Aug 01, 2021 10:43 PM
I didn't think anthropics worked like that
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Randi flinches slightly at that; there's a hint of shame in the way he holds his shoulders. 

He takes a deep breath. :I understand. And - it says good things about you, honestly. I think we ought to trust your motives less if you were willing to jump straight to making us weapons: He frowns. :Though it does make our trade situation more complicated. I'm not sure either Rethwellan or Hardorn have the spare gold to buy books from us, right now: 

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Thellim isn't trying to read people's minds when they're not speaking, so she's not picking up any extras of their surface thoughts.  Who'd just do that without explicit permission?

She's also slightly confused by the implication that Vanyel would take offense to true statements that are common knowledge - Vanyel hardly seemed that undignified - but she's probably missing some connotation or implication of what she said that is much less true-and-known.  Maybe there was a translation failure, and it sounded like she was calling Vanyel a metal stick for beating people until they fall over.

:Vanyel tentatively suggested that the 'Eastern Empire' might do it, though he didn't know yet which books they'd be looking for.  But surely Haven has some market research specialists specialized in international trade demands?  We need not deduce all truths through only our own knowledge.:

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:- Some what?: Herald Jaysen leans forward a little. :I - don't think we do - I didn't completely follow - but...say more? We do have merchants, some of them have particular contacts...: 

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As soon as the thought finally, actually, explicitly occurs to Thellim that lower productivity per capita might result in less professional specialization, it is immediately obvious to her that this ought, in fact, to be the case.  If your children are starving in winter you probably cannot afford fiction matchmakers.

But there's still got to be some specialization, right?  Right??

:...somebody in the region knows an unusual amount about which foreign countries would pay a lot for books.  I don't know who they are or what they'd be called... somebody you know would have a better subjective probability of knowing who else would know that person, than anybody else you know, though, I would hope?:

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Jaysen frowns. :...Hmm, sure, I could ask around. It's not going to be fast, though. Might already be too late in the year, the trade roads in Hardorn get snowed over: 

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Herald Tantras is scowling, though not at Thellim specifically. :Who mentioned the Eastern Empire to you, anyway? They're really far east, two countries away - and thank the gods for that, because they're evil: 

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The Valdemaran word 'evil' doesn't have a direct correspondent word in Baseline.  It is not that dath ilan has never seen foul acts and harmful deeds, but there are different words for specialized kinds of wrongness.  There is utilitarian wrongness: predictable consequential net harm.  There is deontological wrongness, the transgression of a rule that existed for reasons.  There is virtue-ethical wrongness, things that make you a worse person to do and inflict harm against your own soul.  There is aesthetic wrongness, acts that are ugly.  There is oathbreaking, the tainting of the Algorithm, the cracking of the trust that underlies everything, the archetypal thing never to do even if there is a reason.  There is a word that Valdemaran might translate as 'hatred', the cognitive-emotional state that exists in human nature and which dath ilani are warned against ever falling into, when some conflict has spiraled completely out of control and you start to directly take pleasure each time you imagine inverting the private part of someone else's utility function; people who walk around with that possibility in mind are closer to being walking bombs if they go insane or schizophrenic; you do not want agents walking around with precalculated inverses for other agents' utility functions, it could lead Reality into a very ugly place.  There is a specialized subword of 'hatred' that means taking pleasure in others' pain, what might translate as 'sadism'; it is known that such an awful possibility exists within human nature, and any dath ilani who found themselves veering near it would mentally back off and ask themselves what they were doing wrong.  There is a short snappy single-syllable word that means 'defecting in a game-theoretic dilemma', even though dath ilan tries to avoid that coming up in reality, because so many important counterfactuals center around that possibility.

There is a word in dath ilani that means the harmony and song between the many varieties of goodness: kindness and altruism and honor and beauty.  It is the word for those rare occasions where, instead of tradeoffs, there is a nontrivial question on which utilitarianism and deontology and virtue ethics and aesthetics all agree.  It would describe the act of printing books in order to prevent children from starving in winter.  A high-functioning society should present its individuals with only rare true moments like that, because usually things should not be going wrong in that many ways at once; there is a dath ilani proverb that, like acts of individual heroism, such moments should be found mainly in fiction.  In ordinary reality it applies to two lovers deciding to conceive a child, and doesn't need to apply much more often than that.

There is no dath ilani word that means the opposite of the Light.  It's not a topic that comes up often enough to need its own word.

Thellim does not have time to think anything like all that; she has only heard one mental word in a sentence full of other words while Very Serious matters were being discussed.  The connotation that briefly flashes across is that the Eastern Empire is extra bonus bad in a way that is dangerous, self-corruptive, icky, and deontologically forbidden.

:Vanyel mentioned it to me, this morning, as said; he seemed hesitant about it, as said.  That Vanyel said it at all, implies that he did not consider obvious that the Eastern Empire was extra-bonus-bad enough that the harm they would do with more books would outweigh the good of importing their food.  Unless you know more than Vanyel about the Eastern Empire, and you know they would - just take that food away from an equal quantity of children there, or some such horror?  Separately, I infer from context that Gates can't reach to regions as distant as 'Hardorn', or are too expensive, or that I'm overestimating how much food could pass through one.  But I am very ignorant of that and all your magecraft; somebody may need to spell out numbers for me.:

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Tantras scowls, looks over at Jaysen, ducks his head. :I - no, I don't think they'd do that. Just, I - wouldn't trust them as trade partners. And they're an empire, right...: He trails off, apparently failing to find the words to explain why this is important.

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King Randale rescues him, leaning forward a little in his chair. :I've read the histories - they've conquered two outlying kingdoms in the past couple of centuries. I suppose it's not likely they'd go after Valdemar, not with Hardorn and, er, what's-it-called, on their path first - but I'd rather not bring ourselves to their attention. Especially not from a position of need: 

He sighs. :Savil, can you speak to the Gates question?: 

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She folds her arms, leans back. :Right. Main issue is that Gates need a mage - Adept-strength, if you want to Gate hundreds of miles - and they wear you out. I won't be good for much else today. We have less than two dozen mages, most of them are nowhere near Adept, and Van's our best but he, er, has difficulties. Gates cost us more if they're larger or held for longer, and they'd need to be both for mass goods transport. Oh, and of course you need to have been somewhere, to Gate there, and you need a doorway to build the threshold on. I don't think we've got anyone who's been past the capital of Hardorn: 

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:If we sent an envoy -: 

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:Who? I can't think of anyone who could do it but me, and I'm sorry but I'd rather not trek out to the Eastern Empire when winter's on its way: 

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Shavri starts to lift a hand, diffidently, then ducks her head as though self-conscious. 

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:What is it, Shavri?: 

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She stares down at the table, clearly unused to speaking in meetings. 

:- Just remembering a conversation I had with Van years ago. He'd tracked down some ancient book about the Eastern Empire, from gods know where, he reads a lot. He mentioned they apparently do a lot of their shipping and trade by Gate. I don't know how they pull that off, but...they must have more mages, or stronger ones, or - something else, different magic, I don't know. And if that's true then - maybe we could pay them for the food and the Gates to transport it?:

At Randi and Tantras' simultaneous winces, :- er, maybe just to Hardorn, if we don't want to give their mages Gate-locations here: She looks hopefully at Thellim, as though asking for backup.

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Thellim has read books containing hostile aliens ever and she is trying to adapt to a less peaceful world, on the occasions where somebody prompts her to explicitly think about that.

:I was - not expecting there to exist any factions with more advanced logistics than Valdemar, at all, based on the fact that nobody else was shutting down the conflict with Karse and shipping you relief supplies.  If the most powerful factions in this world are much more powerful than you, and extra-bonus-bad, and have Gate logistics, that makes me want to take a huge step back from this entire situation and ask a lot of stupid basic questions.  Why does the Eastern Empire have better logistics than Valdemar and Karse, do they kill anybody who tries to get better at it?  Do they exterminate you if I teach you to make better steel?  Why haven't they exterminated you already?  I am still in the phase of needing to ask many questions that only children need to ask.:

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This mostly gets her a lot of baffled looks. 

:....Sometimes countries are more or less advanced than other countries?: King Randale offers eventually. :And, honestly, it'd never have occurred to me that the Eastern Empire would care one way or another, if two minor kingdoms halfway across the continent are killing each other: 

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:Maybe if it were Seejay they'd intervene: Jaysen offers. Helpfully, to Thellim, :- Seejay is well known for its spice exports. We trade with them as well. And Ruvan has their gold mines. But Valdemar has less to make us interesting, I reckon: 

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:A war could even be convenient for them. If it weakens us and they want to do some more conquering -: 

Tantras stops. Exchanges a dark, significant look with King Randale. 

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Savil's expression is suddenly very blank. 

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And Shavri is staring woodenly at her lap, in the way of someone who does not at all have a poker face, knows it, and is trying to at least react in a way that isn't very informative. 

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Thellim has no idea what is going on and will wait politely for these Very Serious People to cue her in.

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A couple of said Very Serious People, namely Herald Jaysen and Herald Keiran, also look baffled about this! 

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Shavri clears her throat. :Er, in your world, is it...normal, for countries to - care about what's going on in smaller countries really far away?: 

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:We don't really have 'countries' so much as factions, and also anyone can talk to anyone else on the planet on ten seconds' notice - artificial voice transmission, like being able to shout with infinite range to any single other person.  Metaphorically, from your viewpoint, Civilization behaves like a single huge city in a lot of ways that matter.  I think this is a case where my world is so different from yours that I'd have trouble getting to grips with the question.  Of course we'd care, we'd care about anything we could see and interact with.:

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