, a meme is considered a unit of information expressed through symbols: e.g., writing, speech, farspeech, infographics, Uniglyphics, or other symbols with a broadly published, specific meaning enshrined through law, contract, or long-standing custom, such as the knotted club or spacer’s marlinspike that identifies a brawler’s bar.

Imperial law distinguishes this, thus, from direct or indirect manipulation of another’s mind by mechanisms which do not pass through the cognition, ethical function, and self-awareness of their mind, and thus deprive them of the ability to act accordingly; this constituting choice-theft.

Imperial law further requires that the memetically-shared request correspond accurately to the action consented to, and therefore communicate the request properly to a reasonably informed listener; non-informed consent, in Imperial praxis, is no consent at all. Likewise, implicit consent, based on extrapolations of meaning and/or symbols whose meaning the reasonable person would not be aware of, is not considered valid.

…that sets the limits of MUST NOT. There are any number of things that you SHOULD NOT do that you can still theoretically persuade people to let you do (assuming they weren’t that bright, slept through Bad Ideas 101, ignored their pocket obligator software, and didn’t subscribe to any reputation networks) but this is the limit of MUST NOT.

To finally sum up this line of thought along with related ones raised elsewhere: Ignorance, inattention, uncompensated Dunning-Kreugerism, careful avoidance and/or bypassing of the mechanisms designed to cull bunco artists out of civilized society, et al. et seq. will let people determined to screw you, screw you.

Insofar as people think about this particular issue, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

On the grounds that anyone this careless about their talcoríëf is a walking disaster just waiting to happen any way you slice it, and therefore it’s better that it happens to them sooner rather than later, and consequently, on a larger scale and with more other parties involved.

…oh, one last side-note:

After all, full sanction only truly works against those who depend on others to supply their own essentials — and we are talking about a universe where, even if your support staff up and quits on you because you’re under sanction, you could (with enough resources, fabricators, and knowledge base at your disposal) simply replace them outright with self-forks, greenjacks, and non-sophont automatons that you own outright. And even full sanction amounts to little more than a mutual recognition of the status quo when you’re the one who owns the food, the ore stockpiles, the roads, the utilities, etc.

If being placed under sanction makes annoying, dysfunctional people wrap themselves up into a tiny little autarkic bubble where they can basically live off their existing capital so long as it lasts while playing happy-happy games with themselves and not bothering anyone else…

…that is a win for the social enforcement mechanism. You’ve taken your ball and gone home; hope you enjoy playing with yourself; don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

One: Do the eldrae have any sort of concepts analogous to “pay it forward”? Is stipulating that an obligation can be discharged not by direct compensation, but by instead performing the same or an analogous action for a future (and often unspecified) third-party beneficiary, something they recognize as valid? If so, how common (relatively speaking) are exchanges of this sort in the Imperial / Associated Worlds “contractual ecosystem”?

You can contract that, sure. (Under Imperial law. From aspects of various questions, I get the impression that you think that contract and other law across the Worlds is much more harmonized than it actually is: apart from the basics defined in the Accord on Trade which concentrate on letting different systems interface with each other, they can vary quite radically between polities, and thus choice of law is important. Certainly, a lot of entities from outside the Empire like to specify its law as their choice of law regardless, since it manages to be both flexible in definition and rigorous in application where contractual matters are concerned, but it’s by no means equivalent to a galactic standard.)

It’s considered quite useful, as a self-replicating means of having one’s will done, although the wise contractor will include some sort of appropriate termination condition and a smart-contract monitor, inasmuch as for the former, few things remain relevant indefinitely, and for the latter, one should remember that a party undefined at time of contract cannot enforce said open-ended contract, because they aren’t party to it yet.

I have no idea how common they might be; the contractual ecosystem is a seething mass of arbitrarily many arbitrarily defined types of contracts, so that would be nontrivially quantifiable even if I had a basis to quantify it. There are “some”.

Two: On a semi-related note, how common are (for lack of a better way of putting it) self-replicating contracts? Can a contract stipulate specific terms, conditions, and forms that are encouraged or prohibited when subcontracting part of the obligation out, including a recursive replication of the subcontracting restrictions clause itself? (To keep it short and sweet, can a contract essentially say “All subsidiary contracts made in pursuit of the terms of this contract must be devised according to the same format and with similar stipulations as this one”?)

Sure. That’s basically standard form for things like, say, non-disclosure clauses which you wish to bind not only your contractee but whoever they might contract with in the course of execution also. (Naturally, the more you bind the means, the less appealing your contract is to potential counterparties, but that’s a negotiated-reasonability issue that’s easy for reasonable sophs to work out between themselves.)

I also feel that I may save some time here by stating outright that the default answer to questions of the form “Can a contract…/…as valid?” is Yes for essentially anything that doesn’t directly contravene the Contract (or, by virtue of previous contract, the Charter). Exceptions to this are very rare indeed.

When it comes to saying things that need to be said but that you know the listener isn’t going to want to be hear, is it better to be polite or to be frank — inasmuch as there may be situations where adherence to the formal protocols of politeness may obscure the (real or perceived) urgency of your message?

Be polite. This is for two reasons:

First, the notion that you can’t be polite and frank/urgent at the same time is one of those products of having a tragically inadequate language, that doesn’t have evidentials and attitudinals and other features designed to convey exactly this sort of information.

Second, while not strictly true in a logical sense, it is heuristically true that rudeness is strongly correlated with poor argumentation and outright dark-side epistemology, and as such it is generally accepted throughout the Core Cultural Region that it is rarely worth listening to anyone who cannot comport themselves with appropriate propriety.

Which is not to say that you cannot be cutting, snarky, or indeed Sophisticated As Hell, as well as simply purveying unwanted truths, but the sophisticated part is not optional.

Does Imperial law have anything analogous to our “Son of Sam” laws?

No, principally because there’s never been a need. People who would otherwise be in a position to make money from publicizing their crime are generally either (a) too dead to do so, or (b) not prone to do so because they’ve been through meme rehab. Either way, it’s not been a significant issue.

The eldrae’s perspective on causes of action related to fraud and physical coercion have been expounded on at length, but what about mental and emotional coercion? Does Imperial law have anything analogous to “negligent” and/or “intentional infliction of emotional distress”?

No, for two reasons. The first is that what they might see as legitimate applications of our tort by that name are already covered. To use a couple of examples from Wikipedia’s article, there is “The common law tort of assault did not allow for liability when a threat of battery was not imminent,” a defect which the Imperial law’s tort of assault does not suffer from on at least two different grounds; and “An example of an act which might form the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress would be sending a letter to an individual falsely informing the person that a close family member had been killed in an accident,” something which there is illegal under the tort of falsification of information, and possibly a species of fraud. Other things might fall under, say, defamation, anharmonic indecency, etc., etc.

Those things that aren’t – i.e., don’t have an actual tortuous act at their core – well, they’re fluff. You don’t have a right not to be outraged, and you certainly don’t have a legal remedy for anything that isn’t unquestionably mala in se, not just mala in percipi.

A pair of somewhat related questions pertaining to the eldrae and their Blue and Orange Morality:

One: What would the eldrae think of the “seven deadly sins” and the corresponding “heavenly virtues” if they were introduced to them? Much has been said directly about their takes on pride and greed, and there’s plenty of indirect evidence for their probable takes on lust and sloth, but I’d be interested to see an in-depth treatment.

(I’m also curious as to whether they might actually see certain “opposed” virtue-vice pairs as actually being complementary, not conflicting.)

Well, let’s see. (And in short, obviously, because there would obviously *there* be a lot of written thought about such things, not all in agreement and suitable to ready summarization in a single in-depth blog post.)

First, it is perhaps worth listing the Nine Excellences, which are the closest equivalent to the virtues, although not all that close. These are: Unity (or self-integrity, perhaps); Honor (including within its scope the minor virtues of justice, truth, and clemency); Duty (including the minor virtues of liberality and tenacity); Courage; Harmony (including the minor virtues of beauty, courtesy, refinement, and the appreciation of excellence); Right Action; Liberty; and Dignity (including the minor virtues of pride, propriety, and temperance). There is no equivalent list for the vices; the Antithetical Heresies are manifold, inasmuch as there are always many more ways to be wrong than to be right, and in any case, are mere defects in the virtues. (As we’ve covered previously theologically speaking, evil, or Entropy, rather, has no essence of its own; it’s merely a distortion of a thing’s true essence.)

Second, it’s also worth mentioning a key philosophical note as expounded here: the empowering balance of passion and reason, talcoríëf and valxíjir, and the ideal encapsulated within, that of dispassionately and cold-mindedly choosing a course of action, and then carrying forth that action with absolute passion.

That done, let’s examine the sins in pairs with the virtues, as is often done:

Gluttony and Temperance: Now, temperance is also among the Nine Excellences, but with not quite the same meaning. After all, as the Word of Cinníäs puts it, “Lack is the greatest intemperance.” Ain’t nothing wrong with pleasure: eat, drink, be merry; sate yourself with all the world’s delights. These are the proper rewards of prosperity earned.

Temperance, if you ask the Prince of Wine, is defined as avoiding harming yourself or others (don’t be a mean drunk!), becoming a slave to addiction, or losing the proper joy in your pleasures. Abstemiousness for its own sake or for the sake of some notional “moderation” is pointless.

Greed and Charity: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge, has marked the upward surge of [sophontkind].”

– inevitable quotation at this point

Because, well, obviously. Greed and its handmaiden ambition are the spurs from which greatness and achievement in general come. Were it not for greed, desire, and ambition, people would still be living in caves and shitting in the woods. The Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, didn’t achieve its current exalted state by modest means through modest ends – it achieved it by the starkly rapacious pursuit of awesomeness.

Or, to put it as one of the more colorful books addressing the topic might:

“What do you get if you disdain greed an’ ambition? Bunch of jackasses sitting around on their planet flippin’ each other off, writin’ smug little tracts about the naturalness of mortality and the moral superiority of poverty, wastin’ perfectly good extropy while the future passes them by. Their home biospheres must be so embarrassed to give rise to such perfect, unadulterated wankers.”

– Fíërí Lariantinos,
author of Fuck Me, Would You Look At These Assholes?
(approximate translation)

Now, sure, greed may inspire some people to wrong actions various, but that’s not greed’s fault, now is it? There is pretty much no notion in the world that can’t inspire wrong actions if misunderstood, and people who turn to theft and fraud and suchlike are not wrong for being greedy, they’re doing greed wrong.

So far as the charity side of things is concerned? Imperials do not approve of charity in the traditional theological sense, inasmuch as that sense implies self-sacrifice (not a popular notion; you can buy things with yourself in their praxis, but it’s an unfortunate and unavoidable necessity to be avoided whenever possible, not a virtue!) and other aspects of Comtean altruism. And, indeed, the nearest local equivalent of the Parable of the Widow’s Mite ends with the lesson that it is unwise to give away that which you need to take care of yourself, and that the eikones do not expect it of you.

On the other hand, you will note liberality listed among the virtues of the Nine Excellences, and indeed, liberality, generosity, and open-handedness are very much considered laudable. On the gripping hand, they are also considered to form very much the complementary pair with greed, since one’s capacity to be generous depends very much on one’s capacity to generate. They are two virtues, therefore, best practiced in conjunction.

rarity-my-little-pony-friendship-is-magic-20570179-570-402

tl;dr Rarity is best moral exemplar.

Lust and Chastity: Yay, lust! (See gluttony for pleasure and greed for desire, basically.)

Well, okay. Imperials are also very keen on some aspects of chastity. Discretion, which is the excellences of Dignity and Harmony. Honesty in relationships, as elsewhere. Commitment. The bounds of one’s obligations.

But within the bounds of obligation, commitment, and discretion, it’d be a sad and sorry thing if there weren’t some lust, now wouldn’t it? This is one of those talcoríëf-valxíjir each-in-its-place scenarios.

Sloth and Diligence: Sloth is spiritual Entropy, period. Often, specifically, the Antithetical Heresy of the Deedless Cripple. That’s a terrible, terrible sin indeed.

As far as diligence goes, though, they would say that that doesn’t go far enough. Diligence is merely doing what one ought do. By contrast, the excellence of Right Action implies not only that one should do what one ought do, but one should also strive to do more. Being content to only do what one ought do is itself a minor kind of, well, slothfulness.

Wrath and Patience: The only sinfulness of wrath, an Imperial would say, is that if you haven’t had your neurochemistry properly adjusted, wrath makes you stupid. Typically in ways that cause one to strike the wrong target, cause collateral damage, wander off into evil areas like torturing your enemies to death or harming innocents to hurt them indirectly, and/or get your damnfool self killed.

But once you have cold-mindedly ensured that you have the right target and have done the proper strategic and tactical planning, then go ahead and strike down upon those who attempt to poison and destroy your brothers with great vengeance and furious anger, and other colorful metaphors. It is… appropriate. Empowering one for such unpleasant necessities is what wrath is for.

As for patience: this depends on the aspects involved. They are very keen on those aspects such as “Building a sense of peaceful stability and harmony rather than conflict, hostility, and antagonism; resolving issues and arguments respectfully, as opposed to resorting to anger and fighting,” where possible, as you can see from the Excellences. That’s just good positive-sum sense as well as virtue.

On the other hand, it’s not an absolute virtue. As they’d point out with regard to us specifically, he who turns the other cheek has to put up with a lot of… cheek, and one of our more common tragedy-of-the-commons social failure modes is the way that a lot of bullshit persists because no-one’s willing to call the perpetrators on it.

They also notably prefer the virtue of clemency over that of forgiveness/mercy, because indiscriminate mercy tends to leave a lot of enemies at your back, sharpening knives. Clemency is more discriminating. Also, and they are very clear on this, that means you get a second chance. Key word: a. You do not get an arbitrary series of nth chances, because just as nice is not cognate with weak, kind is not cognate with stupid.

Envy and Kindness: Not a whole lot to say here. They are against envy and pro kindness.

(They would go so far as to say that they’re a lot better at spotting envy, given how much our society reeks of it and even promotes it as virtue under another name, but that’s what one might call an implementation detail.)

Pride and Humility: Ah, yes, pride. Pride is a virtue, on the one hand, because self-awareness is a virtue, and pride is self-awareness of your own awesome. It is a virtue on the other hand, symmetrically, because it creates the ideal version of yourself that you are compelled by it to live up to. Mirror and goad in one.

Hubris, though, is not a virtue, being a way to lie to yourself and to others – but, one should note, it’s never hubris if you can back it up. (Nor is arrogance, per the excellences of Harmony and Dignity, although steering away from unconscious arrogance is a hard, hard task.)

But humility is not a virtue for the precise same reason. It amounts to telling yourself that you aren’t as good as you are – which is also lying to yourself and to others. (And if even you’re accurately humble, it amounts to a claim of “I’m afraid I kinda suck”, to which the universal response of your annoyed colleagues *there* is “Well, stop it!“)

(ObSophontology: This may play better for species with hierarchical instincts where a lack of humility in subordinates may be perceived as a threat to the position of the leader. In eldrae, the reaction is more likely to be that a lack of pride in colleagues may be perceived as a gap in the competence of the group.)

Two: Much has been said about how eldraeic morality looks distinctly alien from human eyes, and how ours would accordingly look deficient in theirs — but is there such a thing as “taking it too far” on the opposite end of the pendulum swing? How would the eldrae criticize those whose particular deviation is not (metaphorically) a famine, but rather a surfeit?

Not deficient. Different, yes, and often plain wrong, but that’s as often because of too much as too little. See temperance above, for example, or the moral weight that many human moral systems place on purity or authority.

As such, that critique is likely to be along the lines of:

“Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.”

(That was Aristotle in “Nicomachean Ethics”, but it would fit just as well in the mouth of any dozen Imperial ethical philosophers.)

(And on a related note, what’s the typical reaction to those from criticized cultures whose reaction is to take the criticism to heart in such a way that they end up becoming “more eldrae than the eldrae” (in the sense of perhaps-superficial aping of behavior without apparent understanding of the underpinning psychology)?)

“They understand. They do not comprehend.”

(I mean, technically that’s the Heresy of the Thoughtless Churl, but, to steal another quote, “The very young do not always do as they are told.” In this case, it’s childish zeal. They’ll grow up in time and with a good example.)

What is the general attitude towards the idea of the “Socratic gadfly” or the “Devil’s advocate” — those people who advance arguments for controversial and unpopular views and measures less to seriously advocate their implementation, and more to encourage interesting discussion and / or get people to seriously think about why they are committed to the things they believe and espouse?

Annoying, but useful.

(Useful enough that people have devised Socratic questioning-daemons to run on your personal mindware, mark you, but still. Even the Intellectual Integrity Movement can only impress people with Socrates’ utility and get them to respect and listen to him; they can’t make him loved.)

So does the Imperial legal system lean more towards adversarial or inquisitorial procedure?

On the one hand, you’ve mentioned before that every citizen is expected to be able to argue their own case on their own behalf, which may imply an adversarial element. On the other hand, the whole notion that legal judgments should always be based on clearly enumerated principles in a comprehensive legal code as opposed to having the judiciary effectively legislate through case law precedent is very much a civil law idea, and most civil-law judiciaries tend to favor inquisitorial procedure.

This is a case where drawing too-close analogies to Earthly practice is likely to lead one into error, especially as the two concepts are only bound together by historical accident.

To address the latter point first, bear in mind that the comprehensive legal code exists for one reason: namely, you can’t reasonably expect people to follow the law if they don’t know what it is, and that means that there has to be somewhere they can go and look it up.

But the original Imperial Codex of Law was written as a codification of the very-much common law-like codes originally generated during the Ungoverned Era. And more relevantly, while it can be added to by legislation, it is also added to by binding precedent in the traditional case law manner. But, since the ability for people to check what the law is is still necessary, and there’s a limit to how big a precedent search you can expect a layman to perform, every dodecentury a commission goes through the last 144 years worth of case law and transmogrifies it into statute law, such that the Codex remains definitive – and then new precedent starts building up again, and the process repeats.

Which on the whole may be closer to the common-law model, but ain’t exactly it.

As for the former, it hews closer to the inquisitorial model. The justices of a Curial court are empowered to investigate anything they please, and do so once the case has been presented. There is typically an Advocate for Innocence and an Advocate for Guilt, who concentrate on the case from that particular perspective, but both are first and foremost officers of the court, whose primary oath-sworn goal is to find the truth, and never to win the case for my client, as is the case for any other contracted advocates, for that matter. (Forgetting this is a very quick way to end up out of the bar and into the dock.)

So you can think of it as a common-law system with a mostly-inquisitorial procedure for short, but that’s not an entirely accurate picture.

Given the prevalence of space dwellers, sustainable closed habitats, sophisticated in situ resource harvesting techniques, and the quasi-magical Clarkean matter-energy cornucopias underpinning it all, are there any particularly notable groups that effectively make the on-the-go, take-your-home-with-you approach into their way of life? Are there any especially notable large-scale nomadic or itinerant movements, whether in the old sense of communities like the gypsy caravans or Central Asian steppe hordes, or the subculture-sense like the “RV lifestyle” or the traveling hippies whose home is their beat-up VW bus?

There are nomadic space travelers in canon, yes, including some entire species.

Speaking specifically for the eldrae, there are the Traveling Houses, who have embraced the on-the-go lifestyle since the Bronze Age-equivalent with various tech and scale updates as they go, and some of the Variosotec maintain their plains-dwelling nomadic heritage into the modern era, along with some other cultures…

…and that’s all I’m going to say about that for now, because I may/will want to do something with them in the future, and so am not going to spill the details in advance. 🙂

You know, after doing some thinking, it strikes me that, at times, there’s an awful fine line between qalasir and “pernicious irrationality” — fine enough to make me wonder if any outsiders have ever accused the Empire of practicing some form of doublethink by alternately exalting as a fundamental virtue and condemning as a fundamental vice the same thing under two different names.

And, if so, what the Empire’s philosophers and moralists response would look like.

“Category error.”

…approximately. I mean, that’s getting your supergoal drives and your volition dynamics all mixed up with your cognitive methodologies. Comparing whats, muches, and hows. You don’t want to do that. Nothing but confusion will ensure.

(Although there is a slight asymmetry inasmuch as while reason can’t tell you what to want, it can tell you what not to want. And yet.)

This may also be further illuminated by contemplation of the empowering paradox of passion and reason, as discussed above.

A few queries on language:

1. What is the Eldraeic language’s name for itself and its speakers?

The people are elen eldra informally, or el eldaratha more formally. (Which, as is traditional, means “the People”, or literally, “the thinking ones”.) The language, therefore, is el traeldra laranlír (“eldrae-type-of language”, where laranlír ‘s roots could be glossed “song-of-words”.)

2. Is there a central regulating body / “language academy” that mandates proper language use (whether formally or informally), or is the situation more like English where there’s simply a broad consensus with lots of room for variation? (Or, given the free-wheeling “emergent order” attitude the eldrae take to nearly everything else, is is sort of a mix of both?)

A mix of both.

The version published by the Keepers of the Language, themselves part of the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology, in turn part of the Eupraxic Collegium, is definitive. Of course, since they also train professional logotects, eonymics, and sphragists, it’s also innovative.

This doesn’t prevent unofficial linguistic innovation, of course, but at least it generally keeps it to innovation, and holds the line on meaning-degrading changes and other forms of linguistic entropy. Since, yes, emerging order and the professionals can’t predict all the innovation that is required, the Keepers include several departments whose function is to harvest unofficial linguistic innovations and roll them back into the next release of the canonical language.

3. Are there any particularly strong examples of fixed expressions or collocations in Eldraeic?

Yes.

(Not really equipped right now to pull some out randomly, but I know there are several seen in various back postings here.)

4. You’ve mentioned elsewhere that the language has a diverse array of honorifics. Are there any particularly common (or otherwise good-to-know, such as when addressing Their Divine Majesties or the local runer) ones beyond daryteir?

Leaving aside titles, a non-native speaker without special requirements probably should be prepared with respectful-address, to-a-professional-in-their-context, to-an-[Excellence|Exquisite|Perfect|Paragon], to-an-[exultant|praetor|runér], from-one-who-demands-by-right, from-one-who-acknowledges-fault, and to-one-whom-one-does-not-know.

If invited to anything out of the ordinary, ask the symposiarch. That’s what they’re there for.

5. Given the heavy focus on logic in constructing the language, how tolerant is Eldraeic of paraconsistent logic? (For that matter, how comfortable are Imperials and the eldrae themselves with paraconsistent logic in the general case?)

The language supports it as another tool in the auxiliary set.

(It’s only a tool, mind. It’s a way of handling lack-of-knowledge problems, since reality itself cannot be inconsistent, only incomplete.

And the general view of things is that multi-valued logics, especially probabilistic and specifically Bayes-descended logics have proven themselves a superior way of dealing with these problems, but there’s no particular objection to it. Unless you assert that it actually reflects reality, at least.)

On the subject of the Equality Concord, we know that they make heavy use of mind-state manipulation and memory redaction. But what level of self-awareness do the members have? Are there any members who are completely non-self-aware?

All the equalitarians are fully sophont. It wouldn’t be nearly as creepifying if it was just one of those bizarre p-zombie cults that crop up from time to time.

 

Author’s Note: Bad, Bad Word

As a side note, that cautionary dictionary entry, if anything, understates just how spectacularly insulting uljíra is, adjective-wise. But then, it was written by a non-native speaker of Eldraeic, even if a native speaker of the Trade dialect.

Its literal meaning is “choiceless1” – and not so due to external forces. Jír, recall, is the root of jírileth, with its important literal meaning.

That’s right up there with “Defaulter” in terms of Things To Say To An Imperial That Will Result In The Coroner Declaring Your Ensuing Death A Suicide.

1. And you can consider that in the context of that certain old saying daráv xíjirár; jaqef vigínár: a sophont chooses, a servile complies.

On The Relationship Between Transcend and Transcendi

Kicking this one uphill from a comment to an actual post, since it may clarify matters for any other readers, too, with questions in this area:

Okay. Let me try this again.

All minds, as defined in the ‘verse, are Minskian societies of mind, masses of independently running agents on a shared substrate, from which consciousness, volition, and all other mental properties emerge. (“The Country of the Mind” in Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels would be a good symbolic representation.)

This, for example, is how technologies like the gnostic overlay work; by patching some new voices into the chorus.

The Transcendent soul-shard (hence its technical name, logos bridge) serves as a bridge between two societies of mind, carrying messages back and forth, allowing both the participation of the constitutional’s agents in the Transcend’s mentality and the participation of some of the Transcend’s agents in the constitutional’s. This blurs the strict lines of identity, arguably, but it’s not a complete subsumption of identity such as occurs on joining a Fusion; rather, every time a new constitutional Transcends, both they and It become somewhat different people in various ways, wedded together most intimately, but they don’t achieve identity of identity.

(Incidentally, as I think I mentioned in a 2012 piece, the main reason the Transcend keeps an economy and a governance around, is that they work. Sure, technically, you could replace market coordination with coordination mediated through coadjutors and Transcendent oversouls, but because of that mathematical theorem that demonstrates that even a hypothetical Omniscient Calculator could only at best equal the performance of a free market, not beat it, you’d have nothing to gain except wasted cycles and the lack of a convenient interface to the rest of the universe. Similar logic applies to various other applications.

Basically, you don’t send an oversoul to do a simpler instrumentality’s job.)