May 18, 2021 5:16 AM
I didn't think anthropics worked like that
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:It's fine, I'm not the one steering: The man seems faintly amused, and to the extent there's any hint that the interruption bothers him, it's just because he's clearly exhausted. :I'm taking you back to my camp, for now – I can bring you to Horn tomorrow, I was just recalled anyway so perfect timing, but it's too far for tonight: 

From the connotations, Horn is a place, probably a town or village. 

:I don't know why you aren't dead, since I still don't really understand how you got here. And I don't know exactly what'll happen in Horn, but we aren't going to hurt you - honestly you're lucky you landed on this side of the Border. What's going on in general... I'm a Herald of Valdemar. Oh, and my name is Vanyel; this is Yfandes:

'Herald' bundles in some similar associations to his early mention of 'Companions', but leaning more heavily on the 'duty', and also there's a background sense that he has very mixed feelings about it. 

:We're at war with Karse, the neighbouring kingdom. And I'm afraid I don't really have answers for you - I've never heard of this happening either: 

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So this world doesn't get a lot of should-be-dead visitors, at least not publicly known ones, which matches up to the fantasy novel premise of 'more portal-destination worlds than portal-origin worlds'.  Thellim wonders if that's pure coincidence, or if the Keepers of Harmful Truths know something infohazardous that they've quietly communicated to fantasy-novel authors in an effort to mentally prepare people like her for situations like these.

:You seem tired.  Should I not be psionicizing at you?  I have - a LOT of questions - but I don't know your capacity for answers.:

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He sighs. :I am tired. Can't blame you for having questions, though, and I've got some of my own, too: 

(Or he will once he's had some sleep, at least. This is...probably a big deal? But the flat grey exhaustion of months on the Border makes it hard to really feel that way.) 

:- Have you had any actual Mindspeech training, by the way? You're, er, a bit sloppy: from the overtones, he is trying to be diplomatic and in fact it's worse than a 'a bit sloppy', :and I don't want you to leak and let anyone know we're here: 

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:Mindspeech is not a thing where I come from, or if it is, it's supremely not-public knowledge.  It doesn't fit with the character of reality where I'm from.  I know nothing about it except what I picked up from the overtones of the word when you thought it.  Be warned: my intuitive guesses about anything remotely near this subject matter may be incredibly surprisingly wrong from your standpoint, because it has such a different type signature from all phenomena in my prior experience.  So, um, how do I not leak?:

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This situation has officially passed the level of confusing-inexplicable-details where Vanyel's brain is no longer even managing to register the ones that don't yet fit into a coherent picture. Which is most of them. Fortunately, Yfandes is a Companion and has an eidetic memory, and she's listening in on his thoughts. 

:I guess I need to teach you to shield? I can put my own shield on you while we're riding, if that's all right, and walk you through it once we're settled in for the night. ...Oh, and just to let you know, Yfandes is listening in on this too, um, I hope that's all right: 

It's nice, actually, having her in his mind again and NOT having a stupid fight about anything. He's spent most of the last few months evicting her for the crimes of nagging him and getting on his nerves. It's been a wearisome stint on the Border, for both of them. 

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:Does putting a shield on me while we're riding - or me giving my consent for you to do that - have any kind of big consequences I should know about, like destroying all of my childhood memories or inverting my utility function?  Hi Yfandes, I have infinity plus one questions for you if you're in a mood to answer those.:

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:Hi! It's lovely to meet you, but I am kind of busy right now: And they leaaaaaaap over an impressively large rock. 

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:I - what - no! It shouldn't do anything to inside your head at all, it's more like - hmm, I don't know, like putting a raincoat on or something. What does 'inverting your utility function' even mean?: 

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Right she will not distract the Fast Alien then!  And - have they not worked out utility functions here?  Wow that's really low math.  She's specialized in a field with very little specialized math but she knows the universal basics.  If they name theorems after people here, she will get all of the theorems named after her.

:Put the psionic raincoat on me, then, I guess!  And, uh, inverting your utility function is a colloquialism, it's like - imagine that you wanted things coherently - and then suddenly you wanted all of the opposite things instead.  It's more or less among the obvious worst things that for all I know could happen by accident if somebody started doing weird things to my brain, reversing everything I thought was good or bad.  Also, if nobody here knows what a 'utility function' is - and it's really the sort of thing where, once one person figures it out, everybody ends up knowing it - then I have a lot of super valuable basic mathematical knowledge to give you all.  Like, the kind of knowledge where a 0.1% patentgratuity means I end up personally owning 0.01% of this whole world's economy.:

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Vanyel spends a long moment not saying anything. It's a very loud-and-marked sort of not saying anything. 

(He's quickly running through his mental list of every single math-related book recommended to him by a particular immortal mage who's personally responsible for at least one in five of the scholarly treatises he's read in the last decade, but also this isn't something he especially wants to tell Thellim yet.) 

:That does sound really awful!: he acknowledges finally. :And - I'm curious, but while we're on the Karsite border isn't the right time to ask you about math: 

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:I'm guessing you mean that it's the wrong time because things are busy and dangerous, and not because thinking about math doesn't work on the 'Karsite border', but I'm going to mention that I'm not actually sure just to emphasize how very little I know and how easy it would be for me to make a mistake.  But I can also just deduce things quietly to myself if you'd rather wait to hand me over to... the largest universitorial truth-inquisition commission and/or venture-capital syndicate in the history of time?  That's not how things would go if this were a story, but it's probably how people ought to handle things in real life, right...  I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't be asking you all this.  I have no idea what's going to happen to me and this has not been my least exciting day ever, but you come across in Mindspeech as deeply tired.  I do understand that in all principle-of-mediocrity probability I just landed on some average random typical resident of this world who isn't specialized for handling my situation.:

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:No, no, this seems - really important. Maybe even more important than the war: 

There's a burst of complicated emotion behind those words; it's tangled-up and doesn't all make it across, but there's hope - on some level it seems Vanyel is desperately hoping that this is, in fact, more important than that - and more important than some other thing that he isn't saying...? 

Also he has some sort of strong, messy, mostly negative reaction to 'random typical resident', but Mindspeech overtones don't make the content of it clear. 

:Er, what is 'venture-capital'?: 

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She is going to end up with a LOT more than math theorems named after her.

:Venture capital is professionally-specialized investing for creating new businesses!  I don't know whether the laws of physics are the same between our worlds and I am unfortunately not specialized myself in things like knowing How To Build Mechanical Clocks, but going on the sheer lack of overlap between our concept bases, I should have knowledge enabling the creation of lots of new businesses and wealth that didn't exist before!  Except that... uh... somebody's going to have to put wealth into the process in order for lots of wealth to come out.  And while I'd expected my manufactured clothing and the theorems I know to establish the basic truth of what I'm claiming, having to also create the business of venture capital is beginning to make me worry a little bit about... exactly where I'll end up having to start.  Do you already have 'money', 'debt', 'equity', and 'stock markets'?:

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Vanyel chuckles slightly. :We have money! And debt is a concept I'm familiar with. 'Equity' and 'stock markets' are...well, I'm not sure it maps to anything we really have in Valdemar, but I think I mostly recognize what you're talking about. The Eastern Empire has some similar practices. They're, er, more advanced than this region in a lot of ways: 

And worse in some other unclear way, or at least the overtones hint at that.

(Also Vanyel is trying very hard to be curious and enthusiastic, this seems important - possibly the most important thing that has ever happened - he's pretty sure that's what Leareth would say, anyway, though at this point it's unclear whether that's a recommendation...)

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:If you're not too tired, can I ask about the dire doomy hints of mass global coordination breakdown?  Is the world ending?:  It would be ending if this were a story.

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:- Hmm? I, er, I don't know what your world is like, and things are definitely...pretty bad right now. But, I mean, this isn't the first time my Kingdom's been at war with a neighbouring one. Not sure how much it changes the big picture, two countries fighting, out of dozens on this continent...:

He definitely feels doomy about the situation. The world could well be ending right now; it would suit his mood. But probably that's mostly the tiredness talking. 

(Also this would be a relevant time to mention the IMMORTAL MAGE who is raising an army north of the mountains to conquer Valdemar, but it doesn't seem like he can justify trusting her that far, yet, and also it feels hard and awkward to explain, and so he doesn't.) 

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:Why is everything bad?  Why are interactions between individuals and groups settling at a point so far off the Pareto frontier?  Is there a known reason why everything is going much worse than theory indicates it should, or should I be on the lookout for some anomaly on the order of alien parasites infesting your Very Serious People?:

Thellim is still feeling unsure how far she should infer from the marked resemblance between this situation and the situation a lot of fantasy protagonists end up in.  Quietly influencing authors of fantasy novels to reflect forbidden knowledge in a helpful way is exactly the sort of thing that the Keepers of Harmful Truths are supposed to be doing.

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Vanyel takes a long time to answer. 

:I don't know why things are bad: 

(SOMEONE he knows has a lot of opinions on the matter. He has no idea whether any of them are trustworthy.) 

:It seems - complicated. And I don't know the 'theory' you're talking about, so I think I'm missing a lot of what you're even trying to ask: 

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Is this world falling to ruins because nobody knows what a Pareto-optimal outcome is, and all she has to do to fix the entire place is tell them?  Nobody would buy that fantasy novel but, Thellim has to keep reminding herself, this is real life.  If she can just fix this whole world very easily, and then live happily ever after collecting 0.1% patentgratuities on all Pareto-optimal transactions after people find out what those are, she should just do that.  It doesn't matter how much her brain is going 'Nooooo, that can't be right.'  She should check.

:One foundational concept in the analysis of human interactions - sorry, Yfandes, I should've said agent interactions - is getting to an outcome that can't simultaneously be made better for all parties.  Let's say you have an orange and I have an apple, and I really like oranges, and you really like apples.  If we trade my apple for your orange, we're both better off.  It's not that one of us lost and the other gained, we're both better off.  Every time a potential 'Pareto improvement' like that exists, it's like a path of - lower potential energy? I don't know if that idea made it across, if you know about that part of physics or if that part of physics even exists here.  It's like water flowing downhill, to puddle at the bottom.  Everybody has an incentive to move in the direction of an outcome that's better for everyone.  If they can't agree on which of the better outcomes to aim for, they all have an incentive to form an agreed-on group process for dividing the gains; the incentive is reproduced at the meta-level to universally incentivize creating a coordination process.  If I'm understanding you right, you're talking about massive groups of people who've decided that other groups form hindrances to them, who try to destroy and injure and hurt those other groups as much as possible.  I have the approximate concept because of very shameful events where individuals or even small groups start relating like that to each other without caring about how it looks.  I have the approximate concept because I've read stories about very alien aliens who don't care at all about the same things we do, who try to trick us into destroying ourselves so they can consume our whole world and its resources.  But why does that much water flow uphill in real life?  What happens if you sketch out on paper a situation with the factions not at war, present it to the factions, and note that all factions would be better off if they simultaneously adopted the new arrangement?  I'm not saying everybody would necessarily accept the first offer, of course, but why wouldn't they look at that and go, 'Oh, gosh, let's figure out a protocol to pick up all this free wealth'?:

(Thellim does not, of course, think 'out loud' about her private suspicions that if emotions like 'hatred' have been baked into the human brain, the analogous situation between individuals must have arisen much more often in humanity's environment of evolutionary adaptedness, sometime back before the obscuring curtain of deleted prehistory.  Obviously nobody ever publicly speculates about why dath ilan's pre-modern history has been deleted or hidden to the best possible extent, but it's presumably an infohazard; one doesn't talk about infohazards with non-Keepers, and Vanyel doesn't act like one.  But individual situations in the ancestral environment don't seem obviously relevant to the question of how larger and better-resourced groups could end up failing in the same way.)

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:...The concept makes sense. I think: 

Again, there's a definite sense that Vanyel is holding back quite a lot of what he's thinking and feeling. 

After a very long pause: 

:I don't think it'd - work. I'm not sure I have any logical argument for why not, just...it wouldn't. Not here: 

He's never thought to feel embarrassed about that fact before. 

(He wonders how Leareth would feel about it, and then shoves that entire train of thought aside.) 

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And then Yfandes slows to a stop, in a clearing. It's nearly dark now. 

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:Er, we're here now. I need to set up camp, get us something to eat - here, I'll help you get down...: 

From the overtones, Vanyel is not especially in the mood to continue their discussion. 

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Thellim is very grateful for help in this regard.

After she's down, she forces a smile, and tries to summon up some of the verve of her favorite fictional protagonists to animate her Mindspeech.  :Well, for what it's worth, now that I'm here, I'll fix up this world I've found myself in.  Any dath ilani would.  Uh, you don't need to answer that.:

It's way too embarrassing now that she's actually gone and thought that out loud.  How do fictional protagonists pull off lines like that?  Right, because the author rules by fiat that nobody laughs at them.

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He doesn't laugh. 

He just goes still, gives her a piercing look, and then smiles a tired, sad little smile. :I know you'll try: 

Then he turns and hefts down the packs strapped to Yfandes' back. :I'm guessing you haven't camped much before. I, er, sorry, sleeping arrangements won't be as nice as you're used to: He seems sheepish about this fact. 

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That sad "I know you'll try" would be ominous as a line of dialogue in a story, and would indicate either a convoluted time-travel plot, or that the speaker was secretly an immortal who'd already lived 144 lives failing to fix his broken world.

Thellim wants to ask about this, because she doesn't know it can't be true.  But she has a feeling like she might be babbling too much already.  One ought to be compassionate to oneself as one is compassionate to others, and her situation would make it very sympathetic and understandable if somebody else in it asked a lot of questions.  But Vanyel feels tired.  He feels like he's not doing as well mentally as her, even taking into account what her day has been like.  He looks like he's eaten a lot less food over the last year.  Thellim's private conception of her Virtue, in respect to those Virtues that people can't all have simultaneously because there are tradeoffs, leans less to the side of 'prioritize sharing burdens with others and being stronger together', and more towards 'prioritize not being a burden to those who seem to have it worse than you'.

So instead Thellim replies, :I'll try to show due-gratitude-and-reciprocation for whatever marginal-added-utility-interval -:  Wait, if they don't know about utility functions, that's probably a much longer sentence in Vanyel's native language than it is in hers.  :Er, rephrase.  I'll be grateful for any improvement of sleeping arrangements over lying huddled to myself on a cold rock, waiting to be eaten by predators if I fall asleep.  If you have any tasks that can be safely done by somebody with sub-zero skill, like standing very still holding up a pole for ten minutes, or my acting as a passive thermal source, don't hesitate to ask me.:

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