Re: >H Big Ideas, Grand Vision

Anders Sandberg (
14 Dec 1999 16:17:41 +0100

"john grigg" <> writes:

> I could barely drag myself to class after having gotten started reading "Big
> Ideas, Grand Vision." I spent about five hours today pouring over the
> website and loved it!

Oh dear, another victim of the "curse of GIGV"! :-)

> Anders, you did an incredible job not only of creating a logical
> game universe but one that is beautiful and highly imaginative, so
> congratulations to you. If there were a "Hugo" for game supplements
> you would be in the running.

Wow! Thanks!

> I can see how having really good players could give you ideas in
> collaboration that you could not do on your own.

I highly recommend it, it is a great way of coming up with big and small details. Everything from Trahan food habits (humans eat dinners because we are omnivores, while Trahans eat small stuff all the time since they are mainly frugivores) to quantum economics. Some of the ideas are so good I have to develop them for real...

> Each colony felt to me like a possible scenario for our own world. I would
> love to live in Atlantis but encounter those amazing Arcadians in their hive
> cities! On second thought I would rather be a posthuman Solarian! So when
> STL colony ships start leaving earth I am staying right here so my
> descendants and I get the full benefits of the singularity and don't wind up
> in the backward frontier! lol I am being optimistic of course. As with
> finishing a great novel, I'm sad that I can't actually visit these places
> and meet these people.

I found a fun paper, "The Effects of Moore's Law and Slacking on Large Computations" by Chris Gottbrath, Jeremy Bailin, Casey Meakin, Todd Thompson and J.J. Charfman (astro-ph/9912202) about the use of not trying to do everything at the first opportunity. They show that for sufficiently large projects, as long as computer power increases exponentially, it is worth waiting for better computers and then running the project, than starting right away. Apparently the colonists had not read the paper :-)

> The aliens were very intriguing to me. I liked how you had three levels of
> power regarding them, at least as I saw it. The Trahans were to me a little
> like Japan in the 1860's with a leadership willing to adapt but only in some
> ways. The Mothers had that Arthur C. Clarke alien feel to them(the Rama
> series) and are a good foil/friend for humanity. The Filigree I thought
> were great as as you yourself said in sort of the "Star Trek" V'ger role.

Yes, I wanted to have aliens not just different from humans but also different from each other. The Trahans became in my opinion a little bit too human, but we had great fun exploring the strangeness of their society. And the final roleplaying session was a quite intensive discussion with the Imperial Couple about what ways humanity and the Trahans could be allowed to develop, ending in a complex and interesting compromise/vision I plan to add to the website when I manage to formulate it in a comprehensive way ("Our division of mindkind will be like two furs rubbing together, but what about the pebbles?").

It was also fun to make an advanced species (the Mothers) that didn't act as some wise galactic elder siblings for humanity; far too many advanced aliens in sf do that. The Mother clans are instead having trouble dealing with each other despite their age and advancement, they are essentially suffering the situation in Schismatrix and not even worrying much about it.

The Filigree are also intended to be a bit different from the usual supercivilizations - more like irritated super-librarians than transcendent gods.

> I did wonder why you had nanotech as a unmastered technology among the
> strong colonies but then if they had it mastered the societal structure
> would be quite different, especially where starship building and expansion
> is concerned.

Yes. I was deliberately holding back in order to avoid completely unrecognizable (and hard to describe) societies. Instead I let the emergence of nanotechnology be part of the plot as I ran the scenario - the player characters return to their corporate headquarter only to find the finance AIs and analysts all in ecstasy over the latest nanocomputers that have been developed during their absence.

> I bought by chance the computer game "Alpha Centauri" just a day before you
> announced your website. I thought of the similarities even before I saw the
> references to the game in your site. I love the poster included with the
> game that shows the incredible technology tree! When I saw "controlled
> singularity" on it I nearly flipped but then these game designers did their
> research. I hope to finish my game tonight as the Peacekeepers faction.
> Death to the treacherous Wang and the threatening Believers! They pushed me
> too far to feel like keeping the peace anymore. I agree that the factions
> are stereotypes and the way business and religion was portrayed by their
> faction leaders bothered me.

It is interesting to notice that these stereotypes seem to become nearly archetypes in much popular literature. Morgan Industries *must* be polluting, the academics of Zakharov *must* be somewhat unethical, and so on. Still, it is a fun game. I remember playing and playing the Academy - the sun went down and up outside my window, but that could be fixed by drawing the curtains - and finally I transcended! Wow! Fortunately I do not own the game, so I can't play it all the time... :-)

> It is the "in thing" now for a book series to be created based on a
> role-playing game and I would love to see that happen with "Big Ideas, Grand
> Vision." I really enjoyed the short stories you wrote and wondered if novel
> length writing appealed to you? Damien Broderick could also write the first
> novel possibly(we have so many talented people in our midst here!).

I have thought about it. During playing some of us actually tried to make (believe it or not) an Ayn Rand/Jackie Collin-style soap opera story of the setting, but it crashed completely ("OK, Nancy is torn between the handsome but stasist American industrialist and the suave Xerxes of Nova. Meanwhile Inga tries to make Professor Stevens to acknowledge his emotions..." :-).

More seriously, I have been thinking of how to use the material. There is definitely material enough for a book, but I'm not sure about my writing skills (I'm much better at catching the musings of AIs than the emotions and characters of humans). One idea I have been playing with is to compose a novel by having several sub-stories chronicling the history of the colonies into the 24th century, gradually merging into a final story. But it is rather loose for the moment, and explaining what went on in the campaign is too hard.

> On the topic of pets I have to say that cats would never wake me up in the
> morning. They could outsleep me everytime. I had a ferret once living with
> me though who the moment the sun came up would leap into my bed and
> furiously claw at my pillow! I would sleepily push him away but he would
> throw himself once again to the task! After about fifteen minutes of this I
> would give up and get out of bed. He would look up at me and monitor my
> progress as I walked around the apartment. Upon deciding I was up for good
> he would then go back to his bedding and go to sleep!

Sounds exactly like how my cat manages my mother. Seems to be a cross-species ability :-)

> Anders, it is time for more serious pursuits now. It's time to get rich
> from your game supplement website by getting book, game, toy and movie
> tie-ins! Or perhaps instead start a franchise of "Anders Homebaked
> Transhumanist Cookies" to give Mrs. Fields a run for the money!

I can see it now - cuddly Trahan dolls that explain epistemology if you hug them, toy C3I systems to link to your supersoaker and Nanotech Chemistry Kits. And of course Arnie in the role of a tough Nova advertising android... "I'll be back. And you WILL buy from Agrotech Hydroponics!". As for cookies, maybe "Anders' Homebaked Ginko Brownies", "Traditional Choline Biscuits with Almonds" and "HGH Muffins"? :-)

> But then what would you do with all that money? lol

Probably hire a secretary to do all the writing stuff I don't have the time for :-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y