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  • The Culture

    So ... I just finished my first Culture Novel by Iain M Banks (specifically, Player of Games. My boyfriend correctly assumed that since I'm a gamer, I'd naturally be interested in this book) and now, of course, my mind (Mind?) turns towards Exalted and wonders ... a lot. What if there never were any Great Curse and the Exalted Host were able to perfect Creation to the point where it becomes the Culture? I honestly don't think it would, as the Solars are specifically given the right and the mandate to rule Creation and the Culture has no political leaders, no government. It exists in a state of libertarian socialism - anarchistic on the outside, socialist on the inside. Sure, they could probably do it anyway - if the Solars can do whatever they want, who's to stop them from stepping aside and abolishing the Deliberative in favor of a decentralized civilization?

    Or, what if the Culture emerges in Autochthonia? Would a post-scarcity Autochthonia start to look like the Culture given sufficient time? Alchemical City Fathers and City Mothers finding new ways to improve themselves, surpassing the limits of what a city can be and, eventually, becoming Minds. I like this idea specifically in context of an Alchemical Exalted from the Culture coming to Creation to be part of a mixed-game campaign; sent most likely by Special Circumstances and maybe not explicitly told why (which seems to be the way Contact does things).



  • #2
    I don't think that they inhabit anything like the same genre, so the narrative and setting assumptions are vastly, vastly different.

    If you're asking whether Creation could be a Utopia, well, it seems very unlikely but is always possible, of course. I don't think it would look anything like the Culture, though. Is it run by sentient AI whose intelligence, individually, outstrips the intelligence of our entire species and all the pocessing power we have built on our planet ever? No, that's not really going to happen. I mean, it might in your game, but it's not within remotely the same setting as written.

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    • #3
      That's not really what I was asking but okay.

      We know the Solars were capable of building Animating Intelligences, and did. They didn't get very far until they were wiped out, however.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by wulf View Post
        if the Solars can do whatever they want
        I find that to be a fairly big "if".

        Originally posted by wulf
        Would a post-scarcity Autochthonia start to look like the Culture given sufficient time?
        If you're going to ask a question like this, I think you need to elaborate a lot more on the premises of this book you've read, unless it happens to be more widely known than I am aware of.

        Originally posted by wulf
        We know the Solars were capable of building Animating Intelligences, and did.
        I think Thinking Automatons were mostly used as a way of modelling and tracking the extremely complex economies of the Realm.


        I have approximate knowledge of many things.
        Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
        https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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        • #5
          Player of Games was great. You should read Consider Phlebas.

          In any case, no, I don't think so. The genres are very distinct. Even in a Shard like Heaven's Reach or Gunstar, the concept of post-scarcity doesn't exist. You get a lot closer in Star Trek than you ever do in Exalted.

          And I don't expect to see Animating Intelligences make a return in the clear "this is an artificial intelligence by another name" way that they did in 2e, if at all.

          Part of the problem is that Solars are human, with all the human issues that entails. Minds are not and never were human. Minds don't naturally have negative human feelings like greed that could prevent a utopian world. And Minds seem to be fairly incorruptible unless they themselves seem to choose to become erratic or perform actions that are seen as inappropriate. All unlike human beings.
          Last edited by Zelbinnean; 04-14-2015, 08:23 AM.


          "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

          "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo

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          • #6
            First, let me welcome you to the wonderful world of The Culture! "Consider Phlebas" is good, but I think "Excession" or "The Use of Weapons" can tell you more about the society itself.

            Second, let me try to sum up The Culture for the benefit of Isator and others:
            The Culture described in Iain M. Banks' novels is a hyper-liberal post-scarcity society in space run by super-advanced AIs called Minds, perpetuated and spread by its Contact division. It is post-scarcity due to extraordinary manufacturing and energy technologies that allow the Minds to produce virtually limitless amounts of whatever physical material they want, even to the extent of building new planets. Effectively limitless resources are used as a solution to almost all of the classic societal problems - everyone gets all the food and toys they want, people who can't live in peace with each other can each construct their own preferred environment far away from each other, population control is on the honor system because it doesn't matter that much if you have two kids or two hundred, mass-murderers are banished to a private planetoid instead of being killed or imprisoned, etc.

            The Minds and the drones that work for them do all of the things that human governments used to do, including community management and social services. They are made to operate ship or sometimes planet-sized computers and are described as being orders of magnitude more intelligent than any human. They do not take orders from humans (or each other). The AI community in general seems to regard itself as being superior to humanity. Their programming apparently directs them to maximize human happiness/freedom, which they do mostly by providing education in the Culture's values (summarized as "Do whatever! It's all good. Anyone that tells you different is an oppressor!") alongside limitless food/toys/drugs/sex/etc.

            The Contact division aims to spread the Culture's values to other societies, humanoid or otherwise, by manipulating their societies to make them more liberal over time. Contact agents may use tactics of force or deception that would be frowned upon by the core of the Culture - the preferred option is just to find the most liberal elements of the society and give them disproportionate amounts of material resources to work with, or promise super-advanced tech to people in exchange for certain reforms, but the Culture isn't above instigating a war if that's what it takes to change things.

            People in the culture tend to be hedonistic. Body modification to enhance pleasure is normal. Extreme genderfluidity is common - sex-change operations are very easy. Oddly, although the technology to digitize a human mind, or transplant a human brain into any number of new bodies exists, few people seek immortality. Most just live a life of endless partying mixed with the odd arts or engineering projects for a few centuries until they allow themselves to die. It's a utopia from a strictly utilitarian point of view, but for my part I don't think I'd want to live there. The Culture does not encourage its people to be ambitious or to try to transcend themselves, one of its many hidden flaws.

            Check wikipedia if you want to know more - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Culture

            And now for Wulf's question:
            Entities kind of like the Minds already exist - they are the Primordials. Autocthon in particular is nigh-indistinguishable from one of Iain Banks' Minds.
            * Intelligent beyond the ken of mortals? Check.
            * Driven to provide for a host of "lesser" creatures? Check.
            * Large enough to constitute a world unto itself? Check.
            Patropoli and Metropoli are of the same mold, albeit smaller in scale.

            That said, what really makes the Culture possible is its post-scarcity, and I do not see how that can be achieved in Autocthonia. Wyld-shaping technique and magic that allows you to transform base matter into food are rare enough in Creation, where there actually is infinite material to work with. Even if post-scarcity was possible, Authocthonia in general is much more militant (everyone would be forever fighting the Gremlins, if not each other) and religious (Praise be to the Great Maker in whose body we live!) than the Culture is - militancy and religion both tend to lend themselves to centralization of authority, which is antithetical to the formation of a Culture-esque liberal "utopia".
            Last edited by semicasual; 04-14-2015, 09:22 AM.


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            • #7
              What was the old break down again...

              Thinking Automaton referred to a kind of magical machine that could think for itself, like Eyem or Icemind.

              Then for Second Edition warstriders (and possibly manses?) they used Animating Intelligence as a cute way to refer to a least god that had been awakened and boosted up to make an intelligence that could run one of those things independently.

              Then there was a She Who Lives in Her Name Charm that unified those and a couple of other concepts under the banner of "Material Intelligences" for the sake of being something that could be hacked.

              It was all a bit messy towards the end...

              I'd see no reason not to have things like Eyem again (which specifically existed to provide advice on pubic or private finance policies, even if it eventually developed aspirations for world domination).


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
              Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
              https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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              • #8
                I AM is way too much like Friend Internet for my taste. It just feels like too much of an IRL insertion. That was the main issue with DotFA as a whole even though there were some cool setting gems in there.

                Ice mind is definitely Deep Blue, but it's clearly magical in nature and developing a personality and to me that makes all the difference. It's clearly an advanced Artifact working in the milieu of Creation, rather than feeling like a modern IRL concept added to the First Age to make it seem advanced by pulling in contrasts to the real world or real-world-esque like APCs and SHIELD aerial battleships.
                Last edited by Zelbinnean; 04-14-2015, 09:53 AM.


                "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

                "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo

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                • #9
                  I'll always give I AM the benefit of the doubt for Lea's evocative description of his process behind writing it as somewhere between "despite the cynicism brought by a glut of fiction, creating a mind is still an impressive feat" and "what would happen if the Exalted had invented God".


                  I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                  Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                  • #10
                    Having read the summary provided by semicasual:

                    Some of those ideas about diversifying and reconciling various social models and personal lifestyles fit a lot of my own ideas of what the Old Realm could be like (Eclippppsssssse Caste), but I feel as though the biggest issue wouldn't be the feasibility of post-scarcity so much as...

                    Well, from what I can tell, this system seems to be predicated on a kind of amiable helplessness on the parts of individuals so they can't disrupt the management of the system, and I don't think that entirely squares with the premise of the Exalted themselves. For instance, part of my own image of the Realm having required a standard of reconciling multiple cultural styles is because it had to account for the actuality or possibility of when people in those societies were Chosen; it's hard enough to standardise out the hill folk even before one of them becomes a demigod who can champion their cause.

                    I suppose one could go with a premise that people living in such a society lack the heroic capacity to be Chosen in the first place, but... I don't know, that seems like it would be a very tenuous security, even if I didn't think that that kind of end result isn't something any characters in the setting can specifically shoot for so much as an emergent result from a general downward spiral over the long term.

                    Although that point is probably brushing off of my sensibilities that don't look to take the presentation at face value (if I'm fully honest, I find some of its premises to be erroneous, and the overall idea to have some internal contradictions).


                    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                    Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      I'll always give I AM the benefit of the doubt for Lea's evocative description of his process behind writing it as somewhere between "despite the cynicism brought by a glut of fiction, creating a mind is still an impressive feat" and "what would happen if the Exalted had invented God".
                      Oh that stuff is definitely cool. I just wish it hadn't presented so much like the Internet in the end.


                      "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

                      "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Zelbinnean View Post
                        Oh that stuff is definitely cool. I just wish it hadn't presented so much like the Internet in the end.
                        Well it suffered from the fact that DotFA obviously didn't give two shits about how ordinary people interacted with half of the stuff it introduced so readers defaulted to what they knew.



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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                          I think Thinking Automatons were mostly used as a way of modelling and tracking the extremely complex economies of the Realm.
                          At first, of course. I'm imagining how that would progress. Would Twilight Solars really be content with turning out barely-sentient machines for thousands of years or would they challenge themselves to create artificial sentience and then see how far they could push it? Of the two scenarios, the latter seems to be the most likely. Hell, Twilights were rumored to be looking into ways to carve up Creation into its own distinct worlds, and we know they created a potential secondary Elemental Pole of Earth just in case.

                          An artificial intelligence with a brain the size of a mountain doesn't seem so far-fetched, then, given the nature of the Twilight Caste, enough time and the endless resources of the Wyld.



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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Zelbinnean View Post
                            Player of Games was great. You should read Consider Phlebas.
                            I just started reading it yesterday!

                            Originally posted by Zelbinnean View Post
                            In any case, no, I don't think so. The genres are very distinct. Even in a Shard like Heaven's Reach or Gunstar, the concept of post-scarcity doesn't exist. You get a lot closer in Star Trek than you ever do in Exalted.
                            The genre already has the beginnings of post-scarcity built-in though. Wyld-Shaping Charms, Sorcery and Reality Engines. I think Exalted is a setting of "this can go in any direction." Yes, it's default state is one in which the Culture doesn't work. I'm talking about places a story could go with the setting as-is. Given enough time and ambition, clearly the Exalted could create a grand post-scarcity civilization.

                            Originally posted by Zelbinnean View Post
                            Part of the problem is that Solars are human, with all the human issues that entails. Minds are not and never were human. Minds don't naturally have negative human feelings like greed that could prevent a utopian world. And Minds seem to be fairly incorruptible unless they themselves seem to choose to become erratic or perform actions that are seen as inappropriate. All unlike human beings.
                            I would never believe that a Solar could approach being anything like a Mind, but I have a hard time believing they'd never build something like one. Or that they'd never build something that would build something like one.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by wulf View Post
                              The genre already has the beginnings of post-scarcity built-in though. Wyld-Shaping Charms, Sorcery and Reality Engines. I think Exalted is a setting of "this can go in any direction." Yes, it's default state is one in which the Culture doesn't work. I'm talking about places a story could go with the setting as-is. Given enough time and ambition, clearly the Exalted could create a grand post-scarcity civilization.
                              WST and sorcery aren't truly post-scarcity, because you're dealing with a resource that is finite at any given time: the user's mote pool.

                              As for Reality Engines: man, I am not going to miss this kind of magitech at all. You just mass-produce the wonder and glory that is WST and turn it into terraformers...it makes it so mundane, commonplace, and dull.


                              "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

                              "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo

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