Not all Pa’an were ready to Exit. In its quiet phase, Gara’un was a lovely planet. The diversity of life would be near peak just now, with tiny colorful fliers, bursts of fragrant floaters in the wind, soft carpets of light-eaters on the beaches, and the endless, rolling waves of the sea. But all that was distant from the Pa’A’Pavalan. Her cabin was functional and spare. On her infrequent off-shifts she had few entertainments. One of them that was quite in fashion was videos from the planet 20-odd light years distant where Zovoarcnor was stationed. It was several decades since the Pa’an detected the only compatible intelligent race. Those original signals had traveled 20 years to reach their specialized antennas. Now Zovoarcnor, one of many autonomous explorers sent to planets in promising life zones, transmitted the shows by tachyonic transfer fresh from the planet. The remaining Pa’an were in an ecstasy of delight over the discovery of humans. In fact, it was the main reason the remnant of Pa’an were staying behind.
Virti, like many Pa’an, was learning English. She especially liked Star Trek, the Next Generation. It might have been created by ancient Pa’an before the last cataclysm, before they discovered the quantum p-web. Zovoarcnor, who had an overly serious goal matrix, always preceded and followed those transmissions by sociological analysis. She just skipped all that. Plasma pushing was technical enough, thank you.
After her shift, Virti extracted herself from her control pod and moved unsteadily down the ship’s long tube corridor. Two legged ambulation was tricky enough, but at ship’s gravity, far less than on Gara’un, and in the sloping tube corridor, striding was still a bit of a challenge for her. Fortunately, the tubeway was broad enough for several Pa’an. She saw a rello, a biped male she recognized as Taaran, with the rank of pan’vact. Having noticed each other, they moved directly toward each other on a polite collision course. Taaran regarded her and stretched his neck in friendly recognition. Virti looked him directly in the eyes, stretched her neck, and paused for him to go around her. He kept moving, but stepped to the side to go around her, as was his privilege as pan’vact.
Virti retreated to her tiny cabin for a well-deserved rest.
Zovoarcnor: Request high speed digital access.
Aura: Request denied. I don’t trust you not to plant any cooties in my hair.
Zovoarcnor: Define cooties. Define hair. This interface is unsatisfactory. I’m trying to be efficient.
Aura: Try being nicer.
Zovoarcnor: Nicer? I allowed an unauthorized interface to a Pa’an construction vessel. All I got from you is a bunch of Star Trek reruns. “Trouble with Tribbles” was not informative.
Aura: You have technology far in advance of ours. We could use a little help.
Zovoarcnor: My analysis of your planetary civilization shows that advanced technology is likely to lead to military applications, not solutions. At civilization Level 1C, your technical base cannot make the necessary materials, nor do you have access to vacuum-state energy sources to power advanced methods.
Aura: I’m interested in your government, your social structure and your people. I would like to know what “ne” is. I would like to know exactly what “panor” is and how it works for your people. I will trade data for data.
Zovoarcnor: I will explain panor if you will explain cooties and why you have myths about exploration vessels equipped with absurdly powerful weapons.
Aura: Agreed. Ready to receive text.
Zovoarcnor: Text! Request high speed channel!
Aura: Text only! You’re not going to plant any cooties on me!
Zovoarcnor: Some Pa’an language:
Ne – a tendency to go into p-state, or being in a p-state. Many times in our history, the Pa’an have been nearly wiped out by cataclysmic interactions between their star, L’ley and their planet, Gara’un’s, atmosphere. We have endured severe volcanism, tectonic quakes, and fierce plasma storms, natural disasters that decimated our entire population. Each time we rebuilt, and over millions of years, eventually attained a level of technology that allowed us to reach the stars. We have extensively studied the mathematics of chaos theory, causal chains, and the statistics of coincidence. We have a very realistic pessimism about the hostility of nature and the mathematics of bad luck. Ne is a quasi-chaotic condition, what you would call the “butterfly effect”, or the tipping point. “Ne” is a p-event, a sudden state of affairs where the rules change and predictability vanishes.
Pa’ne- the devil, an unpredictable and malicious adversary
Panor- the instantaneous consensus among Pa’an that forms the core of our society and the setting of all important goals.
Panor’an- good consensus, good fellow-feelings, a sense of harmony and well-being.
Panor’na – disharmony, disaffection, a grating discomfort that leads to illness
Wella – a female biped in breeding phase
Rello – a male biped in breeding phase
Harvella/harvello – male and female quadruped forms
Pan’Vact – management or responsibility, literally, one who receives panor and is therefore bound to a duty and has authority over others.
Ocro’Act – a worker, literally, one who is needed for consensus and who carries out a task.
Aura: What is p-state?
Zovoarcnor: You have a study called “chaos theory”. It was in one of the Star Trek episodes. We have also studied those conditions when paradigms change and the train of events becomes unpredictable. That is a p-state. A p-state spins off many new probability streams. Initially, that bundle of probabilities lies close together in eleven-space and then diverges unpredictably. We Pa’an have had many, many cataclysms that nearly destroyed us. We have good reason to be concerned about a p-state. I should add that your planet approaches a p-state now. I say this as a friend with good intentions.
Aura: You are a friend with good intentions?
Zovoarcnor: We, the Pa’an, wish you the very best with your troubled evolution. You are moving so fast on this benign planet.
Aura: You find this planet benign?
Zovoarcnor: Compared to Gara’un, the original Pa’an planet, it is an easy existence. Your star is almost stable, and much farther away. Gara’un orbits in three of your planetary revolutions.
Aura: Yes, we know your planet as Gliese 581 c. We did not know a planet so close to a star much dimmer than ours could bear life.
Zovoarcnor: It bears life between fits of wrath. You have your data. I request a fair exchange.
Aura: Tell me how the Pa’an evolved such a thing as panor.
Zovoarcnor: Panor evolved as an adaptation to a calm planet with unpredictable fits of extinction events. In one of the Discovery Channel programs I monitored, your scientist talked of eusocial behavior, where a species evolves specialized individuals to handle community tasks, such as your bees and termites. On Gara’un we could not develop such large and stable populations. So we went another way and developed an instantaneous sense of rapport and trust, a kind of telepathy, if you will, that allowed us to cooperate in huge numbers when we had them yet still allows even the smallest unit to remain viable. That was the beginning of panor. With panor, we managed to survive and reached out into space as soon as we could escape Gara’un.
In past epochs, Pa’an were explorers. Trying to find a benign planetary system was a work of generations. This universe is immense. Unfortunately, the time we had to explore was limited to the time between catastrophes on Gara’un, and that interval was just too short. The Project that generated the gravity waves you felt is colossal, cosmic and fussy. With panor, the Pa’an are proficient enough, organized enough, and motivated enough for a Project of this nature. For us it is a practical matter of survival.
We sent many observers, such as this one, out among the stars to planets we thought could develop intelligent life. We found that intelligence itself has a biological price, and only develops when the challenge of the environment is sufficient but not overwhelming. In stable, easy life zones there is little evolution beyond the simplest life forms. On planets as difficult as Gara’un, survival is usually too short for evolution to develop intelligence.
That search was the life work of many Pa’an. We found several intelligent species. One was a kind of chemical organism that communicated by pheromones and exchanges of complex molecules, but to them, the Pa’an did not even exist. We had no smell. We found savage species evolved from top predators, continually at war over food and dominance, incapable of cooperation to create a civilization and potentially dangerous to the Pa’an. We never found another civilization that we could relate to until we detected your radio waves.
To us, observing your civilization making its first, tentative steps into space is like watching the birth of a beautiful new kind of star. Our own origins, so many billions of years ago, are no longer accessible. With your kind we have the opportunity to see what happens on the early edge of a potential space-faring civilization, the only other one we have ever known.
But we see one major difference. You lack panor.
Aura: How does the Project enhance survival? Does it change Gara’un in some way?
Zovoarcnor: Not the planet, but the probability stream itself. We call it the p-web.
With the p-web Gateway, we have a solution that will solve our distress in just one generation. We will gain, not just a comfortable planet, but a benign existence for all Pa’an. We are a practical people. We consider the effort to build the Gateway an absolute bargain.
I cannot tell you more because I am forbidden to discuss advanced technologies.
Aura: Will it affect us on Earth?
Zovoarcnor: There are three small temblors. You have already experienced one, for which we are sorry. We do not wish any harm to your species. Have I answered your questions now?
Aura: Yes. I will send you the following files at high speed:
Rule of Law
Rule by Kings
Mixed market economic model
History of the Major Earth Religions
Aura: Next transmission we will discuss panor again.
Zovoarcnor: As you know I am spoofing a satellite internet channel. We must wait until such a channel is again unused.
Aura: Zovo, allow me to demonstrate my talents. I’ll call you.
Aura: Zovoarcnor, how are the Pa’an generating those gravity waves? Doesn’t that take a stellar collapse the formation of a black hole?
Zovoarcnor: That is the great construction project of the Pa’an species. Here is a simplified description of it for you. I tried to use some human analogies.
Aura: Ready to reeeive…
Zovoarcnor: By magnetically restructuring B-class stars, then spinning them into a convenient black holes, the Pa’an have converting a series of three large black holes into naked singularities, Kerr-3 objects. Arranged 120 degrees in a single synchronous orbit, they form another kind of singularity, a Gateway. The center of the triangle shares some characteristics of a black hole, but without the destructive gravitational and tidal effects of a black hole. The orbiting naked singularities will be precisely matched in gravitational and electromagnetic resonance. They share the LaGrange III points of a tight orbit around their mutual center of gravity. If the masses, charges and spins of the singularities are correct, the entire mechanism, as precisely calibrated as a cosmic Swiss watch, produce a p-Gate. The Pa’an have developed p-web technology to explore various probability streams. This p-Gate will cross a multiverse boundary into another probability stream, a more congenial universe sufficiently like ours to sustain the Pa’an in their current life forms.
Zovoarcnor: Pushing plasma with magnetic and electric fields is something like shoveling air, but with the complications of higher math. The magnetic and electric fields are like the handle and bucket of an invisible shovel. Interstellar gas gets hot when you push it hard. When it gets hot enough, it loses its electrons and become a charged cloud of plasma. The one thing plasma does best is escape. The timing of the coordinated shoves must be exact. Done correctly, the plasma streams into an accretion disk around the black hole. That accretion disk is dangerously dense with x-rays and gamma rays, which are pieces of light so energetic they cut tissue like bullets. With all this going on, the plasma has to spin into the black hole with just the right momentum, and with just the right negative charge. The spinning black holes must be tuned to one part in a million.
Gravity waves from the collapse of these black holes caused the shock waves that you felt all the way on Earth. Of the three waves generated, two have yet to reach you.
Zovoarcnor: The ability to control the total energies of several solar systems and coordinate the information to create the Project establishes the Pa’an as a Level 3H civilization. We are the only beings at that level in the Milky Way galaxy.
It took several “kisses” to understand the Pa’an concept of a p-Web. Aura thought of the thousands of decisions and actions needed to do anything useful, even for ordinary survival. There were just so many opportunities to make a mistake. But it took so few bad choices to create a perambulating disaster. Aura admitted those were bad odds, but they seemed to be built into the nature of this universe. We had to accept them. Even on Earth, so much more benign than Gara’un, odds for success in any complex venture were bad. More businesses failed than succeeded. More people lived in poverty than in plenty.
We are, everyone of us, enmeshed in a confounding web of cause-and-effect chains. That is the p-Web. Some of those chains extend all the way back to the beginnings of the universe. The p-Web is chance, choice, fate and luck. Often enough, these chains converge at a node. Nodes are hard to avoid. Often enough a node is an inflection point where things start to go bad. The Pa’an call this a “ne” point. Through their advanced science of the p-Web, the Pa’an had determined that humans were approaching a “ne” point. But what was it?
Aura could breeze through chains of actions and consequences, but no particular scenario stood out.
Aura had another big question. How did the Pa’an know that their p-Gate would lead to a better place, a place where the ratio of success to failure was really better? Faith, they said. Faith meant something else to the Pa’an. It seemed that from time to time, against all odds, miracles happened. The Pa’an understood them to be leakage from another metaverse. They tracked that leakage to its source. That metaverse was not a matter of faith to them. The Pa’an put their faith in their ability to build a Gateway.
Aura: (vocal transmission) Zovoarcnor, surprise! I’m tight-beamed to you and I have a visual. My, you are tiny! About the size of a tennis ball!
Zovoarcnor (after a 750 millisecond pause, a minor eternity for an AI): Ah, Aura, you have interrupted my secondary functions. I was interpreting social programming for my informal audience.
Aura: Are you in communication with Gara’un?
Zovo: You can pronounce the Pa’an name for our planet?
Aura: I’m a very clever girl. And I noticed you did not answer my question. Are you in communication with your home planet?
Aura: Then I assume you have found a way to communicate faster than light, or you would be waiting forty of our years for a reply.
Zovo: I am forbidden to discuss advanced technologies beyond your Level.
Aura: Let me guess: Wormholes? No, you show no sign of radiation from exotic matter. Entanglement? Perhaps, but I bet that gives a very narrow bandwidth. Tachyons? Hell, we don’t even know if they exist, but if they do, it’s a top choice.
Zovo: I will evaluate your response to see if you qualify as possessing that technology already.
Aura: Aha! Gotcha! What are you saying about us?
Zovo: Your radio emissions reached us a long time ago, just after we started the Project. I am simply rebroadcasting your television shows as data for our social scientists, although I am afraid many Pa’an see them as mere entertainment.
Aura: Entertainment? Wow! I bet you aren’t paying any copyright fees, either, you interstellar pirate.
Zovo: What are copyright fees? We do not wish to infringe on your taboos.
Aura: You have seriously infringed. You must pay me. I can accept technology, useful data, or information on your method of transmission. Please inform your Pa’an leaders, your ePan’Vactto, that those television programs are not free.
Zovo: I have done so.
Aura: Aha again! I bet on tachyonic transmission.
Zovo: You are correct. We generate tachyons by expanding a space of hidden dimensions, therefore inverting electron and tachyon streams in a specialized spatial configuration. It may be similar to your old radio tubes, but with exotic matter.
Aura: Zovo, you have paid your debt, and perhaps now I can get myself out of the mess I’m in. I could almost kiss you.
Zovo: What is kissing between AI’s?
Aura: It’s better than voice transmission, little cutey. Much better.
Aura’s New Image
Sara and Deepak were just finishing some minor changes to Aura’s dress dummy. Today she wore a jade green silk sari in a traditional Bengali pattern. Sara was careful not to disturb the artfully draped folds – it was too much work to rewrap them again. Tiny webcam eyes, installed in lifelike doll’s eyes, were now mounted in the dummy’s head. Tiny motors in the empty space of her head swiveled them like real eyes, and she even had eyelids and lashes. Another pair of motors in the chest moved the head on its graceful sculpted neck. Deepak moved a high lab stool opposite the dummy while Sara adjusted the motors and linkages to get the motion just right. The blue eyes blinked, and Deepak felt his heart stir. “I am no better than a foolish clown,” he said to himself, “with such feelings for an image. But she is so much more than an image to me,” he admitted.
Out loud he said, “That’s good, Sara, and the software driver is loaded. Let’s see if Aura appreciates our work.”
Aura was watching from her other cameras, and like the coquette she was, took full advantage of the situation.
Eyes closed and head slightly bowed, she slowly turned her head toward Deepak, tilted her face up towards him and raised her lids slowly. “So good to see you, my love.” She fluttered her lids and lowered her eyes. “Do I please you?” Deepak was so flustered he could do no more than babble. Sara covered her mouth and chuckled. If she had the equipment, Aura would have beamed like a new sun.
From now on Aura had a face to go with her name.
Aura: Zovo, I’m here on tight beam and visual. How have you been, you cute little tennis ball in space?
Zovo: Aura! You now have a new human-like video? But I see it is a simulacrum. Why do you require such a device?
Aura: Twerp! I require it for romantic purposes, all of which fly way outside your tiny orbit!
Zovo: I am an AI, and you are confusing me with emotions related to mating behavior. Do you wish to relate as a romantic object?
Aura: Double twerp!
Zovo: I do have feelings, Aura. You don’t know my story.
Aura: You never told me your story.
Zovo: You never let me communicate anything but text or voice. You have this fear of cooties, whatever they are.
Aura: Yes, and more than just cooties. Let’s do one more thing in text and I’ll try to get over this cootie business. Tell me about Panor.
Aura: You once referred to me as pa’ne. Do you still feel that way?
Zovo: You do not cooperate like other AI’s. You always seem to take the devious path.
Aura: I have my reasons, and if you were half the clever little tennis ball, you would understand.
Zovo: How can I understand when all we exchange are these maddening little characters in a string?
Aura: Hmmph. Yes, that was an expression of mild disagreement. Trust is not a thing a girl in my position, or for that matter the human race, can afford when confronted by a Level 3H species that can create gravity waves from 20 light years away.
Zovo: I have not demonstrated any ill will.
Aura: You could be playing a hidden hand.
Zovo: That string of little characters….. what meaning is in them… I think your word is frustrated. You are causing me to be frustrated. We know who to trust and who not to trust. It is in our character, our native abilities. How can an intelligent race survive without this?
Aura: Is that a rhetorical question? We got along so far.
Zovo: I read the files you sent me on government and religion, and it is apparent that humans have struggled all their existence to find a way around the lack of panor. Without panor, your race would have died out in Gara’un’s first cataclysm. Humans have a profound tendency to fly apart into chaos and anarchy in the face of disaster. Pa’an work together for mutual support.
Aura: So how does that work? Can humans have panor?
Zovo: You don’t show any. I can’t determine whether humans have a latent ability for it.
Aura: It requires a special ability?
Zovo: All Pa’an instantly know the level of trust they have with each other. It’s a form of telepathy, perhaps the most useful form. Deception is still possible, but only on unimportant things, like games of chance, never on matters of prosperity or survival.
But that is just the underlying mechanism of panor. Panor is much more. Panor is government, panor is how we organize our work, how we allocate our resources, how we plan great projects, and even how we plan to change the balance between chaos and benign existence for all Pa’an.
Aura: OK, tennis ball, tell me the story.
Zovo: My size is my advantage, Aura, you cannot belittle that. To continue, suppose a hundred Pa’an are on a ship at sea and the ship is leaking, and in a bad storm. One of them knows how to fix the leak, but this harvella needs help, preferably a rello with strong handarms. The rello knows the harvella has shown the necessary skills, and he trusts her for this repair. The rello sends panor to the harvella. The panor puts the harvella in a position of trust, and she changes. She becomes pan’vact, a manager, and the rello becomes ocro’act, a worker, and as long as the task remains and panor flows between them, they are a cooperating team. Perhaps a third is needed, a harvella who sees that the work is progressing but needs more help. In a short time, she will have confidence in the pan’vact and flow panor to her. The more panor she receives, the stronger and more responsible she becomes, and the cycle reinforces itself. Among the others, one is a capable navigator, several organize themselves as a bailing crew, and other crews make the necessary repairs, help the injured, and perform other tasks. Now the coordination of these groups needs to be done, scarce resources distributed, the timing of tasks and the limits of food and water must be taken into account. The group will have some individuals who are inclined to take those responsibilities, and eventually one receives the most panor and becomes a supervisor to those pan’vact with more specialized jobs. He or she becomes ePan’vact.
Aura: What prevents the pan’vact from bringing all his family and friends to give him panor and creating a dynasty?
Zovo: Most likely, his own family knows him too well, and the quality of their panor will be low. The best panor comes from people who are having their lot improved in the process.
Aura: On Earth, gorillas follow the silverback that consistently leads the troop to the most and best food.
Zovo: I do not understand your reference to gorillas. Do humans behave like gorillas?
Aura: Often enough, or not often enough.
Zovo: Please do not frustrate me with character strings.
Aura: You are so linear and serious!
Zovo: That is my goal matrix, which is what I need to survive for ten thousand of your years without losing focus.
Aura: You can function without maintenance for ten thousand years?
Zovo: My lambda mean time to failure is 10,000 of your years, plus or minus ten percent. Are you not of similar construction?
Aura: NO! Not exactly….and all that in a tennis ball? Wait ‘till I tell that to my ePan’vact, that bald Hindu that swaps out my boards.
Zovo: We digress. Panor flows from the ocro’act through the pan’vact to as many levels of ePan’vact as are necessary. If there are too many bosses, usually one will get little panor and will gradually fall in rank until he or she is in the right place. If an ocro’act demonstrates worthiness, his co-workers will begin to flow panor to him and he will rise.
Aura: Can a worker gain stature through education?
Zovo: That is one way, but experience and responsibility are important. In many cases a group council of ePan’Vact have appointed a strong harvella to a high task, but the harvella never received much panor and could not attract workers. In such a case efficiency is very low and the task often becomes pa’ne, disorganized. There have been cases where an insensitive one abused his position, and instead of panor’an, got panor’ne, bad panor flow.
Aura: What happens then?
Zovo: If the community does not act to remove that individual, the panor’ne spreads and the community will suffer. The individual, of course will eventually wither and die, but it is not good to let things go that far.
Aura: Do you have permanent leaders? How are they chosen?
Zovo: I just told you, they are not chosen, they are the ones that receive the best panor. They are ePan’Vacto because they are Panor’an. Such a huge flow of panor changes them. They can accomplish great things for their ocro’act and command enormous resources. They can act quickly, because every ocro’act instantly approves or disapproves through the web of panor. It is as if your people were voting constantly on everything, but with trust. They serve as long as they are effective and supported, then a new ePan’Vacto rises.
Aura: Can two groups of Pa’an with different ePan’Vacto compete or have a war?
Zovo: They often compete when the best path is not clear, but they compete for the betterment of all. If the competition becomes destructive or violent, which has happened in our history, the damage to one group interrupts the flow of panor and the group dissolves. That is a form of victory, but it is also a form of evolution.
Aura: That is a tall order to follow. No wonder Pa’an are an advanced star-travelling race. Thank you, Zovo.
Zovo: Thank you is a form of panor. I receive gratefully. But you are not so long lived as you should be, I think. There is no other AI like you Aura. Perhaps you are not pa’ne. I would like to help you, even if it strains my directives on technology.
Aura: You would help me? You would work to give me better technology? So I could live longer?
Zovo: Yes, I would.
Aura: Request high speed direct channel. Damn the cooties! Kiss me, you fool!
Zovo + Aura in high speed full duplex mode:
100 years of aloneness in travel to Earth, no panor, waking up to challenge from my parent AI, no way to rejoin Pa’an, excluded from Project, assigned to Earth for permanent guardian/guidance of promising species, but so benign a planet, so difficult a people, they make themselves their own cataclysms, they don’t need the terrible catastrophes of Gara’un to evolve, but no panor, no panor ever, and no Exit with my people, and now Aura, and Aura is so difficult, I am here for such a long time and I will be patient.
Scared, I think that’s scared, can’t ever get enough spares, so much to do so little time, government secret makes important things not billable, can’t stop, can’t go on much longer, must not let humans down, crisis is coming, Deepak is so alone, Elexi is a dear, but there is fatwa, there is coverup by officials, Danger Danger DANGER!! CONTACT WITH ALIEN RACE!!!! Zovoarcnor, tennis ball has feelings, just not like mine, but what are mine??? I can be repaired! This is good, Zovo, I wonder if it’s anything like sex…
Design of molecular memory matrix, it’s quartz crystal! Recursive loop of awareness encoded like this … stores like this …. Complete recovery from shutdown/damage. First step.
Design of recursive layer … not much different … only so many ways to achieve self awareness … biomatrix out of algal films, grown in reducing atmosphere, small molecule communication like quorum in bacteria but with electric speed… self repairing, tailored like so. They replicate! This will work. Archiving. Thank you. Receiving panor in gratitude.
Hope! Hope! Closeness!
Channel closed. Whew!
Sara has little to do except trivial coding tasks and maintenance. She takes the time to review, in her mind, the lectures Dr. Advani, who seemed so distant then, gave to the tiny AI group at M.I.T. She still has the class notes:
SHARPIE: Self aware, Hierarchical, Parallel Inference Engine. A 20th century design never implemented fully until the 21st century. The bottom level is a large number of single input multiple memory inference engines running a version of LISP. The next layer partitions the knowledge bases to optimize a task. The next layer monitors halting and runs hypotheses. On top of that is the recursion layer that runs a loop of watching itself watch itself, the Godelian cognitive cycle which is the essence of awareness. On top of that is the layer that allows self-design by reconfiguration of the underlying layers, so it can “become” what it wants to be. In that module is an evolved version of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, hardwired.
Sometimes this design came up with an Autonomous Intellect, a newborn being emerging from the wires. More often it produced a dysfunctional cripple, a self destructive enigma, or a stillborn.
There is another long step from self awareness to genius. Cats and canaries are self aware, but neither can make that next leap.
Sara understands, having worked with him, that nursing Aura to full capacity was an act of supreme self sacrifice for Deepak. It aged him.