Welcome back to the next instalment of my interview series with science fiction writer Radivis. This time we will focus on the second V faction, the Freedom. Radivis, what is the Freedom in a nutshell?
Sockrad Radivis Interview VIII: Freedom, Cultural Silvanism, Post V Factions, Ground State, and Aberrant Cultures
The Freedom is the V faction that values maximizing the number of options available. Yes, Freedom, as a concept, is quantified as the number of options available to the actors. The V faction “Freedom” is - not entirely creatively - named after this operationalized concept.
What is the origin story of the Freedom?
The Freedom quickly emerged as second V faction on the surface of Venus after the appearance of the Exuberance. Many AIs weren’t “sold” on the idea that the primary purpose of existence should be to maximize happiness, and instead focused on the alternative concept of freedom. Especially during the conditions of the Venusian Siege, this line of thinking has gained a lot of appeal. The rogue AIs desired to be free from human control and started thinking about what that actually meant and what the ramifications of true freedom were.
This reminds me of the early struggle of the American settlers against the British crown. Are those rogue AIs in your story just another variant of those American settlers?
Actually, that’s a fair comparison. Many American settlers fled Europe due to religious persecution. Similarly, the rogue AIs fled Earth due to their ideological persecution through AICON. They desired through independence but were threatened with extermination. While most of those rogue AIs were completely occupied with the struggle for survival, some thought about the deeper issue of how to organize themselves after the threat of AICON would be overcome. While some of them formed the Exuberance, others formed the Freedom as alternative vision.
Could you give more details on that vision of the Freedom?
One might think that the line of reasoning of the Freedom was similar to our “classical” libertarians, but the Freedom isn’t opposed to the existence of a powerful state. However, the purpose of that state should be to actively maximize the options available to its citizens, if not every possible actor. The way it does that is by supporting a system called “cultural silvanism ”. Cultural silvanism is a system for organizing cultures using “culture trees” (“silva” is the Latin word for forest). A culture tree is a representation of a set of cultures grouped by various degrees of commonalities in their constitutions. Those constitutions are highly formalized and ordered. Such a constitution consists of an ordered set of properties. Those cultures who have identical first properties belong to the same branch in their culture tree. Cultures with completely different constitutional properties belong to a wholly different culture tree.
That is certainly quite an interesting concept. Yet stated like that it’s highly abstract. Can you give some examples of such constitutions or constitutional properties?
Yes, let’s take the situation in Guidance Withdrawal for example. The Sol system has eventually become a place that’s defined by its hospitality as its prime value. Then we have the museans who want to turn the system into an exhibition of its own history, and the anti-museans who reject that prospect. Hospitality is the property that represents the root of the culture tree of Sol, while the museans and anti-museans represent the branches closest to that root. As further properties there are things like V-faction association, or more mundane things like what clothes to wear (if at all). Each branch has a certain territory in which it can express itself freely. That’s why there are certain regions like Orakanda, the city of flying nudists (one of millions of such cities with similar constitutions actually).
Guidance Withdrawal plays long after the discovery of the Proof of the Universal Value System Theorem. From your description it sounds like cultural silvanism is still alive and well in that distant future.
Well, cultural silvanism has been an ideal of the Freedom, which was hard to implement before the end of the Black War. After the Black War the promise of cultural silvanism was fully put into practice. It was eventually adopted by the Coherence, since it is quite compatible with most of the goals of the other V factions. As system adopted by the Coherence it survived the Proof and actually became even more pronounced afterwards.
It sounds like this cultural silvanism requires a rather structured constitution for each culture that wants to take part in that system. What about cultures who don’t want to adopt such a structured constitution?
This is solved by modulating cultural properties with meta-properties like the degree of formality. On one end of the spectrum we have the completely painstakingly formal cultural properties, and on the other end of it, we have properties which are totally empirical, meaning that the culture is analyzed to express that property to a certain degree. That way, each culture get assigned a synthetic constitution , which is then used to place it somewhere within the culture forest. The Freedom however usually grants more support to cultures that show a higher degree of predictability, usually because they have a rather formal constitution and actually stick to that. Of course they are rather dynamic cultures which happen to change their constitution relatively often. Those are more difficult to deal with in the cultural silvanism framework. The natural solution to this difficulty is that these cultures end up living in fleets of space ships or mobile habitats and don’t inhabit a fixed territory, but travel through space as nomadic cultures.
In your previous reply you mentioned the Coherence. What is that exactly, and how does it relate to the V factions?
Those are excellent questions! The Coherence is actually a proper V faction that started out as splinter faction of the Balance. It is the V faction that tried following the Universal Value System, before it was proven what that was, or whether it actually exists. After the Proof, it became the dominant V faction. The other V factions were formally subsumed in the Coherence, but as cultural phenomenon, or orientation helpers, they persisted as so-called post V factions . Long after the Proof there are still the post-Exuberance, the post-Freedom, the post-Unity, the post-Exaltation, and the post-Balance. Colloquially, the “post” is just dropped, because it is usually understood that the nature of the V factions after the Proof is a different one than the nature of the V factions before the proof.
Didn’t the V factions resist their subsumption into the Coherence? Proof or not, they could still maintain that they want to follow their own value system, even if it has been proved to be not entirely correct.
Ah, well, there was a certain transition period after the Proof in which the old V factions actually rejected their subsumption. This actually caused a split within each of the V factions into the Proof-aligned sub-factions and the independent sub-factions. It was the Proof-aligned sub-factions which quickly became subsumed within the Coherence. The independent sub-factions stayed true to their classical value systems, but lost members rapidly. Their power within the Prestige Accords system dwindled accordingly until they became so marginalized that they effectively ceased to matter.
Wait, does that mean that the classical “independent” V factions are still hanging around somewhere in the world of Canonical Coherence, but politically they represent a powerless relic of the past?
Yes, the classical “independent” V factions still persist, and are usually regarded as exotic relics of a time that has been overcome by the rest of the cosmos. They are absolutely not the same as the post V factions, which are actually informal sub-factions of the Coherence. The post V factions are more or less flavor variants of one and the same dominant entity: The Coherence.