Jun 18, 2021 11:07 AM
Thellim in Eclipse
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"Life insurance.  Okay, your language has a word for that so it probably exists here too?  I think that very few rape victims - in dath ilan, not here - would choose not to take abortifacients, and if they chose not do that, back to the transcendant responsibility again.  If a young girl on Earth was pressured by their parents out of taking an abortifacient, we'd probably see that as a special case and make an exception?  But more generally it's clear that a lot of Earth people simply don't consider parents responsible for children in the same way we do.  You can't yell at aliens who don't share your moral code for violating it, and it's pointless to hit them with penalties they had no idea existed at the time.  So I am reasonably certain that the first generation of Earthlings just gets considered as confused victims of Earth's suboptimal equilibria, and allowed into the refuges regardless of whether they have kids.  It's possible that our people might ask Earthlings to accept temporary contraceptive implants on entry - I think I might resort to that, for lack of better solutions, if I had to decide everything myself - but I also have a feeling that the people much smarter than I am will come up with much better solutions I'm not seeing, and the prediction markets will predict much better results from them."

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"Contraception is against some people's religion."

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"If they didn't personally invent the religion, we're going to call those confused victims.  There isn't much moral difference between the moon driving you mad and your society driving you mad."

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"There's this recurring - contempt, disrespect, paternalism - which maybe your more socially specialized conspecifics will be able to adequately disguise, but it doesn't even seem to be on your radar in the first place - I guess probably it won't even matter, it would be so expensive to get large numbers of people between planets -"

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"I mostly suspect we will not be able to contact dath ilan at all.  Your laws of physics allow for weird poo to occur, our laws of physics do not.  I expect that I was copied out of dath ilan at the moment of my death, not moved here, and that my burned remains rest with my airplane.  But I grew up in a world full of people much smarter than me, coming up with better solutions than me, and nobody thought I was less a member of Civilization for not being among the top 1%; that would clearly be the wrong way to structure a society.  I made mistakes and I didn't hide them, and when I was young enough to need it, my parents and peers congratulated me for having the dignity not to hide them.  Your version of dignity and your predicate for insult is - very alien to me, and I am still trying to decipher how much of that is me having specifically been trained not to feel insulted in that way, versus dath ilan having genetically bred for different emotions over however many generations it has been."

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"I couldn't tell you. Earthlings are - sensitive to signals that things are about to get into a state of high conflict, and disrespect is usually a precursor. There have been historical events where people coordinated passive resistance instead of getting ready to fight a traditional conflict of some kind but it's not the rule.

"I don't think that - the current state of dath ilan, leaving aside whether it getting that way has a body count or was traumatic for the people who had to participate in the screening off process - is performing worse on most important metrics than the current state of Earth as a whole, maybe even any single Earth country. But it seems to me like it represents a - stable abdication of some values that are important to me, whereas the trend in Earth is to improve on those axes and the ones where dath ilan's currently working better, so I can imagine a future Earth that, with a lot of loss and pain on the way but in its own fashion, becomes better than either is now. And I know you think I'm underestimating dath ilan's willingness to try new stuff and adapt to new ideas but I think the scope of the trials and the legibility of those benefits to the dath ilani value system or the current state of acculturation of the people you'd be testing them on are quite plausibly too limited to discover them."

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"If Earth does contact dath ilan, there will be some extremely smart and extremely Serious people whose first reaction is to stare hard at Earth and try to figure out whether you are on a path of greater short-term tragedy but also greater freedom and greater long-term potential.  To me it does seem that your world is full of horrifically repressive social organizations that all manage to be repressive in extremely similar ways.  But it's also true that there are many fewer solutions that Earth people are told are optimal, and many places where your children are told less about what to think.  Or rather, they're told a great deal about what to think, but on topics that are less abstract and important, so in that sense the important things are being left up to them.  And the people much smarter than I am would stare at all of the outcomes, looking for something that we'd missed by being too full of clever ideas and careful calculations.  That kind of thinking just feels so far out of reach to me, in my current situation, while I'm still struggling so hard just to figure out your overt surface behaviors and never mind what it feels like to be an Earthling deep inside.  I will say this much, if it turns out that we've all been doing sex wrong this entire time, there will be an enormous moment of self-reflection and a huge amount of bet-winning credited to Earth."

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"I mean, you might just have different sexual preferences. ...how will you credit bets to Earth when we didn't place any?"

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"Metaphorically.  We'll give you respect on a moral level for winning the bets you obviously would have placed with us.  And yes, I'm mostly guessing different innate sexualities; but I am still entertaining the possibility that this world is not just a horrifying thought experiment, and to the extent that it isn't, your sexuality could be an organic thing natural to both our kinds that my kind never figured out.  It is not - not something it would have made me a good person to think about, in my home world, if I hadn't been given actual cause to think about it - but it's the sort of possibility that a person smarter than me would be carefully keeping track of, in my situation.  So I'm pretending to be smarter and pretending to keep track of it."

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"Your smart people sound very busy."

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"They do the amount of thinking that's natural for them.  I miss the days when I could do only the amount of thinking that's natural for me."

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"Alex says he has found somewhere else to be for a few hours, so we can go back whenever you want. Or go see a movie or something if you don't think you'll explode."

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"Brain's a little tired, to be honest.  I should at least take a break before talking more.  It's strange how you can read so many novels where a protagonist briefly thinks how they're the wrong person for the problem and then the protagonist tells theirself to shut up and get on with it because they don't actually have other options, and then the protagonist promptly does that; and yet, when it's actually you, even though you know the correct thought-sequence for your situation, you still find yourself thinking how much you're not the right person for the genre you seem to be inside."

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"Yeah, that's legit." Isabella pays for their bagels and leads Thellim back to her apartment.

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Thellim continues to study the Network, and pretend to be smarter and better suited to this situation than she actually is.  The rest of dath ilan isn't here; she is; the end.  She'll probably get used to it in another week or two, just not in her first week.

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Isabella eventually finds Thellim an affordable-enough AirBnB out somewhere quiet upstate; the internet is slower and she has to take a bus to the grocery store but there's negligible traffic noise and more space. She can rent someplace longer term when she has her own money.

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Being out of the noisy, smelly, dangerous Earth cities feels much better.  Thellim doesn't actually enjoy interacting with most Earthlings; she wishes she did, she knows she ought to cultivate that in herself from a utilitarian standpoint, but it is not fun at all and maybe she'd be wiser to conserve her soul to be spent on other things.  Also videoconferencing technology is amazing.

Thellim spends most of her energy trying to parse up Earth, and most of the rest on looking for ideas from dath ilan that can be adapted to make money.  It's hard, since Earth is, in fact, locally almost-inexploitable with respect to its wildly distorted local incentives and opportunities.  At least Earth is in a form of agent equilibrium, however far below the Pareto boundary and however much people make no effort to get closer to it, rather than it all being an incoherent story postulate rationalized by moon causality.  She writes up logical decision theory but local economists and philosophers don't pay much attention.  She writes up an explanation of why everybody needs to burn all p-values and use likelihood functions, and that also doesn't get much attention.  A friendly economist from George Mason University suggests that she make guest appearances on Econlog, but Thellim turns him down for now.

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Isabella checks in with her occasionally and presses, when she can, on the boundaries between universes, hoping to one day whisper across them.

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There's an ordinary couple living fifty meters away from Thellim, a sweet submissive and her equally sweet mistress.  Usually in dath ilan one's neighbors are more optimally chosen, but Thellim is not going to not try to talk to her neighbors at all.  She tells them she was in the moral equivalent of an eclipse accident and now she's very odd and BDSM makes no sense to her.  She doesn't get the impression the couple believes her, but they're very nice about not believing her, and possess something other than dignity that makes them very hard to offend.  They once asked Thellim if she was "autistic" and Thellim replied that she did not know that word and there were some wise nods.  Thellim looked up the word and shrugged; she's hardly going to act insulted by somebody else coming up with a wrong hypothesis about her in all good epistemic intentions, especially when she's the one who hasn't told them the true answer.

The sub in the couple doesn't seem to be living a horrible life not worth living.

Thellim is still not looking forwards to her own eclipse at all.  The Internet and such science as Earth may possess, seem clear on there being no detectable effect of eclipses on personality; including traits correlated with submission, dominance, and specifically masochism.  Orientations are often declared, correctly, before someone's lunar-eclipse-nearest-to-12th-birthday.  She is still not looking forwards to her own eclipse at all, despite the prospect of gaining magical or psionic powers.

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In mid-June Isabella reminds Thellim to start fasting for her eclipse. Water is fine, some zero-calorie beverages are fine if they help take the psychological edge off, absolutely not one bite of food.

[And the moon is not going to perform role-altering magic on you but if you go mad with hunger and think it has please do not kill yourself.]

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Thellim is already fasting when Isabella calls.  Earth makes it harder to stay healthy, she has some fat worth burning down, and the whole business with counting only and exactly food eaten in the last 48 hours makes extremely little sense to her.  So she is fasting extra-long, just in case the rules are different when you're as old as she is.

Thellim hasn't done very much good for Earth yet.  But there's so much she could say if she just started blogging one post per day about it, and it's not a forgone conclusion that nobody would listen.  From a utilitarian standpoint the correct decision is very clear.

[I don't intend to kill myself.  But if I do, please try to call my mother and dath ilan anyways, now and then.  I don't think it will ever work, but please try.]  She's left a script, just in case.

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[I will.]

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The moon is indifferent to Thellim's feelings and it goes into eclipse. She can't even see it because it's not visible in North America.

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