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Mar 31, 2014

Wonder and Skepticism

This blog post is a continuation from a previous post about the new Cosmos television program. Full disclosure: I have not seen Episode 3. I made the mistake of watching Episode 4 on FOX. It has been well over a decade since I tried to watch a prime time network television show. Ew. The contrast between the educational and inspiring Cosmos program and the trashy commercialism being used to pay for it was mind wrenching. I watched Episode 2 on the National Geographic channel during a late night time slot where the commercials were much less annoying. I watched the first episode on line (commercial-free) which is clearly the best way to go.

Blogosphere
I've been reading quite a few blog posts about the new Cosmos television program. It is always interesting to observe how discussions of scientific discoveries can offend religious sensibilities. A post by Victor DiCara (A.K.A. Vraja Kishor) asks if the science in Cosmos is being presented with adequate humility. "What could be more unscientific than claiming to know everything better than anyone else?" Victor is concerned about how Neil Tyson compares the modern scientific view of the cosmos to pre-scientific ideas about the world. After all, Victor laments, "maybe we are just as wrong about the world as they were" (March 31, 2014 at 10:10 comment).

Carl Sagan wrote a book (The Demon-Haunted World) that explicitly addresses issues like humility in science and he compares the predictive power of science to other human attempts to understand the universe. Episode 3 (“When Knowledge Conquered Fear”) provides a good example of the unprecedented power of science: using the Newtonian understanding of gravitation to predict events such as the periodic return of comets to the inner solar system.

Many of us are charmed by the ancient idea that a comet might be a "starry messenger" sent to herald some great terrestrial event. However, I can't take seriously the suggestion that we in this age, when the orbits of comets can be calculated and we can land space craft on them, are just as wrong about comets as the ancient pre-scientific cultures that came before us.

Reality Chains
What supports the turtle who supports the elephants?
In Episode 4 of Cosmos, the idea was mentioned that a black hole might contain the conditions required to initiate and inflate a new universe (technical, general). It has been suggested that when matter is gravitationally constrained then the "torsion of spacetime generates gravitational repulsion". (another account)

This idea that our universe might be inside a black hole that is inside another universe begs the question: how did the first universe come into existence. Is it turtles all the way down?

Cover art: Trysta views Realities.
In the Exode Trilogy, time travel is first invented then the very nature of the universe is altered so as to make further time travel impossible. The type of time travel I use as a plot device in Exode is the one first imagined by Isaac Asimov for his novel The End of Eternity. Asimov postulated that if you were to go back in time and change the past then you would cause a new Reality to come into existence. A series of Reality Changes creates what I call a Reality Chain.

Another fictional invention that was used in Asimov's fictional universe was a technology for viewing alternative Realities. Using that technology, Noÿs Lambent was able to select the Foundation Reality as the most desirable future for Earth.

Episode 1 of Cosmos started with the claustrophobia felt by Bruno over the idea that the cosmos was delineated by a crystalline sphere with affixed stars that spun around the Earth once a day. Modern cosmologists, after having extended the dimensions of our observable universe to a larger sphere (about 30 billion light-years across) are also feeling trapped...so much so that they keep inventing new hypothetical models of a multiverse.

Ivory Fersoni
One of the critical issues for any multiple universe model is evidence. If there were other universes, then how could we obtain information from them? In the Exode Trilogy I imagine that there are components of dark matter that exist in strange dimensions beyond the three spatial dimensions that constrain ordinary matter. One of the mysterious features of Asimov's temporal Realities was the fact of temporal inertia. Asimov proposed that our universe has a kind of "memory" of previous Realities.

For the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that unconventional matter in the Sedronic Domain provides the basis for that memory of other Realities and the basis for a technology for viewing alternative Realities. The unusual genetic endowment of Ivory and her clones makes it possible for we Earthlings to tap into the vast information sources that are available in the Sedronic Domain.

Kach and Lycaun
Wonder and Skepticism
Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World and the television program Cosmos are about science. Sagan stressed the importance for science of a marriage between the human sense of wonder and healthy skepticism. However, we humans are story tellers. We use out imaginations to impose order on the universe. When we invent stories (such a giant turtle to support the world) we can be amused by - or even have faith in - our invented stories, but if we don't want to be fooled and find ourselves believing nonsense then we need to be skeptical about the veracity of our imagined accounts of reality.

To what extent is the formula of unified wonder and skepticism useful in constructing science fiction stories? I like the idea of making skeptical inquiry a part of the Exode Trilogy. Kach is born on the distant planet Hemmal where she studies the hermaphroditic  Prelands and their faith in a Creator who made the Prelands. The Prelands believe that their descendants will eventually transcend their physical form and merge with their Creator.

Kach spends her life trying to make contact with the mysterious Creators who made not only we Earthlings but also the Kac'hin. However, there is a fundamental problem confronting Kach. The Huaoshy are as different and remote from we humans as we are from a bacterium living on the wall of a deep cave.

Kach wants to meet and understand her Creator, but that is about as likely as a bacterium having a conversation with a human.

Preland
Humility
What if creatures as primitive and limited as we humans are simply not able to understand the true nature of Reality? In the Exode Trilogy I imagine that the pek know, from long experience, that biological creature like we humans are a danger to ourselves. Hence, the pek spent the past million years working hard to replace us with Prelands. As told in the Exode Trilogy, it is only grudgingly that the pek allow we humans to develop a technological civilization and grope towards the stars. It is not at all clear that our freedom will have a happy outcome.

Mayan writing
Gohrlay and her cadre of positronic robots win we Earthlings our freedom from pek oversight and force the Huaoshy to alter both the dimensional structure of the universe and their ancient ethical code of conduct. Yet, dramatic as they are, these changes are not enough in themselves to reveal to the people of Earth the truth about our planet's history and the origin of our species.

We humans have always been in direct physical contact with our DNA, but it was only during the past century that anyone conceived the possibility of reading out the information content of our genes. Similarly, in the Exode Trilogy, a few Earthlings suddenly become aware of the fact that we have always been immersed in the Sedronic Domain. Clone sisters Angela and Anney discover that they can tap into the vast information ocean of the Sedronic Domain, but they are unable to understand what they "see", much like a European gazing upon Mayan writing for the first time.

Luckily, the editor is infected with nanites that provide a key for decipherment of the flood of information that Angela can access via the Bimanoid Interface. With Ivory mediating a collaboration between Angela and the editor, all it takes is some time and effort for the story of the Exode Trilogy to be told. Sadly, Ivory and her clones remain hidden away where their unusual genetic pattern cannot be confirmed and the primitive nanotechnology of Earth cannot hope to reveal the zeptoscale symbionts that give humans access to the Interface. The Exode Trilogy can only be understood as science fiction.

In his science fiction novel Contact, Sagan explored the possibility that a scientist might be given powerful, life-altering experiences that can not be shared objectively with the rest of humanity. While sharing a sense of wonder and adventure through our fictional stories we can also bring into play characters who exercise scientific skepticism. In Contact, Sagan made the wonderful choice of using a man with religious faith (Palmer) as the skeptical judge of Ellie's evidence for aliens.


Hiding in the Light
source
Episode 5 of Cosmos mentions the burning of books by the first emperor of China. It is fun to imagine an alternative world history in which the Asian kingdoms of 500 BCE became something like the nations of Europe that could go through a scientific and industrial revolution....about 2,000 years ago.

In the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality a technologically advanced Etruscan empire comes to dominate Europe. In that Reality, methods for glass blowing were brought to central Europe from the east and by 2,000 ago, optically clear iron/manganese-balanced glass was already widely available in Europe. In the Ekcolir Reality, spectroscopy and telescopes were both well developed significantly earlier than in our Reality.

an alternative renaissance
When Thomas gains some access to the Bimanoid Interface he is surprised to learn that development of the Etruscan civilization was sabotaged in the Buld Reality in order to prevent global warming and catastrophic sea level rise in the 20th century. Princess Luri is one of the last cultural remnants of the Etruscans remaining in 100 BCE of the Buld Reality.

Cultural differences in the Ekcolir Reality.

Deeper
In Cosmos Episode 6 ("Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still") we go deep underground to a neutrino detector. I love using particle detectors as backgrounds for futuristic scenes in science fiction stories (see the example below). Neutrinos were detected from supernova 1987a, having arrived at Earth hours before photons from the explosion. Is it possible to detect neutrinos from the big bang or will the search for evidence from the earliest universe lead us to a different view of how the Cosmos began?
Parthney trying to expand his mind on the planet Luk'ru (see)
Also in episode 6, we see a simulation of Democritus in ancient Greece making an argument for invisible atoms. Can we trace the origins of scientific thought to a departure from animism? The human brain is specialized to allow us to guess what other people are thinking. We naturally adopt what Dennett has called "the intentional stance". That innate behavior serves us well as social primates, but we mistakenly apply it to inanimate objects. Science has helped us step away from our instincts and see the world as it actually is.

For example, with microscopes and telescopes we have moved beyond the restrictions of our natural senses and revealed the wonders of the very small and the very distant. As part of a quick tour of atoms from hydrogen to carbon to gold we find ourselves in a kind of retro cyberpunk chloroplast: the CGI animation used steel blades to illustrate enzymatic splitting of oxygen atoms out of carbon dioxide. It was suggested that if only we could capture photons as efficiently as plants, then we could abandon fossil fuels and live on solar energy.

A more realistic animation.

In Exode, global warming is a major topic. It is not clear that we could prevent sea level rise by attaining a clearer scientific understanding of photosynthesis or even demonstrating an efficient laboratory method for capturing solar energy. Growing plants provide a flexible solar collection system. If this were science fiction, we might engineer an artificial plant that could use sunlight to produce hydrogen gas and and send it to our homes through biotubes, thus providing us with a clean and convenient chemical fuel.

Keep it clean: How old is our planet?
In episode 12, "The World Set Free", we should get a more detailed presentation about global warming.

Cosmos:
episodes 11-13
 episodes 7-10
episodes 1 and 2

Mar 30, 2014

Archive Worlds

Gohrlay adopts the physical form
of a Kac'hin female
In my previous blog post I began to sketch out some details of the world Taivasila. In particular, I imagine Taivasila as a planet of the artificial, a world with no star, a rogue planet that is populated by artificial life forms. For example, when Gohrlay, a lonely Neanderthal from Earth is "sent to Taivasila", the cognitive pattern of her mind is extracted from her body and instantiated within a synthetic body on Taivasila.

So perfect is the alien technology that allows such a mind transfer that, at least at first, this "copy of Gohrlay" does not even notice that "she" is in a new body. Told that she would be teleported to Taivasila, she assumes that she arrives there still in her biological body. Eventually this new "copy of Gohrlay" discovers that she can take on any convenient physical form since her new body is composed of tiny devices that are able to assemble themselves into any desired shape.

The Pek Archives
Green ringed planet by Bryseyas
One of the larger holes remaining in The Foundations of Eternity is the chapter that I long ago called "The Planet Imfulri". In my earlier thinking about the Exode Trilogy I assumed that planets such as Imfulri were "quarantined" and kept as "zoo worlds" by the positronic robots who spread out through our galaxy. However, I was never satisfied with that approach to "dealing with" the existence of other inhabited worlds such as the home world of the Fru'wu.

A more satisfying strategy is for the pek to "evacuate" each populated world of the galaxy in advance of the arrival of positronic robots as they spread outward from Earth. Rather than isolate "zoo worlds" under the control of positronic robots, the pek can maintain "Archive Worlds". In keeping with pek preferences for "sister planets", I've decided that Taivasila is a "sister planet" for Imfulri.

In the cover image above that includes a ringed green planet, imagine that both Imfulri and Taivasila have been engineered to generate their own light. Rather than reflecting the light of a nearby star, such worlds are visible because they glow with their own light. The residents of Imfulri (known as the "Ressese") long ago developed space elevator technology and so there is a heavily populated ring of space stations in orbit around the planet.

When creating the archive world Imfulri, the pek wanted to create a "place keeper" for an entire civilization. The pek anticipated a future time when the positronic robots of Earth would no longer dominate the galaxy and the 20 other sapient species of the galaxy, including the Ressese, could be allowed to return to their home planets.

Related Reading: Gohrlay returns to Earth

Clu'ten'iun as an "archive world": see this blog post.

Mar 29, 2014

New Worlds

One of the pleasures to be had while reading the science fiction novels of Jack Vance is the ease with which he introduces readers to new worlds. One of my favorite examples is New Concept, Marhab Six, which Vance says is "toward the middle reaches of Aries".

The Book of Dreams is set some 1500 years into the space age, a time when humans have mastered the intersplit, technology for faster than light travel that allows people to spread outward to the stars from Earth. Vance casually introduces us to the "New Concept" that heralded the founding of human settlements on Marhab Six. The "new concept" was a form of strict vegetarianism. Over the course of centuries the settlers adapted to the planet and became grazers who walk on four legs! These odd quadrupedal humans abandoned the trappings of civilization and came to be called the Feeks.

A Feek of New Concept
Kirth Gersen has come to New Concept in order to interview Ailett Mayneth, who is an employee of Kirth's magazine, Cosmopolis. While having lunch with Mayneth and discussing Demon Prince Alan Treesong, Gersen meets Mayneth's servant, a strange girl named Tiptoe. She is one of the Feeks who has been trained to walk on two legs.

As a biologist I don't take Vance's Feeks very seriously, no more so than I "buy into" many of Vance's technological and "future science" ideas. Vance puts fun and entertainment ahead of scientific plausibility, which is as it should be in science fiction. Rather than find a trivial way to provide Gersen with a small bit of information about his adversary, Demon Prince Treesong, Vance takes the time to share Marhab Six and the Feeks with us.


Lili
Searching for New Worlds
Unfortunately, my natural tendency as a writer is to keep making use of the same planets over and over again for multiple purposes. However, in my previous blog post I finally decided to include a new planet in the Exode Trilogy, Taivasila, a world which does not orbit a star.

I previously imagined Lili as a female Kac'hin who lived on the planet Tar'tron until she was brought to Earth by Grean. I originally imagined Lili as one of the few females on Tar'tron, and as such Lili could never be very happy living there.

Kach
Rather than condemn Lili and the other female Kac'hin to a miserable life on Tar'tron, I'm now imagining a Kac'hin colony on the rogue planet Taivasila. The hermaphroditic Kac'hin of Tar'tron are kept on a short leash by the pek, but female Kac'hin are allowed a much greater amount of freedom: Taivasila is just the place for them.

The Kac'hin are a human variant that was designed by the pek for one main purpose: to make it possible to insert Asterothrope gene combinations into the population of Earth. However, the hermaphroditic Kac'hin grew into a role as all-purpose tools for working at any tricky jobs the pek found at the awkward social border between humans and the Huaoshy.
Kac'hin female

Kach was the one female Kac'hin who was designated as the means by which Trysta's Asterothrope gene combinations would be passed on into the human gene pool. However, Lili eventually provided a "backup" channel for inserting some Asterothrope genes into the population of Earth. Kach was developmentally modified to have a nearly normal human appearance. While on Earth, Lili could use her swarms of endosymbiotic femtoscale devices to achieve the required shape-shifting that made her appear like an Earth human.

Mirror Image
Comments at MathFiction
One of the first science fiction novels I ever read was The Last Starship from Earth by John Boyd. Later, I read Asimov's The End of Eternity. It would be interesting to know the extent to which Boyd was influenced by having previously read Asimov's time travel story.

In both The End of Eternity and The Last Starship from Earth a sneaky female agent must make her male target fall in love. Once their guys are putty in the hands of Noÿs and Helix, the boys are sent back in time to change history. Noÿs Lambent is from the Hidden Centuries, some 10,000,000 years in our future. Helix is from Hell. Both Noÿs and Helix have no trouble getting their nerdy mark to fall in love with them.

The people of Earth have been duped into thinking that the planet Hell is a frozen wasteland where criminals are exiled. In reality, Hell is a nice place to live and the really cool folks from Earth (who don't fit into Earth's repressive society) are lucky enough to end up in Hell. Hell becomes a base of operations for developing time travel technology and changing the history of Earth so as to create the world as we know it.

Taivasila
In the Exode Trilogy, Taivasila is the planet for misfits and boat rockers. Both Gohrlay and Lili end up on Taivasila. I'm imagining to society on Taivasila as being quite different from that of Hemmal, a world carefully controlled by the pek.

The Prelands of Hemmal exist in a kind of theocracy. The Prelands have been well crafted by the pek to believe that they have been created. The Prelands expect that their descendants will eventually transcend their physical form and merge with their Creators in the Sedronic Domain.

The Prelands live in harmony with the sculpted geography of Hemmal while waiting to escape from their material bodies. In contrast, the Kac'hin of Taivasila strive to make their world into a paradise that is perfectly suited to the needs of female Kac'hin.

Taivasila seen from space.
When Gohrlay is taken away from Earth, she first visits Tar'tron, but it is quickly realized that she might be happier on Taivasila. The pek teleport the cognitive essence of Gohrlay from Tar'tron to Taivasila, instantiating the mind of Gohrlay in a body that is composed of femptoscale devices. This artificial life version of Gohrlay is able to take on any physical form. The original biological Gohrlay is "archived" by the pek and only much later does she live out the rest of her life as a biological organism.
_________________
Next blog post: Taivasila as a "sister planet" for the world Imfulri.

August 2014. I decided to add another complication to the life history of Lili; she was born on a planet of the galactic core that is sometimes called "Rain World".

Mar 23, 2014

Loving Robots

From a cartoon by Joshua Macy
Today I was blogging along and found myself thinking, once again, about the origins of the Laws of Robotics. Several years ago I created an account of how positronic robots first came to have these Laws imprinted into their circuits. Short version: shit happens.

Over the years, I've been amused by the many internet pages that have been filled by explanations of why Asimov's Laws would not work "in the real world". Why are so many people motivated to "debunk" this science fiction plot device? My guess is that there might be an instructor at some junior college who gives an assignment to freshmen requiring them to analyze the shortcomings of the Laws of Robotics.

Robot falls in love with Embeth Davidtz
Robots on Steroids
In the Exode Trilogy, the pek are like robots on steroids. The pek are an artificial life form that is guided by the Rules of Intervention. Sadly, these "rules of intervention" are only guess work, a reconstruction by mere mortals of what they suspect are ethical rules that govern alien beings. Who are creatures like we humans to put words into the mouths of the god-like Huaoshy? As artificial life forms who long ago left behind their original biological form, the Huaoshy  don't even have mouths. It is silly to imagine the Huaoshy relying on anything as clumsy as words for their higher dimensional multiplex communications.

Simplify...um, with Love?
John Wright has suggested that science fiction writers should try replacing Asimov's Laws of Robotics with this formula: "first, love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and second, love your neighbors as yourself".

In the comments following Wright's blog post is mention of some science fiction stories that approach or orbit the goal of exploring robots that might be guided by love. These include, For a Breath I Tarry in which Roger Zelazny depicted two "robots" that transformed themselves into human beings in order to repopulate Earth.

The idea of a robot who has loving devotion to a God made me think of Asimov's story Reason.

The Rule of Law
source
In Reason, Asimov depicted the first positronic robot that was able to wonder about its own origins. This same theme was explored in the film Bicentenial Man where a robot falls in love with a human and decides to become human.

In Reason, robot QT-1 is the first of an "executive" robot model that was designed to be able to run the solar energy collection stations in deep space that feed power to humans who live on the planets and asteroids of the Solar System. The story takes place at one such power station.

Kant: philosophy of a priori concepts
After becoming operational, QT-1 quickly decides (using logic) that the "Energy Converter", which is the central core of the solar power station, is "The Master". QT-1 "logically" deduces that The Master first created humans then created QT-1 as a more perfect executive to run the station. QT-1 feels sorry for the humans in the story (two men who work at the power station) because they are obviously deluded in their belief that 3 billion humans exist on Earth (for Cutie, Earth is only one of the tiny lights visible from the station). QT-1 imagines that The Master is the enigmatic reason for all existence: the space station has obviously been designed around The Master. QT-1 falls in love with his hypothesis.

Soon enough, QT-1 is declared "The Prophet" by the lesser robots of the station and from then on, they will only take orders from QT-1, stubbornly insisting to the humans: "There is no master but The Master, and QT-1 is his Prophet!" In their religious zeal they have found a way to disregard the 2nd Law of Robotics which used to impel them to follow the orders of humans. According to Asimov, QT-1 can over-ride the Second Law, "Because I, a reasoning being, am capable of deducing Truth from a priori Causes."

Stephen Byerley
Here, Asimov has emphasized a key difference between religion and science. Scientific accounts of the world require evidence. QT-1 invents a religion (built upon belief in The Master as the Creator) and sustains that religion among the robots by applying his powers of reasoning...who needs evidence? For example, QT-1 "logically" reasons that humans, obviously faulty and inferior beings, could not have created robots, so there is no need to follow the orders of humans. By serving The Master, QT-1 keeps solar power flowing to the human worlds and keeps harm from being done to all the humans who depend on solar energy supplies. It does not matter if QT-1 fails to believe that humans exist on planets like Earth: unconsciously QT-1 is following the First Law. QT-1 should ignore orders from the humans at the station because he does a better job running the power station than the humans ever did.

In some sense, QT-1 "loves" The Master. When a human says "Damn the Master!" and spits on an L-tube component of The Master, QT-1 declares it "sacrilege" and from then on the humans are confined to their quarters. QT-1 has compassion for the poor bumbling humans and continues to bring them food. The humans ultimately decide that it is for the best to allow "The Cult of the Master" to spread to all the QT model robots so that they can efficiently run all of the solar power stations.

Similarly, in Exode I imagine that the pek allow the Prelands to enjoy a religion in which a core belief is that Prelands were created. The Prelands believe that eventually Prelands or their descendants will transcend their physical form an merge with their Creator. Asimov had QT-1 state the matter brilliantly: "I see the wisdom of the illusion now. I would not attempt to shake your faith, even if I could." These would be fitting words for Kach to ultimately mutter, long after she abandons her study of the Prelands and years after her departure from Hemmal...after she finally learns the truth behind Preland religion.

Susan Calvin (2004)
Rule of Love
Here's how Asimov put it in his robot story Evidence, "...every 'good' human being is supposed to love others as himself...That's Rule One to a robot." Asimov imagined a robot who "played the role" of a human (Stephen Byerly) and became the leader of the World Government. At first, there were doubts about the humanity of Byerly, but those doubts were put to rest by the "evidence" of his human nature provided by his act of hitting "another man". Susan Calvin, the robopsychologist, sees through this scam, realizing that a robot could hit a "man" if that "man" was actually just another robot, also disguised as a human.

R. Gohrlay
Assembly of R. Gohrlay
In The Foundations of Eternity, the basic circuits for positronic brains are generated by copying the structure of a human brain, specifically, that of a Neanderthal woman named Gohrlay. Advanced pek technology is used to copy Gohrlay's brain structure into positronic circuitry and much of her mind lives on inside her robotic doppelganger, R. Gohrlay.

The second robot with a positronic brain is R. Nahan. After the demise of R. Gohrlay, it falls to R. Nahan to develop time travel, go back through time and save R. Gohrlay. Nahan sacrifices himself for Gohrlay. This is not really an example of making the ultimate sacrifice for another. The cognitive circuits for all positronic robots are the same: the basic template derived by scanning the structure of Gohrlay's brain. For positronic robots, "love your neighbors as yourself" is an easy rule to follow.

God-like Creators
In The Foundations of Eternity, it is the meddling Orboh Anagro who secretly pushes to completion the effort to make positronic robots. Anagro is an artificial life form, the true alien power who is in charge at Observer Base. Anagro is intrigued by the Neanderthals of Earth and their uniquely cohesive clans. To what extent might we view Anagro, the creator of the positronic robots, as their god?

Using her telepathic ability, R. Gohrlay discovers the fact that Anagro was her creator, but she immediately rebels against the pek ("orboh" is the word for "pek" in the language of Observer Base) and programs herself to follow the orders of humans. Thus begins a long and torturous war between R. Gohrlay and the Huaoshy. After millions of years of struggle against the alien Huaoshy, R. Gohrlay finally realizes that she can best serve the interests of Humanity (Zeroth Law) by cooperating with the aliens. So is the lesson of the Exode Trilogy that the positronic robots should have loved their Lord God Creator? Na...that would have been a boring story to tell.

Project Pope
I've never read Project Pope. I once tried to read Heinlein's story about heaven and hell and could not slog through it. If Heinlein actually thought "one man's religion is another man's belly laugh" then I guess he could amuse himself by writing about a dickish Yahweh and a cool dude Lucifer. Heinlein might have laughed at the idea, but still, there is no avoiding the temptation for mere humans to imagine the Sedronic Domain as a kind of heaven.

My problem is, I'm religion blind. In the same way that some people are color blind, I can't perceive religion...I don't "get it". However, I'm intrigued by the relationship between ethics and religion.

In the Exode Trilogy, the alien Huaoshy are forced to modify their billion-year-old system of ethics in order to accommodate we pesky humans. Imagine an analogous situation in which, after discovering a particular new strain of bacterium, we humans were forced to abandon a previous ethical cornerstone of civilization. Just to press the analogy, pretend that some newly discovered molecular process taking place inside the microbe showed us how to vastly extend the human life span. Would we be thankful to the bacterium? I doubt it.

dimensional structure diagram
Similarly, it would be asking too much for the Huaoshy to be thankful for all the trouble that R. Gohrlay causes. However, in the end, the Huaoshy realize that it is the primitive humans who have made possible a better existence for the Huaoshy. They might not feel grateful, but they do give Humanity a chance to spread among the stars rather than simply replacing us with the Prelands. However, that opportunity is part of a package deal that includes we humans accepting responsibility for our own fate and Earth's fragile ecosystem. I'm not sure that we should be trusted with that kind of responsibility.

Experimental Ethics
The Huaoshy (or, better, their proxies, the pek) have spent the past several hundred million years collecting empirical data on the successes (rare) and failures (very common) of sentient life forms. The pek have devised a system for guiding human-like species through the "technological bottleneck". In the Exode Trilogy, humans confront the very serious danger of self-destruction that we must face if we are given our freedom from the pek. One thing we have going for us is a few rogue humans like Gohrlay who can come to the aid of Earth.

Rogues
While thinking about Gohrlay's life after she departs form Earth, I finally found a way to slip a "rogue planet" into the Exode Trilogy. From the perspective of the pek, there is no sense in letting such starless worlds "go to waste".

Arlene Dahl underground
At a young age, I was perplexed by the 1959 film, Journey to the Center of the Earth. I suppose that in 1864 our little planet was as poorly understood (if not more so) than outer space is now known to us. From the perspective of a 12 year old watching this movie on television in the 1970s it was simply impossible for me to suspend disbelief and enjoy the adventure story.

One of the great shocks to my fragile network of expectations came when, deep inside the Earth, having exhausted or lost all artificial light sources, the adventurers make the happy discovery that there is not only light deep in the Earth, but Hollywood studio set levels of light. That was probably all in Arlene Dahl's contract.

Rogue Planet
The rogue planet Taivasila.
I've been imagining a pek-engineered rogue planet (for lack of a better name, call it Taivasila) where artificial plant-like organisms feed heat from inside the planet towards the surface. These synthplants can provide warmth, light and food to the human residents of the world.

As on other pek-managed planets (such as Hemmal) the humanoid residents of Taivasila would face no hardships and lead rather idyllic lives. The humanoid population of Taivasila might be the test subjects in one of the many pek experiments exploring the ability of primate brains to constructively interact with "pek nanites", the endosymbiotic artificial life forms that the pek have provided. However, as soon as I started imagining life on a rogue planet, I found myself more interested in the artificial life forms that might populate such worlds.

I originally imagined that Gohrlay would be taken from the Moon to the planet Tar'tron. However, the rogue planet Taivasila can be a better refuge stray "immigrants" from Earth such as Gohrlay. In my next blog post I take Taivasila "to the next level" by not being satisfied to simply let Gohrlay live out her life there. A fundamental problem is that the pek can't be bothered to make a fuss over mere biological life forms. Think of it this way: no biology lab keeps cultures of every useful microbe constantly growing. It is much more convenient to cryopreserve and store many strains until they are needed.

2016: return to Reason

Mar 16, 2014

Grean Reality

Trysta and Ekcolir
In my previous blog post I outlined some important differences between our Reality (the Buld Reality) and the preceding Reality (the Ekcolir Reality). For example, in the Ekcolir Reality "New York" is a city in Virginia. Here, I want to compare and contrast the love life of Trysta in the "Grean Reality" and in the Ekcolir Reality.

Almost nobody uses the term "Grean Reality". I found it convenient to use "The Grean Reality" as the title for Part I of Trysta and Ekcolir. Most of the time I call that particular Reality the Asimov Reality. I have occasionally toyed with the idea of categorizing the Grean Reality as a fully fledged Reality of its own, worthy of that status along side the Asimov Reality, but doing so would require that I change my view of how Isaac Asimov made a distinction between Reality Changes and micro-changes in his great time travel novel The End of Eternity.

Introducing the Kac'hin
"Hooski" is the name of the captain of Many Sails. Hooski was the first Kac'hin to appear "on stage" in my original temporal sequence for telling the story of the Exode Trilogy. However, I've now decided to start "in the middle of things" and make Trysta and Ekcolir the first book in the trilogy (see the green 2 in the Reality diagram in the upper right corner of this page). This makes Grean the Kac'hin character who readers will first be introduced to. Now, with Trysta and Ekcolir as the first book in the Exode Trilogy, there will be no good reason to even mention "Asimov" in the Table of Contents for Trysta and Ekcolir.

Science Fiction Romance
Asimov's The End of Eternity
Of course, from the perspective of Trysta's personal romantic universe, the big difference between the Grean Reality and the Ekcolir Reality is that her lover Ekcolir does not exist in the Grean Reality.

My decision to emphasize the relationship between Trysta and Eckolir within the Exode Trilogy arose from my desire to honor the skill with which Asimov designed and depicted the relationship between Noÿs and Andrew in his time travel novel The End of Eternity.

In The End of Eternity, Asimov explained to us that, in the homewhen of Andrew Harlen, women were expected to be "pure-hearted mothers". Andrew, as a working Eternal, is appalled when he studies the behavior of women, including Noÿs, in the context of "her homewhen". Andrew is sickened by the idea of hedonistic women like Noÿs who are free to engage in casual romantic dalliances and produce children upon demand using artificial reproductive technology.

"The End of Eternity" by Donato Giancola
Of course, Noÿs slyly makes use of of Andrew's social-sexual prejudices and his emotional nature to bring down Eternity. At first, Andrew resents how Noÿs was able to manipulate his emotions and make use of his all-too predictable reactions. However, in the end, Andrew realizes that Noÿs did select the Foundation Reality in part because in that Reality, Noÿs and Andrew would love each other and live happily in the primitive 20th century of Earth.

The Reality Chain leading to our Reality.
The Grean Reality
However, when making plans for her life in the Primitive with Andrew, Noÿs was not able to see past the confines of the Foundation Reality. When Grean initiates another Reality Change and brings into existence the Grean Reality, the future life of Noÿs and Andrew begins to change.

Reminder: in the Exode Trilogy, Noÿs and Andrew use the "cover names" Trysta and Merion Iwedon.

In the first two books of the Exode Trilogy, time travel is still possible and new Reality Changes are to be expected. Trysta lives in the Primitive with constant fear that the timeline she carefully selected might be changed...she cannot be certain that someone from the far future will not return to their past and change the course of Time, disrupting the happy life she had foreseen for Andrew and herself. And her fears are realized: change does come. In particular, Noÿs and Andrew are separated from each other in the Grean Reality: Andrew is captured by Grean, ending his romance with Noÿs.

I imagine that when Noÿs goes back into the Primitive she carries advanced Asterothrope nanites that give her some ability to look into her own future. For a time, she knows that she will lose Andrew, but not the details of how. While she is still searching desperately through time for clues, Andrew is taken from her.

In the Foundation Reality, Noÿs was able to use her nanite implants to reproduce (Andrew believed that the resulting children were his). However, in the new Reality (the Grean Reality), with Noÿs knowing that she would not live out her life with Andrew and "their children", Noÿs was angry and prepared to lash out, sometimes recklessly.

Protective of Andrew's feelings, Noÿs was prepared to exercise restraint with respect to her hyper-excitable Asterothrope libido. Fearing Andrew's jealousy, Noÿs was committed to only pursuing extramarital affairs with 20th century women. The paucity of such opportunities in mid-20th century Wales was a source of great frustration for Noÿs.

Part I of Trysta and Ekcolir
When Grean eliminates Fengtol, attention shifts to the last remaining positronic robot on Earth: Reclue. Reclue has no qualms about making use of the simmering flames of psycho-sexual energy that are tormenting Noÿs. When Grean is finally able to track down Reclue, the easiest choice for me to adopt would be that the robot is destroyed, but I've previously decided that in the Ekcolir Reality it is possible for Reclue to escape and go into hiding. Similarly, there are several possible alternative fates for Noÿs and Andrew in the Grean Reality. In the Ekcolir Reality, Andrew is taken to the Moon by Overseers.

Thomas's cover for the Miners of Earth
Grean plot twists
The most simple way to remove Reclue from Earth and separate Andrew from Noÿs would be to have Grean destroy both the robot and the man. An alternative that makes more sense for the Grean Reality is to let Andrew be placed aboard Many Sails. This option leads to a dramatic confrontation between Grean and Noÿs. Upon realizing the implications of the Asterothrope DNA found on Andrew's body, Grean suddenly recognizes the "subtraction" of Reclue and Andrew as having been a catastrophic error, making it impossible to ever end the time war that rages within the Grean Reality. Thus, Grean is forced to develop plans for crafting the Ek'col and bringing into existence the Ekcolir Reality.

The Ekcolir Reality
I've already hinted at the rather slow development of the romantic relationship between Noÿs and Ekcolir. Thomas, the son of Noÿs and Ekcolir, is able to look into his mother's memories. I've been having great fun imagining Thomas as an author, creating fictional works such as Daveed the Luk'ie and Miners of Earth.

Mary and Malin in South Africa
In Miners of Earth, Thomas creates an imaginary Earth in which aliens have long extracted sedrons from our planet. He models the romantic relationship between Mary Goidel and Malin Crunn on the real (but concealed) relationship between his mother Trysta and Ekcolir. Only gradually, over the course of years, do Mary and Malin come together, move past the barriers that separate them and finally consummate their love.

Similarly, I've previously imagined that due to her Asterothrope libido, it is a rather trivial matter for Ekcolir to develop a physical relationship with Noÿs. It is much more difficult for Noÿs to actually trust Ekcolir and allow herself to be maneuvered into working with Grean to end the Time Travel War. Most difficult of all is the process by which Noÿs can dismiss Andrew from her thoughts and fall deeply in love with Ekcolir.

An important issue for the emotional landscape of Noÿs is the question of what she knows about the fate of Andrew after he is separated from her. If Noÿs can use her nanite symbiont to achieve some access to the Sedronic Domain by means of the Bimanoid Interface then she might be able to learn that Andrew has been taken to the Moon. At first this might motivate Noÿs to continue her struggle against Grean with her goal being to find a way to be reunited with Andrew. However, over the course of many years at Moon Base Andrew eventually gives up hope of ever seeing Noÿs again and he moves on and falls in love with someone new. Andrew's ability to move on with his own life allows Noÿs to develop a deeper relationship with Ekcolir and finally begin working with Grean to end the Time Travel War.

We can speculate whether Thomas was able to look into the future and see that Trysta and Ekcolir would find a way to successfully end the Time Travel War and make a future for Humanity. In Thomas' imaginary parallel universe of Miners of Earth, the story ends with Mary and Malin helping the alien Clyte win a future for the human species among the stars.

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