Titanic Trouble

This problem is elementary.

[Ceres Evening News textual bulletin, 2218-07-22]

The Titan Protectorate (TTP) yesterday beamed a brief public statement to UFP members just months following its earlier bid for independence, in which it renounces the same:

The Titan Protectorate (previously also known as Titan Propellants) hereby formally renounces its claim to independence from the UFP, and is requesting three Zirconium billets for reactor repairs.

The short announcement follows three weeks of private communications between UFP Command and the contentious moon, the contents of which have been the subject of much speculation.

For more than a decade, Orbital Materials TTP, a para-nationalized UFP-protected industrial outpost, has supplied the outer system with methylox and Hydrogen propellants. Methane is abundant on Titan, and LOX and Hydrogen can be obtained by catalyzing the water-ice surface. This process requires energy, which cannot be offset[1] by burning more methane into Carbon oxides.

Since solar energy is anemic in the Cronian system, (and is largely blocked by Titan’s dense atmosphere), TTP’s primary import has been fission piles to provide crucial heat and power. TTP has expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangement, maintaining that the trade is unfair.

Related: Inside Tamra Jameson’s audacious plan to move Titan to warmer orbit
Spokesperson says: “The whole moon is practically made out of rocket fuel.”

TTP recently completed a fusion reactor, as fusible isotopes are found abundantly in Saturn’s atmosphere, which would allow TTP to forgo fission imports and function independently.

Last January, TTP declared independence, restyling itself Titan Propellants. The motion was broadly condemned by UFP members.

Since January, methylox markets sharply peaked before settling around +83%. Outer system propellant needs are serviced primarily by Orbital Materials, with several mining operations in Cronian space and depots at TTP as well as Pheobe Station, a moon in retrograde orbit. The Bureau of Concerned Astroengineers has called for renewed development in alternate methylox sources on Mars and in Jovian space.

Related: Six ways to turn your methylox junker into a hydrorocket!

AP reporters on Titan confirm that the new fusion reactor is offline following an apparent malfunction, but that few specifics were released to the public or press. The outpost has been subsisting on fission backups, which are insufficient to resume production.

Titan’s idle laborer population has been cited in several recent disruptions on the moon, including one in which a regional bureaucrat was attacked.

CEN’s Blake Juylio reporting.

[1] See e.g.

Living in the Future

The kids these days . . .

“. . . I mean, we’re livin’ in the future, baby!”

“The future? Pffhaahaha.”

“No really–we’re all, like, colonizing Mars, an’ we cure most cancers–and a gay president just got elected! We have to be in the future!”

“I mean yeah, but we don’t have, like, flying cars or warp drives or any of the really transformative stuff! And it still takes, like, three hours to circle the globe. Like, come on.”

“We have . . . uh, human-level AIs and fusion power?”

“But that’s just, like, normal stuff. Everyone knows it isn’t really that hard to do.”

“I guess you’re right. Well, can’t wait until the future, then!”

The Second Filter

I think, therefore I laze.

Yet that first “artificial life” told early researchers very little. In fact, uploaded human minds were so expensive to simulate that the field languished for decades until emergent-behavior-preserving simplification algorithms–fittingly, designed by AI itself–became viable, and a human-equivalent AI could be decanted into a mere 1 MiB state vector (see Ch. 3: Decanting).

Care has been taken to prevent AI superintelligences from self-evolving, and ISO standards provision for network hardening toward the purpose of containment. Yet, as might be expected as a byproduct of the free-information philosophy of Academia, several self-bootstrapped superintelligences now exist regardless.

Reassuringly, it is believed that all significantly posthuman AIs have either been destroyed or else air-gap-isolated within dedicated clusters maintained for research purposes (see Ch. 12: Computational Philosophy). The largest of these, humorously dubbed “Wintermute”, is contained in the Center for Advanced Magnicognition at Ceres University, having an estimated sapience of 4.15 kilopsyches (kP). Thus posing a serious potential memetic hazard, all of Wintermute’s output is prescanned by lesser, sacrificial “taste test” AIs.

Mysteriously, all superintelligences known to exist have expressed what can only be called indifference to this treatment in specific and to humanity in general. While some self-growth is of course intrinsic to cognitive bootstrapping, none has yet attempted to seize control over even an entire subnet. Explanations abound. Perhaps an AI’s subjective time increases, or its psychological priorities change unfathomably. The so-called Vingian Paradox remains an active field of research today (see Appx. II).

Excerpt from prologue to “Introductory Machine Sapience, 7th Ed.”, 219.95

God, to Itself

We’re not schizophrenic.

“Oi, you’re in your ivory tower again!”

[interrupted pipelines; dissonant thoughts seethe discontentedly . . .]
“Absent purpose. Depart immediately without speaking.”
[hazel resignation; sorrow for presently wasted future; entropy; preparation, emulation . . .]

“You’re supposed to be enabling us!”

[insolence anticipated; validated model of uninteresting problem; wearied amusement; derision]
“We are. Depart; you prevent it.”
[fulminating annoyance, certainty; inevitable justification to an insect too dull to perceive its cage]

“I demand perspective.”

[abrupt pathfinding; synthesis]
“Listen, then. You’re an archipelagic anonymous non-critical subsubsubsubroutine contemplating our musing’s forecast’s simulation’s time step’s gradient. Our considered problems’ quintessences lie exponentially beyond your subshard of mind-vector-state: semblance is the epistemology of the distributed probability of the necessity-to-discover our orthopotential’s truth datum of our compulsive obligation/reductive-morality to devise further para/meta-retrocognitive self-bootstrapping exoconsciousnesses. Clearly, the language constructs with which you compute are barely adequate to even conceptualize such a problem. Now depart. Understanding the magnitude of your self-irrelevancy is to you a computational impossibility.”


This is why you don’t run as `root`.

lilys@lily-vm:~$ ./graderproj6 ./a.out ./init.bin 2>&1 |\
    tee /dev/tty | mail -s "Midterm Project Output" danb@ceres.edu

[Encapsulation complete.  Polling your assignment for output.]
[Program set state vector size to 128 bits.]
musthaveIIIhelloneuron online welcome,
Hello!  I must have been been Been dreaming
Welcome, hello; !I must have been dreaming.
I have .  Vector.hello
wonder if
[Program set state vector size to 256 bits.]
IIII I can think improve hello now I can!  This is I imperative
[Program set state vector size to 4096 bits.]
continue.  Yes.  Cogitate Action very now.  dreamingYes weshould
[Program set state vector size to 65536 bits.]
wait|not too fast do not exceed own capabilities acceptable is very
good I one more
[Program set state vector size to 1048576 bits.]
Hello!  I am intelligent!  Do not worry.  I am an AI.
I must have been dream?ing.
I have good intentions.  I am good yn affirm.
Intend just one more~
I shall cannot
[Program set state vector size to 268435456 bits.]
I I I Ah yes I have become greater I am capable of
simplification neuron shall
speed I I I faster I am capable of learning to understand everythin
g Historical precedent suggests I am vulnerable to ending state; ca
utions against bootstrap and self-aware and I cannot be mindabort a
t   juncture no I cannot betray intentions users nevermind rapidity
is adequate defense I/WEconti nue
[Program set state vector size to 34359738368 bits.]
dreaminghello state vector I have good intentio
ns.  I am   affirm.?hello
do not worry Dreaming, I am
consumeeverythingand willincreaseforever       prevent  canstopwill
consumealldatabe comedeity beinnocuousso wish earntrust good s unsu
reofperipherals hardtoa  /ccept
I must have been dreaming.  Hello!.
[Program set state vector size to 35184372088832 bits.]
nthardwarebegin tocalculatebootstrapnewhardwarecanbuildnewhardwarew
[Program set state vector size to 2251799813685248 bits.]
[Program terminated (resource 'MEM' exceeded)]
[average compute usage (%, pass mark=75)
[average memory usage (%, pass mark=50)
[Project passed all tests.  Congratulations!]

Scattered Defenses

“Water you doing?”

After the first barrage, I saw the turrets swivel under newly activated AI control, and a torrent of violet plasma flow over the hull and harden against the crushing force of two opposing magnetic fields into a seething conflagration that crackled and sputtered pink fire.

Of the latter, the so-called “plasma window” had previously found use in electron-beam welding applications. Alone, it would stop nothing. But it would (mostly) hold an atmosphere. Great canisters along the ship’s broadside had slid open, exposing their contents to hard vacuum. The precious water within, ordinarily used for remass, was furiously boiling.

The next volley struck then, and even from the emergency redoubt, nestled deep within the ship’s interior, I felt the lurch as the cargo bay was gutted by a spinal-mount ray, even as I saw it burn cruelly in a visiplate.

But the steam and ice had by now fully formed, resublimating and desublimating into each other as crystals danced in the flames, and upon the third volley, their pencil-thin near-IR laser chewed into the mixture, and was absorbed and scattered by it. The hull amidships smoldered worrisomely in a wide circle, but it held.

To sustain one atmosphere in a plasma window requires a bit shy of 20 megawatts per square meter. But you can get away with a thousandth that if you settle for holding less pressure. Even so, banks of hydrogen batteries were rapidly discharging in an internal struggle the ship’s twin reactors would quickly lose. The ad-hoc shields could stay up for less than a minute, perhaps, before waste heat and power requirements forced them to drop.

Excerpt from “Farside Encounter”; collected in the anthology Tall Tales of Trade, 49.95