Lady Of Mazes

Karl Schroeder book

Excerpts/spoilers below

she looked out one last time at the empty gardens and then summoned her Society. A hum of voices welled up around her and ghostly figures began appearing above, below, all about

Some dialogues were happening now in the manor, but most were the peers, laughing and chattering in diverse places back home. Some voices were real people's; some were imitations performed by AIs. They were filtered for relevance by Livia's agents so that she only got the gist of what was happening today

it wasn't unheard-of for someone to isolate himself; everybody did now and then, just for sanity's sake. Still, no animas of Aaron had appeared in her Society this morning. Not to leave one behind was definitely an affront and maybe a deliberate insult

It's gonna cost you.  It certainly would. She was bound to lose some authority over this spat. If she'd been there in person ...  She dismissed the idea as wishful thinking. If her anima had fought a duel, then Livia herself almost certainly would have done so had she been there in its place. Ani-mas might only be imitations of people, but they were very accurate imitations*

The last drummer died a week ago," she said from her perch on the step of the lead carriage. "Officially, their consensual reality ends with that death. In fact, everyone who shared some of their values carries a template of the drummers'  manifold with them, and these templates still have some authority over inscape and the tech locks. It is up to living representatives of those values to decide the fate of this manifold and its physical manifestations

to leave this place, all you had to do was wish to be somewhere else. With a little concentration Livia could return to Westerhaven, and these towers would turn into trees, or rocks, or otherwise leave her sensorium

The term for this, she mused, was working without a safety net. Most of her peers prized the stability of their reality above all else

Substitutes for human labor were limited even in technophilic Westerhaven, yet here a robot stood where properly it could not be

I didn't really believe it would happen," he said softly. "They have broken the walls of the world." He didn't sound happy

Was this a miracle or a nightmare? No one seemed to know

*Spread below them they saw the whole panoply of Westerhaven life, a mazelike throng of people walking, gathering, talking, and working together —  single-minded in the results of their labor, though all of them might be seeing a different city. Some would be cruising sexual submanifolds invisible to the majority; others would be meditating in plazas empty of all people. Some had only their own self-made phantasms for company; these mediated between them and the real people in their lives, who had forever gone beyond their horizons. And then, interpenetrating all of this, thousands of visitors from other manifolds walked in half or full immersion in their own realities. Some could be seen, some could not. Who knew what they were experiencing? *

Her physical self — her Subject, as it was called — was talking to the stars of the party, six visitors from a distant manifold that had recently opened its doors to Wester-haven

They being inhuman powers that control our lives, and over which we have no control. Inscape; the demented AI of the tech locks; even the founders. They parcel out a tiny fraction of their power to us, just enough to allow us to live tiny, inconsequential lives. It's a tyranny

Nobody here has the balls to try to effect real change in the world. It's a mediocre manifold, Livy

*Ellis knew of her? She would never have expected such a thing. The founders, after all, were impossibly remote from day-to-day life. No one saw them. No one knew them, anymore. *

of all the youth of your generation, you and Aaron Varese have perhaps the most acute awareness of the world around you — the real world, I mean, not this paradise of phantasms we call home

However briefly, you let yourself see through the eyes of strangers. And that is the kind of human being we were aiming to raise when we came to Teven

you think Aaron and I are special because of the crash

She gestured broadly, indicating not just Westerhaven, Livia felt sure, but all of Teven Coronal

*But has anyone ever told you how the crash affected us? The founders, I mean?" *

Two airbuses of Westerhaven Great Families were circumnavigating the ring-shaped coronal that morning

you were suddenly engulfed in a massive electromagnetic pulse

the mad anecliptic hit the coronal's undersurface and exploded through it. He tore up ten kilometers of forest and left a great hole in the ground, through which the air began to escape

It's fortunate the coronal's healing powers are so great. The puncture was sealed before you could be sucked into space — but the buses crashed and everyone from Westerhaven except you and Aaron was killed

*I thought that the oppressive culture that we fled, oh so many years ago now, had learned of our existence. That we were about to be pulled, kicking and screaming, back into the embrace of that monstrous empire they call the Archipelago." *

Livia, someone has to go investigate what's happened in Skaalitch. That should be obvious. We think it should be someone who's had ... experience with situations of instability in the tech locks and inscape

There are problems in the houses of men. Strangers who have no qqatxhana.  He no longer thought of them as ancestors — that fabrication had fallen in the first day of their visit*

As he pulled his canoe up onto the round rocks of the shore, the ancestor sauntered over, looking lazy as always. These beings never worked, but simply plucked what they needed from the mist. That alone made them worthy of suspicion

But," interrupted Qiingi, "I am having great difficulty in knowing why you are doing this to us. And how." What he really wanted to say was, / don't think you should be taking down the walls between the worlds. But the elders had discussed it; they had decided that the fall of the walls was a metaphor, merely a piece of mysticism

*How could he tell her that the animals could no longer be trusted? *

*No one can dismantle in-scape. I've been talking to our experts. Inscape is impervious to assaults." *

When did they first approach you?  Sometime before the potlatch, isn't that right?  "A few months ago*

claimed to be our true ancestors — the parents of Raven's people.  "But only Raven created Raven's people," she said.  "Yes — but he did not appear to us to explain or deny any of it. He was ... strangely absent*

The last time Raven appeared he was angry. He said something strange then. That we should not play with ... what was the word? It was an old word, disused now. Yes: we should not play with transcendence. It is possible ... " Qiingi looked sick. "That he has left us

Your animals and spirits aren't helping, are they?  "They are under the control of the ancestors.*  "What about basic inscape services? Memory, communication, querying*

*You're not really our ancestors," said Qiingi.  Kale stopped "What do you mean?" *

Do you think we're idiots?" said Qiingi. "Do you think we actually believe that we live on a planet — on Earth? T

Kale, we know who we are. We are the inheritors of a civilization that has conquered the stars. We built this world. We made the soil and the air and the sunlight with our mastery of physics and manufacturing

You fed us a story that fit with our program," said Qi-ingi. He felt apologetic to be having to use archaic language, as if he were telling a child that he had done something bad. "Since we live so deeply within our own narrative, we wove yours into ours at first without thinking critically about it. But it has been some time now. I have been thinking. I am sure others have, as well

If you know what we're doing here, you know we're ending the Song. We're bringing your people out of their fantasy-land and back to reality. Which is simply the just thing to do.  Qiingi began to back away. "You are no friend of Raven's. You are a disguise of Ttsam'aws.*  "Your little pretend-society has already ended, Qiingi*

Kale stepped forward, his face ugly with malice. "You could have joined us. Now you're just meat for the process, Qiingi

if Barrastea was the city that Raven's warriors were marching on

Lady Ellis turned slowly and looked at her. "We have gone into games mode," said the anima. "Join us on the ground at city center, Livia.  She let out a breath in shock. Only two or three times in her Me had she been into the war games submanifold of Westerhaven*

She flung him a reticle — a set of frames, icons, and interactive objects that he could use to select the attitudes and focus of the subman-ifold

You've invaded us," she said in despair. Qiingi shook his head.  "Your lands and ours have always been the same," he said. "Many of our people wander for much of the year, and they know that the lands they walk through contain other peoples, though they rarely see you. Livia, they are our lands, too

Livia found herself facing the founders

We always knew something like this could happen," said Lady Ellis. "Once we turned our backs on what we'd built ... *  "It's the anecliptics

He briefly described Kale, and what the man had said. "I have been thinking about our conversation. I believe that the invaders think they are doing us a favor. They believe we are enslaved by illusions, and that they are freeing us from the ropes of a dream.  "They seem to be primitives," agreed Livia. "They don't know that reality is always mediated. They see that inscape is a filter between us and reality ...  *  "But they don't see that when you're outside the manifolds you're just living with a different set of filters," said Ellis and nodded*

We've sent scouts to the borders of Westerhaven to verify that what's happening here is local, and not a general attack on Teven Coronal. So far the collapse seems confined to this area. That means if things go badly, we can always retreat to another manifold

At ten years' age, Livia had begun seeing things. Mother was pleased; she explained that this happened to everyone as they approached the age where they could make decisions for themselves

Livia, dear, you can't change the real things of the world. You can only change inscape things, and hide or reveal real things. All you can really change is yourself

As you travel you must leave behind one or two people in each manifold," said Lady Ellis

. "If everything fails, you are to make your way to the aerie

I've sent Aaron Varese there with his team," said the founder. "I don't know what good he can do, but ... your peers have workshops at the aerie. And it's in the skin of the coronal. That should make it impregnable. If ... if this catastrophe is everywhere ... go there

*No, Livia, we will lose ourselves. To travel at all you have to reject your own manifold and embrace the ways of another. How can we do that and not lose ourselves?" *

Without masks, she stared down the doubters. And for the first time in her life, Livia knew what it was like to truly lie

*Even now he was distributing money cards to bewildered refugees so that they could  "pay" for their food, a concept that was giving them a lot of trouble. *

why the secrecy? You left my Society!  He looked uncomfortable. "It was the founders. They asked us to keep it secret. At the time, I thought it was because we were playing around with technologies that went against the tech locks. Now, I'm starting to wonder if there wasn't more going on*

Ellis gazed out over the coronal; in profile, she looked very like the young goddess many of the peers grudgingly imagined her to be. "It's pretty simple," she said. "I want you to reinvent science

You know nothing," she said dismissively. "Despite the fact that you benefit from the knowledge. It's the AIs of inscape, and the system of the tech locks that know. You only know the broadest outlines of natural science, because your generation doesn't need to know more

But if all of scientific knowledge is embedded in the tech locks anyway — if we could get it out without violating their programming, we could just ask them for it.  She shook her head. "We want you to rediscover it. Reinvent it Make it yours*

*We had to rethink key technologies in Westerhaven terms, imagine how they could serve our values rather than change us. So the tech locks would ignore them, see? *

It goes away, and it comes back. So far, that's all. But that's a lot." He turned, and she saw he was frowning. "Though it seems a strange coincidence to me that Lady Ellis should have come to us asking for such a thing, just before these so-called ancestors arrived

Lucius Xavier squinted up at her from a deck chair, "livia! I'm glad you made it okay. Please, have a seat

Anyway, 'ancestors' is just Raven's name for the invaders. They themselves say they're followers of thirty-three forty. A leader with a number, not a name. Interesting, no? And I'm pretty sure that this 3340, wherever it is, is not on Teven Coronal

Lucius, have you ever heard of something called an aneclipticT she asked. His eyes narrowed, and he took a sip of his lemonade while staring off into the distance. "Sure," he said grudgingly. "I know of them. They're the creatures that built this world, Livia — and all the worlds you see when you look up at night.  "I was taught that we built Teven Coronal.*  "You were taught that, yes." He smiled at her expression. "You were taught a great many truths that are only Westerhaven truths — not truths anywhere else. *

They built this world and a number of others and then abandoned them. As far as the rest of the solar system is concerned, this place," he gestured grandly, "is part of something known as the Fallow Lands. The anecliptics have forbidden anyone to come here. Some say that the founders made a pact with them hundreds of years ago; but I think the founders snuck in

A manifold is just a specific set of technologies. You can't have speedy ground cars without highways to run them on — the one technology demands the other. A complete collection of technologies defines a way of life: a manifold. And what's a technology? It's a value. If you fly, it is because you don't want to walk: to fly is to make a value judgment

3340 realized something very similar — it realized that each manifold represents a set of ideals. And to break that manifold, all you have to do is push its ruling ideals to the point where they contradict themselves. To the point where they turn into their opposite

With Raven, the logical consequence of wanting to conquer other manifolds is that you open yourself to all of them so that you can reach them all. For Westerhaven, the logical result of reaching out to other manifolds is that you accept them all in. At a certain point the change goes fer enough that 334O's people can reveal themselves and apply their technical know-how to dissolve the boundaries between the manifolds entirely

To fight your neighbor you have to collapse your horizon; to ally with somebody is to collapse the differences between you and them. Anything you do is playing into 3340's hands. And to cut yourself off entirely ... *  " ... Is merely to postpone the inevitable

How long have you known?" she asked at last Lucius leaned forward, clasping his hands and looking serious. "Six years

when I learned just how far 3340 had spread before I discovered it ... Livia, there was no point This wasn't a war we could win. And if you can't win, the alternative is to negotiate the best capitulation you can. And then fight them from within

I can shield you from the changes. Your abilities could be crucial in the counterstruggle." livia remembered Qiingi telling her that Kale had made a similar offer to him. Had she not known that, she might have believed Lucius. He had never looked more sincere

Your people are isolated and vulnerable now — but they're safe as long as they don't know that Oceanus has been subverted

But if you go back, you should know the consequences. We can't let the others know what you know.  "You'll do what? Imprison me? Kill me?*  He laughed. "No — you're the valuable one, not them. No, we'll imprison them. Or kill them*

The air-cars were gone, the tents overthrown, and the grass trampled everywhere, bloody in places. There were no bodies. Lucius had been true to his word. She shouldn't have run. The peers were gone, and it was her fault

Somehow, in the depths of her despair, something had kept nagging at her. There was something the sims hadn't revealed; she felt it must be obvious, but what was it

at least so far, Oceanus had still not had its horizons collapsed by 3340

We lived in a world that accommodated the human need for meaning," said Raven. "It let us know that our beliefs were valuable in and of themselves. The invaders reject that; they say that our beliefs are only valuable insofar as they serve something else


Institutions are information processing systems created to promote specific values. Once they exist, these systems (club, company, government, or church) become values in and of themselves. Then new systems are created to support them in turn. We call this constant cycling of systems "history.  — from the Founding Declaration of the Narratives, 2124*

the founders excluded use of the docking systems from the tech locks. They made travel as impossible as long-range radio and laser-com.  "But why?" asked Livia. "Oh," she answered herself. "Because they didn't want us to be found. They wanted to isolate the manifolds here*

Who is it we seek?  She hesitated. "The one name I've got to go on is the anecliptics*

Well, the name is a clue," said Aaron. "If you squint, you might be able to see what I mean

The sun has two jets rising off its poles. So that's your clue: those jets rise at right angles to something called the plane of the ecliptic

Without Teven blocking out half the sky, you can see big engines working near the starlettes," said Aaron. "They're building coronals and other things even larger. They're all radio silent, but they might communicate by laser

The Lethe Nebula was nothing more or less than several civilizations' worth of parts and supplies, drifting slowly in currents and eddies of their own diffuse gravity

Their experiences at Rosinius Coronal remained vivid in Livia's memory later; the coronals that followed tended to blur together

No one received them

*So began weeks of travel and disappointment, as each coronal turned out to be empty *

They had talked about what they would do when they ran out of destinations

He and Qiingi changed the sign on the house to read JUPITER

Aaron's crude radio had begun to pick up faint voices

many spoke an understandable dialect of World Ling. Understanding the language didn't help; very little that Livia heard made any sense. She listened for an hour, and the impression that built up was of a vast and vibrant civilization completely concerned with its own affairs, either ignorant or uncaring of the discarded worlds right next to it

*But, the elders have always been adamant about one thing," said Qiingi. "The rest of the solar system does not have horizons. It is all one place. So how could we be beyond its horizon?" *

Welcome to the Archipelago

The young woman smiled brightly. "I have many names. But most people around here just call me the Government

*you did come from the anecliptics' storage depot." *

"I am the Government," she said. "I am a force of omniscience and unparalleled power within the human part of the Archipelago. I am a public-domain distributed artificial intelligence. I have made all human institutions redundant, for I am the personal and intimate friend of each and every one of the trillion humans under my domain. I am the selfless advocate of each of them, from the lowliest to the  "The only problem is ... Well, nobody listens to me much anymore

I will not let anyone kill or abuse you; but I can't be responsible for your property

You'll need to use inscape, of course

Most people here don't like to be reminded that they're living on artificial worlds. Many have forgotten or don't believe it anymore

I'm going to have to impound your house

It's full of dangerous nanotech — so are your clothes, in fact It'll all have to go

Maybe you can generate an adhocracy to help you out. Or appeal to the Good Book or the votes

By the time their chosen view slid toward nightfall, they had a better understanding of this place — enough to know that a real understanding might not be easy to get. This Archipelago customized itself to your every thought and action. There was no base reality here, at least not for anybody inside inscape — and that was everybody

versos are people who don't want inscape to weave a coherent Narrative of their lives for them." said Sophia. "They disable inscape's narrative function and do horrid things like allowing accidental events to happen to them. Some of them even try to live in a single consistent view their whole lives

We don't have a government here, after all. Only the Government. And the votes. And nobody pays much attention to them anymore

Life seemed tightly organized yet nobody consistently kept roles —

She is a vote

I'm the aggregate personality of a particular constituency within the Archipelago. Just an average person, in the most literal sense." She grinned and Livia smiled, a bit uncertainly.  "You're an AI?  "An old term, and crude ... call me an emergent property of inscape itself*

it's not really a top-down thing. Inscape is designed so that like-minded people doing similar things form stable nodes of activity. When such a node becomes large enough, a vote spontaneously appears as a high-level behavior of the network

Sophia here represents the new way: an Emergent government that doesn't use the inscape network at all.  "The Good Book*

bound, old-style book. Its pages contain simple rules of interaction. If enough people follow these rules most of the time, a network intelligence emerges from the social connections between them. It's independent of inscape, see

I'm a soundtrack

allowed herself to be starved, tortured, and terrorized for weeks. She had emerged with a psyche ringing with anxiety and rage

when she performed at assigned times in other people's narratives she let it all out, and her rawness and pain lent emotional power to whatever key event was occurring in that person's life

Passion is a rare commodity these days

as the anecliptics were called, were apparently AIs of transcendent power. They seemed to have taken over much of the function of blind nature in the Archipelago

But the annies themselves were answerable to no one. They existed outside of all human law and influence

These weren't humans standing about with drinks in their hands, however. The ballroom was crowded with votes, and Livia was witnessing a meeting of the government in the Archipelago

these beings were required to conduct their business with one another on the humanly accessible levels of conversation, innuendo, back-room dealing, and treachery. It was part of something the locals called  "open-source government

Then they discovered machines, and began to think of themselves as separate from nature. They genetically engineered new sentient species, and AI came to pervade everything mechanical

We've come full circle: humanity is again just one of many species competing in an ecology out of its control

You can picture the anecliptics as the solar system's equivalent of the carbon cycle — the bedrock of predictability that is necessary for an actual ecology to flourish

The anecliptics maintain their power by remaining utterly aloof from all our power struggles

They've decided to send a punitive expedition to wipe out Omega Point. They want me to go along.  "Oh. What does that mean for you?*  He raised an eyebrow. "You really don't know who I am, do you?"*

Should Omega Point be destroyed?  Aaron frowned, gazing out the window for a while at drifting dust devils. "I don't know

the rest of humanity's turning into a race of fucking sleepwalkers. Those of us who believe in the existence of a real world are in a shrinking minority. Most people think inscape is all there is

many people here get their inscape implants while still in the womb

Good Book that Sophia had given her as a gift

Its hundred or so chapters used parables, stories, and poetry to describe particular "roles" such as Phoenix, Priestess, or Pack-Carrier. "Pick a role, any role to start with," Sophia had said. "That's you — for now." While you were acting in a particular role, you were supposed to try to emulate its qualities as closely as possible. At the end of each chapter were a few pages of rules about what each role should do when encountering people playing other roles

The Good Book's not a religion." Sophia had laughed. "The Book started replacing local adhocracies about seven years ago. It's just a bunch of simple rules: if this happens, do that

The Good Book is the result of massive simulations of whole societies — what happens when billions of individual people follow various codes of conduct It's simple: if most people use the rules in the Book most of the time, a pretty much Utopian society emerges spontaneously on the macro level

Five other people were there, too; all had been summoned to this meeting by their roles, but nobody had any idea why, so they compared notes

As Secretary, Livia began annotating her memory of the meeting. In under an hour they had a policy package with key suggestions, and suddenly their roles changed

Livia had realized that far larger and more intricate interactions were occurring via the Book all the time. It was simply that few or none of the people involved could see more than the smallest part of them

Somebody told me that you're not a citizen of the Archipelago," she said now.  "That's right. How do you think I'm able to keep that?" He jerked a thumb at the now-tiny worldship behind them

*everything else comes from the annies. Of course, they disapproved; they wouldn't let the Government work for me anymore. Said I would be putting too much resource into the 'human niche,' I might upset their precious ecology. They designated me a 'distinct entity.'" He laughed. "I'm on a par with the human race as a whole in terms of my rights. But there are precious few places where I can spend what I've got." *

and art bombs on the side of Omega Point. Throw a missile at 'em, they convert its mass and energy into a thousand new operas and throw 'em back at you. All of them with Omega Point's people as heroes, of course

A thing like a metal tree sat entirely alone in a fire-blackened plaza a hundred meters away

Has it said anything?" Morss asked the Government. They were standing near the metal tree, looking it up and down.  The Government nodded. "It's radiating news stories on all frequencies

If all went well, he should be able to access the genetic code for Omega Point's eschatus machine.  Omega Point had explored many options for self-deification.

With the eschatus machine, Doran Morss could in one second transform himself into a being like Choronzon — a god

there's no such thing as an ultimate state of consciousness

The more information there is in a signal, the more it resembles noise. You're looking at infinite information density, gentlemen, a signal so packed with information that it has become noise

she had asked them all the same question: Did the evangelists of Omega Point come to you? Did they promise you the things you'd always dreamed of?  They had not answered the way she'd expected. The cultists only had one name for themselves and they never promised anything other than a merging of all identities in the Omega Point

She couldn't prove it, but it seemed that Omega Point had not been 3340

These people needed a champion. I didn't have the power to stop them destroying themselves. So yes, I took their side, because I saw a chance to get that power — too late for them, but maybe not the next Omega Point

Weeks passed while Livia, Aaron, and Qiingi settled into life in the Archipelago

She was distracted in her new role as baseline.  It was a simple enough job: guide lost people out of the sometimes baroque realities they had walled themselves into

Livia, have you considered that maybe you're working for the enemy?  "What?*  He grimaced. "That came out wrong. I don't mean  3340; but you know it's the annies who are keeping us ftom ever going home*

we should be encouraging people to push the limits of human nature — we shouldn't be holding them back

*But if we don't try to improve on our design, how is humanity ever going to match the annies? *

Doran Morss watched his newest employee from under the shadow of some trees. He had come here to confront Alison Haver about some irregularities in her work for him

From the size of the crowd here in her narrative, she was obviously thriving in her dual roles of soundtrack and baseline

Doran had insisted that her narrative be stable

he had been investigating her use of his inscape agents

*Yeah, you can't see the big picture because there is no big picture. There's just individual people — and the armies. The Government, the votes, the narratives — they're all personal. There's no public life." "Except in the Book," said Sophia coolly. *

Show me a list of popular sims.  If anybody knew he did this he'd blow his credibility in the narratives that needed most to trust him. Doran Morss was dedicated to reality; "It's good to see you, Livia," he said sadly*

Aaron was tidied up and waiting when the elevator doors opened and Veronique stepped out. There were six of her

But why did you come in person?" he asked, when they were finally ensconced in his apartment.  Veronique's selves gathered around, one sitting on either side of him, another perched on the arm of the couch, the other three seated opposite. They adopted a serious look.  "I don't trust inscape," said the one on his right. "I use quantum encrypted channels between my selves

But isn't inscape fundamentally secure?

Inscape is not something that serves us," said the one on the arm of the couch. "I believe we serve it; and that it serves the Government and the annies

Ever since I can remember, I've been fascinated by inscape agents

  • I learned that I couldn't trade my creations with the other designers*

I couldn't trade my mind genes with anybody — it was as if we were being held back deliberately

Inscape is designed this way: they call it a whisper network. No message can be relayed across the Archipelagic data nets without the semantics of the message being reinterpreted

I eventually figured out that there are other people out there trying to find a way around the network's semantic transforms. The problem is, they can't collaborate overtly without having the network organize itself to help them

For nine months now I've been laboring on the components of a new kind of inscape-virus

It's the narratives. They're making sense of your friends' lives; that's what they do

Narrative-s will do that. And what they find for you is genuine, and emotionally fulfilling. It's just that it's been given to you, you haven't made it yourself

You're not much more real than that stuff you're playing with, are you?"

I simply asked inscape to show me all the publically accessible feeds from girls who are working with airblocks

You're wallpaper, Ishani. You can't have a thought that a million other people aren't having, you can't do anything tfiat a million other people aren't also doing.

Of course you don't care," he said. "Your narrative steered you away from the edge of that cliff. That's what it does

The great commandment of the narratives is Oast your life must be meaningful," said Charon. "If knowing the truth strips the meaning away, then the truth must be suppressed

The wisdom of the tech locks is simple," he continued. "What we know is that you can't have just one technology. Like you can't have just one silverfish in your house. Technologies come in families

men they made a ... a meta-technology that was able to suppress any of the others. It is easier for me to call this Ometeotl

the spirit knows. You tell it the way of life you want to have, and it evicts the family members that go against that way

what is Dais Life of Livia?" Lindsey looked uncertain. "It's just seconds-new. Everybody's talking about it. It's the perfect verso sim

her agents were here, and many people's animas as well. Her whole Society, in fact

The Life is real?  "Real," he said with a deep sigh, "and stolen. A violation of my dearest friend's privacy and soul*

He needed to forget for a while that he had to make a decision about the eschatus machine

The brodys had delivered the machine two days ago

Why, at the last minute, should he balk at throwing down the gauntlet to the anecliptics

Inscape! Inscape has crashed!"

A field of bodies lay strewn for a hundred meters in every direction. One person remained standing in the center of this tableau. It was the new baseline, Alison Haver

Hours later, Livia walked back to her apartment through the eerily silent city. She weaved a bit as she walked; she was dead on her feet. For a day that had felt like a week, she and Doran, and some versos who happened to be in the city, had fought the rising hysteria of people thrown out of inscape for the first time in their lives

We'd built a supervirus, it was supposed to take inscape away from the Government and narratives, give it back to the people ... It wasn't supposed to crash the Scotland's defensive systems

He was your vote.

The AI introduced himself. He was, he said, the representative of Veronique and her conspiracy — a mind brought into existence by tonight's attack, the very attack that had sought to wipe out the Government. "I even incorporate your virus!" he had said proudly as he shook Aaron's hand*

  • It was a cage so big that its bars were invisible with distance; but it was still a cage. And after the events of the past day he now knew that he would never escape it*

Well, nothing's worked so far" she said.

Doran Morss's worldship was a good idea, but as you discovered, it's not far enough removed from the Government networks." He snorted. "And I suppose you know of a better place?

*As a matter of fact," said Filament, "I do." *

Doran Morss had exiled them here in an inscape-free part of the worldship

These people think they have access to every answer humanity has invented to explain life and the world. They believe they can pick and choose, but it is not so. When there are too many explanations for something, its meanings are lost

*floor. "I can do it, you know. I can let them all go. It's just that ... once I've done that, what will I have left?" Her eyes held agony.

I don't know," he said softly. "But learning that is our task now." She nodded, her shoulders slumped

*Are these bodies biological, then?" asked Qiingi politely, as the agents piled cheese and raw onions on big slabs of bread.

Oh, no, we just like to eat," said Cicada

In a state of horrified disbelief, she heard Qiingi tell her that her memories had been distributed as an entertainment; millions of people had seen them

Finally she rounded on Qiingi. "Why didn't you tell me?" He shrank back from her intensity. "I did not think you were prepared to hear it in the right spirit," he said. "It would have been one more confirmation that your public life has been stolen from you

So ... so how many copies are there?

As of now?" Cicada leaned back, cracking his knuckles behind his head. "Well, about seven hundred million, I'd say

it's Westerhaven they're fascinated by. And Raven's people, and the other manifolds. There is nothing like them here." Cicada nodded violently. "There's this huge movement to try to make manifolds, but they don't know how to do it, because the plans for the tech locks weren't included in the Life. People know about tech locks now, but they're having trouble making them —

the key to the locks is this giganormous database," said Peaseblossom, "that cross-references a thousand years of anthropological data on how technologies affect culture.

*We looked into this database thing," said Cicada. "The data were compiled centuries ago by scientists in the monoculture. A huge effort. But all existing copies were corrupted in the Viability War that ended with the anecliptics coming to power." *

*Do you know who it is that's so opposed to creating locks?" *

The Book isn't connected to any political movement," she said. "It's just an Emergent system.

*Yeah, but what emerges?" asked Cicada. "Not just a Utopian human society, but all kinds of solitons and other high-level constructs that you can't see from the human level. The Book's an insanely complex system on the macro level. And that macro level sends orders back down to the bottom; it's a feedback loop, like your own brain." He pointed at her head.

*The thing is, the book relies on open communications," said Peaseblossom,

except that it needs to communicate through different channels than inscape

You'd have to write a new version of the Book for every manifold, because technological differences change the way the roles interact. Not that people seem to mind doing rewrites. Apparently," Cicada leaned forward conspiratorially, "they've been adapting the Book to nonhuman species in the Archipelago. Trying to make the anecliptics obsolete by creating an emergent civilization that includes the post-humans

*So there's lots of versions, are there?" she said indifferently.

Yeah. It's easy to verify," said Cicada. "With printed books, they always put that information right in the front

And then some lettering near the bottom leaped into focus: Revision No. 3340

a veritable cloud of ships that was approaching his Scotland

*All were crowded with people who individually had no idea why they were here —

except that the Book had told them to come. They'd all been given roles*

*One man Doran had spoken to had excitedly explained how some sort of feedback loop had set in: he couldn't change his role anymore. Every other user of the Book this man met reinforced his role as Herald. Collectively, they had decided that their new status had something to do with Doran Morss. Now their makeshift armada was preparing to besiege the worldship

— and, co-incidentally or not, the Scotland's defensive systems were still off-line*

As he'd thought. The attack on his inscape had been a cover operation. The real target was to steal the eschatus machine

Doran had always known that Filament was the Good Book's vote

The Book? How can the Book have a plan?" He shook his head in anger and frustration. "It's not a thing.

*You know that doesn't matter," she said. "Anyway, you should be saying, 'it's not a thing yet.'

*Because with your help, very soon it will be." *

Turn it back on!" yelled Sophia. "Things are happening — important things! I need to be in the loop

We ... have reason to believe mat we're being tracked through our inscape connections. Until we get to the bottom of it, we need to run silent

the votes — the Government — they're being dismantled! All over the Archipelago. It just started happening spontaneously, like an adhocratic sort of thing.  Livia looked up wearily. "It's the Book*

what am I right about? That the mad anecliptic created the Good Book?  That it's some sort of emergent intelligence that seems to be replacing the Government?  "Yes, and yes*

Do you know what the ruling principle of the Archipelago is?  Livia shrugged. "Agonistics," said Peaseblossom behind her.  "And what is agonistics?*  Her agent spoke again, as if reciting a dictionary entry. "You can compete, and you can win, but you can never win once-and-for-all.*  "Exactly. It's the same principle the great democracies used back in the Modern period*

The problem is that whenever you build a large, well-interconnected system, you take the chance that it'll end up in a critical state

Two hundred years ago, Choronzon told her, a viral AI had wakened to consciousness on a sunny July day in Jamaica. Within seconds it had taken over the island's data networks and after ten minutes it had overwhelmed the global net. Inscape became its toy

it got its fingers burned. Two hours after that it was on the run. By the end of the day it was dead —  devoured by a new entity hastily cobbled together by beings like Choronzon as well as the humans of Mars and the outer planets.  This entity was the Government.

It was obvious that we needed to prevent dangerous critical states like that one from arising again. She didn't like using the word firebreak, though. She liked the word — *  " — Horizons!" said Qiingi

Maren and I differed on how to apply the principle. She believed that you had to build firebreaks at all levels — social, technological, even perceptual

So Maren came to Teven," Livia said, "and set up the manifolds. Then, what are the Archipelago's horizons? — Let me guess: the anecliptics.  "On one level, yes*

Everything about how the solar system is organized militates against the development of critical states." He sighed. "Or, it did. Until he came along.  "The mad anecliptic*

He failed. But if you're right, he had a backup plan, called the Good Book. It's a network intelligence that runs on human interactions

She was going to free Westerhaven!

like any manifold, Westerhaven was fragile. Irreparable

She could storm Teven with the anecliptics' cavalry and free the ones she loved. And then settle where she chose, whether in Teven or somewhere in the seductive, wonderfully rewarding narratives of the Archipelago.  Except mat the Archipelago was tearing itself apart, too. Its freedom was only the freedom to realize just how insignificant you were

You're a vote; whose vote are you?  "I'm yours, Livia*

We arise," she said eventually, "when the traffic in inscape intensifies and knots up. When the nodes of heavy usage are stable and large enough, an AI is compiled

I'm the representative of all the people who use, or are interested in, the Life of Livia sim

Livia, people want to help you

there is one span of eighty days that is completely missing. You know the time I refer to." Livia felt a cold flush of adrenalin. "After the crash

But a few million of my people came together in an adhocracy to comb through the bits by hand

Livia, we've recovered inscape's memory of your experiences after the crash

Have you thought about my offer?  "You mean your offer to allow me to escape like a rat from a sinking ship — " She raised her eyebrow at the unfamiliar metaphor — "if I turn the keys over to you?*  "Yes," said Filament levelly. *

for all its faults, I am loyal to the Archipelago. Humans may not have very much freedom here, but they'd have less under 3340

You've seen how efficiently the Book organizes society. No need for the apparatus of government — not even Government

How does humanity govern itself when each person can have anything they want?'" she quoted

*It was the wrong question. It should have been: 'How does humanity govern itself when nature no longer exists?'" *

Now that everything's been learned and everything's been done, the manifolds provide the most control a human being can have over their personal reality and still be human

The trillions of parts and supplies that made up the Lethe were not, it seemed, entirely unpow-ered and dumb. At Gort's command, rod and girder, plate and lever were sailing together, clinging and forming larger pieces of machinery

Some people say that the Book has made the manifolds unnecessary

Your implants ... *  "Inscape's dangerous," he said with a grimace. 'Thirty-three forty uses it to build these huge temporary scenarios — as if the whole coronal were suddenly put into games mode. Geography, time, people — it all gets mixed up, and then everyone has to use that damned Book to sort it all out again

I don't know what it is. "But they say it's here to turn the sleepers into a god

*It's not paralysis," she said. "And they're not slaves — they're elite users. Volunteers. They're the best at using the Book from all over Teven, and they're true believers in its goodness. They're very busy right now, assembling a new processing kernel for 3340." Any one person in Teven had more character in their face than any ten Archipelagics. But the faces they passed, each so unique, were all equally blank. "A new kerneir

They're building a bounded version of 3340 that can operate in isolation from the rest of the network

The Book relies on human perception and intelligence to make sense of those roles

We tried creating AIs that would be our servants; I know, I grew up under the Government and the annies just like you did. But how can you deliberately create something that exceeds you in all ways, and still control it? It's impossible

Unless you could build a system that exceeded humanity in all the right ways, while still being made up of humanity

All right, then," she hissed. 'Take them and go

The tech locks were a multidimensional database, and the technological dependencies were just one way to cut the data

*The tech locks made no distinction between biology and mechanism.

Each technology equated to some human value or set of values, she saw*

The locks proclaimed that there were no neutral technologies. The devices and methods people used didn't just represent certain values — they were those values, in some way

There is no 3340!" He'd put the aircar on autopilot and now turned to glare at her. "Don't you get it? The Book doesn't think, it isn't conscious. It's us who do that. The Book just organizes and coordinates our actions — it's like a Society, only inconceivably bigger

Who else would you rather serve?" asked Filament. "Because that's your choice now, you know: whether to serve the annies as represented by Lady Ellis and Choronzon — or humanity as represented by the Book

*The tech locks ... *

Are officially banned. I'll be wiping every last repository that might hold their plans before I leave

He came empty-handed. Thirty-three forty had escaped

The anecliptics are trying to break up 3340 by garbling all long-range communications. It seems to be working; I think the Book is losing ground. Of course, 3340 has a body now, and defeating that is proving to be a bit more of a problem

*The locks are an idea first, a technology second. We don't need the machinery to live much the way we once did. We only need commitment. In some ways that's better, isn't it?" *

*I'm merely continuing my work." Doran stood up and restlessly paced over to the close-clipped hedges. "Ever heard the term 'open-source government'?

That's what we have in the Archipelago*

it wasn't transcendence of the human condition that people were longing for. It was something else, something that the tech locks make possible.

Not open-source government," said Mrs. Kodaly. "But open-source reality?"

lately, all over the Archipelago, little pockets of ... I don't know what to call them — super sims? Autonomous zones? ... Manifolds? Call them manifolds, though they're much more open than the ones you had here — well, little pockets keep popping up. Somebody's distributing the tech locks throughout the Archipelago, they slip past even the best firewalls the annies can come up with

*The Government hired me to be a baseline, remember? It's just that I'm not the baseline for the Government's reality anymore. Nor am I for crippleview. I've become a goal for people like you who are trying to find their way out of the one-sided reality of the Archipelago. Naturally you can't see me as long as you still live inside that view." She smiled. "I'm a founder now, Doran, and my manifold is vast You just haven't found your way there yet." *

I was honoring the existence and dignity of a reality independent of my own

She was his reward — or he was hers. It didn't matter. What mattered was that the Book was merciful

A human figure, beckoning in the distance. Something from outside the Book. The rumor is that somewhere there's an exit — a way out of the kernel, back to the real world. And for those who are ready, a guide will appear to lead them back

They'd offended the Book, obviously — else why should a new phantom invade their hard-won moment of freedom? In the calm happiness of that distant voice, he realized how much he feared the Book.

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