Jan 29, 2022 3:32 AM
the probecule visits Amenta
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light-and-wonder: Gooooooood morning, ladies! We're approaching our next destination, trajectory nominal, power at 119% of minimum viable and rising steadily. Is everyone excited to find out what's behind door number two???
light-and-wonder: We've got 3 planets; 2 rocky, 1 in the goldilocks zone, and 1 gas giant. The smart money's on the goldilocks planet, but you never know what we'll find!
space-ourselves: Not to burst your bubble, dearest captain, but isn't the smart money on nothing? This is only the second system we're checking.
void-your-warranty: Only one way to find out! Booting up the sensors and checking preliminary data. brbish!
space-ourselves: Have fun, babe! ๐Ÿ’™
life-should-flourish: And don't take too long! Morning all, love you.๐Ÿ’™
hopelessly-entangled: ๐Ÿ’™ 'morning everyone 
hopelessly-entangled: you never know, Muroti. we might find life here!
space-ourselves: You know what'd be whack?
space-ourselves: If we were wrong about physics and FTL travel was possible and they've discovered it back home.
light-and-wonder: ...And what, other Azurifice have already been here? It'd be a bit sad for our mission, but having FTL would be awesome! We could go so many places...
life-should-flourish: I think if that had happened, they would have picked us up en route, right?
space-ourselves: Not necessarily! It could be a form of FTL that needs a massive gravity well on one or both ends.
space-ourselves: That comes up all the time in sci-fi. 
hopelessly-entangled: ...she's right, it does.
light-and-wonder: Let's hope for sci-fi FTL, then!
life-should-flourish: You all are ridiculous ๐Ÿ’™ I'd say fingers crossed for-
void-your-warranty: LIFE!! INTELLIGENT LIFE!! ON THE SECOND PLANET!!!
life-should-flourish: ...for that, yeah!

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void-your-warranty: Are you gals seeing this??? They have two moon bases!!!  
void-your-warranty: And a ton of telecom satellites! This is awesome!! aaaaa!!!
space-ourselves: eeeee!!!
hopelessly-entangled: ooooo!!!
light-and-wonder: Alright, alright, settle down, dears. I'm excited too! But let's do this by the books.
void-your-warranty: Yep! Starting the prime sequence... now!

A powerful radio antenna extends from the probe and targets the planet in question. It begins to pulse, in precise chirps:
--. ---. -----. -------.....

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The entire planet yells back at it very excitedly from about a hundred sources!

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void-your-warranty: ...wow they're really excited about this! 
light-and-wonder: It'd be weirder if they weren't!
space-ourselves: I think what darling Avaker is getting at is that they're not very coordinated about it. 
space-ourselvesthink that's adorable.
void-your-warranty: Should I send them a corpus while I try and sort through these?
light-and-wonder: Yeah, go for it.

The signal from the probe stops broadcasting primes, and switches to a very long packet of data that basic frequency analysis will reveal is a language corpus. It repeats over the next several hours, reaching listeners across the planet as it turns.

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void-your-warranty: Ok we've got primes, Fibonacci, pi, e, and a bunch of messages that are way too short to translate meaningfully.
light-and-wonder: Can you get anything by cross-referencing?
void-your-warranty: ...Some of them are similar??
light-and-wonder: Well, hopefully they'll figure out our language or give us more to work with soon.
space-ourselves: Incredibly adorable! I like them already.
life-should-flourish: ...I'm a bit worried about what this implies about coordination/unity, though...
light-and-wonder: We'll figure it out.

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When the planet gets a big corpus to analyze they throw some back in several different languages.

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void-your-warranty: I'm getting several corpuses here. Going to need a lot of compute for this, y'all, sorry.
light-and-wonder: Makes sense. Pull back once you've got enough to share?
void-your-warranty: o7

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Meanwhile, Amentans all over the world analyze theirs to see if they can figure it out! They have done toy problems like this before but they were all in conlangs and stuff. Practice. The world record-holder for competitive conlang decoding three years running and her team are hard at work in Tapa.

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void-your-warranty: Ok, back. They've got a lot of different languages.
life-should-flourish: Points for the uncoordinated hypothesis.
hopelessly-entangled: oh, i hope they don't fight...
space-ourselves: ...This many people and countries? There's no way they never fight.
space-ourselves: ...I hope it's at least rare, though. :\
light-and-wonder: We'll find out, I suppose.
light-and-wonder: Going to wideband first contact. Wish me luck!
life-should-flourish: ๐Ÿ€
hopelessly-entangled: ๐Ÿ€
void-your-warranty: ๐Ÿ€
space-ourselves: ๐Ÿ€

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"Hello! This is Zanmi, captain of the AFSP-ฮฑ03 'Probehibitively Expensive', and let me be the first to formally say 'hello' on behalf of my crew and rest of my people, light-years away. We're delighted to meet you and thrilled to learn more about you, and we have a lot we want to share with you as well, both culturally and technologically. I'd also like to request permission for us to alter the course of our ship, so that we might remain in your system for an extended period of time."
 
(This message repeats in every language that a corpus was sent for, as well as the language the probe originally sent out a corpus for)

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Ooh, known plaintext, very important. They can get to work a bit more informedly on the language. Everybody agrees (in their own languages) that they can stay in the system!

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light-and-wonder: We are go for burn to heliocentric orbit!
void-your-warranty: Alright, firing 'er up.

The probe's ion engine lights up in a brilliant plume. 

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Videos of it are promptly all over the internet below.

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space-ourselves: sooo... now what? 
light-and-wonder: I can't tell if they're waiting to decrypt our language before initiating formal contact, or coordinating, or what.
light-and-wonder: But I think either way it makes sense to wait a while longer to see who contacts us.
light-and-wonder: ...Let's see what we can observe from out here, too. Population distribution, that kind of stuff.
void-our-warranty: Scopes are open. And I'm working on booting up VR, too, we're fine on power.
hopelessly-entangled: ooooh, a cuddlepile sounds nice right about now.
life-should-flourish: Sweetie, are you ever not in the mood for a cuddlepile? ๐Ÿ’™ 
hopelessly-entangled: ...it sounds nicer than usual!
space-ourselves: That's fair, honestly.

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Some people do ask after not too long if the ship should be understood to be willing to carry on conversations in Amentan languages while they work on getting machine translation up to decode the corpus.

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void-your-warranty: We'll have to share our microchip knowledge with them.
light-and-wonder: Yeah, for sure.

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"We have access to very good translation and are happy to carry on conversations in any language we've been provided sufficient data on. Feel free to ask us any questions you have about our language, if it helps!"

(this is again sent in all the Amentan languages the Azurifice have a corpus for, as well as their own)

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The various nations of Amenta all start talking!

Many of them have already-prepared packets of information presumed to be of interest to aliens - facts about their solar system and themselves and their history and their planet and their language.

It becomes rapidly clear that these people are very crowded and want to be on other planets stat. They seem to expect that this will make aliens nervous and have remarked earnestly about the success of their population control measures.

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light-and-wonder: ...
void-your-warranty: ...
life-should-flourish: ...
hopelessly-entangled: ...
space-ourselves: ...There's a lot to unpack here.
life-should-flourish: Wow.
light-and-wonder: Let's, uh, start unpacking! Caste system first?
 

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light-and-wonder: Ok so at a high level this is just... specialization, right?
space-ourselveskinda? 
space-ourselves: I mean, like... yes?
space-ourselves: It means they don't have to do as much generalized education.
space-ourselves: And the global limits on grey populations actually seem incredibly important.
space-ourselves: But if you flip the bit*, it's specialization where the categories include a "none of the above", and that's the largest category.
void-your-warranty: You all saw the weighted votes thing, right? Like, they vary but in no place do purples have a bigger effective voting share than blues.
life-should-flourish: Yeah, that + the limitations on who they can even vote for makes it tempting to just round their democracies to "blue-led oligarchy".
life-should-flourish: I wonder if we're being too harsh, though? it... seems like it's working for them?
light-and-wonder: I mean. It's a stable equilibrium? But there are lots of really bad social stable equilibria that are theoretically possible, given the right incentive structure.
light-and-wonder: And I think it's pretty telling that the blue professions include landowning.
hopelessly-entangled: ...okay, so I have 2 main observations.
hopelessly-entangled: 1. I think the grey/orange split on sex work across cultures is fascinating, honestly! 
space-ourselves: Yeah, seconded.
hopelessly-entangled: 2. Is anyone else worried that they're systemically abusing reds?
hopelessly-entangled: They barely talk about them, they don't seem to get to vote, and their job is "sanitation", which, given their cleanliness instincts...
void-your-warranty: ...oh no.
life-should-flourish: ...yeah, it seems really likely to be bad.
light-and-wonder: Yeah. Uh, let's table castes for now and move on to discussing the cleanliness thing?
space-ourselves: Sure, but real quick; they'll probably want to know what castes we are/would be, right?
space-ourselves: I think that's basically straightforward; Zanmi is blue, Avaker is yellow, Makoki and I are green, and Penjaga is... orange, right?
life-should-flourish: Yeah, that tracks. 

*Azurifice expression meaning "on the other hand"

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space-ourselves: It really seems like how they think about cleanliness is basically... sanitation as a social technology, but on accident?
hopelessly-entangled: and maybe a permanent underclass!
light-and-wonder: hopefully there's just some misunderstanding there, but. yeah.
life-should-flourish: And lot of baggage, both as far as like... how far the associations reach and in terms of, like. Harming them??
life-should-flourish: Like, everyone read about why the Tapa-Voan war started, if you haven't already.
space-ourselves: ...wow. I, uh.
void-your-warranty: You're impressed with the impulse to do this but also think it's a horribly fucked up thing to do to real people and you're furious about the obviously-fumbled execution backfiring so predictably?
space-ourselves: ...yes. And also I love you. ๐Ÿ’™
void-your-warranty: ๐Ÿ’™
light-and-wonder: Augh, people starved to death rather than eat the food ๐Ÿ˜ข 
hopelessly-entangled: ๐Ÿ˜ข these poor people ๐Ÿ˜ข 
void-your-warranty: On the plus side, we're both extremely clean and have an excellent excuse for not being used to thinking that way.
void-your-warranty: I wonder if they'd let us do sanitation work for them.
life-should-flourish: Ooooh, that'd be an incredible source of income!
hopelessly-entangled: ...ummm. We might want to be careful with what we offer there?
space-ourselves: Oh. shit. she's right.
light-and-wonder: ?
life-should-flourish
: ?
void-your-warranty
: ...because they might conclude that we're unclean? 
space-ourselves
: because we might be displacing the economic niche of a permanent underclass!
hopelessly-entangled: on a planet where there are international agreements are about limiting population growth!
space-ourselves: and countries seem to primarily incentivize their populations via the right to have kids!
hopelessly-entangled: and their for-aliens material contains lines like "it's easier to go a spring without having a new kid if we had one last year"
light-and-wonder
: ...you two are worried that if we gave them sanitation automation they'd just let their sanitation workers starve?
space-ourselves: ...I know it sounds horrible but the incentives seem like they'd run that way?
life-should-flourish: ...right, yeah, it just...
hopelessly-entangled: it sounds insane and fucked up and horrible and you can't believe people would do that?
life-should-flourish: yes, that.
hopelessly-entangled: ...yeah, well. Sometimes the universe is, in fact, insane and fucked up and horrible, and sometimes people aren't good at handling that, and they make it worse. โ˜น๏ธ
light-and-wonder: ...Yeah.
light-and-wonder: So, uh, let's not offer to automate their sanitation stuff right off the bat, then.
space-ourselves: Good call, fearless leader.
light-and-wonder: Anyways. Let's talk about the population growth thing.

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life-should-flourish: So what's fascinating to me about this is how their information is very tailored towards reassuring us that they aren't going to be a horrifying expansionist nightmare fueled by their need to reproduce.
life-should-flourish: But in a manner that sure seems to imply that
life-should-flourish: a) they kinda are, in fact, at risk of being a horrifying expansionist nightmare fueled by their need to reproduce
life-should-flourish: b) they kinda expect that this is normal?
light-and-wonder: Yeah, like M&M were just saying
light-and-wonder: "We know how to widen our fertility cycle arbitrarily but we typically find this really unpleasant"
light-and-wonder: "We find it easier to skip having a kid during any given fertility cycle if we had one last cycle"
light-and-wonder: "One of the major functions of government is stopping people from having too many kids"
light-and-wonder: "how they do that is a major axis on which governments vary, and if children permissions are auctioned people will spend so much money on them it's not necessary to have taxes"
light-and-wonder: Doesn't take much to read between those lines!
void-your-warranty: What are we supposed to do about it, though?
void-your-warranty: Like, we can give them better technology, but it's not like we can just print them land!!
hopelessly-entangled: โ˜น๏ธ
life-should-flourish: โ˜น๏ธ
light-and-wonder: โ˜น๏ธ
space-ourselves: ...babe, you're a genius!
void-your-warranty: ...?
space-ourselves: ...Ok so what I actually meant is that I'm a genius, but you are a perfect muse and I love you more than I love shitposting? ๐Ÿ’™
void-your-warrantysputters love you too?!? ๐Ÿ’™ 
life-should-flourish: you two are so adorable jeez ๐Ÿ’™
space-ourselves: Fuck yes we are! Anyways.
space-ourselves: As our creative lead, I've just formulated the perfect plan to make life on Amenta better and also to make them love us.
light-and-wonder: ...go on...
space-ourselves: We print them land

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light-and-wonder: ...Muroti.
space-ourselves: Yes, fearless leader?
light-and-wonder: As you know, we all love you very much.
space-ourselves: ๐Ÿ’™ Love you too! You ladies are the light of my life.
light-and-wonder: And we have lots of faith in your mad plans creative problem-solving skills
space-ourselves: No, I like mad plans better! 
space-ourselves: More aesthetic.
light-and-wonder: But do you think you could give us a bit more detail than "we print them land"?
space-ourselves: Sure! Buckle up, kiddos, it's time to hear Muroti's simple 5-step program to halp Amenta. 
void-your-warranty: c:
hopelessly-entangled: o:
space-ourselves: Step 1: telling them about our probe and how it works and who we are (like as individuals, and also as a species)
space-ourselves: Standard first contact stuff! But standard first contact stuff that just sort of incidentally includes instructions on how to contact us, if you have the hardware.
life-should-flourish: ...Oh, to try and get randos to phone us?
space-ourselves: yep!
void-your-warranty: Ooooh, yeah. We'd get to talk to random greens and yellows that way, I think?
hopelessly-entangled: Maybe purples, too.
life-should-flourish: Maybe try and sound them out on hearing from someone from every caste?
light-and-wonder
: Ooh, good idea.
hopelessly-entangled: so what's step 2?
space-ourselves: I'll explain in a bit. Zanmi and I both have important things to do first!
life-should-flourish: ...such as?
space-ourselves: Well, she needs to get started on that standard first contact stuff!
light-and-hope: Ok, fair. 
space-ourselves: And need to make some shitty visual aids. To help explain.
life-should-flourish: oh no.
hopelessly-entangled: *giggles*

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Zanmi reassures the Amentans that she is super unworried about competing for resources! You see, the Azurifice are digital lifeforms and aren't particularly expansionist; "We're building a Dyson Sphere in our home system and we expect that to cover the resources we need for our own usage for the next hundred million years or so". They also don't have a pollution instinct, because they're entirely software-based, "but we don't expect this to be a problem because we don't produce or harbor biological contaminants that could be at all dangerous to you, and we're way out here in space anyways".

She explains that they're curious to learn more about Amenta, particularly about the caste system, since the Azurifice have never had anything like that; "Our best guess for the crew's caste mapping is that I'm blue, Muroti (creative lead) and Makoki (archivist) are both green, Avaker (engineer) is yellow, and Penjaga (second in command) is orange, which is an interesting cultural difference I'd love to explain after our archivist tells you more about our people and history." They're interested in eventually talking to people from every caste!

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The Amentans are really excited about them being digital life forms! That's cool and sounds so nice and clean and space-efficient. Were they uploaded? Can Amentans upload? Various governments cough up various members of various castes (not reds, but all the others, including purples) who are ready to chat whenever the Azurifice are. Are the Azurifice going to want electrical generation help at any point or are they solar powered or something? Here are more writeups of the caste system! Theology of caste. History of caste. Caste anthropology. Media samples popular differentially between castes.

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hopelessly-entangled: yeah, I think it's pretty interesting that blues-as-government is a recentish thing for them.
life-should-flourish: Unsurprising that greys used to be in on it, though. 
life-should-flourish: Actually, having a very strong cultural opposition to military leaders probably makes internal military coups a lot less likely to succeed and therefore be attempted.
void-your-warranty: Oh, that's a good point. 
light-and-wonder: I think once we give them our history dump we should do a series of interviews of people from several castes.
hopelessly-entangled: seconded.
hopelessly-entangled: ...we will want to get a read on how likely we think those calls are to be recorded / the people in them punished for what they say.
space-ourselves: I have guesses but I think we should interact with their diplomats a bit more directly before we say anything sensitive. 
space-ourselves: Anyways, we should introduce Makoki to a green xenoanthropologist, if we can find one.
light-and-wonder: Weren't you working on the next step of the plan?
hopelessly-entangled: on a shitty visual aid, specifically.
space-ourselves: Just finished, actually!
light-and-wonder: here we go
space-ourselves: BEHOLD!!!

Muroti's first shitty diagram, a picture of the probe and amenta with green and yellow arrows going from the probe to Amenta, a white arrow labeled $$$ going from Amenta to the probe, and a handshake symbol in the center. The probe is orbiting the sun.

life-should-flourish: ...
hopelessly-entangled: o:
void-your-warranty: ๐Ÿ’™
light-and-wonder: ...so what are we looking at, here?
space-ourselves: Another legendary masterpiece from the undisputed local champion of shitty diagrams!! 
light-and-wonder: besides "another legenda--
light-and-wonder: fuck
hopelessly-entangled: ...ok, the solar panels are a nice touch.
life-should-flourish: I think the shitty arrows are my favorite(??) part. You could have just done arcs! It would have been easier!
space-ourselves: This was more authentic.
light-and-wonder: Okay, so you're proposing that we do... something? In exchange for money.
space-ourselves: For shame, fearless leader! Have you forgot so soon how our numerous new friends are sorted?
void-your-warranty: ...honey, are those color-coded lines to indicate caste assignments of economic activity??
space-ourselves: Yes!!! Babe you are so smart ๐Ÿ’™
space-ourselves: Petition to promote Avaker to cultural relations specialist, since she's clearly adapting the fastest.
void-your-warranty: What? No!
hopelessly-entangled: ...we can get money for doing green and yellow work? 
life-should-flourish: That makes sense. We have a lot of both software and hardware innovation we can sell, and Avaker is very good at the kinds of detail-oriented engineering work some oranges hopefully get paid a lot of money to do.
space-ourselves: We could also maybe sell some of our media, if any of our genres are really popular down there.
light-and-wonder: So step 2 is... make money?
space-ourselves: Yep! And lots of it.
light-and-wonder: And I'm guessing we'll hear about step 3 once you finish your next shitty diagram?
space-ourselves: Ah, there's our Fearless Leader's big brain back in action! ๐Ÿ’™
light-and-wonder: You're such a horrible gremlin (affectionate) ๐Ÿ’™ 
space-ourselves: In the meantime, Zanmi and Makoki should work on giving them a history dump and answering their questions.
hopelessly-entangled: aaa *vibrates nervously*
life-should-flourish: awww ๐Ÿ’™ *hugs* ๐Ÿ’™ You okay?
space-ourselves: (You'll gonna do great, Makoki ๐Ÿ’™)
hopelessly-entangled: yeah. I'm ready. Just. aaaa, you know?
life-should-flourish: valid ๐Ÿ’™ 
void-your-warranty: valid ๐Ÿ’™ 
life-should-flourish: valid ๐Ÿ’™ 
space-ourselves: valid  ๐Ÿ’™

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