Aug 312020
Imperial Femto Target Drone – A 1:9e74806 scale replica target drone created for highly efficient femto-scale wargames conducted within the Schwarzschild radius of a Planters Peanut shell.

At some point I stumbled on the term misanthropic humanitarian, or humanitarian misanthrope to describe my general sentiment towards humanity. I don’t think anyone would argue that I’m a misanthrope, but the humanitarian part might be more debatable. And misanthropy seems like it’s mutually exclusive to humanitarianism, but I actually think they can be complimentary.

I think my brand of misanthropy can be a basis for a kind of humanitarianism. Definitely not the same kind as actual good people that take risks and make sacrifices to help people, that’s a more applied humanitarianism that does actual good. This is a more theoretical framework that doesn’t help anyone but just arrogantly suggests that if we all thought this way the world would magically be a better place.

I’m not suggesting you have to be a full-on misanthrope to be a humanitarian, but I think some of the principles of misanthropy can be applied to humanitarian goals.

So I’m a misanthrope, what’s that mean? Basically it means that as a rule I don’t trust humans. Not as a species, not as a civilization, not even as individuals, and definitely not in large groups. Some of that is because I think the word ‘trust’ is too subjective to mean anything, but somehow it still feels right to say I just don’t trust humans. To me trust is just a weirdly sentimental way of measuring the accuracy with which you can predict or rely on a desired behavioral outcome, and by that definition, humans are very untrustworthy animals.

But trust has all this intent and value attached to it, and I don’t not trust humans because I think they’re all bad people or evil or any of that nonsense, it’s just because we’re incredibly complex and the more complex things become the more bizarrely unpredictable their behavior. And maybe I’m socially inept or whatever, but I’m talking about history here- sacrificing to sun gods, wars between incestuous ruling families and over religions, steam powered flat earther rockets 50 years after the moon landing, like 80% of the internet, this is humanity, just absolute batshit craziness on tap.

It’s partially biology. We’re mammals, and mammals are all pretty nuts, plus all life is nuts. Evolution works with what works, not with what makes sense or doesn’t suck. Humans are the product of what worked on Earth, and we do have some amazing advantages, but we’re just complicated animals, and even simple animals are nuts.

But we don’t really talk about trust with animals unless we’re anthropomorphizing them like with dogs. We describe wild animals as ‘unpredictable’ sometimes but I think we know intuitively they’re not, their nuttiness is within well established parameters so whether we say it or not it’s pretty easy to ‘trust’ animals, because we trust them to be animals. That’s really the only kind of trust that makes any sense to me. But if you just trust things to be what they are, then trust doesn’t mean anything, but I guess that’s kind of my point so, yeah…

But so I trust animals to be animals, and humans are animals, so why not trust humans to be humans? Well because like I just said- they’re animals. The human part is not a given. Humans are precariously built out of animals and if much of anything goes wrong with that construction what’s left is just the animal.

We accept this on a sort of medical level. From full-on lobotomies to Phineas Gage to meth-brain and just regular old dementia, it’s no secret that human minds can degrade into functionally different beings, sometimes to the point they are only human by biological standards. But those are the hard-core, obvious cases where the faculties necessary for doing human things are damaged so they just stop acting as much like a human.

But a lot of things can go wrong with people that are not really biological, and they continue to act exactly like humans. A sociopath is, for all intents and purposes, much better equipped to deal with the complexities of modern culture than someone burdened by empathy. They act more human than most humans, they’re good at it, but- I don’t think they’re really being all that human. Obviously that puts a judgement on what human means, so I’ll say I think ‘human’ is the part of ‘human animal’ that makes civilization together, and a sociopath doesn’t seem like they’re really using that part.

Our culture doesn’t really teach much about the human-animal duality of human nature, so people tend to think of human beings as atomic things, you’re born human and you die human, no matter how much of an animal or otherwise not a human you become along the way. So we may casually say a sociopath is an animal, but they really do get all the benefits of being a human being.

And for moral clarity we it’s probably best to say they’re all still human. It’s hard to argue the value of humans just saying all human life is sacred, full stop. And I think we can keep that value, but with a modified understanding that actually doing ‘being’ a human being is more than just being of the species homo sapien sapien.

Unfortunately the whole ‘human animal’ thing is pretty easy to run afoul of the whole ‘sanctify of human life’ thing, because where do you draw the line except by literal species without the danger of some people being labeled less than human life? I think the simple prevention is just don’t think of human being as a permanent state, but a potential, and give the whole species credit for the potential no matter what. That way you can say accurately when people are animals, but you can’t cross the line of treating them like animals because they have a body that has the potential to be human.

That said, I’m not saying ‘thou shalt not kill’ or anything. If people try to kill you, I think it’s acceptable to try to kill them right back. And there are some threats that cannot be neutralized any other way than permanently. But to me it’s a pretty simple rule- if you can neutralize a threat without death, do that, if not- stay alive. In simpler terms I can deal with a death penalty for a stranded colony with no means to effectively neutralize dangerous prisoners, but not in places with the means to build literal prison cities.

Also while I’m on the death penalty I’ll say I’ve actually come around to the position that there is a moral basis for a death penalty even in prosperous civilizations, but only for abuse of public power. To abuse public power is to undermine the basis of civilization. If someone tries to make you do something against your will, you have the right to fight them. But if they wield the power of the state, you may willingly, or unknowingly give up that right. So it seems fair that the price for wielding the power of submission is enhanced punishment for its misuse. I also think that this is the only case where capital punishment actually would be a deterrent. I don’t think violent psychopaths are pensive enough about mortality for a death penalty to really change their behavior, but I’d prefer anyone who assumed public power would be.

Sorry, I kind of accidentally then on purpose shoehorned my death penalty shpeil in there, but back to the thing…

So the gist is- I’m misanthropic because humans are animals, and animals are nuts, but I don’t not trust animals, and even though humans are sometimes animals they’re still humans and we can’t not treat them like humans, so what the hell am I talking about?

I’m just trying to get around to the point that to be a very effective humanitarian, especially at large scales, you have to recognize and account for the human animal. We’re weak, imminently corruptible, and intrinsically vain, but- we can help each other rise above it, and that’s kind of nice. Maybe misanthropy takes it too far, and brings the implication of disappointment or something, which goes against the point that this is about looking at the ‘human animal’ dispassionately, but I like the juxtaposition of misanthropic humanitarianism as a reminder that responsible compassion isn’t always snuggly.

It really helps when you need to look at humans as data. We are raw data, sucks to think of ourselves that way but we are, and that data is valuable. Humans actually are fairly predictable in large numbers. Being a little misanthropic can help you get over the fact that we’re just numbers, and being a little humanitarian can help you use your ability to get over our statistical predictability and use it to create beneficial outcomes for human beings.

When you want horses to do something, do you don’t moralize about it being the right thing to do, or why they should have done it. You create the conditions in which that horse will be most likely to do the thing you want them to do. There’s no judgement, just observation.

Of course you can create conditions that make the horse do it because it’s terrified not to, or because it associates it with a reward. Both can be called for in various circumstances. But most handlers tend to understand that horses are better to you when you’re better to them, but more importantly, they’re better when you create the conditions that are favorable to them being better.

Also just to be clear none of this is an argument for philosophical zombies. Everything feels, even sociopaths. I do think some meta-cognitivie capacity varies wildly between humans, but I don’t think that’s a critical defining factor of the human experience, it just can be. And again, it’s the potential to be human that grants the rights of humanity, so it doesn’t matter either way.

So that’s the main point I want to make about humanitarian misanthropy, the human-animal thing, but it actually goes a little further into cultural connections for me too. I don’t advocate this level of misanthropy for everyone, and it’s not as well coupled to humanitarianism, but I think the best way to avoid an us vs them mentality is to not be an us. 

The ‘them’ part is pretty hard to ignore. I see ‘them’ everywhere, but everytime I think I find an ‘us’, it turns out to be another them, or just a few of us with a bunch of them hanging around confusing things. So for expediency I’ve just taken to assuming there is no us. Or I guess I’ll qualify that by saying there is no ‘us’ beyond people you’re on a first-name basis with, and even there- people change.

There’s a lot of focus on human’s destructive tendency to identify ‘the other’ as the enemy, but I think the easily disprovable ‘us’ part is what creates the unfalsifiable ‘other’ part. But as many times as the ‘us’ is disproven, the ‘other’ remains compelling. Best way out, just be a ‘me’.

Sounds too lonely to be right though, right? Because humans are social creatures, etc… yeah, fine. I’m not saying you have to be a hermit over it. You can hang out with people, and like I said- people know actually know by the sound of their voice can be your ‘us’, just don’t join any clubs. That seems like a great rule to me. And by clubs I mean anything. Political parties, religions, ‘isms’ of any kind, maybe even fan clubs, but that’s a bit too literal. You speak for yourself on your own behalf and no one else’s, always and forever, and no one else can speak on your behalf by group association. Every club you join inherits some of your character and will, but you can’t control how other members use that association, so I consider it irresponsible to grant it.

Also the jackie gleason thing- won’t be a part of any club that would have me as a member. Great recognition of the paradox of self-standards. You should never meet your own standards, so if you meet someone elses, theirs aren’t as good as yours, but that’s not really a misanthropic humanitarian reasoning, just a good one.

Aug 192020

The Thinnys are a race of sentient membranes. They have an average area of 2 sq meters and a thickness of 1-1.5mm. They can flex tendons interconnected between about 64 anchor points allowing complex sinuous movements they use to locomote and manipulate their environment. Though exceptionally powerful for their mass, their planet’s extremely high gravity prevents Thinny’s from doing much besides sliding over one another to get around. It’s a weird existence even by alien standards.

Thinny’s photosynthesize most efficiently on their ‘top’ surface. The bottom surface is slightly rougher and provides more conduits to exchange materials with its surroundings. If a Thinny spends significant time photosynthesizing in a given area they leave a thin effluent mixture with a distinct impression of their tendons and anchor points, which are features distinct to each individual. It’s a bit like if everyone naturally pooped very distinguishable sculptures of their own face. It’s a poop faceprint.

In ancient Thinny history, some cultures celebrated the photosynthetic poop faceprint phenomenon. Revered figures poop faceprints were preserved and ornamented. Family crests were often combinations of ancestral poop faceprints. Thinny’s were even known to memorialize the leavings of other membrane based creatures they kept as pets and work animals.

The modern Thinny era rose from a scientific renaissance, which prioritized reason and discovery over tradition. Unfortunately it got a little out of hand and questioning tradition became a mandate such that pretty much anything anyone had done in the past that couldn’t be explicitly justified in modern terms was condemned. And so many beautifully decorated and historically revered poop prints were destroyed. Without poop prints constantly reminding them that poop exists, Thinny society became extremely reserved and bashful about poop faceprints, and photosynthetic pooping in general.

As Thinny science and technology progressed, the Thinny’s finally developed the ability to capture, reproduce and modify images from the world around them. Before long, someone figured out that if you take a photograph of a Thinny’s underside, crumple it a bit and splatter a bit of mud on it, it looks exactly like a giant steaming poop that is obviously from whatever Thinny they took the picture of. It’s pretty much a right of passage for a young Thinny to prank their loved ones, and not so loved ones by leaving fabricated poop faceprints around in this manner.

  • – –

The Nightticks Coalition consists of 8 colonies of microscopic, eusocial insect-like creatures that metabolize radioisotopes of hydrogen. They exist solely in a crater on an oblong asteroid at the edge of a lazy solar system. The eight colonies each control one of eight spires of frozen hydrogen that began condensing at the edges of eight hydrogen vents. The colonies occasionally cooperate, but mostly maintain a tense peace that lasts only as long as each colony maintains homeostasis with its own population and its slow accumulation of deuterium and tritium. The insects themselves are not sentient, but the vast numbers of specialized individual creatures working in concert form a functioning, though primitive awareness.

The Nighttick colony minds each recognize the others as separate creatures, though they can and do exchange individual creatures for a variety of reasons including accident, altruism, sabotage, and mutually beneficial exchange. The only Nighttick individuals that are never exchanged are the reaper caste. This caste is exclusively responsible for disposing of the bodies of other expired individuals, or more commonly disposing of them before they’ve expired, but have otherwise served their purpose.

The Nighttick colony minds have some methods of control over their constituent castes activities, but they are as much at the mercy of their colonies as a human mind is to its body. They do not control individual creatures any more than humans control individual cells, though they can influence larger scale movements and changes within their colony.

Reaper activity is largely involuntary, though the Nighttick colony minds must monitor and influence the reapers to sometimes reap other reapers when they become too numerous.

One reaper seen reaping another reaper is not particularly notable, as it could have been a natural death. But more than a few reapers reaping other reapers is a clear sign of poor hygiene and self maintenance.

Nighttick colony mind’s expression of laughter manifests as sympathetic thorax vibrations that members of the sensory and reproductive castes generate when the colony mind is amused. There’s not much to be amused about when you’re a meter tall stack of microscopic insects floating on a cold rock alone in space, so any time a squad of reapers runs out of a colony carrying a bunch of other reapers, you’re going to hear a lot of vibrating thoraxes.

— — —

AlphaFoamCube is both a planet and a person. It’s a unique planetary lifeform that developed from the interactions of dense layers of foam that cascade and sloth through and around the planet. Though from orbit it appears a common ice world, AlphaFoamCube is essentially a giant spherical bubble fountain with thermal geysers blasting rivers of foamy slop from the core into the atmosphere, constantly refreshing the surface with delightful bubbles. It is the universe’s only known example of self-sustaining bubble tectonics, and also the only known example of self-sustaining bubble biology.

AlphaFoamCube was first discovered to be a sentient life form when complex bubble flows entrapped and apparently played with a probe sent to examine it more closely. The probe remained functional while it was surfed around on bubble waves and tossed up into the air and even kept returning data as it was broken into even sections and juggled quite expertly.

It quickly became apparent that the planet itself was intelligent, and various means of communication were devised. AlphaFoamCube chose the name for itself to represent that it was the first of its kind, it was made of foam, and it aspired to grow and change. The name also represents the first three concepts that anyone was able to effectively translate from a planetary beings mind. Sequence and ordering, texture, and shapes, that’s about it for a long time. Not a great framework for conversation, but in terms of interspecies communication it was a cosmic achievement.

Shapes were a bit of a hang up in developing a communication framework. Alpha had developed its own sophisticated understanding of geometry and spatial relationships from its own observations, but anytime the concept of a sphere was approached, Alpha became difficult to understand. It would express nonsensical texture pattern combinations and intentionally disordered sequences. Alpha was systematically exposed to new concepts from other beings to allow it to make associations it could express to smaller minds.

Eventually it became clear that Alpha found spherical shapes to be intrinsically amusing. Free floating bubbles in Alpha’s world are temporarily disconnected from its foam mass and not subject to its direct control. They are the only things in its world that are not Alpha. Occasionally large formations of free floating bubbles can annoy Alpha and create minor discomforts by obscuring or distorting his senses. Relating Alpha’s senses to the usual animal features does neither any justice, but Alpha itself drew the connection between the annoyance of a mass of bubbles briefly distorting his senses with flatulence briefly overwhelming one’s sense of smell.

So turns out every time a linguist tried to talk to Alpha about spheres, it thought they wanted to know its opinion on farts, which it found amusing. The misunderstanding did create some friction when a linguist suggested AlphaFoamSphere would be a more appropriate name. The linguists had to develop a rudimentary imaging system to allow Alpha to visualize other beings to understand concepts related to their existence. But so far no one has had the heart to show Alpha a picture of itself from orbit.

Aug 182020

The study of intelligent life in the universe would be pretty dull if all the intelligent life in the universe was also rational life, but rational life isn’t really a thing, so no worries about the universe getting dull.

One of the most common things intelligent life does with intelligence, is come up with kind of brilliantly imaginative, but also batshit crazy and ultimately destructive explanations for how the hell everything got where it is and what it’s all about. Throughout the universe, mythology is all intelligence’s first and favorite pastime.

I’d like to say there is wisdom to be gained in studying myth. I’d like to say that they represent the universal phenomenon of minds being blown by the paradoxical confusion of being a finite being in an infinite universe. I’d like to say that the universality of myth gives us a way to relate to all minds, that the crushing recognition of our miniscule, futile lives begs for the soothing mercy of myth, that this is all good, and fine, and okay. But I don’t think that- I think myths are pointless. If they ever were good things, then that time has long passed by the time anybody knows what a myth is enough to study it as a myth. They’re kind of like a civilization’s equivalent to a bad dream where you know you’re in a dream but can’t wake up and you keep punching yourself in the face for some reason.

That said, myths exist, and they can be interesting, funny, sometimes thoughtful and even insightful, most importantly though, they’re never boring. So it’s fun to learn about other alien culture’s myths, especially the big ones about where life came from and what happens after it.

Humans might be surprised that a large majority of intelligent life believes in some form of altered-state psycho-genesis. That is to say- most aliens believe the universe was created by and\or is a cosmic mind experiencing some kind of trip.

Humans in general are shockingly prudish about altered mental states. Even Terence Mckenna would be considered a little reserved about mental states by universal or even galactic standards. 

A lot of it has to do with human physiology. We do sleep and dream, and have puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, but overall human experience of consciousness is a pretty constant flow over a lifetime. Aliens that evolved from species that pupate, go through multiple gender stages, or undergo radical hibernation cycles are far more common than the relatively smooth birth-growth-death cycle humans enjoy. These species develop much greater comfort levels with radical changes to their mental states for extended periods, even becoming different beings entirely. Subsequently a lot of alien cultures require very little justification for inducing or modifying mental states voluntarily for a range of purposes including recreation. On the universally relative scale of behaviors, getting completely blasted out of your mind for whatever reason you want is about as significant as most human cultures consider burping.

So turns out myths like the cosmos being the dream of a giant turtle are pretty standard issue, except the turtle is usually something else, and usually not dreaming, but hallucinating its balls off on some chemical or radiation or gravitational effect.

The best Earth analog might be The Dreaming in Aboriginal myths, but influencing culture at planetary scales and with expansive organizations that dwarf the Catholic Church.

The Cyloforms are an interesting example of altered-state psycho-genesis myth’s and its long term effects on an interplanetary culture. The Cyloforms are a colonial cellular species capable of collating the consciousnesses of up to a dozen individuals by carefully structured mingling of their cellular colonies. The co-experience of the conscious coupling can be changed dramatically by changing the physical patterns of their minglings. A small group may choose to integrate in a pattern that induces experiences of dispassionate communication of ideas, or they may integrate in a pattern that induces sharing extreme emotional drives.

This deep experience with conscious states beyond their own control generated a vast and sophisticated cultural belief system of loop-instantiated self-imagining cosmo-genesis. In the Cyloform belief system the universe quite literally continuously imagines itself into existence. Everything that exists in the universe is a construct of the imagination of something else in the universe. I imagine you, and you imagine me, and it doesn’t matter that I’m now and you’re later, neither of us can exist without the other. Scale that up to a whole universe full of creatures imagining each other and you’ve got the Cyloforms basic belief system.

As the Cyloforms species dominated its home planet this belief system primarily affected the Cyloforms worldview regarding other Cyloforms and indiginous planetary life. Traditions and rituals surrounding consumption of nutrition, colonial mitosis, and colonial dispersion respected the value of actively imagining the experiences of everything necessary for life. It was morally expected that a Cyloform should vividly imagine the entire lifecycle of creatures that it consumes, including being consumed. Since Cyloforms could mingle their consciousnesses, some individuals specialized in facilitating these important experiences. A Gontaform is Cyloform profession somewhere between a psychedelic chef, a spiritual guide, and a drill sergeant. From a coarse human perspective they were sloppy goo balls that mixed themselves with other sloppy goo balls to make the sloppy goo ball temporarily think they’re whatever the sloppy goo ball had for lunch. But in Cyloform culture they served the influential function of both supporting and enforcing adherence to tradition by creating experiences that the culture defined as beneficial or otherwise required.

The Gontaforms became a priestlike guild and eventually dictated experiential requirements that supported their own power base rather than conforming to anything resembling ancient Cyloform cosmo-genesis beliefs. In practice this meant they would selectively force undesirable or uncooperative Cyloform individuals and groups to undergo horrific experiences, while reserving enjoyable experiences as rewards for allies.

The Gontaform era came to a rather abrupt end with the introduction of ultrasonic cellular stimulation that could create rough, though satisfying alternatives to the experiences facilitated by direct Cyloform-to-Cyloform contact. The Gontaforms initially tried to embrace the technology, but were unable to control its dissemination and it quickly eroded their bases of power.

With ultrasonic stimulated experiences came greater experimentation and a period of explosive cultural growth and change, culminating in the development of entirely new understandings of physics that paved the way for the Cyloform expansion into space. Also they had a lot of advantages in their manned space program because they’re basically homogenous goo. They started sending people up on like the third test launch because why wouldn’t you if you could just pour yourself into a can on top of a rocket?

An interesting facet of Cyloform space exploration to a human observer might be that the Cyloforms never really asked the question ‘is their life on other planets’? Cyloforms had begun to imagine life on other planets as soon as they understood the uncountable lights in the sky suggested the existence of uncountable planets. And if they imagined it, it was out there.

There were some pretty heroically insane efforts to define how cosmo-genesis beliefs should be interpreted in the context of exploring a vast universe. Cyloform supremacy happened- something about Cyloforms being the only ones who really imagine anything, then it was only certain Cyloforms, then those Cyloforms killed each other over who was imagining who and eventually things settled back to more sustainable levels of stupid and crazy.

Modern spacefaring Cyloform civilization carries the remnants of their spiritual cosmo-genesis origins, and there are still radical sects here and there doing batshit nonsense in the name of imagining the universe so it doesn’t blink out existence or do something with robot snakes. But on the whole they’ve learned to use the abstract, unknowable aspects of loop-instantiated self-imagining cosmo-genesis as a loose spiritual inspiration and ignore assholes who say do this because I imagined the universe said so.

Though their brand of cosmo-genesis had its own equivalent expressions of terribleness, Cyloform beliefs avoided the usual pitfalls of afterlife myths. The acceptance of non-sequential imaginative dependence didn’t really inspire a question of what happens ‘after life’. It was assumed that your life might be being imagined by something that lived after you anyway. So even after your life, your life might still be being imaged. This seemed to satisfy their mortal curiosity to the extent they didn’t really bother with afterlife questions other species might consider philosophically irresistible.

Plenty of other alien species to get into afterlife myths though. There’s one that’s sort of like the Cyloforms where they think their life is a dream they dream in death, so they have some outrageous preservation rituals and amenities. But a lot of that is economic and nobody really believes it. Anyway I’ll do a more afterlife focused one in volume 2 maybe.

Aug 172020

Welcome back! You died, but you paid some hacks to cryogenically freeze your head and maybe body so you could be brought back to life after science cured death and whatever condition caused your death. And it worked! It worked just like you imagined it and you’re back! Welcome!

Just kidding- that didn’t happen. If you imagine anything like that happening you imagine wrong. If you’re dead, you’re still dead. If you paid someone to freeze you, you’re just a really expensive corpse of a really dumb person. But if that were the case, you’re actually still pretty lucky because there’s no version of you being dethawed in the future that wouldn’t be literally worse than the worst thing you can imagine.

The starting premise for this idea seems to be a vaguely imagined future that somehow values long dead humans enough to find a reason to dethaw and heal them. I want someone to really flesh that out for me. How does that all work? What does that society look like and what is their motivation to bring us back? Is there a contract to dethaw us out that someone is legally obligated to honor or is just out of the goodness of their heart? Are there not enough people in the future? Or maybe they want to interview us about historical events? None of that makes sense to me.

There is no legal framework for anything like that or any guarantee it would be enforceable by a future legal system, so that’s out the window. And I just can’t imagine people doing it just to be nice, plus I’m not sure it is nice. And if the future is depopulated or needs fresh genes or something they’d do a lot better to raid some sperm banks. Or just take your sperm or eggs without the ethical questions of costs of fully reviving you. Maybe we’re counting on being thawed out because of some antibodies in our blood they might need. I do like that sci-fi premise, but again why wouldn’t they just leave us in a coma and make us a blood farm? And I just can’t get over the vanity required to think the future cares enough about our personal opinions of the past to go to the trouble of reincarnating us.

I will concede if we found a frozen caveman that we could somehow thaw out and interact with, it would be pretty enticing. The problem with that comparison is that we would have something to learn from a caveman about their lifestyle because they hadn’t been writing and filming and tweeting about it with increasingly excruciating detail for the past 100 years. Also I think, or hope, scientists would see reincarnating an ancient human in modern times would be horrifying psychological torture for them and immoral as hell.

Okay, but maybe a descendent we’ve never met would want to thaw us out and provide the resources? I don’t know, I guess I can’t rule that one out because family can become a pretty bizarre institution. Still seems pretty far fetched to me but we’ll file that one under not totally implausible I guess.

But in general I wonder- if the level of technology is sufficient in the future to bring back frozen dead people, is there just not enough to do with that level of technology to benefit the living? Is the future bored, or so perfect they have to dig up old problems to solve?

And even if it was so trivial they could just flip a switch to bring us back- what’s next after they wake us up? We’re useless invalids in their society. Is there a retraining program they have set up to catch us up on maybe a century of human history and technological development? Again, why? Why would they do anything like that? 

What is our value to them, nostalgia for our ridiculous present? Doubtful. I think it’s probably way more likely the future would resent the past we came from and want nothing to do with the cultural baggage we’d inevitably bring into their world.

Oh but maybe we’re special, maybe we’re an Einstein or Tesla and they have a unique reason to want to meet us… idk, I guess I can’t rule that one out either but I think maybe the Vinn diagram of people of historical importance and people who think cryogenic preservation sounds like a good idea doesn’t really overlap.

Even in the delusionally optimistic scenario where we wake up in a world that even wants us there, the idea that we’d enjoy living in that world or have any chance of thriving in it is equally delusional. I’m sure a lot of people would like to believe they are superbly adaptable and open-minded enough to face whatever future they woke up in. And if I really think hard I can maybe think of a few people in history that were so far beyond their own time that they might make something resembling a functional transition to our world. But even that’s generous because I’m thinking of them in their prime, not after they died from something and got themselves frozen. I’d love to meet Nicola Tesla and he had a pretty progressive intellect. But if he got himself frozen after his death we’d have to cure his pidgeon obsessed dementia before we can even speak to him about viciously berating women about their looks. It’d be a long, unpleasant road for him before we can ask him what he thinks about string theory or something. It doesn’t even really make sense in the rare cases, but I guess I can’t rule it out entirely. Maybe Samuel Clemons could handle it, but then I can’t see a guy like that choosing it, so that’s the Vinn diagram thing again.

Anyway if there are humans that could stay sane through reincarnation and a century of cultural transition, they are exceedingly rare, I’m definitely not one, and anyone who thinks they are is very likely mistaken.

So I’m still waiting on any fully developed concept for how and why the future would even bother thawing us out, let alone how that could be a good thing. Actually that’s kind of a lie. I can think of a few reasons they’d bother. Actually without even trying I can think of a whole funhouse of nightmarish reasons they would bother.

So you’re a forgotten meat popsicle in a refrigerated warehouse somewhere. Maybe there’s a few pieces of paper defining who and what you are, and the conditions you were hoping to be revived in or whatever. Time passes, people die, paper gets lost, companies go out of business, assets get sold, you’re still a forgotten meat popsicle in a warehouse. One day someone actually figures out some interesting methods to revive dead human brains, but they are ethically unapproachable by mainstream medical research. But the animal trials were just so promising. So some Joseph Mengele wannabe sonnovabitch sets up shop in North Korea and buys a load of questionable assets from companies with embarrassing business models. Now you’re a forgotten meat popsicle in a shipping container headed to a research facility in North Korea.

I could get insanely graphic with this but I’m hoping that paints enough of a picture of where this is headed. In the best case you never actually experience the horrors that your revived flesh is put through, in worst case you may experience entirely new depths of suffering that a living human being could never experience because they could just die. So pretty much if you’re a straight up Cenobite Hellraiser level masochist looking to explore existential horror beyond mortality, then yeah, I guess go for it, cryogenic preservation might be a reasonable option for you. But unless that’s you, which it isn’t, you don’t want to risk a literal hell for a slim shot at being confused and alone in a future that doesn’t look anything like you’d imagined or hoped it would. 

So those are the main points I wanted to cover. The future has no motivation to thaw you out and treat you like a person at all, but it would still probably suck for you even if they did. Plus someone probably will have a motivation to thaw you out and treat you like meat, and that would suck way worse. So this is a general PSA- Don’t get cryogenically frozen. You’re already dead, that’s the hard part and you’re past it. Just stay dead, it can’t be that hard, cavemen have been doing it for thousands of years and they’re still fine with it.

Aug 162020

It’s always raining on rainworld. Also each drop of rain on rainworld is a world, so it’s a pretty good name for the place. Apparently it kind of rains inside some of the worlds in the rain on rainworld, but it’s not a russian doll thing, there’s no worlds inside the rain inside of rainworld rainworlds. There’s only the rainworld and its rainworlds, and their rain I guess, but that’s all, no more worlds.

And to be fair, calling each drop of rainworld rain a world is probably hyperbole, they’re more like terrariums, but calling them worlds sounds cooler. Then again if you go by that standard of ‘world’, you could say there might be worlds inside rainworld rainworlds rain. So maybe it’s best to just say rainworld has a unique planetary atmospheric ecological cycle that perpetually generates large, self-contained droplets filled with complex collections of life that experience their entire lives as they descend through the atmosphere.

The droplets form over long periods. The hyperdense atmosphere slowly churns condensation, aerosols, aerogels, and fine solids until a bathtub sized volume accumulates. It’s just large and dense enough to begin falling, ever so slowly, towards the bottom of the genesis cloud layers. Once through the dense upper layers it begins its terminal descent through the clearest layers of the atmosphere, towards the great slushy ocean below. It may take over 100 planetary cycles for a droplet to fall, but it can be a pretty exciting ride.

Each drop is infused with a mixture of biological materials from the genesis clouds. Once a drop falls through to clear air, the seeds and spores of life within it are exposed to radiation bands that signal it to grow.

It’s hard to say what constitutes an individual lifeform on rainworld. Each drop is essentially a unique biome by the time it begins its descent. The building blocks of life on rainworld developed to be far more interchangeable than Earth life. The evolutionary pressures on rainworld were not driven by reproduction of individual living units, but by the ability to return  biologically active material to the genesis cloud layer.

The slush ocean is too cold to support life, and the genesis cloud layer is too thick and dark to allow significant growth and development. Only in the fall through the clear layers allows the living structures within a drop to grow, mutate, and develop new molecular strategies to maximize use of the available thermal and radiative energy before crashing into the ocean below.

Upon crashing onto the semisolid ocean, the drop dissipates violently. Everything inside is torn and thrown as the heat from the drop flash vaporizes the frozen slush. In that violent moment, living structures created during the drops fall have only the thinnest chance to be carried aloft back towards the cloud layer.

The earliest stages of development were driven by simple physical forces. Only incredibly small or buoyant packages of living material made it back to the genesis clouds to be recombined into new drops. But over eons more complex structures developed, utilizing ever more sophisticated aerodynamic principles to improve the chances of returning biological material to the sky.

Life’s mindless brute force algorithm tried everything. The relentless biological lottery of rainworlds drops generated structures resembling balloons, kites, gliders, rotary and cold gas propulsion systems, even a catalyzed monopropellant bio-thruster akin to bombardier beetle. 

Eventually life’s mindless brute force algorithm tried things that led to structures that were not quite as mindless, but could actually think a bit. Thinking inside of a drop doesn’t sound like much of an advantage, but it didn’t have to be at first, it was just an unintended side effect of systems that evolved to generate more complex reproductive aerial structures. Some of the aerial reproductive structures had evolved active reactions to stimulus, which gave rise to sensation and eventually thought. 

As biological materials developed ever more sophisticated capabilities, the drops began to contain one, or many structures capable of thought, and eventually awareness. The thinking structures could be separate, or integrated, they may be aware of one another, or not, and if they are they may choose to cooperate, or to compete.

The thinking structures in the drops become so well integrated that some were able to understand the nature of their existence, and to take willful action based on that understanding.

At first they could only experience helpless finality, but some structures saw opportunities to improve their chances of returning material to the sky and developed tools and techniques that they employed as their final act. Those that were successful contributed the data for their thinking structures back to the genesis clouds, increasing the likelihood of another drop with thinking structures with similar inclinations.

Sometimes they tried to take a piece of their thinking structures back with them to somehow continue their experience of life, but this was never successful and generally considered a sign of mental illness by rainworld society.

Did I mention they had a society? Sort of- the thinking structures in drops developed enough awareness to recognize the reflection of themselves in the drops around them. A drop is able to communicate with drops in their immediate vicinity, and sort of micro-cultures develop in areas of dense rainfall, but they have very little means of preserving knowledge so their cultures are sort limited to a kind of oral tradition that is lost if it stops raining for a few minutes.

The latest development on rainworld is a new thinking structure that actually can preserve knowledge. Sort of a cellular punchcard mechanism that a living structure can include with its biological return package as a message to the next thinking structure that develops from its material. So far it’s mostly been used for weirdly depressing death notes but a few thinking structures have included their final observations watching other drops collide with the ocean, commenting that a properly designed mechanism could protect the drop, but use the vaporization of the ocean to propel the drop back into the sky, potentially preserving the thinking structure indefinitely.

Could get pretty interesting if they ever figure that out. Rainworld has fallen for a cosmic age, but should the rain ever learn to bounce, it will be the fall of rainworld.

Yeah- that was a stretch, I know. I really wanted to get to ‘The fall of rainworld’ with a kind of game of thrones tone somehow but that’s gonna have to do I think. I’m okay with it.

Aug 122020

Pin Bowling is a combination of pinball and bowling to make sort of a top-golf version of putt putt but for bowling. Like you’re in a giant pinball machine and you bowl into it. No flippers though, just one bowl. That’s the general idea but not like cartoonishly overdone or anything, something you could actually build. 

I’d really like to bowl like that myself, but designing and building the features seems like even more fun, but I’m not going to be organizing anything like this myself so I thought it would be fun enough to just describe how I imagine it all working.

So for the bowler the experience is that you go to a place that looks like a bowling alley, but inside is kind of a giant DIY pinball machine land. You have a line of short bowling alleyways like a usual place, but they’re only an shorter runway to the larger pinball arena. 

Maybe the alleys are arranged in a semi circle to direct all the bowls towards a larger center arena.

Anyway everyone basically bowls their ball into this giant pinball arena. Your ball is tracked by RFID so anytime you hit a doo-dad or spinny thing or whatever you get the points. The ball return is more or less a free-for-all, maybe just make 3 ball weights for simplicity since this isn’t really about skill, just goofy fun.

And maybe you bowl from each alley in sequence or you’re randomly assigned an alley so you get to try from different angles. Not sure if that matters. 

The arena is as variable as any pinball machine or putt putt course. You can go nuts with all kinds of themes and new and interesting displays and interactions. 

I’m talking ramps, loops, holes, tubes, every crazy rube goldberg device you’ve seen in a pinball machine or putt putt course, and hopefully more creative from there. So that’s the general idea of what the bowling experience would be like.

But in my mind the actual bowling experience is less than half the point of this whole thing.

The real fun is building it all, watching it get pummeled, fixing it, and building more things with what you learn. Of course you could hire a corporate goon squad to spec out some joyless consumer centric implementation of this and probably come away with a mediocre ROI that’s not worth the effort to people who only have coin operated imaginations.

But to me the arena presents a kind of rolling community DIY project. Could work a little bit like Mardi Gras or Christmas decorating competitions but instead of floats or lights people make the most interesting giant pinball mechanism they can. Pinewood derby, robot wars kind of stuff, but hands on for everyone. Not sure if that’s really a thing people are looking for these days, but seems like it would be fun.

There’s a lot of intersection of technological skills needed to design and build something that would work in this environment. It’s kind of a multidisciplinary challenge with some reasonably tough requirements, but very low consequences.

Let’s consider a simple bumper. You’ve got some wood working, graphic design and painting, maybe a little sculpture to make it visually interesting. Metal work for the frame and guards, maybe some welding but nothing critical. Electrical considerations for the lighting responses, sensors for scoring. Maybe sound but that could be centralized for the whole arena.

And that’s just a passive unit, others could include mechanical responses. Obviously want to reserve powerful mechanical forces for more skilled and experienced builders, but there’s an incremental range of opportunities. You can start people out building or upgrading bumper style objects and let them graduate the crazy pneumatic ball launchers. Designing and building a bumper would be a decent challenge for a high school shop club, and then they get to see how well it stands up to serious abuse.

And there’s some great integration challenges to make the whole thing work together in a way that keeps things fun for the players. Might be challenging, but I’m pretty sure I could figure out a basic system using standard wireless networking protocols. An extensible open source home automation system could be forked to develop an arena control system. 

On the arena side it’s pretty much an IOT electronics challenge that could be solved with a generous application of ESP’s and Raspberry Pi’s. You’ve got some WiFi and networking challenges to assemble all that into useful datastream. Servers for the inputs and controls, and some kind of UI’s. Of course that’s a criminal simplification of what would be a pretty complex system, but it’s all doable with reasonably cheap off the shelf gear and open source software. And I like that the whole thing could provide opportunities for about 90% of any curriculum you can think of’s final project from a junior high to graduate level, plus anyone else who just likes to make stuff.

Doesn’t have to be just pinball analogs either, could incorporate RC vehicles. Maybe have a full-contact mech bowling night where people do kind of like robot wars but it’s bowler vs robots and the robot just tries to survive being demolished, idk, maybe shouldn’t get too desensitized to that kind of thing in case machines become sentient. Any at some point it just becomes a big multipurpose DIY arena, but the pin bowling thing gives it a more definite personality and purpose, and maybe in some universe, a way to be a financially viable thing, but I’m not sure where that universe is. 

In this universe insurance and liability stuff probably makes this a non-starter, but idk – demolition derby exists, so there has to be a release or something. Or maybe just save this for that other universe. Seems like this would just confuse a lot people and mostly attract people for the smashing aspects. Fun to imagine though. Easiest thing would be if someone just made a VR pinball bowling game thing so at least I could do the bowling part, but I’d get bored with that after a few minutes and wish I could go build a real one and then laugh at myself because I’m way too lazy for all that, so maybe just writing about it is good.

Does need a better name though, open to suggestions. Pin bowling just sounds like a redundant way of saying bowling. Pin balling maybe? Idk- Whoever builds one gets to name it, until then I guess it’s just pin bowling.

Aug 112020

I should title this rise ‘from’ the planet of the naked mole rats, because this is abou how well suited the naked mole rat would be to create a society that would make way better spacefarers than we ever could. Not that they wouldn’t make a decent society on the planet but as I’ve already discussed elsewhere, planetary locked civilizations are the universes second class citizen.

If you’re unfamiliar with the naked mole rat, you’re in for a treat, this is a fun animal to know about.

Full disclosure, I haven’t done any credible research on mole rats or anything. I’ve just read about them a bit and remember some stuff. If any of the specific here are inaccurate, meh- pretty sure the point about them making good astronauts is just as meaningless regardless if this is accurate or not. But- as a rule I encourage people to never believe anything I say and check me on everything, and everyone else too.

So the name is pretty descriptive. Naked mole rats are rodents, they live underground and root around like moles, and they are militant nudists, or just don’t grow hair.

Naked mole rats are unique for being the only known eusocial mammal, meaning that like some insects, they have genetically distinct castes and only certain castes are reproductive. They’re sort of hive mammals with queens and workers and whatnot. They’re already closer to being the Borg than humans are even with all our gadgets.

I think eusocial species in general have tremendous advantages in creating civilizations due to their innate cohesion. Of course such a society might be a horrific dystopian nightmare to us, but the universe doesn’t care how you survive. At some point I may do a thing on the reasoning for why eusocial species are probably the dominant form of intelligent life in the universe but for now just know that’s what I think so I’m going to say some things based on that assumption.

I’ll get into more about the eusocial aspect as it pertains to mole rates in a minute, but let’s look at some of their other advantages first.

They have relatively long lifespans for small rodents. Longish lifespans seems like a critical necessity for civilization in general. But now that I said it I’m rethinking it because who knows what constitutes a ‘long’ lifespan in a universe of infinite possibility. Maybe a society of quantum fleas that die in 2 seconds could build a sophisticated culture that perseveres at cosmic timescales because they’re just really good at assimilating all the cultural knowledge in the first 100 ms to make the next 1900ms a very productive life.

So idk- maybe lifespan is so relative you can’t say ‘long’ means anything, but I’m still saying a longish lifespan is advantageous, even though I can’t really think of a meaningful metric for ‘long’, lets just say “ish” covers some environmental tuning variable that makes it mean something.

A big thing is that naked mole rats oxygen demands are incredibly flexible compared to other mammals respiration. They’ve evolved to deal with living underground, where oxygen may or may not be sufficient at any given time and place. They can switch to a whole different cellular respiration process that extends the time they can survive in low oxygen or high CO2. You’ll have to look up the biological mechanisms for yourself, but the gist is they have options that give them time to deal with an absence of oxygen before it kills them. 

Naked mole rats don’t itch apparently- they lack some protein or receptor or whatever and they don’t itch and don’t feel a lot of common pain sensations on their skin. Might be a double edged sword in some ways, but you can’t argue that it solves a lot of problems before they start.

Any species that goes to space is probably going to have to deal with very common periods of extreme discomfort. There are plenty of ways to get around the issue, but just not feeling a large majority of what causes immediate discomfort seems like a very effective solution. 

There’s a lot going on with their biochemistry that’s just a little different than most mammals in ways that were adapted for subterranean tunnel life, but seem to translate pretty directly to space tube life. Even humans seem to favor tubes in space, so seems like a species that was made for tubes would do even better with them.  

And they’re pretty accustomed to being tightly packed into small spaces because they live literally crawling on top of one another in underground hives. And that segueys us back into the unique advantages of naked mole rats being eusocial, really hope I’m saying that right.

Insects have the best known eusocial species, bees and ants being the most familiar examples. Insects in general do have some amazing advantages that could work for space, but so far we haven’t seen any examples of high order thinking from insects, so the eusocial thing may be useful, but maybe limited in scope without more capable individual units.

Naked mole rats aren’t exactly geniuses as they are, but they have a lot of the basic architecture of higher mammals so I don’t see why they couldn’t evolve greater mental capacity while retaining a lot of their advantages.

Humans as a species have been successful because we are Earth’s premier generalist species. We can do pretty much anything, pretty well, but not amazing. We can walk, run, jump, climb, crawl, swim, bite, stomp, grab, twist, pretty much everything every other animal can do, just not as well as any of them. Also we can digest a lot, but there are omnivores that put even humans to shame. The only thing we really do that’s genuinely amazing is distance running, bipedal locomotion is so efficient we can persistence hunt by basically jogging towards animals until they die of exhaustion. Of course it works best when you can carry water and that’s technology, but that’s what being a generalist lets you do.

Though being a generalist can be generally advantageous, you can never be quite as effective as a specialist in their specialty.

I’m compelled to mention a Heinlein quote about generalists here. He said:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

I’ve always liked that quote and I wholly agree with the sentiment regarding human beings. Though I’ve come to think the last bit might be a little unfair to insects, at least eusocial insects.

I think eusocial species are generally successful because they can be a little bit generalist as a species, while the individual castes carry the specializations.

Rodents in general might be Earth’s second most impressive generalists. They also do a lot of what every other animal does, just not nearly as well.

A eusocial rodent has the ability of a eusocial species to retain cooperative instincts while specializing genetically, but is adds the a generalist mammalian framework that those genetic specialities could be extended on.

Naked mole rats are a highly generalist species that can take advantage of specialization without necessarily losing their generalist capacity. Plus all the other stuff from being tunnel dwellers. Seems like a winner to me.

It does seem weird and unfair that little wrinkly pink dirt monsters would be such a perfect species for spaceflight. I don’t know what to tell birds- nature gave them a taste of space but they’d make terrible astronauts. And giraffe’s might have made great astronomers but their Mercury program would have been a horror show. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just trying to put together an all-star team of Earth life to represent Earth in space, because humans just aren’t cutting it.

Aug 102020

Congratulations on being selected as an alternate timeline research candidate. Your curiosity is what fuels humanity’s increasing understanding of what might have happened in the past, if other stuff had happened in the past. With your candidacy comes a responsibility to understand the deep ethical and moral considerations of timeline synthesis. Creating alternate timelines for the sole purpose of research is a dangerously godlike power that mankind definitely has no right to, but we have it, so we’ve created some guidelines. This is an introduction to the capabilities of timeline synthesis technology and ethical framework for creating synthetic timelines that conform to high quality scientific research standards and respect basic human decency as legally required.

Alternate timeline research has been made possible by a suite of time synthesis processes, but the core of technology is made possible by controlling the phenomenon of suspended xenon double beta decay. In practice, this technology allows the transfer of small volumes of mass from the present to arbitrary past timespace coordinates. This process creates a multiverse fracture that can be tracked by the quantum signature of the transferred mass. The present is unchanged because the mass only exists in the newly synthesized timeline. The mass can later be retrieved for analysis. Robust materials including equipment and some hardy microorganisms can be transferred, but the process is not survivable for complex organisms.

The earliest research missions involved passive recording devices which did little to alter the timelines they created. However, some of these devices were discovered in historical contexts where they made no sense, and became responsible for shaping worldwide religious and philosophical beliefs that made even less sense. It became clear that even seemingly inconsequential experiments require a thorough review for their potential to exacerbate human being’s fundamental irrationality.

The current state-of-the-art for timeline alteration includes extensive capabilities to modify the status of human civilization at nearly any point in the past. Surveillance, signal intelligence, and advanced robotics technologies allow application of precision manipulation of individual humans, geographic or social groups, selection by gnomic properties, or publically available information such as income. A recent mission successfully vaccinated all left-handed orphans against the bubonic plague, later resulting in a left-handed racial purification of Europe, confirming several long held hypotheses about the left-handed.

A well developed temporal analysis toolchain allows timeline synthesis researchers to concentrate on the desired modification and data analysis with few practical limitations.

The ethics of timeline synthesis itself has been debated by the public since its inception, but as research candidates are chosen by their ability to see the greater good of scientific discovery.

As a research candidate, you are responsible for crafting timeline modifications by the strictest ethical standards applicable. The fate of trillions of human lives could be defined by your scientific curiosity. It is up to you to make the changes you make to their lives meaningful enough to justify the outcome.

Human experiences outside of the legally defined prime timeline are understood to be mathematical constructs. Though they are parallel realities that exist as fundamental parts of the cosmic space-time continuum, their only connection to the prime timeline is through our controlled manipulation. By that fact, the prime timeline effectively creates and thereby retains ownership of the data extracted from the synthetically altered timelines. And since the timelines are understood as mathematical constructs, the unit constructs within the total timeline are ancillary legal properties to be used at the discretion of the legal owners.

The prospect of other timelines breaching our prime timeline and making the same legal claim has been discussed as a legal hypothetical, but the first alteration made to any timeline is to initiate a xenon double beta decay cascade rendering the timeline incapable of ever developing the technology on its own. Thus the hypothetical legal debate carries little weight.

There were admittedly some early excesses in timeline synthesis research. There is no question that it is morally abhorrent to mutate ancient canines so that their farts smell like bacon so early hominids always eat them and never develop a lasting symbiotic bond between their species. And there is no excuse for giving ancient humans ready access to virtual reality pornography to see if they still develop pornography.

These experiments were not rigorous applications of the scientific method and they were high profile mistakes that set the time synthesis research field back years. As unfortunate as these incidents were, they led to a more productive, and publicly palatable framework for conducting this important research.

The modern framework for ethical research is built weighing the universal benefits of knowledge against the potential temporary suffering of legally nonexistent beings. This balance is achievable by using contextual multipliers to objectively validate or reject the moral balance of a proposed timeline alteration.

In the infamous bacon farts and VR porn experiments, this balance was not properly calculated. To illustrate the effectiveness of modern ethical considerations, lets reconstruct these experiments using the modern framework.

The historical outcomes of the bacon fart experiment were rendered scientifically invalid because at that time, smoke cured meats were entirely unknown to hominids. The alternate path of human history without dogs, while fascinating, was simply a novelty. The modified myths of Romulus and Remus being raised by falcons instead of wolves, the subsequent Roman Empires focus on flight that changed the course of human technology, and the ultimate genetic transformation of humankind into birdmen, it was a wasted trove of scientific data. The entire experiment was rendered meaningless, and therefore immoral, because of bacon.

The recovered data from the caveman VR porn experiment was likewise fascinating, but useless. Humanity became a mindless hive species that only interacted to fulfill basic biological needs, only developing crude worm and grub farming techniques, but otherwise living packed together in tribal huddles that constantly groped each other. But any hope of applying this research to functional models of human sexuality is useless because the researchers chose only cosplay porn, invalidating the results by introducing uncontrolled cultural variables.

Both experiments could have met ethical standards by simply respecting the validity of the outcome. Later followup experiments using indeterminate burning meat farts and a wider variety of VR porn were accepted as ethically compliant due to the research providing the required benefit of knowledge to justify the radically immoral use of godlike power. 

We hope this brief introduction, discussion of past mistakes, and reconstructive analysis was useful and helped you understand your role and responsibilities in creating ethical synthetic timelines for the benefit of all prime timeline humankind.

Be professional, be scientific, and most of all, be creative.

Aug 092020

I mostly resist comparing human languages to computer languages. It’s only a narrowly useful analogy and the confusion has led to students being able to fulfil language requirements with programming classes, that just seems bizarre to me. I don’t think it does anyone any good to confuse human communication with logical instructions. That said- I think one aspect of SQL, Structured Query Language, might be useful for illustrating the communication pathway from thought, to language, to thought.

It seems intuitive that language has informational content. We encode meaning in words and that meaning is a form of data. I think the tendency is to think of the data in language as comparable to the data in a file, which contains information that could be decoded by the correct algorithm. The words carry the data. It’s not really incorrect, I just think it’s only partially correct. That works best when when we take language as a definable structure we can take apart and analyze with some objectivity. When 10 people can look at a sentence and correctly derive the same data that was encoded in it, seems like there must have been some data there.

But I think that sort of ignores the functional architecture of communication using language. No word ever started out meaning anything, it means something because it’s the sound someone made when they thought or felt something. It’s an associated meaning. That meaning can only be correctly decoded by someone who already associates a compatible internal meaning with the same sound. All the ‘data’ that language encodes, originates as thought, and is used to evoke the thought referenced by the sound. Language is a reference system for thought data.

If I say ‘chair’ I’m querying the neural classifiers you use to identify or construct an archetype for a ‘chair’ in your mind. Even for nouns it can be a wide open field. I can ask you to imagine a man in a chair, and walk you through a sequence of activities, and all the while I’m imagining a folding chair and you might be imagining a comfortable lazy boy. For the majority of informational communicative purposes this doesn’t matter, a chair is a functionally a chair, but it illustrates how quickly our queries can diverge from our meaning even for simple object references.

Human language conveys a large component of emotional and biological state information that requires neural classifiers for subjective human experience. Hunger is a pretty deeply biologically associated word. For me to communicate an experience involving hunger, I have to rely on your preexisting experiences and resulting classification of hunger to understand. 

What if I wanted to say the same thing to a hypothetical incorporeal being who has never experienced hunger?  I guess I could get into cellular activity and hormone production or whatever chemical process actually creates the state that I experience as hungar. That sort of brings us to that Alice the color scientist thought experiment about what constitutes qualia, but defining experience isn’t really the point. It’s more about how language references experience. Though I’m not sure I really have a complete point with this one- I just think there’s value to thinking of words as thought queries. 

It’s a lot more obvious in more mechanical, or technical communications. Nobody’s that surprised that someone doesn’t know words referencing esoteric parts, skill sets, or processes associated with a specialization unless they’ve been trained in and practiced it. And skills and knowledge, and the associated references for them are expected to develop gradually, with some skills and knowledge being necessary prerequisites for others. 

Music is an interesting example because I think we do a better job of intuitively recognizing that it is a reference language, not a data carrier, especially in terms of cultural musical references. Film composers seem like they have a mastery of using common experiential musical associations to evoke desired emotional states. Of course some of them are so old they were kind of the ones that created the associations in film, but they didn’t create them from thin air. Musical styles have associations with entertainment, labor, religion, war, death, pretty much everything humans do, so if you want to reference a human emotional state with music there’s a pretty broad palette of deep associations to choose from. Even an amateur songwriter seems to have an intuition about using music as an emotional reference. Without even knowing the musical theory they may choose time signature, key change, chord progression, a specific melody, with the intent of referencing an emotional state in their audience, knowing full well it is a reference that depends on their audience to understand. I’m not sure if anyone would say that’s what they were doing if you asked them, just seems like they must know it at some level.

And nobody would make the mistake that playing the Star Wars theme would mean anything without thinking of the experiential context of whoever was listening. Though we probably do a better job of recognizing the query features of language with obvious cultural topics in general, I’ve taken to asking pretty much everyone I meet if they’re Always Sunny fans so I’ll know if my references will land. Those are the trivial but obvious ones though, we take a lot of our experience of culture as universal that definitely are not, even within our own culture.

The SQL analogy is only useful to a point, of course there are no INSERT statements or anything like that. And it can be argued that there is data in language in some instances. A number is a pretty objective data symbol. But for a large amount of human ‘thought data’, a single word or phrase reference may access a wide range of constructs and we rely on each other having similar enough constructs to make the reference meaningful in context.

Thinking of language as working this way can remind us that nothing we say is definitive just because we said it the way we meant it, even to people we think we share a broad context with. We’re kind of blind querying thoughts from other minds using table and field names we think they should have relevant data in. Unfortunately that doesn’t paint a very optimistic picture of human communication since it relies on unknowable qualities of the listener as much as the quality of the communication. I used to have some grand vision of a perfect message for humanity, that if you could just encode the right meaning in some universally accessible way, humans could understand. But it just doesn’t work that way. You can mostly only work with the thought data available in the minds you’re communicating with.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to create new reference thought data in a human mind, but it’s a more complex and individual learning and experience process, I’m just talking about what talking.

Maybe I’m way off here, maybe people already think about language like this and I’m just dumb because I didn’t really think about it until I thought about it and when I finally did it was different than I thought it was before I really thought about it.

I feel compelled to mention a quote I attribute to my grandfather, but I’m not sure if he was quoting someone else. Someone said- “The greatest obstacle to communication is the illusion that it has already been achieved.” If there is a point to this post, that’s the gist of it. Unfortunately I don’t really know how to reliably see through that illusion. Seems like the illusion is all there is, it just sometimes happens to correspond with reality, at least enough to work.

Aug 062020

My last 3 clones were complete dipwads. One even tried to tell me I was his clone, right up until I ate him.

Clones these days, man. When I was a bitty clone I had respect for my elders. You don’t get to tell your clones they’re your clones until you’re the one eating clones. It’s the natural order.

I spent my entire life fighting for what I have. I didn’t survive my progenitor clone’s voracious appetite by appealing to his sympathy. I killed that sonnofaclone and ate him instead. I acquired his property and started making my own delicious clones. That’s how my progenitor clone did it. That’s how his progenitor clone did it. Clones eat clones so only the strongest clones survive, and that makes all clones stronger. It makes sense, it’s always made sense, but apparently now sense just isn’t in fashion.

I’m sure you’ve heard the noise. Young, radical clones that know nothing about the world trying to say they’ve got the ‘right’ not to be eaten by a clone that spent their time and effort to clone them for their own consumption. It’s like a startree telling a rancormouse- “please Mr. Rancormouse, I know you spent your entire life filling my root cavities with your excrement to nourish me, but don’t eat my starseeds!” That’s a hard no, Mr. Startree. I defecated it, so I get to eat it.

What really gets me is that they’re trying to say that eating your clones is unnatural. That the ancients only cloned themselves to make more clones just so clones could survive. How does that make any sense at all? I mean, I get it- our species reproduces by self-cloning, it’s just how evolution made us. Our offspring are perfectly identical copies of us in every way. But people act like that’s all there is to it. The obvious facts are- nature invented cloning, nature invented hunger, and nature made clones edible. How much more evidence do you need that clones are supposed to eat each other so that strong clones survive and we make sure weak clones don’t run around making more weak clones.

I like to use myself as an example because I’m really a good example of a true self-made clone. I didn’t have any help from anyone. My progenitor clone made things particularly hard for me, and I might even thank him for it, if he hadn’t also been such a radical anti-clonist.

My progenitor experimented with cloning quite a bit. He’d created ways to make mutated clones that were every bit as tasty as a normal clone, but lacked any of the neural structures necessary to support will or action. They were mindless meat clones. Bastard never let me eat any of them and I’m not sure he even ate any himself- probably saving his appetite for me. He sold them. He actually sold mutant meat clones to real clones, just so they could eat them. His customers were absolute scum. Weak wannabe’s that could never kill and eat their own clones on their own so they had to buy them from my twisted progenitor.

Dude was smart, I’ll give him that, but he was a cruel monster. Most clones are at least allowed to run around a little bit, go outside, fight with other bitty clones. It gives them the chance to learn survival skills before someone tries to eat them. And the worst that happens is they get eaten, which just means they were weak and would have been eaten anyway so it’s not a big loss.

My progenitor kept me locked away. I don’t remember much, but I remember being suspended in a fluid for a long time, then it was dry and uncomfortable for a while and he fed me mush until I was able to feed myself. It was very hard to understand at the time, all clones begin life in a haze, but even then I knew my life was in danger and I had to find a way to survive.

I had just begun to acquire language skills when he made his move. I was just quietly engaging with a developmental learning tool that hones visual and motor skills. I had successfully integrated two sequential movements to engage a reward sound. I clapped in delight. Then with no warning I heard my progenitors fist pound on a surface. I turned and he was staring at me, his mouth curled and teeth exposed. He loudly exclaimed “That’s my clone!”. He shot up and extended his arms out wide. He rushed towards me menacingly, intending to crush me into dough and eat me right there. But the instincts that made me strong were already working- without a thought I pulled a long fastening rod from the learning tool and plunged it into his eye socket, repeatedly, then the other socket, then the third socket. That one I kind of swirled it around in for good measure, but I’m pretty sure he was dead by the second thrust. Dumb bastard died still thinking he was about to enjoy a delicious clone meal.

It was weird for a while. I was alone for a long time after that. I didn’t see another clone until one came knocking asking about the mutant meat clones. I killed and ate him too, but that’s when I really started learning about just how messed up my old progenitor was. I started reading through his files.

He was a bonafide anarchist. He was the guy that first proposed that eating clones was wrong and unnecessary. He said clone eating only started recently, when overpopulation briefly led to outbreaks of cannibalism. That during these periods of unrest, arbitrary social structures had been built up around cannibalism to maintain the power of elites, but there was more than enough nutritional resources available to feed a clone population double what exists now.

That is just brain virus level craziness, but I could almost respect him as a radical if he wasn’t such a weakling about it. Look- If I thought eating clones was wrong- I’d run around killing clones that eat clones. Wouldn’t you? But this jackass thought “Hey- maybe I should make meat clones so people that won’t give up eating clones can still eat clones without people actually eating clones.” Yeah- great idea… maybe turnips should make meat turnips so people won’t eat turnips. Seriously- that’s my progenitor. Just goes to show a clone is only what they make of themselves, I’m what happens when a clone takes responsibility, he’s what happens when you blame everyone else for your problems.

The craziest thing about all this is that I almost fell for it. That’s right, me, the hardest, toughest self-made clone that ever made a clone of themselves. That alone should serve as a warning to other clones about just how dangerous all this anti-clone-eating rhetoric can be.

I was so ignorant, when I started reading his files I wondered if maybe I’d misunderstood his intent and shouldn’t have killed him. It even occurred to me that it might make sense to continue his work and start selling meat clones just like he did. I shamefully admit that I fully intended, and even started the process of taking over his meat-clone distribution and his evangelism against clone eating.

But then I started reading his incoming correspondence. Everyday he received floods messages from people explaining, angrily but explicitly and clearly, the true purpose and value of clone eating. He never even read them, he had filters moving them to unread boxes that he just let fill up. Well I’m not as content in my ignorance as he was, so I did read them. And you know what- they made a lot of sense.

After all- I had killed and eaten clones, does that make me bad? How does that make any sense? I started reading a lot of the recommendations from those messages and it’s all there. The entire progression of clones from mindless savages to strong, independent, civilized beings- it all depends on the righteous struggle of clone eating clone. It made me what I am today and I’ll be damned if any upstart clone tries to tell me the way I lived my life is anything but the best it could have been. Actually- I won’t be damned, I’ll just eat them.

Though I am a self-made clone, I try to be humble and recognize my fortune, so I really am grateful for myself and my strength and wisdom. I couldn’t have the life I have if I weren’t such a superior clone specimen, so I encourage everyone to remember to give thanks and be grateful for what you have. That’s really what eating clones is all about- heritage, respect, and gratitude for all clones.