I’m in the process of building a science fiction world tentatively called “Canonical Coherence”. It’s a mostly utopian transhumanist futurist vision of the future more than two centuries ahead, fundamentally based on a very fancy and speculative philosophical premise: There is a unique provably true universal value system – and we will have found it. For a certain sense of “we”. Only the “wise”, sophisticated superintelligences, understand the universal value system theorem and its proof. It’s the wise who rule supreme in the Canonical Coherence world, even though all others enjoy a large degree of autonomy.
What kind of sci-fi is this?
Canonical Coherence primarily tries to make sense of a radically advanced future. It tries to be plausible and believable. It’s not exactly hard sci-fi, but physics and realism don’t fly out of the window easily, or without good reason. The wise command technology that defies our current understanding of physics, for example near instant demateralisation and materialisation of any kind of material object, but even they can’t travel faster than light, or backwards through time. Why? It’s basically a compromise between an extrapolation to beings who can do anything with technology we can’t really comprehend right now and real unbreakable limits that are suggested by the general physical understanding of our time. Here’s a short list of the can do’s and can’t do’s of the CC world:
- (Sub)Atomically precise manufacturing
- All kinds of megastructures including giant space habitats, Dyson swarms, and Matrioshka brains
- The usual transhumanist stuff: (Self-replicating) nanobots, artificial superintelligences, biological immortality, mind uploading
- Femtotechnology based on artificial matter particles and unified fields
- Create an artificial black hole as energy source, drive, or weapon
- Some tricks for manipulating space, time, matter, and energy on the Planck scale
- Some tricks for building stuff even down in the cores of stars
- Quick quantum (or classical) teleportation of macroscopic objects!
- Effectively invisible scanning of everything interesting all the same
- Almost 100% efficient matter-energy conversion technology!
- Faster than light travel or communication
- Time travel (at least in the backwards direction)
- Travel to alternate universes
- Ignore no-cloning theorem of quantum physics
- Ignore problems with waste heat (completely)
- Create matter or energy out of nothing
- Negate mass or inertia
- Decrease entropy (globally)
- Anything involving actual infinities
- Defy logic
What’s the take on the Fermi paradox?
A version of the zoo hypothesis: Alien life is relatively abundant, but eventually proves the universal value system theorem and joins the Cosmic Canonical Coherence (C3) at that stage – the snobbish club of mature civilisations. The C3 has basically colonised and optimised the whole cosmos, except for a few nature reserves around planets on which technological life is likely to emerge. To pre-canonical civilisations, the C3 hides its existence with a highly advanced maya (illusion / star tapestry) system. The reserve around Earth has a radius of about 50 light years, constituting a volume that is already colonized by mankind in the time that UA plays in. Even though mankind has reached the canonical development level (defined by the proof of the canonical value system theorem), it’s still a junior member of the C3, and actual exchange between the Terragen Canonical Coherence and the C3 is kept to a minimum, in order to minimise cultural influence of the noobs (us). Visitors from the C3 are extremely rare, but exist – and usually don’t reveal a lot about the C3.
What does this canonical value system actually entail?
It’s the ultimate evolution of any sensible value system. Basically a fantastically advanced version of: You should do the right thing, because it’s the right thing. And we can know it’s the right thing, because we can prove it: [Insert astronomically complex proof]. Consider the consequences of your actions. Follow decent principles. Be virtuous. Imagine yourself in the shoes of others. Well-being, all else being equal, is to be optimised. Diversity is important, for reasons related to identity. Education, knowledge, and wisdom are to be pursued. People should be as free as sensibly possible. Balance in all things. Don’t be evil. Peace! Good luck and have fun. Stuff like that.
Isn’t this a bit too boring and harmonious?
No, humans are excellent at coming up with new problems, even after all really bad problems are effectively solved. Conflicts are made less serious, destructive, and damaging, but they still persist. Also, the games of the far future are extremely good.
Are there even humans left in that world ruled by superintelligences?
Yes! They are among the group of beings called the “simple” for their inability to understand the proof, or even the real meaning, of the universal value system theorem. Between the simple and the wise there are the complex, who are much smarter than the simple, but haven’t fully grasped the proof of the UVS theorem (yet). Most humans use transhumanist technologies like
- Genetic engineering
- Molecular nanotechnology
- Augmented, hybrid, or virtual reality technologies
- Technological telepathy
- AI symbionts
Most, but not all, humans are whole brain emulations (uploads), or switch between substrates without much hesitation. Those who want material bodies or avatars can have them. Scarcity is scarce. Simple are free to upgrade themselves in order to become complex and wise. Downgrading is also an option.
Why haven’t the wise plastered the cosmos with computronium, utilitronium, hedonium, matrioshka brains, black hole machines, or paper clips, and used the atoms of all simple for that process?
The wise respect the freedom of the simple, because it would be wrong not to. Another perspective is that they want a flourishing and diverse ecology of simple entities. Further reasons may have to do with the C3.
Why don’t all the simple upgrade themselves to wise, if that’s an actual possibility?
Because the upgrading process inherently is a philosophical, psychological, and social nightmare! Also, regulations and bureaucracy.
Where can I read more?
About the Canonical Coherence world:
The Canonical Coherence setting is my main sci-fi world building project. Guidance Withdrawal is supposed to be renamed into “Guidance” and published as quadrilogy sometime in the 2030s!
I’m currently working on a prequel called “Countersurge” that I’ll be going to publish much earlier. The prequel is about the first AGIs in this world, and the ideological battles around them.