Garden Hoses and Season’s Greetings.

So while I continue to labor at things I can’t talk about yet, y’all are gearing up to exploit expropriated Pagan rituals— whether you believe in them or not— for some time off. Good on you. I leave you with a festive, Christmas-ornamenty graphic to show that one can find the Spirit of the Season in the unlikeliest places.  I leave you with an expository fiblet from something which I expect will show up sometime in 2017.  And to those who’ve been moaning about what an absolutely shitty year this has been— and there are many of you— I leave not just a thought, but a near certainty:

Stop ragging on 2016. This time next year, you’ll be looking back on these as the Good Old Days.

See you on the other side.

There's way more where this came from. I only wish I was allowed to show it to you.

There’s more where this came from. I only wish I was allowed to show it to you.

*

This is how they told it to me when I was a child, before I learned to talk in numbers. This is the way I still remember it best. Maybe you don’t know anything but the numbers. Tough. This is the way I remember it to you:

Imagine a hose. It doesn’t matter what’s inside: water, coolant— blood, if your tastes run to the organic— so long as it’s under high pressure. A flexible tube, strained to the limit, anchored at one end.

Chop through it at the other.

It spurts. It convulses. It thrashes back and forth, spewing fluid in great arcing gouts. We call that a wormhole, of the nonrelativistic kind: fixed to a gate on one side but at panicky loose ends on the other.

It writhes that way for centuries, millennia sometimes, bashing against spacetime until another gate boots up further down the road. That new gate— calls to it, somehow. The loose end hears the call, snaps forward across the continuum and locks on for dear life. Or maybe it’s the other way around; maybe the newborn gate reaches out with some infinite elastic hand and snatches the wormhole to its bosom in the blink of an eye. You can look at it either way. The equations are time-symmetric.

Of course, those loose ends aren’t choosy; they’ll close the circuit with anything that fits, whether we approve the union or not. If some natural-born black hole wanders into range before we boot the next stepping stone, that’s it: a dead-end marriage, monogamy unto heat death. The gates are designed to put up stop signs in such cases, shut down gracefully and direct any travelers back the way they came, although I don’t know if that’s ever happened. We take steps to see that it doesn’t: scan the route ahead for lensing artifacts, steer clear of any reefs that might prove too seductive.

Sometimes, though, you want to run aground.

Because that’s the problem with building a daisy chain: each gate only goes two ways. If you don’t like the scenery when you emerge from the front door, you can either loop around and dive into the back— head on down the road, for as long as it lasts— or go back the way you came. Eriophora spins her lone thin thread around and around the Milky Way. Any gods who follow in our wake can explore this infinitesimal spiral and no more.

That’s no way to conquer a galaxy.

You need more than on-ramps and off; you need interchanges, overpasses, a way to string all your isolated superhighways together. What you need, every now and then, is to take that lone fissure in the ice and hammer it: spike it with a spiderweb of cracks that spread out in all directions, perchance to link to other threads laid along other trajectories.

So every now and then we seek out one of those bad-boy singularities. We find something with the right mass, the right spin, the right charge. We loop through its ergosphere, an eccentric energy-harvesting orbit to seed not just one gate but many: different from the usual kind, powered by the vast singularity they orbit but not tied to it.  These gates reach further than the usual kind. They could never consummate union with the daisies in our chain: they may be rooted cheek-to-jowl but their gaping hungry mouths erupt into spacetime thousands of lightyears apart.

But other webs. Other fractures, hammered into existence by other crews on other paths. Those are the nodes to which they might connect. Thus do all our pathetic one-dimensional threads build a network that truly spans the galaxy, that connects not just A to B to C but C to Z, A to Ω. It is these cracks in the ice that makes our very lives worthwhile.

So we dove headlong towards a supernova. It wasn’t much to look at now but in ten thousand years it would fall so hard off the Main Sequence that any unshielded life within a hundred lightyears would be sent straight back to raw carbon. Then it would cool. By the time we arrived— fifty, sixty terasecs down the road­— it would be ripe for the taking.

It would be a big build, the biggest we’d ever done. The Chimp would need a lot of us on deck. Twelve, maybe fifteen meat sacks all awake at once, presuming to act for the thirty thousand who weren’t. With a little luck and my own special influence, maybe we could even decide which twelve or fifteen.

That was when we would take the fucker down.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday December 21 2016at 08:12 am , filed under art on ink, fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “Garden Hoses and Season’s Greetings.”

  1. I have a deep and burning yearning for a collection of Eriophora stories!

  2. Awesome, as always! I seem to see a little parallel to an intro by Niven & Pournelle, Mote in God’s Eye, but that’s inherent with this sort of gadding about the galaxy with “instantaneous” jumps. They were discussing the Human state of knowledge of Space as settled with the Alderson Drive, not actual FTL but rather it is another wormhole variant. They point out that because the “tramlines” enter and exit local spacetime from points fairly near the surface of the stars that generate the tramlines, humans have only explored what amounts to very tiny bubbles within a truly vast and unknown ocean of space. Out between the stars, there could be anything, which of course is one of the most appealing things about science fiction.

    As for Solstice, and the deep unhappiness of the winter blues, I personally don’t so much follow the Christianized version of the Pagan observances as I just make one up wholecloth. If “she” wasn’t being so secretive, I might try an invocation of the likely Roman/Etruscan goddess of winter solstice, death, and silence but I’m just fresh out of sacrificial virgins and/or livestock. It doesn’t matter, of course: the great clock of the universe will continue to tick on, regardless of anything we do. Our feelings, of course, don’t affect these planetary and stellar motions but probably we and our archetypes coexist for reasons. As for the rare statues of “Our Lady of Shortest Days”, we see them cautioning silence, though not in a place where you’d expect that:

    Massurius Sabinus (ap. Macrob. l.c.) indicated that those who
    concealed their anxiety in patience would by this means
    attain the greatest happiness. Hartung (Die Relig. d. Röm. ii p.247)
    interprets this as a symbolical suppression of cries of anguish,
    because such cries were always unlucky omens. He also thinks that
    the statue of the goddess of anguish was placed
    in the temple of the goddess of delight, to indicate that
    the latter should exercise her influence upon the former,
    and change sorrow into joy. [1]

    So perhaps we should do like the Romans, and lift a glass among friends, “to longer days”.

    Ref:
    1. http://www.mythindex.com/roman-mythology/A/Angerona.html

  3. Wait a sec–does this one put us back in the GIANTS universe? If yes, then my only response, regrettably, is, “But I didn’t get you anything.”

  4. A very interesting image. Looks like it could be from a video game…

  5. God I so hope it’s a Firefall illustrated edition, preferably a big fancy one with glossy paper, expensive as fuck and heavy enough to squish most rodents.

  6. Stop ragging on 2016. This time next year, you’ll be looking back on these as the Good Old Days.
    This reminds me of my favorite joke: Two Russians are talking on New Year’s eve. One says, “What do you think the new year will be like?” The other replies, “Oh, about average: worse than last year, but better than the next.”

  7. Peter Watts: Stop ragging on 2016. This time next year, you’ll be looking back on these as the Good Old Days.

    You are not the boss of me. Plus, I’m skeptical. Pretty sure you could wipe out the rest of the Rock Hall of Fame and only manage to tie the impact that the loss of Bowie, Prince, and Cohen had on me personally. Maybe throw a couple beloved actors in there too…but then Gene Wilder.

    No. Screw this year.

    Also it has to be said that the worst part of things like Trump and Brexit for those involved, was the toxic hope that you could avert it. Now that the worst has happened, everything that follows is simply inevitable. Sure, there will be pain, but pain is endurable. Hope, though–that shit’ll kill you every time.
    .

  8. Do-Ming Lum:
    I have a deep and burning yearning for a collection of Eriophora stories!

    I have a deep and burning yearning for an Eriophora novel.

    I wonder if the various fragments on Dr Watts’ hard disk are perhaps destined or intended to one day coalesce into such? Or is he just teasing us?

  9. <3

  10. A fiblet from Eriophora and an illustration from the Blindsight universe, with hints of more to come. Awesome. Dr. Watts, may your work be rewarding in every sense in 2017.

  11. Hi Peter
    Hope you are doing well, particularly healthwise…
    Nice morsel… but we nee more… FEED US!!!
    http://f5paper.com/sites/default/files/main/articles/view-little_shop_of_horrors.jpg
    [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ea5jKFGgUw]

    its been since 2014 since there has been something substantial to sink our teeth on?…

  12. :-Daniel,

    :-Daniel:
    I so hope it’s a Firefall illustrated edition, preferably a big fancy one with glossy paper, expensive as fuck and heavy enough to squish most rodents.

    indeed… me too, (by cthulhu and the FSM) please make it able to deal with up to (and including) this one:
    http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1203574/thumbs/o-CAPYBARA-HUGS-CAT-facebook.jpg

  13. Re pic, blue MIRs are scramjets or Theseus probes? Guessing the former.

  14. […] Watts wishes his readers happy […]

  15. Stop ragging on 2016. This time next year, you’ll be looking back on these as the Good Old Days.

    Good Old Days with clean running water, breathable air, electricity, etc. But before it happens, I hope I will be able to read how the Eriophora crew takes the Chimp down. And that Zombie Corps story.

  16. He’s right you know. Our data-driven overlords are built as we speak.

    https://archive.is/3nHtW

    Deep inside Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s largest hedge-fund firm, software engineers are at work on a secret project that founder Ray Dalio has sometimes called “The Book of the Future.”
    The goal is technology that would automate most of the firm’s management. It would represent a culmination of Mr. Dalio’s life work to build Bridgewater into an altar to radical openness—and a place that can endure without him.
    At Bridgewater, most meetings are recorded, employees are expected to criticize one another continually, people are subject to frequent probes of their weaknesses, and personal performance is assessed on a host of data points, all under Mr. Dalio’s gaze.

  17. So Rorschach orbiting Big ben plus a lot of clutter. I hope that means you’re working on Omniscience!
    Also, does anybody have any clue what the MIR things are?

  18. Don’t fuck with the Chimp.

  19. Merry Christmas Peter.

    I’m reading the philosopher Nick Bostrom’s book, “Supterintelligence: paths, dangers, strategies” about the dangers of creating systems vastly more intelligent than current humans. The Blindopraxia series and some of the Fireflies stories also deal with superintelligences duking it out while humans whimper in the corners.

    It sounds like you’ve thought about these scenarios a lot.

    There are a number of organizations focused on anticipating such futures and heading off the nastier ones (e.g. the Future of Humanity Institute, the Future of Life Institute, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute) but none, that I’ve read of, have cited your musings or even called them out as an inspiration.

    Perhaps some clever idea you have for avoiding the eschaton has escaped them.

    So I wonder: if you were part of some global advisory council, what would you recommend that governments, corporations, and even individuals do to ensure that smarter-than-human systems don’t trample over our values in the coming century?

  20. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute / LessWrong crowd definitely do enjoy and get inspired by Mr Watts. I’d even wager he’s one of their favorite authors. Especially because of the hive minds stuff and the hard-headed treatment of consciousness.

  21. Intelligent people doing stupid, emotional, pointless things – must be another Peter Watts story!

    Can’t wait for that one, the Eriphorea universe is very dear to me.

  22. While you are toying with my heart with that image, could you upload one in higher resolution, for wallpaper purposes?

  23. By now i would be ready to kill if that meant i´d get to read another one of your books, Dr. Watts. Please dont make a murderer out of me, i hear prison is nasty.
    I also second @Vithren, i want this as wallpaper. Its awesome!