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Author Topic: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse  (Read 11935 times)

improvnerd

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Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« on: 28 May 2015, 21:13 »

I've had a bunch of questions rattling around in my head for a few months, so I thought I'd write them down:

Unanswered Questions from Alice Grove

Where is the village?
  • Future Earth?
  • Another world (possibly terraformed)?
  • Space habitat?

What is the tech level of the village?
  • The village looks like c. 1900 North America, but there is also a wind turbine which appears to be c. 2000 technology (however Alice maintains it so it may not be relevant to the village’s level).

What is the village?
  • Amish-style society that rejects high tech?
  • Reservation/nature preserve/zoo for primitive people?

Are there other villages on the same world?
  • An Earth-like planet could sustainably support at least hundreds of millions of people.
  • If other villages exist, are they the same tech level as this village?
  • Are there other “Alices” for the other villages, or does Alice handle the entire planet?

Where do Ardent and Gavia come from?
  • Ardent says “higher" than the sky.
  • Another planet?
  • Space habitat in orbit around Alice's planet?
  • Other space habitat?

What is a praeses?
  • All the ones Gavia calls out to have tree names.
  • Gavia refers to Cupressaceae as "it'.
  • Praesides have the ability to transport people to (and presumably from) the village, although according to Alice, they’re not supposed to do so.
  • They're also supposed to be impossible to circumvent, although Ardent claims to have had a friend "hack the console" to transport him to the village.
  • Gavia assumes the praesides can hear her when she calls on them to send her and Ardent home.

What is Alice?
  • Robot?
  • Human with technology boosts?
  • Actual witch?
  • Is Alice a praeses? Or a praeses substitute for the village?

I'm probably leaving lots of stuff out, so feel free to add.
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Thrudd

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #1 on: 28 May 2015, 21:40 »

Well we know that there is at least one other place of residence from her admonishment of our young tough, Jebediah, saying something to the effect "since before your whole family moved here".
They would have moved there from somewhere.

As to the Location, it can be narrowed down to planetary since there is a moon, though then again they could be in a bio dome orbiting a larger body yet inside the orbit of it's moon and still get similar celestial phenomena.

It would be funny if the "up there" was a Dyson Sphere though.
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improvnerd

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #2 on: 28 May 2015, 22:14 »

Right, but did they move there from off world, or someplace else on the same planet?
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #3 on: 29 May 2015, 01:59 »

You'd be surprised how many of these things are guesses but also how many things have already been revealed.

Where is the Town?
In this strip, we see the moon of the world on which Alice Grove is set. Interestingly, the pattern of dark mareia on the face of the moon is the same as the one on our moon...with an additional large impact basin. Those big basin-forming impacts are rare, as in 'once in a hundred million years' rare. So, not only is this a future Earth, it is likely a far future Earth.

I have a suspicion that it is also an extremely long-time post-apocalyptic setting.

What is the town tech level?
Based on both the architecture of the town and the fashions, I'd say that they're around turn-of-the 20th Century mid-Western North America. The Wind Turbine is, in my view, a red herring. Notice that Alice was working on it. It is possible that she is trying to introduce non-polluting advanced technology to the town, such as renewable resource electricity. One wonders how long she has been quietly and discreetly doing stuff like this. It is quite possible that, when she came across these people's distant ancestors, they were pre-civilised hunter-gatherers.

Are there other towns?
Almost certainly, yes. Alice remembers when Jeb's ancestors moved to the town from elsewhere. However, it is quite likely that, thanks to Alice's work, this town is the most advanced settlement.

That said, it is not inconceivable that Alice indirectly rules over a distinct territory of advanced technology and settled civilisation surrounded by barbarian lands that are still at neolithic/early bronze age levels with mostly-nomadic tribes.

Where do Ardent and Gavia come from?
Somewhere in space; likely the Moon or Mars. The fact that Gavia feels the need to float suggests that, wherever they call home has a significant gravitational field. Ardent shows that their society has no hang-ups about extreme body modification; I'd expect that a civilisation on a free-floating space colony (even with a gravity-generating habitat area) would have genetically engineered in free-fall adaptations (such as monkey-like 'hand-feet' for working in the zero-gee areas).

What is a Praeses
Good question. We don't know. We do know that Gavia referred to Cupressaceae as 'it'. So I think it's unlikely that they're humans or even biological. The most likely explanation is that they are like the ruling AIs in Ian Banks' 'The Culture' stories - disembodied AIs that, through the computerised infrastructure of the civilisation, provide for, protect and, effectively, rule over the humans whose ancestors created them.

What is Alice?
There are two possibilities that occur to me.

The first is that she is a robot, built at the order of the Praeses but long since having exceeded the limits of her programming simply by the effect of millennia of independent operation. She was intended to look after the humans who were left on Earth after a lucky minority evacuated (either shortly before or shortly after The Apocalypse happened). Protecting the town and its people, supervising their technological and social development and ensuring that they are not contaminated from the outside.

The second option is that she is a post-human from Ardent and Gavia's civilisation but had chosen to live amongst the primitives as a protector and guide many millennia ago. She is functionally immortal thanks to the early-variant nanotech in her body (I'm sure that, if seriously injured, she would regenerate like Gavia's face and Ardent's tail).

Either way, whilst Alice is dedicated to her charges, she isn't a particularly nice individual. Time has caused her to develop a certain degree of condescending superiority towards the mayfly-like beings living around her. She also seems to have a psychotic behavioural disorder (or a programming error, if she's an AI) that seems to be triggered off when she's in a fight.

The thought that she's a Praeses who has gone into exile for some reason (either by choice or because the Council regarded her ideas as dangerous) is an interesting one. However, I think that, if that's the case, Jeph might have given us a clue by now, such as by Alice showing some ability to communicate with her peers (whilst Ardent and Gavia aren't watching, of course).
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improvnerd

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #4 on: 29 May 2015, 04:49 »

I think we mostly agree. One of my goals was to post all possibilities I could think of, not just the ones I thought most probable. I think this is because I've read too many mystery novels lately, so I'm reluctant to assume anything beyond clearly proven facts.

A few comments:

Where is the Town?
In this strip, we see the moon of the world on which Alice Grove is set. Interestingly, the pattern of dark mareia on the face of the moon is the same as the one on our moon...with an additional large impact basin. Those big basin-forming impacts are rare, as in 'once in a hundred million years' rare. So, not only is this a future Earth, it is likely a far future Earth.

I just compared that image of the moon on that strip with a bunch of moon images from Google image search. It's not a perfect fit, even taking into account for the new impact basin. But close enough that I'm inclined to agree. (I suppose it could be a fake, but that would be a damn hard thing to fake.)

The Wind Turbine is, in my view, a red herring.

It sticks out like a sore thumb. The thing about the wind turbine is that it's not something you could easily bootstrap without full-fledged 20th century industry. So is it an ancient relic, or did it come more recently from a more advanced culture elsewhere on the planet (or off)?

Alice remembers when Jeb's ancestors moved to the town from elsewhere.

But is that elsewhere on-world or off?

Where do Ardent and Gavia come from?
Somewhere in space; likely the Moon or Mars. [...] I'd expect that a civilisation on a free-floating space colony (even with a gravity-generating habitat area) would have genetically engineered in free-fall adaptations (such as monkey-like 'hand-feet' for working in the zero-gee areas).

Why a planet in the Solar System? Gravity-wise Mars and the Moon are problematic. Mars is about 38% of Earth gravity, and the Moon is 16.6%, yet neither Ardent nor Gavia seem to be suffering under the pull of what would be 3-6 times their normal weight. (Although that would be one explanation for Gavia floating everywhere.)
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improvnerd

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #5 on: 29 May 2015, 04:57 »

One more question:

Could the Praesides hear Gavia?
In a high tech world it makes sense that the Praeses could hear you from anywhere. But why would they be able to hear in a place without any telecommunications infrastructure? Was Gavia incorrectly assuming they could hear her, because she couldn't imagine otherwise?  (Kind of like a 21st century denizen marooned on a desert island being surprised that he couldn't summon help on his mobile phone.)
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #6 on: 29 May 2015, 05:04 »

The Wind Turbine is, in my view, a red herring.

It sticks out like a sore thumb. The thing about the wind turbine is that it's not something you could easily bootstrap without full-fledged 20th century industry. So is it an ancient relic, or did it come more recently from a more advanced culture elsewhere on the planet (or off)?

Ardent has established that there is some permitted communication between 'Up' and the Habitat (as we wikia members call it). It is possible that the Praeses or some contact Alice has in space has been slowly sending the turbine to her, piece by piece, over a long period and she has been assembling it by hand to prevent anyone thinking that she has access to 'out of town' resources.

Where do Ardent and Gavia come from?
Somewhere in space; likely the Moon or Mars. [...] I'd expect that a civilisation on a free-floating space colony (even with a gravity-generating habitat area) would have genetically engineered in free-fall adaptations (such as monkey-like 'hand-feet' for working in the zero-gee areas).

Why a planet in the Solar System? Gravity-wise Mars and the Moon are problematic. Mars is about 38% of Earth gravity, and the Moon is 16.6%, yet neither Ardent nor Gavia seem to be suffering under the pull of what would be 3-6 times their normal weight. (Although that would be one explanation for Gavia floating everywhere.)

Without invoking Clarke-tech magic, a planet in the Sol System is easier to imagine them teleporting from. Without stargates or warp drive (both highly energy-intensive), interstellar travel is hard and, more importantly, slow. Their coming from a nearby world makes travel easier.

Don't forget the regenerative power that both kids have shown. I suspect that it would be relatively simple to instruct their nanobots to start boosting their muscular strength and bone density. Given Gavia fully regenerated in a matter of hours towards the end of volume 1, it might not even take that long!

Could the Praesides hear Gavia?
In a high tech world it makes sense that the Praeses could hear you from anywhere. But why would they be able to hear in a place without any telecommunications infrastructure? Was Gavia incorrectly assuming they could hear her, because she couldn't imagine otherwise?  (Kind of like a 21st century denizen marooned on a desert island being surprised that he couldn't summon help on his mobile phone.)

Implant communicator in Gavia's head; obviously supposed to have interplanetary range, given that she clearly expected a reply. Maybe the antenna cable runs parallel to her spinal column and might have loops running through her ribs or collarbones.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #7 on: 07 Jun 2015, 23:55 »

All this stuff about whether or not the Praeses could hear Gavia is relating to one of my most burning unanswered questions:

Why did the Praeses allow Ardent and Gavia to leave space and come to the planet?

Alice knew from the start they weren't supposed to be down with her. Her response to hearing Ardent was hacked into this world via a geeky transport volunteer and that Gavia asked a Praeses to send her down to fetch him was along the lines of: "Ardent tricked a Praeses which isn't possible, and it then violated it's first principle to send Gavia down here?" A few strips later, right before Gavia's unsuccessful attempts to call them and go home she insisted they weren't supposed to be here, to which Alice responded: "And yet both your Praeses let you come. Something very strange is going on here."

Personally I lean towards the theory those two were heard but deliberately marooned, or else deliberately allowed to go a place from which the Praeses knew they would not be heard. But there are many possibilities for why.

Possibly some terrible event has happened to the spaceborn society, and Gavia is not heard because the Praeses are all dead along with everyone else which makes Gavia and Ardent the last survivors of their world. If this is so, I don't believe either have had any clue something was wrong. In this scenario it is possible Ardent managed to get down their as the Praeses were horribly distracted by the upcoming catastrophe, and Gavia was sent after him believing that she would be safe down there with him. The Praeses might have believed it would only be for a short time and they'd be able to get them back soon, but were wrong. A variation of this is that the Praeses are currently dealing with said catastrophe and unable to fetch their truants, who will later return with Alice to resolve the crisis and save the day.

This theory hinges on the idea that the Praeses are good and have the best interests of Gavia and Ardent at heart. There is no evidence to suggest they do, especially after the recent comic in which Alice hints they withhold knowledge from their people. Even before that, I was suspicious of them. There are plenty of scenarios I can think of as to why they would have deliberately marooned the siblings.

That statement of Alice's that it wasn't possible to trick a Praeses instantly made me suspicious. What if that is a complete fallacy and the Praeses don't want people realising they are trickable and not always right? This would make Ardent getting onto the forbidden planet for a vacation a major disaster for them, as they wouldn't want it getting around that they had failed like that. So they took steps to ensure the person most likely to kick up a fuss about him being gone, his sister, was quickly encouraged to go fetch him. Gavia is young and stupid enough that I consider it highly possible to manipulate her into thinking she has to go and fetch her brother quickly while believing this was her idea. With both trapped on planet, it isn't going to get around that the Praeses are capable of screwing up and being fooled. We haven't actually heard yet how Gavia knew so quickly her brother had got in or why she thought it was so important to find him and bring him home as soon as she possibly could. I think Ardent had only been on the planet less than a day before Gavia appeared. If it was the Praeses who told her and sent her, it would explain why Gavia was so sure she would be heard and why she was so shocked when she wasn't.

Of course, it might be more simple than that. Maybe the Praeses were just sick of babysitting the terrible twosome and decided to make them someone else's problem. Neither are exactly shining examples of maturity and wisdom.

Another possibility is that Gavia and Ardent are important in some way they don't realise, or haven't thought to tell Alice. They seem too young to hold important jobs (from their size I've been assuming they are teenagers) although I can't rule out the possibility. Maybe they are related to important people who are working against the Praeses, so their children were exiled for revenge, or to prevent their family from moving against them (Your children are somewhere you cannot get to. Behave and they will remain unharmed). One thing that makes me uncertain about this theory is neither has yet mentioned any other relatives, or seems to be mourning the loss of anyone in space they are now permanently exiled from. I must say I consider it strange it was the sister of a like age who came to fetch the truant teen as this is usually something an older parental figure does. My brother has severe disabilities and when we were growing up and he vanished my first reaction was never: "Fetch him myself" but "Find Mummy and Daddy straight away so they can search for him." But it is possible that Gavia and Ardent just aren't close to the family member the Praeses are trying to upset. Working against the Praeses may have taken up too much of their time to build a close relationship with either.

And my final possibility is that Ardent and Gavia have some feature or attribute which the Praeses fear, such as, I dunno, an anti-Praeses gene. The major thing wrong with this is: "If they are so afraid of the kids why didn't they just kill them instead of going through this elaborate process of marooning them?" to which the only reason I can think of is that the Praeses for some reason cannot kill or harm humans. Maybe it violates one of the principles Alice thinks they have.
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Thrudd

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #8 on: 08 Jun 2015, 11:30 »

Welp - looks like it is confirmed that the Praeses are trees are large ancient intelligences and that they harbor vast quantities of knowledge/information.
The mentioning of sap was troubling until it dawned on me that the use of nanites would be a very appropriate vector for communication and information storage..
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #9 on: 08 Jun 2015, 12:54 »

I'd think Jeph's comment of 'CONVOLUTED SAP METAPHOR' underneath the comic should be quite clarifying.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #10 on: 09 Jun 2015, 03:59 »

I think it means that even in the far future the Praesides will run their colonies by means of a German-engineered Enterprise Resource Planning software :-P
« Last Edit: 09 Jun 2015, 17:02 by Schwungrad »
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #11 on: 10 Jun 2015, 16:40 »

Much is to be explained
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #12 on: 30 Jun 2015, 07:08 »

Just want to point out (if it's not already obvious) that if the ruling off-world intelligences are trees (and possibly also the ruling on-world intelligences, we don't know that), then Alice Grove takes on a whole new meaning.

Alice Grove might not be the town at all. It might be the set of intelligent trees associated with her.

Given what we know of her so far, she predates the Praeses. So she might have made her own bunch, or there might be a group of Praeses devoted to keeping track of her shenanigans.

Or it might just be a name; she might have named her home or her town Alice Grove as a deliberate nose-thumbing at the Praeses.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #13 on: 30 Jun 2015, 23:31 »

Maybe the Praeses are breaking down for some reason, having developed a neurological (or what counts for it) disorder.

In short, they are epileptic trees.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #14 on: 07 Jul 2015, 00:20 »

How is terrestrial population controlled?
- Rhythm method?
- Promotion of non-procreative sex acts?
- Occasional culls by Alice?
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #15 on: 07 Jul 2015, 01:12 »

How is terrestrial population controlled?
- Rhythm method?
- Promotion of non-procreative sex acts?
- Occasional culls by Alice?

- Cultural programming that makes having more than two or three children a taboo, leading to a stable or at least very slowly increasing population.
- A nanotechnological genophage that automatically induces sterility after a small number of successful gestations - imposed by the same powers behind the Blink.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #16 on: 07 Jul 2015, 03:31 »

- Cultural programming that makes having more than two or three children a taboo, leading to a stable or at least very slowly increasing population.

That's a "why", not a "how". You still need a mechanism to limit family size to those two or three children.

I realize I left out abortion as a possibility. And abortions have traditionally been performed by witches...
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #17 on: 07 Jul 2015, 05:19 »

Traditionally in low-tech cultures population was controlled by poor sanitation and disease epidemics.

However, Alice seems to provide her people with some degree of health care which may include some kind of effective birth control.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #18 on: 08 Jul 2015, 09:46 »

How is terrestrial population controlled?
- Rhythm method?
- Promotion of non-procreative sex acts?
- Occasional culls by Alice?

Farming grows food, but not infinite amounts of food. Adding more farm workers hits diminishing returns. Agro technology is already as good as Alice can help it be, and the farmers don't seem all that brilliant at improving it. The land will support a certain number of people and no more.

And that's what limits the population.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #19 on: 08 Jul 2015, 18:06 »

So, famine?
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #20 on: 09 Jul 2015, 00:43 »

I'm pretty sure that it will be an externally-imposed deus ex machina. Nothing about this world is entirely randomor uncontrolled. DDiscovering the mind behind it may be the long-term plot of the story.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #21 on: 17 Jul 2015, 07:55 »

It looks like part of the answer is "p-p-prophylactics made'a lambskin".
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #22 on: 17 Jul 2015, 08:39 »

Okay, so that's one question answered. And I was right - there is a form of birth control.

Getting Ardent to actually use it, now - that  may be an interesting conversation between him and Miss Wheelwright.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #23 on: 17 Jul 2015, 08:58 »

I knew that lambskin condoms were a thing in the past (back to Roman times); but I didn't know that they are in current use!
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #24 on: 17 Jul 2015, 22:24 »

I knew that lambskin condoms were a thing in the past (back to Roman times); but I didn't know that they are in current use!

The lambs have been unhappy about this for a very long time. Their unhappiness has almost reached the point where they will break their silence.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #25 on: 18 Jul 2015, 23:51 »

I knew that lambskin condoms were a thing in the past (back to Roman times); but I didn't know that they are in current use!

The Blink actively imposes a low-tech environment on the planet-bound. Synthetic rubber, like other sophisticated materials, is probably on the list of forbidden things that it prevents from working.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #26 on: 19 Jul 2015, 09:00 »

Side note: I've just been catching up on Gunnerkrigg Court.

Page 371 has a long-awaited exposition that looks awfully thematically familiar, wouldn't you say?

http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=371

Alice and Antimony have a fair bit in common, really.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #27 on: 19 Jul 2015, 14:47 »

I knew that lambskin condoms were a thing in the past (back to Roman times); but I didn't know that they are in current use!

The Blink actively imposes a low-tech environment on the planet-bound. Synthetic rubber, like other sophisticated materials, is probably on the list of forbidden things that it prevents from working.

I'd have to disagree with this. If it were the case, Alice's windmill would either not work or be useless. Instead she is providing electricity to something. Lights? A motor driving the local grist mill? Something is using electricity - as that windmill is not good for anything else. If the Blink put a true technology ban in place ala Ringo's "The Council Wars" series, I doubt that electricity would pass muster if artificial latex wouldn't.

A more likely explaination is simply that there are spare resources to make prophylactics from lamb while not from latex.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #28 on: 19 Jul 2015, 16:00 »

I'd have to disagree with this. If it were the case, Alice's windmill would either not work or be useless. Instead she is providing electricity to something.

My way of tap-dancing around this is that the Blink only affects items manufactured on Earth from locally-sourced materials. The wind turbine, on the other hand, is built from materials smuggled down from the Space Habitats by Alice's correspondents, possibly one of the Praeses or, and this would be weird, may successive generations of a family on one of the habitats that Alice has befriended and to whom she's become a sort of combination of sage and pen-friend.

Of course, this is just a headcanon for now.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #29 on: 19 Jul 2015, 16:12 »

I'd have to disagree with this. If it were the case, Alice's windmill would either not work or be useless. Instead she is providing electricity to something.

My way of tap-dancing around this is that the Blink only affects items manufactured on Earth from locally-sourced materials. The wind turbine, on the other hand, is built from materials smuggled down from the Space Habitats by Alice's correspondents, possibly one of the Praeses or, and this would be weird, may successive generations of a family on one of the habitats that Alice has befriended and to whom she's become a sort of combination of sage and pen-friend.

Of course, this is just a headcanon for now.
Occam's Razor suggests no latex because there is no manufacturing infrastructure to make latex. No need to prohibit it.
Lambs, on the other hand,are made every year.

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #30 on: 19 Jul 2015, 17:27 »

I knew that lambskin condoms were a thing in the past (back to Roman times); but I didn't know that they are in current use!

Their popularity dropped way off when scientists discovered HIV could penetrate them.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #31 on: 29 Jul 2015, 02:22 »

The Blink actively imposes a low-tech environment on the planet-bound. Synthetic rubber, like other sophisticated materials, is probably on the list of forbidden things that it prevents from working.

I'd have to disagree with this. If it were the case, Alice's windmill would either not work or be useless.
...that the Blink only affects items manufactured on Earth from locally-sourced materials....

I think Ardent's experience seems to back this up a bit...
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #32 on: 17 Aug 2015, 22:22 »

Latex is a natural material. Comes from trees.

It probably wouldn't take anything too hightech to synthesize it, assuming a decent source of raw material could be contrived.

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #33 on: 18 Aug 2015, 14:45 »

Rubber trees are pretty tropical. You'd need global trade, and it's not clear if that exists.

Synthetic rubber would require a petrochemical industry, and I don't think the blink enforcement system would permit that.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #34 on: 18 Aug 2015, 15:50 »

I don't see why you'd need an industry. Bio mechanics are still mechanics. Figuring out how to do something in your kitchen just requires trial, error, and time in your kitchen, if nature can do it. Remember, there's nothing particularly special about any place in the universe, that we are aware of and biological processes tend to be those that don't require heavy machinery.

I'm not positing that it would be easy, just that there's very little that nature makes that you couldn't given access to raw materials and thousands of years to think about it.

While it's certainly possible that some god-like agent is specifically intervening on Earth to enforce arbitrary tech laws, keep in mind that if you have the tech to make a pitchfork, you have the tech to make a refinery, so what we are talking about is a constant intervention of a particularly arbitrary set of rules.

I don't know about you, but if I were god-like, weakly or otherwise, I'd have better things to do with eternity than force a punch of human beings to live a low tech life, with the inevitable disease and suffering that entails (along with the tendency to enforce things like gender slavery). In fact, I'd say such a being was morally reprehensible, and deserves to be destroyed.

I suspect there's some message about sustainability in the AG plot, but we are talking about a force that effortlessly separated the population of Earth and put a bunch in orbit. If you have access to space, sustainability is not an issue (which makes me wonder, as Gavia does) what the SpaceTrees want with Earth.

This does raise the interesting possibility that there is a morally reprehensible force imposing arbitrary rules (and attendant suffering) on Earth, Alice is its agent, and the SpaceTrees are the good guys.

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #35 on: 19 Aug 2015, 00:09 »

What if their goal on Earth wasn't to save the humans, but terrestrial life in general?

That's consistent with the blink. Move most of humanity off-planet, but leave a small human population since they are an indigenous species.

Of course, if that population gets out of balance, it might need to be "managed', like bears in national parks, or rabbits in Australia.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #36 on: 19 Aug 2015, 01:25 »

@Improvnerd,

Which raises the possibility that there are a lot of unwilling immortals like Alice running around. The Blink turned them into the planet's immune system. A white blood cell doesn't have mercy and neither does Alice, either with 'external infectious agents' like Ardent and Gavia or 'malignant mutations' like Jeb.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #37 on: 19 Aug 2015, 02:22 »

Seems like there could be several possible scenarios:

1. Alice is part of, or in cahoots with whatever caused the blink.
2. Alice is opposed to whatever caused the blink.
3. Alice is a super powerful being who happened to live through the blink, and is just trying to get by, in accordance with her own moral code.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #38 on: 19 Aug 2015, 02:29 »

One other possible overall scenario:

The blinkers are a race that consider humans a delicacy, but some are willing to pay extra for "free range" ones.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #39 on: 19 Aug 2015, 04:36 »

That's an interesting thought. I mean, any alien race who likes to dine on organically-raised humans is currently out of luck, since we're basically all chemically contaminated now.

So is Alice fighting the aliens or is she managing the diner for them?  You can eat anyone you want at Alice's Restaurant (excepting Alice...)   :lol:
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #40 on: 19 Aug 2015, 06:42 »

We've always been chemically contaminated. Anyone who says differently fundamentally misunderstands physics. Usually willfully.

Or, as I like to say to people who promote organic, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I'd still label any force that divided humanity in this manner with the intent to create and maintain this status quo as malevolent, and I'd view any force opposed to them as the good guys, in a relative sense. Making Earth a game preserve, forcing humans to live and die in it, denying them access to knowledge and choice, is evil.

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #41 on: 19 Aug 2015, 16:05 »

From a human-centric perspective, possibly. (But remember that before the blink humanity was about to destroy itself and most other life on the planet.

I don't think the blinkers are necessarily human, though, so they may have a different perspective on the issue.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #42 on: 19 Aug 2015, 16:36 »

Understanding is a three edged sword
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #43 on: 19 Aug 2015, 18:33 »

How about this:

Alice is a human herder gone rogue. She's started to care for her flock, providing them with what technology she can. And now her employers are trying to take her out.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #44 on: 19 Aug 2015, 20:40 »

From a human-centric perspective, possibly. (But remember that before the blink humanity was about to destroy itself and most other life on the planet.

I don't think the blinkers are necessarily human, though, so they may have a different perspective on the issue.

There's no other perspective worthy of consideration, here.

You can argue that Earth is too fragile for many humans, and that's fine. But to FORCE people to born, live, and die in poverty, and not give them a choice about it, that's evil. End of line.

You could say that some might choose that life, and that's also fine. Any force that could effortlessly move Earth's population into orbit has the power to make that choice an option.

From what we've seen, where are born is where you die in this world. One could argue that most of human history is like that, but this is a period where someone has the power to do something about it. Now, if I had the power to change a thing for the better, one could have a long debate about whether I'm obligated to. Maybe my choice is to live far away from the problem making intervention difficult.

But if I am actively intervening to perpetuate the problem, I'm obviously malevolent.

When I dismiss all other perspectives but they human one, it's not because they aren't important, but because (in the interventionist scenario) they are resolved. But they are resolved at the expense of humans. If the humans on the surface were THE actual humans that made things so that drastic measure were needed to protect the environment, then there might be a moral justification for making them live like this. But, even if the first ones were, these are not. Should you be punished for the sins of your father? What about the sins of his father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father's father?

Alice said thousands of years have passed. That up there is about 1400 years worth of fathers. Should you be punished for the acts of a man from the year 600 because you happen to be related to him?

Actions have consequences. Some Jews might have asked a Roman to nail a guy to a tree 2000 years ago, and because of that story we had the Holocaust. But we all agree the people who would do such things are morally wrong. OTOH some people worked out how to collect and burn hydrocarbon fuels for energy, and now we might be drastically altering the environment for their super distant progeny. While we are all part of the carbon problem, none of use started it. What's different is that there's no entity that has the power to force an equitable solution. Nor force can solve all the issues.

The blink d3mostrates a force that could have. If it lacked the power to do more than it did, intervening to keep the surface primitive would still be malevolent. There are better ways to do the job, especially given the potential of nanotechnology.

Aliens (because our AI children would either be us, and thus human as in QC or not us, and thus alien) with a different perspective would be not different than the Europeans in the colonial period. Again, we deem that morally bankrupt. Therefore, it is morally bankrupt. It's all well and good to speak of a different perspective, but the only perspective we know is the human. It's the only one we can know.  It's the only one we can use to make a moral judgment. Alice discusses inflicting catastrophic losses. That's also a moral decision based on her view that the SpaceTrees are acting immorally. You can't handwave out morality in this case. But morality doesn't have meaning when you introduce aliens who don't recognize the concept.

If aliens who don't recognize that having a choice (with the limits of the resource capacity) is fundamentally necessary for humans, but the trees do, from the human perspective, the trees are the good guys and the interventionist aliens are oppressors. At the very least, the trees might have a moral duty to try to get as many people off the surface as they could. And that would start with letting the prisoners know that they are, in fact, in a prison.

I actually don't think any of this is what's going on. In fact, I doubt it even occurred to Jeph that a force that decided to dictate what life will be like for people 70 generations from now, and forced people to live that way might be morally objectionable. But I'd argue that any force that was intervening on this Earth to limit the options of the people on the surface (including Alice) would represent evil, if there is another option as powerful as the blink.

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #45 on: 19 Aug 2015, 23:43 »

It's worth noting that none of the 'controllers' we've had in the story so far, including the Praeses, have shown any interest in the humans under their power having any freedom of choice beyond the limits that they impose.

Then again, look around in the real world today. Once you've looked at the runaway social and human problems, tell me again why absolute freedom to choose whatever path you like is a good thing. The reason that we have laws is simply because we found out a very, very long time ago, that to cure a passing hunger pang, because they saw a shiny thing that momentarily caught their eye or because they fancy sating a passing sexual desire, humans are capable of making very, very dumb and self-destructive choices. Humans will deny and denigrate education, dehumanise each other and even act against heir own obvious best interests in order to sate a passing whim.

The creatures behind the Blink, and the Praeses too, informed by human history, have decided that the only way to solve this problem to to limit the scope of free choice. They have decided that freedom from war, from pollution and from the vicious complexities of a technological society are more important than freedom to take actions that history has proven that they cannot use safely anyway.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #46 on: 20 Aug 2015, 00:45 »

I didn't saw absolute freedom, so I'm not debating that strawman.

On the other hand, you've not addressed the fundamental moral wrong of forcing humans to live in poverty because "environmentalism" when there are artificial habitats they could live in, and seemingly limitless potential to make more.

Charles Stross's Eschaton is very similar to the blink, and it meddles. But the Eschaton has one aim that it has made humans aware of, and its meddling is geared to that aim. Self-preservation. Otherwise, it takes a fairly distant relationship with humanity. It demands only one thing. No time travel within its lightcone. Or else. (Notably, the Eschaton prefers to manipulate those who try such that they fail, rather than actually impose "Or else." It's implied that the human agents who work for it do so because it has convinced them that it very will "or else" if it must.)

From an absolute freedom strawman POV, one could say that the Eschaton is amoral. On the other hand, it seems both able and willing to end humanity, yet it chooses to allow them the maximum freedom it can tolerate to achieve its goals of not being erased from time.

I can't imagine something that could blink, per AG, could define the state of have and have not that it created as necessary to achieve a goal. If humanity is that problematic, and its morality so alien, it would be less resource intensive for it to simply destroy us all and replace us with something less... sentient (natural doesn't really enter into it, as the blink could have removed all the left over nano and eliminated the mutants given thousands of years to work with).

Again, I submit that creating a situation where people are born into poverty, when you have the power to eliminate it, is immoral, at best. Having the ability to have performed the blink, and continue to monitor and enforce the current status quo, and allowing no choice as to what kind of life a person might want to live is immoral.  There'd have to be some complication that would prevent something so powerful from giving the Earthers their own low-tech-zone habs in space, and fully protecting the Earth environment. Give the spacetrees mars or venus, and let them practice terraforming (thousands of years, they've had). There's plenty of solar real estate for people who want to play Ned Ludd. To specifically strand a breeding population in your game preserve with no regard for their self-determination is wrong.

It stretches credibility that such an intelligence would care about Earth's environment but not care about humans to the extent that current situation would have to imply if the blinker was actively controlling what humans can do. Caring about the Earth's environment is a human perspective. Any alien, even one we created, would look at the Sol system and note that it is ~98% G2V star. The remaining 2% is Jupiter. This environment, with all its diverse stuff, is a planetary rounding error. Why protect it, beyond sentiment? Left alone, it will be a wholly different population in a few million years, and it will be a bit of impurity in a red giant's photosphere in a few billion. Left alone, humanity would have sorted itself with the war, and after 1000s of years, the Earth would have recovered. Just another extinction event among many.

There's no perfect morality, because moral is relative. But, if the war was so bad that the blink was needed, it would have been morally superior to blink humanity away and not blink them back, if you believe the implied thesis that humans are bad. Doing what the blink did simply changed the war from a hot war to a cold one, and Alice is of the opinion that the stakes are the same. All the blink really changed was 200+ generation of poverty on Earth and wealth in space.

I can imagine the blink being a kind FU or "So long and thanks for all the fish." A parting gift or curse from a human entity that outgrew us, but remained so human in those last moments that it couldn't let us obliterate ourselves. Lacking a prime directive, it didn't forsee or understand how its actions might create a different distopia and speard the war it was fed up with of thousands of years, rather than a few more days. There are moral failures there, too, but they are failures of planning. This idea of enforcing poverty rather than moving those who want more hitch off planet is an active moral failure. It's also just more complicated that makes sense.

I'm not saying that it's impossible that this is the AG plot. Just saying that if it is, a freaking big plothole. More convoluted than the Terminator timeline is now.

I'm aware that it is implied that this monitor preventing tech is implied to dumb, but that's the whole reason I pointed out that latex is natural, and that cooking is chemistry. A dumb system would miss ways to synthesize latex analogs it wasn't programmed to understand. Especially if it were discriminatory enough to know to kill a Earther latex plant but leave a Spacer super pump alone. That level of discrimination implies intelligence, and intelligence implies morality in chosing to inflict poverty on people, rather than relocating them out of the preserve.

Which, again raises the question of the good guys are supposed to be. ALice has proved she's not the good guy, yet (Assuming she's not bluffing). So far, the only hero in comic is Ardent. I'm fine with the main character not being the good guy, growing to later become the good guy. I'm fine with the world not having any good guys but one blue boy who is willing to whats right, no matter the cost, when the chips are really down. I'm just saying any intelligent system that is enforcing the status quo can't be the good guy if it has the power to do different.

(It is worth noting that Alice is trying to protect people and fight poverty... her windmill, her pump... So she's less likely to be a willing agent of the status quo as much as someone using all the power she can spare to try to do the best for most. Outside of these speculations, what makes her most not the good guy is that she sems to be seriously planning to kill Ardent. I still allow that she's bluffing, but the last comic does raise the potential that she's not).

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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #47 on: 20 Aug 2015, 01:42 »

I think that the problem we have here is a differing sense of what 'poverty' means.

If you want it to mean 'not having technological comforts, excessive leisure time which must somehow be filled and an excess of almost every consumable which is so easily available that over-consumption is a real social ill', then I agree - The people of Alice's world are poor.

However, if you want 'poverty' to mean 'no access to food, shelter, a reasonably harmonious social group and other necessities in sufficient amounts that human requirements are met with room to spare' then I would say that they are rich.

We have seen no sign of famine, families so large that it is a struggle to feed them and disease. Heck, in general, people seem to be happier and healthier than their equivalents in Questionable Content! I'm not saying that it is a paradise but it is a place where people, working to achieve a sustainable balance rather than to achieve wealth, have managed to find a happy medium where they do not want but are are also not so glutted with things that it causes issues with social cohesion and unbalanced class extremes based on access to excess. Is it a paradise? No but it is verging towards a Utopia and I'm sure that RF could tell us chapter and verse how dangerous those can be on social levels (stagnation is a big issue in such societies). It is possible that, in her pursuit of 'safe' small-scale technological advancements, Alice is trying to fight against such a thing.

Basically, Jeph is trying to give us a 'through the keyhole' into a society that is trying to live in harmony with nature and within certain limits in an attempt to create a sustainable and happy civilisation. Is it a fools' errand? Who knows? Answering that question may be one of the points of the narrative.

I'll remind everyone of this: This isn't necessarily something imposed against the inhabitants' wish, at least not for the first few generations. I believe that there is good reason to expect that those remained behind on Earth after the Blink were the radical low-tech faction. So, they would have wanted to create such a life and civilisation. This value-set would have been passed through the generations to the point where the current generation of inhabitants regard technology as a kind of slightly dodgy mystic art (hence Alice, who is actually an engineer by training from what I've seen, is perceived as a 'witch').

FWIW, I do hope that Jeph addresses how 'deviants' are handled. Maybe there is a pro-Praeses 'fifth column' living elsewhere, maybe? Maybe the AIs 'harvest' such outcast groups regularly and take them to wherever they went after the Blink?
« Last Edit: 20 Aug 2015, 02:04 by BenRG »
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #48 on: 20 Aug 2015, 01:43 »

On the other hand, you've not addressed the fundamental moral wrong of forcing humans to live in poverty because "environmentalism" when there are artificial habitats they could live in, and seemingly limitless potential to make more.

Well, there's the age-old idea that you don't give people the answer, but give them the background to be able to work it out for themselves in due course.  Maybe Alice is bringing this society on slowly in the hope that her guidance will produce a better advanced society in the distant future than the one which the blink cut off.
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Re: Unanswered Questions from the Alice-verse
« Reply #49 on: 20 Aug 2015, 06:09 »

On the other hand, you've not addressed the fundamental moral wrong of forcing humans to live in poverty because "environmentalism" when there are artificial habitats they could live in, and seemingly limitless potential to make more.

Well, there's the age-old idea that you don't give people the answer, but give them the background to be able to work it out for themselves in due course.  Maybe Alice is bringing this society on slowly in the hope that her guidance will produce a better advanced society in the distant future than the one which the blink cut off.

I'm not criticising AG. I'm criticizing the theory that some force is specifically restricting access to technology on the surface, and that for is not the people who live there. That, whatever else, their way of life is externally imposed upon them.

With that in mind, this is not give a man a fish. It's pretty much the opposite of that saw. It's specifically NOT teaching a man to fish, or even allowing him to understand the principles of fishing. Nanotechnology would be outside the experience of anyone living more than few tens of miles from an Alice. When the superforce proposed above stopped some industrial process from working the people wouldn't have any idea why. If the superforce came down and told them "no, they would label it God, which really isn't much better than not understand why the proper application of heat and pressure lines up with the mathematical model when making steel but seems to fail for no known reason when applied to latex. Why you can distill liquor but can't distill hydrocarbon fuels.

There is nothing morally valuable about work for its own sake. That's primarily a myth enforced top down. Long ago, it did lead to a better life for all involved, but that's been steadily eroding in terms of distribution of wealth for some time. It seems to go cyclically, where work starts as collective cooperation for the common good (at least in large part) but erodes to a pure rat race that only enlivens and enriches the most ruthless few.

So, yes. IMO any system relies on fundamentally unnecessary manual labor to survive is poverty if there exists a system that could effectively remove that burden and allow people to pursue their highest potential.

Would people actually do that? Hell if I know. I would recommend reading Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age for a sense of what nanotechnology not half as advanced as what Gavia has could actually do.

Earth is flush with water. Or big issue is that most of it is too salty (and most hat isn't is ice, and worse the heat, while melting the ice part, it's mixing it with the salty part.

A nano bot filter would fairly efforlessly remove the salt from the water. It would extract carbon from the air more effectively and efficiently than trees do. In fact, one of the nanopunk writers accurately noted that nanobot based carbon capture would be so efficient, we'd start running out of easily accessible carbon sources. One proposal was to just set the Appalachian chain coal deposits on fire, to keep atmospheric CO2 dropping too low.

A properly configured universale assembler system could build almost anything, as insanely low cost. It could remediate any environmental impact at insanely low cost.

The assembler system in the Diamond Age is very much like Eric Dexler's concept, which is built the way it is because such tech would be extremely sensitive to the environment. Indeed the central conflict of the story involved finding a way to build a less centralized type of assembler. While the goal in the book is system that would still be a macro-scale device, Gavia's nanotech is, apparently, free and nearly full self-replicating, able to operate in the least controlled of environments (A human body) and the eternal world (Gavia's nano is either UV resistant, or her internal stores rebuild fast enough that she needn't worry about sun-induced losses. She projects fire, energy blades and defensive screens. She's weaponized at least to the level of a light battle tank, and that's just a teenager. Her nano reassembled the teeth Alice removed, implying that is is a UA system). The kind of resource wars Alice is afraid of would be largely solved by nanotech. The issue would be (as the nanopunk writers note) a crunch on carbon, and any other elements that make good base substrates for building nanotech. (Which is mostly carbon, as far as we know, but we're just getting started).

I'm not saying that people who are fulfilled by manual labor are immoral. I'm saying that it is immoral to force a way of life on people who never asked to be born, much less born in the 19th century 2.0, to live that way when there are other options. I'm allowing for the whole Environmental Preserve Earth concept. But if that which blinked is still actively intervening, it like has the ability to identify those who would be happiest in both environments and move them to where they would be most needed. Both from a practical view of what nanotech could do, and from a view of the effort needed to enforce a low tech system (i.e. not only prevent know advances beyond a certain techlevel, but prevent the chemists from advancing in other ways) suggests the blinkers would have the power to intervene in more efficient, more humane ways. Thus, it seems more likely that the blinkers intervened and skipped town. Otherwise, they'd be malevolent force.

I would have some doubts about Alices fitness to guide humantiy to a better future based on her reactions to Gavia's threat and then Ardent's. In both cases she fails the WWJD test.

What Would Jean-luc Do? If you can't make a call that would make Captain Picard proud, you don't deserve to wear that ... Erm, you probably aren't fit to lead humanity to less mostrous future. Rule one of such a job. You can't be a monster. Again, however, she might be bluffing.

Somethings to consider. It's much more likely, interms of what's actually going on, that the trees are malevolent force. Even on a conservative time frame we're no more than 100 years from singularity in the real world. In AG, they are thousands past singularity and there hasn't been another they we are aware of. Likely this is because of the spacetrees. They are bioconstructed intelligences, and lack the easy of machine AI's ability to self improve. They could likely design a smarter tree, but they can't easily BECOME a smarter tree. (Personally, I think this limit would be overcome given 1000s of years, but since Alice seems to personally know these trees it seems likely that they are not able to self upgrade.) The space trees are almost certainly the BIOTECH side of the warring factions. What Blinked was likely the techtech side. An AI runaway. Intelligence explosion. Exponetially increasing cognition.

While the space people could be the tech side, and the blinker could be intervening to prevent them building a second exponetial intellect, ALice personally knowing the trees suggests to me that they predate the blink, just like she does.

Another important point about engineering such a system, I've mentioned this before, it would be both more effective and more humane to engineer the people such that they never want to build jet planes and such. I see no difference in doing that and engineering the environment to be hostile to attempts to build jet planes. But the form would be more human because everyone would happy with their lot in life. No one would be frustrated by a world that refuses to conform to the math, and most of all, anyone who got a look at the super pump would say, "Flashy, but it seems really too extravagant. Maybe we'd better build in some saftely locks to limit it's output."

In short, the easiest path wasn't taken, or Alice would have nothing to fear, and the spacetrees would be impotent.

Again, all I'm saying is that an interventionist blinker represents a pretty big plot hole. A non interventionist blinker doesn't. Something blinked and left town. When it's fair that the decendents many generations removed are stuck in a low tech world isn't relevant because there's no one around to change their lot in life. Those who want something might be being stifled by lack of resources, or just the tyranny of majorites or Alice's. There are issues with that, but they are of fundamentally different nature than an active power that could interven for the betterment of all and choose not to is the most convoluted manner possible.

Which is, incidentally, a good description of why I'm an atheist.
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