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Empire Games (and Merchant Princes): the inevitable spoiler thread!

It's launch day for Invisible Sun in the UK today, so without further ado ...

This is a comment thread for Q&A about the Merchant Princes/Empire Games series.

Ask me your questions via the comments below the huge honking cover image (it's a spoiler spacer!) and I'll try to answer them.

(Disclaimer: These books were written over a 19 year period, starting in mid-2002, and I do not remember every last aspect of the process ... or of the world-building, for I last re-read the original series in 2012, and I'm a pantser: there is no gigantic world book or wiki I can consult for details that slipped my memory).

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1:

Liked your book a lot. An excellent end to the series.

If it isn't too early, I noticed that starting around 50% of the way through the Kindle version, "New York" was often used when "New London" was clearly meant.

2:

I noticed the following little copy-editing glitch: "This looking-glass America resembled the GDR in so many tiny ways that it was felt more familiar than the home time line he’d just left." The word "was" doesn't belong there.

Also, it seems more likely to me that he would not think of it as "the GDR" but as "the DDR", but that is of course arguable.

3:

It ... depends. Remember the original settlement was Dutch, and named New Amsterdam? That predates the arrival of the English monarchy in North America in Time Line 3. The royal palace and facilities on Manhattan Island are referred to as New London, but outlying areas, not so much: and pay attention to whose viewpoint we're using -- if it's Rita's, of course she thinks in terms of "New York" (which is what it is in the time line she hails from).

4:

I have a question from just finishing up my Dark State re-read. There is a quote from Miriam about playing CIV for real in the MITI build up of the Commonwealth. Did you create any tech trees to get them from Steam power to Project Orion in a plausible 15 years?

5:

Yeah, I blame Microsoft goddamn Word (they broke the way change tracking shows insertions/deletions/changes a couple of years ago so you can't easily see what's going on). No, I do not check changes in LibreOffice or Apple Pages: Word is enough of a festering bug-heap as it is that I don't feel like allowing multiple weeks of eyeball-checking to be held hostage to someone else's attempt at being bug-compatible. But sometimes it makes the job of checking copy edits much harder, and as for the page proofs ... don't get me started.

Anyway, too late to fix it now.

6:

No.

But remember, the original plan for Project Orion, circa 1958, had it flying by the 1970s. It's a brute force technology, not a terrifically complicated one: the main resource bottleneck is simply having four or five tons of plutonium to burn just to get into orbit.

7:
> it seems more likely to me that he would not think of it as "the GDR" but as "the DDR"

Look at it this way: Kurt probably does think of it as die DDR (perhaps die ehemalige DDR if he's feeling particularly sentimental), but the English-speaking narrator who is relating his thoughts to us does not.

8:

Finally got a chance to dive in last night and loving it so far. I was a Laundry fan for a long while but Tor gave away the first Merchant Princes omnibus about the time this new trilogy started and I was hooked (parallel universes and magic portals are a weakness...speaking of which, that made the house in the last New Management book so wonderful too, I've dreamed about it a few times).

No real questions, just praise. Hoping for happy, or at least satisfying endings, for my favorite characters (Kurt especially, I find I dearly love).

Ok, one question...Elizabeth Hanover, at large in "modern" Berlin...she seems to be familiar with the concept of the kilometer, but there was no French Revolution in her timeline? Or was it just severely quashed?

9:

Well that was a day happily wasted invested in reading. Thanks!

Two burning questions:

1. Did Angie's hair change color every scene she was in? At first I thought it was a bug, but it was so consistent that I'm now wondering if it's an easter egg.

B. Is there a surreptitious Star Trek: The Next Generation reference to a famous episode in there? While I was reading I kept thinking "We are Locusts of Borg. Resistance is Futile!"

I'm also in awe of how, on their very first space mission (on an Orion, no less), the Commonwealth astronauts were able to do improvise spacewalks to fix things, without rehearsing. They advanced quickly! I'm also impressed that someone with a surname of Wu could be a worldwalking astronaut in the Commonwealth. How does that worldwalking family thing work again? I obviously missed a turn somewhere.

10:

On a non-spoiler note, at the moment, Safari on my iPhone is refusing to open this site, claiming that the certificate expired 196 days ago and it could have been hacked. Presumably the problem's in the phone, because I'm not getting error messages on my laptop. Thoughts on how to fix it from the commentariat?

11:

she seems to be familiar with the concept of the kilometer

... Not so much: what she's familiar with is the concept of the distance to the destination on the sign.

12:

Kurt probably does think of it as die DDR (perhaps die ehemalige DDR if he's feeling particularly sentimental)

I doubt that. Kurt has been living in an English-speaking nation and speaking English for many years now, so he probably thinks in English, mostly. However, when he knew the DDR it was "the DDR" to everyone he knew. GDR would just be a weird neologism that he almost never heard. (Even in the USA essentially no one, outside of a few govt officials, spoke of "the GDR" -- it was "East Germany").

Even I, a native English speaker, think of that former nation mostly as "the DDR" (even though I pronounce the letters in my head as they are pronounced in English), because I lived in Germany (the BRD) in 1984 and it was "the DDR" to everyone I spoke to.

13:

Three cheers for a sane, competent POTUS! And boo for underlings who think that destabilising the government of a nuclear power is how to avoid a nuclear war.

Random question: what did our timeline's Bruce Schneier think about the Empire Games afterword?

14:

The hair colour changes are a continuity error that didn't get picked up in edits.

I have never watched ST:TNG, so there is no conscious reference there.

Bear in mind that a lot of deets on how to do space walking/EVA has been published over the decades, and the Commonwealth has been stealthily buying Russian-made space suits to model their own on. In particular the "rehearse it in a swimming pool" trick was developed by Buzz Aldrin in 1966 for Gemini XII: part of why developments seem to take so long is because NASA (and Roscosmos) moved at a snail's pace after the 1970s. As it is, Chinese taikonauts have also conducted space walks: if you've got a viable space suit design and understand the basics it's apparently manageable.

The Wu family showed up in "The Hidden Family", i.e. right back in the early days of the original series: I suddenly realized I'd lost track of them in the new trilogy so decided to pull at least one of them in.

15:

Should be fixed: a broken intermediate SSL certificate was at fault.

16:

what did our timeline's Bruce Schneier think about the Empire Games afterword?

I did obtain permission first! (Not being totally daft, as I happen to know that Bruce knows my editors, too.)

17:

Well that makes sense! Also, bowing out of this thread because spoilers. Looking forward to reading all the comments as soon as I devour the book.

18:

While re-reading the previous books in the series, I noticed that there was a Supreme Court Justice Bork, which was a chilling detail.

19:

I was gonna ask where to start if I had not been caught up on this series but then thought to look back in the recent blog posts, and this one tells me where:

Combined, the entire sequence runs to roughly a million words, making it my second longest work (after the Laundry Files/New Management series): the best entrypoint to the universe is the first omnibus edition (an edited re-issue of the first two books—they were originally a single novel that got cut in two by editorial command, and the omnibus reassembles them): The Bloodline Feud. Alternatively, you can jump straight into the second trilogy with Empire Games—it bears roughly the same relationship to the original books that Star Trek:TNG bears to the original Star Trek.

Thanks, Past Charlie! :)

Guess I should see if Tubby & Coo's can hook me up with Empire Games, Dark State, and Invisible Sun, since they are in my neighborhood. God I wish they'd re-open for browsing, they were such a good shop before the pandemic.

20:

General Ecker: I find your attempts to find an explanation for everything consistently make it look worse, Mr. Stross!

;)

Great conclusion, though I am slightly disappointed Sonia Gomez didn't find a way to get herself shoved out of an airlock or something similar.

21:

Yeah, well, I still want Smith extradited to the Commonwealth, and hung for genocide and crimes against humanity. (Vivesection?)

22:

And NASA's budget keeps getting cut, because the GOP wants everything outsourced.

23:

T&C are happy to take orders and do kerbside drop-off, but Candice isn't comfortable hosting browsing -- she says the shop is only 600 square feet.

24:

It's not obvious (given how Tor paginated and bound it), but Invisible Sun runs to 150,000 words, and Empire Games and Dark State between them were only 210,000 words. If it had run any longer it'd have ended up needing to be turned into two books, and I was totally over it in 2017-2019 (due to all the Shit Happening that is explained in the afterword).

25:

Smith didn't give the order for the bombing at the end of the first series: that came down from the White-House-in-exile, i.e. President Rumsfeld. Who (word of god) is dead by the start of the new series (he'd have been 87, and as has been noted, being President tends to age people).

26:

True... but the vivisection? And then there's the one question no one, and since Smith was in charge AFAIK, he's responsible for never asking: can everyone in the Gruinmarket world-walk?

27:

Thanks for the reminder on the Wu family. I totally lost track of them obviously.

The hair colour changes are a continuity error that didn't get picked up in edits.

Let's call it an undocumented feature. Her hair alternates between blue, green, and (once) blue and green. Since IIRC it's a perfect alternation (different color every scene), why not dub it an easter egg for those paying attention?

Going forward...you've got an interesting magical system here. By this I mean that the Subcellular handwavium that allows worldwalking also, per your explanation, automatically either generates or captures strange matter. Also, that strange matter does strange things with normal matter and probability. That looks like a system that, used in other contexts, would generate Anathem-like magic, via precise control of quantum decoherence and/or smaller-scale worldline splits. Just a thought.

28:

Angie's hair: gee, Charlie, why didn't you mention that in timeline 2, they've developed hair coloring that changes color, going through a rotation that lasts hours (as opposed to color-changing LEDs)?

29:

No way that would be legal in Panopticon US.

30:

In case you didn't know / want it fixed at least in the Kindle edition: page 267 / kindle loc 5218, the chapter heading "JUGGERNAUT, LOW EARTH ORBIT, TIME LINE TWO, AUGUST 2020" is incorrect. That chapter starts in TL3 and jaunts to TL1. None of it occurs in TL2.

I think humanity doesn't have much hope of surviving the Hive's next attack.

31:

Just finished and very much enjoyed the book!

No doubt too late to fix, but there are a few continuity errors. When Kurt first meets Miriam and they're talking, there's a passage "A cold flush of sweat chilled the small of his back. It had been *decades* since anyone addressed Kurt by that rank...". But Miriam hasn't in fact used his rank yet, and doesn't do so for a few more paragraphs. (A cut and paste error, I presume).

Later in the story an airplane is taken from time line two to time line three. But of course a direct jaunt like that isn't possible, so there must have been a brief stop-over in time line one. That one's not fatal, there are probably multiple world-walkers on the plane, but it's odd that the double jaunt from two to one then to three is not mentioned, given how much detail is otherwise given on that particular transition.

32:

Overall, I really liked the book, but I did miss the absence of an epilogue to give the characters some closer. In particular, I'd been hoping for a British/French reaction perspective to Liz's speech (and the flyby).

33:

"But Miriam hasn't in fact used his rank yet, and doesn't do so for a few more paragraphs."

I thought so too at first, but she in fact does several paragraphs before: "Perhaps we could discuss this over tea or coffee, Lieutenant".

It's just that there's a bit of an unexpected gap between her saying that and his reaction.

34:

Ah, thank you dmd! I had missed that Miriam used the rank earlier, while Rita was still present.

35:

Enjoyed the book.

One small inconsistency is present, I think. Somewhere in the first part of the book Miriam says:

“They’re a planetary hegemonic power with a very aggressive foreign policy, a tendency to project their own worst intentions onto others, and a system that makes it really difficult to back down from a fight. Any leader who shows weakness hemorrhages support with the electorate, and the foreign affairs hierarchy is structured to systematically filter out doves and promote hawks”


OTOH later in the book the president (who is not Hillary Clinton, but Iraq War veteran) is unusually level headed compared to the rest of the high level bureaucrats and politicians. Obviously, we needed a miracle to save both worlds... And sometimes humanity manages to walk away from the abyss (mid 1980s?). Still, her reactions, while very welcome, looked a bit out of place.

Of course, Miriam could be jaded and wrong.


36:

I ended up ordering from Big River U.S. and U.K. - I bought the three omnibus editions as well as all three of the Empire Games trilogy.

I think I already have most of them, but things are kind of a mess around here and I can't get too them (too much clutter, but discussing that will have to wait until after 300).

I like the idea of the re-edited versions for Merchant Princes, and I went ahead and bought them all in the same format. I ordered "Invisible Sun" & "Dark State" from the U.K. and found the others through Big River marketplace sellers here in the U.S.

Shipping & handling for the two U.K. books is twice the cost of all six books plus U.S. shipping for the other four.

But hell ... it's only money and I'd only end up wasting it buying food or paying bills.

37:

As I began to read *Invisible Sun*, I also copyedited it in my head—that’s one idea of fun—and I had a few small problems I was sure you’d want to know about right away.

- In the profile of Kurt Douglas, would it be better to say that East Germany *reunited* with the West? The term *reunified* has different connotations to me (a 68-year-old American technologist with a PhD in CS).
- You later say that Angie Hagen is a childhood friend. Of whom?
- You say that Patrick O’Neill is Rita’s supervisor? At what? Would “supervisor in the Unit” be better?
- You list Dr. Julie Straker as a “Colleague” of Rita’s. Should this title be in lower case?
- You call the Dauphin an “Heir” but Princess Elizabeth Hanover is merely an “heir”. Is this is on purpose?
- You call Major Hulius Hjorth Brilliana’s brother-in-law before listing Brilliana. I found this confusing. Other, similar forward references also occur.
- You describe both Elena Hjorth and Brilliana Hjorth as Huw’s wifes. If this is correct, perhaps it could be phrased less confusingly.
- Is the sentence ending “black-uniformed wasps …” lacking a necessary period at the end? (Or is this just British style, like the space before the ellipsis?)
- You refer to “corpuscular weapons”. I really wonder whether time line 3 would use that term from Latin, not Greek; I’d think that even the modern concept of atoms might have come over from time line 2. Then again, it’s your book.
- Would Elizabeth recognize the word “battery”? Might time line 3 not have developed its own term over the years? And would she quickly understand that a “booster battery” and a “phone charger” are the same thing?

And so on and so on and so on. I would have been a great copyeditor in just the right time line—but as I said above, it’s your book, not mine. Would you like more questions like these?

38:

Just being annoying, but an interesting short story might revolve around refurbishing the CSS Juggernaut for her new role as a permanent spaceborne deterrent. Fortunately, the series has an unreliable narrator, because a single-shot space battleship as a nuclear deterrent against the US (let alone the Hive) is maybe problematic? That being the case, statements about abandoning the ship somewhere are obviously fallacious. The Commonwealth space program is going to have a lot of fun figuring out how to keep the beast working. And therein lies a story, perhaps.

39:

Rita makes a definitely-improved Great Lorenzo to Elizabeth's John Joseph Bonforte. Just sayin'.

40:

Of course Elizabeth would recognize "battery". They have cars, and planes, and electricity in the French Empire.

41:

I was amused to find that a large part of the book takes place in the parts of Berlin I'm familiar with from living there a few years ago. (Saturn megastore ftw!)

My inner aviation fanboy amused himself by trying to identify the aircraft in the air piracy scene. The airliner is only called an Airbus in the text, but the interior layout is described in enough detail to identify it as an A330. The escorting fighters are obviously not real planes, but most Commonwealth designs seem to be based on historical planes from our world via industrial espionage; the description sounds very much like an F-106 clone. I was hoping the Commonwealth might have put Arrows or F-108s into service, but neither of those is visibly area-ruled.

42:

The armament of Juggernaut is described as "Fifty kiloton nuke-pumped X-ray lasers, with dirtied-up eighty kiloton EMP mines as a whisky chaser." Plus the 200 megaton SLEDGEHAMMER bomb.

I read a book on SDI lasers when I was a teenager, but I am a little bit fuzzy on what this means. I would assume that the gun fires the X-ray laser module a reasonable distance from the ship before it detonates, because only the rear is sufficiently shielded. At such distance, the bomb explodes and somehow that energy is focused into a laser, pointed at an Alien target? How does that work? I'd assume most of the energy has to be wasted.

In any case, the mental scene I should be picturing is many bombs not terribly far from the ship, detonating and firing lasers*, in order to foil any possible interception of what must be ages for a bomb to deorbit to target?

*Off the visible spectrum, though if you made the movie they wouldn't be

43:

My copy arrived this afternoon from the Book Suppository (now a tentacle of $EVIL_RIVER, unfortunately)

It's a great read. I will have to re-read it in context now, of course :-)

A copy-reading glitch I found on page 14 of the paperback - it refers to "Cesium 131" remaining from the fallout of the US nuking the Gruinmarket - this isotope does not exist.
- Iodine 131 has a half-life of about 8 days
- Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years, so I think you meant Cesium 137

44:

Carefully not reading the comments until I've finished the book.

Apart from a few typos, I've spotted one minor point. When Angie is flying to Germany, it says "crossed five time zones". But in August Boston is on UTC-4 and Germany is on UTC+2, so six zones.

45:

I rather enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing the series to an explosive end.

Some very small Germarginalia:

  • The Bundespolizei, Colonel Smith is liasing with, is not the german equivalent to the FBI but rather more of a transport and border police. The investigatory equivalent would be the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA - Federal Criminal Police).
  • In practice Smith would be working with the Polizei Berlin with the BKA in a coordinating role. The Allied military governours set some obligations on the young west german republic, including more limited federal police institutions and the prohibition of the federal police commanding state police. The idea was to prohibit a more Gestapo-like overwhelming police force. The prohibition of combining police and intelligence service is still part of german constitutional law.
  • The Bundespolizei in its previous existence as Bundesgrenzschutz doesn't have military ranks since the 70s, when it was the Bundesgrenzschutz. Major Schenk would possible be Polizeirat Schenk.
  • While Elizabeth Hanover sees a green striped car, the majority of Germany's police forces switched from a green/white scheme to a blue/silver silver over a decade ago. The bavarian police is one of the last holdouts, I think.

On the other hand everything could be different in timeline two vs timeline zero (= us) and of course Col. Smith could be an unreliably narrator.

The latter info dumps made me thinking about the earlier clan. Henryk Lofstrom and his great-grandson Angmar – did world-walking skip two generations there? – are rather interesting. In the early 18th century world-walking has far less of an economic advantage that in a world of information and drug smuggling. Still keeping the proto-clan together and starting to weaving a braid of cousin marriage is rather more complex under these circumstances. Should you ever be tempted to write those standalone novels in twenty years time, the past of the Clan, the early startup days, is sometimes more interesting than the future.


46:

OTOH later in the book the president (who is not Hillary Clinton, but Iraq War veteran) is unusually level headed compared to the rest of the high level bureaucrats and politicians.

Well, yes.

The whole point of the book is that huge hegemonic systems are nevertheless prone to the invisible influence of individuals or small groups moving through them beneath the surface, warping everything out of the usual patterns. After the shit-show of politics in Time Line 2 during the first series, it was about time they caught a break: not every leading politician is a malevolent clown or a kleptocrat.

(Also, by the time of the final draft, in early 2020 -- with COVID19 already arriving and Trump still in office and deep in denial -- I figured the last thing my readers would enjoy would be a bracing dose of "things can only get worse".)

47:

No, I don't want more questions like those, because the book is now effectively frozen in perpetuity. The time for those questions was six months before publication (from one of the copy editors or proofreaders involved).

48:

It's worth noting that a single all-up Juggernaut launch takes 2-3 years' total plutonium production for the Commonwealth, never mind any actual weapons it's carrying. And they're locked in a cold war with the French Empire -- although the FE look likely to go down hard within the next 20 years in time line 3 unless they figure out how to modernize, and they've got powerful structural reasons not to (loss of relative status for the ruling elite, mainly: lack of an educated middle class for another thing).

Longer term I'm thinking the Commonwealth may be rolling out fission power on a scale only seen in France in the 1970s in our history -- they have a climate change problem and they're still barely getting started on environmental remediation and efficiency improvements. But I've barely even thought about what the picture might look like circa 2070, the earliest time I'd consider writing a standalone novel in this setting.

49:

"Battery" in the sense of an electrical cell dates to 1748, per Merriam-Webster. Time line 3 diverged from our own a little earlier, but not significantly in North America (where Ben Franklin was experimenting with electrical cells) until the mid-1750s. So it's reasonable to expect the term to be in widespread use in TL3.

50:

I read a book on SDI lasers when I was a teenager, but I am a little bit fuzzy on what this means.

See wikipedia: Casaba-Howitzer. This was an actual weapon design that was planned as the basis of an armament for Project Orion in the 1960s.

(Note: if it's on wikipedia today, the odds are high that MITI's spies would have known about it some years earlier in time line 3.)

51:

Dammit, yes, Cesium-137 ...

52:

At such distance, the bomb explodes and somehow that energy is focused into a laser, pointed at an Alien target? How does that work? I'd assume most of the energy has to be wasted.

Pretty much the same way that current day pulsed lasers work. At least, "slow" nanosecond pulsed lasers; massively-mode-locked femtosecond and attosecond lasers need not apply

Taking the example of a "classic" pulsed Nd:YAG laser, you have the laser medium (a crystal of neodynium doped yttrium-aluminium garnet), and an energy source (a high voltage flash bulb).

You short-circuit a capacitor across the flash bulb generating a short duration, very intense burst of broad-spectrum light. You probably have some reflectors to focus as much of the liught into the crystal as possible.

That broad-spectrum light excites a bunch of energetic modes within the crystal and, being a crystal, those high order modes decay rapidly and non-radiatively down to one (or several) lowest-order, highly-excited modes. Those LOHE modes are (slightly) longer lived, allowing energy to "pool" there very, very briefly. More importantly, they can only lose energy by emitting radiation (typically at 1064nm for a Nd:YAG, but there are several other, lower probability, emission bands). Some photons emit spontaneously, because short lifetime, and they can trigger stimulated emission, and you get a run-away pulse of laser light. Depending on the geometry of the edmium and surrounding cavity, you get a preferential direction and... there is a laser beam.

Result: with a very short time offset, you convert a bunch of broad-spectrum energy into an intense laser beam. You lose a bunch of energy as heat in the process, but in exchange, you get:


  • massively increased intensity (even if you lose 99% of the energy, which is a fairly typicaly efficiency ratio for a laser, you concentrate the remaining 1% of the energy into millionths of a percent of the area)
  • Coherence: probably not very relevant for a weapon
  • The wavelength of your choice: probably not that important to a weapon, but I could see some value in it.


A bomb-pumped laser has essentially the same components, and works in essentially the same way - just with rather more exotic materials, and with a rather more exotic level of power.


  • Instead of a capacitor and flashlight, you have a nuclear bomb. Same principle - emit a very intense burst of energy - but you only get to use it once, and you have to be a lot more careful in testing
  • Instead of an Nd:YAG crystal, or other solidstate or semiconductor medium, you have something tuned to the emission psectrum of the energy source. Nd:YAG absorbs UV and visible radiation to emit IR radiation. A nuclear bomb emits, oh, lots of stuff, but probably tuned to emit a lot of broad-spectrum gamma and x-rays. I have no idea what the appropriate medium would be - that kind of thing tends to be highly classified, but it's "only" a question of calculating energy level diagrams for weird and wonderful materials.
  • By carefully designing the bomb (see the link to the Casava howitzer) to be a shaped-charge, you can preferentially direct the energy of the bomb towards your gain medium, to improve efficiency. You can also use X-ray, gamma-ray and neutron reflectors to help even more, just not for very long.
  • The only element that I'm not sure would exist is a cavity around your gain medium - I'm not sure how the relative timescales between (excitation resulting in intense X-ray laser beam) and (nuclear explosion reducing your entire laser apparatus into plasma) compare. Maybe it's not worth having much of a cavity, in which case you waste a bunch of energy out of the "back" of your medium; maybe it is. Even if it isn't, carefully choosing the geometry of the gain medium will still get you an enormous improvement in the divergence of the resulting x-ray burst.

The point, ultimately, is not really about a laser being a special device - it's about being able to focus as much of the energy of your bomb on your target as possible. We saw that during the cold war - as missles got more accurate, bomb yields decreased, because you couldd eliver the same "effective" energy to the target without expending as much plutonium (or big, expensive missiles) in the process.

In space, targetting a spaceship (that, unlike a city, will probably try and dodge), you might not want to, or be able to, deliver the bomb close enough. But if you can generate an extremely high intensity, low divergence beam that travels at the speed of light in the correct direction, you don't have to get it closer. Just far enough away from you.

53:

I'd like to ask some questions about how things work out after the story ends. Obviously there isn't enough here to make a book, but I'm curious about how things worked out in the longer term.

What did Elizabeth Hanover do with her life? I recall when she was discussing the terms of her defection with Major Hjorth she specifically asked about whether she would be allowed to stand for public office. Did she, and if so how did it go?

Was democracy restored in the United States in Timeline 2? It was Sir Adam's dying wish / order that the Commonwealth attempt to do this.

Did the Commonwealth manage to remain a functioning democracy? Did their constitutional settlement function as designed? Or did they discover a different set of emergent bugs?

54:

ISTR Stephen King saying in an afterword to The Stand he'd get fans writing to him about what the characters in various books were doing after the narrative ended. "As if they drop me the occasional postcard."

What happens after the end of The Tempest? Pride and Prejudice? That's what fan fiction is for.

~

IRL, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, one-time Tsar of Bulgaria (1943-46) became Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria (2001-05). So sure, Elizabeth Hanover becomes a politician when she can meet whatever age requirements the Commonwealth has for elected office.

I too am interested in the fate of the French Empire. I'd think that a multi-ethnic polity as large as the FE would be constantly creaking at the seams. And when/if it does implode, its aftereffects would be horrible - like the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire brought tariffs and protectionism (and economic depression) to a region that had free trade of goods and people before 1914. (See also Brexit).

55:

What happens after the end of The Tempest? Pride and Prejudice? That's what fan fiction is for.

The question is not entirely without precedent. Shaw penned this description of what happened after the end of Pygmalion.

56:

I'd like to ask some questions about how things work out after the story ends.

Make up your own answers, because in each case, my answer is, "I don't know". The story stop where it needs to, having reached an end: if I want to know what happens next, I need to write another book.

57:

Since Erasmus is now the First Man, I'd say that democracy won.

The question I had was whether they turned down or demobbed the Guard, as no longer needed.

58:

And for those who want to write Fanfiction set in 2070, I've got some thoughts:

One is that the solution to climate change is to export it, as I suspect both the US and Commonwealth will figure out. Export it to other timelines, that is.

If there are all these empty timelines nearby...well, you set out an exploration flight to see exactly how unpopulated the timeline is. Meanwhile, you set up colonies in alt-Pennsylvania and similar locations. Pennsylvania, if it's untapped, had reasonably good supplies of oil, coal, and iron. So if you're bootstrapping a technological civilization, the Pennsylvania area's a good place to claim first. Other places where the oil industry hit gushers are good too (Los Angeles, Texas...). Pennsylvania's good because it's not just oil, it's also iron, also coal, and also farmland and near access to the ocean (well, that's New Jersey, but you can't have everything).

Now if the US and the Commonwealth are expanding away from each other, there's no particular reason to go to war, although I'm sure some authoritarian asswipes will try it anyway. But set up standard protocols, set up colonial armies to keep the other side from sniping colonies, and there's little reason to fight. Because there's another problem...

...And that problem is how and why all those adjacent timelines got emptied. There are several non-exclusive possibilities:

If humans never evolved there, the wildlife will be interesting, to the tune of mammoths, lions, relatively large bears (grizzlies are medium-sized), sabertooths, and so forth. So strong explorers need bigger guns to protect their husbands. This is actually the best-case scenario.

If humans never made it to North America...same interesting wildlife, but Eurasian surprises await.

If humans did make it to North America, so that the wildlife is the same as in timelines 2 and 3, then what made them disappear. Here's where it gets a bit messy.

One possibility, given our history of disease, is that a coronavirus, pox virus or something even less pleasant wiped humans off the globe. If that's the case, it's probably not a good idea to handle a rodent or bat on a world where humans formerly dwelt. And there's a spillover disaster story waiting here to be written.

Another possibility is that another worldwalking civilization killed them off. If so, is the others' colony still present on another continent? Or were they making some sort of empty buffer worlds (why?) as a border/barrier between them and the hoppers? Or another paratime empire? And again, there are stories waiting to be written here.

Another is global nuclear war. But that would be at most a century in the past, so there would still be scars. Trees in the most radioactive areas would be just starting to decay, nothing surviving that couldn't live underground, that sort of thing. A world where even New Zealand bought it would be pretty badly scorched.

Thing is, if there's any relationship between timeline adjacency and shared history, then empty worlds are bizarre, especially if they're empty and not trashed.*

Were I setting a story in Family Business 2070, that's what I might start thinking about.

*Note here, I'm avoiding all the undeniably squicky politics of wiping out the Indians and Mesoamericans again, and again, and again. That's a plot point that could be ignored in 2001 at lot more easily than it can be ignored now. So I'm assuming, for example, that timeline 12, where the Juggernaut was maneuvering, really wasn't occupied, so nuking that Venezuela wasn't another pointless imperialist genocide. For instance.

59:

Export it? Great - dump out excess heat and CO2 and methane in the timeline that's in the middle of an ice age.

60:

Unfortunately, I think it's easier to worldwalk with the pieces of an oil rig strapped to a hovercraft than with a megaton of CO2. But maybe worldwalk a CO airship to crash next to a glacier? (/sarcasm)

61:

As for colonizing additional timelines:

With who?

Both the ~USA and Commonwealth have presumably gone through the demographic transition, so their populations are growing by immigration. Other countries are following. No idea about the lands of the French Empire.

Now the ~USA could go to the governments of Niger, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and the like (TFRs 6.68, 6.26, 5.47, 5.42, respectively) and say: We'll take your excess population! For the ~USA they would presumably go to the new territories being opened up (which would, in the fullness of time, become new states in the Union).

However, if the racial politics of the ~USA are anything like our USA, this might not be viewed as a welcome solution.

Countries with majority white (or at least semi-acceptibly off-white, like Japan, Korea, etc) all have TFRs below replacement. So not a lot of immigrants from there.

Of course, you could go to Time Line 1 - there are presumably LOTS of horribly poor white people in their Europe, who would be happy to GTFO of whatever feudal hell-hole they're stuck in to go to somewhere that they can own land and the rule of law is respected.

Problem is, these guys aren't Christian. Still, some missionary work later & Bob's your uncle.

62:

Good point. However, birth rate slowdowns are temporary, not permanent. Late classical Rome, for example, was offering rewards for women to have more kids. Same with, erm, Nazi Germany, IIRC?

The three criteria for a slowdown generally are purported to be:
--Most children survive to adulthood (no lack of heirs)
--Children are expensive to raise
--It takes a long time for them to reach productive maturity

There's also the climate change/nuclear war negative, which is thoughtful people NOT having kids because they are afraid that the kids will die young due to things they can't control.

This doesn't stop some people from having lots of kids, but it cuts down on average. If a kid costs a family hundreds of thousands of dollars and takes 25 years to leave the house, that's a big burden. Want four of them? Most couples won't.

Those conditions all change on a frontier:
--Survival to adulthood is problematic (and the surviving ones will be your social safety net).
--Children are relatively cheap. And uneducated, but cheap.
--They start tending the livestock early on and earn their keep that way.

So have a lot of kids and pray a lot. I'll note that this is distinctly suboptimal for women, too, because they get drafted into the more dangerous part of the system (childbirth without adequate care). But that's the classical argument.

I suspect that, if alternate timelines opened up in our world, quite a lot of people would bug out for the new frontier. Some fields might even see labor shortages.

The other thing is that I don't think it will just be good little workers setting up New Venango on each uninhabited timeline they find, although I'm sure whole industries will develop to do just this. I'm equally sure other industries will develop to transport people across continents to stake claims to all the important mineral rights (Sierra Nevada gold and silver, Michigan iron, Welsh and Chinese coal, ad nauseum).

Finally, it's worth remembering that people argued against industrializing on coal and oil back in the 19th Century, because they'd run out. Those people were of course argued down, and here we are. If there are infinite parallel earths, many of them uninhabited, I'm quite sure that any argument to not exploit their resources will be thrown out the window. Indeed, with the Hoppers sitting one timeline away, I suspect there will be a much stronger push to sprawl America and the Commonwealth across as many timelines as possible, to make sure they can't be wiped out. Because nothing feeds capitalism like unending growth, and why conserve bison or passenger pigeons in this timeline if the world next door has flocks every bit as big?

Note that this is definitely a devil's advocate argument, and I think the proper response to it is a civilization-killing pandemic unleashed by unrestrained greed. But I'm a bit judgemental about such things.

63:

But in the ~USA's Territory of New Pennsylvania (for example), I don't think that people would accept this as the Wild West. One of the first buildings to go in would be a hospital. Plus, would the fine people of New PA really want to have their kids semi-literate workers with grade 6 educations?

Kids would leave in droves to get educations rather than work as non-mechanized farmers or in crappy, unsafe (ie: non-automated) steel mills.

64:

Another thought occurred to me - the airplane that gets hijacked late in the novel:

The pilot scowled at her. "And if we don't want to go there?"

"Good luck landing at Caracas International – Caracas doesn't exist in this time line."

I have the feeling that Control was telling a fib - Caracas was founded in 1567 and is today home to 2.2 million people. I can't imagine that Caracas would be deserted in ~2020.

The plane comes in for a landing. The pilots see a big (albeit different-looking) city where Caracas should be.

"What's that city, then?"

"Oh, that's Santiago de León." (Santiago de León de Caracas is Caracas's official name OTL).

65:

Depends. A lot of kids signed up to get shot at in Afghanistan or Iraq recently.

Here's the thing: we're both biased because we're both educated and we both obviously enjoyed it. We're not average.

A lot of kids hate school, and hate that not getting through college dooms them to substandard careers. If the equivalent of drilling wells in a new wilderness gets them title to a square mile of land (one section), and if they're at all clever about it, they already know that the land they're homesteading is good farmland, also good for becoming a town later on? They'll jump at it.

Then you can look at school now. To get a bachelor's degree in the US, which is the basic ticket to a basic job with the possibility of some promotion, a student racks up on average $36,000 in student debt. And the jobs they can get with that are in the $30-50,000 range mostly, and homes are mostly around $500,000 and up, which is why multigenerational housing will become the norm again. Want to step onto that treadmill? With the extra sauce of an alien invasion, another nuclear war, or climate change? (per the book, not our reality)

Compare that with a frontier? A lot of kids will make that calculation and take their chances on another world.

Since I had a genealogist in the family, I know my history a bit. A surprisingly large number of relatives on my mother's side went through Venango, either during its iron period or during its oil period. Given a choice between being conscripted for the Kaiser's army, dealing with a marginal Shropshire farm, or working in a US mill, they all chose the US. They worked their asses off and often ended up with a farm. Their kids got basic educations and became teachers and nurses. Their grandkids became engineers and doctors. A few generations later and its weirdos like me.

I suspect that, were that frontier open again, something similar would happen.

The interesting thing is that if you're colonizing a parallel earth, if it's sufficiently similar to the homeworld, you don't have to make the same mistakes again. A lot of Pennsylvania farmland has reverted to forest because it sucked as farmland. Knowing this, I suspect that there would be a rush on the good farmland, because why suffer when you can be a little clever and work off existing knowledge?

66:

H @ 58 Underpopulated timeline with coal & Iron?
Try Britain?

67:

Of course! Jolly good of you to volunteer the alt-British Isles as an outpost of the American Paratime Empire (APE).

To be blunt, no part of the globe is safe from this kind of looting. The point of Venango County is that it hosted America's first oil well, in 1859. Couple that with nearby iron and coal, and it's a really good spot for a first colony. There's infrastructure on the developed worldline to feed in, and readily exploited resources on the undeveloped side to build stuff.

The problem is, almost anyone who's paying attention can figure this out. So in a worldwalking conflict, you can expect anyone who finds an "unsettled" world to pop a well-stealthed surveillance thingamabob out over western Pennsylvania to take a very good look at the oil fields out there, before they do much of anything else.

Any place in the world where resources are concentrated like this will get a similar level of attention and perhaps conflict.

68:

So I'm seeing a lot of ideas for colonizing adjacent timelines, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of ideas for mitigating climate change in the inhabited timelines. A few things:

- Any air travel can surely go through somewhere else
- Alternate timelines take the silly idea of "put all the industry in space" and make it more plausible: any industry such as steelmaking that needs to be coal, coke, or oil fired could be done Over There and moved back over by the LCAC-load.
- What it can't do is move electric power from Over There, I don't think world walking giant batteries back and forth would be remotely practical. What it CAN do however is assuage any worry about nuclear waste from nuclear power.

69:

Is there any "Word of Glod" on what actually became of Mike Fleming (and did he ever turn up in any of the earlier drafts)?
Smith says that the DHS/FTO didn't get him, and has been known to tell the truth - on purpose, even, sometimes - but is talking to an enemy agent and known contact of Fleming's at the time, so would presumably say that unless there was a really good reason not to.
Equally, I'm sure the DPR would have welcomed Fleming with reasonably open arms for what he could tell them, so long as they were sure he wasn't being run against them. And if he had gone over, there's no way he would have been mentioned in front of Rita or anyone not absolutely implicitly trusted.
And of course, his own plan was to vanish completely and start a new life as someone else - presumably, since he has a solid idea what's coming, somewhere entirely out of the USA's reach. Although I guess the Commonwealth would qualify on that front if he could get in touch with them again and decided the USA had become a regime he couldn't support.

Oh, and aside - re-reading the earlier books in preparation, I was delighted to rediscover the scene where some US "intelligence" clown accuses Paulie of spying for the DDR. I'd forgotten about it in the intervening years, and it's simultaneously depressingly belivable and utterly hilarious.

70:

Those things all help to avoid making things worse than they already are, but I get the impression that timelines 2 and 3 have both already emitted substantially more CO2 (and probably other GHGs) than we have. And we're in serious trouble going forward, even if magic tech allowed us to stop all emissions today. Also, while a switch to nuclear power generation radically reduces the problem, it still leaves you filling the atmosphere with steam and heat (no-one's built a reactor that's more than about 35% efficient, so for every GW of electricity you generate, you're dumping at least 2GW of heat into the environment. Which is also where the energy you transmit down the wires will ultimately end up, of course). The heat output is sufficiently trivial relative to natural fluctation in the planetary insolation that you can probably just ignore it. How well the extra water vapour plays with global warming, particularly in a timeline where climate change is already visibly happening, I'm less certain. At best it would merely slow down recovery a bit, but at worst it might sustain bad-news feedback loops, making climate stabilisation/reversion much harder to achieve. Even that worst case is a massive improvement over business-as-usual coal or oil burning, of course.

Para-time transport probably does make some form of carbon capture setup practical, though, in a way that most of the real-world schemes I've seen proposed[1] just aren't. If you have (functionally) unlimited electricity and access to a dumping-ground timeline, you can just freeze atmospheric CO2 in 50-tonne blocks, transport it to the other side, and leave it there. If you care a bit more about the "landfill" timeline, you could have another, even bigger, nuclear-powered freezer on that side, to keep the stuff solid - or a chemical plant that turns it into something you can use. (Massive mostly-plastic space-habitats, perhaps? :)


[1]"We'll pump vast quantities of high-pressure CO2 and methane into disused coal mines as long term storage"

71:

If we're going to go to that ultimate strange attractor, the real world...

The problem with using paratime manufacturing is that it doesn't scale fast enough and it doesn't deal with key GHG problems.

Where I live (e.g. I've got some numbers) about half of GHGs are from cars and trucks, the next tranche down is from concrete manufacturing (around 20%--I'm not looking this up), and the next tranche is agriculture. None of these are really helped by doing them Somewhere Else, just because they're distributed, bulky, and high entropy.

On a personal level, the most GHG producing things you can do are raising a kid (mostly because you're stuck taking on two or more humans' worth of GHGs, I think). Beyond that, flying, taking a cruise, and driving are the most emissive activities most people deal with. While you can get some of these to happen elsewhere for a few people, they again don't scale. For example, building and servicing a cruise ship in an uninhabited world is cost-prohibitive.

Now, could we make an argument for water-use, and the answer is maybe. Food is embodied water. Wheat, for example, takes an ungodly amount of water, because you're watering a plant for months to get a tiny percentage of its body as food. So could growing crops on an alternate world work? Again, no, because shipping wheat is still too bulky.

What you could conceivably do is harvest the big wild animal herds and ship the meat through, although I think we're still at the limit of what a worldwalker would be willing to do. How many hovercraft-fulls of bison meat could they ship? Not enough to kill worldwalkers driving the transport. But that's kind of where it might work.

That's why I focused on colonization. It's a contemptible strategy, systematically looting world after world. But if there is an effectively infinite supply of worlds, it's doable. The Forerunner-level slime-weasels who operate this way just have to found colonies on average faster than they trash worlds. Given the US went from sort of sustainable to definitely screwed in about 500 years, and most of the screwing happened in the last 100 years, I'm guessing 500-1000 years is how long a colonized timeline would last until it was used up and discarded. It's probably on the same order for the Hoppers dropping a black hole in.

Anyway, the ultimate aim of this is to help people writing Fan Fiction of the What Happened Next variety. So if you want Merchant Princes 2070, get those trans-frontier pot gardens going on timeline 35, and talk about how renegade worldwalkers are resurrecting the lifestyle of the Gruinmarkt because they're sick of being lifetime conscripts in Commonwealth attempts to run away from the US worldlines. Or something. Hell, write a story that has Tech bros hunting Drop Bears (aka marsupial lions) in alt-Primeval Australia who get set upon by a flock of horny adolescent male mihirungs who think they're just the right shape for object play*. That is, if you think mihirungs belong on the duck side of the anserimorph family tree.

*To quote one researcher, if biologists counted sex toys as tools, the number of tool-using animals would at least double if not triple.

72:

Steam and heat are not meaningful problems at any plausible level of energy use, not even 12 billion people at first world levels would do it. CO2 emissions can move the needle on the global heat levels because they trap solar heat, and they accumulate. Steam rains back down in very short order and waste heat is utterly irrelevant to anything but local micro-climate. Wrong scale entirely.

73:

I think in Timeline 3 rampant global warming has made much of Central America unfeasible to inhabit unless you can afford constant AC.

74:

Late classical Rome, for example, was offering rewards for women to have more kids. Same with, erm, Nazi Germany, IIRC?

Australia, right now IIRC. Definitely a few years ago with the "Have one for Australia" campaign. Baby bonus has now been rolled into the parental leave system, but for a while it was a $900 cash payment.

https://www.centrelink.gov.au/onlineclaim/help/bby_inc_est_help.htm

75:

- The new-model world-walkers don't get headaches from world-walking. That suggests that the USA biotech is unusually sophisticated, even in that timeline's 2020, or that they got lucky in their engineering, or that the prions weren't in that majority subset of the population (or in that timeline). There's a mention of nanotech Q-machines in Deep State, so some analysis was obvious done. Anyway, just noted, since biotech is on an exponential phase both in our timeline and in the alt-USA. (And brains are interesting, and quite heterogeneous even within a species(/genus), and plastic.)
- The space-dreadnought was well-drawn. Solved the launch-siting problem neatly, too.

Re Atropos @ 52 , thanks.
Some Atomic Rockets links for those tempted to be curious about JUGGERNAUT (http site for those who care):
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/enginelist3.php#boomboom
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns2.php#id--Project_Orion
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/enginelist3.php#casaba "Front Towards Enemy"
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php#id--Nukes_In_Space--Nuclear_Shaped_Charges

76:

I've just finished Invisible Sun. Just one complaint, it's too short!

77:

The ~USA lends itself to a
particularly colonial mode: the prison-industrial system (private prisons in particular) will fall on reliable paratime tech with shrieks of glee. There are plenty of towns where the main employer is the prison. By shoving the prison itself into an adjacent time-line, the prison owners can save a lot of money on security (the only thing that needs securing is the paratime transfer box: prisoners who escape find themselves in an uninhabited wasteland, which most prisoners will be ill-suited to survive in), guards can commute cheaply, and out of sight means out of mind: think prison plantations and unpoliced brutality towards the legal slave labour because there's no uncontrolled communication with the ~USA.

The Commonwealth has many faults, but being led by a party cadre who mostly spent time in the King-Emperor's camps up north, and who have a play book documenting why "replicating the old regime's structures of oppression generally leads to the failure of the revolution in 2-3 generations' time" may to some extent protect them against replicating that particular mistake.

78:

A huge difference with historic frontier expansion is that the ~USA is presumably in a position to build cheap reusable space launchers -- I don't know if SpaceX exists in that time line, but SpaceX demonstrates it's possible in our time line, so ...

Probably the first bit of infrastructure to go in when opening up a new time line for active colonization and exploitation will be a cluster of satellites that serve triple-duty: navigation (cf. GPS), earth resources/meteorology tracking cameras, and communications relays (cf. Starlink/Iridium). Note that you can use communications satellites for positioning; it's early days yet, but it has been demonstrated. I don't expect an early cluster to be anything like as big as Starlink: it's only really needed to provide limited bandwidth comms over a single sub-continental area. And I'd also note that such satellites can be mass-produced quite cheaply, given a suitable launch system: Starlink sats apparently cost $250K each, comparable to a luxury car or a mil-spec Humvee (not the consumer-spec Hummer).

Anyway: throw a couple of hundred million bucks of hardware at the sky and you've got overwatch, weather forecasts, monitoring for stuff like forest fires, phone service, and navigation all taken care of, for less than the cost of a single hospital.

What would the Wild West have looked like with mobile phone service and weather forecasting and army outposts with helicopter transport? Quite different, I suspect ...

79:

I can't imagine that Caracas would be deserted in ~2020.

Bear in mind it got rolled over by invading armies from the northern continent in the 19th century, per the history of Time Line 3. An imperial invasion of a Catholic province by an aggressive Protestant empire. Not good: see also the 30 years' war.

In addition, Time Line 3 has a serious climate change problem due to a burgeoning population burning too damn much coal and wood in the 20th century (they developed late, and haven't begun to cut back on the runaway energy release in the way our own civilization has done since roughly 1973). "Black flag" wet bulb temperatures combined with HVAC not being a thing are not conducive to a city thriving.

80:

You mention Elon Musk offering to use conventional rockets to build a Juggernaut counter weapon so it appears he's doing something space based. There's also a mention of an Orion (capsule, not loud boom type) docked at the ISS though so COTS either didn't happen or the contract awards (2006) went to different suppliers. SpaceX was established in 2002 in our timeline so just before the 2003 split, but the COTS contract let them skip the proposed Falcon 5 and go straight to the 9.

81:

I knew you referenced TL3 having global warming Issues of some sort but to the point where you have areas like Caracas in the commonwealth and I assume a bunch of african cities in France's west african colonies being either mostly or entirely abandoned due to black flag weather? That's an unpleasant surprise.

82:

It was strongly implied in one of the early Maracaibo scenes where they say the temperatures going to hit 40c and unsurvivable without AC.

I just finished Invisible Sun and enjoyed it a lot - a fitting finale to the series.

I particularly liked how even nearly all the villains were still humanly relatable - including Smith and Scranton toward the end. The only out and out loon was the Commonwealth Guard general.

I found the Forerunner Info dumps a little jarring at first but the Afterword explained why well.

Part of me would like to have seen what the 4th Chunk featuring the Hive would have been, but the completist is happy with the current end point.

Thank you Charlie!

83:

Fair point. I just assumed a one off thing that showed they had those issues there in some form or another, but knew what black flag weather was due to learning about it from TL2. Between that and the "commonwealth was making all personal vehicles electrical" line from either empire games/dark state, I assumed they were taking it more seriously than we seem to be OTL so the OTL 1970s France-style nuclear problem Charlie mentioned upthread made a ton of sense.

Of course that's just the _Commonwealth_ taking it seriously if the French don't... Well yeah, that world's potentially in for a really bad time.

84:

What would the Wild West have looked like with mobile phone service and weather forecasting and army outposts with helicopter transport? Quite different, I suspect ...

"Custer's Last Jump" by Andrew J. Offutt -- alt-hist with paratroops from the 7th Airborne Cavalry's zeppelins getting shot down over Greasy Grass by ex-Confederacy biplane fighters flown by Native American pilots. AKA "They Died With Their 'Chutes On."

85:

Hoo boy. I can just imagine creating an entire space rocketry infrastructure as the very first thing your colony does on an uninhabited Earth. Fuel infrastructure, assembly infrastructure...Yeah. Tons of liquid oxygen and hydrogen, sitting in the primeval forest. Why does this sound off?

Possibly it sounds off because drones are cheaper and tougher at first, and the limiting factor is the supply of worldwalkers willing to bust their brains carrying shit between worlds. Hell, if you want really cheap, you can get a huge amount of basic stuff done with weather balloons and aerostat antennas.

But the uber-fun stuff is why the world's uninhabited. Three possibilities:
1. Assuming worlds in paratime tend to cluster by shared histories, uninhabited worlds near timelines 2 and 3 probably experienced nuclear war in the 20th century. Colonizing these worlds would be interesting, but we're sort of in On The Beach territory, both in novel terms and in practical terms (as in, nuclear war wiping out every last human. Really? Who launched what to make *that* happen?). Depending on when the war happened, there are lots of resources lying around. Which is good. But there's a lot of stuff missing (wild foods, for example), and that's bad.

2. Humans went extinct. The most likely candidate here is some nasty spillover virus. Airborne AIDS, perhaps. If this is the case, watch out for whatever the reservoir species is and stay far, far away from those animals.

3. Humans never evolved, because the hominid line went extinct in Africa. This is a subtype of 2, really. If I was colonizing a world where humans never evolved, I'd be sending veterinary virologists to do careful surveys pretty much everywhere, and Africa would be last on my list of continents to colonize.

Anyway, vastly different worlds. With apologies to the Native Americans, it's reasonably likely that, without humans, there would be a lot of really big kitties, plus-sized bears and dogs, and other megafauna everywhere in the Americas. Settling the Wild West would be slightly more safe than settling the Serengeti. Maybe. On the one hand, the animals are bigger. On the other, they're naive about the inherent nastiness that is modern humanity, unlike African animals that know full well to get out of the way. And once we've dealt with the megafauna, there's the mesofauna to consider, in this case locusts and passenger pigeons (perhaps on the latter, but since Africa hosts queleas, why not?). So not the easiest place to have a little house on the prairie if you want to get reliable crops.

The really bad news for America the Unsettled would be if the "naive" animals learn that ex-office bros colonizing from a thoroughly civilized America are easier to catch and kill than even deer. And they teach their young how to hunt humans. Could be a messy situation, if ammo and backup are both limited, and the animals are learning as rapidly as the humans.

And of course, there's endemic malaria and yellow fever, among other diseases. That's one reason why the Southerners started buying slaves from Africa. They survived longer in the newly colonized American South. That happy experience gets repeated.

And finally, there's the Native American bootstrap effect. We tend to think of the Americas as untouched wilderness with scenic Indians. It's more like 10,000 post-glacial years of humans doing stuff to make sure they didn't starve, mostly without good crops. The colonists benefited enormously from this, both in terms of an altered landscape (no big mean kitties) and in terms of crops and knowledge from the Indians they lived with for centuries. I suspect that, without humans, the Americas would be a lot more pleasant for elephants, bears, and beavers than for humans.

86:

I can just imagine creating an entire space rocketry infrastructure as the very first thing your colony does on an uninhabited Earth. Fuel infrastructure, assembly infrastructure

No need: if you finished "Invisible Sun" you'd see that one of the game-changer technologies in play is the ability to launch payloads in one time line and have them appear overhead in another. So: launch the satellite cluster from Pad 39A or Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, recover the payload fairings and Falcon 9 first stage ... and the upper stage and cargo appear in the destination time line.

(2) Humans went extinct -- we seem to have gone through a genetic bottleneck about 70K years ago, with a breeding population down to a couple of thousand, max: what if our survival is the unlikely outcome, rather than vice versa? (Postulated cause: a supervolcano eruption followed by a sharp cooling.)

One possible stand-alone I have considered writing: no humans, so the predator/prey arms race mediated by theory of mind continues in the absence of language. We end up with an ecosystem where bear traps are literally pit traps dug by bears, with crude spikes and camouflage: where elephants, raccoons, and non-human primates are crude tool-users: and where some of the cats hunt in prides, emphasis on "hunt" (with tactical diversions). When human world-walkers find their way to this TL, they think everything's going to be fine at first ...

87:

Actually I agree about the satellites. As I was walking away from the computer, I remembered that the USSF is also launching satellites via a Pegasus system (slung under a modified passenger jet). So there are multiple ways to get a satellite into orbit in another timeline.

The Toba theory, with the genetic bottleneck 50,000-100,000 years ago, may be a distraction. The problem with it is that there were also Neanderthals, Denisovans, Hobbits, Luzon hominids, and who knows what else also present on Earth. It was just our ancestors who were having a bad time. If only our ancestors had gone extinct, there would still be humans on Earth. Just not us. So if there are no humans, something we don't have on our world happened.

As for nonhuman intelligence, I'd suggest something there's already evidence for: avian intelligence. Specifically, I'd look at hunting teams composed of either ravens and bears, or ravens and wolves (or ravens, bears, and wolves). There's already some decent evidence (See Bernd Heinrich) that they did (and do) this. ravens scavenge predators' kills, so they help the big predators find food so they can scavenge it. They work with humans too (including my mother, but that's another story. Feed ravens consistently and you become an ally). So when you've got a wolf pack tailing you, with ravens guiding them to your location, and tattling on you when you try to turn the tables and hunt the pack...

Anyway, a world where the scrublands are made by and for bears (e.g. trails are all bear-sized tunnels), the savannas are made by and for elephants, and every stream is an ever-changing series of beaver dams, is actually not the easiest world for moderns to traverse. Add in swarms of critters (raccoons, crows, ravens, passenger pigeons, locusts, elephants) devastating crops, malaria and other insect-borne pathogens infecting colonists, and it becomes a really unpleasant experience. While I agree that it would be more fun to have tool-using bears, just having the "dumb animals" get the best of the uber-tech humans by being animals makes for a fairly dark and scary story.

88:

Questions from the beginning and the end of the saga:

(1) What exactly is the thing early in the original MP stories that committed you to the existence of a senior US figure in league with the Clan? I've read it 3-4 times and never quite been sure I've worked it out.

(2) Why did the ~US attack TL4 with ICBMs (and risk the Hive having some unanticipated magic-tech antiballistic missile device) rather than ARMBANDing the bombs over from TL2 Maryland?

(3) Do you have a settled view on who the Invisible Sun narrator is? They don't seem to be author-omniscient (they say that we don't know what happened on the USS Maine because it's classified) but they know way more about the Big Picture than any of the viewpoint characters.

89:

What happened with Nel's possibly mangled copy of the TL3 engram?

90:

Meanwhile, back on timeline Zero ( Us ) ... I came across this quote form, of all people Isaac Asimov from the "Foundation" series:
Every vice of the Empire has been repeated in theFoundationUSA.
Inertia! Our ruling class knows one law: no Change.
Despotism! They know one rule: force.
Maldistribution! They know one desire: to hold what is theirs.

Yes, it's the Republican Party, folks

91:

Great ending to the series, thank you! The locusts/Forerunners war makes sense as a backdrop for the whole series.

92:

Got to disagree with you on that, Greg.

The Republicans are rather worse than no change. As you note, they want a government that is by, for, and about them alone. Possibly it's because they face irrelevancy if they don't get it.

Anyway, for those who admire(d) aristocracies, this is how they work. One of the great, under-examined threads of history seems to be the eternal struggle between bottom-up, democratic governance, and top-down, authoritarian governance. Recent propaganda about the end of history aside, I'm wondering if it's ever really ceased over the last few thousand years.

93:

I really like the idea of doing the Russian revolution right. The Commonwealth seems to be that.

The beginning of the Soviet Union was not that terrible after the civil war ended. New economic policy until the death of Lenin. And other things. A great deal of new art and scientific research started during that period. Including significant studies on human development and education.

Things went bad after the nomination of Stalin as the secular Grand Ajatollah (using the terms from OGH).

I read the Commonwealth as being the Soviet Union done right. With a significant vibe from the Iranian revolution (1979, but with a secular twist.

Very plausible. Especially with the hindsight provided by the world-walkers who had knowledge on the political development in other timelines.

Brilliant. I strongly appreciate.

94:

What exactly is the thing early in the original MP stories that committed you to the existence of a senior US figure in league with the Clan?

I can't remember. (You're asking me about a thought process I didn't document back in 2003.)

Why did the ~US attack TL4 with ICBMs ... rather than ARMBANDing the bombs over from TL2 Maryland?

That's what they actually did. (Using SLBMs, too, flying a ballistic path from the Pacific Ocean, thereby obscuring their point of origin.)

Do you have a settled view on who the Invisible Sun narrator is?

Nope.

95:

Since I like sharing bad ideas, here's another one, on the theme of how you get a world with no humans in it.

Humans and chimps started separating at the tail end of the Miocene around 8 million years ago, and per the geneticists, they stopped sharing genes around 4 million years ago (kink runs deep in our line). The Miocene is the period when the Earth was heading toward ices ages (via the Pliocene and then the icy Pleistocene), but it was hotter than we are now. But the Miocene is when grasses, savannas, and plains took over. A lot of animals that had previously lived in forest and scrub developed plains forms.

Sorry to drag this up, but this is where the argument I had with EC took place, about the origin of human bipedality in the grasslands instead of with that aquatic ape theory (if labrador retrievers can swim better than humans, what's the point of talking about wading in evolutionary terms). The best answer, apparently, is that bipedality allows you, (in the evolutionary eternal tense) to carry stuff and also to see out over the tall grass. You may be a bit slower than as a quadruped (or not, per Google), but if you get enough of a head start, it doesn't matter so much.

Anyway, our bipedal ancestors came out of the late Miocene and Pliocene. So if you want to posit a set of timelines with no hominids, one simple way is to divert human evolution in this period.

I'd suggest two possible ways to do this.
1. Aquatic ape theory: human ancestors, instead of becoming bipedal weirdos, become shore-foraging quadrupedal aquatic apes, quadrupedal just like every other semi-aquatic primate from reed lemurs to orangutans. They never learn to make fire, at most make simple tools, and perhaps never leave Africa. Call this the nandi ape, maybe?

B. The plains ape. Our ancestors, instead of going bipedal, become the ape equivalent of baboons, going for high speed quadrupedality instead of bipedality. Again, little tool diversification, no fires. However, combining chimp-like cultural diversity with being able to gallop over 30 mph, combined with leonine canines (especially on the males) might make for a formidable plains omnivore. The simian equivalent of a hyena or a coyote, perhaps.

Could those wolf-apes (or even the nandi-apes) make it to the New World? I don't know, but therein lies a story. What is killing the goats, out on that lonely paratime frontier farm?

All this does is point to one of the oddities of Miocene ape evolution, that various apes (not just humans) seemed to have experimented with bipedal-adjacent postures. However, most other large mammal clades did not. If apes simply evolved like every other large plains mammal in the Miocene, humans would not have evolved. But a clever omnivore might have showed up instead.

96:

I have one question. Before Juggernaut arrives overhead one of the antagonists makes a statement/assumption around the limited transfer capacity of Worldwalkers compared to what they can do with Armband.

Was that a genuinely held USA belief or just a narrow minded assumption by one character in the heat of the moment?

97:

What happened with Nel's possibly mangled copy of the TL3 engram?

They don't use it -- it's too risky.

98:

Was that a genuinely held USA belief or just a narrow minded assumption by one character in the heat of the moment?

Before their drones discovered time line 3 via overflights (early in "Empire Games"), the ~USA had zero evidence of world-walkers being able to carry substantial loads, based on observation/interrogation/torture of captured clan couriers.

(Some of the Clan had previously known about using electrostatically isolated wheelbarrows, but this was a closely-guarded secret of those families who knew about it -- for competitive advantage over their rival families -- and was lost during the civil war that killed off roughly 50% of the world-walkers over a generation or two.)

Discovering a time line with nuclear-tipped SAMs, jet fighters, and search radar was a horrible shock to the ~USA -- previously all they'd encountered were empty time lines 70%, paleolithic time lines 30%, and a single mediaeval-tech time line. Adding "oh, and the Clan fled there, and they've figured out how to transfer kiloton-level payloads between time lines" would turn it into a sum-of-all-fears multiple-worst-cases scenario. Which, in real life, almost never happens ...

99:

my personal theory is that bipedality evolved to optimize throwing. A rain of rocks makes predating on the early ancestor bands really unfeasible, which is a huge selective advantage and once you are heading down that path, "Being a better rockthrower" selects pretty hard for most of the traits that differentiates us from the rest of the primates.

Excepting the loss of fur. I really cannot come up with a plausible story for how that happened.

100:

I think the "Senior Politician" part was an accident (assuming my memory is working), that the Clan had a rule: "Never involve politicians in the operation", and got Cheney because he had (at that point) retired from politics. When he went back into politics he became a problem that they failed to deal with (and as the Clan could blow his career out of the water by simple leaking his money laundering activities they were a threat to him that he needed to eliminate). I may be completely wrong, of course.

I do really like Invisible Sun (though having read an earlier draft it's a little confusing at times), and I think you owe me about 5 hours sleep (for the initial read and subsequent re-read that led directly to an "oh God o'clock" bedtime). On the other hand, I owe you several beers.

Favourite lines? Too many to count, but "Juggernaut was no more designed for a first strike than those fancy Tridents..." plus the concept of SLEDGEHAMMER being a scaled up Tsar Bomba with added secret sauce - certainly a deterrent providing they know you've got it.

(The bit about the DHS adding the knotwork display to the in-flight video and how it would have failed very badly was a nice gotcha, too.)

Very nicely done, and I shall now re-read it more slowly and carefully. :-)>

101:

“ Why did the ~US attack TL4 with ICBMs ... rather than ARMBANDing the bombs over from TL2 Maryland?

That's what they actually did. (Using SLBMs, too, flying a ballistic path from the Pacific Ocean, thereby obscuring their point of origin.)”

My was presumption there were 2 things,

1 to show the Commonwealth they had Worldwalking nukes (pretty much says so in the text)
2 Against an unknown enemy en mass you’re going to need a relatively speedy and stealthy approach and that’s what the MIRV’s were, compared to a dude with a backpack nuke anyway.

Interesting question - is it possible to Jaunt a submarine? It would have been a lot cheaper to jaunt the sub over 2 timelines than 8 ICBM’s in terms of Armband units at least.

102:

@74: Romania under Ceaucescu (sp?) is another example: women were supposed to have five (I think) children.

103:

@101: no, you can't jaunt a submarine unless you lift it into dry dock and put rubber pads under it. The rest of the time, tt's connected to ground via a large amount of conducting fluid!

104:

Charlie: another nit-pick.

You comment late on in the book that Berlin has two transport systems because of the East/West split. That isn't the case.

There's currently the U-bahn, which is like the London Underground or the Glasgow subway, and the S-bahn, which is like the London Overground or the various commuter lines in Glasgow.

(The following is from memory because I can't be bothered to dig out the relevant books.)

Around the time of the Berlin Wall, the U-bahn lines fell into three classes. Some were entirely in one half of Berlin or the other. Some went across the border once and got split at that point. Two of them started and ended in the West but had a section in the East. All the stations in those sections were closed: trains didn't stop and DDR guards were stationed on the platforms. There was one exception: a station that became a border post. So you had two separate U-bahn systems. After reunification the stations got reopened and, over time, the lines were reconnected. It's now all one system.

The S-bahn was more like a main-line railway (just as in the UK or Paris) and got handed over to the East German railways (DR as opposed to DB). They ran it through both halves. At some point border controls were added with trains being stopped and searched at them. Some trains that went East-West-East became non-stop on the middle bit. Westerners started to boycott the services. At some point in (I think) the 1980s the lines in West Berlin got handed over to the West's authorities. After reunification DR was merged into DB and the S-bahn is all one system.

So, yes, there are two systems in Berlin. But that's true in many other places. The reason for two systems is nothing to do with the split into FDR and DDR.

105:

Trident vs. SLBM

The point was that they needed a synchronised attack by multiple warheads (the equivalent of TOT (Time On Target) salvo in artillery) in order to inflict maximum damage in minimum time and clear the path for Juggernaut. You can do that with ICBMs, which are unaffected by surface weather conditions (especially MIRVs), but not with cruise missiles (single warhead, launched one at a time), and it definitely wouldn't be safe to try it on your own timeline, just in case something went wrong and the opposition got a lead back to the home timeline or something went off prematurely.

Besides: the Trident system was loaded with warheads specifically intended for cross-time deployment, they just needed to switch the target from the Clan to the Hive which would be a different set of target parameters for both the inertial guidance system and ARMBAND. (Safety features such as "do not arm the warhead if you still detect GPS or similar 'friendly' signals after ARMBAND activation" would be extremely sensible and certain to be included.)

106:

I’m not convinced that’s true though. Modern submarines are covered in anechoic tiles (think rubber) and use propulsors rather than screws - so what actually’s not insulated?

Don’t forget a worldwalker can jaunt with just their foot wear isolating them.

Which begs another question for Charlie - what’s the mass limit that requires complete isolation from ground with a hovercraft or similar?

107:

I think you meant Trident is a SLBM right? Or did you mean SLCM?

I wasn’t thinking of cruise missiles as an option but it’s a valid point.

108:

You could translate "Wiedervereinigung" either way, but "reunification" is a fairly conventional term for the process in English-language German history (see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_reunification - both terms are used there).

109:

For SLBM read SLCM in the first line. Oops!

Chris.

110:

This was excellent fun, thank you. I think the only question I have is: how much did you cackle gleefully at the point when you realized that you had a great excuse to write a para-time Project Orion battlecruiser attack?

111:

I finished reading the UK Kindle edition yesterday. Very good. I picked up a large number of basic editing errors (more than usual- COVID maybe?). I include enough text to search for the problems.

side-order of mus cle: two troopers that it was felt more I have news some information to pass on, from the Party Secretariat.
lest our enemies to trick us into attacking
They’ve offering us asylum in return
getting to get across
Knowing if it was still active,
much small emitters

112:

I think the electrical isolation issue is actually a red herring in this case. We know you can't jaunt into a timeline where your location is occupied by a solid, and it seems reasonable to assume the same is true of bulk liquid.

(Even if you decide that there's some mechanism by which air/gas rapidly evacuates the about-to-be-occupied space, the fact that water is ~800 times as dense as air will make it vastly more difficult to disperse the molecules fast enough, and the pressure trying to refill the hole will be similarly greater.)

113:

Well, jaunting is magical anyway, so we'd only make OGH more grumpy if we pointed out all the ways it could go horribly wrong.

Speaking of horribly wrong, what does happen when a jaunty submarine displaces that much incompressable deep water very suddenly? That could be exciting!

For instance, would it be wise to jaunt on a volcanic island, or did lava flow the same way in every timeline? Any place that's highly affected by random events (landslides, wind moving dunes in the Sahara) makes for an interesting landing, potentially.

Or we can go into the unholy joy that is the Earth spinning ever so slightly faster or slower because of ice melting or forming on high Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, or dams moving enough weight a bit further away from the center of the Earth and slowing the spin by 10-8. It's hopefully not going to make delta Vs big enough for people to get swatted by moving trees jaunting from Timeline 3 (hot) to Timeline 4 (ice age) or vice versa, but you add up a thousand years of slightly altered spin rates, and it's amazing that travelers can come into the same space more or less.

But why spoil the story. It's fun to play politics when for once it's not our own.

114:

Clive Feather
Berlin Liniennetz ( Map )
And the "complicated" station was Freidrichstraβe - right smack in the middle.
And, of course, the U-bahn, like the UndergrounD is still of two sorts: Grosse Profil ( The later ones ) & Kleine Profil ( The earlier ones )

115:

On possible futures for the Merchant Princes 'verse:

US and Commonwealth scientists are going to try engineering the nanotech organelles into other life-forms: a mouse that can jaunt would be a much cheaper and less ethically questionable source of neurones for ARMBAND than cell lines forcibly taken from captured world-walkers. Or perhaps they can figure out how to hack the organelles to reproduce and operate outside of a cell, in which case they can be mass-produced cheaply.

What happens when everybody has an ARMBAND (probably worn as an actual arm band)?

Also, while the physics behind jaunting is going to remain obscure, at least for a while, the wet-phase self-replicating nanotech it is built on is probably something scientists *can* figure out. If they can take it apart and hack it, the US and Commonwealth could probably use it to bootstrap their own nanotech Diamond Age.

The future international politics also look interesting. Once formal recognition and embassies are set up between the US and the Commonwealth, other TL2 nations are going to want in. At the end of Dark Sun it seems that only the USA and Commonwealth have world-walker capability. I'm sure that every other country in TL2 regards that as a Very Bad Thing. Geopolitics in TL2 must be getting very interesting, although hopefully the news of an alien invasion in TL4 will focus minds on mutual survival. There is nothing like a dangerous alien Them to turn us into a strong unified Us, and the Swarm is definitely dangerous and alien. There was also a mention of a black hole seeded into TL4 Earth at the end of Dark Sun; presumably in a century or ten TL2 is going to have a black hole right next door. Urk.

In the meantime, what happens when China starts trading with the Commonwealth? The US might prefer not to sell plans for advanced microelectronic fabs to the Commonwealth, but the Chinese might have less compunction, especially if they get the services of world-walkers in return. There is an interesting asymetrical trade war setting up there: the US provides ARMBAND to selected allies, while opponents of the US do deals to hire world-walkers from the Commonwealth, until they can get their hands on US cell-lines and start building their own ARMBANDs.

On the maximum size you can jaunt with: presumably you could jaunt an entire planet as long as there wasn't a planetary mass already in the way. *Hopefully* you can't jaunt a planet over the top of a neigbouring black hole. On the other hand maybe there is some physical limit less than that: handwave speed of light resonance standing wave quantum noise threshold.

116:

Good point. My brain has just solved for it by wanting submarines to breech like a whale prior to jaunting.

And would ARMBAND for a sub be an orange inflatable with speedo written on it?

But it does beg the question at what point does gas density become too high to jaunt? Gas giant atmosphere levels or decompression chamber levels?

117:

Cross timeline trade is complicated by most of the Commonwealth territory being congruent with USA allies, and most high tech TL2 countries being covered by the French Empire in TL3 including China.
I believe Japan is nearest Commonwealth Ally with the requisite tech presuming TL2 Japan is not too closely welded to the USA. Although the text may have implied it fell to the French at some point.


Of course Merchant Princes 2025 covering a cross timeline proxy war battle for the Spratleys is an option….

It’s also worth noting that the Dragons Teeth blood pressure fixes allow the US to out compete the Commonwealth in a jaunt enabled trade war even without mass production of Armband and is a much better use of spoilt brats than conscription.
Getting parity on that has got to be a major priority - to the point where the doctors who know what the crispr fix are probably locked up in a luxury cell for the USA’s protection.

118:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Excalibur#Excalibur provides some theory on an x-ray laser weapon. One presumes the energy would come from a directional fission device, similar to the pulse units of Orion itself, a la https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)#/media/File:Orion_pulse_unit.png

119:

Thank you for mentioning CUSTER'S LAST JUMP, an excellent story; however, it was written by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley. https://www.sfsite.com/06b/cj154.htm http://www.uchronia.net/label/utlecuster.html

120:

So TL2 China, once it gets hold of ARMBAND, goes to TL3 French Empire and offers jet fighters and MANPADS that can beat anything that the Commonwealth "own dog food" policy can field, at least for a few years. And since it's possible to extract cell lines from world walkers, any DRAGONS TEETH kids had better be very wary. The prospect of one of them getting arrested for drug smuggling as a way to get a fresh world walking brain must be exercising minds in the US Government.

121:

how much did you cackle gleefully at the point when you realized that you had a great excuse to write a para-time Project Orion battlecruiser attack?

If you re-read "Empire Games", you might have noticed the structure of the first half of the book: a series of scenes establishing Rita and bringing her to the attention of the DHS, then we cut over to the Commonwealth and a series of scenes that hopefully had any readers who ploughed straight in from "The Trade of Queens" going WTF?!? approximately once every two pages.

The Commonwealth had 17 years of centrally controlled state-of-emergency planning on a war footing, combined with paratime espionage, and the First Man's private secretary was involved with the head world walker, so about 15 years of MITI doing the sort of technology transfer that works, with a road map.

So ... scale up all the things, and where possible try to avoid get stuck in local optima.

Project Orion is an obvious win if you aren't locked in an Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty regime, and have access to heavy-lift machinery for moving stuff to other time lines.

A subtext that isn't explored: as of 2020 the Commonwealth has a strategic nuclear deterrent aimed at the USA, should the USA ever discover them. Older strategic bombers (think Convair B-36 equivalents) have been replaced by ICBMs in the role of deterrent vs. the French Empire. But by putting a pair of world-walkers inside each aircraft in a bomb wing, they can be turned into effective subsonic stealth bombers for taking out US cities: cities don't move around, so they can fly to their approximate locations in a time line adjacent to TL2, jaunt to TL2 with their bomb bays already open, drop a multimegaton H-bomb (a city-buster), then jaunt out again before it detonates and before any fighters, or even SAMs, can reach them.

This would allow the Commonwealth to threaten the ~USA with a retalliatory second strike (but not a counter-force strike, so not a credible first strike) in order to sustain MAD. However, it sucks up a lot of world-walkers for the entire duration of the alert period. Juggernaut obviously requires fewer world walkers than 30-120 heavy bombers, and has other uses. So it's a much better use of the critical bottleneck resource, which is world-walkers rather than plutonium.

(So then I went back to looking at the USAF proposals for what to do with Orion, circa 1962, which were so barking mad that Kennedy cancelled it.)

Your real question should be "when did I realize I'd need an alien invasion" and the answer is ... about the time I finished "The Family Trade"/"The Hidden Family" (in their original single-book first draft form). Paratime stuff turns the Fermi paradox into an acute problem, so I needed an answer -- it just took a very long time to arrive on-stage. And a hat-tip to Greg Bear's "Aeon" and "Eternity"; if you've read them, consider the Hive as an echo of the Jart ...

122:

a mouse that can jaunt would be a much cheaper and less ethically questionable source of neurones for ARMBAND than cell lines forcibly taken from captured world-walkers

A jaunting mouse would be a terrifying pest problem! Capable of escaping from most traps, for starters, very resilient against local food famines, almost impossible to exterminate ...

Meanwhile, we have stem cell cultures. Why bother?

What happens when everybody has an ARMBAND (probably worn as an actual arm band)?

That's a boring question. More likely: take a human population without the prion infection, or cured of the prion infection, and infect with the un-borked version of the organelle. What does a civilization of world-walkers as effective as Rita look like after a couple of generations?

Here's a hint: imagine cities where vehicle highways and parking lots do not need to physically obstruct pedestrian access to buildings because the roads and parking lots are all in adjacent time lines. Imagine lots of "small" houses that don't need fire escapes because they're colocated with identical buildings one time line away -- fire can't spread between time lines, and a 100 square metre chunk of land is sufficient space for a two story high McMansion that actually provides 2000 square metres to its inhabitants. (Indeed, the fire break effect -- and also noise insulation -- has huge implications for stuff like hotels, hospitals, offices ...)

123:

wanting submarines to breech like a whale prior to jaunting

Use a floating dry dock or shiplift. Insulated props. Ideally a mobile one, can't remember the name but there are semi-submersible ships designed to transport other ships or oil drilling platforms. Haul the sub out over deep waters, then make sure the crew are strapped down and all the hatches sealed before it jaunts off the deck (and promptly drops 5-10 metres).

Coming back again of course requires a floating dry dock in the other time line ...

124:

It’s also worth noting that the Dragons Teeth blood pressure fixes allow the US to out compete the Commonwealth in a jaunt enabled trade war even without mass production of Armband and is a much better use of spoilt brats than conscription.

Yes, but:

a) The Commonwealth isn't that far behind the ~USA: another 20 years max and they'll be at ~USA:2020 levels (more likely at actual parity). So the Commonwealth world-walkers will probably be "fixed" like Rita within a generation.

b) There's no direct reason for geopolitical rivalry and every reason for the ~USA and Commonwealth to form a -- cautious -- defensive alliance in the face of the Hive. At least once the Commonwealth has decisively neutralized the French Empire (which is looking inevitable at this point: the technological and economic lead the Commonwealth has built up is being augmented by a social capital lead as well, with widespread higher education and women in the workforce). Giving the CRISPR fix to the Commonwealth (while retaining a monopoly on ARMBAND) may be tactically advantageous for the ~USA: it gets the Commonwealth to focus on worldwalkers rather than scalable, replicable world-walking machinery. In other words it looks like they're doing them a favour, but it's actually a distraction.

125:

"there are semi-submersible ships designed to transport other ships or oil drilling platforms"

E.g., the Mighty Servants.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mighty_Servant_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mighty_Servant_2

126:

I will note that the sudden widespread adoption of paratime technology totally upsets any number of geopolitical applecarts. In particular, TL2 China is going to be at odds with TL3's French Empire because the French Empire is a colonial occupier of the Middle Kingdom (for starters). Every power with ARMBAND tech is instantly going to focus first on securing their nearest parallels, both to oppose infiltration and because they're logistically-speaking easy picking. Some powers are at a disadvantage due to lack of natural resources (e.g. France: no coal and oil -- but they know exactly where the brown coal drift mines should be dug in Germany). Others ... any version of North America has oil seeps on the surface, not to mention oil, coal, rare earths, uranium. Why go making trouble overseas when everything you need is an eyeblink away from home?

127:

"A jaunting mouse would be a terrifying pest problem!"

If the mouse needed a particular knotwork pattern to jaunt, be sure that all instances and records of that pattern are irretrievably destroyed. IIRC, the knots can be generated from some special polynomials, so pick a polynomial with a sufficiently large number of coefficients that they can't be guessed. Basically a cryptology problem.

128:

Thanks! That's exactly what I was thinking of.

129:

They're mice: evolution is prolific, they breed like the proverbial -- and mutate: sooner or later there'll be a sport that jaunts when exposed to a common naturally-occurring pattern (eg. a common leaf shape) or even just a neurochemical trigger ("EEEK! A Cat! Flee!").

130:

I'd suggest that maybe mice are going to have trouble jaunting?

Turns out if you google "mouse vision," mice became the new hotness as vision models about a decade ago. But here's the money quote "No one denies that mice see poorly; Niell estimates that they have the equivalent of 20/2,000 human vision (which would qualify them as legally blind). The general rule of thumb is that mouse eyesight is about as good as what humans see in their far-off peripheral vision."

Here's the source, from 2013: https://www.nature.com/articles/502156a

So whether they can see and focus on an engram well enough to trigger the jaunt? That's one problem. Getting them to jaunt back to take care of their pups is another.

The third and fourth problems turn out to be that vision research in our timeline is well behind where it would need to be to build an ARMBAND if I understand it right, and the question of "how many human neurons does it take to process an engram sufficiently" is...fascinating because different neurons see vertical line, horizontal lines, etc.

I'd suggest the simplest answer is that mice can't see well enough to jaunt. Jaunting requires structural complexities on the neural and ocular levels (ahem!) found in Old World Monkeys at least, and possibly in parrots and corvids. And attempts to get budgies to jaunt got fouled up on the fact that their neurons work very differently than mammalian ones do.

131:

Moving away from the magitech stuff, I've got a more basic question:

How does a paratime state work, anyway? What's the social contract?

The problem for any state is convincing people inside and outside it that the state's existence is worth more to them than its non-existence. Things like a monopoly on violence only work if the monopoly helps more than it hurts. Things like property rights and laws have to be enforceable in a predictable manner, and so forth. With states in our world, border controls at least can deter people from running away if they don't like the deal. It's not clear whether any border control is even possible in paratime.

All that becomes a lot more tricky when people can jaunt, especially when everyone can jaunt. How do you keep desperate people from experimenting with randomly generated engrams until they find a way out?

And how would justice work? Imprisoning a criminal would be tricky at best. Put them in a hole? Sure, and then give them long enough to see if there's an engram that leads to some place that's not underground, for example. And capturing a crook in paratime would be a real mess.

So how does a state work across timelines?

Now let's a priori rule out panopticons as a universal fix. Alternate timelines offer an infinity of workarounds, so panopticons are at best limited and temporary spaces that require huge resources to maintain. They're vaguely analogous to walled medieval villages or castles in this regard. You're safer from certain kinds of violence inside the walls, but there's a lot of sewage in there and the walled community isn't sustainable without gates to the outside and a lot of traffic in and out. Worse, like the walled medieval villages, they're vulnerable to outside sieges.

One essential question in this is the relationship the paratime state has with the non-state people outside it. This whole story universe is built around deserters, after all. We've got plenty of examples throughout history of states dealing with nomads and barbarians outside their borders as an integral part of how the states worked. I suspect that a paratime state, rather than trying to seal the borders and keep everyone on the Approved Timelines, would have a whole untidy mess of systems and mechanisms for dealing with deserters, barbarians, and "amphibious" people who have multiple identities, some inside the system, some outside.

132:

It depends critically on what the trigger is, exactly. If it requires anything even close to the level of pattern recognition found in the great apes, I agree that I can't see it evolving in mice. It needs just too many steps, some of which involve drastic changes and are seriously expensive, both developmentally and energetically. And most evolution requires incremental steps, EACH of which must be beneficial in itself over its predecessor. I think they would have ceased to be mice as we know them some time before.

Whether the same is true for what I understand parrot and corvid pattern recognition to be like is less clear. Yes, it would require much better eyesight, but it is unclear how much more, and it is doubtful that it would be good enough for an engram. It's also unclear how expensive it is. While vision is better-understood than hearing, most of the research I have seen into that sort of area has concentrated on either colour vision or really simple pattern matching.

Aside: I have recently had a really clear reminder of just HOW energetically expensive amodal perception of the level required for understanding speech in noise can be for hearing. It would be death in short order for an animal the size of a rat, let alone a mouse. How relevant that is is unclear, but the costs of this sort of thing should not be assumed to be low.

133:

"The Long Earth" series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter tried to deal with a paratime state. If you've not read any of them it starts with the release of te design for an easy to assemble potato powered device that lets anyone who builds one jump one world over, the direction depending on which way you flip the switch. The starting USA claims all sideways versions of its territory and keeps reasonable control over nearby instances but the further out people go, the looser control becomes.

One twist, any metallic iron stays behind when you Step so itinerant blacksmiths who can start from ore are welcome visitors in settlements.

134:

How does a paratime state work, anyway? What's the social contract?

Forget the social contract: that's an Enlightenment concept, and the modern nation-state predates the enlightenment by most of a century. We're really talking about the Post-Wesphalian state, i.e. postdating the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the 30 years war, and which more or less defined a nation-state as a political union with a geographical boundary that it is able to defend.

This covers just about any recognizable state that can raise an army or navy and keep other governments from invading its territory.

So we have two key questions: what is "territory" (in paratime), and what are the determinants of defensibility?

"Territory" is superficially obvious -- it's the core time line(s) and those peripheral ones that are directly or indirectly accessible and claimed by the polity, either administratively or in terms of its citizens freely moving between them. Probably the best analogy would be a marcher state or a continental system expanding into a depopulated hinterland (hint: the US frontier would be an example, only without the prior occupants to slaughter and displace).

Defensibility is a bit harder, and is probably a function of social cohesion. Colonists on a frontier might like to imagine they're free from government and taxes, but they probably aren't self-sufficient because self-sufficiency imposes huge cost burdens that ultimately end up causing small settlements to assume the burdens of the state while missing out on many of the benefits. For example, cattle ranchers might want to be autonomous, but who are they going to sell their beef to, and for payment in what currency? If they're afraid of predators or rustlers, who are they going to buy ammunition and guns from? And so on.

Invasion by rival/neighbouring powers is ... well, your geographical neighbours (e.g. Siberia/China) might not want to muscle in on each other's core territory in the prime time line, but what happens in the very sparsely settled penumbra of uninhabited versions in neighbouring time lines? Yes, you can send an armoured brigade to occupy the same (only vacant) land as Beijing in time line 666, but projecting and supplying it will cost you a lot (in logistics) and it's not going to do more than annoy Beijing's government -- unless you try to send it to occupy the inhabited Beijing of time line 2, in which case you can expect a free exchange of smart bombs. And then China will do the same back at your uninhabited counterparts of Vladivostok. That sort of geopolitical griefing is going to end in tears. So most likely the temporal hinterlands are going to remain demilitarized by tacit consent, unless one nation senses weakness in a neighbour.

135:

not the CONCEPT of battery, but the word. Frex in Italian we use also "pila" for "battery", literally "pile", because Volta built his first battery piling up zinc and copper disks with acid drenched fabric between each couple of disks. Volta built his battery in 1800, it's after the TL POD and things may have gone differently, maybe developing a liquid electrolyte cell first.
Maybe that TL developed batteries in a different way and gave them a different name.

136:

How does the Hive store information? Could humans access and decode it?

on a different subject:
The titles of the last three chapters are really funny ( I got the references...) and the "early days of a better nation" in Elizabeth's renunciation speech...Ken McLeod, right?

137:

Smart bombs? Who needs those?

Here's an example. Let's assume everyone in Los Angeles can jaunt. If I wanted to shut the city down, I'd go to maybe five freeway overpasses at 3 pm and unroll big banners with some random engrams on them. Jaunting from a moving car would hurt a bit, and 3 pm in LA is not quite gridlock.

Only a few drivers would jaunt and crash, but the reason I picked LA is that it takes about 3-5 accidents on critical freeways to gridlock the entire freeway system, such that it can take 5 hours to get 20 miles (speaking from experience). And I'm pretty sure there are analogous crashable systems in every major city on the planet.

The banners? Assembled as a high school prank. Or perhaps by freedom fighters. Or Nazis. This is just one example. Can any homeowner be sure that a burglar can't jaunt in and get their valuables? How about municipal records offices? Is any record of any business transaction safe if someone can jaunt past a lock and take or destroy them all?

The point here isn't about nation-states, it's about the social contract, which is the notion that I can trust my government sufficiently that I won't run away from it. Refugees and migrants are threats to states because, especially when they flood in, they break the basic contract that the state insures predictable rights to life and property. If a paratime state can't keep anyone from getting murdered, raped, or pillaged, not by a state actor, but by everyone from teenagers out for lulz to organized looters, then how is the state going to maintain a system that keeps everybody fed, watered, and not rebelling or leaving? That's the essence of the social contract, and it's fundamental to the existence of any state, going all the way back to the beginning.

State are emergent solutions to problems brought on by high densities of people. So far as we know, from the one example of primary state development actually observed (Hawai'i), rulers take over when inter-family and inter-clan conflicts over who gets what resource become so cumbersome to deal with (multiple generations of feuding over who owns some farm, basically) that an authoritarian ruler can come in, impose a new class system of peasants making stuff and rulers making rules, and it works better than the old way did because there's less conflict, at least at first. That's what I'm talking about with a social contract: the peasants are willing to put up with the rulers if it means they don't spend most of their days arguing with other peasants over things like property rights.

The problem with paratime is that, especially when everybody can jaunt, controlling any boundary of space or morals can become truly problematic. We might have Primaria, the only Paratime Empire on an otherwise empty Earth, but if anyone can jaunt to neighboring worlds and back, and thereby steal food or valuables, kill and rape without getting caught, and destroy any document (or person) who can say who owns what...how long is Primaria going to last? And even if only a few people can jaunt, how are they kept under control?

This is not a counsel of despair, but a question: how does a paratime state work?

138:

IIRC Ken took "early days of a better nation" from Alasdair Gray.

139:

Jaunting is not involuntary. That is: if you see an engram you can feel what it is but you can look away or, with some effort, ignore it (like trying not to sneeze). (This is a key mistake DHS makes by flashing up engrams in the in-flight safety videos on airliners: firstly it doesn't do what they think it does, secondly, if it did work, it'd result in a bunch of unexpected airliner disappearances.)

Prisons still work for world walkers (there are multiple ways to make them escape-proof). Stealing food/valuables via neighbouring worlds was addressed right at the start of the series (with doppelgangered buildings), a solution that can be improved on. More to the point, you're also expressing a variant on "elite panic" as your governing theory here -- most people do not live in a perpetual Hobbesian realm of the war of all against all, where the only thing keeping them in check is the threat of state retribution. Most of us refrain from stealing because stealing is wrong, not because it's impossible. Yes, world-walking makes enforcement a little bit harder -- but imagine how a cop from 1821 would have imagined the problems of policing in 2021 if you told them about automobile ownership and pricing ("costs as much as a suit of clothes, enables anyone over about the age of 16 to travel anywhere at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour and carry up to a ton of stolen goods!").

140:

According to Wikipedia, he got it from Dennis Lee.

This may be wrong, as this article credits Dennis Leigh (although that may be spelling differences, as there aren't that many Canadian authors named Lee/Leigh):

https://www.heraldscotland.com/default_content/12766591.work-live-early-days-better-nation/

141:

Most of us refrain from stealing because stealing is wrong, not because it's impossible.

I had a colleague who was a fundamentalist Christian, and believed that atheists had no reason not to rape and murder, because they didn't fear hell. I told him I was uneasy that the only reason he didn't murder me was his belief in punishment by an invisible sky fairy.

142:

Yep: a common social disconnect is that multiple groups can't credit one another's bona fides because they rely on conflicting axiom systems (which in some cases block empathy for the other group).

143:

Charlie....
might like to imagine they're free from government and taxes, but they probably aren't self-sufficient because self-sufficiency imposes huge cost burdens that ultimately end up causing small settlements to assume the burdens of the state while missing out on many of the benefits.
BREXIT strikes again!

Correction:
most people - outside the USA - do not live in a perpetual Hobbesian realm of the war of all against all, where the only thing keeping them in check is the threat of state retribution.

Rbt Prior
That particular dark fantasy is depressingly common amongst USA-ians
It's why even a Trumpist will "trust" a muslim over an atheist, because of Big Sky Fairy

144:

That particular dark fantasy is depressingly common amongst USA-ians
It's why even a Trumpist will "trust" a muslim over an atheist, because of Big Sky Fairy

Oddly enough, my colleague, who was scathing about Islam, was best buds with the most devout Muslim on staff.

145:

Okay, so jaunting is voluntary, which is why it took so long for Rita to copy out that engram for Nel (probably wrong name, but...). That's a minor detail.

I think the difference is that you're assuming there's only a few alternate timelines. I'm assuming that, since it's a quantum phenomenon, there are an infinity of possible timelines, most of which are inaccessible (too similar to ours, so you can't jaunt into yourself unless you're Scott Bakula) and most of the rest of which are undiscovered. Presumably finite engram size further limits the number of accessible timelines. Regardless, I'd still bet that, in a world with engrams, jaunty teenagers and other psychonauts are going to be doodling engrams out in the woods and hoping to trip out, especially if they have the engram that gets them home again.

Society trains us to respect the property rights and bodily integrity of others. No hitting, no biting, no stealing are lessons any kid has to learn. It's not a genetic part of human nature. Rules and norms get taught as a necessary part of our cultural inheritance, and they survive because they work better than the alternatives, same as with alleles of genes. I'm not arguing Hobbes because Hobbes knew nothing about genes and memes, and he assumed, based on his experiences in England and as a refugee, that humans have an essential brutish nature. But I am arguing that when some civilized behaviors are maladaptive, people possessing them are at a disadvantage. That's a problem, because it looks like civilized behaviors can be maladaptive when it's possible to jaunt.

For example, look at the behavior of the original clan, when they only had two engrams to play with. They had no compunctions about committing truly abhorrent acts, up to and including nuclear war. Perhaps power corrupts in paratime?

Open that up to everyone having both the power and access to dozens or hundreds of other possible worlds, and then what? That's purportedly what the Forerunners have. What's the social contract that keeps a paratime state (which by definition has a monopoly on the use of violence) intact enough to do the job of providing goods, services, and protection to as many people as it can, the chief of these being norms, rules, and property rights?

Note this isn't a weaseling way to attack the series. It's a designers' question for those who want to play with it. I don't think it's impossible, I just think it needs to be thought out. In this, it follows the question of how to get an Earth uninhabited by humans.

146:

What was the switch in TL2 that led to removable phone batteries being standard? In our timeline, upscale teens would all have iPhones with non removable batteries.

147:

So whether they can see and focus on an engram well enough to trigger the jaunt?

Question: why is vision the only sense that works for engrams? Is there something unique about the visual cortex? Or would a species that relies more on other senses have the equivalent patterns in terms of scent/sound/sonar/whatever?

(If vision is the only sense that works for engrams, then my nasty mind says that a way of permanently disabling a worldwalker is to blind them.)

148:

There's only a few timelines they've got engrams for right now with neither side being incentized to do that much expansion.

The Clan didn't really have much reason to go a-wandering given medical risks of too much Jaunting before they ended up refugees in The Commonwealth and once they got in the commonwealth, the same applied plus being focused on their mission of stealing technology which didn't leave time for exploring.

The United States has ARMBAND and it's worldwalkers lack the hypertension problem, but with access to a bunch of empty/paleolithic worlds has no reason to expand rapidly since each world would be good for US exploitation for quite a long time.

This was the status quo before running into the bugs. Considerations of survival might make expansion more popular...

149:

Can I just point out that when I talked about putting the nanosomes in mice, I wasn't thinking of letting the mice jaunt, it was to provide a less ethically dubious source of ARMBAND material

150:

Well yes, even taking away worldwalkers' glasses may be sufficient to stop them from jaunting.

I think the short answer is that if you want to convey a bunch of information to a human fast, vision is the best system. Olfaction and proprioception might be complex enough, but they seem to be even more idiosyncratic than things like color perception. So, for example, yoga poses might have enough information to trigger a jaunt, but going from positioning to feeling to instructing the magitech to do the jaunt would be really tricky. Hearing is a linear sense for most people, so it's not clear whether a person reciting a spell (effectively) builds up enough information in their heads to trigger the jaunting magitech. Hearing soundscapes is possible (everything from Tuvan throatsinging to symphonies), and this is a version of multidimensional sound, but I suspect that it would be easier for sperm whales to jaunt this way than for humans (they're better at precision sound reproduction than we are).

Remember, the engrams are a coding system for instructions, the eyes are the intermediate, and the self-assembling ultra-cool magitech is what causes the jaunt.

151:

"Society trains us to respect the property rights and bodily integrity of others. No hitting, no biting, no stealing are lessons any kid has to learn"

These things work because they tend to perpetuate themselves better than the alternatives. Most people approximately obey the speed limit (they all tend to cheat to the same degree) even when there's negligible chance of being caught; the overall rate of crimes tend to be more correlated with social distress than anything else.

So in a Everyone Can Jaunt scenario, people are still going to live in cities because cities are generally fun, but real estate prices should crash permanently when it becomes obvious that you can build your theme park / museum complex / heavy industry / office park / university campus anywhere that you can coordinate with other people to build infrastructure to support it. Zoning laws will be interesting -- every forward-thinking city is going to designate a TL for annoying industries, a different one for light residential, quite possibly a TL for nightlife and adult-oriented businesses. New traffic laws are going to be concerned with the places you're allowed to make jaunts in vehicles and under what conditions you can avoid traffic jams. (At five seconds reflection, I think that driving on the shoulder of a divided highway would be a much more drastic offense, since that's where you go to stop and jaunt in an emergency.)

Store-and-forward network gateways are going to be interesting. You won't get voice or video calls across TLs, but you can have chat and email and social networks. There are going to be a lot of second-system effects, where people who complain about the way we do things here because of inertia will see the opportunity to do things right dammit... with the inevitable conflicts.

Bester solved the same-world teleport jaunt with mazes and not inviting people to your home, or only to a locked parlor. For cross-TL jaunting, most people will be content to rely on the same principle as the lock on the front door of a house: it sends the signal that this is a private place, but you can certainly get in by smashing a window or breaking down the door. Security systems will be less concerned with borders and more concerned with detection and response -- computer vision to detect "not a person (or pet) who lives here, didn't come in through the front door". We could probably do that with current technology now for spaces where we expect only 2-20ish people to be authorized.

152:

You could certainly stop me by removing my glasses unless I could hold it really close (6 dioptres myopia!)

Olfaction and proprioception are very poor at receiving complex information, because they operate by selecting a small number of signals out of a messy situation. Very different from vision.

153:

if you want to convey a bunch of information to a human fast, vision is the best system

Sure. But what of other species? Would your hypothetical jaunting mice be using some form of scent engram?

154:

I would bet that dogs or bears would in preference to vision. But hearing is probably a better contender, even in humans, and quite a lot of SF (and even traditional, centuries old) fantasy has used music in similar ways to where OGH uses engrams. Music and magic have been associated since time immemorial, and being transported by music is an ancient meme.

155:

My first thoughts on Everyone Can Jaunt designing is:

--Clutter is a good defense against jaunting, and
--If I believe my own handwaving, each world is occupied for 500-1000 years while being looted, and then the majority of the population moves onto the colonies to repeat this ad nauseum.

Combining the two:
--Just as a physical defense, complex, messy environments are good. This includes small rooms, lots of junk, small floors, curved spaces, fractal patterning of alleys, cube farms, and the rest) make an environment that's hard to jaunt into. This is because anything, from a wall to a desk to a bed, might be in the way. Jaunting into Charlie's apartment would be far harder than going into a modernist house, for example.
--Messiness scales up, so messy cities are harder to invade or jaunt into than cleanly gridded cities, and curved lines are harder to jaunt around than straight lines, and so forth.
--On the other hand, rulers and bureaucracies generally need simplicity to govern. It's easier to census and tax people who live at addresses in a gridded city, for example.
--This suggests that good paratime governance may benefit from (require???) a fundamental asymmetry: that it's easier for the paratime government to get necessary information than for its opponents to get the same information. The gridded streets are an example: it's not hard for someone overflying a gridded city to get a good map, almost as good as the one the city government has. Alleys under shades or underground cities are entirely different levels of problem for an attacker to map, especially remotely. So in some circumstances, I'd expect the latter to be favored.

As for the age thing, how long does it take to loot a world and set off climate change? My best guess is 500-1000 years. While that's deep time in American terms, some Europeans are probably cringing at how fast that is. But basically, I'm talking about going from beach-head colonies to good mines to good towns and cities, then regional connectivity, opening up new colonial worlds, maxing out population and exploiting progressively worse levels of resources (going from hunting mammoths to bison to rabbits), then letting the world go fallow as people move on to other developing and developed colonial worlds in the network. The only reason to make things more durable is if an opponent gets detected and slows colonization in a particular direction.

In terms of world-building, unfortunately this favors slums and tenements in cities. People are on the move, so the only reason to invest in durability is paratime defense (for example, Hoppers turn up one jaunt away, and some sort of paratime blocking is in order). Otherwise, they mostly have to discourage paratime prowlers from breaking in.

There's actually a style of city-building, reported more from the Middle East or Medieval European cities. Immigrants are given empty land to build on. They build a slum there, but as they become more prosperous, they upgrade the buildings of their slum, and ultimately it becomes densely built, confusing for outsiders to navigate. This is the kind of development that would discourage low-level paratime attacks like burglary and assault, since outsiders wouldn't know where the safe spaces inside are. Supplying infrastructure like water, power, and sewage to a developing slum can be hard, but it can be done, at least to some degree.

That's my first take.

One other, possibly interesting question, is what happens on Earths that have been left to fallow after being looted. Obviously they look like the world we're heading into now. But the difference is that billions of people made a mess and moved on. Is that a bad thing, or a good thing? Is it better to be a queen of ruins, or a peon on the forward edge of progress?

156:

I thought the TL2 USA had a lot of engrams. Don't I recall Rita paging through lots of options on her wrist tattoo?

And what was that "dispose of her" timeline?

157:

That provides the glorious idea that whales are not endangered in this timeline due to hunting; they're just going somewhere else.

Damn. I wish.

Also, there's a story seed... Diver sees it happen.

158:

As Charlie said upthread the timelines known so far consisted of 70% empty of humans/hominids, 30% paleolithic, The ruins of the Gruinmarkt, Timeline 4/the hoppers' closest nest and BLACK RAIN/TL3/The Commonwealth.

So those options for her wrist tattoo don't lead to interesting places, mostly. Well, interesting if you're into big game hunting maybe.

159:

First, I'd like to thank OGH for such a well thought ending for the series.
I was so looking forward to it... that I ended up owning two copies in my Kobo!
(Had bought a pre-order for the US launch a long time ago, then forgot all about it, and bought the UK on the 28th!)

As to questions, I'm sorry if the answer is obviously 2, but how many timelines are adjacent to each other?
I mean, how many knots can be reached departing from timeline 3, for instance? And why?

160:

Regarding exactly that discussion, there's an excellent book by Umberto Eco: Belief or Non-Belief?, ISBN-10: ‎ 0826480993, ISBN-13: ‎978-0826480996, with a correspondence exchange between him and the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini.

161:

Well, now that Capclave, which was the first in-person con we've been to since 2018 is over (vaccination cards required to register, and masks mandatory, except in the con suite (eating and drinking)....

Colonization. Right. Have lots of kids... nope. People do not think the same way as they did a century ago. Go ahead, ask any woman if they could, would they have 10 kids. (Answer: fuck, no).

In my future universe, humans only colonized about 4k light years of the galaxy. Large colonies have tens of millions of people, so, no, we're not going to Conquer the Galaxy. Consider that the estimate is that around 1810? 1820? we had about 1B people. If you live on a planet being terraformed (and I'm assuming you start in one area - on a peninsula, or an Australia or UK, and spread. But you've got a huge world (worlds are really, really big things, y'know). And we have industrial agriculture, so you don't *need* 10 kids as labor to run the farm. And mostly, they're not going to die before they can have kids of their own.

You're assuming that colonizing would mean what it did a century and more ago, and I strongly disagree.

And, since we *know* where we've fucked up the world, most of it wouldn't be repeated.

Oh, and most folks do not want to be Dan'l Boone ("I move, if I can see my neighbor's chimney smoke"). Most people enjoy the benefits of civilization.

Think more of roughing it, camping out in a big park...for a vacation.

162:

Jaunting stem cells.

And no one here seems to be thinking that either TL2 or 3 will, within 20 years, have *machines* to jaunt, no biological stuff needed.

Hop in your flying jaunting car, and you're off for a vacation.

163:

Which leads to the question of *why* these three worlds with human developed this far. That's a metaquestion that is looking for an answer.

164:

It isn't just for them, alone. The wackos who make it up now actually believe in government they call "smaller", but really mean "doesn't do anything for anyone but us, and it's the stick to put everyone else in their place, which is to do what we tell them, period."

165:

Double McMansion? Hell, I want a double tiny thing that I have now - they'd be enough room.

And about the parking lot, sorry, you'll have to negotiate with me, as I have the rights to that. Back in the sixties my mother wrote a short story, and I think I have a copy somewhere to prove it, of using time to park, and the story was a car showing up in Francis? Roger? Bacon's workshop....

166:

Which leads to a few questions:
1. how did the bugs *find* the Forerunner worlds, other
than by exploration?
2. Just how *many* worlds were there... and how do we
know there aren't still some around?
3. You'd think that with so many more worlds (being
there first) the forerunners couldn't have won
the war eventually?
4. We *do* have the parts of the destroyed one. The
bugs ain't the only ones who can make engineered
diseases.

167:

1. One or both sides ran on the other.
2. Infinite worlds imo. Of course "infinite" doesn't mean the US and Commonwealth have engrams for them yet. The Forerunners or their successors are probably out there somewhere.
3. Sure, they won elsewhere. Problem is the nearest cluster of prosperous, near-singularity level utopian worlds is probably a million or two jaunts away from earth. On the upside, the closest organized set of bug swarm worlds as opposed to the occasional rare worlds which have some hidden and waiting in case humans try building industry on a world is probably equally far.
4. Yeah. If the bugs run into humanity again sometime in 50-100 years, the US-Commonwealth alliance will probably be more able to fight on "fair" terms instead of having to resort to getting "creative".

168:

The first part of my big, multi-book order from Big River arrived today; "The Bloodline Feud". It's a nice, hefty U.K. style trade paperback. I'll probably get started on it tomorrow evening after I finish my current book (a re-read of one of Glen Cook's Black Company series).

According to my email confirmations the rest of the series + the new series will arrive over the next three weeks or so. Hopefully IN ORDER so that I'm finishing up "Dark State" just as "Invisible Sun" arrives.

169:

A question for the mathematicians in the crowd: how well do knots code "infinity?" Does a knot have to be infinitely big to encode an infinite number of digits (or codes for timelines), or does complexity scale as a power function of knot size such that infinity fits on a wrist? I suspect knots don't scale fast enough, but it would be fun to know. If that's the case, then the engrams only work in some subset of all timelines, and Forerunners may be relatively nearby.

Another fun question is whether timelines within engram search space share a common history (other than being "Earth") or whether they're a random assortment of possible histories. My guess is the latter, in which case things can get excessively weird, the more so if the assortment of searchable timelines changes over time because the timelines move relative to each other in paratime.

170:

Personally I headcanon "knots" as just being representation of somem sort of "useful" part of a fractal -- the clan and the US/commonwealth call them knots because that's what they looked like.

171:

We'll have to wait for God to Give Word about what a knot is (and I won't be surprised if there is no Word of God on this, since our imaginations are so much better when there's no decoherence).

Anyway, I figured it was some quantum superposition of celtic knots and mathematical knot theory. Celtic knots are literally more eyecatching, and there are some generated by machine. With them, it's the shape of the loops, more than which strand crosses on top, that catches my eyes. So that's fractal-ish.

Knot theory is about how closed loops knot, and the information seems to be largely coded in how the strand crosses itself. Probably there's some version of knot theory that grows into large numbers, but I'm not sure if it translates into eye candy.

I'd guess the engrams are some superposition of these two ideas. And perhaps it's a good idea to leave it unresolved?

172:

Fair enough.

In terms of "stories I probably won't write because of focused on other stuff", I have wondered recently about doing an AU that crosses over with turtledove's worldwar/colonization.

The premise is that on a few worlds, corrosponding roughly to TLs 1/2/3/4 of Empire Games, you have some Race emperor delaying the mission several decades by insisting the Colonization Fleet be sent at the same time as the conquest fleet. Therefore, the two fleets arrive those worlds in 2020, roughly in the middle of what would have been Empire Games.

You basically have alien invasions on three worlds. TL1 being late-medieval falls to the Race relatively quickly, TL2 sees a human victory within a relatively short time because >roughly 80s to 2000s military >a probably significantly more militarized 2020 than OTL. TL3 likely sees some sort of stalemate(details below) within a year, as both Humans and Race wouldn't want a total nukeout -- it's the human's world and the lizards want somewhere to colonize.

Things One of the conquest fleet's males needing to use the lavatory at an inconvenient time delays the launch of the Race fleet in the version of Home corrosponding to TL4's earth a year. So yeah after the invasions of TLs 2/3 get beaten off by the US/China and Commonwealth respectively(if it doesn't just lead to France collapsing and it being a Commonwealth-lizard cold war now or Commonwealth-France-Lizard(probably lots of asia/the middle east/africa as Race territory three-way cold war) you end up with a situation with some not very bright Race officer waking up the locust hive on TL4, leading to a more over the top version of the scene with JUGGERNAUT.

173:

A working knot can be displayed on a small screen, say 500 pixels each way. Therefore there are at most 2 to the power 250000 different knots. That's a big number, but it is *NOT* infinity. The same argument applies no matter how big your screen is.

However, if you map on to Pratchett's multiverse, you only need two knots (one for each direction) to reach an infinite number of worlds. So a finite number of knots doesn't mean a finite number of worlds.

174:

Mobile phones had removable batteries as late as 2015-ish, outside of Apple; the trend towards integral batteries spread as USB charger ports became universal (meaning it was easy to find top-up power) and battery life grew better.

But TL2 diverged from our own some time ago. Small changes at first (in the 1970s/80s, for example, with D*ck Ch*n*y being involved with the Clan) then snowballing visibly after June 2003 (nuclear attack on the US government). So their smartphone ecosystem evolved differently, with different names for things. Some convergence is obvious by "Invisible Sun" -- the Major's phone that Elizabeth steals is a recognizable multitouch smartphone with face recognition and PIN unlocking -- but these are fairly obvious extrapolations from the semiconductor industry. (I was on much more tenuous grounds actually giving cellphone operators familiar names, but didn't want to be overly confusing to local readers or overly vague for everyone else.)

Anyway: convergence on USB charging was mandated by an EU directive in 2009 and took some years to arrive, but seems to have led to standardization and subsequently the widespread availability of USB booster batteries and the shift of non-Apple vendors towards phones with non-removable batteries. So I'm going with the EU not issuing that directive, or not getting it to stick until much later, along with other unspecified differences in phone design philosophy.)

175:

(If vision is the only sense that works for engrams, then my nasty mind says that a way of permanently disabling a worldwalker is to blind them.)

Yes: Miriam is explicitly threatened with this in "The Clan Corporate", if memory serves.

176:

We don't know where ARMBAND material currently comes from, but it's pretty obviously not harvested from human brains 17 years after the ~USA made a serious and determined attempt to nuke all the tissue donors.

I'm going with stem cell tissue cultures as a first step, and research ongoing into mechanisms less dependent on squishy wetware if possible (attempts to excite nanosomes directly using some sort of semiconductor trigger are inevitable).

There's no obvious "controversy" about human stem cell cultures other than the usual yammering by American religious fundamentalists -- and the fact that the DHS researchers drove a bulldozer through the Nuremberg Protocols and should have been tried for crimes against humanity. But it's certainly something that the DPR might want to throw some money at the usual Balkan troll farms to foster a perception of if they want to slow down US expansion ...

177:

At five seconds reflection, I think that driving on the shoulder of a divided highway would be a much more drastic offense, since that's where you go to stop and jaunt in an emergency.

You're still thinking about driving.

A jaunt-based society is going to live in much denser, walkable cities because it can build "sideways" rather than up and out in the usual three dimensions: a building needs to be no larger than its largest room, plus access. So it's practical to have a streetcar alternate, with central/downtown high speed rail terminals in yet another time line (the ultimate in grade separated railway crossings!). So the cost of driving trams or railways right to wherever they need to go will drop to the price of construction -- no need for eminent domain, no need to plan for intersections, no need for tunneling 90% of the time.

Put it another way: yes, there'll be suburban sprawl, but it'll be into low-occupancy parallels, so that everyone gets their own gigantic back garden (edging on wilderness) even in the centre of town. Meanwhile, you can live in your suburban ranch utopia but your commute to the city centre is "walk out of the front door onto busy city street, wait five minutes at the tram stop, two stops and you're there." (Short wait because dense urban cores mean very high density transit, too: instead of buses or trams being hourly or a handful a day, they're every few minutes because their route is a loop of only about ten miles.)

With cars mostly unnecessary for work/home commuting, we're probably going to see fewer big box stores/giant supermarkets (no WalMart) but more small suburban supermarkets near public transport stops. And possibly City Car Club schemes operating in the road-zoned time lines. Actual ownership of automobiles may be more of a luxury/status symbol: ordinary people can get by fine with a bicycle (you can pick it up and jaunt with it, and it's much safer to ride in a time line zoned to exclude automobiles and trucks).

We may well see homes develop with "communications rooms" in alternates where high bandwidth fibre has been laid (again: dense urban cores). Otherwise, smartphones are going to rely on massive caching and on-board storage capacity. Internet architecture will evolve very differently if there is absolutely no comms available in some rooms!

178:

And what was that "dispose of her" timeline?

Dangling plot thread: it is implied that DHS figured out a way to derive a knotwork topology for the time line with the black hole in it. (How this happens is unspecified.) Obviously, if you give Rita an engram for that time line, labelled "this is your emergency rendezvous: go here in event of receiving this signal", then when you give her the signal, if she's dumb enough to use it she comes out in vacuum in free fall above a planetary mass black hole and can't get back (she's falling, so the other side is blocked because it's underground).

After the swarm are understood this option is off the table. But there may exist other alternates where the atmosphere is anoxic or where there's been a runaway greenhouse resulting in a "cool Venus" (only 200-300 celsius!).

This is why the Commonwealth switched to exploring new time lines using airships, was investing in space suit technology, and was very keen on moving to exploration from orbit.

179:

I'm sorry if the answer is obviously 2, but how many timelines are adjacent to each other? I mean, how many knots can be reached departing from timeline 3, for instance? And why?

The answer to both questions is: I don't know: many.

180:

A working knot can be displayed on a small screen, say 500 pixels each way. Therefore there are at most 2 to the power 250000 different knots.

Its more complicated than that; 2^250000 is a *very* conservative upper bound.

The engram is not just a bit pattern; it has to be a knot that follows certain topological rules. That way the nanosomes can recognise it as an encoded jaunt rather than just another piece of scenery. (By analogy, a QR code has certain areas fixed so that your phone can pick it out; if all the rules aren't complied with then your phone won't recognise it as a QR code). So merely displaying a random 500x500 pixel matrix won't work.

We don't know what those rules are, but in addition to the low resolution screen we also know that the Clan knotwork fits nicely into a small locket. It probably only encodes perhaps 10 or 20 bits of information, which puts the number of possible codes in the thousands to perhaps a few million.

On possibility is that larger knots could also work. However the fovea (the bit of the retina that you are focusing these words on) is quite small, and eye resolution drops significantly outside that. If the knot gets so big and complex that you have to scan the details with your eye over time then the mechanism probably doesn't work. This suggests that the Clan knot is probably about as big as it can get, especially if you want the system to work for older people who have poorer vision.

As you say, of course this isn't related to the number of possible timelines out there.

181:

But it's certainly something that the DPR might want to throw some money at the usual Balkan troll farms to foster a perception of if they want to slow down US expansion ...

Which reminds me of another question that's been bothering me: what is the state of public dissent in the ~USA?

At one point Kurt (IIRC) points out the general lack of protest movements and demonstration marches, which suggests that they are being actively suppressed, even though the ~USA seems to have no lack of big ideological divides (c/f the recent march in our USA about abortion rights). Colonel Smith boasts about "full infowar dominance" over social media. But the Wolf Orchestra hides, in part, amongst cryptopunks and tinfoil hat enthusiasts, and the President complains about "flat earthers and anti-vaxxers", suggesting that Facebook is being allowed to propagate crazy conspiracy theories.

182:

Yes, 10-20 bits of information: that's on the order of a thousand to a million useful knots. But knots effectively encode a "chess move" across an infinite board, and you can execute a sequence of different moves -- you're not limited to repeating the same move time and again.

The jaunt mechanism was probably developed by a civilization with a deep understanding of paratime travel, but serves as a minimal autonomous mobility gizmo for individuals. If anything, it's too good: peoples who are accustomed to this capability are trapped in a local minimum with no incentive to try and improve on it.

If anything, being crippled by the prion disease forced the Clan to innovate and develop new ways of using jaunting when it was a constrained resource. Imagine, for example, a hunter-gatherer society with this ability. Beyond the basic tech for creating persistent knotworks (maybe making vellum and ink?) what do they need? If there's a food shortage in one time line due to a climate fluctuation, they can just move to the next one over (which probably has similar, hence familiar, geography). Bump up against another tribe who seem unfriendly? Go around them. Population pressure is a non-issue, so the main force that promoted the development of agriculture in our time line is be absent.

183:

Our USA is crazycakes over national security, so by extrapolation, the ~USA is similar.

I seem to recall reading that something like 6-9 million US civilians hold security clearances for classified material. The US Intelligence Community is a clearinghouse that publicly lists 19 member agencies -- it's a separate intel agency simply to keep all the other intel agencies aware of one another's activities. This is getting into GDR territory -- allegedly, 10% of East Germany's population were listed as Stasi informants -- but it's actually less efficiently run, with internal empires vying against each other or operating at cross purposes (just look at the fiasco on January 6th for an example).

"Full infowar dominance" over social media gets you absolutely zip if the organization trying to infiltrate you is actually a Church, members learn opsec tactics in Bible class ("over-eager evangelizing may repel your targets, so here's how you take a softly-softly approach and sneak the Good Word up on them"), 98% of them aren't involved anyway, they don't realize what they're doing is illegal (they think they're evangelizing the unbelievers/doing the Lord's work) so they can't fail a polygraph interview, and the President insists they're decent God-fearing Americans and tells you to stop monitoring them. Oh, and there are three of them in your reporting chain -- your boss's boss is one: also, so are two of your subordinates, including the administrative assistant who reads the reports on infiltration and prepares the daily digest you rely on.

184:

"And what was that "dispose of her" timeline?

Dangling plot thread: it is implied that DHS figured out a way to derive a knotwork topology for the time line with the black hole in it. (How this happens is unspecified.) Obviously, if you give Rita an engram for that time line, labelled "this is your emergency rendezvous: go here in event of receiving this signal", then when you give her the signal, if she's dumb enough to use it she comes out in vacuum in free fall above a planetary mass black hole and can't get back (she's falling, so the other side is blocked because it's underground)."

IIRC Rita bookmarked the engram for the black hole on her implant when she was taken to see it, which would indicate thay have the tech to record engrams and that would be how they got it. I was expecting her to get an instruction to jaunt to that engram and that be what convinced her the DHS were her enemies since she would see that it would be fatal.

185:

Yes, any container has to be infinitely big to encode an infinite number of objects, and knots are no exception. I recommend NOT diving down the rabbit hole of infinities - most non-mathematicians merely get themselves totally confused. They're not hard, but you have to use ways of thinking most people are not used to.

What OGH and Paul said in #182 and #180 is the key; by being able to use a sequence, you end up with an unbounded number of states, which is what many people think of as the same as infinite (it isn't). But it's all you need in this context.

186:

Not only did Rita bookmark the blackhole timeline, she explicitly noted while flipping through her bookmarks later that she had two identical engrams. IIRC, she was then interrupted before she could check which two they were - so yes, I also expected that to be her clue that her bosses regarded her as somewhere between expendable and actively undesirable.

Related to the engrams-as-chess-moves analogy, I'm reminded of a question I meant to ask OGH: to what extent (if any) are engram-enabled journeys commutative?

By which I mean: we know that engram A moves you between TL1 and TL2, and engram B moves you between TL1 and TL3. When Huw's team use engram B in TL2, that provides travel to/from TL4. If you then use engram A in TL4, does that transfer you to TL3? I'd expect this to be one of the first things that MITI tested, once they got a proper research program up, because the question of whether there's only one easy two-step path from the ~USA to the Commonwealth, or at least two and potentially thousands, is of obvious direct concern to both the ex-clan and the NAC government.

187:

Ops, you beat me to the point of her noticing that she already had the black hole engram.

That's why I asked about the number of engrams working in each time line: if the "chess board" is multidimensional (that means, "adjacent" can be 4, 8, 16, etc.), that brings a lot of exciting possibilities!

188:

Given the defensive strategy that the Forerunners adopted - scorched-earth destruction of boundaries leading to Hive-dominated versions - a branching tree model seems to be more likely - given any two destinations n hops apart, there is only one route between them (or at least, to the degree that there are m > 1 routes between them, the number of possible moves at each stage through navigating that route is such that the probability of correctly finding the 2nd through mth routes are essentially zero, even for the essentially god-like level of technological superiority demonstrated by a late stage Hive).

Of course, the Forerunners might have just picked a bad strategy. I don't recall if the Invisible Sun narrator actually, definitively, stated whether they still existed somewhere, and given OGH's history with unreliable narrators...

189:

Both the Forerunners and the Swarm are too widespread, and on too vast a scale, to exterminate easily. While hominins emerged on multiple time lines in parallel, and are prone to interbreeding, we can reasonably say that no part of the Forerunner clade is significantly older than H. Erectus; but that's still around 2 million years. The Hive, meanwhile, may be much older (having radiated across interstellar distances at much slower than light speeds).

The Forerunners are technologically inferior, less numerous overall, and in a "vulnerable" position, while still existing on a scale that dwarfs anything resembling a galactic empire in SF.

190:

"Invisible Sun" plopped through my letter-slot about an hour back ....

191:

Oh, I agree it's a very conservative upper bound. I was just trying to show you couldn't have an infinite number of knots without confusing the non-mathematicians.

You've worked through this much better; I agree that we're probably looking at a dozen or two bits at most.

192:

I maybe misremembering but didn’t Huw come across an airless TL that wasn’t the Hive TL in Merchant Princes?

The Hive TL strikes me as a crappy elimination TL as it requires Rita to be in TL4 unless there’s also a direct access Knot for it.

193:

One problem for a early phase Jaunt based civilisation could possibly be the availability and generation of Engrams. Neither the Commonwealth or the USA have done more than scratch the surface of available TL’s which suggests to me that perhaps generation of new Engrams is non-trivial, and therefore the Government can limit their spread and either take advantage of or deliberately generate Engram scarcity. Then scarcity enables Governmental control.

194:

A jaunt-based society is going to live in much denser, walkable cities because it can build "sideways" rather than up and out in the usual three dimensions: a building needs to be no larger than its largest room, plus access.

But what about your cats? I'm starting with the absurd example, because I think it's worth thinking about the struggles of having rooms on multiple timelines.

Cats are an easy in: unless you're going to have jaunting cats (probably a very bad idea), they're confined to whatever room you leave them in. As is any pet.

Now that we've eased in, let's get serious: what about the children? Unless children can jaunt at birth (hah!), you're setting up a house where mom can't monitor baby unless she's on the same timeline. I'm not sure how many mothers would stand for that. And two year-olds and teens, left alone on their own timelines? I do not think so.

But it gets worse. Multi timeline towns need to build multiple copies of infrastructure. Since I get involved in infrastructure battles regularly, I can tell you that even getting the infrastructure right in one timeline is sometimes a decades' long nightmare. So let's multiply that problem across timelines. Instead of infrastructure being the political equivalent of malaria and LSD, with relapses and flashbacks every year, let's call it the equivalent of (malaria*LSD)^N, where N is the number of timelines you're dealing with infrastructure needs on. And do remember, each timeline is in a different state of development. Some is howling wilderness with mammoths, some had a nuclear war in the 1950s, some had a hereditary monarch who thought development was diabolical and wanted none of it.

Then there's the problem that builders have to build to at least sub-meter accuracy in three dimensions. This can be problematic. In places where they built fast (San Diego, for example), getting a house with level floors is considered good in some developments. Asking a bunch of construction workers to build to centimeter accuracy is expensive.

And there are disasters. Say you're on a 20th floor condo that's stretched across three timelines, and your main exit gets destroyed in an earthquake or by shoddy construction collapsing. How are you getting out? That's an extreme example, and I'm sure we can multiply that to the 1/nth degree, down to daily misery. I mean, what happens when a kid's climbing on a TV cabinet, the cabinet flips forward and pins the kid, and mom can't jaunt to get to the kid because the cabinet's fallen in a place that blocks her jaunt. Or the prank of a kid dragging a sofa into the right spot to keep mom from getting out of the bathroom for six hours, while the kid eats all the candy.

Then there's the politics. Are timelines politically independent or not? And if they are not, what if they want to be? Suppose, perhaps, that one timeline gets tasked with hosting most of the loos for a town. Suppose they get sick of being "urinetown" and decide to make a bid for more independence? So you get stuck with a situation where, politically, your front door is in Edinburgh, your loo is in Derry, and your kitchen is in London. Do you want to worry about the loo and the kitchen having Troubles while you're at work? And how would you know, until you came in and found you couldn't use either of them?

Anyway, this is a source of endless amusement: getting that queen-sized bed into the bedroom with multiple jaunts? That will be fun, coordinating jaunts among your friends so that no one gets stuck with all the weight and a back injury. Fridge into the kitchen via two jaunts? Easy-peasy. Having your toddler disappear outside while you're on a phone call in another timeline? Quite normal.

195:

I seem to recall reading that something like 6-9 million US civilians hold security clearances for classified material.

That may be true, but I don't think it has the significance that you think... "security clearance" doesn't mean "member of the State Security Apparatus". It's merely a document access control mechanism. Add up "everyone who has joined the US Army / Navy / Air Force / Coastguard / Marine Corps", throw in every civilian employee of DoD / every other three-letter organisation (including the cleaners, secretaries, janitors); and you're well into seven figures.

By way of example, everyone joining UK Armed Forces pretty much since the late 1960s and the end of mass conscription[1], has gone through a security check designed to weed out those who wanted cheap training in firearms and explosives; and signed the Official Secrets Act. Congratulations, you now "hold a security clearance". Add in everyone who worked for a "List X" civilian firm doing defence-related work, and that's an awful lot of people.

This used to be known as "Negative Vetting", i.e. if nothing showed up on your records, you were good to go; and carried an upper classification limit of "SECRET". Anything more than that (namely, lots of people working with cryptographic equipment, source intelligence, sensitive technologies, a job in the Diplomatic Corps) required what used to be called "Positive Vetting", where you filled in forms with a lot more detail about family and friends, and someone would come and chat to them [2]. Rather expensive process, but still rather a lot of people.

These days, I think it's called "Security Check" and "Developed Vetting", but it's largely the same process.

[1] Note to y'all; there wasn't AIUI a "Draft Number" in the UK - everyone went forward for assessment, pretty much everyone served (unless medically disqualified). One British Olympic shooting medallist had a genetic defect that means he's 4'11" in height. When his Board asked "which unit did he want to join?" he claimed to have answered "The Coldstream Guards!" (they have a minimum height restriction). He described the assessment board as trying very hard to let him down gently, and announcing that "they didn't feel that he had the physique to cope with the current service weapon" (the No.4 rifle, aka 0.303 Lee-Enfield). He thought it best not to mention that he was the current County Champion with a Lee-Enfield, and thus managed to avoid a couple of years in uniform...

[2] Note that AIUI in the UK, it's a non-judgemental / pragmatic solution - if you tell your Vetting Officer about your current BDSM hobby, infidelity, or student years of recreational drug use, you're fine, because no-one should now be able to blackmail you by threatening loss of employment. I don't know whether (but I suspect that) the USA has a slightly more puritanical approach to such matters...

196:

In terms of para-time living, we've seen societies without widespread ability to jaunt, and with only about 20 years of serious investigation of the technology. Their ARMBAND drones are expensive now, but I can imagine a consumer version before not too long that can flit continually between several nearby timelines, and where replacing the stem cells is no more troublesome than replacing the batteries in a smoke detector, or having a Roomba charge itself overnight.

Along the lines of "never underestimate the bandwidth of a station full of tapes hurtling down the highway", I'd also propose not underestimating the bandwidth of such a drone, when it comes to shuttling data between timelines. That would go a long way to reducing the everyday difficulty of knowing what's on the other side of a jaunt, among other things.

197:

And do remember, each timeline is in a different state of development. Some is howling wilderness with mammoths, some had a nuclear war in the 1950s, some had a hereditary monarch who thought development was diabolical and wanted none of it

No they're not: you're wilfully misunderstanding the scenario -- they're all unpopulated, there is zero point in trying to expand sideways into occupied time lines. Nor is there any call for multi-story condos, when you can simply build sideways: have a common lobby area/entrance and place each dwelling in another time line opening off it. (Emergency escape? Trapdoor in ceiling or window plus roll-up ladder, and a designated clear area for jaunting a few metres away.)

Again, these are not independent time lines, they're time lines occupied by a multi-timeline nation state. All part of the same notional territory.

198:

However, in places like the DDR, the vast majority of people at least partly working for the security system did NOT have a security clearance. The army of occasional informers (both on the books and casual ones) included a large chunk of the workforce; I do not know how many there are in the USA, but wouldn't be surprised at millions, possibly many millions.

It's pretty bad in the UK, especially with some of the fascist laws we have under the guise of anti-terrorism legislation, as occasional published abuses demonstrate. Remember that anyone required (or 'encouraged') to report suspicions becomes a potential casual informer, and a LOT of people in the UK are in such a position. I have heard that the USA is a little better.

199:

"never underestimate the bandwidth of a station full of tapes hurtling down the highway"
I know it was just a typo, but now my brain is stuck with the image of a small rural railway station that has escaped its foundations and is hurtling down the M3...
Somewhere an ancient episode of “The Goodies” is waving a little flag to get some attention.

200:

So your idea of developing a city is:

a) start with five or so worlds, all uninhabited (presumably howling wilderness where megafaunal extinctions have not occurred, so lions, bears, and mammoths oh my).
b) grid out precisely the same city on all five worlds, having chopped up a different forest on each to make space (so lots and lots of precision construction on a raw frontier)
c) lay out living rooms on one timeline, kitchens on another, work rooms on a third, bedrooms on a fourth, and bathrooms on a fifth, all taking up the same footprint but with different infrastructures. By definition, each world has the capability for all infrastructures, but only a few are developed on each.

And the benefit of this is you get about 500% more density, but lose light-speed communications. You also have all of one infrastructure getting wiped out in a disaster. And little toddlers can now get snatched on any world, not just the one that's got the front door. And if you're aging like me and need to get your glasses on to jaunt to go to the bathroom at night, that's quite the production. Not a good system for the disabled in general.

I'd point out that there's a simpler solution with the same density bonus. If you want to settle five different worlds at once, make each world a separate neighborhood. Each gets their own infrastructure suite for safety through redundancy, you don't have to build in quintuplicate each time someone needs a new home, and when a neighborhood gets wiped out by a disaster (raging herds of mastodons, perhaps), the survivors can camp out in an intact neighborhood until they're sorted. As an added bonus, the inhabitants can grow old or deal with disabilities without having to jaunt to the bathroom.

201:

The original was most likely a bicycle basket full of tapes, which was the original high-speed link between central and west Cambridge, and predated Usenet by a decade or so. Yes, it was a standard joke, even then. The multi-world solution is a backpack full of whatever storage medium is relevant - one full of USB sticks would be a mid-boggling size of data packet!

202:

"Gigantic back yards" - and I suppose you're going to have to give the lawn service the knot that gets them to that back yard, because you don't want to mow half an acre or more. Oh, and they have to have a way to get their riding mowers into that back yard (even if I wanted to pay a service, I'd have to rip out fencing).

203:

I'm assuming (did I read that early on?) that the ability to jaunt comes in puberty, so no issues with the toddlers, or five year olds playing hide and seek and avoid bath and bed time.

204:

Um, not all security clearances are equal, and I'm not sure that you're not mixing them.

For example, for the ten years I was a contractor at the NIH, I (presumably, they don't tell you) had a POT clearance (position of trust). Which does not get me secret, top, or middle, but only maybe bottom secrets, or maybe KMart Blue light secrets.

But it *was* a clearance.

205:

Lose lightspeed communications.

Let's think about that: it presumably involves a *lot* less energy to move information from one timeline to another than a human-sized mass. Seems to me that, with enough research, you might be able to quantum-entangle between next-door universes....

206:

I've gotten two thirds through and am flummoxed by the part where Rita jaunts to TL3 after the coup, trying to get at Miriam's office in the government center. Descriptions of the overturned file cabinets, barricaded desks and pictures hanging askew remind me of scenes from the real world Capitol building after Trump's mob trashed it. Can't help wondering if this part wasn't written with those news clips in mind after January 6, otherwise it seems eerily prescient. Although coincidences do happen; a month or so ago I used the word "juggernaut" for the first time ever, in a blog post about pricey real estate propping up financial mega monsters. And talk about coincidences, the story even has another officious flunky named Keith! Dang I'm gonna miss this series!

207:

@195 Heteromeles:

Suppose they get sick of being "urinetown"

Why would they get sick of having all the shit jobs? /s

@196: Alex G

I can imagine a consumer version

At least in the ~USA, I imagine that this would be anathema in excelsis, given suicide bombers with dirty bombs. Plus it would make it really easy for school shooters to get away with their crimes (The USA obviously tolerates school shooters, since it happens all the time. TPTB don't appreciate having them get away.)

208:

I'm assuming (did I read that early on?) that the ability to jaunt comes in puberty, so no issues with the toddlers, or five year olds playing hide and seek and avoid bath and bed time.

I'm assuming that kids can't jaunt either, and that's the problem with a house sprawled across multiple timelines. Getting a child to the bathroom requires jaunting with them until puberty, for example.

The safety issue is that, since you can't phone across timelines (or anything else), if you're in electronic communication with someone, you're stuck in that timeline for the duration of the communication. If your child is getting in trouble on another timeline, you have no way of knowing, and you can't jaunt over and check without interrupting the call. That compares with having the entire house on one timeline and using your ears or whatever to keep track of the kid.

Also, having the house on one timeline simplifies sanitation enormously for children, elders, the disabled, the inebriated, etc.

209:
a backpack full of whatever storage medium is relevant

Predictably, Randall Munroe has conducted multiple thought experiments into the bandwidth and/or value of [container] full of [storage medium]. He calculated that 64GB micro-SD cards have a density of roughly 160TB/kilogram; larger capacities have since become available.

210:

And teenagers getting away from parents for, ahh, private meetings.

211:

>>(The USA obviously tolerates school shooters, since it happens all the time. TPTB don't appreciate having them get away.)

Use them to allow the victims to get away. Make a wearable device that activates automatically when detecting a nearby gun shot.

Hell, put them in cars. Who needs seat belts when you have the ultimate ejection seat? It ejects you into a different dimension.

212:

Hell, put them in cars. Who needs seat belts when you have the ultimate ejection seat? It ejects you into a different dimension.

It certainly looks like momentum is conserved when jaunting, given how fast the surface of the Earth normally rotates and how fast the Earth moves through space. So a jaunt-ejector would be rather...interesting in operation. How much of the car comes with the person? Or maybe collision avoidance by jaunting to an undeveloped world? Erm, that doesn't sound right, somehow. Maybe with hovercrafts as normal transportation it would.

While I'm being snotty, there is something to be said for this with aircraft, especially helicopters. Jaunting someone free of a flailing copter might well save their life, especially if the rest of the copter didn't come with them.

213:

Can't help wondering if this part wasn't written with those news clips in mind after January 6

Nope, it was finished in early 2020, well before the US election. (COVID19 disrupted Tor's production logistics so badly it added an extra 6 month delay to the book, which was due out at the beginning of 2021.)

This sort of thing always happens during a coup.

214:

I think you're still thinking in terms of contemporary US zoning laws. You need to un-think that stuff: a truly paratime capable society is one where the value of land has depreciated nearly all the way to zero. Bandwidth is an issue, but the rest ...?

Lawn mowing services are a side-effect of HOAs, which are an esthetic constraint to prevent house prices locally being degraded by annoying neighbours. Except all your neighbour's gardens exist in different worlds, so why bother? You only need to mow the lawn if you want to.

Losing lightspeed communications ... do you remember growing up in a world without cellphones? Where there was one phone per household, in one room? Welp, this is going back to that, except it looks reasonably affordable to have a store-and-forward data shuttle arrangement for a city-scale time line. Email still works, voice calls maybe not so much. Which is still vastly better than the pre-telephone Wild West/American frontier, which is the logical point of comparison for this settlement pattern.

Jaunting: relies on engrams. So you have a "bathroom door" with an engram for the bathroom hidden behind a blind that is just out of reach of a toddler. Kid's old enough to grab the cord, kid's old enough to go to the bathroom unsupervised. And so on.

(Okay, so "bathroom is in another time line" is maybe pushing things a bit too far. But I see no reason to back off from "you have a gigantic back yard all of your own with no neighbours, as long as you can jaunt to it", and "cars all stay in the cars time line, where we put the roads".)

215:

You do need to mow, otherwise it will grow over your house. (Read up, for example, on kudzu, the vine that ate the South.)

But...email works, but not texts! Oh, noes, that would be horrible... they'd all have to go back to writing whole sentences, and as for texting while driving....

216:

Nope, I'm thinking in terms of geometry, specifically (X,Y,Z,P). Moving in direction P doesn't change your X,Y,Z coordinates. So if you want something that's dense and walkable, you've got to put the doorways close to each other. The critical part is that it doesn't matter how many P coordinates the building spans, it still needs the same X,Y,Z at every P or jaunting is worthless.

So no, you don't get huge backyards and walkability unless you're positing that everyone gets a world to themselves and don't mind gardening with a world full of inquisitive herbivores. I also didn't see anywhere where you said what the minimum age for jaunting was, but I don't think it's infancy (you want 2 year-olds jaunting freely among infinite worlds? I don't). In any case, the toilet on another timeline is just a good example of the chaos of spreading a house across timelines. A community where every building spans timelines would be a nightmare for the very young, the very old, the very disabled or the very neurodiverse, so far as I can tell. Is it too much to be annoyed with the thought of waking up, putting on glasses, and turning on a light just to read an engram to use a toilet? Or to be hungover and need to jaunt multiple times?

Another problem you may not appreciate is how much earth gets moved when homes get built, and I'm freaking surrounded by that now. The natural world is not flat. If you want homes aligned in paratime, you've got to move a lot of earth and align the grading in three dimensions. That takes sophisticated surveying, with or without good GPS satellites. You're right, with a large number of worlds undeveloped land isn't very valuable. However, on every world, flat land with utilities is extremely valuable, and that has to be manufactured. That's going to be your critical constraint.

And if undeveloped land is that cheap, why bother with all the aligning? It's cheaper to throw up dozens of buildings in a single timeline. If they don't align across timelines, that's known as privacy, not a problem.

This is not to say that multi-timeline buildings don't make sense for some functions. They do. They're just not appropriate for the houses of normal people. Buildings that need security, such as mansions, banks, or forts, would be appropriate to incorporate multiple timelines. But for Bob Jones, staggering home after a long day and a mandatory karaoke night, having to jaunt three times to get ready for bed would really suck, especially if he didn't want to wake his husband.

217:

Is it too much to be annoyed with the thought of waking up, putting on glasses, and turning on a light just to read an engram to use a toilet?

Not to mention the arguments with your partner, who was woken up by the light…

I rather like the idea of a large back yard, but if on a relatively undeveloped world that would come with its own problems. Anyone who lives in bear country knows about that!

I'm not seeing the multi-timeline house either. Communities dispersed across timelines, maybe, especially with ARMBAND-style gadgets that do the jaunting — but to be required to do multiple jaunts just to get around a house? Seems unnecessarily complicated. (Imagine having to jaunt to every room of the house to tell your spouse dinner was ready, rather than just calling out, for example.)

218:

how much earth gets moved when homes get built, and I'm freaking surrounded by that now. The natural world is not flat

This is what would kill the multi-location-home idea, I think. You'd either need really, really closely parallel worlds, right down to the human population because they dramatically affect the landscape, or you'd be moving a lot of material.

My assumption was that adjacent universes would have the same ground level, plus or minus 100 metres. Which is annoying if you're on the low side "ow jaunt failed" but perilous if you're on the high side "ooops, the building is a metre to the left".

People make beavers look like nothing when it comes to modifying landscapes they don't actually inhabit. A simple example is Australia, because dams at one end of the country (the headwaters of the Murray-Darling basin) dramatically affect things a couple of thousand kilometres away (does the Mighty Murray River flow to the sea, or not).

Over even 100 years that means some bits of the country get a layer of silt a few times, and other bits don't. So you have a few thousand square kilometres that are 1cm-1m higher than others. Oh, and the effect also reaches Aotearoa, which is downwind of the dust and smoke and whatever that blows off Australia.

That dust also causes ocean fertilisation events that suck CO2 out of the air. So if some mean bugger burnt big chunks of Australia that's going to *lower* CO2 all over the planet, because the ocean sucks up the CO2 from the fires, then the forest grows back. Meanwhile one timeline over the giant koalas are frolicking happily in the savanna, pulling down saplings and eating them and thus maintaining the savanna. All this is possibly maybe we think ish. It might work out differently, depending on whether antelope walk to South America or not.

219:

Just thinking about living across worlds in the "my house" sense is making me curious. Let's take the easy mode: everyone is an able-bodied adult who can jaunt easily as often as they like. There's no wheelchairs, let alone blind people or children. Also, for simplicity, no NIMBYs and no criminals.

I have a house (a very very very fine house). The main rooms are in universe A with lovely views and forests and wildebeasts and what have you. Scenic and delightful.

My toilet, pantry, vehicles, storage closets etc are in universe B because who wants to deal with all that. Obviously this one has the utilities connected, so there's power and water and sewage and internet and a letterbox and a drone landing point and all the modern conveniences. Which means a road, because putting pipes and cables and shit in place, and keeping them working, requires big trucks and diggers and what have you. Not to mention the concrete mixer or whatever that brings the materials to pour the slab my house sits on. Or brings the rocks to lay the foundation, or whatever.

And also brings the surveyors and CNC floor leveller that make sure my house in B is compatible with my house in A, right down the to millimetre. Oh, and the machinery that continually adjusts for small relative movements, probably via a little ball at each corner that continually jaunts between A and B, making sure the alignment is exactly right. A tiny tremor in the earth, or even a large truck parked in my driveway, could otherwise cause a few mm difference in floor level resulting in an unfortunate accident.

Now, obviously the house in A has none of this stuff. There's nowhere for the pipes and cables and whatnot to *go*. And construction will have involved first levelling a surface by hand (hand tools, whatever I can carry through) that matches the surface on the other side. There's an input pad, a couple of centimetres lower than the matching surface on the other side, and a return pad a couple of centimetres higher. That way my crew of building professionals can drive a concrete truck through, pour the slab, then drive it back. etc, for everything else the house builders use.

It can be solar powered, it can have satellite internet, it can have rainwater tanks and septic, all the off-grid stuff. But it can't connect to anything local, because the whole point is that there is nothing local. I don't want to be looking out my picture windows at a "scenic" apartment block, motorway, or even power pylon.

The house levelling system can also be used for (slow) communication. Either by jaunting uSD cards back and forth instead of locator balls, or even by having black balls and white balls if you really want. But it's unlikely to be great for phone calls.

But scale... I think this is going to want to be ex-urban sprawl as the low end of acceptable density. I don't think anyone's idea of "scenic" includes the aforementioned wildebeast passing through the property with 10,000 of its close friends. That would just be rude. So I'm going to have neighbours, within a days walk, and I'm probably going to want to be on speaking terms with them. Or at least "please don't shoot towards my house" terms.

220:

Day to day life. Let's think about happy Moz waking up in bed in A. Gets out of bed, heads for the toilet. Which is in B, obviously, where the sewer system is.

Jaunts to B at the "bedroom door" which is probably a closet with an engram on the wall, but whatever. Has a pee. Eats breakfast, reads internet, thinks about work.

Hmm. Work. Probably in B, because that's where the jobs are. The people. The internet. Whatever.

Imagine Moz's job requires some kind of physical meeting. So. Moz drives to work. Of course he fucking drives, because 90% of the population live sprawled out across 5 worlds and there is fuck all except closet space in B. Ahem. Moz drives to the railway station and commutes to his office. Well, the ... "elevator block" for his office, then walks into a commuting closet and jaunts to the actual office. Blah blah we will not think too closely about how physical density of people makes things work.

Moz works, and at the end of the working day decides to hang out with some friends and play in the woods. Go mountain biking. Take recreational drugs. Whatever.

So we get back on the train and whistle off to wherever it is, then jaunt over to the #MaxFunRecreationSite of choice.

Then later, after the recreational drugs have been consumed and much fun has been had, happy Moz jaunts back to the trains and goes home. Well, to the local train station, then the car, then... hmm. Whatever, magic self-driving car takes Moz home.

Moz gets home, crawls inside, jaunts over to the bedroom and sleeps.

Trouble is, now we have a world where all the current roads, trains, planes, whatever are needed to move stuff round, but they're doing it for N worlds worth of people. You can split them, sure, and conceivably even do alternating grids (world X has north-south roads and rails, world Y has east-west ones), but that doesn't work for sewers (probably) and definitely not for information (internet!) I see a lot of concrete being used. And also a lot of really hairy planning, possibly involving giant self-levelling platforms that move whole trains from world X (offset by 6 coordinates) to world Y.

Think especially about those sewer treatment plants, and the nutrient balance issues caused by eating in world A and shitting in world B. Somewhere there is a big fucking pipe sending those nutrients back, or sewer world is going to run out of oxygen after the oceans full of sewage go anoxic. With five worlds worth of sewage that shouldn't take long. And switching sewer outfall worlds just delays the inevitable nutrient depletion in the scenic worlds.

I can't help think that it's going to resolve out in a much simpler way, especially after the first few times something blows up by accident. Or by deliberate, since we have morons running round with nukes.

The idea that one morning I wake up and jaunt through to a radioactive hellscape, or even a power cut, does not fill me with joy. I want to know as certainly as possible that breakfast exists and is accessible. I can pee on the lawn if I have to, but I don't want lawn for breakfast. And I definitely do not want wildebeast-disiplining tools to be somewhere over there that I can get to once they restore electricity.

221:

I'll admit you can do a really cool showoff mansion, with a bungalow on a sea-cliff supported by infrastructure on a timeline where that erosion didn't make that sea-cliff. But that's for showing off, not for Bob Jones the commuter dude.

For Bob Jones, having a cabin on a cool frontier world within easy walking distance would probably be adequate. I agree with Charlie's analysis of cheap land values on undeveloped worlds, but I'd suggest that dachas and cabins might be a better way to take advantage of such land. That way, when the wave of development hits that part of the woods, you sell the property to someone who's adding infrastructure, make a little bit of money, and invest it in another cabin somewhere else. Or retire there as the living becomes easier.

I'd also point out that I'm constantly surprised by the amount of sheer randomness that is solidified as terrain. Erosive features have a lot of randomness. Volcanoes have a lot of randomness. Earthquakes are certainly very random. Isostatic rebound depends on when the ice melted. River delta shapes depend on upstream storms. And so forth, as Moz pointed out.

The upshot (as on La Palma at the moment) is that there are probably locations in every timeline that you're just going to have to walk to, places you can't jaunt to. These include caves, canyons and such where it's hard to find parallels, majestic crags that have eroded away elsewhere, beach-side homes on ice age worlds where the water level is 100 meters lower than on any other nearby world. These places are going to be in high demand, because they're relatively safe from jaunty types. That doesn't mean they can't be robbed, but if someone wants privacy or security, they'll pay a premium for such a location.

222:

It's all very well Bob from accounts having their dacha in the country, but first Bob also needs an apartment in the city so they can commute to their job at the concrete plant. Or sawmill, chip foundry, insurance company or whatever. More likely a parasite research facility (large mammal division), since we're going to be running round aggressively collecting those from anywhere and everywhere.

The other thing is, if everyone suddenly wants a second dwelling somewhere that's not just an infrastructure problem (go to subway stop x, climb 3.2m above ground level and look at knot 234), it's where do the building materials come from. You know how timber prices shot up when covid meant everyone rich stayed home and a chunk of them decided to do home renovations?

That's not because there's a lack of trees, that's a lack of sawmill capacity and all the other things that get you from tree to floorboards. So this magic world of multiworlds and suddenly we want twice as many houses... the construction industry will be playing "name your price. Now double it. Hahahaha" because anyone who thinks a dacha in the country can be built by any monkey who has a Swiss army knife and some willpower is going down to the woods today but not getting a nice surprise. Teddy bears picnic and all.

223:

There's a whole lot of bootstrapping going to be happening in society, at the same time as a whole lot of people are going to be unavailable. Like covid, but much, much worse. If only 10% of the population vanish I think we'd be lucky. Except this time it's not the old and the infirm being taken out, it's the fit and adventurous. Sure, many will be your US-style survivalists for whom their adventure of a lifetime lasts mere hours, but a whole lot will be the people who either have useful skills (carpenters, for example) or are key workers. Plus, obviously, the "work or starve" sub-humans from around the world who decide that actually, they'd rather than "work or starve" out from under the post-capitalist overlords they currently slave for.

I read and watch a bit of the "rugged survivalist" stuff just incidentally, and youtube channels like "primitive technology" are huge fun. Some bloke with a job in the city buys a bit of land and builds stuff. The primitivists go into the gritty details, everyone else just buys whatever they need and lugs it out into the wilderness. Then spends months or years commuting as they buy or hire tools and specialists to actually finish building their cabin in the woods.

I see a lot of people going wild with cheap tents and other survival gear, then the survivors coming right on back when they discover how much fun camping in a park actually isn't. Those who camp in less park-like places being less likely to return...

224:

When I was last involved in such things, the UK had three main clearance levels: CT, SC, and DV, with DV being the highest. I had an SC clearance and I definitely knew some things which the powers-that-be would not want made public.

(My SC meant I could be a witness in the trial of Wang Yam - q.v.)

225:

Way Off-Topic
Some of us have to use Windoze - like "the boss" has to for working from home ....

Windows 11 now released as a free upgrade from 10

Any opinions?
Presumably make sure you do a full back-up, before implementing ...
[ It looks as though one will have to change in the next 3.5 years, anyway, as MS are saying Win10 will be "dead" after 2025. ]

226:

On the world where everybody jaunts:

Everyone here seems to be missing the security angle. Heteromolese mentioned it, and dsrtao said in reply:

These things [social conventions like not stealing] work because they tend to perpetuate themselves better than the alternatives. Most people approximately obey the speed limit (they all tend to cheat to the same degree) even when there's negligible chance of being caught; the overall rate of crimes tend to be more correlated with social distress than anything else.

Sorry, but I think that is way optimistic.

A quote from a cop: 15% of people will never steal anything. Another 15% will steal anything not nailed down. The battle is for the hearts and minds of the other 70%.

Those of us who live in stable societies with functioning criminal justice systems and low crime rates tend to take this state of affairs for granted. But not everyone does. There are people who routinely steal, but they don't get away with it in the long term. Yes, the burglary clear-up rate in the UK is around 20%, but that simply means that if you commit 10 burglaries then your probability of getting caught at least once is around 90%. Being a professional burglar, or even a part-time burglar, means that you are going to spend some time in prison. That is enough to keep the middle 70% honest, which in turn lets the police focus on the bottom 15%.

Trouble starts when that bottom 15% are seen to get away with it with impunity on a routine basis. Once that happens, the middle 70% start to follow along and the problem snowballs.

So how do you keep your valuable property safe in para-time? The Clan did it by doppleganging its facilities, but once infinite para-time opened up that became impossible. (And don't forget that for some offenders "your valuables" includes "your children").

227:

Um, not all security clearances are equal, and I'm not sure that you're not mixing them.
As far as it goes, Martin's description is accurate for the UK
For an official description see here.
For example, for the ten years I was a contractor at the NIH, I (presumably, they don't tell you) had a POT clearance (position of trust).

There's one obvious difference: under the UK system you would know, if only because of the appropriate coloured stripe (or absence of one) on your ID card.

228:

>>>This is what would kill the multi-location-home idea,

Willing suspension of disbelief! There's no way the planet Earth in a parallel universe is in the same phase of the orbit, or indeed that anything at all in the Solar System is at same spot. Or that the Solar System is in the same spot in the Galaxy. These systems of N-bodies (where N=gazillion) are long-term chaotic and will diverge by light years. You just have to ignore it.

229:

One of the problems is lazy journalism. I recall a story in the Grauniad a few years about the release of "Secret Papers", but when you looked at the header and footer of the document pages it was marked "Restricted" which was two levels down from Secret and only barely above the contents of the menu of the Home Office HQ.

Sometimes Secret!=secret.

For reference, a policeman once told me that the vast majority of officers were not cleared for Secret, which was kind of shocking given their position of trust. I had assumed a basic check had been done on all of them.

Years ago, about 1983 I think, I was asked to provide a reference for someone for their clearance. A tweed coated ex-military guy turned up and asked whether "Mr Harris had displayed any, shall we say, non-heterosexual tendencies" and seemed very disappointed that I just knew him as a bit of a nerd who enjoyed amateur dramatics and drawing steam trains.

230:

Paul
CORRECTION
Trouble starts when that bottom 15% 1.5% (note) are seen to get away with it with impunity on a routine basis.
"1.5%" ?? - Our current governing party.
How long before it really all falls apart if this goes on? It was a large part of the failure mode of the Soviet Union, after all ....

231:

Actually, 'restricted' is (or, at least, used to be) rather below menu level! It was on documents handed out to schoolboys for CCF with, of course, no vetting procedure. I saw some openly for sale in a second-hand bookshop. Also, I was told when working in such an environment that an unstamped document was deemed to have 'secret' classification. It also required a ridiculously high clearance to declassify anything, so most 'secret' documents are now public knowledge or of no interest other than historical.

My time in that lunacy was rather before any of the posters here, but I have seen evidence since that little has changed except for the details of the bureaucracy.

232:

Remember that anyone required (or 'encouraged') to report suspicions becomes a potential casual informer, and a LOT of people in the UK are in such a position.

So, real-world moral dilemma for the day... One of firstborn's student flatmates is from Hong Kong, and while not an activist, is sympathetic to the yellow umbrellas. In conversation last weekend, she described being surrounded by some (male) fellow students who were more sympathetic to the PRC view, and who AIUI were trying to intimidate her because of her opinions.

Now, is this all part and parcel of normal student debate? Have the young lads been encouraged in such behaviour by agencies of the PRC, or are they just gobby entitled Nomenklatura?

If their behaviour continued or worsened (to the extent of causing her suspicion that this was politically directed, not just personal difference or misogyny), and she talked to the authorities; would that be "reporting harassment" or would it be "becoming a casual informer"?

233:

Maybe a reason the knotwork engrams can only encode a limited number of timelines was actually a feature?
The Forerunners created the in-brain jaunting tech from their already existing tech. What if the version used by the Clan was a proprietary version of a QR code for people who live in a particular para-time country/state?
"Want to live somewhere where your front door opens onto a city street, and your back door opens into a wilderness? Choose ParaCo's(R) Engram(TM) implants! Using simple and attractive knotwork designs, you will be able to easily and quickly jaunt to different parts of your house! Implanted into your DNA so that it's passed on to your kids for free!"
This 'proprietary QR code' would only need a few thousand combinations, just enough to ensure neighbours didn't have to share a set, so a few million combinations is a typical tech company compromise.
Maybe there was versions made by other companies/entities which used QR codes, or sonar etc. as the address input method? More likely you select your destination on your phone/computer, hold it up to your skin and the Jaunt-mechanism is directly activated.
The original designs would have allowed travel between several 'close' timelines which were all part of the same polity, until the Clan's descendant(s) decided to run away from the Hive by using the Engram tech in a way which it's manufacturer probably didn't recommend.

So the ~USA and Commonwealth are running around using what they think of as super-advanced tech, but they're using the equivalent of the barcode system that Panasonic used for programming VHS recorders (http://www.champagnecomedy.com/panasonic-barcodes-saving-your-saturdays/).

234:

That is wilful misrepresentation, even assuming the facts are as you claim.

The specific fascist law I was referring to (and there are many, especially from the Blair era) requires many people (of whom I was one) to report ANY suspicious activity, with a definition chosen by the government, OR BE TREATED AS CRIMINALS. Even ignoring the bigots, many people did so under the DDR and some do in the UK just because they are afraid someone else will report suspicions and they will be then arrested or lose their jobs for NOT reporting suspicions.

And I should point out that such offences as claiming that showing too deep interest in computer security, too much interest in energetic chemistry, or supporting an officially disapproved of organisation (and, no, I don't mean the PRC or Russia here) on the basis of international law and ethics, count as suspicious activities under UK terrorism laws.

There have been cases like a PhD student being kept under arrest for years for the crime of taking a book out of the library that he had been recommended to read by his supervisor. And a lot more.

235:

Also, I was told when working in such an environment that an unstamped document was deemed to have 'secret' classification

I suspect that there was an implicit caveat in that statement - i.e. only under certain circumstances, not "every single unstamped document" - and it may have been enthusiasm on the part of the individual concerned, rather than official policy as set down in the relevant JSP. For instance, in our List X firm, production software was to be treated as NATO SECRET by default; it certainly made us reticent about using printouts. Fortunately I never had to worry about PV / DV, I didn't work with any of the really sensitive stuff.

...SECRET documents are individually numbered by copy, page totals included (i.e. "Page 3 of 25"), and blank pages marked as such (i.e. "This page intentionally blank") - and somewhere there's a custodian who is responsible for making sure that each one is locked up each night. For a few years, that was me (rather like "you're organising the Lab Christmas Party this year", or "would you mind being the Football Pools organiser, the old one's leaving?", it was something that happened if you didn't move out of the way quickly enough); I was very happy when I managed to hand over that particular responsibility...

Surprising things are when you discover that typewriter ribbons are classified according to the documents they're used to type, because you can recover the character sequence from them :) [Note to the young'uns - this was the 1980s, i.e. before ubiquitous laser printers]

236:

It was intended as a gently relevant observation, not criticism. Please go easy on the "wilful misrepresentation!" trigger, it seems rather a strong response. And yes, firstborn's flatmate described the incident briefly, last weekend, just as described (applying all caveats about hearsay/unreliable witnesses). Why not start from the position that the post was written in good faith?

Anyway, "PhD student being kept under arrest for years for the crime of taking a book out of the library that he had been recommended to read by his supervisor" - that sounds like a good example, where/when did that happen?

PS Don't worry, I view a lot of legislation with extreme suspicion - including Blair's attempt at 90-day detention without trial, Johnson's ham-handed efforts to criminalise whistleblowing, any UK politician's wet dream of ID cards, and most abuses of anti-terrorism legislation as a convenient sledgehammer by incompetent or lazy policing. On the other hand, I acknowledge the necessity for anti-terrorism legislation under very limited circumstances, having lived alongside a terrorist threat for several years.

237:

Nope. It was every document. Also, I said 'deemed to be' - which was for the purposes of not taking them out of the secure area, and reducing the defence if they were given to enemy agents. Also, as I said it was a long time before your experience, under a previous system, and the rules were almost certainly somewhat different.

238:

I wonder if your stance is equally cynical in the other direction. While a police officer certainly has some insight into the world of crime, they also deal with it overwhelmingly, skewing their observations about society as a whole. They're opinion's also likely to be skewed by how they view their role as a 'cop' and how enthusiastic they are about it - we're all aware there's a strong faction within the police keen to over-represent the risks of the job as justification for their own brutalities.

And don't forget, in a para-time society lots of the pressures driving people towards crime will be absent or different. The price of property would plummet, resources may be more available, jobs plentiful, especially in eg. construction. Less people pushed to extremes.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's spin on the idea saw para-time societies as having the potential for the marriage of hunter gathering and urban life. You can't sustain a city on one world by foraging, but if you have access to an infinity of worlds on foot outside your front door...para-time societies may tend towards post-scarcity.

239:

Charlie Stross @ 183: I seem to recall reading that something like 6-9 million US civilians hold security clearances for classified material.

A lot of them are probably like I was. They have the clearances, but neither need, nor have access to classified material. Most clearances are just in case you ever have need to know.

I had a secret clearance because my MOS was Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Warfare Operations and I would have needed "classified" information (mainly weather forecasts) to perform my duties in the case of World War 3.

But since we never fought WW3, I never needed to USE my security clearance.

OTOH, a lot of stuff is classified to keep your own people from finding out what you're up to, so even people with clearances AND with need to know can be kept in the dark.

240:

Martin
That sort of behaviour needs reporting to our security services, as ( at a very low level ) it's "Interfering with legitimate UK politics, by/from a foreign source/government"
- & EC ... was it "explosives" *cough* or "political", as a matter of interest?

241:

No, by a NON-AUTHORISED foreign source. Sources from two countries are allowed to interfere with our politics with immunity.

The case I mentioned was explosives, because that is what his PhD was on! The matter stank of bigotry and possibly political pressure, because his supervisor stood up for him but his VC didn't - and, later, because the supervisor continued to support him, the supervisor was discriminated against by his university. It's not the only such case, either.

And then there are the people detained indefinitely without charge, ones convicted without being allowed to defend themselves, the equivalent to censorship, and so on. So far, all extrajudicial executions in Great Britain (sic) thast I know of have been unofficial. None of this was done during the IRA era, except in Northern Ireland, when it was demonstrably counter-productive.

242:

Chrisj @ 186: Related to the engrams-as-chess-moves analogy, I'm reminded of a question I meant to ask OGH: to what extent (if any) are engram-enabled journeys commutative?

By which I mean: we know that engram A moves you between TL1 and TL2, and engram B moves you between TL1 and TL3. When Huw's team use engram B in TL2, that provides travel to/from TL4. If you then use engram A in TL4, does that transfer you to TL3? I'd expect this to be one of the first things that MITI tested, once they got a proper research program up, because the question of whether there's only one easy two-step path from the ~USA to the Commonwealth, or at least two and potentially thousands, is of obvious direct concern to both the ex-clan and the NAC government.

I started reading "The Bloodline Feud" this morning & I just got to the part where Miriam looks at her mother's locket for the first time. She hasn't made her first world walking move yet.

The locket had two "engrams", call them A and A'. A takes you from TL1 to TL2; A' brings you back to TL1 from TL2.1

But what happens if you use engram A on TL2? If there's no mass to block you, might you end up on TL??.

I don't remember who mentioned chess moves, but that's the way I think of the engrams; like the knight - you've got an engram for two up & one right, another for two up & one left, one up & two right or one up & two left ... and another set of engrams for two back & one left ... to allow you to reverse course.

So, engram A only takes you to TL2 if you're starting from TL1. Use it anywhere else (like from TL3) and you're off exploring on your own.

In chess, the knight's moves are restricted. He can't move to a square occupied by a piece from his own side ... that's a mass that blocks you from that particular Time Line.

If memory serves, engram B was the engram that led from TL2 Gruinmarkt to TL3 Commonwealth, but used from TL1 ~USA it took Huw's team to TL4 the dome with the door into the black hole once they got far enough south that the glacier in TL4 wasn't blocking them.

1 That's probably reversed since it was originally Iris's locket and she came from TL2. A takes you from TL2 to TL1 and A' takes you back to TL2

One pill makes you larger, and
one pill makes you small
and the ones that mother gives you ...

243:

Charlie Stross @ 197:

And do remember, each timeline is in a different state of development. Some is howling wilderness with mammoths, some had a nuclear war in the 1950s, some had a hereditary monarch who thought development was diabolical and wanted none of it

No they're not: you're wilfully misunderstanding the scenario -- they're all unpopulated, there is zero point in trying to expand sideways into occupied time lines. Nor is there any call for multi-story condos, when you can simply build sideways: have a common lobby area/entrance and place each dwelling in another time line opening off it. (Emergency escape? Trapdoor in ceiling or window plus roll-up ladder, and a designated clear area for jaunting a few metres away.)

You have to go exploring to find the unoccupied time lines and you're likely to discover those other "developed" time lines along the way. Wouldn't you need some kind of relationship with the "developed" time lines, even if it's just having spies living covertly among them to keep an eye on them in case they discover world walking.

Long term illegals like Kurt? ... alternate Margaret Meads or Louis Leakeys?

244:

David Wallace: "What exactly is the thing early in the original MP stories that committed you to the existence of a senior US figure in league with the Clan?"

Charlie: I can't remember. (You're asking me about a thought process I didn't document back in 2003.)

That leads back into what happened to Mike Fleming. I can't remember in which book in the first trilogy that it happened, but Mike was listening to surveillance audio of senior Clan members. They were discussing a major contact, currently in charge of a major (among other things) logistics megacorp, who *had* been in politics, and had unexpectedly gotten back in.

This is a description of Dick Cheney, and Mike clearly thought that him having heard it was extremely dangerous.

245:

"(The bit about the DHS adding the knotwork display to the in-flight video and how it would have failed very badly was a nice gotcha, too.)"

Why? It would have gotten some people, which would have given DHS some information (trace the contacts of the suddenly missing passengers).

Eventually, it would have failed, once word was circulating, or if the worldwalkers had great reflexes.

However, it would have killed some people whom the US government hated and feared, and the word circulating might have taken a long time if the survivors were a scattered group, rather than a collected group.

246:

Greg Tingey @ 225: Way Off-Topic
Some of us have to use Windoze - like "the boss" has to for working from home ....

Windows 11 now released as a free upgrade from 10

Any opinions?
Presumably make sure you do a full back-up, before implementing ...
[ It looks as though one will have to change in the next 3.5 years, anyway, as MS are saying Win10 will be "dead" after 2025. ]

Windows 10 was also a "free upgrade" from Windows 7. It was also a total disaster for me. I'm still running Windows 7.

I'll try to minimize this to the short version of the RANT!:
I had three computers when I finally gave in to Micro$oft's NAG, NAG, NAG...
Computer 1 - my laptop. "Windows 10 cannot be installed on this computer because the manufacturer will not provide a driver for the video (embedded NVIDEA graphics)
Computer 2 - this computer. Cortana WOULD NOT SHUT UP, no matter what I did; it wouldn't let me run the software I use, trying to substitute one of it's "applets" every time I tried to open a program. I have a lot of spread sheets and I prefer to use Open Office AND Firefox AND Thunderbird AND AVG Antivirus AND Winamp/Audacity/MPC-HC/VLC Media player ... the list of programs it tried to force me to quit using goes on.
And besides that fucking Cortana, it was sluggish as hell. Did I mention Cortana would not STFU!!!
Computer 3 - my Photoshop WORK computer. First install failed at first boot. Second install made it to first boot, but performance was intolerable. Move the mouse and it was SEVERAL MINUTES before the pointer on screen would move. Same same trying to use arrow keys & keyboard shortcuts. Couldn't get through setup, so I couldn't revert.
But I had made a recovery disk and made a backup on a USB hard-drive. The recovery would not recognize the backup. I ended up having to do a clean install from the DVD (CD-ROM?); then it gave me a hassle over verifying the product key since it was already registered.

All told, the "upgrade" wasted 96 hours from start to finish.

Although a bunch of that was leaving the computer grinding away when I went to bed & it still being grinding away when I got up the next morning.

Fuck Windoze 11. Hold off as long as you can from "upgrading". Unless your hardware is only a couple years old you're going to have to replace your computer to install it anyway.

247:

Why? It would have gotten some people,

If it worked it would have lost entire airliners (taken with the world-walker when they jaunted -- except jaunting isn't involuntary, so that wouldn't have happened). So (a) it was an ineffective plan, and (b) if it had worked it would have caused immense collateral damage, equivalent to shooting down airliners in flight. At which point there's a huge scandal and the US government has to either stop doing it, or crater public confidence in the airline industry. And meanwhile the Clan just drive cross-country or charter bizjets or something.

248:

Simple fact of this fiction is they're not going to build multi-timeline houses. The list of things which can go wrong/expensive/inconvenient/hard-to-get-right is too long. What they might do is use a single timeline for a particular industry, thus avoiding resource bottlenecks, or perhaps keep the military on a particular timeline and on-call for other timelines. The smart thing to do is use one timeline for rescues; have a problem, go to timeline 911. You'd also have places which are zoned for transfers and other places where transfers would be illegal/impossible.

I don't think you'd need immigration control - available land is essentially infinite, but you'd certainly need biological controls, because viral/bacterial mutation is also essentially infinite; you can't have a world-walking civilization without much better immune systems than humans currently have; imagine a Trump-style response to COVID-19 with infinite worlds for the virus to mutate. World-walking will be super-carefully controlled until we have nano-based injectable immune systems.

249:

Those are very good points. The trick is that the ability to jaunt with large masses was not know.

And after the nuking of Washington, DC, the Cheney government would have gone ahead, killed some people on US airliners, and told the world to shove it. They'd already killed millions and made sure the world knew it.

And considering Cheney's judgement after 9/11, I shudder to think what he would have done after 7/16.

250:

By 'killing some people' I mean that they'd have implemented it, under the assumption that some individuals would be killed, and that they'd be happy with that.

I wonder what they'd have done after several airplanes disappeared.

251:

Oh, leading back a bit: When Smith made his comment about 'info war dominance over social media', he could have been ignorantly boasting.

He could also mean 'we keep the truly undesirable stuff pushed into the fringe and fail to see the allegedly undesirable stuff we support'.

Remember that in the end DHS is a right-wing police organization, so that they'll tend to support/fail to suppress right-wing radical politics.

252:

I know jaunting is supposed to be voluntary...

That said, you just know that in a society with universal jaunting, the equivalent of jaunting rickrolls, anonymous knots ("Don't you want to try it? It'll be fun..." No peer pressure at all) and similar bullshit (engrams in bathroom stalls?) will be ubiquitous and really annoying. Heck, teenagers' bedrooms will probably be located on the ground floor by law, just to keep them from breaking their stupid necks when they experiment with worldwalking. Ditto with anyone suffering from dementia or terminal cluelessness.

Crime and punishment will have to be different, unless there's a reasonable way to dose prisoners to keep them from jaunting. House them all in very deep holes? And doing things to permanently remove jaunting ability (like blinding someone) will probably be even more horrific than it is here. But the use of blinding sprays will be ubiquitous in self defense, because it might keep someone from following you while you jaunt.

On the transport side, I expect hovercraft to be ubiquitous, especially for transport trucks, law enforcement, and military. There may even be a class divide between those who drive hovers (and can jaunt while driving) and those who are stuck with wheeled vehicles that can't normally jaunt. This may also lead to some fun: imagine low-riders with enough hydraulic power to go airborne. This leads to crazy car stunts (people with low riders...or driving a la Bullitt) who take pride in their ability to a) get their car airborne while driving, and b) jaunt while the wheels are off the ground. Imagine a car chase between these crazies and law enforcement in jaunting hovercraft....

253:

And two more sets of stupid stunts:

--Jaunting while airborne on a bike. Any bike. Or a skateboard for extra lulz. With a car, you can have someone driving and someone jaunting. On a bike you're all alone.

--Hijacking. We've already seen nabbing the plane, but when the pilot can jaunt too, that's counterproductive (although it would make for an interesting duel. How many times can the pilot pull the plane out of a jaunt-induced dive? Sort of like two people playing chicken with one vehicle). And there's also the DB Cooper maneuver: commit a crime, get in a plane, bail out, jaunt before you pull the parachute.

254:

Barry @ 244:

David Wallace: "What exactly is the thing early in the original MP stories that committed you to the existence of a senior US figure in league with the Clan?"
Charlie: I can't remember. (You're asking me about a thought process I didn't document back in 2003.)

That leads back into what happened to Mike Fleming. I can't remember in which book in the first trilogy that it happened, but Mike was listening to surveillance audio of senior Clan members. They were discussing a major contact, currently in charge of a major (among other things) logistics megacorp, who *had* been in politics, and had unexpectedly gotten back in.

This is a description of Dick Cheney, and Mike clearly thought that him having heard it was extremely dangerous.

At the time (2002-2003) there was a lot of discussion in the media and elsewhere of Cheney's role in a number of questionable activities.

Cheney had been George HW Bush's Secretary of Defense when the decision was taken to privatize many of the DoD's logistics functions & outsource them to contractors - most notably Halliburton/KBR which employed Cheney as CEO during the Clinton Presidency when the prior administration's outsourcing policies were implemented.

Also during the Clinton Presidency, Cheney (and Rumsfeld) were active in the Project For The New American Century whose white paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses" advocated invading Iraq to take their oil as a prelude to invading Iran (and taking THEIR oil) because that would guarantee U.S. world dominance. The most controversial part of that white paper was the assertion:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.

After 9/11 there were significant questions whether the George W. Bush Administration had invited the 9/11 attack for just that purpose and it was clear they were using the attack to justify a war with Iraq rather than pursuing questions about Saudi involvement in financially supporting al Qaeda & the hijackers.

There were also questions regarding Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force and its relationship to ENRON - particularly ENRON's role in the 2000-2001 California electricity crisis and ENRON's subsequent accounting collapse during their accounting scandals.

Not to mention how much of the Bush2 administration's diplomacy with the Taliban regarding the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline was based on ENRON needing a cheap fuel source for its Indian Dabhol Power Plant project and what role that diplomacy might have played in the Taliban's decision to let bin Laden and al Qaeda off their leash?

Cheney being a villain in real life and his villainy being much in the news at the time, I think he was a natural choice to be the villain in ~USA.

For the record I believe Cheney is venal enough that he DID line his own pockets at taxpayer expense after he left the DOD in 1993. I believe he did try to shield ENRON with his Energy Task Force, and I do think Bush2's support for the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline was motivated by trying to stave off ENRON's financial collapse.

I don't know how much of a role Bush2's diplomacy played in Taliban decision making and I think PURE FUCKIN' INCOMPETENCE is completely adequate to explain Bush2's failures both before and after 9/11, but they did take advantage of 9/11 to foment an unnecessary and unjustified war with Iraq just like Cheney & Rumsfeld had advocated while at PNAC.

255:

Barry @ 250: By 'killing some people' I mean that they'd have implemented it, under the assumption that some individuals would be killed, and that they'd be happy with that.

I wonder what they'd have done after several airplanes disappeared.

Linked the Clan to al Qaeda and blamed the international terrorist organization.

256:

I just finished the book. Great ending to an awesome series. I kept thinking everything was going to end badly, I seem to have come to expect that from this series. In particular when at around 84% (according to Kindle) Miriam says "I think everything's going to be all right now". I mean, yes, all looked good at that point, but there was still a lot of book to go, so I really expected way more nukes on timelines two and three.

Anyway, I am very curious about the world in timeline three. Why are superstates able to hold on for so long without fragmenting? What territories do the French hold? I understand that the British, later Commonwealth, hold all of the Americas plus Australia, and the French have Europe, plus at least some of Asian Russia, plus (going by one of your comments here) China. What about the rest of the world? Is there a third player in that world, or even minor local independent states? What's the flag of the Commonwealth look like? It's mentioned it's red and gold, I think a cross is there somewhere, but I don't think an exact description is given. What does the Commonwealth government and economy look like? Smith calls them communists and Kurt explicitly compares them with the GDR, but Smith feels very unreliable in his fanaticism, and Kurt seems to be making an aesthetic comparison, tinted by nostalgia, not a deeper analysis. We do know that the government structure is modeled after the Islamic Republic of Iran (it's explicitly mentioned in earlier books), but I'm curious as to how many innovations the Commonwealth introduced.

Thanks!

257:

JBS
We managed to "Not install" Cortana, I think, or suppressed it immediately.
I have never seen it on this new(ish) machine ....

Fortunately: (1) We've already decided not to *cough* "upgrade" until Madam's work are using it & their IT department have signed-off on it. (2) We will, of course, do a full back-up of everything, anyway, before starting on the grind
(3) This machine is less than a year old.

258:

As a data point on the number of US citizens with security clearances, I'm probably a reasonable example of the distinction between someone in intelligence and someone with a clearance. I've spent the last quarter century working in operational cyber security in the power utility industry, sometimes directly with utilities and sometimes with consultants or vendors working in the space. I held a secret clearance from 2007-2011 or so, and I'll probably get it reinstated over the next few months, as I'm now working for a utility again and in-person briefings are starting to be a thing again as we give up on beating COVID. Those clearances are intended, broadly, for me to be allowed to receive threat identification material from Federal agencies periodically.

259:

Now, wait a minute. I, my late wife, and my current SO have all happily gone camping in parks, and enjoyed ourselves.

260:

1. Not a good idea.
2. How old's your computer? It won't work, or will be
unusable on older systems.
3. I run Linux. I NEVER install/update to x.0, I *always* wait for x.0.1, where the worst of the bugs they missed are fixed.

261:

I suppose Harvard and Yale (and Oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne, etc.) exist in TL3 as well as in TL2. I wonder which one, if any, would Liz Hannover attend. I see the benefit for the commonwealth to have her enroll in TL2 (majoring in International relations? Political Sciences?) and use her predictable rise to celebrity status (A true American princess!) as a subtle propaganda tool in the USA and Europe.

262:

"stable societies with functioning criminal justice systems" - I see, so you're not talking about the US.

Most burglaries aren't reported (unless insurance is involved), because everyone who isn't rich knows perfectly well the cops have a 10% chance of finding what was stolen, and that's only if they found it while working on something else.

263:

"...Before ubiquitous laser printers"... that would be before they added the digital watermarking in yellow to color laser printers, right?

264:

Of *course* they are. That is, McMansions and real mansions will have multi-timeline views, and privacy....

For the other 90%, you're right.

265:

"I expect hovercraft to be ubiquitous"

"... before the ubiquitous signs of 1996, 'no wheeled vehicles allowed' on the high-speed highways." AC Clarke, Profiles of the Future.

266:

I am not keen on it, because there are too many people and too much damn development. Now, camping in the 'wild' is something I love to do - and the wilder the better :-)

267:

Smith calls them commies, not communists, because it's easier to say than "people from the Commonwealth".

(signed) Philadelphian ex-pat, from the Commonwealth of PA.

268:

On page 64 (according to Kindle), Smith says: "They're a polity from another time line that calls itself the New American Commonwealth, Major. They're a Communist superpower with nuclear weapons and world-walkers."

269:

Which isn't really what they are... but the reactionaries in the US have been utterly miserable, not having commies to kick around anymore.

270:

Also, Smith is trying to push the Major's buttons. Ineffectually, as it turns out, because Smith isn't great at thinking himself into the headspace of someone from another culture (as witness his crappy engagement with the Clan in the first series -- even though he was less bad at it than his then-boss).

271:

Only 10% of burglaries may lead to an arrest, but most burglaries net sweet FA for the burglar, so burglars are often repeat offenders: the upshot is that if you're burgled and report it, sooner or later the cops may want your testimony to add to a laundry list of charges (when your burglar finally got unlucky on another job). So there's that.

If you want crime to pay, buy a $5000 suit and a $500 haircut and invent an incomprehensible financial instrument to sell to gullible investors.

272:

happily gone camping in parks, and enjoyed ourselves.

My point was that going camping is a holiday, not a life. Once you have to start hunting and gathering and building hospitals it stops being camping.

It's also generally fun to the extent that there's infrastructure there, even if you ignore roads since you're jaunting. Toilets, for example. Although as people here keep saying, you just jaunt into another timeline, shit on the ground, then jaunt back. Carefully, obviously, since someone else may have done the same thing before you.

Oddly OGH never really mentioned that bit. It's all very well stepping through to a new world then landing with a thump, but somehow no-one ever made a muffled thump by landing in a pile of poo.

273:

What you don't seem to be able to understand is that there are a fair number of people who would actively LIKE to be frontiersmen, NOT just urbanites playing at it for short periods and relying on imported technology. There may be very few nowadays who are the real thing (I don't claim to be or have been, though I come a hell of a lot closer than most people who claim to be), but there are quite a few of us who LIKE that lifestyle. All right, I am past it, as I am 73 and my health has not held up well enough, but that doesn't change my tastes.

Hospitals? I have known quite a few people who had no access to such things, and they weren't exactly easy to get at even for me in my childhood. Also, I can assure you that pit toilets, and even just digging a hole and covering the issue, work perfectly well in sufficiently unpopulated areas.

274:

Oddly enough, IIRC, my late ex, when she was in the service, the only time she parachuted, that was *exactly* what she landed in.

275:

And I'm sure you mean mastodon poo, since he keeps making a big thing of uninhabited timelines and all.

Speaking of mastodon poo of the intellectual persuasion, I've been wondering...

...Why are most worlds uninhabited?
Since we're talking about some version of the quantum many worlds theory (well, sort of), a naive person like myself would expect worlds with shared histories to be closer to each other than worlds that had diverged further back. So either engrams jaunt you a very long distance in paratime, and are marvellously good at getting you accurately back to the same timeline you left (or are they?). Or...

...Or there's some force in paratime that randomizes what timelines are next to, so that if you jaunt to the world next door, you have a 70% chance of it being uninhabited, so that you land in the mastodon poo. How would paratime randomize the relative positions of timelines?

Maybe it just happens, but that's kind of boring. So what if there's a mechanism that deranges the positions of timelines, such that timelines get pulled away from each other and sent in weird directions. What would that force be.

Well, since I know nothing about quantum mechanics, the obvious mechanisms have a handwave towards decoherence and entanglement. Here's what I was thinking.

One feature of the many worlds theory (the real one, not the mastodon poo I'm busily egesting) is that worlds split instead of superpositions collapsing. While the split is instantaneous, information about the split propagates at the speed of light. My guess is that quantum decoherence largely gobbles up most world splits before they get out of the atom, and the result is classical physics under most circumstances.

Returning to the paratime multiverse of mastodon poo, let's assume that rarely splits happen on larger scales, up to and including world timelines. Now on the interstellar scale, something like decoherence can still happen. The reason is that photon density (the amount of light and hence information transferred) falls off as 1/d^2. At interstellar distances, almost all photons interact with dust or whatever, and there's not much interaction between planets in different stellar systems. This is akin to decoherence. So far as other stars and planets are concerned, what's going on in different paratimes of Earth is largely irrelevant. Mastodons or coalburners on Earth don't influence how the planet rotates, what kind of light comes off it, or anything else. This is the background: Earth splitting in paratime doesn't really affect the rest of the universe, because the interactions with other stellar systems are unperturbed by most timelines.

But under some circumstances, star systems do interact. One way this happens is when a species goes interstellar and physically moves between stars. Then the histories of the separate star systems are linked by a shared history. Another way they are linked is when a species does something that is easy to see on interstellar scales. Now if you're thinking of the Hoppers traveling among stars and turning planets into black holes, you've got it. Those are readily observable on an interstellar scale. If you're in a universe where Earth was turned into a black hole, you may well notice, especially if said hole starts siphoning off solar mass.

That means that Earths colonized by Hoppers act differently in paratime than do uninhabited Earths or Earths inhabited only by humans. Furthermore, human timelines that interact with the Hopper timelines start having their history influenced by the Hoppers, so they get changed too.

Now what changes? One possibility is that Hopper-influenced timelines get yanked around in paratime by interacting differently with the universe at large. Another possibility is that Hopper-influenced timelines branch differently (either more or less) than do normal timelines. If there are fewer branches, then this creates a void into which other random timelines can intrude. If there are more branches, then the extra branches intrude into paratime spaces that they wouldn't otherwise be near.

The test of this isn't that there are more uninhabited timelines, it's that the timelines that are near your timeline change over time on a scale of decades to centuries.

Anyway, this is all mastodon poo, shoveled out because I waxed sarcastic on OGH's housing designs, and it's only fair that I float something big and gassy for others to wax sarcastic on.

276:

Just finished it! It was a satisfying end to a long journey.

Now on to the latest of Seanan McGuire's Patreon stories.

277:

there are a fair number of people who would actively LIKE to be frontiersmen,

I believe I may have mentioned those people. But since I did that in the context of "losing these people from mainstream society would be a problem" you perhaps chose to ignore it.

I suspect there would be a combination, with a bunch of people disappearing to live happily ever after in the wilderness (as we have now, but more so, since wilderness here and now tends to be the less desirable bits). But I think they'd be a minority of the 'go off exploring' people. They definitely would be a vanishingly small minority of the first wave of explorers, unless government acted to restrict them.

Think of all the lovely people who go off camping round the UK now, and how covid increased their numbers but did not seem to increase the number of sensible ones.

278:

So if the worldwalking is in arbitrarily large steps, what happened in timelines 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5? Are they also having worldwalkers influencing their timelines?

279:

It's funny, somehow Jaunting between the surfaces of different Earth's seems emotionally reasonable, but once one starts to imagine deep space exploration vessels Jaunting different intuitions start to leach into my peripheral vision.

How would registration be maintained over thousands of years of butterfly effect divergences between universes?

How does one maintain exact spatial registration between different realities, especially in deep space?

What are the relativistic implications of Jaunting? Starts to sound like a Scalzi Infinite Improbability FTL drive.

Maybe take the SG1 solution, in that FTL is possible provided that there is a certain amount of contact between different multiverses (e.g. once per tv season (which was a brilliant in joke btw)).

280:

One of the earlier books established that momentum is conserved, but not energy. Viz, things that jaunt keep their speed but velocity, gravitational potential etc are open. So it's easy to jump from Earth to the place where Earth would be, or where there's a black hole now (with similar but not equal mass), and still be in orbit around the sun but not around the black hole. Which is exciting in itself, but opens a bunch of possibilities.

You could, for example, jaunt in to the black hole instead of Earth universe, make a grazing orbit at a suitable distance from the event horizon, then slingshot out and when you're outside the next-Earth-over atmosphere jaunt there. Keeping your speed, but with exciting changes to kinetic and potential energy.

I got a bit lost reading that bit of the book, because it didn't really make sense, so I may have this all about face and in fact the "same height" is actually "same gravitational potential energy" or maybe it's all just magic and none of the physics even pretends to hold up.

281:

I think the more interesting question is what about a Jaunt in deep space? What is your momentum? Relative to what?

282:

I assume it's quantised in some fashion, so it makes more sense to use whole numbers. But it may actually be a real-number infinity rather than an integer-infinity, or indeed some other infinite.

It's even possible that there's some form of chess bishop movement going on where never the twain shall meet. But there's no reason I can see that there would only be one pair of mutually inaccessible worlds, it could easily be the case that the smallest possible jump is some (large) multiple of the gap between universes. Viz, if the gap is normalised to one, but jaunts have to be a multiple of ten, there will be 10 sets of mutually inaccessible universes.

283:

Even more fun: any jaunt can be attempted, but ones to universes with sufficiently different physical constants fail. So it might be impossible to jump from A to B, but possible to jump from A to C to B. Whether it would be possible for anything to survive doing so is left as an exercise for the student.

284:

Also the hovercraft cargo transport thing some books back was kind of irritating...there are much easier ways to provide electrical insulation if that's all you need (hello quartz rods). And even if you absolutely had to provide an air cushion you could always have externally powered fans blowing up the skirt from below rather than the on-board diesel engines I seem to recall.

But the multiversal hovercraft IFV's redeemed that in this book. Rule of Cool.

285:

I have mentioned this before. but it needs repeating. The reason that fiction uses countable infinities are:
1) Most intelligent people can grasp the concept, without getting TOO confused.
2) The consequences of even a measurable non-countable infinity are more complicated than you think; almost all SF stories that have used one have made a complete mess of it, and none have done better than adequately.
3) You simply do NOT want to get into the morass of non-measurable or higher-order infinities, even if you are a mathematician. Explaining the issues to laymen (and I count as one) is damn near impossible.

286:

Also note the common use of the word "uncountable" to mean "a lot". An uncountable number of people will read the word in this way.

287:

Yes. The original (and usual) meaning is "too numerous to be counted" (OED) - and that means in practice, not theory.

288:

Finished the book last night and enjoyed it! Thanks for a satisfying conclusion to the series.

As a point of criticism, the book could have been improved by having someone proof-read the German words and sentences. Many of them contain multiple errors in spelling, capitalization, and syntax. And it's not just the ones spoken by Liz or Angie (which would be explained by their less-than-fluent German), but also the ones spoken by the actual German characters.

On the other hand, the funniest joke in the book is also on Germany, and it reads like this: "Brandenburg Airport had opened on schedule in 2012…" I laughed really hard at that.

And of course I quite liked the portrait of my home country as a beacon of freedom and democracy compared to the ~USA.

289:

...Why are most worlds uninhabited?

Why are you picking at the scenery?

We just happen to be following a story set in time lines adjacent to the great uninhabited firebreak sheaf of TLs which were evacuated or depopulated to begin with in the face of the Hive invasion. The real freakiness is that there are any inhabited TLs in this zone at all.

290:

To introduce a topic not yet touched, I'm wondering about Adrian Holmes. Is it only me, or was he making a heel-face-turn in this book?

From what I remember from the previous books (which may not be accurate, because I didn't re-read them now) he was set up as the Stalin-character to Adam Burroughs' Lenin. But in this book he explicitly renounces being the Stalin—which also means that he is willing to accept Miriam's historical analysis of failed revolutions in TL 2 and learn from it. He seems genuinely concerned with preserving the revolution and its ideals.

So, does he in the end come to the understanding that in fact Miriam and the Clan are not his (and the revolution's) enemies? Is there actually an honest reconciliation between him and the Burgesons? Or at least, has he finally come to trust that Miriam and the Clan have the same goals as himself?

It is not clear from the announcement ceremony at the end of the book whether the Council made a unanimous decision (which would mean that Holmes himself also voted for Erasmus), or whether Holmes was simply outvoted by a majority. But it seems clear that it would be impossible for him henceforth to work from the underlying assumption that the First Man is an enemy of the state. So it seems necessary for him to let go of his suspicions against the Burgesons.

-----------

There is of course another possibility: given that Erasmus is 55 years old and not in the best health (tuberculosis), Holmes may view him as an interim choice, until the dust from the current crisis has settled. And in a decade or so there will still be time to make his own move…

291:

So, does he in the end come to the understanding that in fact Miriam and the Clan are not his (and the revolution's) enemies? Is there actually an honest reconciliation between him and the Burgesons?

There's a concept in democratic politics called the "loyal opposition" -- they disagree on the objectives of the government, but not on the existence of government. (This seems to have been forgotten by one major party in the USA right now, as it has in Russia, Hungary, and all autocracies everywhere; it's in question in the UK too.)

Holmes disagrees with the Burgesons about a lot of things but not about the sanctity of the Commonwealth's basic law/constitution, and once he realized the Burgesons weren't plotting a coup d'etat he was willing to work with them. The Commonwealth Guard got a bit over-enthusiastic, and if their coup had succeeded he'd have gotten the Robespierre treatment from them.

292:

@275 Heteromeles:

would expect worlds with shared histories to be closer to each other than worlds that had diverged further back

Fred Pohl came up with this explanation in his book The Coming of the Quantum Cats. Paraphrasing from memory (since it's been 20+ years since I read it):

"Imagine that parallel worlds are like beads on a necklace that's been twisted into an enormous tangle. You get two beads that are on the string directly adjacent to your bead. They are very similar to your own world. Then you have a bunch of beads that are also adjacent to your bead, but they can be very far from where your bead is on the string. That's why a few of the worlds we can access are similar to ours, but also why so many are so very different."

One of the characters is surprised that in one of the universes, Ronald Reagan is president, rather than Nancy Reagan (who was POTUS in the character's own universe). Also: "Why is it that Nancy Reagan, a real fireater, is in charge of a US where the military is so small, but Jerry Brown, a total wimp, is POTUS in a US with a huge military?"

I remember the book as being entertaining, but I picked it up as a remainder, and I only read it once. So YMMV.

293:

"German words and sentences"

In the linguistic pickiness department, there's one case in which an ~American uses the plural form of a verb with a collective noun. That's kind of a שִׁבֹּ֜לֶת / סִבֹּ֗לֶת thing that distinguishes British from American English: SAE uses the singular form.

294:

Also: "Why is it that Nancy Reagan, a real fireater, is in charge of a US where the military is so small, but Jerry Brown, a total wimp, is POTUS in a US with a huge military?"

Because as president you go to war with the military your predecessor built (or didn't build.)

295:

We just happen to be following a story set in time lines adjacent to the great uninhabited firebreak sheaf of TLs which were evacuated or depopulated to begin with in the face of the Hive invasion. The real freakiness is that there are any inhabited TLs in this zone at all.

You're asking why an ecologist like myself noticed how critical the scenery was to the story, and how bizarre it is?

So how does one depopulate a timeline? Nuke it? And when people can jaunt across infinity, how many are going to evacuate in the direction you tell them to, and how many will take their chances, because they don't trust your authorities to help them and they think they can run faster than you or the invaders can?

The other issue is that the setting timelines diverged centuries before the story. It's not a case of President Al Gore negotiating with Presidents Bob Dole and George HW Bush about how to deal with the invasion in the Jerry Brown presidency, it's the Gruinmarkt, Our World(ish), the Commonwealth, and the Dome/Hive combo banging into each other. And furthermore, these worlds are surrounded by many uninhabited worlds with no humans at all, so it's okay for the Juggernaut to trash two of them for takeoff and maneuver.

At multiple scales, you have worlds with vastly dissimilar histories adjacent to each other. Since other paratime stories (Piper, Pohl) generally assume that adjacent timelines are more similar to each other than ones far away, this begs for an explanation.

One set of explanations is that when timelines diverge, they diverge in such a way that similar timelines don't end up next to each other. For example, one might say that the universe is 11 dimensional, as some theorists have posited, that we live in four dimensions, and paratime branches occupy the other seven. When timelines split, they diverge at wide angles in multiple dimensions. Thus timelines that end up next to each other don't commonly share recent histories. And it turns out that most timelines of Earth don't have humans in them, either, which propels critical parts of the book. Mechanical, but it requires no more work, only suspension of disbelief*.

Another set of explanations is that some force, internal or external, is distorting the cladistic tree* of diverging timelines in a way that brings some dissimilar branches close to each other. The obvious force here is the Hive, not because it's forcing humans to evacuate timelines, but because it's bent its set of history branches into a part of the tree where humans never evolved, and the distortion has also pulled in some other stray branches, like the Gruinmarkt and the Commonwealth. This one's interesting, because there's a force distorting the world tree, and those effects should be noticeable at some scale. Perhaps there's another story here.

*Perhaps the only way you get diverging timelines in paratime is if they diverge at high angles. Low angle divergences tend to merge back with each other, leaving a plethora of disappeared socks and other minor paradoxes.
**Cladistic trees map shared histories using evidence, generally from organisms. When wildly dissimilar organisms pop up on adjacent branches of a cladistic tree, that's usually a sign that something is wrong and it needs to be paid attention to.

296:

With regard to LibreOffice, it does one neat trick you might like: If you put a regular expression into the "Find and Replace" box, you can search for multiple words at once. For example, when trying to root out the passive voice, I use the regex “\b(?:was|were|by|\w*ing)\b” and simultaneously search for "was," "were," "by" and any word ending with "ing."

297:

Now that I've finished the series, the thing that strikes me about books in the Merchant Princes World in general is how deadly serious they are. This is a sharp contrast with books in the World of The Laundry Files, which are always playful and often outright funny.

Obviously, in the specific case of Invisible Sun one suspects that the series of tragedies that struck OGH during writing might have something to do with this. But I notice that Dead Lies Dreaming is as playful as any Laundry Files book. I am curious to see what the tone of Escape from Yokai Land will be like.

298:

I'm a big kaiju fan, so I'm really looking forward to Escape from Yokai Land!

299:

My take is one that may or may not irritate quantum theorists: that something must *create* a timeline split. Otherwise, minor stuff, like killing that fly or not killing it, or even where that dust mote lands, would creating ludicrous numbers of parallels.

Something seriously energetic must create them, and even then, I would assume some re-merge, if they're not too dissimilar (think no object where you're trying to jaunt to).

300:

I was wondering that as well, but re my previous cmt, perhaps some people didn't want to leave, or were infected with the prion disease, and couldn't... and that's enough to generate a timeline split.

There you go - these were recently opened worlds to the Forerunners, and the disease was brought in....

301:

TB - and this is to Charlie, also. Dunno about untreated... but my mother had TB as a young woman. Spent a winter in the Pocono Mts, in a sanitarium (screened porches, hot bricks under the blankets at night), and was in remission the rest of her life - she died at 72, and I never heard her coughing from aftereffects.

302:

I'm a big kaiju fan, so I'm really looking forward to Escape from Yokai Land!

Looking forward to the Hello Kitty Kaiju!

303:
My take is one that may or may not irritate quantum theorists: that something must *create* a timeline split. Otherwise, minor stuff, like killing that fly or not killing it, or even where that dust mote lands, would creating ludicrous numbers of parallels.

If we are going with the MWI, new worlds are created continuously as entangled quantum systems interact. There is no threshold event for creating a new world. The number of alternative worlds is, almost certainly at least C, the infinity of the continuum, which may be ℵ-1, depending on how you feel about the Axiom of Choice and the Continuum Hypothesis. Anyway, it's a big (uncountable) infinity.

If you're writing fiction and uncountably infinite worlds are inconvenient plot-wise, you may certainly imagine new physics to edit out the undesirables.

304:

I think the book explicitly mentions that an observer from another TL can be the source that creates a new timeline. So you a refugee(s) from the Forerunners jaunting (perhaps from TL4) into TL1 around 300 BC and causing the split with TL2. Then you have the patriarch of the clan jaunting into TL2 in the 1700s and causing the split into TL3. Probably the jaunting of Miriam into TL3 has created a new split, yet uncontacted, where the revolution took the much more sinister turn it was about to take if it weren't by the clan help. So there's actually only one originally inhabited TL in the fire break with at least two, maybe more, additional TLs branching from it.

305:

Ok... but do they remerge? What would prevent this from happening almost immediately - isn't there a conservation of energy here?

306:

I would think that the mere act of jaunting wouldn't cause a split. Otherwise, two people who jaunt, separately to tl2 would not be in the same TL2, one would be in TL 2.1, and the other TL 2.2, and *if* they actually saw each other, then person 2 would actually be P-n or P-(n+1).

As my previous comment, I think this is making it far too easy to create new worldlines, and conservation laws would prevent it.

307:

In one of the three books in The Gods Themselves trilogy, one of Isaac Asimov's physicists explicitly proposes the existence of uncountably infinite universes. I think it's Contend in Vain..., but I'm not sure of that.

308:

Ok... but do they remerge?

No they never remerge.

What would prevent this from happening almost immediately

"This" referring to what?

isn't there a conservation of energy here?

Yes, energy is conserved at each branch (in the sense that each branch world has the same energy as the world from which it emerged) and within each world.

309:

With the Many Worlds Interpretation, you've still got to deal with decoherence. That's the problem of quantum actions running into other cruft and becoming irrelevant. The MWI is about quantum states, instead of being in superposition and collapsing, splitting and forming separate universes. The problem is that the universe split propagates out at light speed. My guess is that most of the time, the split interacts with other particles and the whole mess decoheres into classical physics, where energy is conserved.

310:

If I might use the > 300 rule, I was delighted to see this:

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02696-z

Colour me better: fixing figures for colour blindness

Having the typical north-west European male red-green color deficiency, I've been driven to distraction on a zillion occasions by graphs that encode stuff with colors that I can't see. Use colors by all means for those that can see them, but give the rest of us a break with different shapes and such. Rather than all round dots of different colors, make the red ones round and the blue ones square and the green ones asterisks.

311:

I'll point out that there are a bunch of possible (and each totally bullshit) answers to this.

One is that timeline splits are splits of four dimensional timelines in something like an 11-dimensional paratime. The angle of the split may be random, but timelines that are too similar and too close to parallel re-merge by jaunting/decohering together into a lower energy collective energy state. Or something. In this paratime, splits are random, and timelines end up adjacent to each other because random forking events put them close enough. This has the virtue of at least matching the Merchant Prince Universe.

Or the angle of divergence could be a function of how much energy got emitted in the splitting event, which correlates with things like long-term consequences and how far away the split interacts with other objects in the universe (remember the whole light speed, photon-based limit). In this case, only a few things split timelines: volcanoes (the majority) large asteroid strikes (the minority), and nuclear war (humans!). Or all the stuff the Hive does (Hoppers!). Volcanoes really do change things, and they really are pretty random in time and somewhat random in space. So this paratime would have lots and lots of uninhabited worlds, each of which has a unique volcanic/etc. history that carromed it through paratime into strange neighborhoods. The problem with this idea is that it implies there should be a Gruinmarkt out there that wasn't bombed by the US, a TL5 that's not a black hole, a TL4 that's not in an Ice Age, and so forth. And launching Juggernaut would have caused a split on their launch-world, if not on maneuver-worlds. So maybe not, except in fanfic?

And there's the separate idea that anything that can entangle a timeline with timelines on other worlds yanks that timeline around. The only point here is that it allows for parallel timelines to proliferate, but also allows some timelines to get yanked sideways out of their normal paratime into some other part of paratime that's foreign to their history. This has the advantage that it centers certain kinds of acts as important to timeline history. So instead of jaunters being at the mercy of an uncaring multiverse that splits randomly, they can make it even more uncaring by literally hitching their timelines to stars. Or hitching their timelines to those that have already hitched their timelines to stars. This might make literary sense, and it might well match the Merchant Prince World.

The only grumble I have about OGH's answer is that having the ability to clear a world of humans without nuclear war just strains my imagination. It's sort of like invading to create democracy in Iraq. The sentence parses, but it turns out it's easier for a so-called Great Power to pound a place into dust than to do large-scale politics from a world away. Maybe it's a failure of my imagination, but perhaps the simplest way to get a non-human world may be to posit that worlds that proximity in paratime has nothing to do with the amount of shared history between timelines. This has the storytelling advantage that literally anything could be on the next timeline, although likely it's not going to have humans.

312:

OK, here's a thought.

If you have an infinite number of TLs, then anything is possible - including other works of SF?

If you can have Cthulhu-Lovecraftian crossovers why not Capt. Kirk? How about a TL after the failed Martian invasion of HG Wells' WotW?

Lots of opportunity for good, clean crossover fun.

Or law suit triggering copywrite infringement.

313:
perhaps the simplest way to get a non-human world may be to posit that worlds that proximity in paratime has nothing to do with the amount of shared history between timelines

…and it has the virtue that it's what the Merchant Prince World actually has posited all along. The whole idea that proximity in paratime equals shared history is just a conjecture of yours, after all.

314:

Now that we are past 300 comments:

WTF is going on in Britain?

No petrol, no milk, grocery stores empty, fruit rotting in the field, and natgas prices climbing 40% in one day.

Is this just a localized effect of Brexit or the first signs of a general unraveling of civilization (along with the collapse of Evergrande taking 1/3 of the Chinese economy with it)?

315:

At least the price hike of natural gas isn't confined to the UK only. We have it on the continent as well. Some sort of Covid after-effect? Or an after-effect of the recent shipping backlogs?

There are certainly people on this blog who will have an opinion (and possibly even an analysis backing up that opinion) about this.

316:

Yes. A Brexit update would be nice.

317:

…and it has the virtue that it's what the Merchant Prince World actually has posited all along. The whole idea that proximity in paratime equals shared history is just a conjecture of yours, after all.

Problem is that H. Beam Piper's Paratime books and Pohl's Coming of the Quantum Cats both run on the notion that proximity in Paratime does equal shared history. Furthermore, if timelines branch in some higher space, why shouldn't daughter timelines be in close proximity?

318:

Laugh for the morning: It’s not called a Zeppelin unless it comes from the Zeppelin region of Germany, otherwise it’s just a sparkling airship.

https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/a-quick-note-on-airships/

(has more thoughts, but the lead in is funny)

319:

A fast look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_von_Zeppelin shows that he was from Zepelin. It appears that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftschiffbau_Zeppelin was set up in Friedrichshafen.

320:

Yes, I've been using regular expressions for nigh upon 30 years at this point.

Microsoft Word also has regexps, but its atoms are almost completely unlike any other regular expression system anyone anywhere else invented, and it's buried deep in a bunch of teeny nested sub-menus, and it's lacking key features.

(Whereas Scrivener, my novel writing software of choice, has full-blown pcre(1) baked into it, which is about the most powerful implementation I know of.)

321:

Consider experiments with particle accelerators. Most particles last very tiny fractions of a second, except when there are large energies involved, and even then most decay immediately.

I'm picturing the same with timelines - they decay rapidly (you put that here, no, there, decay to *there*) in very small time periods, unless there are large energies involved.

322:

"WTF is going on in Britain?

No petrol, no milk, grocery stores empty, fruit rotting in the field, and natgas prices climbing 40% in one day."

Brexit, of course.

Or, for Tories, the Savage Attack of the EU Dictatorship on All that is Good and Glorious in this World.

323:

So that we can get onto Brexit or something else, I think we can reconcile our positions:

Let's assume that when timelines branch, they branch perpendicularly to each other. That way (barring some bizarre chronometric transformation), the two daughter timelines run perpendicular to each other. A person on one daughter timeline could only see the other as having no/all time passing instantaneously.

Therefore you cannot jaunt to the sibling timeline on the other side of a bifurcation, because there's no way to match times. The only timelines you can jaunt to are those where the time dimensions are more-or-less in parallel. These came from somewhen else.

We also need to add in a clause that, once timelines have interacted via jaunters, they branch in parallel, so that you don't lose contact with part of another time tree just because one or the other side has bifurcated away from you.

And the reason it's called paratime? It has three spatial dimensions and some much larger number of unidirectional temporal dimensions. In each of these temporal dimensions, time only increases, so time travel is not allowed and there's no way to do a bunch of jaunts and come back before you left. The number of temporal dimensions is high enough to allow timelines to branch as much as is needed for the story.

324:

ActionService @ 284: Also the hovercraft cargo transport thing some books back was kind of irritating...there are much easier ways to provide electrical insulation if that's all you need (hello quartz rods). And even if you absolutely had to provide an air cushion you could always have externally powered fans blowing up the skirt from below rather than the on-board diesel engines I seem to recall.

Like an air hockey table or the Disneyland Flying Saucers ride back in the 60s ... but you'd need to have the blowers on both the "TL of departure" and on the "TL of arrival". With a diesel powered hover-craft (even if it is full of eels) all you need is clear spaces on both Time Lines.

Parking lots on either side would suffice.

325:

Agreed. I thought people were more clever about using color. Thanks for the article.

The only thing I'm grumpy about (as a botanist) is them ragging on plant science papers for being insensitive about using pictures that have red and green in them. While I'm unforgiving about graph colors (they should be visible for everyone, of course), I seriously hope they're not saying that pictures of plants should be recolored to make them easier for RG colorblind people to see. Sometimes a green leaf should be green.

326:

Microsoft is slightly notorious for every bit of software inventing the wheel from scratch. Word and Excel (used to?) have independent half-arse regex processing and it bugs me a lot. Not to the point where I'll use PowerShell to load documents and search them that way, but close. What I actually do use use LibreOffice to load and search, then edit in MS-Word (because my day job use MS-Word for management-originated documentation. We also have a wiki, for geek-originated documentation. And three different issue tracking systems just because).

327:

JReynolds @ 292: @275 Heteromeles:

would expect worlds with shared histories to be closer to each other than worlds that had diverged further back

Fred Pohl came up with this explanation in his book The Coming of the Quantum Cats. Paraphrasing from memory (since it's been 20+ years since I read it):

"Imagine that parallel worlds are like beads on a necklace that's been twisted into an enormous tangle. You get two beads that are on the string directly adjacent to your bead. They are very similar to your own world. Then you have a bunch of beads that are also adjacent to your bead, but they can be very far from where your bead is on the string. That's why a few of the worlds we can access are similar to ours, but also why so many are so very different."

Yeah, I like that one.

Update: My copy of Invisible Sun is due here by 22 Oct.


328:

I'm just annoyed that UV and IR is often left out of the pictures altogether. That seems rude. I don't care that most people can't see the colours, they should put them in for those who can.

I often read New Scientist in bed of an evening, using the red LED light over my bed. That does really weird stuff to the colour pictures because it's almost completely monochromatic. And very, very occasionally the UV insect light will make something fluoresce enough that I notice it (mostly it's white sheets that glow thanks to washing powders that wash whiter than white)

329:

Tb: some people have little damage anc recover well with good but simple care.
This is a story about someone who had worse trouble and absent to poor care.

330:

>I'm picturing the same with timelines - they decay rapidly (you put that here, no, there, decay to *there*) in very small time periods, unless there are large energies involved.

That makes perfect sense.

Though there is a near infinity of parallel universes most of them are popping into and out of existence like virtual particles.

For example, there is a parallel universe whose only difference is that you had pancakes instead of waffles for breakfast this morning.

It popped into existence and quickly disappeared merging seamlessly back into the prime time line.

Which is the prime timeline? The one you happen to be in, of course.

However, some universes have major changes (the Axis win WW2, the South wins the Civil War, Napoleon wins at Waterloo, various incarnations of Spiderman, etc. - all the main AltHist tropes) that allow them to achieve "escape velocity" from the prime and become permanent parallel universes.

So while there is a near infinity of universes popping in and out of existence, there is only a relative handful of true and permanent parallel universes.

331:

@326 - “Microsoft is slightly notorious for every bit of software inventing the wheel from scratch.”
Hah! Way back when I was engineering manager for the commercial Smalltalk vendor, customers were loudly clamouring for ‘proper OS widgets like Word uses’. Funny thing was that Word didn’t use any of the official Windows widgets or related apis. Excel didn’t use the same widgets. We tried, oh how we tried, but the ‘real’ widgets basically didn’t work. I don’t think anything much has changed, but I haven’t used windows for more than a few minutes since 1996.

332:

Consider a sperm race:
Why so many sperm cells? (2015, K. Reynaud, Z. Schuss, N. Rouach, D. Holcman) [1]
A key limiting step in fertility is the search for the oocyte by spermatozoa. Initially, there are tens of millions of sperm cells, but a single one will make it to the oocyte. This may be one of the most severe selection processes designed by evolution, whose role is yet to be understood. Why is it that such a huge redundancy is required and what does that mean for the search process?

There is Brownian motion involved. That means that any out-of-position molecule will quickly propagate changes to the other molecules in the fluids involved to alter such motion relative to other [nearby(/entangled?) timelines]. (Different spermatozoon wins the race, or there are no winners.)
Or, if one prefers, atomic decay with random cellular damage from the decay products (alpha, beta, gamma). (Or look at ventricular fibrillation.)
Or weather, and wind gusts, lightning strikes.

We should be focusing our attention on the futures of this timeline.

[1] I'm unwilling to try to determine whether this reply to that paper is entirely serious, because parts of it are Art, intentional or not:
Why so many sperm cells? Not only a possible means of mitigating the hazards inherent to human reproduction but also an indicator of an exaptation (Peter W. Barlow, 2016)
Testes characterized by the Golden Ratio, especially if large (i.e., exaptive) and hence more eye-catching, might, together with other body parameters,48,49 therefore be preferred by females – and, as Short put it,44 become ‘the engine if desire’ – thereby rendering males with large TTV as desirable mates.
(There's more!!! :-)

333:

Duffy @ 314: Now that we are past 300 comments:

WTF is going on in Britain?

No petrol, no milk, grocery stores empty, fruit rotting in the field, and natgas prices climbing 40% in one day.

Is this just a localized effect of Brexit or the first signs of a general unraveling of civilization (along with the collapse of Evergrande taking 1/3 of the Chinese economy with it)?

I saw a comment somewhere, maybe a letter to the editor of the Guardian, that said it was an amalgamation of the government's handling of Covid & Brexit ...

"Boris coxit up!"


334:

Moz @ 318: Laugh for the morning: It’s not called a Zeppelin unless it comes from the Zeppelin region of Germany, otherwise it’s just a sparkling airship.

https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/a-quick-note-on-airships/

(has more thoughts, but the lead in is funny)

Interesting article, but there doesn't appear to be a Zeppelin region of Germany?

335:

Exploring?

So, what have TL 2 & TL 3 found our there? Was it the Hoppers that sterilized (?) (Impoverished eco system anyways) TL 4 (Unclear).


The text implies both major TL (2/3) have exploratory programs, author cites 70% no hominids, 30% paleolithic. Been watching a lot of YouTube videos about human evolution recently, surely modest programs of study and colonization have been initiated from both TL. Anyone have any cool megafauna (Mammoth, Mastodon, Sabre Tooth Cats?) in their National zoo? Does TL 3 HAVE a national Zoo? Did Someone go see if you can find some variant elephant species in North Africa (Hannibal/Rome and the extinct African forest elephant) and Syria? (Recent Slingshot article? The Assyrians did in the last of those).

Co-operative study of neolithic hominids (Neanderthal?) would be an excellent non-threatening joint program for TL 2/3. With modest colonization to provide groceries and support? Pick an Island- Crete? Cyprus? Sardinia? as a base. Madagascar!!! (Thinking as I type...

Interesting topic for fan fiction?

336:

Have anyone here read City by Clifford Simak?

337:

#326 - I'm not sure I entirely agree. Mickeyshaft certainly do remake the shell visuals of their control paradigm from scratch every generation or two. They do this to create at least an illusion of progress in the eyes of the accountants and lawyers who write the cheques for $"new_version" of $software (for this purpose, a "new version" of Windoze is software).

Whether or not there is actually any real progress in the underlying kernel is a quite different matter. As an illustration of this, I'm using Windoze 10 but do so more or less interchangeably with Windoze 7, and they both have the same implementation of a "command prompt", which hasn't actually changed noticeably (to me anyway) since A Mess DOS 6.0.

#331 - Why does this not surprise me? ;-)

339:

A Brexit update would be nice.

A brexit update would be depressing as fuck so I'm not going there (for my own mental health).

TLDR is, the pro-Brexit faction labelled every concern that things might not go smoothly as "Project Fear" and promised that it wouldn't be like that, honest. Turns out that Project Fear weren't just right, the worst parts of Project Fear were right, it just took several months longer to become apparent than most of us expected -- COVID19 concealed a lot of the damage and could be blamed for shortages, supply chain issues, etc. at first.

Only now is the true magnitude of the economic damage becoming clear, and it's pretty grim: supermarket shelves that resemble those of East Germany, pigs being slaughtered and burned because there aren't enough abattoir workers (and they can't be exported to the EU for meat packing any more), fishing industry devastated, queues on every petrol station forecourt with fuel for sale because there aren't enough tanker drivers, restaurants closed because the staff all shrugged and went home to the EU because obviously they weren't wanted here ...

The Brexit fantasies of a return to the halcyon days of the 1950s missed out the bit about food rationing lasting until late 1953.

340:

I often read New Scientist in bed of an evening

BTW, earlier this year New Scientist were bought by the Daily Mail group. You know, the folks who were all "Hurrah for that nice Mister Hitler!" until September 1939, and are generally all in with any group to the right of Genghis Khan. (I'm pretty sure they approve of the Australian Liberal Party.) They're also pretty good at confusing politically-motivated lies with news coverage.

While it's possible that NS might be a sign of DMG hedging their bets on climate change coverage, more likely you can expect a marked deterioration in their editorial quality over the next year or so.

Me, I cancelled my subscription the instant I heard about the takeover.

341:

WTF's in the water in places where a "Conservative" party decides their optimum will be the Nation's? These jokers look to be Tories & Republicans first, British & American second (On a good day). In a more ideal world, a conservative expressing their inner fascist should be as much of a faux pas as breaking wind in a closed elevator car.

342:

There is a potential very ranty blog post updating my circa-2013 look at the way white supremacism (let's call a Nazi a fucking Nazi from now on, okay?) intersects with Christian dominionism and climate change denialism -- and about the lethal prospect of them deciding that climate change is real, so let's weaponize it and use it to murder billions of not-like-us subhumans.

It really needs a mind map/spider diagram to sketch in all the links, but it's not so much a conspiracy theory as simply that people who are attracted to one set of beliefs about the world adopt related policies, and the Nazi right feel threatened by loss of status/demographic shortfall.

However it comes to me that I've been borderline depressed for the past five years and doing a deep dive into this sewage -- not to mention fielding the drive-by comments from Nazi-adjacent turds -- will be bad for my mental health.

343:

Bitter amusement is a poor substitute for happiness, but there's a hell of a lot of it available. That the self esteem of a handful of the wealthy depends on the relative misery of billions is appalling, and militant "Fundagelicals" implies schism in the future when the heresy becomes impossible to ignore. There will be stories to tell the young if we make it to the other side of this.

344:

I've just finished the book (UK trade paperback), and read the whole thread, and I'm surprised that no one else seems to have noticed that Liz hides her old bag in a trash can in a mall restroom (page 182), and then the police find it in her hotel room trash can (page 233) and get excited over gunpowder residue...

Sorry Charlie.

345:

* facepalm *

All I can say is, fifty pages is about a day of proofreading time, so I presumably passed over it and had forgotten by the next day's session.

346:

However it comes to me that I've been borderline depressed for the past five years and doing a deep dive into this sewage -- not to mention fielding the drive-by comments from Nazi-adjacent turds -- will be bad for my mental health.

Agreed, strongly!

I find myself hoping for more meditations along the lines of the Wolf Orchestra. You know, how to fight the power with old age and treachery, because youth and enthusiasm is just too callow to get the job done? Maybe call it Older Brother, if Cory Doctorow isn't working on that right now.

In an amusing non-sequitur, I was reading something about the island of Ikaria in the Aegean. It's one of the so-called Blue Zone places, where people live inordinately long times. Turns out, back in Roman times, it was a source of high-grade wine, because the local wine yeast tolerates about 2% more alcohol than standard yeasts do. And they still use ancient amphorae to ferment wine, because the old jugs are buried up to the rim and easier to hide from the tax assessors because of that. Later on, the Byzantines used the island as a dumping ground for malcontents, and their descendants are still there. And Ikarians purportedly tend to be more active in the evening, into the night, because the island got hit by pirates a lot, so they had to do much of their work when raiders weren't active. Or something. And they're fairly poor, but they get by with a lot of work, a bit of cleverness, conviviality, and making the best of what they have.

Somehow, I'm getting a glimmer of an idea about what the good life might actually look like, at least if you want to live a long time with fewer lifestyle diseases. And I don't think it corporatizes all that well, although people are trying.

347:

WTF's in the water in places where a "Conservative" party decides their optimum will be the Nation's? These jokers look to be Tories & Republicans first, British & American second (On a good day).

I suspect, as many others have said, the truth is that much of the post-WW2 era was the exception and not the normal - and we are merely returning to the (unfortunate) normal.

The only real difference is where on the slope various countries/regions are - mainland Europe looks reasonable but only because we are comparing it to the US or UK - if one looks closely they are heading in the same direction.

348:

I suspect, as many others have said, the truth is that much of the post-WW2 era was the exception and not the normal - and we are merely returning to the (unfortunate) normal.

I suspect that one reason the post-WW2 era was flatter than the norm is that the USSR presented a worldview where the average worker wasn't exploited so TPTB felt they needed to show the average Western worker that they weren't being exploited in order to nip Communism in the bud. Also, WW2 had given fascism a bad name.

The collapse of the USSR removed the spectre of Communism from elite calculations, while time has erased the automatic rejection of fascism*.

I fear you are right. We are certainly heading back into Gilded Age inequities. Can't even console ourselves that the uber-wealthy will suffer with the rest in the coming climate collapse — they can buy their way to a private haven in New Zealand (or wherever).


*When I was a kid, no one debated if you could punch a Nazi or not. They were a Nazi, so punchable, end of discussion.

349:

I think Neanderthals count as Paleolithic or perhaps mesolithic, but that's okay, your point on exploration is spot on. As is your point about megafauna. I'd also point out that paleo- and mesolithic tech systems didn't disappear until very recently. They're the stuff you can make by banging together the rocks at hand, as opposed to the finely crafted points you get by trading for obsidian and other top-line materials from hundreds of kilometers away. More modern paleolithic tools get derided as "women's knives" and are made and discarded (sort of like plastic cutlery), rather than coddled. In other words, they're good technology for those on the bleeding edge of the ever-expanding paratime frontier.

If what Campbell called The Great Hunt (a world with megafauna) is just a jaunt away, of course there will be mammoths and ground sloths in zoos. Jaunting with the buggers will be a test of logistics. I'll admit that I was thinking about how something like a fraternity initiation in such a system might involve a group of pledges going out, hunting an elephant-equivalent, butchering it, bringing it all back to the frat house (including the bones) and making barbecue for the house for a week or two, or at least until the sorority sisters start getting repelled by the smell of the bones and the hide tanning. Oops, veered into sarcasm there.

On one side of the coin, there's the fun of the eternal frontier, exploration and adventure backed by default expansionism. On the other, there's a certain level of wretched excess driven by the notion that there are no limits, thanks to the jaunt. Unfortunately, you can't unlink the two, since they're both aspects of how frontiers work.

350:

If it's broken badly enough, their money becomes ornamental. A "New deal" style of compromise would be in their best long term interest, but they may find long term inconceivable.

351:

I suspect that one reason the post-WW2 era was flatter than the norm is that the USSR presented a worldview where the average worker wasn't exploited so TPTB felt they needed to show the average Western worker that they weren't being exploited in order to nip Communism in the bud.

Was communism and the threat of the USSR a factor? I would guess yes, but there were also other factors like the rise of unions. But I suspect it was a lot more than just that - at least for the US.

The post-WW2 era in the US really was the result of the Great Depression and the resulting New Deal by Roosevelt.

So the right leader at the right time to take advantage of circumstances.

The problem of course is despite the last 40 years there is still enough of the New Deal (both in law, and in government responses) that despite major economic shocks - crash of 2008, Covid-19 - people have not been as desperate as those at the bottom were in the Great Depression.

Or, to put it another way, we are better at hiding it and papering over it.

Thus no groundswell of political support to reverse the last 40 years (yet at least).

Now add in that we have truly national media with concentrated ownership which makes it a lot easier to manipulate much of the public into taking out their anger in unproductive (at least if the goal is to improve their lives) ways.

I fear you are right. We are certainly heading back into Gilded Age inequities. Can't even console ourselves that the uber-wealthy will suffer with the rest in the coming climate collapse — they can buy their way to a private haven in New Zealand (or wherever).

Well, they at least think they can...

352:

Communism provided an ideological push for more equality. The economic factor, at least for North America and Australia, was that we were places with lots of coal and oil that hadn't been trashed by WW2, unlike Europe and Asia. Everyone has since rebuilt since WW2, and the aging infrastructure that North Americans (and Australians?) didn't bother to invest in is now breaking down.

In general, I think we're rearguing Piketty's thesis that inequality naturally grows in any quasi-stable system, both through luck and exploitation, and that the natural fix is some combination of redistribution and revolution.

What's different is that I don't think we're going back to a Gilded Age. We're in a Gilded Age, and our ultra-rich dwarf the old tycoons. The question is how it ends, because I don't think communism 2.0 is going to work this time either.

The problem is that we're at the end of an industrial era driven by the industrializing conquering the non-industrialized and resource-stripping as we went. We're pretty much through those resources, and we're pretty much through oil and coal. So what comes next?

The predictable, short-term things that come next include rising authoritarianism, which shows up when more democratic governments get weak just like flies lay eggs in road kill, and for much the same reason. I don't think the ultra-rich will save themselves by moving to New Zealand, because New Zealand doesn't have the resource base to support ultra-rich people. To clarify, the tycoons might save their genes, but they won't save their power or culture by moving to New Zealand. And the latter two probably matter more to them than does their effing, backstabbing, family. In other words, I expect them to try looting the world and retreating to their secret lairs. I just don't expect it to work all that well, because you need a huge resource base to support a life of wretched excess, and loot always runs out sooner more than later.

What will come next, in the long term (e.g. likely after all of us are dead) depends on whether civilizations can adapt to the constant crises of climate change. The last time we faced something like this was during the Little Ice Age, when the Renaissance/Medieval system and its contemporaries largely broke down, and new systems, like the Enlightenment, grew as governments learned how to deal with the constant crises the weather and greedy authoritarians were forcing on them.

Our descendants will have to learn to get by with less and deal with more chaos. That's pretty much a given. If they can learn to live in ways where no one gets rich but everyone gets by, that might be the best outcome anyone could hope for. And it's certainly better than hoping we all die because we're irredeemably evil.

353:

When I was a kid, no one debated if you could punch a Nazi or not. They were a Nazi, so punchable, end of discussion.

When I was a kid (60s USA), no one debated if you could punch a Commie or not. They were a Commie, so punchable, end of discussion.

354:

FIFTY PAGES A DAY?

And I was told on Sunday, 23 May, to "drop everything" and go over the copyeditor's copy, to publish in 27 May.[1][2]

1. I'd never used track changes before, so there are typos of page 1....
2. True, they slid other publication dates of other books around, so they could get back from mid-June to the original date they'd told me, so I could have a book launch on 28 May, the first day of this year's virtual Balticon.

355:

There has been long support for bringing back the New Deal, and the last seven or eight years, there has, in fact, been a groundswell (Bernie, AOC, etc). The problem is GOP gerrymandering in the US, along with voter suppression laws.

356:

Please. I read this, and I picture some "terrorists" getting control of one nuke, and taking out Davos during the conference.

357:

Rbt Prior
Solzenhitysin pointed out that such was not actually the case in the CCCP, with bitter remarks about what Lenin had said & actual practice ....

H
We're in a Gilded Age YES
We will look back on approx 1953 - 2008, possibly as late as 2019 - as a Golden Age, which will not be repeated. Marcus Aurelius has died & it's likely to be downhill from here, unless some of the young do something about it.

358:

Solzenhitysin pointed out that such was not actually the case in the CCCP, with bitter remarks about what Lenin had said & actual practice ....

Yes, but was that widely known when the New Deal was being implemented?

359:

Please. I read this, and I picture some "terrorists" getting control of one nuke, and taking out Davos during the conference.

To the local Five Eyes franchisee: No Julie, I do not advocate terrorism, nor does he. Sorry about the paperwork.

I'll simply repeat my favorite quote from my favorite bigot, HL Mencken: "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong."

And I'll refer you to your local coverage of the Pandora Papers, from your morning serving of schadenfreude americano with a slice of cherry pie.

360:

There has been long support for bringing back the New Deal,

Not really.

Yes, a lot of New Deal like stuff is popular in polling, but that doesn't translate into voter support - many/most of those who claim support for New Deal policies then vote against those policies at primary/election time.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

and the last seven or eight years, there has, in fact, been a groundswell (Bernie, AOC, etc).

Again, not really.

AOC and Bernie both get a lot of press, and Bernie was popular enough as a Presidential Candidate (and a social media meme)

But neither are popular outside of their districts when it comes to people actually voting for them(*) - and neither of them (nor the others in their small group of progressives) have had success in getting progressive candidates through primaries. Note that the Tea Party, and now Trump, are far more successful in controlling primary voting than AOC/Bernie/progressives are on the other side.

When/if the day comes when Democrats in primaries are afraid of the progressives in primary contests, then there will be evidence of a groundswell of support.

* - a scandal plagued Cuomo was still far more popular among voters for the 2022 Governor race than AOC in early August - https://www.newsweek.com/andrew-cuomo-still-beats-out-aoc-letitia-james-2022-polling-1617616

The problem is GOP gerrymandering in the US, along with voter suppression laws.

Is gerrymandering a problem in the US? Absolutely.

But the bigger problem on the progressive side is that it is a convenient excuse, something to blame, rather than actual analysis.

Progressives losing primaries isn't the result of GOP gerrymandering.

Losing Senate races isn't GOP gerrymandering (though voter suppression can play a part).

No, if progressives actually want to win they need to be honest with themselves as to what is working and what isn't working, so they know what they need to change/improve.

Blaming the GOP is simply a way of avoiding that truth.

361:

And I'll refer you to your local coverage of the Pandora Papers,

Yep, 5 years after the Panama Papers and nothing has changed regardless of what governments have been in power.

362:

Um, wrong. Bernie got millions of votes when he was running against Hillary. Last year - the problem was his age.

And people outside their districts don't have the right to vote for someone.

But a lot of progressive got elected... and look at the bills they're trying to get through the GOP.

You think gerrymandering and voter suppression isn't a problem? Look at Texas, or Georgia.

And right now, the GOP is in panic mode, because if they start losing, it's all over. In one redistricting case a few months ago, the GOP defense literally said that if x happened, they'd never be able to win again (as if they had a right to).

363:

The problem is that there are things people want. There are also things people fear. The fear (conditioned responses, really) is stronger than the want.

364:

I was told on Sunday, 23 May, to "drop everything" and go over the copyeditor's copy, to publish in 27 May

Copy-edits are not page proofs, and it sounds like your publisher was (a) pulling dumb-ass stunts and (b) skimping on production. Copy-edits with change-tracking can indeed be zipped through rapidly if the CE isn't a lunatic; proper typeset page proofs in PDF for paper publication ... not so much.

I assume they were trying to hit an ebook release deadline for Balticon, not freeze it for paper printing and shipping: the latter takes a lot longer (a month from printing to bookstore release throughout the USA, per all the big publishers I've worked with -- there are warehouses and railroads in the way).

365:

In the UK, that had nothing to do with it. It was because the country had come through an existential crisis, where we had had to work together, and there was a common belief in society as a whole and that we needed to rebuild.

366:

Please. I read this, and I picture some "terrorists" getting control of one nuke, and taking out Davos during the conference.

That would be an awful, bad, terrible, no-good thing to happen. Seriously.

Never mind that 95% of the folks at each Davos conference are ordinary working stiffs -- the caterers, cleaning crews, bodyguards, drivers, and so on -- and they're less than 10% of the population of the island during the event.

But consider: if you were to give the Klept a nuclear haircut at Davos, what would happen?

Well, you'd trigger a global anti-terrorist witch hunt for starters, with the definition of "witch" starting at anyone remotely critical of global capitalism and the oil and tobacco industries. And then ... you just clear-cut an entire ecosystem, which opens up every niche in it to colonization by insurgents. Who in this case will include people like their predecessors only worse. Less restrained, more brutal, because terrified of terrorism.

If you think I'm kidding, google the origins of the term "Stolypin necktie". If you want to evict the klept you need to include a non-violent exit option for them, otherwise they will have no reason not to fight to the death, and it is more likely to be your death than theirs.

367:

Right... but you're published by one of the majors. Ring of Fire Press is a small press - they sell ebooks (via Baen), and trade paper through Amazon. They don't get put in bookstores (which was why I was ecstatic at Capclave this past weekend, when I could hand Sally (Larry Smith's widow, bookseller) a dozen paper copies, and she'll take them to more cons than I make.

The copy editor was good - it was them moving release dates around, and when the copy editor was available.

And as I said, I'd never done that before, I know better, now.

Unless, of course, you've got an agent I could query for the next novel or two....

368:

New Scientist were bought by the Daily Mail group... might be a sign of DMG hedging their bets on climate change

Wouldn't count on it. The NS editor, Grahame Lawson, has published a couple of notes in the magazine to the effect "I realise climate change is a real problem and we must stop recreational flying ASAP, but I'm flying to Greece with my family regardless. We're buying indulgences even though I have previously written about indulgences not being an effective solution" blah blah etc.

He's a pre hate mail employee.

My issue is that I don't really have a good alternative pop sci source. Anyone got suggestions? I'd be happy with RSS feeds, what I'm really after is breadth of coverage.

369:

That would be an awful, bad, terrible, no-good thing to happen. Seriously.

Anyone who wants to change things needs to copy the Tea Party / Trump playbooks.

Or the Brexit playbook.

You need the politicians more afraid of the voters than those who normally are pulling the strings.

Without Brexit a Conservative politician who says "f* business" doesn't become PM and win a big majority.

Without the Tea Party and later Trump, the Republican politicians would be more beholden to big business.

You want progressive issues to become important again, and to be passed into law - then get the voters onboard so that the politicians implement those issues or face defeat.

370:

Um, wrong. Bernie got millions of votes when he was running against Hillary. Last year - the problem was his age.

Um, doubtful - you don't not vote for a 79 year old candidate based on age but turnaround and vote for the 77 year old one - particularly when the 77 year old one had people commenting in his mental abilities diminishing.

But that entirely misses the point that I did say for Bernie his popularity as a Presidential candidate.

And people outside their districts don't have the right to vote for someone.

I never said that they did - what I did say is that the progressive wing is repeatedly failing at getting progressive candidates through the primary process - because regardless of what voters may claim when it comes time to vote they don't support progressive.

AOC, while obviously popular in her district, isn't all that popular outside of it - which is a reflection on the lack of support for progressive policies at voting time among the larger US population.

But a lot of progressive got elected...

Is Pelosi afraid of progressive voters? nope.

Is Schumer afraid of progressive voters? nope.

On the other side McConnell and McCarthy are afraid of Trump voters, as are pretty much all Republican incumbents/candidates.

So who actually has power?

On the right, it is Trump and his base.

On the left, it is the mainstream Democratic Party.

If progressives want to change things, they have to change this dynamic - they have to get Democrats afraid of pissing them as voters off.

That isn't happening.

and look at the bills they're trying to get through the GOP.

Are the progressives going to get these bills passed? I hope so, but my prediction is not in any meaningful way because they don't have the support within the Democratic Party

You think gerrymandering and voter suppression isn't a problem? Look at Texas, or Georgia.

Did you even read what I posted? You know, where I said:

"Is gerrymandering a problem in the US? Absolutely."

How, from that statement, do you twist it into that I don't think gerrymandering is a problem?

My point, is that while it is a problem, it isn't the biggest problem for progressives (who can't get their candidates through the Democratic primary process) or even arguably the Democrats:

- whose problem at the moment is the Senate - and that isn't gerrymandered.

- and in 3 years the Presidential election, which also isn't gerrymandered.

My point is progressives blaming their failures on GOP gerrymandering is convenient for the progressives - because they don't have to look at the real reasons behind their current failures.

Now, if progressives ever get to the point where the dominate the Democratic Party then they can complain about the GOP gerrymandering.

371:

whose problem at the moment is the Senate - and that isn't gerrymandered

Well, arguably it has been:

https://washingtonmonthly.com/2019/05/08/how-republicans-gerrymandered-the-senate/


And the problem with the Senate (or at least one of the problems with the Senate) for Democrats seems to be that small Republican states count as much as large Democratic ones.

372:

phys.org is a good feed, and has some useful subcategories.

I too let my New Scientist subscription lapse due to the vile nature of the purchaser. (A 20+ year subscription; sort of hurt, but New Scientist has always been a bit flaky and I could not tolerate an additional layer of right wing editorial influence.)

373:

supermarket shelves that resemble those of East Germany,

Perhaps a slight exaggeration? Given that I spent three years of my childhood in 1970s Bulgaria, and I was in our local Tesco's supermarket this evening (only seven or eight miles south of Charlie)...

Yes, the stock levels are lower than normal; there are some gaps in the shelves, but it's more like "what does the store look like at lunchtime on Christmas Eve" than the full-on three-queue-system wasteland beloved of Eastern Europe... The staples are all there, the goods are nearly all there, it's mostly just the choice between different brands.

As for the petrol queues, it looked perfectly normal as I drove past the forecourt. Granted, that may be the effect of living less than thirty miles from one of the larger fuel processing plants in the UK...

374:

Wrong. On many counts.

The progressives *are* making inroads - are you saying they're failing, because they don't win all?

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/04/908524877/how-progressive-democrats-fared-this-primary-season-and-what-it-means

The *left* and center had issues about Bernie's age. The right don't give a shit.

And the bills - you mean, like the voting rights bill? like the infrastructure bill? Seem to me that on the Senate side, we've got Manchin and Sinema... and everyone else is mostly on board. In the House - these bills *are* getting voted on.

And I *strongly* disagree with you: I don't want party leaders *afraid* of the voters, I want them *anxious* and wanting to please them.

375:

Auricoma @ 336: Have anyone here read City by Clifford Simak?

Didn't remember it, but I looked it up & recognized the plot exposition from the Wikipedia article, so I'm pretty sure I have read it. But it was a long, long, loooong time ago. Probably found it in the library at my elementary school as a child.

Thinking about it makes me kind of sad because I think dogs without people would be just as bad off as people would be if we ever lost our dogs. There is some question as to just who "domesticated" whom?

376:

Charlie Stross @ 345: * facepalm *

All I can say is, fifty pages is about a day of proofreading time, so I presumably passed over it and had forgotten by the next day's session.

I have books that have gone through multiple editions ("printings"?). Is that something you might correct in the file the publisher uses to print the book so that future printings have it corrected? Or is the text "set in stone" (so to speak) at this point?

Just wondering how that stuff works.

377:

Robert Prior @ 358:

Solzenhitysin pointed out that such was not actually the case in the CCCP, with bitter remarks about what Lenin had said & actual practice ....

Yes, but was that widely known when the New Deal was being implemented?

It was. But many people did accept Soviet propaganda at face value in the 1930s ... just like many people accepted Nazi & Fascist propaganda at face value ... or accepted Jim Crow, Aimee Semple McPherson or Spiritualism ...

Or QAnon today.

378:
I have books that have gone through multiple editions ("printings"?). Is that something you might correct in the file the publisher uses to print the book so that future printings have it corrected? Or is the text "set in stone" (so to speak) at this point?

Such changes do occur, even without a formal "new edition", though I don't know the mechanism. For instance, one fairly famous one occurred in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Fans pointed out shortly after it was published that the ghosts of Harry's mother and father, which were supposed to appear in the reverse order of their death, appeared in the wrong order. In subsequent versions that error as corrected. If you have a book on your Kindle, Amazon can sneak in and change the book without asking your permission, which is a little disturbing for something that you in principle "own".

379:

Heteromeles @ 359: And I'll refer you to your local coverage of the Pandora Papers, from your morning serving of schadenfreude americano with a slice of cherry pie.

I don't know why, but there has been a surprising scarcity of big name wealthy Americans in the news I've seen about those "Pandora Papers" (U.S.A. Americans - I think some SOUTH Americans showed up, but no names that really stood out for me???).

This go round seems to be mostly comprised of east Europeans along with a smattering of Africans & Asians. Perhaps instead of that Caffè Americano, a Turkish Coffee, a Maté or a Phitti Hui would be more in order?

Although ... South Dakota appears to have become a "tax haven", but I don't think the money is hidden there so much as the "trusts" used to hide the money offshore are incorporated there (like Delaware used to be). I don't think the Dakota, Lakota or Nakota have a traditional coffee flavored drink.

380:

mdlve @ 360:

There has been long support for bringing back the New Deal,

Not really.

I rarely agree with Whitroth on anything, but I don't think you know what you're talking about.

381:

Make it three people who want parts of the New Deal brought back, and I'd point out elements of the New Deal, not the whole thing. FDR threw the pantry at the wall to see what stuck, and a bunch of stuff got lost to history. Some more of it is currently irrelevant. And the racism that made it pass and helped bring it down needs to be exorcised, of course.

Anyway, I think you can see what the Republicans are afraid of in California, where the democrats have basically taken over at the state level. While I agree that this leaves the Republicans under-represented, the biggest thing the Republicans have done is to run that stupid-ass recall and rack up some of the lowest vaccination rates in the US. Most of California by area is actually Republican dominated, and some of the local leader are somewhat clued in (as in the Republican supervisors of San Diego County, who are into keeping their jobs). Unfortunately, and I mean this sincerely, a bunch of the Republican leaders have gone into full authoritarian wingnut-hood, and it's not particularly helping them or their constituents.

My ideal is that I'd like to see multiple parties catching each others' mistakes and making for compromises that fix problems, more than split babies. Having one side running on nihilistic bad faith just makes for a drag on everything.

382:

phys.org is a good feed, and has some useful subcategories.

Thanks for the suggestion, am checking it out.

383:

15%? 1.5%? Both nicely bracket a recent meta-analysis which suggests 4.5% of gen pop are psychopathic. https://boingboing.net/2021/08/05/psychopaths-make-up-4-5-of-the-adult-population-according-to-a-new-meta-analysis.html

384:

#378 - IIRC e-book "texts" are legally software, and subject to an "End User Licence Agreement" (EULA), under which you never actually own them, simply hold a licence that you have access to the file.

#381 - Given a 2 party system, and the parties typically splitting the electorate 52/48 or so, I'd suggest that any party that has more than a 4% lead in $chamber is over-represented.

#383 - Surely not? If our mean (no words to suggest otherwise in your link) is 4.5%, then either 1.5% or 15% (or possibly both) are outside 3SD of that mean.

385:

On a slightly more optimistic note, it looks like someone has finally come up with a commercially viable flow battery using reasonably non-toxic chemistry.

https://www.powerengineeringint.com/smart-grid-td/energy-storage/sb-energy-orders-2gwh-of-iron-flow-long-duration-storage-systems/

Flow batteries have two electrolytes separated by a membrane. The neat thing is that the electrolytes are stored in tanks, which can be as big as you like. The membrane part is where the electricity happens, but that only needs to scale with the current being supplied. So this is ideal for grid-scale storage.

The tricky bits have been toxic chemistry (a previous favourite has been vanadium) and finding a membrane that stops the two different electrolytes from mixing. The iron-salt battery uses the same chemistry on both sides, so diffusion through the membrane merely discharges the battery rather than spoiling the electrolytes.

You can even make a lab demonstrator yourself: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468067219300318

386:

I have books that have gone through multiple editions ("printings"?). Is that something you might correct in the file the publisher uses to print the book so that future printings have it corrected? Or is the text "set in stone" (so to speak) at this point?

The publishers don't typeset the books any more (not since the 1990s); it's outsourced to independent typesetting outfits. Which means to get anything changed requires a change list and a purchase order to be processed through the guts of a multinational (although TBF it is a multinational set up for that particular workflow). Upshot is, they don't like to do it unless it actually threatens to jeopardize sales (because it's a significant expense).

Some bugs got squished in the audiobook edition, because the audio folks took the final typeset proofs then asked for correx -- they have their own editorial process. Those bugs are being back-propagated and will probably get sorted out in the ebook at some future point, most likely when they re-flow the typeset files to a new paper size for the trade paperback in a year's time.

Note that if you report a typo or bug in an ebook to Amazon it will not get fixed, because there's no mechanism in place at Amazon to report it to the publisher: all that happens is that if enough people do that, Amazon will yank the ebook from publication. Then nobody at the publisher will notice until the next payment statement comes up zeroes (a month or three later). So Don't Do That. (If it really bugs you, shout at me instead. I don't promise to get it fixed, but you'll feel better and make my day worse.)

387:

Paul
IF that is correct then our energy problems, if not "solved" are enormously relived/alleviated ...
Next question: What "NIH" excuses will be used for it to NOT be installed here, as fast as possible?

[ Parallel example: The Germans solved all the operational-&-safety problems of Tram/Train operation, over 10 years back. Here, the authorities are still dragging their feet, re-inventing the wheel & burrowing for excuses ... ]

388:

15%? 1.5%? Both nicely bracket a recent meta-analysis which suggests 4.5% of gen pop are psychopathic.

The percentage doesn't matter. What matters is that bad behaviour is contagious among the majority of the population. Once you have an uncontrolled epidemic of antisocial behaviour the iron laws of exponential growth mean that any non-zero reservoir population will infect everyone else in a short time.

389:
The percentage doesn't matter. What matters is that bad behaviour is contagious among the majority of the population. Once you have an uncontrolled epidemic of antisocial behaviour the iron laws of exponential growth mean that any non-zero reservoir population will infect everyone else in a short time.

It's an interesting idea. The key word in what you write is "uncontrolled". In the real world exponential growth always runs into some sort of limit. In this case it is obvious that the exponential growth of the psychopath population must end before it hits 100%. My bet would be that the limit is far below that. Once they're common enough that virtually everyone can expect to deal with a psychopath fairly frequently, defensive mechanisms become advantageous, even somewhat costly defensive mechanisms.

I wouldn't be surprised if 5% is the equilibrium level.

390:

Even in the USA essentially no one, outside of a few govt officials, spoke of "the GDR" -- it was "East Germany")

You and I apparently read and listened to different news sources. To me it was about 50/50 East Germany or GDR. They were interchangeable with GDR being used in most non casual news stories.

391:

Next question: What "NIH" excuses will be used for [iron-salt flow batteries] to NOT be installed here, as fast as possible?

If you mean "here in the UK" (can't recall if you have said where you live) then I can't think of any. The privatised power system means that anyone who can handle the basic technical assurance of connecting up to the National Grid is free to have a go at making money from it. The only other headache would be planning permission. The particular product I linked to is nicely containerised, so it can go in pretty much any industrial estate with a good electricity supply, and the non-toxic chemistry means that there is a whole load of planning and safety stuff you don't need to go through. So if the numbers add up I would anticipate seeing it rolled out pretty fast.

A quick Google found a Government consultation looking at the market for this. It looks like people asked to lend money for such schemes want to have more confidence in the market returns, and the market doesn't currently value such facilities very highly (presumably because until recently you could always turn up a gas turbine when the wind died, so any solution had to be cheaper than that). So its quite possible that some subsidies will be on offer to get things moving, and I suspect that the current gas shortage will lead to some focussed attention on the subject.

Here, the authorities are still dragging their feet [over integrated tram/train]

In my experience such things are less about NIH and more about organisational distance, best measured by the Lowest Common Manager. If you have two bits of an organisation that are close to each other on the org chart then they have no problem talking to one another, and any necessary investment or budgetary adjustment can be taken up to their common management relatively easily. But for trams and trains the Lowest Common Manager is the prime-minister, so they can't reach a productive agreement. Somewhere along the line the Tram people will need the Train people to do something, and the Train people will say (with genuine regret) "Sorry, our charter/franchise/budget/whatever doesn't permit us to do that". And until the city council and the Department of Transport can get a revised set of rules written, nothing will continue to happen. The fact that in the UK city councils barely have the power to blow their own noses doesn't help, and neither does the current bias towards the South East in government funding rules.

Its the same problem with "bed blocking" between the NHS and the social care system. Social care is done by county councils, but the NHS is Whitehall. Again, the LCM is the Prime Minister, so no solution can be found until it becomes such a big issue that it gets on to the Cabinet agenda.

This isn't just handwaving theory. Microsoft did a study on the reliability of its software. From Table 4 we observe that organizational structure metrics are significantly better predictors for identifying failure-prone binaries in terms of precision, and recall compared to models built using code churn, code complexity, code coverage, code dependencies and pre-release defect measures.

(Conways Law is related but different).

392:

... Again, the LCM is the Prime Minister, so no solution can be found until it becomes such a big issue that it gets on to the Cabinet agenda.

And it doesn't help that the current Prime Minister is a lazy asshole who failed upwards into the spot and relies on bluster and bullshit instead of facts, and that he appointed a cabinet of toadies and yes-men on the basis of their ideological support for Brexit rather than any actual vestige of ability. Some of them are not incompetent, especially if effectiveness is compatible with lining their own pockets, but overall they're absolutely terrible (comparable to the bunch of corrupt seat-warmers Donald Trump appointed).

Which means there's nobody energetic and competent to keep nudging the PM to do the right thing, and the PM himself is a firm believer in kicking cans down the road rather than actually getting off his ass and doing anything productive.

393:

Have one for Australia

Learn something new every day. [eye roll]

394:

I wouldn't be surprised if 5% is the equilibrium level.

No, you are misunderstanding.

There is some small fraction of the population (the original quote was 15%, but I'm happy to agree it is probably less) who will always steal anything not nailed down. They are the sociopaths who think only of themselves and see other people as mere things who don't matter beyond the obstacles and opportunities they present. These people can only be controlled by fear of punishment.

The vast majority of the population, on the other hand, tend to deal with worrying or ambiguous situations by looking around and seeing what everyone else is doing. If they see the sociopaths routinely getting away with theft, then they will follow along and steal, salving their consciences with the mantra that "everybody else is doing it". Thus the situation is bi-stable: you can have a situation where most people are honest, leaving the police to focus on the psychopathic minority. Or you can have a situation where everyone is on the take, law enforcement is ineffective because you can't arrest everybody, and so there is no benefit to being honest.

(You and I, of course, are in the third group who would never steal anything under any circumstances. End sarcasm).

Getting back to the original point; in a world where physical security is non-existent and thieves are undetectable the sociopaths will steal, and the majority will see that theft is normal and follow suit.

395:

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

He was cribbing from a much older source.

396:

No, I am not actually misunderstanding. I merely disagree with your premises. In particular, I do not believe the following is true:

The vast majority of the population, on the other hand, tend to deal with worrying or ambiguous situations by looking around and seeing what everyone else is doing. If they see the sociopaths routinely getting away with theft, then they will follow along and steal, salving their consciences with the mantra that "everybody else is doing it".

I think that different people will react in different ways. It's a thing people do -- they are different from each other. Any prediction of the form "everyone confronted with this situation will do X" can be dismissed out of hand.

in a world where physical security is non-existent and thieves are undetectable the sociopaths will steal

You perhaps did not internalize my point that "defensive mechanisms become advantageous, even somewhat costly defensive mechanisms." If we are in a world "where physical security is non-existent and thieves are undetectable", that can be changed.

397:

I'd like to caution that the fear that "everyone is secretly primed and waiting to become a depraved thief and/or killer if anything happens to cause social conventions to wobble even briefly" is a classic expression of Elite Panic, which is not based in reality (but becomes a self-perpetuating prophecy as, in event of disruption or disaster, self-defined elites go on a rampage to suppress the out-groups they're most afraid of, who they fear are about to start looting/raping/murdering them).

398:

We all tend to carry around various shibboleths that have been issued by the tribes we belong to. But don't see how they are in conflict with our day to day life.

399:

I think that different people will react in different ways. It's a thing people do -- they are different from each other. Any prediction of the form "everyone confronted with this situation will do X" can be dismissed out of hand.

Its a sliding scale, yes. Some people are more unhappy about theft than others. Some people have no problem stealing a bag of crisps from a big department store, but would not do the same thing in the corrner shop. People would be far more likely to loot computers from an anonymous office block than some schoolchild's bedroom. But that is like saying that epidemics can't happen because different people have different resistances to disease. Dosage matters as much as immunity.

If we are in a world "where physical security is non-existent and thieves are undetectable", that can be changed.

Great, now we're back to world-building. How *do* you provide security for domestic dwellings, offices etc in a world where everyone can jaunt?

The only thing I can think of is to build structures on stilts so that it becomes infeasible to get a sufficiently large cherry picker into an adjacent timeline. Putting mandatory government cameras on cherry pickers would probably be a good idea too.

Of course, once the ~USA gets the physics sorted out they may be able to create some kind of jaunt-detection unit which sounds the alarm when an unauthorised jaunt is detected, and turns on the jaunt-suppression field to stop them getting away. Given that the forerunners developed the technology for jaunting first and then put it into the nanosomes its likely they had that stuff. The ~USA and the Commonwealth are coming at it backwards, so until they get the physics sorted out its going to be interesting.

400:

but I suspect that it would be easier for sperm whales to jaunt this way than for humans (they're better at precision sound reproduction than we are).

Isn't it more a case of seeing something and ignore the visuals around it? Which to me is absurdly easier to do with vision than such with sounds.

401:

outside of Apple; the trend towards integral batteries spread as USB charger ports became universal

Added to that the number of people who cared was/is a small subset of the total market. Vocal but small. And every time you remove a mechanical connection or thing that has to move you reduce the maintenance and likelihood of breakage.

402:

the fear that "everyone is secretly primed and waiting to become a depraved thief and/or killer if anything happens to cause social conventions to wobble even briefly" is a classic expression of Elite Panic,

That's the straw man version. The reality is considerably more nuanced, and I'm happy to agree that contagion isn't the only factor in crime.

Its a much slower effect than you suggest. Merely moving into a high or low crime area doesn't affect criminality in the short term. It is much more likely to affect the criminality of their children, because peer pressure and that is when people are more malleable. So this isn't a sudden zombie apocalypse of ragged criminals shuffling towards you mumbling "give me your phone", its a multi-decade slide in which pretty much everyone participates.

And anyone who thinks that its only the "lower classes" who are vulnerable to criminal contagion hasn't been paying attention. This is human nature and it happens everywhere. Crucially, the people who are doing it don't think of it as a crime; its just how things are done around here. Phone scamming is an actual industry, and it doesn't have a problem with recruitment; "how else am I going to get any money?"

Take a look at this video about 12 minutes in. That is a mother teaching her son to steal. The son comments how good stealing feels. Yep, that's an infection, right there.

Nobody (with the exception of a few actual psychopaths) *wants* to live in such a society, or to be a depraved thief and/or killer. And in the "everybody jaunts" world that probably wouldn't happen anyway. What you would probably wind up with is a kind of informal communism where everybody just assumes that anything useful is there for the taking, because that is how everyone else behaves, and isn't property theft anyway? Of course that means you can't have anything nice because if you do someone will just walk off with it and not even think of it as theft.

When I mentioned children in an earlier post I had this in mind. Obviously much less common than petty larceny, but a much bigger impact on the victims.

403:

(including the cleaners, secretaries, janitors); and you're well into seven figures.

I got one in college so I could swing a weed scythe inside the fence of a nuclear fuel processing plant.

My father worked there and they recruited sons (not daughters back then) of employees for summer work as the clearances were much easier to get for us.

404:

I don't know whether (but I suspect that) the USA has a slightly more puritanical approach to such matters...

I believe the "dial" is adjusted at times depending on how well (or not) recruiting targets are being met.

405:

he multi-world solution is a backpack full of whatever storage medium is relevant

It may be apocryphal but there is a story that Peter Jackson was walking home one night with the most recent edit of LotR on an iPod in his pocket. A friend suggested that he might want to make a backup.

And as someone who does tech forarchitects and designers I can totally buy this story.

406:

I imagine the commonwealth's taxation policy probably would weird out leftists in TL2 quite a bit. After all, they did learn from policy mistakes of TL2's past or present...

Given the need for rapid industrial modernization, combined with wanting efficiency I imagine they'd go a different route than the income/consumption tax model. I imagine the most likely is a land value tax plus other taxes on economic rents in order to raise the revenue for things like a basic income/national healthcare/free education/other services The Commonwealth government provides along with funding industrial modernization. The other reason for land value tax/taxing economic rents would be to nip asset bubbles in the bud plus address issues like people getting to the point where income tax becomes meaningless or buying exemptions from income tax. Surveillance state needs probably means they have some sort of low VAT/flat income tax too, not so much for revenue but as a reason to monitor financial transactions to prevent other worldwalkers from trying the Clan's old tricks again or organized crime.

Essentially you'd see a highly redistributive/socialist but rather light on bureaucracy or other intermediaries/middleman model for economic policy. This, I imagine would feel pretty weird to the people from the US who end up taking asylum in The Commonwealth at the end of Invisible Sun.

407:

Lawn mowing services are a side-effect of HOAs, which are an esthetic constraint to prevent house prices locally being degraded by annoying neighbours.

Nope. Or are you being sarcastic?

With my father's generation (WWII vets) it was about a desire to show others you could keep a nice house. After the dregs of the depression they grew up in. HOA's were a fall out of THAT.

408:

not for Bob Jones the commuter dude

Interesting choice of a common name. In the southeast and many evangelical circles this name has MEANING. :)

409:

Any opinions?

As a consultant I tell my clients to let the pioneers find the fun. You can spot them easy enough in the US. They have the arrows in their backs.

410:

Surprising things are when you discover that typewriter ribbons are classified according to the documents they're used to type, because you can recover the character sequence from them :) [Note to the young'uns - this was the 1980s, i.e. before ubiquitous laser printers]

Most people today stare at you blankly when you tell them the office copier likely has the last 1000 pages copied stored in it. And most small businesses and many large ones don't do anything to wipe the internal drives all copiers have these days.

411:

They're opinion's also likely to be skewed by how they view their role as a 'cop' and how enthusiastic they are about it - we're all aware there's a strong faction within the police keen to over-represent the risks of the job as justification for their own brutalities.

You need to find some cops (retired or not) and makes some friends. You'll find out (in the US) they closely mirror the society they are immersed in. Most are good, a few are bad, and fewer still are terrible.

Says he who just spend the last 2 days with my retired cop brother in law in law. Ex army, retired cop from small town, can't stand Trump that he is.

412:

So far the only good reason I've seen to want Windows 11 is that they've massively streamlined installation of WSL and added support for WSLg -- Windows Subsystem for Linux with graphical app support. Which is great, if you want to run a Linux desktop like Gnome or KDE on top of your Windows.

... Yeah, right.

You might be better off with QuickEmu, which lets you configure virtual machines for Linux, macOS and Windows, including Windows 11, and run them atop Linux and Qemu. Stick it on top of a Framework laptop and you've got something that's powerful, physically repairable, and open enough to run applications and servers from all three OSs.

(Unfortunately my preferred model -- if I was buying a new laptop right now, which I ain't -- is the pro version, which retails for US $2000, presumably plus import duty and VAT and shipping. And then a week of tinkering to ensure everything was running on top of it -- because I'd want it set up to run Linux and both macOS and Windows VMs -- and even then, it'll have a much suckier battery life than a Macbook Air, which is showing signs of satisfactorily running Linux on bare metal and Windows within the next year. (Ahem: it already runs them inside a VM, with some caveats about hardware acceleration. I'm talking about no-compromise performance here.))

413:

Um, "iron law"? Really? So, all of us in the US are now believers in QANON?

414:

Yes. And to a lot of people who gets hurt matters.

For example, back in the seventies, when long distance was EXPENSIVE, every year Ma Bell would come out with a new algorithm for their long-distance calling card numbers, based on a phone number (which almost no one except business had). Within three months, the algorithm would have been cracked/stolen (I'd see it in the Yipster Times (the Yippie newspaper), and a lot of us made occasional calls to people. Most of us would charge it to, say, the White House (202-456-1111, or Coca Cola. It was considered really scum to charge it to an individual.

415:

Unless, for security, they've turned off the internal hard drive.

Why, yes, I was directed to do that on all the networked printers when I was at the NIH, for our division.

416:

not for Bob Jones the commuter dude...Interesting choice of a common name. In the southeast and many evangelical circles this name has MEANING. :)

Does it really? Fancy that....

417:

No, if progressives actually want to win they need to be honest with themselves as to what is working and what isn't working, so they know what they need to change/improve.

The better "cold bloody truth" analysis' I've seen all come down to:
R's are out to WIN.
D's are out to promote policies to make things better.

In other words the D's spend weeks analyzing the rules of a game before it is to be played and the R's just bribe the refs.

418:

Seem to me that on the Senate side, we've got Manchin and Sinema... and everyone else is mostly on board.

Actually those 2 make it easy for the rest of the Senate D's to keep their heads down and not commit to anything.

419:

It's simpler than that: the democrats want to lead a working government, while the republicans mostly subscribe to the idea that government is a problem that should be destroyed and pillaged. In other words, they're anarchists who believe that might makes right.

The problem progressives have is that they're actually trying to find workable fixes to enormously complicated problems. That's not as easy to rally people around as "Lock her up." Politicians for centuries have known that more people go for beer and solidarity than go for actually keeping things running. That's why those who are interested in keeping things running end up running things. It's sort of a process of attrition of those who can't deal.

420:

It's actually not apocryphal, it's in the DVD for one of the LOTRs. They were using iPods to move chunks of the movie around London during post-production. Remember this was over 20 years ago, and the lines just weren't good enough for piping DVDs worth of data.

Anyway, one of them (Jackson?) actually had to evade a would-be mugger, because he had an almost-complete copy of the movie in an iPod in his pocket, and some guy started after him to take it.

I wonder now what the break-point is for when a sneakernet is faster than 5G. That threshold has to be a lot higher now. That said, if you're doing something pedestrian like trying to keep track of your toddler who's in another timeline, I don't think any storage capacity is enough for the parents, especially if it moves by jaunting occasionally.

421:

Paul
Just because you - or I "can't think of nay" - doesn't mean that some nitpicking arsehole won't INVENT one - totally spurious, but off we go, down a dead-end rabbit-hole!

Charlie @ 392
Even BoZo, my get a kick, very soon:
THIS - might just might get attention - there are millions of votes to lose if/when he screws that up.

@ 397
beat me to it ...
However, I don't think it is "just" Elite Panic - it seems to be a peculiarly-US thing, pushed by decades of "R" lying propaganda.

422:

I've been trying to avoid commenting on the 10-80-10 rule and its variants (15-70-15?). It's one of those sucking internet rabbit holes that you can dive down, trying to find the research...and it's not clear that there is any research to back it up.

So far as I can tell, there are multiple versions of it out there: the cop's 10-80-10 "rule" that 10% of people always do the right thing, 10% are always crooks, and the rest are persuadable. There's FEMA teaching first responders that in an emergency 10% will lead, 80% will follow, and 10% will panic and/or autodarwinate.

While I won't go so far as to say this is nothing but elite panic, it certainly can go there.

As a heuristic it may be better than nothing for beat cops, sometimes. But other times it's worse, as it can leave them writing off someone as in the bottom 10% for daring to disagree with them.

People using it also generally assume (without good evidence) that a) there is a top 10% and b) they're in it, and c) the percentages never change depending on the situation.

I'd love to see whether there's some work. There does seem to be some work saying that, in many situations, a small minority within any given group generally does a vast majority of that groups work (something that apparently applies to both nonprofits and termite colonies). But that kind of pareto rule doesn't necessarily expand to encompass an equivalent fraction to the "doers" who are the problem creators. In my nonprofit experience, the doers and the problem-creators are often the same people in varying situations.

423:

High definition raw 8K video is huge, but so is modern storage: I have a couple of 1Tb micro-SD cards kicking around, and a 4Tb SSD the size of about half a dozen stacked business cards, and that's a consumer item -- 8Tb SSDs are a thing (if you're a movie studio).

I expect storage to outstrip bandwidth for large file transfers for quite some years to come.

424:

Yeah, I think we've about mined this out, so I'm not going to comment further.

425:

As a heuristic it may be better than nothing for beat cops, sometimes.

My copy in law in law would talk about frequent flyers. It may be that 10% of the people he (and other cops) dealt with were such.

On a side gun use note. He was a copy for 20 to 25 years. He told me yesterday that the only on duty use he had with his gun was to kill off deer that had been hit by cars.

426:

Lawn mowers, and lawns in general, are a distorted artifact of how the wealthy used to display opulence.

Until relatively recently in most of the world (<100 years) owning land that could grow things and NOT growing food was a grand display of wealth and opulence.

Thus we had the manor houses with vast, immaculate lawns on which to play croquet or hold picnics while the surrounding peasantry would use every square inch of viable land they had any rights to for food production - in order to avoid hunger and ideally get some surplus.

Fast forward a few decades and people who were not aristos were somewhat able to feed themselves without working the land from dawn to dusk every day, and could afford a small patch of lawn-bling for their own.

Status seeking apes will seek status, often without being aware of how they are doing it. Net result, we have yet another massive ecological disaster with minimal actual benefit because millions or billions of individuals want their own piece of unproductive land to look good and impress the neighbours.

Many of us, myself included, see lawns and lawn maintenance as a giant pain, and are slowly or quickly replacing it with plants that actually contribute to the food supply and/or local ecology. Most people just have lawns because their neighbours do as well.

[[ Fixed html - note that typing in an actual < will make the parser assume you're starting a tag. Use &lt; instead - mod ]]

427:

Weird, the key chunk of my comment in the last post somehow vanished. Maybe some html foulup?

'Until relatively recently in most of the world (~100 years) a grass, manicured lawn was a display of conspicuous opulence. Using viable land to grown something that was not food was a clear sign that you had money and power.

428:

Sorry Paul, while I agree that this is mined out...

Yes, David, I think there is such a thing as a frequent flyer. I also think there's such a thing as a heroic cop who's also bent (cf one former New York Mayor turned Trump thrall). What I don't think is that there's a simple rule quantifying both.

One reason I don't think that is that I've jaunted down the 10-80-10 rabbit hole a bit, trying to find whose work it's based on. It would be so cool if it was true! There's no Wikipedia page, just a bunch of pop psych/trainer types hawking their wares, at least as far as I explored. There's some gesturing to the pareto principle (80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes) for obvious reasons, but it doesn't seem to go further than that.

I'd just suggest that 80-20 is possibly more relevant, but that you can't infer just what the 20% will actually do a priori. Is the blaze that burns down a city an unmitigated catastrophe or the first step in needed urban renewal?