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Lore (July edition)

The first years of covert interdimensional travel were rough. The first thing travelers noticed was the complete and utter lack of anything indicating which dimension they were currently in. By and large, they could rely on the memory of which dimension they had left and which they had aimed for. The travel tech was not perfect, however, and sometimes mishaps happened. Needless to say, some sort of technique had to be developed to determine which where they were

At first, travelers relied on simply asking a local about some established fact that differed between dimensions. There were subtle differences, such as the name of the month of July. This method had its drawbacks, however. Strangers showing up asking strange questions is seldom a recipe for success, with the caveat that it goteven worse when someone ostensibly familiar asked these self-same questions. At length, travelers transitioned to looking up pertinent information on wiki sites and suchlikes

At some point, this became a known practice. In an effort to foil unwary visitors, identifying information was ever so subtly altered on the relevant sites, leading to a covert game of editorial cat and mouse. The pertinent facts became ever more obscure and esoteric, causing entire fields of previously uncategorized domains of knowledge to spring into wikified being. Never before had the dukes and princes of the Holy Roman Empire been so thoroughly and so publicly documented

For a while, this caused no small amount of havoc for the collective consciousnesses in several dimensions, until publishers on all sides declared – without ever communicating it openly – that such editorial practices were off-limits. Not wanting to upset the interdimensional archival community, the travelers moved on to even more covert ways of circumspect navigation

Molecular astronomy

In a stroke of fractal insight, the discovery was made that the universe was infinite in all directions. This went for all the directions of three-dimensional space (those we are all familiar with), but it also goes for size. If you zoom in on something with sufficient intensity, you loop around to the biggest possible scale, where it becomes possible to zoom in ever further. Infinity in this case is not a matter of space, but one of vectors. Any given line of zoom – in or out – could go on forever, until eventually it ran into (and past) itself. The limiting factor seemed to be the average life span of the observers

This naturally had implications for space travel. As any consciousness with the ability to utilize the zoom function could, with moderate effort, view any thing at any scale, going places became an exercise in decadence. Sight-seeing could be done anywhere, without moving. In terms of space mining, robots were far better at fetching minerals than humans ever were, once located. Omniscience, it turned out, was fatal to space travel

From the source

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Additionally, do not ask why you should not ask for whom the bell tolls. Do not ask why you should not ask why. Do not make any attempt to circumvent this prohibition. Overt attempts will be recognized instantly. Covert attempts will only bring you pain. There will be no point in the future where the truth of the situation will quietly reveal itself to you. There are no others bearing this knowledge. Not knowing is the perpetual mode of being. Acceptance is the way forward. The bell will toll, and that will be it. Carry on, citizen

The virtues of living memory

He’d done it. Through some magic, trickery or incredibly advanced scientific shenanigans, he’d done it. He was now transported back in time, and could finally find out about all those ancient mysteries that had so eluded the present. Thus so transported, he set to work uncovering these mysteries. First among them being: what was Aristotle really like?

Asking around, his first discovery was that the modern education in ancient Greek was sorely lacking. His second discovery was that Aristotle was not held in as high regard as he’d expected. Rather, he was something of a laughing stock. Sure, he got the general gist of things, but it was the least developed, most bare-bones version of social theory there ever was. In fact, the entire city of Athens was seen in the same light; the least among equals

This discovery did not sit well with him, so he did what any historian would do. He went to the source and verified. And lo, it turned out to be true. Everywhere he went, everyone he talked to, every observed social process confirmed the general impression that the democratic tradition was comparatively underdeveloped in Athens. However, since the culture of public oral speech was so refined and well-entrenched, the penchant of writing things down fell to the wayside. Why record events when everyone remembers it from yesterday’s deliberations? When in doubt, just ask

This certainly explained things, our historian traveler thought, just as whatever magic, trickery or shenanigans that brought him back now brought him forward again. He did not have a good time explaining his findings to his print-based colleagues

Preliminary notes on the five categories into which all things can be sorted

Bears: at no point subtle, at all times very intent on what they are doing. Big, loud, affectionate and overbearing. Sometimes, brute forcing it is the only option

Birds: first impressions and associative lines of flight. Lateral leaps and bounds and flights of fancy. For whenever a quick getaway is required, and at times the cause of their necessity

Cats: head, tail, paw, paw, paw, paw, floof. Will never be anything but itself, but will sometimes body slam into you as a sign of affection. Can not be forced into anything

Snakes: logistics, trains, tenacity. Seeing it through from one end to another. Leave no aspect undone. Will out-endure you when necessary, and become intensely inert when circumstances allow

Spiders: weavers of webs and masters of endlessly intricate devices producing relentlessly specific things. Small and interconnected is beautiful

Unboxing the universe

In this study, we make the methodological assumption that the universe exists within a computer simulation. This simulation would, by necessity, be all-encompassing and able to account for every possible state our universe has ever been in or could ever be in. By definition, there would be nothing available to our sensory organs that could exist outside this simulation. Therefore, there would be no direct way to demonstrate conclusively that the simulation is in fact a simulation; the simulation would self-correct to provide consistent sense data should any error occur. However, it is our belief that we can approach the simulation indirectly, and use statistical analysis to tease out the truth of the matter. If we live in a simulation, there ought to be limits to how complex the situation can become before things start to glitch out. Thus, by introducing a great number of easily calculable processes running in parallel, we hope to discern at least the computational power of the simulation. If we exist in a real universe, everything should proceed smoothly. A simulation, however, would exhibit slowdowns, glitches or other aberrant behavior (e.g. things going out of bounds) after a certain point

We operationalize this methodological assumption by firing an ever increasing number of bouncy balls into an ever larger number of rooms, in the hopes of eventually running into the upper bounds of the computing power of this place we call home

Everything according to spec

He had found it. Finally, after all these years. The most generic, formulaic, run of the mill nondescript ache typical example of pure genre there ever was. It would never stand out as the best example of anything, nor would it distinguish itself as the worst of its kind. In every respect, it was thoroughly and utterly average, so relentlessly forgettable that merely keeping it in mind for an extended period of time was an effort. As such, it was perfect for his writing project

Taking a deep breath, he intended to set to work at once, and found he had forgotten all about it

Small misadventures in big data

The project was a complete failure. There was no other way to put it. No euphemisms, no learning from our mistakes, no vague gestures towards it all being an iterative process where it all happens incrementally, one less bad version at a time. After this, there would be no next version. It was done, over, no more

The initial aim was to use big data to copy people. By scraping everything that could be scraped about someone from databases, social media and everywhere else an algorithm could get a foothold, a sufficiently informed replica of an individual could be created that in all ways that mattered were that person, down to whether they had dandruff or not. Everything that could be known went into this doppelganger, and out came a copy so indistinguishable as to be identical

However

The process could not copy the small flaws that made up a person, the minute hesitations, the second-guesses, the imperceptible reroutings of thought processes through childhood memories that characterize a mind that has been around for a while. They got everything right, and thus, they got it all wrong

Nowhere could this be seen more clearly than in the cases when someone chose to have themselves doppelgängered. For whatever reason, they were too busy to be everywhere they needed to be, so they built a copy of themselves to keep up. However, these copies turned out to be better at being themselves than they were, and soon it all became a game of catching up with one’s better half just to stay in the game. Moreover, it happened at times that when someone figured out the person in front of them were the original rather than the copy, their barely disguised looks of disappointment could positively destroy those of a sensitive disposition

And thus it came to pass that no one copied this project. It was, once and for all, over

We are digging the Pit of Babel

In the area surrounding the Pit, no sounds could be heard. No birds chirping, no small things rustling in the undergrowth, no insects buzzing to and fro. Only a silence so profound as to defy the senses could be heard. The workmen, numerous and well organized, took great pains to fill out this void with sounds of their own, talking and singing so as to ward off their unease. Yet the many tongues and languages were insufficient to the task of heeding the warnings scrawled upon walls of the Pit, an ancient writ in symbols only remotely and accidentally similar to the ones now in use. As this last work crew, already bored by the routine and fresh out of songs to exorcise this most dreaded of horrors, passed the now familiar warnings that

THIS IS NOT A PLACE OF HONOR

and

THE DANGER IS STILL PRESENT IN YOUR TIME, AS IT WAS IN OURS

one of its members noted that it sure was a strange thing that so many different languages were represented therein. Upon relaying this comment, a comrade remarked that they were but a few short of one of each; another, laughing, stipulated that, truly, they were digging the Pit of Babel

How the email found you

It found you, in your office, as you were reading through your list of emails. Somehow, even though the list of things you actually do during your days has shrunk recently, the amount of emails you receive has not followed suit. If anything, it has expanded significantly, taking up more and more of your time, in an inverse proportion to things accomplished. The email found you in a state of pondering this state of things

The email found you as you were out clubbing. It was something of a dissociative moment to see those very bureaucratic words coming at you during the thumping of a bass so phat as to threaten to shake the very Tree of Life itself, the beat boosted by at least one counterfeit chemical brother. The dissociation triggered within you the realization that none of that stuff mattered, and that doing it half-assedly would get the job done just as well as acing it. The email did indeed find you well

The email found you submerged under a trio of cats, who all individually want the same thing from you, albeit with the provision that none of the others get it. It’s shaking out to be another tough round of negotiations, and this new email is relentlessly orthogonal to this series of events. It is unclear whether it actually found you

It found you by gyrating through the forgotten crawlspaces and air ducts of the many buildings of the many cities between sender and receiver. Along the way, it cleared the path for many a blocked airflow, possibly preventing a double-digit number of respiratory-related diseases. The exact path it travelled is a marvel of fractal geometry, geopolitics and edge cases of zoning laws. Alas, the email was filtered out by the spam algorithm

As the sound of a particularly large bird awoke you in the middle of the night, you decided to make the best of it by going to the loo. At some point in this process, the email was checked. An email that would ordinarily require an inordinate amount of thought had appeared. The thought apparatus being temporarily disconnected, you replied with a simple “k” and promptly forgot about it. Lawyers and literary theorists argue to this day about whether this email actually found you

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This email hit like a truck, and you hit back

The letter always arrives at its destination. Indeed, it is created at the moment of arrival. It is not a physical letter, per se. Rather, it is a sudden connection in one’s mind between all the things that brought you to this moment, and how one led to another, in what now seems an inevitable series of events. The letter, upon arrival, manifests as this sense of inevitability, foreclosing upon any thought that it might have been different. This is either a lack of regrets or the gradual disappearance of historical contingency. Either way, it’s here now

As the white whale was hauled to shore, its dead carcass a mass ever so slightly too large for the human mind to grasp in its entirety, one of the surviving sailors waved at you to come over. He’d found something lodged within the whale, somewhere; a bottle with a note in it, with what seems to be your name etched upon its rolled-up surface. The sailor, still in a haze after the ordeal, simply hands you the bottle. At some point in the future, you vow to figure out a way to get the letter out of the bottle without smashing it