Re: MacLeod's Cassini Division

From: Damien Raphael Sullivan (
Date: Tue Oct 31 2000 - 13:54:00 MST

[ Picking up from a month ago ]

Robin Hanson <> wrote:
> Damien Broderick wrote:

> Amara notes:
> >I didn't see anything about Saturn's rings in your description....
> There isn't much about it in the book either, actually.
The posthumans are in Jupiter, having previously disassembled Ganymede, and
the Cassini Division patrols the rings of Jupiter.

"The Cassini Division... In astronomy, the Cassini is a dark band in the rings
of Saturn. In the astronautics of the Heliocene Epoch, the Cassini Division
was the proud name -- originally given in jest -- of a dark band indeed, a
military force in the ring of Jupiter."

Note that said ring is more substantial than it is today, due to the
diassembling of Ganymede.

> fastminds. The fastminds are evil and must be destroyed,

This is simplistic. The Solar Union has the "true knowledge", which denies
the utility of terms such as "good" and "evil". It's a war of predators,
started by the posthumans when they were humans, humans who (like many on this
list) bragged about the coming extinction of the human race, and the
disassembly of the planets, including Earth. But those who wish to remain
human aren't fuzzy-bunny people; they wish to remain the top predators. Even
if the Jovians were peaceful Ellen (the book's protagonist) would be
suspicious of them _because_ they are more capable and powerful than humans,
and because they can't be bound or trusted (because you can never tell if
they're honest, or deep lying and planning to turn.)

> like humans are all right by MacLeod. But uploads that leave
> the human form, environment, speed, and styles of thought are
> an evil horror.

No, they're superhuman, and threaten to overshadow humanity. In the Culture
humans accept being pets and parasites of the Minds, having designed them to
be that way. The Solar Union, faced with Minds with a more aggressive
background, is more inclined to attack. Complicated, of course, by the
dominant (but false) view in the Union that the Jovians aren't actually
conscious, just dead machines.

BTW, I thought the New Martian ship was suborned not by non-sentient viruses,
but an actual Jovian; pretty much being taken over by a Vingean Power.

What's really weird about MacLeod is

a) The Union itself was created and run by a human-friendly socialist
fastmind. (There's only a teeny hint of this in tCD, you have to connect with
_The Star Fraction_ and _The Sky Road_.)

b) The first fastminds in human history (tSF) were innocent and angelic, but
wiped out.

c) In another book, the friendly utopian fastmind gets turned on by 'good'
humans, who don't like the idea of living in a machine.

d) MacLeod himself doesn't actually believe in AI at all. (I can't explain
why.) Actually he claimed once that AI tended to be favored by libertarian
types; socalists, although otherwise materialist, seem to avoid believing in
machine intelligence, Banks being the most visible exception.

As Damien B. says it's hard to get a real "line" out of MacLeod.

OTOH, Robin's basically right. The Jovians are a threat (effectively 'evil',
from the human POV) because they're selfish and aggressive, because they come
from selfish and aggressive people. (Extropians.) Fastminds with different
bases are better... although not necessarily ideal, even when offering utopia.

-xx- Damien X-)

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