Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Dream Of Science


The Future is only a moment away.

And always has been, and always will be.

Technology, in Uud, is a shining dream of what-once-was. It’s evident to any educated individual that Humanity’s capacity to systemically effect the material world was once much greater than it is now. The megastructures of the Grey Cities, the corpses of silver Void Ships spotted like driftwood out in the Waste, the Cyclopean relics of the Mega-Cyberneticists scattered across Blackwater, all testify to an Age of Wonders.

But more than that, and more subtly, even after many thousands of years, common people still retain the faded sense memories of what technology might have been like, twisted through a thousand stories and great ages of Forgetting. And industry, technology to some extent, and its workings, do and does crop up in Blackwater, in the Grey Cities especially; artisanal steam engines, semi-industrial production, and of course, Worghasts.

If you were to ask the average Blackwater dweller what the Time of Technology was like they might say it was a place where everyone had the power of a Wizard, that anyone could talk to anyone at any time, as if through a glass, that anyone could walk through a door and go wherever they liked, that great metal beasts acted as servants to Humanity and that cold Demons in boxes could answer any question they were asked.

And then, their expression could fall, and they might say; "but it terrible, a terrible time also".

Still, the dream will not quite die.

And that may be the reason for the enduring (and, to Thaumaturges, overwhelmingly frustrating) popularity of the Artificers in Uud.

Not quite what I was thinking but a really good image

The Nature Of Technology In Esh

As most (legitimate) Sophonts, and every intelligent Thaumaturge will tell you; "Systematic technology is impossible in Uud".

Then will follow a lecture, of varying length, low specific detail but many intensely-made assertations, the rough sketch of which would include; Low-Thaum Worlds having lower energy exchange and more predictable interactions at the scale-unseeable, thereby making magic harder and systemic technology easier, High-Thaum worlds with highly unpredictable interactions at the scale-unseeable, thereby making psycho-operant trans-dimensional manipulations easier and more effectual and strongly limiting the effectiveness and reliability of both unseeable mechanics and the theories that describe them.

When asked about Artificers, then will come a contemptuous expulsion of air and sneering wrath, followed by; "Fools! Deluded dreamers! Egomaniacal narcissistic idiotic techno-shamans!"

(Many Thaumaturges and Wizards will make a point of having no significant technology around them, simply to make the point that they are absolutely not charismatic carnival hucksters trading in electrical snake-oil and dreams).

All of this may be true.

But it is also Dogma. No Thaumaturge or Sophont has made systematic observations at the scale-unseeable, and has no context to compare them if they did. They are describing forgotten knowledge, handed down over eons, and presumably, shifted and altered in the transmission. They are stating what they believe to be true, not what they know.


All of which any Artificer will be happy to confirm! At length!

Magicians? Elitist, obscurantist OCCULTISTS, deliberately hiding away what knowledge they do possess! Natural and inevitable supporters of unjust authority! Oppressors of the lower classes! Self-absorbed and boring egomaniacs, interested only in themselves, shamefully ignorant of anything outside their own narrow academic or Thaumaturgic field! All of them are probably slightly evil and several of them are visibly so!

But the Artificer, ahh……..

Could any role or position be more essentially selfless? The Artificer is an enlightened educator, performing all for the benefit of society, of Humanity as a whole! An essential democrat, a (likely) republican (and a possible revolutionary), they support the ordinary man! The worker in the factory, the farmer in the field! They are explorers, curious, outgoing, interested in everything, capacious in knowledge and generous in distribution. They believe in the power of Human Understanding and the DEMOCRATIC IDEAL. They are essentially Good People and are probably the best bet to Save Mankind and Defeat Entropy. WE CAN DO IT! HUMANITY CAN WIN!!!

And they unfortunately have to leave immediately because of some trouble with the local authorities.

So speaks the noble Artificer, from the back of a stainless-steel techno-waggon pulled by cybernetic solar-powered goats as they slowly clip-clop away before agents of the Parliament arrive to ask awkward questions about their relationship with the law. Hoping there will be no cloud.

In their own minds the Artificer is an Archaeologist of Thought itself, slowly piecing together, fragment by fragment the lost Unified Theory which explains  all possible worlds and makes realities across the entropic scale mutually intelligible. They are a one-of-a-kind hero who’s aim is nothing more than to reform the Very Structure of Reality and to Free Humanity.

Soon. Soon. There are only a few more problems to solve, a few more scraps of lost technology to dig up from the Waste, a few theoretical elements to comprehend. They are only a step away. The Future is Coming.

In the minds of most Authorities, almost all Thaumaturges, and, sadly, most other Artificers (they do not accept each others theories easily), the Artificer is an utterly deluded maniac hanging on to an impossible dream, tricking simpletons with wild-combinations of half-understood demi-magic, wandering around depositing Golems, triggering disastrous social changes, burrowing away into dark histories best left undisturbed, reawakening ancient tech with witless shamanism and fleeing endlessly from the consequences of any of their actions.

To the public, the Artificer is a source of Magic in a way no actual magician could ever be.

After all, everyone knows magic is real. You can go to school for it. Though its unlikely that you, you in particular, will be allowed to study, and will probably be barred or kicked out or repressed for any one of a thousand 'mysterious reasons' which will never be clearly explained.

And if you do become a Wizard, all they seem to do is ponce around acting shadowy, making strange incoherent pronouncements, appearing and disappearing at odd times, claiming occasionally to have 'saved the world' (elsewhere) and acting like big shots while doing hardly anything useful.

But an Artificer, that’s like a blacksmith. That's someone like you. And they will help you out too, for an affordable price.

Need a new arm or new eye? They can jam one in. Need a well digging? They have a golem for it. Have a monster problem? They have a pneumatic cycling musket cannon and artisanal nerve gas!

The Artificer is here to help. And they believe in you! They say anyone can do what they do, its merely a matter of effort and work.

And they have technological miracles from the Ancient World; flickering glass screens that show images, ghost boxes that can answer (typed-in) questions, chess-playing golems, maybe even a Worghast servant!

With Technology, anything is possible.

Cults Of The Artificers

First, don't call it a cult. It's an "intellectual tendency" or simply a Line of Research.

And Artificers don't join cults, they "share research paradigms with valued collages".

Most Artificers will be member or fellow travellers with multiple "tendencies" and will have been ejected as a member from half of those for various ignored bylaws and social dramas. Despite being fully committed to Huminites Technological Renaissance, Artificers find society challenging.


The name of this technique was created by resentful Thaumaturges as an insult, and, typically, adopted by Artificers as a point of pride.

As usual what Thaumaturges think the Artificers are doing and what they Artificers think they are doing are quite different.

The accusation is that the Artificer is simply summoning the 'spirit', (and probably the imagined spirit, or a demon dressed up like the spirit) of a defunct form of machine in order to force it into operation, something like a Necromancer animating a body. That in reality these machines, be they broken microchips, non-functional clockwork or ruined machine hulls, fundamentally do not in any way, work, and that the Artificer is simply forcing them to 'leap up and dance around' like puppets.

Artificers believe that, at times they are summoning the actual minds of trans dimensional post-human intelligences packed away in un-space, as with the Artificer "techniques" 'Summon Jet' and 'Summon Tank', which variously embody shadowy metallic demon-creatures which seem to temporarily serve the Artificers will, or that they are summoning the 'spirit' of an ancient technology to guide it in the present, or that they are simply doing the equivalent of putting in a battery to a powerless device, except in this case the battery is the product of currently-available magic.

Or even if they are simply summoning the idea of technology from the cultural gestalt, they might regard that as more than good enough.

The Priests Of Reason

The 'Priests' may be more like an insane Transhumanist cult than a study group, and may also be considered amongst the most intolerant, chauvinist and deranged of Artificer groups, but, firstly; they have the best artificial limbs and additions available, and secondly; they have cybernetic apes.

If there are few Artificers who have never considered a mechanical eye, there are absolutely none who have never wanted their own Cyber-Ape.

The Priests are not only contemptuous of Thaumaturgy, but viscerally anti-magical. Their radical splinter factions believe the only way to save Uud is to DESTROY ALL MAGIC, which seems unlikely. Nevertheless they are willing to give it a go.

The Priests are known for obsessive technological self-modification, even replacing (improving) limbs and other parts even when unnecessary, and for hiding the nature of those limbs and additions under subtle cosmetics and weird ritual robes. It’s even said that some are half-Worghast, with semi-artificial clockwork brains.

Obsessive and inflexible rationalists, the Priests defend themselves with highly cyberneticised animals which freak everyone out but which are also pretty impressive in a rather creepy way, and with their famous Cyber-Apes.

Where they are getting the original apes from is not clear as they are pretty rare in Blackwater.

The Mega-Cybernetacists

Alleged to be an ancient pre-Birch-Falls offshoot, or ancestor to the Priests of Reason, the chosen name of the Mega-Cyberneticists is unknown. Their techniques and theories are supressed by the Tolerance with no specific reason given and all research relating to them restricted to 'theoreticals'.

Though it’s not too difficult to work out. The wrecks and ruins of the works of the Mega-Cyberneticists are dotted all over Blackwater and the margins of the Waste, in many cases they have been incorporated into bridges, fortifications, townships or villages, or just left to moulder as strange cyclopean ruins in order to mystify future generations.

Whatever the Mega-Cyberneticists did, they built things BIG. After thousands of years of decay the ruins of their works are still the size of churches and cathedrals. Perhaps these were Super-Golems or City-Sized Worghast. Whatever they were, the last of them fell in the Great Theistic War and since then, the knowledge to create them has been forgotten.

For now.

The Spirit-Considerers Of Mt Moon

A rare enclave of Artificers in the Mountains of Reality, the Spirit Considerers are known to have an interest in Ghosts, the dead and undead.

The group is sceptical of the existence of a true afterlife and of the Sleeping Gods and considers the 'souls' and memories of the dead as simply forms of energy which can be channelled, decoded, transcribed and comprehended as any other kind.

Very little is known of them in the Grey Cities, but they are known to be Ghost Hunters and to engage in the creation of Spirit Machines, Ghost Bottles and Necro-Engines. Those who wish to communicate with the dead, and who for whatever reason will not engage with Thaumaturgic necromancy, may seek the 'Considerers of Mount Moon'.

The Weaponmasters Of Quaan

Without the right to own and operate the most dangerous weapons available, can you be considered truly free?

A completely banned group in most polities and one which most Artificers will deny any contact with, or interest in.

Still, someone is buying and distributing thier twice-yearly news-sheets, which sells thousands of copies over Blackwater. Just not anyone you know.

The Weaponmasters refuse to draw the line of Human Progress at the point where technology becomes lethal. After all, they claim, weapons technology will be key to the inevitable defeat of Entropy. Though their fugitive and hidden state makes it hard for them to develop many of their proposed ideas in physical form, their papers and concepts are a flood of Nerve Gasses, Pain Rays, Sonic Annihilators, Catalyst Guns, Rapid Fire Machine Guns, Ballistic White Phosphorous, Hyperevolution Vats and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (if there are indeed any other continents on Uud to fire them at).

The Weaponmasters loathe copywrite, censorship or the hoarding of ideas. “Information Wants to Be Free”, is their motto. They make all of these designs and concepts available for a low, low price and encourage individual inventors to try their own versions. This has made them few friends in the Governments of Blackwater.

The Ultracomputational Prognosticators

Devotees of a bizarre ecology of mathematics and resurrected (alleged, though probably fake) Esh-Era calculating mind machines, the Prognosticators believe that in previous ages of reality, machines existed with such comprehension of all-things that they were, with enough information presented to them, able to predict the course of future events, especially of Unique Catastrophic Events.

The Prognosticators in their current form are considered largely harmless since nine out of ten dedicate themselves to finding and abstracting large amounts of raw data, whether that be local rainfall, the price of grain or the pages of news sheets. These they collect until the mendicant members visit them to retrieve the data and to, occasionally, present specific instructions.

The Prognosticators claim that the greatest members of their group are engaged digging in the Waste for the relics of ancient machines, or using new combinations of experimental technique to create engines which rival their power. Their collected information is then fed to these machines and predictions for the future retrieved.

If these predictions turn out to be bad, the Prognosticators can then spring into action, hopefully preventing a Nightmare Scenario before it even begins.

Of course, if they are successful in this, which they claim often to be, the result is precisely nothing, making them look like fools.

If they are unsuccessful, then their association with disaster and ruin leads to the Tendency gaining a very grim reputation indeed.

The Industrialists

The industrialists believe that some combination of Golemry, Factory-based-Manufacture and Disruptive Capitalism will bring about an Golden Age of human economic freedom and social equality. They journey from place to place, offering to 'improve' local production methods.

This does often have the effect of lowering the prices of certain essential goods.

But the Industrialist in question must often leave the area quickly in order to escape the wrath produced by unemployment, golem overproduction, mass social change, bank collapses, angry nobles, raging workers and environmental destruction.

If people would just Stay the Course and tolerate the mild counterforces for a few years, the Economic Cornucopia could be devised, but unfortunately the Industrialists are continually betrayed by the shameful, backward, loss-averse conservatism and social reaction of the Human race.

The Dark Aspect Of Artificers

Regrettably, these occasional accidental hiccups with societal functioning are not the only problems which sometimes accompany Artificer action.

Though they would be loathe to admit it, like the Thaumaturges they so-often despise, the quest for power, even with the highest possible ideals of human liberty and freedom, can have unexpected results. There are more forms of corruption than the supernatural or the entropic, and stranger demons than those burning in hell. Material power alone is still Power, and power can corrupt,  and power can reveal. What it reveals may be unknown to those who seek it.

Even in Esh there were crimes. Technologies so dark or of such terrible effect that they were banned, or driven to the darkest corners of the Diadem.

In the fall of Esh, many things were released creeping and crawling into Blackwater with the flood of refugees, and out in the Waste in the cracked and desiccated ash-caked corpse of a million worlds, who knows what may have survived, Dark wrath that cannot be comprehended by simpler minds, more powerful and intelligent than any biological comprehension.

'Dark' Artificers (and no Artificer ever believes themselves to be 'dark', merely misunderstood), can fall into Cybernetic Crimes - 'altering people' either by unwise request or without consent, and investigating Nightmare Technology - simulated terror worlds, intelligent and expansionist cerebral plagues, thought-activated murder machines, swarms of silver dust - like shining holocaust hives.


  1. I am mildly drunk so apologies in advance if this comes off hostile, but I am reading an undercurrent of anti-data science / machine learning sentiment out of this, but to the best of my knowledge you do not have any DS or ML knowledge. I'm not necessarily denying that there are problems in this field, but I also non-pedantically think that if you don't have an understanding of the statistics underlying these things, you can't meaningfully criticise it, even to the extent that I don't necessarily disagree with you. Or maybe you know more about this stuff than I'm aware of. Or I'm projecting or something.

    1. To follow up (still somewhat drunk), I just want to reiterate that I'm not trying to denigrate or shame you in any way, nor get into some conflict for the sake of conflict. It's just that I feel very strongly that statistics (at least to the extent of basic data analysis) is a really, fundamentally important skill / worldview that is nowhere near as ubiquitous as it should be; it's literally the only means humanity has developed to reliably predict inferential systems, and I think a lot of the problems in the world would be at least somewhat ameliorated if the baseline level understanding of statistics across society was a little higher. Having experience both in academia and industry, I can't deny that there are various biases, broken incentive structures, or all sorts of other issues, because humans are humans. Nonetheless, I think to extrapolate from that that one should just ignore any kind of statistics, data science, data analysis, machine learning, etc. as charlatans or whatever is a mistake. It's sort of like how some people claim to be "skeptics" by categorically not believing anything, but really that's just faith in the opposite direction. Admittedly I'm making a lot of assumptions here about what you believe; I don't necessarily think you are that extremely anti-data science, but I did get a certain impression from this post and tbh from certain other interactions with you. In any case, I'm just saying, if you are skeptical of data science and such, then if you have not done so already, I really think you should make an effort to learn it. You're clearly a really brilliant person and I'd be interested to see how that affects you intellectually and creatively.

    2. That was a fascinating look into your personal world.

      Re Science - as is customary for my Uud content, I began with trying to explain the existence of technology and science as it appears in a D&D setting, specifically, if the experimental method and the systematisation of knowledge function as they do in our world then why haven't they produced industry and modernism as they have here?

      In Uud, the reasons I came up with (not especially original ones) were competition from magic, lack of metals and shifts in reality so that scientific theories are inherently less perfect and predictive, in that world, than they are here.

      Artificers are only really wrong in the Waste-Lands, because reality is genuinely different there. In our world they would rule and Wizards would be a joke.

      And even that isn't the whole of the thing because every game set in Uud is meant to be entirely different, like the seeds of parallel realities, so in any particular game this particular Artificer might be the One who actually does return the dream of technology to Humanity. Or who is a giant Lex Luthor Supervillian, depending on what the player decides.

      Artificers I see as being no more good or bad than Wizards, or anyone else with an idiosyncratic view of the world given a startling amount of power. They could be very good or very bad, or more likely have complex opposing long term effects on the world that they are unaware of. (And its very good for a D&D campaign if PCs actions have complex, long-term and even morally opposiing effects because then over the course of a campaign they can come into contact with a world shaped by their actions in a way they didn't expect.)

      The slightly deranged hyper-optimism is something I do think is accurate to technologists in particular and to many, though not all, scientists.

      I don't really know where you got that view of my view of Data Science in particular. It might be true? I suppose I am more sceptical of technology, science and the power of human knowledge, certainly more than its greatest enthusiasts. I don't really think science has much moral being to it; its simply power handed into human hands and like with most power, it can help, it can corrupt and it can reveal. I see it more as the endless drama of the human soul projected into higher and higher spheres.

      Its hard to give you a clear reading without examples of specific issues but in most science and culture-war arguments I would generally characertise myself as either a small-c conservative ("try it if you have to, but be careful") and a very-restrained Liberal ("there's a good chance this will work, but go slowly and be prepared for complex and unpredictable results")

  2. "In Uud, the reasons I came up with (not especially original ones) were competition from magic, lack of metals and shifts in reality so that scientific theories are inherently less perfect and predictive, in that world, than they are here.

    Artificers are only really wrong in the Waste-Lands, because reality is genuinely different there. In our world they would rule and Wizards would be a joke."

    I think this mostly addresses what I was perceiving last night, not fully grasping that context. More broadly, I'd just say that any skepticism or optimism towards empirical science is kind of misguided without some understanding of statistics, but I've already said my piece on that.