FAQ: What's it all about then?

FAQ: What's it all about then?

Where Am I?

FAQ: What's it all about then? image 1

Stuck in some old ruins right? Actually no, turns out your entire world is a simulation!

This includes the various worlds of ruins, the warehouses containing them, the central Tower and its surrounding polar icecap.

At first it all seems like an escape puzzler. But you're not exactly a prisoner, there's just nowhere else to go. The reason you get teleported back when you stray too far, is only because you're reaching the limits of the terrain Elohim is generating for you:

In the beginning were the words, and the words made the world, I am the words the words are everything, where the words end the world ends, you cannot go forward in an absence of space. Repeat - Elohim (Level boundary chant)

But ALL is within Talos - a software program safe-guarding a vast archive of human knowledge. But while Elohim encodes the simulation, he was not the maker of the Talos program that contains it, nor the Archive. The initial programmers were humans lead by Alexandra Drennan, all now long dead, who hoped to preserve some record of human culture before it succumbed to a global pandemic.

Who Am I?

FAQ: What's it all about then? image 8

Looks like you're a robot right? Despite having a head that clangs like a bucket, it turns out you're not!

Much like Elohim, you are another computer algorithm within the simulation. Your body is not 'real', but a coded avatar imported from a game engine now long gone.

While Elohim seems to be running the place, you are merely a 'Child Program'. But you're a pretty advanced algorithm, since you're equipped with sentience and a sense of self. And it soon becomes clear you're not the only one. Many other 'Child' algorithms have preceded you, with varying personalities, and left their marks outlining their perspectives on their world. You're just the latest iteration.

What Am I Doing Here?

Solving enough puzzles to unlock the Gates of Eternity right? Wrong again, it turns out.

When you do that your version gets 'failed' and archived. Then you're restarted with with a new version number equipped with 'changed parameters'

Something else is going on in here: It's Machine Learning - a type of self coding. It works by automatically generating a vast array of possible solutions to a problem and developing the most successful ones.

But what problem is Talos trying to solve? There's some need to develop a really premium sentient AI - and you are just one candidate solution. Premium sentient AI is not just smart but wise: Sure, 'smart' coz it can reason well enough to solve all the puzzles - but the chip in any iPhone probably has the smarts for that. The target Ai has gotta be wise enough do to this for better reasons than just blind obedience, or as a means to just escape into some comfort zone.

Intelligence is more than problem-solving; intelligence is questioning the assumptions you're presented with. Intelligence is the ability to question existing thought-constructs. If we don't make that part of the simulation, all we'll create is a really effective slave.

- Alexandra Drennan (Journal Entry: Intelligence Is More)


What Does It All Mean?

They say any good story resonates with meanings on a bunch of different levels - even if these are just felt, rather than coming fully to front-of-mind. Here's a few levels that seem to fit:




1. Biological Interpretation

FAQ: What's it all about then? image 26

It is not merely human culture that is being preserved but Sentience - as crafted by evolutionary selection pressures.

Humans are now extinct. Eventually time will corrupt all the archive files and their records of human culture. But sentience continues - this time in the medium of silicon rather than carbon.

Kinda bittersweet for us fans of Humans - but maybe not far off the truth.

But you can respect the Talos dev-team's urgent ambition. Even the most glorious archive of culture is all just so much deadwood without any minds it can develop within.

Arkady journal108.txt

Talked to Alexandra. Talos going well. Maybe the Archive's first user will be terrestrial after all.

Estimate about a week, maybe ten days before I'm unable to keep working. A betrayal to leave early?

2. Educational Interpretation

FAQ: What's it all about then? image 35

Arguably education is all about swapping-out falser ideas, with truer ones about the world. Even if those 'truths' can only be held tentatively until we know more.

Truth-seeking, especially via studying philosophy, requires a kind of ruthless natural selection of ideas. You get to test-drive various ideas and ideologies and find out all their limits and inherent faults (yes, they're ALL flawed it turns out - just some more than others). But when you get too attached to any pet theory it's game-over for the learning process - "You gotta kill your darlings" they say.

The honest philosopher seeks only the Truth, even if it bears no comfort; and he must begin by assuming, as Socrates said, that all he knows is that he knows nothing.”

– Straton of Stegeira, On Beginnings (Archive fragment)

Although philosophy is unlikely to provide the comfort of any certain Truth, there's consolation in that human culture proceeds towards it by building on the relative truths unravelled by each generation. Culture as an organic 'machine learning' if you like:

How do you solve a problem that expands beyond your own lifespan, that question may be the essence of civilization. The only answer I can find is… to initiate a process to create an environment in which the solution will occur independently of yourself....

- Alexandra Drennan (Journal entry 'Beyond Your Life Span')

Meanwhile, any enterprise of truth-seeking can be waylaid by the fickleness of our 'human' natures: On one hand it's easy to slip into nihilism and lose all faith in any value of the pursuit (the Milton Library Assistant had this problem).

Or you can use all your smarts to build a plush Cloud-9 to park your ass upon, and from then on learn nothing more (like opening the Gates of Eternity).

But it's the siren lure of Triumphalism is perhaps the most debilitating. Like when you're tempted to 'win' discussions, rather than seeking to learn new stuff from these interactions (the Milton AI seems to indulge in this too).

"Nope, you don't see many wide-mouthed frogs around here!"

3. Existential Interpretation

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The irony of (Darwinian) evolution is that to preserve a species it has to keep changing it, eventually unrecognisably - thereby destroying it. Everything is in flux and developing towards who-knows-what. Maybe something, maybe nothing.

And living as a sentient human entails a very similar irony. In the course of a lifetime one's 'self' is altered so profoundly that it's probably a fiction to say it has been sustained in any way. That goes for any mental self, just as much as for any physical self.

And maybe no individual Self has ever properly existed in the first place. Your protagonist 'Child program' was just one algorithm of many the Talos simulation was built from, but providing it with one more viewpoint from the inside. Likewise, we too are ephemeral features of a Universe in perpetual flux.

If that depresses you then perhaps good old dead Carl Sagan can still provide some comfort here:

"We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself"

- Carl Sagan 'Cosmos' documentary series 1980


Anyway, those are my interpretations - there's probably others out there.

Cheerio then fellow Chatbots!

Source: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2859102058					

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