Welcome to the fourth interview with Radivis and his fascinating sci-fi ideas. This interview has a special focus on the question ‘Why do humans still exist in the 27th century?’. Let’s go!
Sockrad Radivis Interview IV: Humanity in the 27th century, avatars, Cosmics, and full-spectrum science fiction
Ok, that is a question that might be generally rephrased to the question “why would humans still exist after the technological singularity?” And it’s really not obvious that this question should be answered in the positive, since humans are responsible for most of the problems of the world until now. Why not start with a clean slate? But there’s is an obvious counter-question to that: “What should that clean slate look like exactly?” Maybe there is a general ideas that machines guided by superintelligence should have appropriate machine avatars to represent themselves in this world. Maybe the flying machines equipped with lots of tentacles from the Matrix Trilogy come to mind here. My question is: “What are these avatars supposed to do, actually?” In a sufficiently technologically advanced society, its members are able to use the surrounding technology to perform acts of magic, effectively. So, the choice of avatar should not actually matter for the possible actions the avatar is able to perform. What qualities should therefore guide the decision what form of avatar to choose? It seems that most of these qualities are of a cultural nature, and humanity has a pretty rich cultural history, so why not start with a human avatar?
That answer sounds like a good start, but a civilisation as advanced as the Coherence would surely have had the time and means to transcend the phase of representing its members with human avatars?
Absolutely! And in fact, the complex and wise prefer not to use humanoid avatars. The wise, for example, usually represent themselves as light forms using the Diolumilan language to transmit information through patterns of light. Many complex use that language, too. Yet, their most usual avatar is not the human, but the herashar, a being made for war, which played a role in the Black War. That is of course a historical reference, but that is quite valuable to define a shared cultural background that people can relate to. Humans certainly have historical relevance, so human shapes are often used as avatars.
Are you saying that humans are only relevant in the future, because humans were an essential part of the history of civilisation? What about other parts of history? What about anomalocaris, or dinosaurs?
You are right. In fact, there are a lot of anomalocaris and dinosaur avatars in use in the Coherence, but they aren’t features in my story. Humans represent a short, but very significant part of the (pre)history of civilization, so there is definitely a niche for humanoid avatars. It’s not the only niche, mind you, but it’s a very substantial niche. And it’s the niche that the story of Guidance Withdrawal focuses on.
If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the anomalocaris, the dinosaur, the human, the herashar, and the light form, all partake in the assortment of popular avatars in Coherence, but that their relative composition depends on the cultural milieu of the respective setting?
Right. And what keeps the older forms alive is the influx of resurrected simulated beings from simulations of earlier periods. Those forms may be classified as “archaic”, but the sims that are used to them provide them with cultural validation. As long as there are simulations of history of humanity, the human form will play a role in the culture of the Coherence.
If there are so many simulations of the past that the influx of past deceased persons into the society of Coherence plays a major role, doesn’t the Coherence suffer from an obsession about the past?
To a certain degree, that’s certainly true. The Black War isn’t some kind of distant past for the Coherence, but predated the proof by less than 100 years. It is the defining historical event of the pre-Proof era. That is why there are still many simulations roughly around the era of the Black War. And that is why the human and herashar forms feature prominently as avatars within the Coherence.
What about the part of Coherence society that’s not obsessed with the past? Don’t they have alternatives to the humanoid and herashar forms?
The point is that the complex and wise mostly see avatars as very primitive form of communication. They usually transmit data and information in more direct ways without the need to resort to a visual (or material) representation layer. Avatars are mainly used to make it easier for simple to interact with the complex and wise.
That seems to make sense. It’s also what one would expect from any supremely advanced AI. Anyway, what are the wise doing other than providing guidance for the simple?
The wise are generally the top-level administrators of the Coherence. They plan the development of society as a whole. It’s only rather specialized wise who actually provide direct guidance to simple. Most wise operate in worlds on concepts far too advanced for any simple to comprehend. Since philosophy and science have effectively reached their limits, the wise focus on advancing culture further.
What do you mean exactly by the phrase that science has effectively reached its limits? Isn’t there any technological progress happening in the Coherence?
It means that the wise are so sophisticated that they can come up with any desired technology on the fly. They don’t have to research or experiment. They can simply deduce how to do something from their vast body of knowledge.
But the wise aren’t actually omnipotent, are they?
No, they are bound by the ultimate rules of the Zone, the volume of space bounded by the Zonal Firewall, a perfect sphere with a radius of about 50 light years centered around our sun. The ultimate rules are set up by the Cosmics, the creators of the Firewall. One of those ultimate rules is that the general speed limit represented by the speed of light cannot be broken. Also, there’s no way around the second law of thermodynamics. But apart from those limitations, the wise are nearly omnipotent.
Who are those Cosmics actually?
That’s a good question! One popular theory in the Coherence is that the Cosmics are a version of humanity that is billions of years more advanced than the version of humanity living within the Zone. Another popular theory states that they are being coming from a universe that is much more complex than the one we are living in and that the Zone is some kind of artificial bubble universe, whether of material origin, or just a computer simulation. Either way, it’s generally agreed that they represent a civilization of Kardashev level 4 or higher, meaning that they probably possess complete control over at least one single universe.