The Age of the Wise


Continued from The 'Dassan Call

The Hafnium Era (era 72) lasted 21,704,833 Uranian days; this amounted to 884 Uranian years, equivalent to 74,280 Earth years.

As usual with Uranian history, faced with such a stupendous span of time we have to accept that our account will be sketchy and inadequate to a degree that is never necessary for Terrestrial narrative.  So we might as well frame our account around the cliche, that this era was "the age of the Wise" - and then quote the well-known cynical comment, "yes, it needed to be".

During the previous great era, the Thulium, Syoom had grown dependent on an increased supply of natural resources, obtained from the Fyayman wilderness.  This had provoked retaliation by Fyayman powers which then threatened Syoom itself.  The choice which Syoom then faced, was: fight or withdraw.  By opting for caution (arguably the wiser decision in view of the results of the first 'dassan call and the first Simulation), Syoom had committed itself to a huge change of policy and a huge reorganization.  The techniques of Simulation were vital to the success of this undertaking.

At first, the results were indisputably good.  Political and economic strategies, helped as never before by scientific proof of the consequences that would ensue from choosing various courses of action, led to a relatively peaceful and prosperous golden age.  Nor did the long peace cause Syoom to forget how to fight, for the simulators took into account the periodic need for defence against occasional waves of attack from Fyaym.  And there were always vrars and outlaws and various other perils to keep navies and individual wayfarers in the practice of adventure.

However, as the days rolled on in their millions, Simulation gradually inserted itself into other aspects of life.  Simulators became cheaper and more powerful until many were owned by well-off individuals.  Curiously, from this the sense grew that there were no irrevocable decisions, that every option must have been taken and been followed in some probability dimension; for often people would re-run a simulation shortly after having retracted a decision based on a previous one, and would play around endlessly with the changing data.  The "retakes and rewinds of life" became a notorious theme of the era.  More seriously, Simulation became part of the justice system (there was a formal justice system in this era, one of the few such periods in Uranian history), with "counterfactuals" used as evidence during trials.  Untimately the system was almost brought to a standstill as ingenious Simulation showed that, given the right conditions, just about anyone was a would-be murderer, and therefore no one had the moral right to condemn anyone else.

Another social phenomenon which probably resulted from the widespread practice of Simulation was a certain stilted formality, a stiff reserve unusual by the standards of Ooranye.  It has been plausibly argued that this arose from a need to preserve one's dignity and autonomy in the face of the humiliating knowledge of the "probability lines" of one's life - of what one might have been or done.

What in the end saved Syoom from Simulation was Simulation itself.  The most advanced machine, evolved into a conscious Ghepion, predicted its own misuse, and advised that mankind abandon the practice.

Of course nen was not heeded at first; neither did nen expect to be, except by a few.  But the "Age of the Wise" was not altogether misnamed.  Enough followed the truth to co-operate in a process whereby one by one the Simulators of Syoom were taken over and shut down.  There came a day when this process reached its tipping point - predicted and expected - and the resulting eomasp brought the age to a close.

>> Holding the Line

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