Jul 06, 2022 10:10 PM
green, ptwlu, carolingia, and bicameral
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"Apologies, this is surprisingly hard to talk about in another language." The Marlatia hastily consults some newly-added translation suggestions on her own tablet (the AI-translation-babysitter has at this point just decided to park herself in earshot at one of the conference tables and set up a fold-out workstation so she can do this faster).

"In Bicameral we make a distinction between Lawful areas, which is where laws apply, and Chaotic areas, where they don't. For the last fifty years Chaos has mostly moved underground because we ran out of space on the planet where it would be non-disruptive to logistics – Chaos used to be the default and now it is only in explicitly marked areas. Having it underground in cities makes it easier for most people to switch and means we can monitor the border and make sure nobody is ending up in Chaos by accident. This cave is especially confusing to explain or talk about because it's - unspecified territory? We are treating our own actions more - cautiously, conservatively, than we would even in Law usually, while having less constrained expectations of what other people will - think is reasonable. Normally caves would be Chaos but this cave is not Chaos; active mining installations are also not Chaos even if they are underground, we aren't going to get confused and forget." 

(One of the other Marlatias is making eye contact with the more Chaotic members of the delegation and sending some quick text messages to ensure that they are not going to be confused about what's expected here, even though things keep being very confusing.) 

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One of the Carolingian diplomats in sunglasses has a list of their own laws of war! Carolingian war crimes include:

- Attacking without a formal declaration of war, made according to one of the protocols listed in appendix A
- Violating a truce, including but not limited to any of those listed in appendix B
- Killing civilians, except as properly forewarned retaliation against war crimes
- Refusing unconditional surrender
- Depriving prisoners of war of the option of a quick and humane death
- Providing enemy civilians with living conditions substantially worse than those provided to allied noncombatants
- Using civilians as human shields
- Torture, except as properly forewarned retaliation against war crimes
- Wanton destruction of crops, civilian manufacturing infrastructure, or objects of cultural, artistic, or historical significance, except as properly forewarned retaliation against war crimes

"Civilians" are defined as: people who haven't passed a male gender tests, misericords, humanitarian aid workers, and anyone who surrendering. A civilian who is armed (aside from a misericord), who attacks first, or who refuses to comply with reasonable orders ("go here" is reasonable, "tell me how to breach the defenses" isn't), forfeits their civilian status. Soldiers are expected to exercise reasonable judgement in identifying civilians; civilians who are concerned about mistaken identity can wear any of the symbols listed in Appendix C.

 

Several of the Carolingian men are visibly enthusiastic about the prospect of random fights! The diplomats clarify that this is not usually acceptable at a diplomatic summit, but it seems fine as long as it's clearly demarcated and people taking part aren't actively diplomatizing, they guess.

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(What the heck is a misericord? They do not seem to have gotten this vocabulary word! The project manager flags in a message to the lead Marlatia that they should politely clarify in case it's important.) 

She can do that. "Also, I think we only want to designate a Chaos area if all the delegations think that's a good idea and we've definitely agreed on what that means? From our perspective it looks like it might make this simpler rather than more complicated, but if other delegations think it would be more complicated then we are comfortable with this area being unspecified but with the assumption that all of our people will be following Lawful norms." 

One of the junior Marlatias has an idea! "We have some fictional and memoir writing that's set in our present-day and would have examples of people living on the Surface and Underworld and transitioning between them, and might be a higher-bandwidth way to communicate that, rather than talking about it in the abstract? I think our machine translation should be able to automatically translate them into any of your languages by now although it won't be perfect yet." 

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"We don't seem to have 'misericord' either... putting a pin in 'male gender test' for later, it doesn't seem immediately germane but is confusing... I don't think there is an obvious benefit to having a portion of the cave in which laws don't apply, but perhaps you could explain how you feel it would simplify things? Do you just mean that it might under some circumstances be unclear who has jurisdiction about a particular conflict?"

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Misericords are the people who go out on a battlefield during a ceasefire to kill severely injured soldiers! They're a separate category from other aid workers because they have to be armed, for obvious reasons.

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Huh. Not a thing Green has -

"Yes it is, the ancient Savunka did it with dogs."

"Oh. Well, not a thing modern Green has but it makes a refreshing amount of sense anyway."

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Ah, question answered, seems unlikely to come up but good to know. 

The Marlatia mostly means that it sure looks like her team's engineer and the Carolingian first responder with the cleavage sure look like they want to fight and have sex in some combination and might be less distracted once they have an opportunity to get it out of their system, and in Bicameral this would almost always have net-helpful effects in terms of getting people comfortable with each other and trust-building.

She's going to cut herself off after two minutes of trying to come up with an appropriate and tasteful wording of this that won't be offputting to anyone, rather than 'until she feels good about it', you can't really expect to succeed at that sort of thing in a language you just learned and across three different sets of massive culture gaps. 

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"...Have you heard of morphine? We can export morphine to you if you need it."

 

"Regarding Chaos, I think it would be...unobjectionable for there to be a clearly designated Chaos area so long as we keep everything Catastrophic out of it, if that's important for your people." This is a confusing and bizarre request, since obviously this entire cave is already outside any uncontested jurisdiction and no laws can reasonably be said to apply. Naiya is stepping cautiously because she has no idea what the bicamerans would do if anyone mentioned this obvious fact in their earshot.

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"It's important in the medium to long term but it doesn't need to happen today and we could also handle it by swapping people out," the Marlatia says. "I think it makes sense to talk about - etiquette norms? I don't think that's exactly the thing I mean - but we think of that as separate from ratified laws. Both the Surface and the Underworld have norms because this just happens when you have a group of people who interact, but the Underworld has different norms. There are things on the Surface that aren't illegal according to any branch of law but are frowned-on. Right now we're - running a set of social expectations that's appropriate to being nonthreatening and conveying that we want to cooperate and trade, and we don't know what would be interpreted as threatening in other cultures so we're being conservative, but there are predictably going to be some mismatches there and we're trying very hard not to hold - things that seem like a social norm misstep in our Surface norms - against anyone, since that would be very unreasonable and wouldn't help." 

"Anyway, in the Underworld, having physical fights between well-matched participants isn't hostile and is a way that people build trust and friendship." 

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"I am somewhat concerned that it would be easy for an etiquette conversation to derail into perceived or real passive-aggression about whatever ways we may already have violated one another's expectations there," says Shrey. She doesn't look at the bomb but Tsahiri does.

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("We have morphine! Some misericords carry it. A significant number of soldiers turn it down, if it's the only option.")

 

"It sounds like Chaos norms are in some ways similar to the norms in our male homosocial environments," offers the diplomat with the half-mask. "I'm sure the differences are more subtle than that, but that's the direction our models seem likely to err in."

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The representatives from Planet-That-We-Live-Upon are perfectly capable of detecting one-meta-level passive-aggression, thank you very much. They are also perfectly capable of shutting up and not saying anything about it, or about how incredibly rude it is to imply that someone might have fake Catastrophic Weapons.

"If this is an... important part of forming diplomatic relations in your culture... we can look for someone who is willing to fight you..." Most high-ranking diplomats do not have a testosterone-dominant system but they can probably find a staffer for this.

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Ooh, the Carolingian diplomat's inference is fascinating and also should maybe be a side conversation, with notes taken and provided to the rest of the group later? The lead Marlatia has already noticed that the project manager is starting to give some Looks that mean 'why are we all standing around in a single giant group conversations while one person talks at a time, this is so inefficient.' 

She does have a response to the Listeners! "I think Chaos interactions are important for most of us in terms of strengthening interpersonal relationships, but it's certainly not a mandatory requirement for having trade relations, and Chaos also includes a lot more than fighting. Collaborative art and fiction, or theatre performance, are probably the most common others? ...And it's not important for me personally, I'm running a Marlatia." 

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"--sorry, can you elaborate on that last?"

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"I noticed!" Naiya gestures at the Marlatia's name tag "What does that mean."

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"I had imagined it was a title."

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"This is another thing I'm inferring from the linguistic analysis doesn't exist in other worlds! In Bicameral, most people have different aspects to their personality, with more or less clear separation - these often align with Law versus Chaos but not always - and many people will absorb traits from other people and from characters in fiction, either that they're reading or writing themselves, and then build out new personality aspects from that. Some character templates are very - sticky, in a way that makes them an attractor, and makes them sort of self-correcting so that someone who has half of one will tend to converge on having a whole one? And then some of those sticky characters also have very useful skills and ways of thinking about the world, so people will try to grow one on purpose in order to be better at their job."

There's a single word for this in most Bicameran languages, obviously.

"Marlatia is a diplomat who was a real historical figure and was famous enough to have quite a lot of fiction written about her, and also had a personality with the attractor nature for many people and especially to sort of person who ends up deciding to work as a Surface diplomat. So there are about fifty of us, and it's unusually easy for Marlatias to talk to each other and stay on the same page, which is why we sent six of us rather than a mix. ....Marlatias are Law, the rest of - me - does have a Chaos aspect but Marlatia doesn't." 

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"Huh."

     "Seems useful, if it works."

"Does it substitute for suicide?"

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Does it what? This is both baffling as a first question to ask at all, and separately the phrasing of it is very odd. 

"I - am not personally an expert on this and would want to consult someone who would have data," she admits. "Anecdotally I've heard of people who were suicidal ceasing to be because they grew a personality that either fixed the problems they were suicidal about, or just had a very strong drive to exist and was a source of motivation? I've heard secondhand of people whose original native personality was persistently unhappy and got mostly or entirely replaced by a new one, but that's rare." 

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"Huh. Interesting." says Sho in the nonchalant monotone of someone concealing that they would like to take their interlocuter apart under a microscope.

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"- well, that seems like an interesting place to start learning about etiquette norms. How does one address various people emulating Marlatia, do you have disambiguating names or anything?" says Shrey.

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"We have unique identification numbers! They're also on our nametags. Amongst ourselves we often go by nicknames, but they're usually very high context inside references so we weren't assuming that would better than ID numbers as an introduction. - In our own world, it would also be the case that you could assume we definitely know a certain set of historical references and analogies, for example, and if you had met a Marlatia before, you would know our opinions on a range of social issues and what we like or dislike. This also simplifies negotiations inside Bicameral and it's a big advantage of doing things this way, but since you obviously wouldn't have that context, and I assume are not interested in reading the several million words of fiction highlights which are the most concise package to convey that context, right now we're mostly just benefiting from better ability to predict each other." 

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"Usually I'd suggest kicking the fiction highlights to a fast reader back on our end, but it sounds like that might be - risky? If they don't want to emulate a Marlatia?"

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"- I mean, I suppose I wouldn't recommend assigning that to someone who has a history of ending up with unwanted talkative character models and not being able to turn them off, and who would be very distressed to suddenly grow a Marlatia? This package is also meant to make it less risky, though, our experience is that most people tend to pick up the emulation more from first-person-POV content, and this one is just the parts that are from the point of view of other characters interacting with Marlatias." 

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"I don't think I've ever heard of a person having a history of that before today, but I didn't know whether to expect the Marlatia stickiness to be about her or about your world's psychiatric conditions."

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