Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

by Sergey Pereslegin
(Afterword to the “Noon Universe”)

The fact that Giganda has a vast Earth-related mythology should come as no surprise; any imperialist-type technological culture invents aliens as a convenient replacement for an Almighty Lord.  We have not been immune to it, either: remember the “flying-saucer” epidemic of 1960s or the “Wanderers”?

The difference (immaterial from the standpoint of social psychology) is that in this case, the myths were based on something real.

It is often thought that the interaction of the galactic Earth with backward civilizations is a one-sided process completely under our control.  This, of course, is not the case.  The very fact of interaction implies information exchange.  We can find something out about them only by telling them something about us.  (In the Alai Empire, this statement is known as the indeterminacy principle in intelligence.)

Observers and Progressors live on alien planets for years at a time.  They have been known to fall in love and start families “over there”.  It is commonly believed that it doesn’t lead to leaking information about Earth…

In reality, there is a whole class of situations in which secrecy fails.  The above-mentioned indeterminacy principle implies that no matter the level of secrecy, Earth artifacts will be occasionally observed by the locals.  In a wonderful album titled UFO: The Mystery of the Century published in Arihada the year before last, I found, among an ocean of fakes, two photographs of a Ghost and one, of a Penguin.  A specific Progressor operation may be accidentally discovered by local counter-intelligence services.  Since counter-intelligence possesses some properties of a chaotic system, it is impossible to guarantee against a spontaneous disclosure.  Stochastically, the cards will sooner or later be dealt in the least favorable way.  In case of especially bad luck, a Progressor can be captured along with his equipment.

Progressor’s artifacts can be simply lost, and information about Earth, blabbed in one’s sleep, when drunk, or under the influence of a drug.  In cases of very strong situational attachment, even willful and deliberate distribution of classified information cannot be ruled out.

It must also be emphasized that the very presence of a Progressor on an alien planet impacts the info-sphere of that planet.  (No amount of training can change the informational personality structure, which is formed in pre-school age.  The Progressor’s psyche remains attached to Earth, its history, culture, science, morals, and language.  However perfect the impersonation and even under the influence of hypnosis and psychotropic drugs, the original matrix remains.  In other words, deep down, a Progressor is always a man of Earth and acts as such.  This means that during any communication, he broadcasts to the counterparty the identity of Earth or, at the very least, his personal identity as a man of Earth.)

Overall, a substantial amount of data ends up seeping through to the other side.  However, that data is unverifiable and inconsistent.  It is legendary.  Therefore, it spawns the Myth.

Just like any other myth, it is an “information mirror”.  But reflected in it are not just the properties of the local culture that created it, but also Earth.  You and I.

About a year ago, I conducted a seminar on information aspects of operations for a group of young headquarters officers of Alai Empire Fleet 6.  As a wrap-up assignment, I asked them to analyze “the myth of Earth”.

(Names and places are given in the traditional transcription; all dates are on Earth calendar.  Given in square brackets are the instructor’s notes.)

* * * * *

Author: First lieutenant Long, tactical reconnaissance officer, strike cruiser Brigade Jaeger Baron Tragg

Topic: The possibility of verification of alien intelligence-gathering activity in the Alai Empire

First Level of Connotation

“The myth of Earth” began to emerge in mid-80s of the last century.  In its canonical form (Memories of the Future by Dierr) it is presented as follows:

1. Throughout its history, Giganda has encountered representatives of a very advanced alien civilization.

2. The above-mentioned representatives have actively participated and continue to participate in the political life of Giganda.  Their goals are unclear and depending on the way you read the myth can be defined as follows:

a) Preparation for a direct military invasion with the view of subsequent colonization

b) Research (large-scale social and political experiments that must be conducted on a “throwaway” civilization such as Giganda)

c) Exploration of an alien world and its culture, seeking entertainment, curiosity

d) Development assistance (in the semantics of the myth, there is a term “Progressor”, i.e., “one who creates progress”)

e) Cultural exchange.

[A very important possibility omitted: cultural assimilation without a direct military invasion.]

3. The largest intervention on Giganda occurred during the Second Alai War.  Subsequently, intervention virtually ceased, only to resume after the massacre of 228.

4. In the semantics of the myth, there are a number of names (Earth, Rainbow, Tagora, Eridan, Europe, Sverdlovsk, An’yudin, etc.); the foremost of these is the supposed homonym of inducing civilization.

5. People of Earth are superficially indistinguishable from people of Giganda, but possess some unusual skills (commonly mentioned are mind reading, telekinesis, telepathy, language-learning abilities, phenomenal computing skills, levitation).

6. Earth technology allows instantaneous interstellar travel.

7. The myth is sketchy on the social institutions; it could be inferred that it is somewhat akin to the Alai Republic of 178-179, with general suffrage, a governing Council with unclear powers, a variety of Commissions governing particular aspects of life.

8. Economic problems on Earth have been solved (in the semantics, there is an expression, “heaven on Earth”).

9. The primary trait of Earth behavior is characterized as “instinctive humanism”.

At first exposure, “the myth of Earth” is not very different from a host of other superstitions brought about by industrialization (“pre-flood” cultures, the “little people”, the “gremlins”, the “union of the initiated”, etc.)  It undoubtedly has a religious nature and serves to replace the traditional beliefs.  It is remarkable that its emergence and growth occurred during the “dark times” of the Alai Republic and the Great Terror, i.e., at the “twilight of gods”. (…)

The abilities ascribed to the people of Earth (specifically, interstellar teleportation, levitation, and mind-reading) are in fact common attributes of deity in polytheistic cults.

The concept of “economic paradise” has always found many adopters among the lower social strata.  It is exactly in those strata where the myth of very popular and positively colored: “the people of Earth will come, take the money away from the rich and give it to the poor”, “the people of Earth will release the prisoners”, “the people of Earth will feed the hungry”…

We arrive to a natural conclusion that we’re dealing with a typical folk superstition, purposeless and senseless.

Second Level of Connotation

The above is too obvious to be true.  Let us ask a different question: can “the myth of Earth” serve as a convenient cover for the actual activities of Earth?  (A similar operating scheme is often encountered in headquarter games of Fleet 6.)

In that case, the myth should mix two different information waves: one related to the actual activities of Earth and another, generated by the collective subconscious of our people.

[A major mistake: there can also be information generated by Earth to disguise the reality as a myth.  Somewhat akin to what we used in the “Incident of the Fourteen”.]

There are two features of the myth that are of interest from the verification standpoint.

On the one hand, the emphasis is placed on recent times, fairly well documented, as well as on the most technologically developed areas of the planet.  This goes against the usual logic of myth creation.  (Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…)

Equally unusual is the myth’s copying of Earth’s social institutions off of those of the infamous Alai Republic.  Neither “folk-utopian” nor infernal framework can help explain this choice.

So we arrive at two weak and indirect arguments in support.  It is highly unpleasant that they are indeed weak and indirect and thus look a lot like “residual facts” under a classic “information curtain”.

At any rate, I would not swear to the Emperor and my commanding officer that the people of Earth is just a technology-induced mutation of the old heresy from beyond the Lake.

* * * * *

What’s there to comment?  A well thought-out work, demonstrating the ability to use the “information amplifier”, clearly showing the nature of the problem…  For us, the most interesting is the reaction of common people.  If the Earth activity on Giganda is somehow responsible for the emergence of the “consumer complex”, the concept of “instinctive humanism” might have to be rethought.

* * * * *

Author: Captain-lieutenant Forsta, reconnaissance pilot, heavy aircraft carrier Cheetah

Topic: Earth’s social institutions: an attempt to analyze a myth

The Regulations require a reconnaissance pilot to locate the adversary by any means necessary.  Verification (i.e., the proof of the adversary’s absence in the 200-mile radius) is the prerogative of mission control.  Therefore, I must presume that Earth does exist and put my personal (and well reasoned) opinion aside until a better time.

So what can we extract from the mass of mystical literature on the so-called Earth?

First of all, we must note that no myth describes Earth’s social institutions directly.  This is very convenient; indirect information is known to be more reliable.

[Incorrect.  Indirect information is considered to be more reliable because as a rule it is not deliberately falsified.  However, the use of “fog droplets” implies generating massive amounts of patently false information, all of it indirect.  It is unlikely that you face this kind of situation during your career, but you must be aware of the possibility.]

Let us begin with semantic analysis.

It is immediately apparent that neither the “sources” nor the “research” they inspired contain a term that would, whether directly, indirectly, or by implication reference the supreme leader of Earth.  This is unusual.  Imagine a body of Alai texts of comparable size without a single mention of the Emperor!

There is even more powerful statement to be made: the Myth contains no shred of concepts stemming from the idea of personal power.

On the surface, it is so out of line with the Alai tradition that it can be considered an indirect proof of Earth’s existence.  However, there is no hidden semantics here; a similar social arrangement was emphatically propagandized by dissidents of the Old Empire.

This links the “Myth of Earth” to a fairly long religious tradition.

Let us note that the largest interference of Earth on Giganda is thought to happen during the Second Alai War, during which the Duchy and the Transriveria, formerly parts of the Old Empire, saw the formation of political organisms developed along the lines of the Earth legend.

Let us assume the structural equality of those systems.  Of course, this is only a convenient starting point for analysis, extremely vulnerable to criticism.

The Alai Republic was built on denouncing the estates, the idea of “citizenship”, the concept of equality in the eyes of the law, and governance by representation.  In the material being studied, there is nothing that would contradict this design.

So the Earth is ruled by a World Council, which is elected, one must assume, by universal vote.  A mechanism through which any decision made takes into account the interests of every person on Earth and thus allowing for direct democracy is apparently not known to this super-civilization operating on a Galactic scale.

[This is no place for sarcasm.  Perhaps this mechanism is known to you?  If so, why didn’t you describe it?]

The texts of the legends have no mention of elections to the World Council.  So by analogy, we must assume universal suffrage.

[At this point, the analogy breaks.  Earth may have implemented an outdated version of its political system in the Alai Republic.  Your use of the system operator is questionable; it has likely oversimplified the object of study.]

Any governing body’s first and foremost task is information processing.  The Council (if one makes some natural assumptions about the number of its members) is a very slow-moving organization.  Too many positions must be reconciled to make any important decision.  Additionally, when people’s interests are at stake, they do not necessarily listen to the voice of reason, let alone the opponents’ arguments.  This is so natural to any thinking being that even gods could not do otherwise!

Earth, of course, is portrayed in the Myth as an economic paradise.  But even if all economic problems are solved, political ambitions and mental complexes still remain.

A Council, therefore, would be immediately paralyzed by an intensifying flow of unsolved problems and internal conflicts.  Its real influence would become minimal.

Earth, therefore, would have to construct new governance structures to make short-run operating decisions and thus bypassing the Council.  But can these structures be constructed in a way other than copying the Council?  A “vicious infinity” is apparent.  In the end, every person on Earth would end up a member of one “special commission” or another, the governance would require enormous resources, but no problem would ever be solved.

Since such a civilization would be unable not only to reach out to the starts and get involves in others’ affairs, but to simply function, one may assume that this system is only a screen hiding some invisible “Galactic Emperor”.

I wrote the above, and suddenly found another solution!

The system would work if at the lowest level, where events actually occur, every person solves problems independently, informing (as prescribed by tradition) the Council, but not expecting from it, or its subsidiary commissions, any help.  (Something akin to the Combat Regulations of the Fighting Bobcats: every person is a unit in itself capable of handling any imaginable or unimaginable complication.)

I conclude that a system may operate efficiently, if it is ruled by a single person (Giganda) or if it is ruled by everyone (Earth?).  If the latter describes Earth correctly, I would love to see it, however briefly!

[Too many exclamation points.  Your appreciation of your own idea could have been stated less emotionally…  The idea, meanwhile, is good.]

* * * * *

Sometimes, the most interesting conclusions are found in the most misguided works.  That the World Council could be a meaningless combination of sounds occurred to me, as it possibly did to any other Progressor.  But to think of our entire governance system as a screen?

Meanwhile, in Forsta’s model, the structural crisis of Communism, which we discussed in relation to fourth and fifth volumes of the Chronicles, is organically tied to the voluntary relinquishment of the “absolute sovereignty of the individual”.  I an afraid in this case we will arrive to even more depressing conclusions.

* * * * *

Author: First lieutenant Torch, observation officer, reconnaissance, communication and control cruiser Constellation

Topic: The prospects of military conflict between Earth and the Alai Empire

Let us limit the reach of the topic at the outset; I will discuss the Empire and the Empire alone.  I would like to leave the discussion of the notion of “interests of Giganda as a whole” to those who could at least formulate those interests.

The first question that needs to be asked is this: was Earth’s activity ever hostile to the Empire?  There is no doubt that the Imperial Armored Infantry’s breaks through Lake Zergian, the Eastern Crest, and the northern jungles have put the Duchy not just on the brink of a disaster, but far beyond that brink.  It was the situation described in an old military joke: “But in this case we wouldn’t have surrendered—” “Indeed we wouldn’t; we wouldn’t have time to.”

By efforts of Earth, the Duchy got a shaky peace instead of, let’s face it, a well-deserved evisceration.  A while ago, I flipped through the Alai newspapers of the period:

Day 261 of the year: “A successful advance in the lower Tara.  A break through the enemy’s front lines is now a matter of weeks.  (…)  Two Imperial armored machines penetrated the eastern shore of Lake Zergian.”

Day 262 of the year: “The advance in the lower Tara continues to develop.  The enemy’s counterstrikes are unsuccessful.  Of thirty armored machines the rat-eaters managed to deploy on the eastern shore of Lake Zergian, over fifty has been destroyed.  The Gagrind Brigade has been deployed to complete the elimination of the enemy.”

Day 266 of the year: “A heroic defensive episode in the northern jungle.  An attack by several hundred of the enemy’s armored machines was easily repelled.”

So, unlike the Old Empire, we have no grudge to hold against Earth.  If anything, we are in its debt.

I am not inclined to accuse Earth of having a hand in the sad history of both Alai republics.  Even if aliens were indeed involved in our problems, it still doesn’t absolve us of accountability.

To summarize, the reality gives no grounds to assume that Earth is hostile to the Alai people.

What can we say on a supposition level?

I refuse to discuss the wild theories of invasion, territorial acquisition, and slave hunting.  If a super-civilization wanted to make us its slaves, that’s what we would have been a long time ago.  Not understanding it means not understanding anything about warfare.

Different variants of the research-and-entertainment theory (including the use of Giganda as a site to shoot period films) are likely, but are of no interest to us, since they cannot in any way lead to a military conflict.

The idea of Progressorship looks less crippled compared to other models by Dierra.  In fact, only this activity can push us and Earth into a military conflict.

Let us note at the outset that Progressors (insofar as they are supported by a powerful super-civilization) have to hold high-rank positions within the Empire.  It is highly unlikely that they would perform their duties inadequately.  Therefore, we should be pleased with the Progressors’ attention; each Progressor, as far as his (and Earth’s) powers allow, helps the Empire’s prosperity.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to be prepared for deflecting Earth’s aggression; otherwise, why do we have an army?

The simplest way to win a war is to prevent it.  Of course, it wouldn’t be too difficult for Earth to destroy the entire Sixth Fleet of even the entire population of the Islands in a heartbeat.  But if until now they acted covertly, they must have solid reasons for it.  It is highly unlikely that they would want to abandon their principle of “no overt interference”.

This affords us a crucial opportunity to let Earthlings know which of their possible acts could cause us to provoke them into a large-scale action.  (Describing that action here appears to be unnecessary as they are rather obvious.)  If this information, when presented in an indirect fashion, yields an indirect response, a dialog may begin.

We already established that a war against Earth would necessarily be of informational nature.  Both sides would wield veiled threat of certain actions in the physical space, without committing any.  Both sides would actively maneuver in the information space.

Do we have a chance?

I believe we do, especially if we manage to precisely define the objective of the war.

Since we cannot achieve the destruction of Earth and its military-industrial power, nor can we ensure the departure of Earthlings from Giganda, our primary objective must be contact in the form of a dialog, however indirect.  We can easily achieve this objective if we’re able to give Earthlings a hint about knowing some of their weaknesses without trying to exploit those weaknesses.  I estimate the probability of success in a well-prepared information war against Earth at 70% and would be inclined to recommend that the Emperor and the High Command prepare and execute this operation.

Obviously, the war would be considered won only if Earthlings conclude that the Alaians could be of value as potential allies.

It is completely impossible to even assume that a super-civilization taking over the Galaxy doesn’t have substantial problems that could be solved with the assistance of well-trained Alai officers.

[Very aggressive.  Do you always plan with no room for error?  Yes, this is a good plan.  But where would you look for personnel to execute it?]

* * * * *

The most amazing thing about this document is the author’s complete certainty concerning the existence of Earth and absence of even minimal xenophobic reactions (both are good indications for working with non-humanoid civilizations).  Well, right now the development index in the Alai Empire is higher than Earth’s average, and the correlation between the level of xenophobia and the index are commonly known.

It is also interesting to note how vulnerable, in the author’s opinion, we are rendered by our a priori ethics.

* * * * *

Author: Preceptor first class Dorra, political officer, heavy aircraft carrier Tiger

Topic: The political meaning of the “Myth of Earth”

Having studied the materials offered, I concluded that the opportunities afforded to us by the “Myth of Earth” are underutilized.

A poll I conducted produced an abnormally low percentage of those who believe in the Myth.  Explaining this by “Earthlings’ covert activities” is patently absurd, firstly because there are no Earthlings (at any rate, the fact of their existence is far from obvious) and secondly because Earthlings couldn’t possibly have any interest in this.  To better understand the situation, I conducted a second, indirect poll to check for associative attitudes toward “earthly” semantics.

This experience showed that the realities of Earth are commonly known and significant.  More precisely, over half of those polled are under the influence of the Myth.  This presents a number of interesting possibilities.

There is an a priori trust to what an Earthling says.  Therefore, any information planted into the public (or any of its subgroups) under the guise of being received from the Earthlings would be perceived as significant.  The ensuing opportunities are obvious.

The measures to be developed must include the creation (within the Empire, on the Islands, and in other regions of interest) a network of observers and information gatherers protected by the “Myth of Earth” and actively using the elements of the Myth.

[Would you care to predict the Earthlings’ reaction to this course of action?  In other words, would you swear to the Emperor that there is nothing real behind the Myth?]

The Myth is highly significant for shaping attitudes.  It is no secret that among the youth, there are those who are unhappy with the authority.  Their time and effort can be “absorbed” by taking advantage of opportunities afforded by the Myth.  Research suggests that there is always a small percentage of those who are immune to any influence coming from within the system of government.  But the Earthlings supposedly act from the outside.  And that outside is far more out than the Islands’ radio stations.  Of course, people remaining under the influence of the Myth are not true subjects of the Empire.  This, however, should not stand in the way of using them to our advantage.

* * * * *

Unpleasant conclusions.  If the Empire seriously gets into this kind of political propaganda, the Myth of Earth will become a major factor contributing to the formation of Schwarzschild-type infosphere first in the Empire, and then on entire Giganda.  Should this happen, Progressorship will become a thing of the past.

We will have to take countermeasures.  This is fairly unpleasant, since it leads to a tug-of-war situation with social entropy levels increasing; the sides will block each other.

A possible alternative could be the use of chaotic information structures, but since The World Council outlawed research into the theory of codons and equivalent objects (Pryanishnikov 165, Zalessky 234), we are not prepared for it.

* * * * *

Author: Captain-lieutenant Giggrom, artillery officer, strike cruiser Field Marshal Nagon-Gig

Topic: The man of Earth: the religious connotations of the Myth

(…)

Essentially, the Myth ascribes to the Earthlings the qualities which we would like to see in ourselves.  Since Earth by definition is ahead of Giganda in its development and is therefore a symbol of the future, the man of Earth should be construed, within the Myth, as the future of the man of Giganda.

Overall, this is more ethically constructive than the concept of God.

* * * * *