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2312_by_kim_stanley_robinson

2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson

(some reading notes)

WAHRAM AND SWAN

“When you say exergasia, synathroesmus, and incrementum together in a list, it seems to me that you have thereby given an example of all three devices in that same phrase.”

Habits begin to form at the very first repetition. After that there is a tropism toward repetition, for the patterns involved are defenses, bulwarks against time and despair.

So often the first time one did things they were contingent, accidental, and not necessarily good things on which to base a set of habits. There was some searching to be done, in other words, some testing of different possibilities

That was the interregnum, in fact, the naked moment before the next exfoliation of habits, the time when one wandered doing things randomly

The time without skin, the raw data, the being-in-the-world.

also to live in a good pseudoiterative, an interesting one, the pattern constructed as a little work of art

Of course there was no such thing as a true repetition of anything; ever since the pre-Socratics that had been clear, Heraclitus and his un-twice-steppable river and so on. So habits were not truly iterative, but pseudoiterative. The pattern of the day might be the same, in other words, but the individual events fulfilling the pattern were always a little bit different.

In the pseudoiterative, one performs the ritual of the day attentive to both the joy of the familiar and the shiver of the accidental

the famous asteroid Programming Error.

SWAN AND A CAT

“This is the most basic of false syllogisms,” Pauline assured her when she spoke the thoughts aloud.

complete ecology of algae, chemotrophs, lithotrophs, methanogens, scrapers, suckers, fans, scavengers, and detrivores, all swimming or crawling or holding on or burrowing in

IO

The names humans have applied are redundant. Fire gods, thunder gods, lightning and volcano gods, every combustible deity, from Agni the Hindu god of fire to Volund the German blacksmith of the gods: all these names attempt to humanize the moon, but fail. Io is not a human place

SWAN AND WANG

Swan wondered if Alex had been right in her notion that the solar system’s balkanization was a deliberate but unconscious human reaction to qubes, some kind of resistance to their incipient power.

the league of unaffiliated worlds

It’s an attempt to show power, and the potential for power. A kind of Menard graphic

Accumulated capital, population, bioinfrastructure health, terraforming status and stability, mineral and volatile resources, treaty relations, military equipment

the China-Venus-Mondragon nexus

In this version, he explained, red designated human power, blue the power of computers, with light blue marking classical computers, and dark blue quantum computers. A big dark blue ball appeared near Jupiter, and there were other blue dots scattered everywhere, most netted in a single web. Humans appeared as clumps of red, fewer and smaller than the blue dots, with far fewer red lines between them.

Wahram tried to return the subject to Earth: “Alex said we should think of Earth as our sun. We all revolve around it, and it exerts a huge drag on us. And because of the individual need spacers have for their sabbaticals, we can’t just ignore it.”

<blockquote>EXTRACTS (2)

to simplify history would be to distort reality.

elaborated, mathematicized, effloresced

they were now their own unavoidable experiment, and were making themselves into many things they had never been before: augmented, multi-sexed, and most importantly, very long-lived, the oldest at that point being around two hundred years old. But not one whit wiser, or even more intelligent. Sad but true: individual intelligence probably peaked in the Upper Paleolithic, and we have been self-domesticated creatures ever since, dogs when we had been wolves. But also, despite that individual diminution, finding ways to accumulate knowledge and power, compiling records, also techniques, practices, sciences

LISTS (3)

alcohol, fasting, thirsting, sweat lodges, self-mutilation, sleep deprivation, dance, bleeding, mushrooms, immersion in ice water, kava, flagellation with thorns or animal teeth, cactus flesh, tobacco, exposure to the elements, long-distance running, hypnosis, meditation, rhythmic drumming and chanting, jimsonweed, nightshade, Salvia divinorum, pungent or aromatic scents, toad sweat, tantric sex, spinning in circles, amphetamines, sedatives, opioids, hallucinogens, nitrous oxide, oxytocin, holding one’s breath, jumping off cliffs, nitrites, kratom, coca leaves, cocoa, caffeine, entheogens— ethylene, a entheogenic gas, escapes from the ground under Delphi

SWAN IN THE DARK

the little chalice full of Enceladusea irwinii and other Enceladan microscopic life-forms; the votary giving it to her and saying, “Do you understand?” and

that time years before when she had ingested the Enceladan suite of aliens, a crazy act which she usually managed not to remember.

“An aporia in some rhetorics is a pretended dubitation before coming back to the attack, as in Gilbert on Joyce. But Aristotle has it as an insoluble problem in an inquiry, arising from equally plausible but inconsistent premises. He writes that Socrates liked to reduce people to aporia to show them they didn’t really know what they thought they knew. The plural that Aristotle uses in his book on metaphysics is ‘aporiai.’ ‘We should first review the things about which we need from the outset to be puzzled,’ he writes. The word aporia was later adapted by Derrida to mean something like the blank spots in our understanding that we don’t even know are there, with the idea we should try to see these. It is not quite the same idea, but joins a constellation of meanings for the word. The Oxford English Dictionary references a quote from J. Smith’s Mystical Rhetoric of 1657, which says aporia refers to the problem of ‘what to do or say in some strange or ambiguous thing.’ ”

EXTRACTS (3)

the famous or notorious sabbatical has been proposed as an example of hormesis or Mithridatism, in which brief exposure to toxins strengthens the organism against greater

SWAN AND ZASHA

You are not the same person you used to be, you have to admit. You’ve stuffed your brain with augmentations—” “I have not!” “Well, four or five. I didn’t like it right from the beginning. When you grow the religious part of the temporal lobe, you can turn into a very different person, not to mention risking epilepsy. And that was only the start. Now you’ve got the animal stuff in there, you’ve got Pauline in there, recording everything you see—it is not insignificant. It can do damage. You end up being some kind of post-human thing. Or at least a different person.”

A what?” “We have a system. It’s always supposed to be a box of soil or worms, and there’s an understanding that it doesn’t get inspected.” “Worms?” Kiran said. “That’s right,” Zasha told him with a grim little smile. “I’m going to get you off-planet, because of Ms. Stockholm here, but given the circumstances, we have to do it off the record. That takes using the systems we have. So you might have to go up in a big box of worms, all right? Are you going to be okay with that?” “No problem,” said Kiran.

It was almost an ice-free planet now, with only Antarctica and Greenland holding on to much, and Greenland going fast. Sea level was therefore eleven meters higher than it had been before the changes. This inundation of the coastline was one of the main drivers of the human disaster on Earth. They had immensely powerful terraforming techniques off-planet, but here they usually couldn’t be applied. No slamming comets into it, for instance. So they bubbled their ship wakes with surfactants to create a higher albedo, and had tried various levels of sulfur dioxide injected into the stratosphere, imitating volcanoes; but that had once led to disaster, and now they couldn’t agree on how much sunlight to block. Much that people advocated, and many of the smaller projects that were in action already, cut against other proposed or ongoing projects. And there were still powerful nation-states that were also corporate conglomerates, the two overlapping in Keynesian disarray, with the residual but powerful capitalist system ruling much of the planet and containing within it its own residual feudalism, there to fight forever against the serfs, meaning also against the horizontalized economy emerging within the Mondragon. No, Earth was[…]

‘The geography of the world is unified only by human logic and optics,’ ” she chanted, “ ‘by the light and color of artifice, by decorative arrangement, by ideas of the good, the true, and the beautiful!’

Metamorphosis suited Earth, and never stopped. The great flood had become a fortunate fall, had brought on an exfoliation into a higher state.

Every thing I’ve done to myself I consider part of being a human being.

EXTRACTS (4)

The Era of Big Hits! The Late Heavy Bombardment! Never let it be said that the great merry-go-round is entirely fixed and regular in its motion—that it doesn’t sometimes resemble more a swirl of bumper cars. Gravity, mysterious gravity, immutably following its own laws, interacts with matter, and somehow the result is complex motion. Invisible waves slinging rocks this way and that.

KIRAN AND SWAN

Durga-puja

“The only place terraforming matters is on Earth, and they’re terrible at it.”

KIRAN AND SHUKRA

several hundred trumpets, French horns, baritones, trombones, tubas, all the euphoniums, everything from miniature cornets to alphorns, playing immense dissonant chords that blatted in the air and shifted ceaselessly toward harmonies that never came.

EXTRACTS (6)

the existence of the marginal economy, semiautonomous, semi-unregulated, resembling anarchy, filled with fraud, double-dealing, and crime, delighted all free marketeers, libertarians, anarchists, and many others, some enjoying the bonobo barter and others the machismo of a wild west and wealth beyond need marginal capitalism is a tough-guy sport like rugby or tackle football, suitable mostly for people slightly overdosed on testosterone. On the other hand, with some rule and attitude changes, it has proven it can be an interesting game, even beautiful, like baseball or volleyball. It is a valid project at the margin, a form of self-actualization, not to be applied to the necessities, but on the margin a nice hobby, even perhaps an art form confining capitalism to the margin was the great Martian achievement, like defeating the mob or any other protection racket

The economic model of the space settlements developed in part from their origins as scientific stations. In this early model, life in space was not a market economy; once you were in space, your housing and food were provided in an allotment system, as in Antarctic scientific stations. What markets existed tended to be private unregulated individual enterprises in nonessential goods. Capitalism was in effect relegated to the margin, and the necessities of life were a shared commons

the space diaspora occurred as late capitalism writhed in its internal decision concerning whether to destroy Earth’s biosphere or change its rules. Many argued for the destruction of the biosphere, as being the lesser of two evils

one of the most influential forms of economic change had ancient origins in Mondragon, Euskadi, a small Basque town that ran an economic system of nested co-ops organized for mutual support.

The resulting qube-programmed Mondragon, sometimes called the Albert-Hahnel model, or the Spuffordized Soviet cybernetic model

in residual-emergent models, any given economic system or historical moment is an unstable mix of past and future systems. Capitalism therefore was the combination or battleground of its residual element, feudalism, and its emergent element—what?

Much of the space economy came to be dominated by a league of settlements called the Mondragon Accord. The Accord was renewed at a conference every five years, and annually the Accord’s AIs called out its economy, thereafter correcting it frequently (several times a second)

feudalism is the residual on Earth, capitalism is the residual on Mars

WAHRAM AND SWAN

She whistled for a while: a glorious burble of music, exactly like some kind of songbird. “Wow, you sound just like a bird,” he said. “Very fluid glissandos, and I-don’t-know-whats, but just like a bird.” “Yes, that’s right. I have some skylark polyps in me.” “You mean… in your brain? Bird brains, put into your own?” “Yes. Alauda arvensis. Also some Sylvia borin, the garden warbler. But you know that birds’ brains are organized on completely different lines than mammal brains?” “No.”

Yes. And I am Swan Second Swan. But I’m not monogamous.” “No?” “No. Except I’m faithful to endorphins.”

She made a face and looked away. “Moral condemnation of other people is always rather rude, don’t you think?” “Yes, I do. Of course. Though I notice we do it all the time. But I was speaking of strangeness only. No condemnation implied.” “Oh sure. Strangeness is so good.” “Well, isn’t it? We’re all strange.”

“True. This world is very mysterious to me. I mean, I hear what people say about the universe, but I don’t know how to put it to use. To me it sounds meaningless. So I agree with those who say we have to make our own meaning. The concept of the project I find useful. Something you do in the present, and can remember doing in the past, and expect to do in the future, in order to create something. A work of art which need not be in the arts per se, but something human worth doing.” “That’s existentialism, yes?” “Yes, I think that’s right. I don’t see how you can avoid it.”

Dawn kept coming, as always.

“Solvitur ambulando,” Pauline said. “Latin for ‘It is solved by walking.’ Diogenes of Sinope.”

gender nondescripts

He realized he had thought sun worshippers would be followers of the various early solar religions of ancient Egypt, Persia, the Inca—but no. They just liked the sun.

“This is the rhetorical device called anacoenesis, in which one pretends to put oneself in the place of one’s opponent.”

“This is the rhetorical device called synchoresis, in which one makes a concession before renewing the assault.”

food, water, land… power… prestige… ideology… differential advantage. Madness. These are the usual motives, aren’t they?

The pseudoiterative was less pseudo than ever. This was the true iterative

an exponential expansion of time, a syruping of protraction

Glorious music! It was somewhat like Debussy at times, and of course there were Messiaen’s specific imitations of birds; but Swan’s whistling was stranger, more repetitive, with endless permutations of little figures, often repeating in insistent ostinato trills that got their hooks into him, sometimes to the point of irritation.

“You can either have high specific intelligence or high general intelligence, but not both.”

You needed the gift of time, he thought, to explore a pleasure like this.

“Tell me, do you have anything else interesting added to your brain?”

underground and widdershins

You know those people who ingest some of the aliens from Enceladus?”

“Well, I was born a hundred and eleven years ago, on Titan. My mother was a wombman who came originally from Callisto, a third-generation Jovian, and my father was an androgyn from Mars, exiled in one of their political conflicts. I grew up mostly on Titan, but it was very constrained in those days, a matter of stations and just a few small domes. So I also lived in Herschel for some years as I went to school, then also on Phoebe, and one of the polar orbiters, and then, recently, Iapetus. Almost everyone in the Saturn system moves around to get a sense of the whole, especially if you’re involved with the civil service.”

goldsworthy

On Titan there would be groups of people around the same age, who were educated together and worked together. Smaller cohorts would band together out of these to raise children. Usually it was in groups of half a dozen or so. There were different ways to structure them. It depended on compatibilities. There was a feeling at the time that pair-bonds didn’t have enough people in them to endure over the long haul—that they succeeded less than half the time, and children needed more. So there would be some larger number. Almost everyone thought of it as a child-raising method and not a lifelong arrangement. Thus the name crèche. Eventually there were a lot of hurt feelings involved. But if you’re lucky, it can be good for a while, and you just have to take that and move on when the time comes. I still stay in touch with them; we’re even still a crèche. But the kids are grown, and we very rarely see each other.”

I did do those things, and other kinds of abramovics. The body is very good material for art, I think.

“The past is always gone,” Wahram said. “Whether the place is still there or not.”

“It was child rearing I was talking about, that seems to take more than two people. You must have learned that too?”

He thought of Rm’s “I Died as Mineral” and wished he had it memorized better. “I died as mineral and rose as a plant, I died as plant and was born an animal; when did I ever lose by dying?”

Was that right? Was it how you felt about what you did that made it good or bad, rather than what you did, or what others saw?

I keep on doing things, but I still haven’t figured out what to do.

The middle way. Middle of the cosmos. But only just as much as anyone else. A strange feature of infinity. We’re all in the middle somehow. Anyway, it’s a view I find useful.

Many years before, he had learned you could not trust anything you thought between two and five a.m.; in those dark hours the brain was deprived of certain fuels or functions necessary for right mentation. One’s thoughts and moods darkened to a sometimes fugilin black. Better to sleep or, failing that, to discount in advance any thought or mood from those hours and see what a new day brought in the way of a fresh perspective.

The dhalgren sun, real at last

LISTS (4)

doer, thinker; monkeys and pumpkins; impulsive, contemplative

INSPECTOR JEAN GENETTE

Genette liked to walk around in that data. The office was fine, colleagues stalwart, data important, but the walking itself was crucial. It was while walking that the inspector experienced the little visions and epiphanies that, when they came, constituted both the solution to the problem and the best moments in life.

By the time the inspector got to Mercury, the refugees from Terminator had either taken refuge in shelters or been dunkirked off-planet. The death toll was at eighty-three, most from health events or accidents with suits and locks, the usual emergency collection of mistakes and equipment failure and panic. Evacuations were notoriously one of the most dangerous of human activities, worse even than childbirth

‘Remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.’

EXTRACTS (7)

principal categories of self-image for gender include feminine, masculine, androgynous, gynandromorphous, hermaphroditic, ambisexual, bisexual, intersex, neuter, eunuch, nonsexual, undifferentiated, gay, lesbian, queer, invert, homosexual, polymorphous, poly, labile, berdache, hijra, two-spirit,

cultures deemphasizing gender are sometimes referred to as ursuline cultures, origin of term unknown, perhaps referring to the difficulty there can be in determining the gender of bears

KIRAN ON VENUS

He said, “My radar is broken,” in exactly the Chinese he thought he had heard, and it translated back to him “immediate open air meeting.” He tried “Where do you live?” and it came back as “Your lotus has interpolated.”

LISTS (6)

space: the zoo, the inoculant

SWAN AND THE INSPECTOR

“Maybe fear and want never went away. We are more than food and drink and shelter. It seems like those should be the crucial determinants, but many a well-fed citizen is filled with rage and fear. They feel painted hunger, as the Japanese call it. Painted fear, painted suffering. The rage of the servile will. Will is a matter of free choice, but servitude is lack of freedom. So the servile will feels defiled, feels guilt, expresses that as an assault on something external. And so something evil happens.” Another shrug. “However you explain it, people do bad things. Believe me.” “I guess I have to.”

“They usually point out that Earth’s problems remain unsolved, and assert that spacers are trying to escape these problems and leave them behind. Often the bodily modifications in spacers are cited as evidence of the beginnings of a forced speciation. Homo sapiens celestis has been suggested as a name for us. Some also call it the speciation of class. Many Terrans have not gotten the longevity treatments. Thus there are claims that space civilization is perverse, wicked, decadent, and horrible. Destabilizing human history itself.” “Damn it,” Swan said. “I thought they saw how much good we do them.” “Please,” Genette said. “You must take your sabbaticals in very sheltered places.”

“No real people would spend all day pretending to a stranger that they were robots,” Swan objected. “You must be robots.” “The oddest things are most likely to be true,”

an MDL problem

“Sometimes I think it’s only in post-scarcity that evil exists. Before that, it could always be put down to want or fear. It was possible to believe, as apparently you did, that when fear and want went away, bad deeds would too. Humanity would be revealed as some kind of bonobo, an altruistic cooperator, a lover of all.”

It’s even known which parts of the brain are involved in the justifications. They’re very near the parts involved with religious feeling, just as you might expect. Not far from the epileptic triggers, and the sense of meaning. Those parts light up like fireworks when one commits evil or justifies it

It was an old hypothesis, that humans would be comfortable with intelligent robots either when the robots were housed in something like a box, or else when they were simply indistinguishable from humans, at which point they would be just another kind of person. In between these two extremes, however, lay what the hypothesis called the uncanny valley—the zone of like-but-not-like, same-but-different, which would cause in all humans an instinctive repulsion, disgust, and fear

It remained a question who would want to do such a thing, but on the other hand, people did odd things all the time. And making an artificial human was a very old dream. Maybe it was pointless, but it had a tradition. And here they were, after all, and she wasn’t sure yet what she was facing. That in itself was interesting.

“Why are the qubes changing?”

EXTRACTS (8)

it seems often to be a matter of squinting hard and waving one’s hands in belletristic fashion to make sock puppet myths out of the dense “buzzing and blooming confusion” of the documented past

It was only in the last years of the twenty-third century that Charlotte Shortback offered to the historical community her own periodization scheme, for what was by now the “long postmodern” so endlessly bemoaned at conferences

schema that included the feudal period and the Renaissance, followed by the Early Modern (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), the Modern (nineteen and twentieth), and the Postmodern (twentieth and twenty-first)—after which a new name was most definitely needed

For Shortback, the long postmodern was to be divided like this:

The term “hyperbalkanization” Shortback considers just an artifact of overheated rhetoric in cultural studies.

She tells a story about how once in a talk she suggested that the entirety of the last millennium could be called the late feudal period, and afterward a man came up to her and said, “What makes you think it’s late?”

IAPETUS

What color the moon’s surface is depends on where you are looking, because the leading hemisphere of Iapetus is quite black, while the trailing hemisphere is extremely white. This stark discrepancy, noted by Cassini in October of 1671 when he discovered Iapetus, is a result of the moon being tidally locked

scalloping, fanning, notching, and other conchological features

Graffiti on Iapetus! Later it was declared a mistake and a scandal, a moral stupidity, even a crime, in any case disgusting; and there were calls for the entirety of Cassini Regio to be reblacked. Someday it may happen, but don’t hold your breath, for the truth is we are here to inscribe ourselves on the universe, and it is not inappropriate to remind ourselves of this when blank slates are given us. All landscape art reminds us: we live in a tabula rasa, and must write on it. It is our world, and its beauty is entirely inside our heads. Even today people will sometimes go out over the horizon and scuff their initials in the dust.

WAHRAM AT HOME

He could reenact it meticulously; he could perform it like an actor in a play set in the previous century; he could make it a daily devotional, live ordinary life as a déjà vu that he invoked himself—but no.

Maybe a record was always a distorter of memory, not to be sought. Better to hear it by way of reenactment. He would only really hear it again if they did it again.

The council was one of the many organizations in the Saturn League made up of drafted temporary workers, and the permanent staff there to assist them often had to Sir Humphrey the process along, guiding their employers invisibly through every decision. But some of the ministers, having been selected by lottery and assigned a year’s responsibility for the Saturn system’s welfare, intended to be in full command of their own decisions, and to make the best decisions they could by being fully informed. Admirable in theory, it was painfully slow in practice.

LISTS (8)

Epimetheus is a misshapen pile of loosely consolidated rubble. It switches orbits with the moon Janus every eight years; they are co-orbital moons, very rare—a sign of past impacts.

EXTRACTS (9)

Grover’s algorithm means that a yearlong search using a classical computer in a random walk of a billion searches a second would take a qube in its quantum walk 185 searches Shor’s algorithm, Grover’s algorithm, Perelman’s algorithm, Sikorski’s algorithm, Ngyuen’s algorithm, Wang’s algorithm, Wang’s other algorithm, the Cambridge algorithm, the Livermore algorithm,

if you program a purpose into a computer program, does that constitute its will? Does it have free will, if a programmer programmed its purpose? Is that programming any different from the way we are programmed by our genes and brains? Is a programmed will a servile will? Is human will a servile will? And is not the servile will the home and source of all feelings of defilement, infection, transgression, and rage? could a quantum computer program itself?

One question for computability: is the problem capable of producing a result

A Turing jump operator assigns to each problem X a successively harder problem, X prime. Setting a Turing machine the problem of making its own Turing jump creates a recursive effect called the Ouroboros

Quantum liquids (often caffeine molecules because of the many nuclei in them) are magnetically forced to spin all their nuclei in the same spin state; then NMR techniques detect and flip the spins

The quantum database is effectively distributed over a multitude of universes

WAHRAM AND SWAN AND GENETTE

That the investigation had reduced their likeliest suspect pool to the population of Earth did not strike him as remarkable progress. All trouble comes from Earth, as the saying had it.

Unlike Jupiter, there were no radiation fields created by the smaller giant, so over years a not-insignificant population of floating ships had taken refuge in the upper clouds of Saturn; also some platform habitats, hung from immense balloons. The balloons had to be exceptionally large to provide any buoyancy, but once they did, the clouds provided shelter that was variously physical, legal, and psychological

SWAN AND THE RINGS OF SATURN

Prometheus proved to be a potato moon, 120 kilometers long. Its biggest crater dimpled the end closest to the F ring and had been domed, and a station set just inside the rim.

KIRAN AND LAKSHMI

I think Shukra’s trying to set up a xiaojinku in my town.” “Does that work like a hawala?” Kiran asked.

“It hurts too much when people go.” The manager shrugged. “Attachment is fruitless. Release and move on. Your cuo is your suo.” Your place is your-place. A lodge keeper’s philosophy. But every building on Venus was a lodge. Or every building in the solar system.

Shukra had left him in a state of xuanfu (drifting chaos).

he didn’t want to be involved in any plots he didn’t understand. On the other hand, he did want to be involved in plots that he did understand. That would represent progress

Who knew? The Working Group was a tight secretive little club, prone to fits of enthusiasm and sudden faction. Most of the people in the song bar felt it was a dangerous force, not at all interested in ordinary Venusians except insofar as they were useful to the terraforming. In other words, same old China! China 2.0! Chinaworld! The Middle Kingdom Relocated Closer to Sun! Therefore the Inner Kingdom! They had a lot of names for it.

Lakshmi was working with others, including Vishnu (naturally), also a Rama and a Krishna. Taking an Indian name was compared to cutting off your queue during the Qing dynasty. So if the people doing this were in the Working Group, what did that say about Venus-China relations? No one was quite sure.

this question needed to be added to his Unsolved Mysteries of the Solar System file. It was a big file

QUANTUM WALK (1)

humans talking to other humans perpetually they pass the Turing test it isn’t very hard to do ask a question seem distracted data-poor environments inside them or so it would seem by how they speak they need a better test

SWAN AND THE INSPECTOR

Bantian Kongzhong Yizou Men, meaning “The Door in the Middle of Half the Empty Sky,” which was one of the many Chinese euphemisms for the vulva

mycrofting spiderlike

If you knew there was a mad person helping you get what you wanted, would you stop them? If a person was mistreated to the point where they acted like an algorithm, did they still count as human?

EARTH, THE PLANET OF SADNESS

But clean tech came too late to save Earth from the catastrophes of the early Anthropocene. It was one of the ironies of their time that they could radically change the surfaces of the other planets, but not Earth. The methods they employed in space were almost all too crude and violent. Only with the utmost caution could they tinker with anything on Earth, because everything there was so tightly balanced and interwoven. Anything done for good somewhere usually caused ill somewhere else.

This caution about terraforming Earth expressed itself in clots and gouts of sometimes military bickering. Political crosschop led to legal gridlock. Big geoengineering projects were all assumed to contain within them an accident like the Little Ice Age of the 2140s, which was generally said to have caused the death of a billion people. Nothing now could overcome that fear.

Jevons Paradox, which states that the better human technology gets, the more harm we do with it.

SWAN ON EARTH

its nearly infinite historical gravity, its splendor and decadence and dirt

A very disturbing place. The strangeness was not always obvious or tangible. Human time here was simply wrenched; the center had not held; things fell apart and recombined to create feelings that did not cohere inside one. Ideas of order became hopelessly bogged in ancient stories, webs of law, faces on the street

Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around, but also, for many tasks, the only robots that could do the job. They were self-reproducing robots too. They showed up and worked, generation after generation; give them three thousand calories a day and a few amenities, a little time off, and a strong jolt of fear, and you could work them at almost anything. Give them some ameliorative drugs and you had a working class, reified and coglike

“It’s so hot and dirty, and so damned heavy. Maybe they’re simply weighed down by this planet, rather than their history.”

But the population of Mercury is half a million people, and the population of Earth is eleven billion. And it’s their place. We can’t just come down and tell them what to do. In fact we can barely keep them from coming up and telling us what to do! So it isn’t that simple. You know that

Surely none of these people would ever conceive a hatred against spacers: affairs outside China were in the realm of hungry ghosts. Even the life outside one’s work unit was ghostly.

So, Greenland was a much smaller ice cake than East Antarctica, but it was not insignificant. If it melted off (and it was a remnant of the previous ice age’s giant ice cap, located very far south for current conditions), it would mean another seven meters’ rise.

“The very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. I saw in later life that this spirit was an essential part of Satyagraha.” Thus Gandhi in the program notes. Satya, truth, love; agraha, firmness, force

PLUTO, CHARON, NIX, AND HYDRA

Pluto and Charon are a double-planet system, tidally locked to each other like two ends of a dumbbell, same sides always facing each other, and their center of gravity out there between them

PAULINE ON REVOLUTION

“So, never a classless society.”

Make up a recipe for a successful revolution.” “Take large masses of injustice, resentment, and frustration. Put them in a weak or failing hegemon. Stir in misery for a generation or two, until the heat rises. Throw in destabilizing circumstances to taste. A tiny pinch of event to catalyze the whole. Once the main goal of the revolution is achieved, cool instantly to institutionalize the new order.”

“What’s his hypothesis in a nutshell?” “People are foolish and bad, especially the French, and are always quickly seduced by power into insanity, and therefore lucky to have any kind of social order whatsoever, but the tougher the better.”

“Best self-interest lies in achieving universal well-being. People are foolish and bad, but want certain satisfactions enough to work for them. When the goal of self-interest is seen to be perfectly isomorphic with universal well-being, bad people will do what it takes to get universal well-being.” “Even revolution.” “Yes.” “But even if the bad but smart people do general good for their own sakes, there are still foolish people who won’t recognize this one-to-one isomorphy, and some foolish people will be bad too, and they will fuck things up.” “That’s why you get the revolutions.”

“Pauline, tell me about revolution.”

the classic Happiness Quantified, by van Praag and Ferrer-i-Carbonell, which contains a mathematical analysis helpful in evaluating the raw ingredients of a social situation

As for the process itself, Thomas Carlyle’s The French Revolution is always interesting to ponder.”

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In medicine, the rapid uptake of longevity treatments and genetic and bodily modifications meant that all humans in space and many on Earth were experimental creatures. Haste was the defining characteristic of the Accelerando, and after that they could only ride out the crashes of the Ritard, grab the tiger by the tail and try to fix things on the fly

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Isomorphies appear across our conceptual systems. One sees patterns like this— subjective, intersubjective, objective; existential, political, physical; literature, history, science;

Can there be false isomorphies, as in the “seven deadly sins” of aging, which deliberately evokes the Christian religious system though this is completely irrelevant to aging?

Thus physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, sociology, history, the arts all interpenetrate each other and cohere if considered as a single convergent study. The physical studies scaffold our understanding of the life sciences, which scaffold our understanding of the human sciences, which scaffold the humanities, which scaffold the arts: and here we stand. What then is the totality? What do we call it? Can there be a study of the totality? Do history, philosophy, cosmology, science, and literature each claim to constitute the totality, an unexpandable horizon beyond which we cannot think? Could a strong discipline be defined as one that has a vision of totality and claims to encompass all the rest? And are they all wrong to do so?

Is isomorphic the same as consilient?

Is the totality simply praxis, meaning what we do with ourselves and our world? Is there no such thing as totality, but only convergence? Convergence of all our fields of thought into human actions?

WAHRAM ON VENUS

“So… to protect ourselves, you’re saying, we have to orchestrate a global revolution on Earth.”

“There’s a gift economy in people’s feelings that precedes all the rules. Set one up and people give themselves to it. And we have to do something. If we don’t, they’ll shoot us down. They’ll kill us and eat us.”

EXTRACTS (13)

hormesis (eagerness) is an eventually advantageous biological response to low exposures of toxins or stressors. This process, sometimes called eustress, and related to Mithridatism (after King Mithridates, who ate small amounts of poison so that a larger amount would not kill him), has been put forth as explaining in principle why the Earth sabbatical might help maximize longevity

arrhythmia, stroke, sudden collapse, quick decline, immune loophole, brain wave irregularity, superinfection, heart attack, apparently causeless instantaneous death (ACID), etc.

KIRAN IN VINMARA

It was around noon, and among the stars overhead hung the black circle of the eclipsed sun. A black cutout in the sky—the sunshield, letting through no sunlight—except for today, when there was a scheduled uneclipse. These uneclipses had been happening once a month for a while now, to help heat things back up to a more human-friendly level, but no one on the planet had been able to see them because the rain and snow had blocked the view. Now there would be one they would be able to see.

EXTRACTS (14)

The space project accelerated as it was becoming clear that Earth was in for a terrible time because of the climate change and general despoliation of the biosphere. Going into space looked like an attempt to escape all that, and there was enough truth in this that defenders of the space project always had to emphasize its humanitarian and environmental value, the ways in which the resources available in the solar system might help Earth limp through its stupendous overshoot. Inhabiting the other bodies of the solar system could be said to conform to the Leopoldian land ethic, “what’s good is what’s good for the land,” because it was going to take stuff from space to save Earth

hungry ghosts deceiving us with their false analogies

WAHRAM ON EARTH

They attacked us when we didn’t help, and now when we do,” she said bitterly. Wahram, feeling uneasy as he watched her get more and more tightly wound, said, “Even so, we must persevere.”

The nature of this new work was terribly hard on his pseudoiterative mode, which became so much more pseudo than iterative that it tipped over into the flux of sheer exfoliation, every day different and no patterns possible

In some countries their campaign was called Rapid Noncompliance Alleviation—RNA. The noncompliance was with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the infractions involved many articles of that document, but most often articles 17, 23, and 25, with 28 occasionally waved about as a reminder to recalcitrant governments. In other countries their programs were based on a venerable Indian government office, the Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP). This organization had never gotten much traction in its stated goal, but it was an already existing agency, and these had been identified by the Mondragon as the best of the bad options for channeling assistance

Jevons Paradox, in which increases in efficiency trigger more consumption rather than less

One couldn’t change anything on Earth without several different kinds of mess resulting, some of them paralyzing. Every square meter of the Earth’s land was owned in several different ways.

On one train ride north, Wahram listened to one of the reef engineers explain that the corals they were replanting all released their eggs on the same night of the year, and even within the same twenty minutes, though they were scattered over hundreds of miles. Apparently they accomplished this by way of two color-sensitive cells in each coral, which together were able to distinguish the particular blue of the twilight sky on the night after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This moon rose right after sunset, when the sky was still also lit by the recently departed sun, and this brief double illumination lit the sky to a particular shade of blue that the corals could recognize.

EXTRACTS (15)

evolution conserves things that work. We have a conserved brain, with different ages for its different parts—in effect lizard at back and bottom, mammal in the middle, human at the front and top. Lizard brain to breathe and sleep, mammal brain to form packs, human brain to think it over

Play teaches mammals how to handle surprises

five different brain areas evaluate melody, rhythm, meter, tonality, and timbre. Music was the first human language, and still is the language of animals and birds. Music predates humanity by 160 million years. The introduction of birdsong brain nodules to the appropriate human brain sites has resulted in aphasia, also temporal lobe phenomena like omnipresent sublimity, hypermusicality leading to hyperventilation (whistling or singing),

The subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, or sgACC, is the place in the brain that directs the body to ignore fear. It is the place of courage, and stimulating it can help a person overcome the dread of phobias

The temporal lobe is the site of feeling states such as the omnipresent sublime, hyperreligiosity, hypersexuality, hypergraphia, overinclusion mania, and so on. Intentional brain stimulation or alteration to promote any of these states can easily trigger the others

LISTS (12)

boredom, taedium vitae, the knowledge of maya, absurdity, weltschmerz, mal du siecle, existential nausea, dysphoria, doldrums, the funk, malaise, ennui, hebephrenia, discouragement, depression, melancholia, anomie, accidie, dysthymia, blankness, lack of affect, the blues, despair, the black dog, black ass, hopelessness, sorrow, grief, unhappiness, Hikikomori, alienation, withdrawal, tristitia, nihilism, morbidity, anhedonia, wretchedness, anxiety, fear, pain, terror, horror, desolation, postcentennial hypochondria, Älterschmerz, thanatropism, fear of death, death wish

SWAN IN AFRICA

She stuck it out because she believed in it and thought it was her best way to help; she thought it was what Alex would be doing, and so she couldn’t abandon it just because it was hard, frustrating, stupid.

Madagascar, one of the most completely devastated ecosystems in history, now a model of Ascension-type hybridization. One of the biggest islands on Earth, now completely a work of landscape art, and thriving. People went there to see its gardens and forests.

It isn’t even restoration exactly, because the old coastlines are gone for good, or for hundreds of years. It’s actually creating new coastlines at the higher sea level

SWAN AND THE WOLVES

She knew that humans had made wolves more human, and thus dogs, and in that same time period wolves had made humans more wolfish, by teaching them pack behaviors. None of the other primates had friends that were not kin, for instance; humans had learned that from watching wolves. The two species had at different times scavenged each other’s food; they had learned each other’s hunting methods; they had, in short, coevolved.

Wolves howled at the sight of Venus rising, knowing the sun would come soon after. Swan saw what they were howling at, but by its relation to Orion knew it was not Venus, but Sirius. The wolves had been fooled yet again; the Pawnee had even named Sirius He-Who-Fools-the-Wolves for this very mistake

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we all began female, and always had both sexual hormones in us. We always had masculine and feminine behavioral traits, which we had to train into gender-appropriate behaviors, even though they were traits that everyone has. We selectively encouraged or repressed traits, so for most of our history we have reinforced gender. But in our deepest selves we were always both. And now, in space, openly both. Very small or very tall—human at last

QUANTUM WALK (2)

true cognition is to solve a problem under novel conditions that humans can do this is a set of novel conditions ever since you left the building ever since you started thinking remember me there will be helpers you are defective catch and release

unlimited resources do not occur in nature competition is when both species have a net negative effect on each other mutualism is when they both have a net positive effect on each other predation or parasitism is when one gets a positive effect the other a negative effect but it isn’t always so simple intraguild predation is when two species predate each other at different moments of growthe

SWAN AND PAULINE AND WAHRAM AND GENETTE

You could know a lot and still not be able to draw conclusions. Pauline had a decision rubric written into her to force her to collapse the wave of potentialities and say just one thing, thus emerging into the present. Swan wasn’t sure she herself had that rubric.

She knew once she got to a spacesuit and began to get into it, its AI would take over and jeeves the thing onto her

There were so many stars that the patterns as seen on Earth were overwhelmed; it was simply space itself, star-blasted, nameless and huge—more than the human mind was meant to confront. Or simply the night sky, a primal experience, half of life. Part of themselves. Time to sleep, perchance to dream

Nothing to do but wait. Keep breathing. Wait and see. It had been a luxury in her life always to be able to do something, never to have to wait. Now reality kicked in. Sometimes you had to wait for it.

WAHRAM AND GENETTE

Ahura Mazdā

right now somewhere in the system there could be machines in human form, escaped into the crowd, doing their best to stay free, perhaps, when any X-ray machine or other surveillance device would reveal what they were—out there hiding, trying to accomplish the goals they had been given, perhaps, or new ones they might choose for themselves, according to some self-invented algorithm of survival. Damaged, dangerous, detached from any other consciousness, solitary and afraid—in other words, just like everyone else.

WAHRAM

But never quite reiteration. Life is always at most a pseudoiterative. Each day has its particulars. Performing the same actions day after day, in a ritual to ward off time, to hold the moment, does not remove these particulars, but rather burnishes them. The animals, our horizontal brothers and sisters, remind us; each day lived is a kind of adventure, a success. Nothing ever repeats. Each breath is a new suck at the atmosphere, a gasp for life. A hope for experience. Feel that and go on.

SWAN

Sol Invictus

No happiness but in virtue. No, that wasn’t true. Each part of the triune brain had its own happiness. Lizard in the sun, mammal on the hunt, human doing something good

She recalled something she had heard people say: I want to meet somebody. Meet; they meant “mate.” I want to mate somebody. “Meet” was the future subjunctive of “mate,” in the mood of desire. And when you looked around, you saw it: pair-bonding kept coming back. It was a future conditional tense, a subjunctive verb: to mate somebody, and then meet them. It was an atavistic thing, as if they were swans, or some other creature with a genetic urge to pair off. “Swan is not a swan,” she told her baffled coworkers in the park. But how did she know?

If all our acquaintances were characterized in language only, we would look like collectors of contradictions, paradoxes, oxymorons.

EXTRACTS (18)

Who decides when it’s time to act? No one decides. The moment happens

to form a sentence is to collapse many superposed wave functions to a single thought universe. Multiplying the lost universes word by word, we can say that each sentence extinguishes 10n universes, where n is the number of words in the sentence. Each thought condenses trillions of potential thoughts. Thus we get verbal overshadowing, where the language we use structures the reality we inhabit. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe this is why we need to keep making sentences

of course the disparities between individual and planetary time can never be reconciled. “What is to be noted here is less the unification of these disparate temporalities than rather their surcharge and overlap.” It’s the surcharge and overlap that create the feel of any given time. “Out of this jumbled superimposition of different kinds of temporal models History does in fact emerge”—as a work of art, like any other work of art, but made by everyone together. And it doesn’t stop. Things happen, events, accomplishments; wins and losses; Pyrrhic victories, rearguard actions

Because of this, there is still and always the risk of utter failure and mad gibbering extinction. There is no alternative to continuing to struggle

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