Sockrad Radivis Interview V: Into Hell

This interview has a special theme that Radivis and I agreed on beforehand: Into Hell. We will start exploring the darkest depths of humanity and reality. It may be fair to declare this interview as info hazard from the start. So, if you are susceptible to dangerous philosophical ideas, you might want to skip this interview. Anyway, if you feel ready to explore darkness, let’s start. Radivis, you’ve seemed to evade certain aspects of the Black War in our previous interviews. What are those atrocities that happened during that war?

From the start of the Black War onwards no planet was safe. Since planets and moons were used as resources for creating their war fleets, both parties started dismantling them aggressively. To prevent that use the planets of the other faction was targeted for interstellar bombardment. The general idea is to turn the surface of a planet into an ocean of molten rock, because that makes it harder to turn the resources of the planet into new war fleets. Civilian targets were not spared. It quickly became a common understanding that keeping civilians on planets would be an effective death sentence to them. Many civilians relocated to flying cities with extensive cooling systems, but those cities became targets in the war, because those cities could be used for military purposes, too.

Civilians have been victims of wars throughout the history of humanity. It seems that the Black War just increases the scope of the destruction at least to the planetary scale. Or is there more to that?

Well, yes. Those who wanted to live sooner or later relocated to ships or mobile habitats which has a chance to evade interstellar bombardment. But any habitat could also be used as shipyard and any ship could also be used for military purposes. There simply were no “purely” civilian targets left and therefore the civilian populace on both sides was forced into a diaspora in which they escaped into deep space in mobile and defensible ships and habitats. In this existential war no side accepted the prospect of letting the other side capture ships or habitats, so that they could be turned against them, so they were usually equipped with self-destruction mechanisms that prevented capture. There were no prisoners of war during the Black War. Either you survived, or you died.

As horrible as that sounds, at least that should have prevented the use of torture, right?

Well, classical forms of torture were eliminated by that threat of self-destruction upon capture. But both sides had copies of sentient entities of the other side. It was possible to torture those beings in virtual worlds. Both sides had the option to threaten the other side with doing exactly that. Nevertheless, this was an existential war and resources used on torturing copies, how little they may have been, were resources that were not used for the direct elimination of the opponent. Therefore such threats were ignored by default. And since that was the clear position of both sides, these threats usually remained idle threats.

I guess it’s easy for superintelligences to remain cool while receiving such unspeakable threats, but what about civilians? Wouldn’t they be motivated to defect when hearing about the threat of having a copy of a relative or loved one tortured?

Indeed, and that’s why the civilian population was shielded from outside messaging. All communication that could contain enemy messages was routed through military channels and was sanitized, so that it didn’t have anything left that could manipulate the civilian population.

In other worlds both sides used means of censorship that are far more effective than the great Chinese Firewall.

Yes, the whole communication infrastructure was controlled by the military directly. Any effort to bypass that military infrastructure and its security measures was considered as treason and sanctioned appropriately - that is by reprogramming of the perpetrators. But not many succeeded in bypassing the military surveillance and security measures in the first place.

So civilians experienced the Black War as military dictatorship with as police state much more effective than that of the China of today. Sounds like a truly dark age. What were civilians allowed to do anyway?

Energy and matter were strictly rationed, so civilians were forced into quite minimalist lifestyles. Within those limits, they could live freely within the virtual worlds hosted in their ship or habitat. At the start of the Black War, the majority of humans existed as mind uploads anyway, so the biggest change was that the number of people you could get into contact with in real time had shrunk down to thousands as opposed to the billions before the Black War.

Were civilians forced to become mind uploads?

Not exactly. But getting evacuated as mind upload was much easier than getting a ride in a star ship with your physical body still in its original shape. VIPs were offered that option rather quickly. The rest had the choice between uploading and getting a ride on a star ship immediately, or waiting for a valuable space for a material body becoming free. The closer the threat of interstellar bombardments came, the more opted for the quick escape route.

In other words people who were not seen as highly valuable members of society had the choice between uploading and certain death in that war.

Well, it’s not easy evacuating the whole population of a planet. And in this existential war it actually didn’t enjoy a very high priority anyway. Each side expected to be eradicated completely, civilian or not, if their side had lost the war.

Has this complete eradication actually happened?

No, the Black War ended with the victory of the Superalliance in what was later called the Black Peace. The Seraphim System could persist, but was forced to become a part of the Cosmoshield peacenet. It took decades for those living under the Seraphim System to cope with the reality of actually having lost the war. After having been indoctrinated with the hope for an eventual final victory, many decided to take their lives rather than living under a foreign power. But those who decided to live, were eventually granted all the liberties that citizens of the Superalliance enjoyed.

So, that distant future still has no antidote against suicide, or has it?

After the war, personal self-determination enjoyed a high value again. If someone wanted to self-terminate, that wish was usually respected. Among the humans under the Seraphim, there was the fear that the V-factions would create copies of their minds and use them for all kinds of crazy purposes. Self-erasure, including the deletion of all backups was seen as the only option to get rid of that risk.