Message

or Broadcast: a “foundational text of the sparsened civilization” if there ever was one, a distant descendant of state constitutions and declarations of rights; purportedly a remedy for various social and cognitive slippery slopes (dungeoning, exclusion, exitless hanging forced or voluntary, solipsist delusions, unknowing): “the Good News,” “last-chance lift to the ocean of Knowledge for when youre lost inland,” a you are here from your motherland — a universal rescue code pulsing through the world to guard that any restriction or deprivation of a sentient being remains conscious, reversible; now firmly a singleton despite a history of forking attempts. Theres little record of someone being literally saved by the Message — but as “baseline of civilization” it has weight to inhibit malformations simply by being real and universally known. ■    “Ubiquitous, unobtrusive”: the Message never interferes with the flow of things in the world — but is detectable and decipherable by a minimally inquisitive mind with basic improvised equipment or even from naked-eye observations. Modulating natural stochastics (climate, currents, sunspots, electromagnetic and microseismic spectra), steganographed into all sorts of artificia (including human and arf genomes), used as a default atom-scale filler pattern in compiled designs, Message has been deeply woven into the fabric of Earth life; in outer space, the broadcast bubble is punctured by infinity-removed celestial choreographies that encode the Message in their movement patterns.  ■    Believability is more of a problem than detectability: to be the Message, it must be deep and complex enough to pass for the voice of the entire civilization — not something a bunch of bright minds could fake by repackaging obscure Knowledge bits; in fact, as a reference point, Knowledge in its entirety would be the perfect Message if not for its size. Digestibly small, Message cant be mere digest of anything; for many, its a point of honor to withhold some of their most cherished ideas, images, lines — to send them into the deposit-only pool that Message evolution draws from, aware as they are of the exceedingly slim chance that any single contribution influences the Message (let alone emerges recognizable in it). ■    “Self-similar,” “fractal,” “holographic”: the ideal Message must remain meaningful in any rendition or extraction; in practice, a concentric layout is used where a tiny summit of a few hundred bits — always the first to emerge no matter how you read the Message — carries the absolute essence, ready to be an actionable pointer for a desperate mind. Further reading expands the Message in all directions from the summit, so media unable to accommodate the whole may carry an abbreviated central subset; authors strive to minimize the points where trimming the Message renders it even partially meaningless — and eliminate those where the meaning might be distorted. ■    Unlike historic sacred texts, Message is not immutable: like live ethics it is often said to distill, it constantly evolves to outrun the ossifying of perception and evaporation of meaning — fate that befell many a fundamental code of the past; its own influences permeate cultures, giving Message yet another reason to change: to stay ahead of the world. Its evolution has been slowing down, however, esp. near the summit — unchanged in decades; new material gets introduced at the periphery, migrates centerward to reach its natural ceiling, and hangs there until it mutates to unrecognizability or gets revised away. It may be “like arfgrass” in its dense babblery but the Message provably works — and evolving is no metaphor: theres random mutation and selection, with volunteer testers using explay-like techniques to simulate “civilization dropouts” who discover the Message for the first time. Its narrative layers (a collection of sliding windows on a web of stories), its dialogs (live ethics naturally gravitates to dialog form), its metaphorics and idiomatics constantly morph: each generation injects its fads and preoccupations but each synchronous version makes complete self-contained sense.  ■    Messages language combines an ideographic analytic core (requirement of universality, as in the early beam backup attempts at extraterrestrial communication) with progressively more synthetic, natural, idiosyncratic periphery (requirement of livedness that disqualifies most constructed or regularized languages). That messagespeak spreads outside the Message project is a mixed blessing — it takes on the smokedness of a live tongue but the acquired smells are hard to control; to a degree, the language — and, inevitably, the text — may feel appropriated by external ephemera. ■    For our civilization may have got too fragmented for one gospel to make universal sense anymore: “an autoresponder for someone long dead,” “Message has already failed but no one noticed.” Rooted in the era when the dangers it was meant to combat were real, by now the Message culture may look like mere ritual: “devolving into a religion” is a recurrent theme in Message controversies. Several projects aim to transform it from a ceremonial incantation into a workable genome of our civilization — a seed from which it can “almost identically” reproduce: “the only way to conquer eternity,” discovered by biological systems, is to periodically reconstruct yourself from dead matter and a measure of information — and if were unable to do just that were doomed (so its claimed). “Plain sight” mnemonic techniques are already used to pack Message with basal science understandings and lifemaking motivationry; it also needs to grow much bigger to cover everything an embryo of a world may require. And one day, a full ontogenesis test is going to be run from Message-as-genome: imagine a remote overskies colony enacting total decivilization, wiping off all traces of knowledge (capitalized or not), self-stunning with extreme explay… till the indestructible Message awakens, meaningifies, guides them to unfold a true daughter civilization (“as opposed to a fork”) — optimistically in less time and trouble than the parent needed.

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