The first selfworld summit between Kastakians, Tetratopians, Bywayeans and Zmavlipre.
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Consul Restem and Neksil with Jeffinar

Neksil: "Oh yes! That would have been terribly tragic. In the case the drone-gift idea is unviable, we can gift you books about it instead, some of which I've written. Although I'm not sure how much it would be of use to you – many of them are dependent on the specific properties of flora and fauna on our world, which might not be found in yours. I was one of the colonists to the New Continent, and I wrote a bunch of guides on adapting local materials to what were then the current techniques in various construction and handicraft fields.

And no, you do not smell offensive at all – we hope that we do not. It is quite intriguing, though: the scent of the other species here is, despite being firmly outside the expected-range-of-variation for remna, is still more similar to us than any animal or plant on our planet. I suppose that makes sense, since of course having a scent not already expressed by anything would be selected for in our evolution. You not being a part of our planet would mean you would have exerted no selection pressure on us in that regard."

Consul Restem: "It is thought that we were once ovoviviparous, but then became oviparous again in the transition from quadrupedalism to bipedalism, which necessitated changes in bone structure. We gestate an egg for one of our years...which is about," he turns to Sud, who supplies the number, "1.18 standard years, and which is incubated for another year. This is for drones; Keeper offspring take a month or two longer at each stage.

I see, your species is dioecious but not sexually dimorphic, or at least is dimorphic only by very little. We will take care not to speculate. For us, all Keepers may give birth to drone offspring both asexually and sexually, with the latter only being done when trying for Keeper children. New Keepers can only be birthed sexually, but even if you are deliberately using body-control to try for one, only about one in six of such births will be Keepers."


Lisal and Suksub with Tetratopians

Suksub: "Yes, we are usually able to work out the broad strokes of what our civilization wants if we focus, but we try not to legibilize our utility functions so concretely. Also, it's a principle of this government not to assume what its citizens' desires are – even if it might have keen insight into what they might be – and thus not optimize over them. Instead, the government is structured around certain rights and responsibilities which its citizens agree to be protected and bound by: in this sense, our government is more deontological than utilitarian. We only have so much state capacity, and we believed that this was a good and robust way to structure ourselves. It may not produce the best outcomes, but it is robust against many catastrophic outcomes, and is stable."

Lisal: "How does your species reproduce? We are eusocial: drones are the members of our species which are sterile, whereas Suksub and I are Keepers, who are not." He will give the same explanation of remna reproduction as was given to the Kastakians.

Suksub: "I see. I observe that Tetratopians are more towards the optimization side of things, whereas we are more concerned with variability or robustness. Generally, I think that we are more willing to sacrifice efficiency in methods if it means that they will operate on a wider range of circumstances. Usually, people will modify methods to suit their own needs and situation, but we find it useful and a common good to have unified standards in the cases where the situation or preferences are unknown, and robust solutions must be used – the Imperial Standards Authority publishes such robust standards on many, many things. I suspect getting you some volumes of them would be interesting to you, as examples of what could be considered our optimal-tileable-somethings – in this case they would be our robust-tileable-somethings. As an example, all of our clothes and equipment currently is Imperial-standard, including our language, given that we are representatives of the Imperium.

We chose a well defined area in clothes-space rather than a single point: coherence of aesthetic is important to us, but uniformity not necessarily so." He will elide the fact that uniformity is drone-coded. Would the Tetratopians find being implied to be drones to be offensive? Probably not? But he doesn't want to risk it – it would be offensive on Zmavlimu'e.


Selno and Hansil Reply to Yompam on Brains

Guy #1, who has by now introduced himself as Selno Aineh, is momentarily chastened about the 'well of course they're lighter, they fly' thing, but quickly forgets about it. He has a lot of questions about the part of the brain that the Kastakians loosely attribute reflective consciousness to. The ones he actually asks are just 'is it bilateral?' and 'what happens with lesions?', though, because now he has an informal explanation-debt to repay!

Bywayeans have about 16 billion neurons in the cortex and 90 billion overall, although those numbers vary a lot more between individuals than they thought they would! They used to extrapolate their estimates from dead-people tissue samples but now they have imaging techniques that can give them a direct estimate-count from the whole, live brain, which is important because, for some time now, almost everyone who would otherwise auction off the rights to their brain upon death has instead been signing up for cryo.

The reason he's been so curious about their mass, brain mass, neuron counts, etc. is that Kastakians represent an insanely epistemically valuable independent data point for figuring out exactly what the hard constraints on the biological evolution of general intelligence are.   . . . He honestly has no idea what the sudden incredibly human-looking tentacle-havers imply about evolution - or about anything, actually.

Byway, at this point, has a pretty deep fractal tree of hi-def brain imaging methods - although the branches nearer the trunk are less chaotic, the methods that turned out to be in some way suboptimal having been pruned away. The methods mainly involve putting someone in a big, tunnel-shaped scanner (although the scanners are getting smaller) and getting readouts on either the brain's inherent electromagnetic activity, or the traced paths of an ingested substance that emits some kind of signal. Sometimes the person's head is also directly covered with surface electrodes. Beyond that, there's tons of variation as people try to hit on some way to combine ever deeper detail in space, with ever deeper detail across time.

Guy #3, Hansil Aineh (their second name, he explains, is the same, because they call themselves after the same city, Aineh), is curious about the migraines, but interrupts himself to give a rundown of human neurological conditions. Dementias were the real nightmare, but after him and his people took down the most common one, the others mostly fell within the next duodecade, although there are a couple really stubborn holdout dementias. (There is zero subconscious, felt, or expressed, pride, here, these are just Historical Facts that Hansil is giving.) They used to think dementias hit about a tenth of the population starting at age seven dozen or so, with the rates rising sharply after that. But people started looking, five or so duodecades back, and realized that a lot of people as young as four dozen had 'stealth dementia' - clear physical signs of dementia beginning, without any outward manifestations. And the ages of first observed manifestation just kept inching closer to youth after that. After taking care of the root cause of those, the toll of human neurological aging on cognition is more randomly distributed. It sounds to Hansil like Yompam is saying Kastakian neurological aging is pretty randomly distributed already, and he wonders if they might not have things like human dementias.

Other major problems include: Cancer in glial cells and other helper cells (Byway is fighting the tail end of those pretty hard right now, and winning). Tricky chronic autoimmune diseases - those are proving really difficult to tackle in general, Hansil physically nods in respect to Selno. And infections - he nods to Selno again! Hansil recalls Cannibal's Disease having been a thing with cats many many duodecades ago, people were worried it would spread to humans but it never did. He expresses genuine horror that Kastakians have ever had to deal with prion diseases in their own species, seeing as prion diseases are worse than the worst things most hypochondriac children can imagine happening to them.

There're also developmental difficulties, although Byway has been less quick to 'cure'/prevent certain of those than later-in-life stuff, because, well, neurological development getting donked around in ways that usually lead to at least some medical problems is well recognized as The Thing That Lays The World's Thiccest Golden Eggs - not just cortical stuff that lets people, like, solve partial differential equations in their head, that actually doesn't necessarily come with problems, but, you know, subcortical aspies who can just consider more stuff as they live their life, and reap all the benefits. The opposite thing, schizophrenia, where you can't consider as much stuff, has largely been preempted by embryo testing and gene therapies by now, though. Along with a whole bunch of nasty genetic neurological things.

Selno interjects at this point, and asks if anyone is here on behalf of a Kastakian biotech or medical firm that would be willing deal with Selno or one of his colleagues - Bywayean firms opening Kastakian offices, or selling quickly-usable improvements on their vaccine pipeline, that kind of thing? No one here runs an actual medicine operation, unfortunately, but he knows lots of people who are involved in medicine and they'd be, uh, interested!


Ikkeh Proto-Replies to Jeeee on Boats and Power

Ikkeh Aineh (elsewise known as Guy #2) is enraptured! He takes lots of notes, peeping Jeeee's notetaking process sporadically.

"Jeeee, your pens are sick." He shows off his own gel pens. They are basically naked cartridges, thinner than skinny chopsticks, no bulky grip. "Do you want trade to compare?

. . . So you don't have fission power at all? Well, it's only four dozen and six years old for us, and it was luck we got it when we did. In that case, I don't expect the optimizations Ikkeh has made to be of use to Kastakians in general quite yet, sorry - although I can still go into that level of detail if you want! I did promise it.   . . . How long do you live, currently, anyway? For all I know the info I promised you will still be worth a lot to you when Kastaka catches up on fission in four duodecades. Anyway. Let me get a general tutorial together - " he starts drawing something up.

(If they've traded pens, Jeeee will find that Ikkeh's pens are only ergonomic for someone with super fine motor control, but are beautifully and precisely pressure-sensitive.)



Kriv and Ect Reply To Talaskai on Planes

Kriv Kwemaru (elsewise Guy #5) is impressed by Talaskai's chemical proficiency relative to his general level of experience, and his civilization's general tech level. "A fraction of mineral oil, yeah - what does Kastakia use it for? Do a lot of people know how to make it for some reason? And there's nothing particularly wrong with combustion, it's just that some people think they can leapfrog the rest of society and deliver early super-efficient nuclear-powered personal vehicles. Not for any real specific reason, just that it should in principle be possible -"

"Which is known to be a terrible way to go about problems in general," shoots Guy #4. "Hi, I'm Ect." (Ect gets Talaskai's name.)

"Problems," breezes Kriv Kwemaru, "that everyone else in this era has not also tried and failed at."

Ect shrugs.


Lak Replies To Meliashae on Infotech

Lak Ram Askielal (elsewise Guy #7) is very interested on those text compression algorithms! He secretly suspects Byway already has most of them, but probably not all. He doesn't ask after them, though, because he prefers formal trade where large volumes of boilerplate are going to be involved, whether that's algorithms or silicon purification.

"That you have such a developed proto-Net before even having transistors is fascinating! It's like - I can see, your Net is going to grow into something much more Net-native than ours. Ours is still based around company-internal infranets with big datacenters and central output servers, very physical. I like ours but we will steal so much from yours.

Ram Askielal - where I'm from, can't remember if I said - has mostly transitioned to fiber optic connections, which are less jittery and can be higher-bandwidth, although lots of places are still heavily copper-wire-based. We use radio towers to Net-connect these" - he depockets and presents a Bywayean personal device, an approximately 4"x2+(1/2)"x(1/3)" computer, mostly screen, with a physical keyboard. "but those are fixed, and we geolocate with them. Do you . . . " it's plain correct guessing is a matter of pride for him ". . . are a lot of Kastakians proficient in star-orienteering, or do you do enterprise geolocation some other way?

Anyway, that's a minor thing. We also use fiber- and copper-connected endpoints to generate a local radio signal that lets you wirelessly connect over a short range. PDs - personal devices - can also act as that, but just using the long-range radio signal they connect from. There are a couple attempts going on right now to launch, basically, radio towers, into orbit, like observation probes, so that people can connect via long-range radio, wherever. We already have pretty good radio tower coverage, but orbiting endpoints would let, for example, marine shippers connect, which is a huge problem currently. I'm optimistic!

With respect to transistor manufacture and trading on algorithms - you say you work in infotech, right? What do you do? Can you make deals on behalf of your company with me?"


Hansil The Piece Of Paper Reads Thessalia's Info

Hansil thanks Thessalia! He reluctantly puts away kis paper for now, not wanting his knowledge of kis answers to pollute the rest of his first impressions of the aliens, and possibly even the other aliens' answers somehow.

But the paper will need to know what Thessalia wrote!

1) Do people on your world generally recognize their species as being distributed over (a) finite-sum gradient(s) of quality in any, or many, cognitive trait(s)? Like, Job A requires people who are high in trait alpha for their overall intelligence, but Job B requires people who are high in trait beta for their overall intelligence, and traits alpha and beta seem to trade off against each other?

2) If yes to the above, has your species crystallized a small number of such functionally relevant axes with high confidence?

3) If yes to (1) and no to (2), what is your species's state of understanding about such axes? If yes to (1) and (2), what are the axes?

4) How many distinct items can people on your world store in short-term memory?

5) How many times can people on your world recurse through the same lexical-generation or otherwise conscious-blocking-top-level function, while still holding the partial results of the outer calls in memory, to be collapse-evaluated when the process finishes?

6) What's the minimum elapsed time between people on your world receiving a stimulus physically, and voluntarily reacting to it in a way that was necessarily the result of conscious, top-level processing?

7) (PLEASE don't feel pressured to answer this one; I wouldn't feel comfortable answering on behalf of my world, but I have to ask!) Does your species know its own basic emotional suite? If so, what are the atoms?

8) Are there clear multimodal distributions of cognitive traits within your species, that track sex or other inborn characteristics? If so, what are these traits and how do they vary multimodally?

9) Does your species commonly use standardized tests to measure cognitive performance? Are you presently able to produce (a) representative example question(s) drawn from (a) common such test(s), along with what they're designed to measure?

ζ) Please give a broad outline of your species' cognitive development from infancy.

₵) Please give a broad outline of (what your species understands about) your species' evolution into sapience, including estimated average group size at time of transition into sapience.

(It goes on . . . )

(This is the same questionnaire Hansil will give to anyone who wants to fill out his questionnaire!)


Hansil to Cinsal

"Hello, Cinsal! I'm Hansil Aineh.

Er, leader? That's not translating, I don't think I've met the concept, sorry.

. . . Dear Vaxi you never had to deal with aging." He is clearly just stunned at this concept.

"If you don't think about refining your values into legibility so that you can, you know, contribute something to your species' total code of ethics, then - what do you think about?

It's fine if you don't want to answer some of the questions, go right ahead. In fact, I encourage people on the survey to refrain from answering questions they don't feel comfortable with." He really wishes the aliens were comfortable sharing everything, but that's an anti-matter for this conversation.

"The aspect of your history where you drove your predators into extinction concomitantly with attaining sapience is unholy fascinating but before we get into anything else, I really have to ask: are y'all a hivemind?"


Eyyeh to Reren

"Hi! I'm Eyyah Vaxilal. Sorry, 'leader' isn't translating.

Ah, yeah, the impact on health from being near coal plants was a really unfortunate aspect of that stage!" He means it. "I don't think our species gets lawsuits, though. I bet they're awful." He sounds sympathetic.

"There's lots I can tell you about fission and plant design, but first - are y'all a hivemind?"


Cinsal with Hansil

Cinsal: "A 'leader' is someone who is charged with final-decisionmaking-capacity. For example, suppose that you are a group of people who must make their way through a forest. Some people say that Path A is safer, and some say Path B, and circumstances are such that the whole group must stick together. At some point, even after all relevant information is exchanged, there is still disagreement. The 'leader' in this case is the one who has the authority to say what the whole group ought to do, and whom all members of the group will obey if they make a decision. Normally, we prefer to work individually, but in cases like this, where decisions might have to be made very quickly, and where it is more convenient to have a single point of contact, we adopt this structure. Neither of us are the leaders of our group – our leader is Consul Restem.

It is thought that, in the ancestral environment, drones aged but Keepers did not. This is only speculation, though – there is no mention of Keepers or drones senescing in both memory and recorded history. 

I am or have been a biologist, agriculturalist, chemist, and geologist, and never a priest or a moral philosopher – the field doesn't really interest me. People vary about what their ethics are and what they value? In any case, my position on ethics is irrelevant: I come here as a representative of the Imperium, not a private citizen.

I see. I think I'll take a look at it but refrain from answering at least until I've seen the other exhibits from your world. I also think that I wouldn't be best placed to answer these questions," he says, skimming the questionnaire, "and that you're better off asking Lisal. He's a psychologist. What do you mean by hivemind. Can I get a translation check on that? Why do you ask?

I'll try to pre-empt your questions. We reproduce eusocially, with myself and Reren being Keepers – which are capable of reproducing. The others here," and he'll point to several people who came with them, "are drones, and cannot. Keepers can communicate with drones verbally and with pheromonal signals – although the latter is very nonspecific. Drones, however, can be trained to model the desires and goals of their Keepers accurately, which permits them to operate more independently and with less oversight, as well as less overhead for Keepers in thinking through the implications of orders given to them. This is called proactivity training. Is that what you meant, when you said 'hivemind'? I think there are connotations around the word you're using I'm not picking up, though."

Reren with Eyyeh

"Yes, although with us a big concern is also scent. I think that our species' capacity to detect scent is more sensitive and specific than yours', given that we are able to sense particles in the air not just with the nose, but also the tongue and back-tentacles. Keeping the outdoors smelling not-awful is an important part of governance – anyone can stink up their own property as much as they want, but if it crosses over to other people's property, they may sue.

Hm, so you don't do lawsuits? What if there was someone with a factory dumping waste into the river, ruining the water for people downstream? Also suppose that the factory owner did not own any of the downstream riverside land."

Reren will say similar things about eusociality that Cinsal did, although he gives a briefer pre-emptive explanation.


Byway wrt Tetratopia

(Ikkeh and Eyyeh keep an eye on the Tetratopians, wondering what their respective loudspeaker messages might have meant to them.)


Hansil to Cinsal

Hansil almost tells Cinsal that he will give Lisal an insane amount of money if Lisal fills out Hansil's survey. But the voice of his childhood bookkeeping boss floats up to him, out of the mists of Time: "No matter how much you want to be on the same side of the table as the other party, don't show them all your cards until the deal is closed." Hansil . . . physically stops himself from revealing his true final bid price. If Lisal leaves interesting (ha!) questions off, he can ask after those, with fistfuls of money, then.

". . . If I might ask, where can I find Lisal?"

Eyyeh to Reren

Eyyeh sounds absent. "The people downstream would sue someone at the factory of course, and their voucher and you would agree on an arbiter, and their voucher would pay out or make them pay out if the arbiter judged the factory guy to have violated the downstream people - it's the 'lawsuit' thing that's not translating . . . "

Eyyeh, for all his continued sympathy and curiosity, is going to gloss right over the revelation about the aliens' capacity for scent. And whatever 'governance' is. It can wait.

"What I meant when I said 'hivemind'," says Eyyeh after thinking for a minute, "is 'group of apparent individuals that thinks as one mind, acts as one mind, desires as one mind, of which the 'individuals' are in reality only appendages.'" Eyyeh hasn't booted up into Word Games mode, so if they're the kind that exploits every gap between word and obvious intended meaning, he's double screwed. For now.

"The eusocial caste partition, and associated conditioning techniques," relatively less important right now "that you describe, would partially explain why and how the - drones" he eyes the ones Reren pointed out "follow their specific Keeper. It would not explain . . . " he trails off, gaze wandering to bits of the Zmavlimu'e delegation as it's spread around the cave. "Why you're all dressed the same, or, coordinatedly, and why y'all do everything else so coordinatedly. If each Keeper's genes were only concerned with its copies in the Keeper's own sterile drones and downstream offspring during evolution, and if your species, and not something that ate it later, still runs things, you should all be acting as independent individuals, with independently internally derived, mostly socially conspecific-adversarial, motivations. The 'leader' mechanism you describe, partially explains the how, but not the why." He looks Reren right in the eye. "How did ancestral Keepers exchange genetic material? What optimization process begat the utility function of this - this system?"

A superintelligent hivemind, thinks Eyyeh, probably doesn't want to reveal just what it is in a room full of lesser beings. He knows that if he's talking to a superintelligence, he's dead in the water anyway, but, you know.



Tetratopia <> Byway

A negotiator or a few heads over, notices that it's an academic convention kind of thing (huh, it's kind of like asking for retroactive funding for what you’ve done as a civilisation, except the retroactive funding is in knowledge trade that you have no idea how valuable it is to the other party, is the preliminary guess at what's going on here), and pages some of the subject matter experts.

Oh hell yes Guy #2! Between the spaceflight and the promise of a tessellation-based design, some Tetratopian delegates privately have a favourite. 

The physicist of the delegation, whose specialisation is in weird materials but whose hobby to wind down is developing an unreasonably detailed game about nuclear reactors and spaceships, heads over there to check out the tessellation-based designs at this academic convention. After a quick sanity-check of the rocket (thoughts: yep, it looks right, oh I so want to compare our world's versions of Rocket Spreadsheet) and the fission plant (thoughts: those are some interesting choices from a slightly different tech path that I can't actually evaluate standing here but I can buy it) - because there are things you can do with nuclear reactors and rockets that Tetratopia is like a year away from scaling up to, so they don't want to carelessly drop hints - if Guy #2 is interested they will also share that Tetratopia has rockets! And satellites! We use them for location and for sending text messages.

They would love to know about this tessellation-based design! 

Oh that's pretty cool Guy #6!

The delegation's chemist goes over. It's not quite what they mean, optimal-tilable is more of a macroscale and conceptual thing, but are any of these materials now the best and most common materials you'd use for something, and we can tell you what we'd be using in those circumstances, and we can also talk about what we have in general and whether there's anything we'd directly want to talk about trading at this stage.

Guy #7 is working in a famously hazardous field, and it's very strange that you'd bring it here, where aliens are! (thoughts: Do they know? optimistic thoughts: Do they know so much, as to be reassured?)

Tetratopia's AI expert who knows about chip performance but not specifics on manufacture heads over to see if their chips are better than Tetratopia's and strike up a general conversation about how things are going. If it looks like it can be done with Bywayan chips - just as they don't want to carelessly spoil Byway on ICBMs, they don't want to carelessly spoil Byway on highly advanced photolithography - they'll show off their fancy and wireless PDA that they're using for talking to other people in the delegation and keeping track of the markets over this at home. Everyone loves squeezing more consumer good out of the same technology, when their actual technology is necessarily slowed.

While the Tetratopians are at the Bywayan table, they'll pick up some of the questionnaires, and some of the booklets, after asking for permission, and send the questions home for answering; if someone guarding a questionnaire or booklet is occupied in conversation, the Tetratopian delegate might ask a neighbouring Guy if they can take one. If #3 is talking to someone as a Tetratopian negotiator arrives and maybe not quite beaming 100% receptiveness at the spooky robed figures, for example, the Tetratopians would ask #4 as if #4 owns #3's questionnaire and booklet.

Some other Tetratopians might be hovering about, if any other of the Bywayans seem receptive to talking. The Tetratopians' inability to pick up alien cues and assumption that everyone here is cheerful about every alien here can be silently counteracted by waiting for invitation! 


Hansil to Cinsal

"Lisal is speaking to the Tetratopian delegation. I will send a drone to ask him whether he's interruptible, and to come here to answer the questionnaire if so." He makes a dismissive sort of gesture, and one of his drones goes off in the direction of Lisal.

"In the case that he's not, I'll answer the ones which are relatively basic. Is there anything else you wish to speak to me about? If not, I'll see what the other people from your world have prepared."

Reren to Eyyeh

"Ah, so it is similar, but in our case the arbiter is pre-chosen – it will either be the relevant regional government, or the Imperial government who will arbitrate.

Hmm...I suppose a Keeper and his drones could be considered a kind of hivemind. Drones have few and stable terminal desires: the most pressing of which is obeying their Keepers and keeping them happy and fulfilled and successful. In this way, the whole complex does act as though it had the same desires, but not the same thoughts. Two drones may disagree on how to achieve a specific goal, for example.

Keepers such as us also do think of our drones as extensions of ourselves, similar to how you might think of your arm or leg, or a particularly precious tool you use often, or of the land or house you own and live in."

Reren will gesture to his clothes.

"We value coherence in aesthetics and think of them as being greater in beauty than the sum of their parts, further, we also see beauty as a public good. Therefore, we coordinate to have unified aesthetics. In this specific case, however, we have unified aesthetics because we are all representatives of the Imperium, and so we adopt its aesthetics. 

Admittedly, I am confused as to why you are confused at this, and I myself am confused why you are not coherent. There is a non-beauty-related aspect to having a unified aesthetic – it is a signal of strong cooperation. It signals 'Yes, even if push comes to shove, we will continue to cooperate with each other; you will not get us to defect'. I was really confused that one of the members of your delegation seemed to...try to block off other people from your world from viewing what he was showing, even though he was seemingly willing to show it to aliens? I would appreciate an explanation of that.

Hm. It might be useful for me to explain our world's history. Keepers must reproduce sexually with each other to beget more Keepers, and yes, we are selfish. In the time just after we had defeated our predators, our population numbers exploded, now that there were no predators keeping us in check. There was lots of conflict between Keepers over territory. However, in time, the man who would become the Imperator came along.

Useful context: Normally, drones are loyal only to the Keeper or Keepers who birthed them – this is both mediated by genetics, and exposure to the relevant Keeper when young. However, the Imperator, both through genetic mutations and innovations in education-and-training, was able to figure out how to force other drones to switch allegiances and consider a different Keeper to be their Controller. Through this, and various other innovations in science and engineering – it is known that the Imperator was a very intelligent person – he was able to occupy the vast majority of our continent and make it into his territory.

The Imperator was very upset over the state of endless conflict that our people had degenerated to, and wished for them to be more prosocial – not just because of his morals-and-aesthetics, but also because choosing to cooperate leads to better outcomes for everyone, including him, while also promoting stability. We do not senesce, so it is personally important to us that society remains stable and not return to war.

He crafted various rules and rituals to redirect aggressive and competitive energies among Keepers into more productive and less wasteful means, such as dueling laws, gladiator fights, sports competitions, criminal and civil courts, notary and contract enforcement services, and various other things. He also taught people the techniques to get drones to switch allegiances, and likewise, techniques to make drones more loyal to you, and instituted the formation of drone markets.

Keepers who were unwilling to live under his rule were forced to live on less desirable land, which was deliberately sectioned off and left untouched so that people who did not want to join the Imperium did not have to. Keepers who tried to resist him and who did not go into the reservations were killed – and there were many of those – whereas those who found his rules amenable lived and flourished. The Imperator also had many, many children, naturally. Through this, prosocial norms and genes predisposing people to be prosocial achieved fixation in the population. Does this answer your question? To be clear, we still have the drive to be aggressive and to be competitive in us, it is simply that we have all collectively decided To Not, with regards to the more destructive and wasteful expressions of aggression and competition. Lesser forms of aggression and competition such as wanting to make lots of money or lots of children or lots of drones are fine with us – but killing or harming or stealing from others in pursuit of that is prohibited.

I suppose it would be more accurate to say that anti-antisocial norms have reached fixation, not necessarily prosocial ones. For example, there is no legal obligation to help someone about to die, but there would be legal consequences if you caused them to be about to die. The null action is privileged – acting in a way such that you have zero impact on the situation, identical as though you did not exist, is always permitted."

He will add, after a pause: "We were eaten by predators before, not now – we no longer have any natural predators, having killed off all of them."


Ikkeh / Guy #2 <> Tetratopia

Ikkeh is reverent about the rockets and satellites. "I told everyone! Can your satellites do Net connections for remote locations? If so, how good are they relative to ground-wireless and wired? How common is it to pay just to take a trip to space?"

To the physicist: "Your game sounds awesome - how much do you want for a copy? Or, what general scope of valuable-stuff, or what specifically would you take - since I'm assuming you're not ready to start buying profit shares in Byway companies, and presumably being paid directly in psychostimulants isn't maximally convenient for you. I know we don't have the supporting hardware and software stack, but even if it doesn't become feasible soon to buy copies of those directly, I know lots of people who'd love the challenge of reverse-engineering something for this to run on."

He attempts to explain his flagship plant design, and slips them diagrams of some pending micro-improvements that do indeed involve chemical tessellation. Upon finding out they were talking about tileable conceptual optimizations, he's a bit confused - why are those particularly valuable, since my optimal-tileable-somethings aren't your optimal-tileable-somethings and every person will have to discover his own set of optimal-tileable-somethings in his own time anyway?

Eyyeh / Guy #6 <> Tetratopia

Eyyeh shares Ikkeh's confusion about the optimally-tileable-somethings, and wants to know, before this goes any further, if this has something to do with Tetratopia being a hivemind. Tetratopia gets even less slack in this regard than the obviously nonhuman alien he's also talking to about this, since Tetratopians are obviously human (they are regular, sexually-reproducing, ~gross-five-dozen-and-2-boned, ape-descended humans like they look like, right?). If they're not a hivemind, then what force or boss arranged them to all wear the same outfits and act for an apparently unified purpose and why did it not come here in their place?

Lak / Guy #7 <> Tetratopia

Lak's company is working on fitting (twelve)^7 transistors on a processor (at least, in the models they want generic customers, including these aliens, to know about), but currently their highest-marginal_return_on_effort areas of improvement are interoperability/modularity and legibility. People can't get the most out of their parts if they can't build with them or program on them, so Lak's work progresses at the pace of curb cuts, instruction manuals, and general improvements on robustness and cheapness. He'll be genuinely impressed by aspects of the Tetratopians' cool PDAs - and he'll show off a tiny little handheld device of a type that's become common on Byway, and generally seems to serve a similar purpose! It has a physical keyboard and people often like to operate the touchscreen with a stylus.  . . . By the way, what's Tetratopia's population? He wants to gauge how the worlds are doing all things considered. Byway has about (1+3/4) x (twelve)^8 people, as of last year, to his knowledge. (They do have a two gross six dozen and five day year, right? Two dozen hour day, everything like that? Continents that look roughly like this?)

Ect / Guy #4 <> Tetratopia

"Oh, those are Hansil's! He - looks like he's busy with the Zmavlipre, but I'm sure you can take one, that's" - he looks over to confirm, a little privately chagrined by having to do this - "what they say they're for."


Pretty much everyone will want to know about the matching outfits, with varying degrees of suspicion. If Tetratopians ask permission to touch adjacent Guys's things, they'll get friendly corrections in the individual cases - no one will notice that as particularly strange, in the face of everything.


Yompam and Medical Stuff including Byway and Imperium

"rhetorical-request-to-resend-that! You don't age?"

Yompam looks like ke might spontaneously combust with glee, but gets down to answering the Byway questions.

Consciousness is basically a clock tick / consolidation mechanism, so yes, there's one for the whole brain? If you get hit in the consciousness, this is something that does seem to often reform in another brain segment, but if it doesn't / until it does, the person basically has no coherent self - it's like a really extreme moment-to-moment case of multiple personalities, some people like to theorise that the kind of multiple personalities that don't directly share memories (or necessarily even know the other one(s) are there other than by their actions) are likely caused by multiple consciousness clocks forming in the brain, but nobody has actually been able to work out any evidence about this?

Those scanning tubes sound much better than something touching the head, yes! They sound incredibly expensive to build, though?

Yompam is also extremely interested in dementia cures - there's one kind of really prevalent dementia which upsets everyone, which is the one where you basically stop forming short term memories, and then there's the one where you start mixing up referents for people even if you know them really well, and the one where everything is basically just extremely confusing and distressing all the time because your making-sense-of-things is broken, and a few aphasias; sensory decline is pretty much the major thing about aging that everyone hates the most though? Dementias are definitely somewhat age distributed although it does appear to be considerably wider variance than Byway.

Cancer is relatively treatable compared to all of this, they're just starting to experiment with customised treatments now that computers are getting up to the level where you can actually sequence someone's genetic code in less time than it takes them to die of cancer. Wait, does everyone have similar genetic codes? Deoxyribonucleic acid, gets translated into Ribonucleic acid and mostly encodes proteins, but like all code everywhere has random sections that turn other sections on and off and do all kinds of extra stuff because that's where the code ribbon was so God dumped extra functionality on it whenever Ke had a good idea?

People are forever trying mass-breeding-experiments for developmental targets, like making more visionaries or the latest fashion is for making better computer programmers, but they have about the success rate of all mass-breeding-experiments, in that they're a terrible plan and everyone involved statistically has worse life outcomes, at least in happiness measures.

Yompam is, in fact, part of a hospital with a research-endeavour-division; Juiptal Langhame over there is one of their serious-adults. Ke would absolutely love to set up an exchange program between Langhame and their medical endeavour-groups - that's basically what ke's here for, to quickly map out the divergences in technologies-and-techniques and start to match them with contacts that can do knowledge transfer as swiftly as possible, so they can get to working together on the frontiers of knowledge!


Jeeee and Ikkeh (Byway) and Tetratopia

Jeeee happily provides one of kis pens for one of Ikkeh's pens, but absolutely cannot use it at all; ke just doesn't have the fine motor control. Jeeee's pen has big grippy surfaces to make holding it as easy as possible, and is extremely consistent in ink supply regardless of user pressure.

"Theoretically up to about a hundred years, if we're very lucky? That's going to have at least one retirement in it for most people though, almost always the last twenty years and usually the last forty, more if you're unlucky.

I hope it won't take us four duodecades to catch up though! A lot of people who hate diesel engines will be super motivated to set up the tool chain even if we have to do half of it on land? I expect it'll be a priority for the exchange parties unless we find something even more pressing - those flying things looked pretty high up the list too. Is there anything that's high on your list?"

Jeeee's notes flow across the page in a kind of mind map made up of haphazard sections of nested bullet points with boxes and arrows. The writing system has discrete characters which make up lines, but in no particular preferred orientation.

Then Tetratopia mentions rockets and satellites!

"You've made it into space! It's really possible to get repeaters into stable orbit? Everyone working on repeaters fantasises about it... it's still possible to get out of repeater range and there's an awful lot of maintenance because of weather and animals, if we could put just a few repeaters into orbit nobody would ever need to be lost under cloud cover again!"


Talaskai and Byway talk Planes

"Oh, we use oil for lots of things! Most obvious is, like, backup generator fuel, main generators for things like hospitals that need a lot of power, sometimes engine fuel if you're not running fully electric. Then lighter fractions are good for cooking and heating if you don't have a good solar heating system yet, or you're somewhere that doesn't work so well. And it's an important feedstock in, um, lots of industrial things - you can get a lot more properties out of oil-composite than fish-glue-and-seaweed-composite, like heat resistance and being easier to bend and so on. And it's where you get lighter-than-air as well, which is essential for repeater balloons!

Nuclear power sounds like it might be good for the really big retirement-ships and hospitals, it doesn't sound like it scales down easily though? The thing with oil is the energy's already there and you just have to release it, and wind's everywhere so it's not hard to get more of it?

Endeavour-groups do get like that sometimes, I think you need some of them trying to leapfrog and some of them working on incremental improvements and then everything gets some attention?"


Meliashae and Byway and Tetratopia talk Infotech

"I mean, hospital-ships and retirement-ships still have the biggest datacentres and most boats just don't have the space to store very much of their archives at once, yes - but transistors, finally, might help a lot with that! Or someone will just get one of the light-sensitive-inputs working now that it can work with enough data and we'll be back to the egg, I guess.

Yes, pretty much everyone knows how to do clock-and-stars, if they're capable of it; our repeater stations mostly stay where they put but some of the more advanced ones try to move out of danger or towards where there's more signal need, so they're not reliable at positioning even if you're in range. If it's a crowded area you can often triangulate off each other instead, but clock-and-stars is still essential.

We definitely want orbiting repeaters a lot! Nobody being lost under clouds would be amazing. It sounds like transistors do get really small, as we'd hoped..."

Ke trails off at hearing the population number. That... that sure is a big number. Maybe ke really is super out of kis depth. Ke glances over at Ferek to check ke heard that. Ferek is frantically code-whistling at a couple of other grim-faced Kastakians in a way that strongly suggests the answer is 'yes'.


"Knowing the properties of flora and fauna on your world is probably good in itself - you'll want to know if something you have abundantly over there is really useful to us, and vice versa?

Can't really smell you over the general impression of Cave, I think we're much more tuned to humidity than small-molecule-concentrations.

I think a lot of the ideas-transfer-endeavour-group are going to be all over the other two people-types, but it seems like we have a lot of techniques-and-technologies to get you up to gliding-speed on? Do you have some kind of priority-ordering of problems that are most pressing for you, that we could focus on assembling exchange-endeavour-groups for?"

Jeffinar is terribly conflicted. On the one wing, ke really wants a shipment of several thousand drones right now, to put to work changing bedpans and repainting surfaces, to free up young Kastakians for the huge technological leap that desperately needs to be facilitated. On the other hand, the drones would probably not be terminally-loyal to a Kastakian, and ke can see Ferek getting increasingly frantic out of the corner of kis eye.


Thessalia fills out a questionnaire

1) Do people on your world generally recognize their species as being distributed over (a) finite-sum gradient(s) of quality in any, or many, cognitive trait(s)? Like, Job A requires people who are high in trait alpha for their overall intelligence, but Job B requires people who are high in trait beta for their overall intelligence, and traits alpha and beta seem to trade off against each other?

Nothing like as fair as trading off against each other - some people just seem to have everything and it's incredibly hard to work out how they should specialise, and some people are retired-from-birth and will never supply more than the satisfaction-of-caring to anyone else.

2) If yes to the above, has your species crystallized a small number of such functionally relevant axes with high confidence?

No - every now and again someone comes out with a types-of-intelligence questionnaire but all results have been extremely inconclusive.

3) If yes to (1) and no to (2), what is your species's state of understanding about such axes? If yes to (1) and (2), what are the axes?

Many independent research projects attempting to isolate types-of-intelligence, if they have a practical-expected-use generally aimed at providing a method for an individual Kastakian to choose between areas of specialisation, have been conducted but none of them has come up with anything better than just stating the obvious does.

4) How many distinct items can people on your world store in short-term memory?

Varies considerably, mostly tops out around a dozen.

5) How many times can people on your world recurse through the same lexical-generation or otherwise conscious-blocking-top-level function, while still holding the partial results of the outer calls in memory, to be collapse-evaluated when the process finishes?

I think the answer to this is hopelessly confounded by 'we obsessively write things down or make some kind of physical marker of them instead of even trying to do this'.

6) What's the minimum elapsed time between people on your world receiving a stimulus physically, and voluntarily reacting to it in a way that was necessarily the result of conscious, top-level processing?

Around a tenth of a second? Again, wildly variable (not just between individuals but over time within one individual) and I'm not sure I believe the study that obtained this minimum (they may have accidentally been testing a reflex response rather than a top-level processing response).

7) (PLEASE don't feel pressured to answer this one; I wouldn't feel comfortable answering on behalf of my world, but I have to ask!) Does your species know its own basic emotional suite? If so, what are the atoms?

Some people like to make 'emotion wheels' with a set of possible emotions, designed to help people who have trouble identifying or articulating their emotions? Those tend to have something like energetic, joyful, sad, angry, scared, exhausted as the top level categories.

8) Are there clear multimodal distributions of cognitive traits within your species, that track sex or other inborn characteristics? If so, what are these traits and how do they vary multimodally?

No; nobody has successfully fit a predictive model of cognitive traits to anything short of childhood nutrition and exposure to written material, and even that is only a general statistical conclusion. There are pervasive memes regarding increased agreeability in non-egglayers but those are likely results of overthinking about ancestral adaptation rather than actual results.

9) Does your species commonly use standardized tests to measure cognitive performance? Are you presently able to produce (a) representative example question(s) drawn from (a) common such test(s), along with what they're designed to measure?

Many endeavour-groups seem driven to continually try to produce such tests but nobody has found an actual use for them.

ζ) Please give a broad outline of your species' cognitive development from infancy.

Eggs begin to develop sensory input at a few weeks out of the body, and retain subconscious familiarity with auditory and tactile inputs from this time when later tested. Some hatchlings can immediately speak once clear of the fluid sac, but much more commonly this develops over the next two to six years alongside reading (some develop reading faster than speech, some slower).

Other cognitive milestones vary considerably; a fledge from the family-boat who doesn't come with special conditions will generally be between ten and twenty years of age and expected to be able to speak, read, write or use an assistive communication device, have grasped the concept that other people are people and have preferences that do not necessarily match their own, and have grasped the concept that actions have consequences.

₵) Please give a broad outline of (what your species understands about) your species' evolution into sapience, including estimated average group size at time of transition into sapience.

Our current leading theory is that sapience was breathed into cliff-gliding avians when God became lonely with having no-one to talk to amongst all Kis creation. Initially it was just the power of speech, but that gradually developed into reading and writing, tool use, and so forth. Initial group size is a highly contentious topic with some people strongly believing that a single egg-layer was blessed and spread this to her offspring, and others believing this is highly implausible and a whole community, or possibly an entire species of hundreds or thousands of individuals, must have been blessed at once.


Consul Restem and Neksil with Jeffinar

Consul Restem: "Yes, although we are likely only to send processed products if so, since we don't know whether our flora and fauna would be able to grow in your world, or whether they might upset the ecosystem.

Ah, we also do pay attention to humidity in the sense that it is easier to smell things if it's humid, and also our tentacles are prone to drying out if the air is too dry – which isn't painful, but is uncomfortable."

Restem wants to correct Jeffinar on considering drones as 'people', but it's not really relevant right now, and it might be a translation error.

"Priority-ordering-of-problems...I think the biggest problem for us now is finding good better fuel for locomotives, which are currently our fastest form of land transportation, but given that that pertains to land transportation, I'm not sure how much you could help. We are interested in solar power, if you have it, though, or nuclear. We are very interested in power generation techniques that don't emit fumes. Likewise, is there anything we could help with?"

Neksil: "It seems that you don't have drones yourself, so I don't know what happens to work no people want to do, like cleaning, or managing sanitation systems – things like that. Or very boring, repetitive, and physically tiring work. How do you manage that?"


"Wind power is our main answer to fumeless power generation, it seems like it can't be that much more difficult to rig turbines on land vehicles? I suspect it might be more difficult to fit fume baffles, which are our other solution to diesel fumes.

If you're still using coal we can definitely help you with oil platforms and engine designs to get you off that.

We have solar heating systems but solar electric systems are still experimental - you are generally better off using the sun warm water for hot water needs than using it in dielectric charging.

For work that people won't supply enough of naturally, even in short bursts for the novelty value, we do have an incentive system - the retirement-communities maintain accounts for people who do rotational work they value, and provide first choice of berths, food and service to those who have higher balances when they want or need to take a retirement.

It does feel like a bit of a waste, though, if drones are potentially available..."


Consul Restem and Neksil with Jeffinar

Consul Restem: "Ah, we also have wind power, I forgot, although we would still appreciate any insights you might have into turbine design and such. We also already have oil power, but we only have a few plants because they emit terrible smoke – such plants have to be placed very far away from cities or property unless the owner wants to get sued into bankruptcy.

Ah, we also do have solar water heaters, and were assuming you were talking about solar electric systems. There have been experiments on trying an arrangement of mirrors focusing sunlight on a tower filled with salt to melt it, and use that to generate electricity, but none have been built yet. The prototypes are very promising. Sadly, even if that did work, it wouldn't work on a boat, since you need lots of open space for it."

Neksil: "What types of work would not be supplied naturally? 

Oh yes, drones are very useful indeed. I think many people would want to provide their own drones for rotational work simply for the privilege of living on a retirement-community – we don't really have the concept of 'retirement' – and being able to talk to people. We are willing to lease or sell drones to you, depending on your preference, although I recommend you lease them first, since you have no people who know about drone management.

Likely, many drone-trainers will offer package deals of training you to manage drones as well as selling you some of theirs. What type of work do you anticipate needing? I could get people who work in the hospitality industry if you need carers, housekeepers, cleaners, cooks, that kind of thing, or do you want engineers, who have drones who know how to operate and maintain machinery?"


"The two best paid kinds of rotational work are nursing care and maintenance - both housekeeping and basic ship maintenance tasks like repainting, oiling, rope coiling and so on.

I also suspect if we're trying to absorb a lot of technology-and-techniques from land dwellers there is going to be a strong demand for on-land mining personnel that might exceed supply - it's a fairly popular thing to do a stint in because it's very novel, but being tied to one location gets unpleasant fairly quickly.

It sounds like we can also improve considerably on your generator design, we've put a lot of work into clean burning generators which emit minimal fumes - although I suspect they would still build up to unpleasant levels in a static facility, and also if your planet's atmosphere is like ours you're going to need to dedicate a considerable land area to forest if you scale up fossil fuel production too sharply - the effects are slow, but I assume land dwellers also don't like hurricanes and temperature extremes that much, and are probably not keen on rising sea levels either?"

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