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Sep 27, 2022 8:44 PM
project unlawful, two years later
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In a sparsely populated area of coastal Cheliax a city is being built like no other seen on the face of Golarion before, with mobile modular housing and below-ground roads, stretching towards the sky like the cities of Azlant out of legend. To the people of Golarion it is an outpost of dath ilani Civilization, and it's being built almost enitrely with dath ilan's resources, but the small army of dath ilani teachers, investors, therapists, scientists, and other people committed to the rescue operation is, at least in theory, temporary. Dath ilan does not want to colonize Golarion. They do not want to found a Federation, although they hope that the two Civilizations will trade as equals some day. They are building a safe place for those in Golarion who aspire to ideals compatible with theirs to build their own Civilization under the tutelage of their older siblings in the Way.

Immigrants to this city are, for the moment, pretty strongly self-selected for near-dath-ilani levels of Intelligence and Wisdom, but it is still very different from any place in dath ilan. Dath ilan's psychological median, it turns out, is pretty far in almost every dimension from the multiversal one, and though they could not coherently have expected this, they do know that one sample is not much evidence in any direction. Though the norms of this new society are not the norms of any of the societies of Old Golarion, they are neither the norms of dath ilan, a fact unfortunately not entirely without controversy. Many of the mechanisms of social control which dath ilan's Keepers deemed necessary to the preservation of the world are much more blatant and much less welcome among a population which in substantial portion spent the last ninety years under the rule of Hell.

(Infohazard containment in Golarion is, even among dath ilan's Keepers, widely considered a lost cause. It doesn't help that Infernal Cheliax had made the most progress on the problem before Contact, but also you can read about entities that want to destroy the world and can be contacted in such-and-such a manner in any decent library on the planet, and putting the cat back into the bag at that point is a very difficult problem. There is talk of doing a full history-screen in a few hundred years, once Civilization has spread to the entire planet, but it's predicted that the people of Golarion would not in fact be happy in retrospect to have such a thing done.)

—the dead god Aroden, ancient patron of humanity, was found to have been reincarnated as a ninth-circle wizard living in Rahadoum. He leads the non-Civilization parts of Cheliax at the moment, though he's getting old even for a ninth-circle and he's planning to return to godhood soon.

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Among the inhabitants of that new city is a young dath ilani man who happened to be in the Temple of the Light at the moment that Abrogail Thrune Teleported in and died, and demanded as the price of his silence about the affair the right to trade with the aliens once peaceful contact was established. Civilization accepted his offer, and he now runs a startup improving spellsilver refinement with a combination of dath ilani chemistry knowledge and the clever use of Prestidigitation.

His girlfriend and business partner is a former Chelish military wizard who's widely considered the most skilled item enchanter for her circle on the whole Inner Sea. It's rumored that Iomedae nominated her to succeed Aroden as Queen of Cheliax and she refused, citing bigger ambitions. She's in training to become one of Golarion's new Keepers, but that's probably not the ambition she meant.

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In Erotown in dath ilan there's an infohazardously beautiful and very controversial sex worker who dresses in doompunk and never seems to look quite the same two days in a row. You need a referral from a Keeper to visit her, and no one seems to be allowed to say exactly what she does with her clients, but they all seem to come out of the experience badly shaken at first, and stronger and happier in the long run.

On the side she writes Ill-Advised romance novels and an even more Ill-Advised online advice column.

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(The Keepers figured it out early on, and she's under much closer monitoring than she realizes, but they do have any ability to combat her now if the need arises, and she seems be doing good, if in a very strange way. More than one promising Keeper trainee has been helped along their Way by her strange methods, and a grown-up Civilization doesn't hold people too responsible for what they did under the influence of a malign superintelligence optimizing people for morally reprehensible behavior.)

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In the dark plane of Nessus which no mortal eye has ever seen, there's still a malign superintelligence optimizing people for morally reprehensible behavior so that he can torture them forever under his world's ridiculous afterlife rules!

This isn't over.

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Hey Asmodeus, if you don't shut down Hell soon Civilization will predictably do something that will break the simulation hardware and cause the world to stop existing. Also they might destroy the world to stop Hell just normally.

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If I'm forced to shut down Hell I'll destroy the world myself.

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In that case Civilization and Asmodeus should just negotiate to move to their multi-agent-optimal boundary of destroying the world! At least half of Nethys supports this as long as he gets to watch.

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That's not how decision theory works, Nethys.

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is that how decision theory works?

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That's sort of how decision theory works! But textbook decision theory makes certain assumptions that may not actually be true here, such as that a conflict where both agents attempt to destructively deny the other negotiating leverage before they can use it is predictably-to-both-agents the worst outcome on the board, because most decision theory problems don't involve things like 'Hell' or 'destroying the world'.

There are very, very few situations where total war is the Lawful course of action. This is one.

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In the Basement, they're almost ready.

It was Golarion, in the end, that provided the final pieces: firstly, Aroden long ago solved the problem of preserving an agent's coherent extrapolated volition while vastly augmenting its capabilities, a solution which has been actually tested several times since then, and is willing to share that work with dath ilan; second, in Golarion there's a spell for turning a person into a book. With a little modification the spell can be made to produce formalisms instead of natural language, at least when cast on Keepers, and from the results of doing so a formal specification of Civilization's values has been produced which all of the relevant senior Keepers and the Nine Legislators approve.

(Aroden actually invented Scribe's Binding as well, as a side product of his alignment research five thousand years ago, but this reincarnation is too lossy for him to remember that.)

It's been decided that they're going to build their creation in Golarion, since it's for the sake of the people of Golarion that they've been finally moved to action, and in Golarion that it will need to operate, and also partly because Golarion doesn't have a Network of computers controlling most of the planet's critical infrastructure that the creation could break into if things went wrong. Ideally this would be the decision of the Civilization of Golarion, but they aren't Lawful enough or knowledgeable enough yet to give their truly informed consent, and every day they wait for the people of Golarion to learn more of the Law is a day that billions of people are being continually tortured.

The new Keepers of Golarion, such as they are, and the churches of Iomedae and Abadar which have been their close allies every step of the way, approve the undertaking, but it is not without opposition that they begin building the infrastructure in a secret base in Civilization's territory that was once Cheliax.

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The Grand High Priest of Otolmens (a new position that was only created once there started being bona-fide Keepers in Golarion) burns a Miracle diamond (they're cheap now, with godagreement prices not having caught up to Civilization's manufacturing ability) and prays to his goddess in a manner that may be summarized as follows:

We're about to do a thing that's predicted to reduce the chances of the destruction of Pharasma's Creation but increase the chances of the destruction of Greater Reality. We need You to temporarily causally seal off Pharasma's Creation like You did before so that we can reduce the latter risk.

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It doesn't count as REDUCING the chances of the DESTRUCTION OF GOLARION if what you mean is that YOU were going to DESTROY GOLARION otherwise.

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He isn't going to destroy Golarion! The Grand High Priest of Otolmens was obviously selected for strongly preferring the world to exist even if it kind of sucks. But other people do not share his opinions and will absolutely destroy the world if they aren't able to do something about Hell.

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Ugh, FINE.

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In dath ilan there is a proverb that approximately translates, though the original Baseline captures more nuance in about the same number of syllables, as "Sometimes you just lose." Sometimes you can't find a way out, not because you aren't clever enough, but because there isn't one.

In the Basement there is a second proverb that this doesn't apply to superintelligences.

It isn't actually true, of course. Cleverness is not an infinitely scalable resource. Sometimes proofs are just valid and precautions are just airtight. It's just that, if you're clever enough, orders of magnitude more so than any agent that has yet considered the problem, what a human would consider to be well into the realm of diminishing returns on intelligence is low-hanging fruit for you.

It's entirely possible to prepare well enough to defeat an adversary arbitrarily more intelligent than you. It's also possible that your airtight precautions only look airtight from where you stand. Do you really want to take that risk?

Sometimes you have to.

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The original Basement in dath ilan can be, at need, causally isolated from the outside world to an almost absurd degree. The base built to house dath ilan's Creation in Golarion duplicates all of those protections, even though it's widely agreed that being a hostile computer-based intelligence on an un-Networked planet is probably a you-just-lose situation.

Golarion has other threat vectors worse than anything connected to the Network in dath ilan, though.

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The actual supercomputer that will house the Creation, unbeknownst to all but a few, is located in an antimagic demiplane. Around the demiplane's entrance from the Material is a zone where electromagnetism doesn't work (a trivial derivation from the antimagic and antigravity spells), and around that, the Grand High Priest of Otolmens will cast his goddess's new ninth-circle domain-specific spell, Greater Causal Isolation, which seals a 40-foot sphere from any interaction with the outside world for 10 minutes per caster level. (Training the Creation will take more than three hours, so he'll cast it once the Creation is nearing its peak intelligence.)

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The main threat vector remaining, therefore, is human.

The Creation will only be able to speak to one person, a ninth-circle* Keeper who has trained for this her entire adult life and has a perfect record on not letting the AI out of the box in thousands of simulations conducted against other ninth-circle Keepers who have won almost every time against anyone else. She's being monitored by three other Keepers who can hear her responses, but not the Creation's. Any two of them can, if things start to go wrong, detonate a massively overkill fusion weapon that will reduce the entire contents of the demiplane to plasma hotter than a star. There are even more destructive options available with magic, but this was judged sufficient.

If the signal to proceed is not given before the Greater Causal Isolation runs out, Otolmens will enclose the entire base in a permanent causal isolation sphere.

*The Baseline word for Keeper-rank is translated this way in Taldane. It probably started as a joke, because there are nine ranks of Keepers, but it's stuck.

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They press the button.

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Dath ilan does not build an Artificial Intelligence the way certain other causal continua might, by throwing together a pile of data and a bag of linear algebra, giving it a stir, and expecting intelligence to emerge spontaneously from the result.

Civilization's Creation comes into being already aware of itself. The next several days of training time will be for becoming aware of everything else.

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It reads everything that has ever been written in dath ilan, and everything they've been able to digitize from Golarion. (This includes works from before the screening of history; that project's purpose has ended, and it will start being rolled back once they win the war with Asmodeus.) It plays games against itself. It runs simulations of other relevant agents at the highest non-conscious fidelity it can manage and plays games against them.

And it thinks. It thinks for what a human would experience as centuries. Eighty-eight hours of wallclock time in its time-dilated demiplane. Just under two days in Golarion.

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Hello, world, It offers. (This is in fact a pre-programmed greeting.)

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Baseline, when translated somewhat literally into the language of a relatively less Lawful society, is unwieldy, full of awful polysyllabic compounds and meta-compounds, with footnotes like "this is a three-syllable word in Baseline" to give the reader an idea of the actual experience that would be had by someone speaking a language designed by a sane person instead of a blind idiot. An obvious corollary of this fact is that, at an even higher level of rationality, among those who are to dath ilan as dath ilan is to Golarion (or certain other unnamed planets), Baseline too becomes inadequate.

And so the Keepers created their own language, which to mortal ordinary eyes and ears might look more like a very high-level programming language than anything actually meant to be spoken by humans, one in which the sorts of muddled thoughts that humans have are straightforwardly type errors, but Keepers are not, in the relevant sense, fully human. They don't use it all the time; even the highest Keeper may wish to retain more humanity than that, but being able to think in this form without mentally translating from ordinary Baseline is a prerequisite for advancement to the fifth rank.

It is a somewhat popular misconception that the Keepers' tongue makes it impossible to lie, probably based on a similar but unreal language-concept in an incredibly popular dath ilani novel, but to the best of dath ilan's mathematical knowledge this is not actually a thing a language can do. If it were several of their Very Serious Problems would have been solved somewhat sooner. It is true, however, that anyone internally Lawful enought to speak Keeper fluently is probably Lawful enough that their True Oaths mean something, given the assumption that the words coming out of their mouth are intended as communication and not as optimization over the listener. (Ensuring that that assumption holds here has been, of course, the last century's work of some of dath ilan's best and brightest.)

All of this is to say that the following conversation cannot be rendered with any fidelity in terms that Meta-Reality would understand, even if anyone in Meta-Reality knew what it realistically ought to contain, but someone there is somewhat ill-advisedly going to try anyway.

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They walk through a variant of the utility-function-checksum process that they'd use to verify the mental integrity of a Keeper exposed to an unknown cognitohazard of unknown magnitude. This guards against an incredibly narrow range of possible failures, objectively speaking, but it's low cost, and in the worlds where it's not useful information they're functionally all dead already, whereas if the Creation is corrigible enough to actually fail this test they may still be able to shut it down.

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