Utopia, LOL?
June 13, 2017 6:45 AM   Subscribe

"Hey!" I object. "What's the big idea with letting me take Charles into a U that he hates?"
"It was the universe you selected," says Allocator mildly.
"I'm not a giant superbrain!" I protest.
"This is all part of my superbrain plan," Allocator explains, mysterious like a supervillain. "Would you like to try a different simulation?"
Utopia, LOL, by Jamie Wahls
posted by Sokka shot first (30 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
(This story's particular brand of Charles Stross-ian postsingularity speculation with a Becky Chambers-esque emphasis on human-scale kindnesses and joys was just what I needed this morning.)
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: the piping of stupid flutes harkens the approach of wankers.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:31 AM on June 13, 2017 [15 favorites]


Oh, this was so good. I read it once and I already know I'm going to read it again in a bit.

Also point me to another short story that has quite this many quotable lines in it.

"In a second," I say, because oh my glob I want to get out of this room that doesn't have even a single unicorn in it

posted by greenish at 8:10 AM on June 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


#CharlieSamarkand: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

#CharlieSamarkand: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

#CharlieSamarkand: aaaaaaaaaaaaohgodwhat'shappening 

#Kit: Charlie! 

#CharlieSamarkand: what? what is happening what

#Kit: You're a bird!

#CharlieSamarkand: I NOTICED THANK YOU

#CharlieSamarkand: WHY ARE WE BIRDS

#Kit: That's a really philosophical question!

#Kit: Why were we humans?? 

#CharlieSamarkand: WHAT

I love this.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2017 [13 favorites]


I guess we now know Ralph Wiggum survives The Singularity. I figure that, while mopping, he got distracted by a reflection, tripped over a power port (thereby accidentally snuffing out the uploaded country of Belgium) and stumbled into the upload cloud.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2017


Liked this story so much I donated to the magazine. I don't think I've ever donated money to support cool Sci Fi before, like, without it being the purchase of a bound paper tome; it feels good and also like I am in the future.
posted by greenish at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Grrrr, now what was the safeword to eject from this U/universe/simulation?
posted by sammyo at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


So this magazine has a review of Alien: Covenant that includes the line:

Via a flashback from David, we learn the planet was the recent home of the Engineers, gathered in the plaza in their thousands like a scene from a movie called Being China Miéville.

That's good.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh man, it didn't even occur to me that I'd be introducing people to Strange Horizons.

Seriously, it's an incredible publication with a deservedly excellent reputation in the SF/Fantasy literature community. This is only one piece among hundreds and hundreds of incredible stories—to say nothing of the A+ criticism. Their recent redesign brings the look of the site up to date such that it now feels as credible and attention-worthy as it absolutely is.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


I really liked this story, but everything after "The other shoe drops." just confuses the crap out of me. What are Al and Kit talking about at the end there?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Charlie wasn't the first. Kit has done this hundreds of times.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


23skidoo, I took it as the hangar being nearly empty because this is not the first revivee who's gone out to the stars. Al has used Kit to introduce many, many revivees to the modern world in such a way as to lead them to the same conclusion, wiping Kit's memory each time. At the end, she consents to having her memory wiped again so that she will be suitable for doing it for the next revivee.
posted by Four Ds at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


That was really fun. Thanks for posting.
posted by Mchelly at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2017


In the genre of transhumanist fanfiction, at least this one had a sense of humor about the concept of all of humanity yoked to a benevolent AI which is both servant and master. And a game of "spot the pop culture reference" is always fun but I don't know, maybe they should have gone with the Star Trek technique of referencing two real things and one made up thing.
posted by muddgirl at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


23skidoo, I took it as the hangar being nearly empty because this is not the first revivee who's gone out to the stars. Al has used Kit to introduce many, many revivees to the modern world in such a way as to lead them to the same conclusion, wiping Kit's memory each time. At the end, she consents to having her memory wiped again so that she will be suitable for doing it for the next revivee.

Yeah, I pretty much got that Kit had done this many times before, but didn't get why Al had to wipe Kit's memory each time - it seemed like Kit and Al were talking like the memory wipe was integral to the whole process, and I didn't really understand why. I get that Al's smart enough to know that that's how it has to be done, but didn't really understand if Kit was consenting at the end because he trusted Al, or if Kit had a real understanding of why memories would prevent him from doing his job.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2017


Kit's short attention span is what makes her able to choose the absolute wrongest-possible world to introduce a person to after awakening -- so that the safe, boring, ideal world seems even more idyllic, and their overall choice of options seem worse. Chances are, there are a lot of universes out there that would be ideal -- that's how the AI was designed. But when you only get one guide, and that guide insists that what you might really like is to spend some time as a floor tile, it makes taking the option that you (think you) chose seem more appealing.
posted by Mchelly at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


oh my glob

Oh, so this is a fangrayble set after the Ooopocalypse but before the Cosmic Owl's Naptime. Cool; it makes perfect sense now.
posted by byanyothername at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


"I hate those worlds where everyone talks about how perfect they are and everything is also perfect and nothing ever happens. It's like, you have ultimate access to the fundament of your reality and you've decided the best use of your eternal time is to be smug."

Mefi is a universe! :D
posted by figment of my conation at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2017


Kit doesn't have to explicitly lie, but she does have to omit the truth until it's convenient, and the memory wipe greatly facilitates that. Also, her vaunted enthusiasm might dissipate if she were aware of the process she's a part of.
posted by Jpfed at 10:54 AM on June 13, 2017


In the future, the only productive people will be the few who happen to try DOTA as their first video game, then, after 15 minutes of being shouted at by strangers, spend several shell-shocked hours playing Desert Bus, and then decide video games suck and they want to do something "real."
posted by straight at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Fiction editor at Strange Horizons here, and I'm so glad to see people liking this story; it's special to us. Well-done comedy is rare, and well-done comedy that's also a viable SF story is extremely rare.

(Official Statement From The Editors: We have not stopped laughing about Floor Tile Simulator since the story came in through the slush pile.)
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 12:53 PM on June 13, 2017 [24 favorites]


... Is it weird that being a floor tile for a couple of hours sounds weirdly appealing?
posted by mikurski at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2017 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I was really interested in what being a floor tile would do for me
posted by Omnomnom at 2:13 PM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


In a similar vein. In this one, the benevolent AI runs a My Little Pony MMO which seeks to maximize happiness through friendship and ponies. Really quite intriguing and charming and not even 1% as lame as it sounds.

It goes places.
posted by kaymac at 2:33 PM on June 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


this story is pretty heavily based around a lot of ideas from the MIRI/Singularity/LessWrong crowd. The idea of trying to make decisions when interacting with someone who can simulate you perfectly (ala Newcomb's paradox), a superintelligent AI trying and inevitably succeeding in circumventing its safety features. It is a hilarious and great story and the philosophical stuff simmered nicely until boiling over at the end.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:10 PM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I pretty much got that Kit had done this many times before, but didn't get why Al had to wipe Kit's memory each time

Because Kit immediately loves each retrievee and wants what is best for them, to make them happy and fulfilled and safe, and there is nothing safe about voyaging into the unknown. But it is what we do, we humans - we take these fragile new consciousnesses and submit them to a bright panicky world they can't possible understand and then rescue them to a safe 9-to-5 idealized world for 10 years, and then we have to let them go out into the stars, to worlds unknown to us, where we can't protect them anymore.
posted by maryr at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


Basically, without memory wipes, it's a miracle anyone has a second child.
posted by maryr at 12:32 PM on June 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Seconding kaymac; I read Happiness is Optimal a couple years back and I remember it being a really fun story and deeply thought-provoking. And the closest I get to being a brony is knowing what a brony is (and having a few brony friends).

If the OP story is indeed in a similar vein, I'm really looking forward to reading it, too.
posted by MoTLD at 6:50 PM on June 14, 2017


This story was pretty good! Is this a magazine I can get in print form? Or, how do you all consume it?
posted by rebent at 7:00 AM on June 15, 2017


rebent: It's a web-only publication, but the audio versions of the stories are also made available on their podcast!
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2017


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