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Missing Gnarl. Peng Parasims.

Here’s today’s idea for Hylozoic, second volume in my forthcoming cyberpunk trilogy. Having written chapter one, I’m reworking the outline. Dig this, dear reader.

The Missing Gnarl. This is where I want to end up: the birdlike alien Peng are siphoning off the gnarly computation from Earth’s matter. As a result, our clouds, waves, fire, wind, plants and minds behave more simply. What are the Peng using the gnarl for, and how are they stealing it?

[Me with my friend Gary on the roof the SF Opera house after he gave us a backstage tour after the ballet on Sunday. Scanning the sky for UFOs.]

The Peng use the missing gnarl to simulate individual Peng that thereby acquire a physical presence on Earth. These “parasims” are much stronger form of emulation than a simulation that lives within a virtual reality. Parasims have mass and physical presence. They’re the output of a heavy-duty distributed quantum computation spanning the decillion or so particles on the parasims’ “ranch.” The parasim Peng fall apart without a steady influx of computation. They’re like ice-sculptures in a blast furnace, being kept together by a zillion gnats with trowels and Slushy cones.

[At the opera there’s a prop area with for instance every kind of staff they might need for staging a show. People use staves a lot in opera-land. Keeping the actorly persona together like a parasim.]

Here’s the kicker. Due to certain inefficiencies of the emulation procedure, maintaining the physical presence of a single Peng family’s parasims requires every bit of the gnarly computation contained within a patch that covers some ten thousand square kilometers of Earth’s surface. That’s a million hectares. Putting it another way, parasimulating a small Peng family requires the resources of Peng ranch which is a square that’s roughly sixty miles on a side, like a large county. And the parasims soak up the computation in a mile of the air above the Peng ranch as well as a mile’s worth of the Earth’s crust below.

[The Los Gatos fountain wouldn’t look like this anymore. It’d be simple parabolic arcs.]

A Peng has to be very wealthy to become an Earth-based parasim. It’s the final big pay-off for a prosperous Peng life, it’s like immortality. Our Earth is like a heaven for the Peng. Although their planet Penga is forested, it’s a cooled-off, senescent, uninteresting world—like the Peng civilization itself. Earth is a Pengese post-retirement paradise. We marginalized humans are like natives bitterly squinting at a McMansion development that takes up most of our island.

[We’ll still have our bakery, but all the shapes will be perfectly simple and smooth. It’ll be hard to mix things with no chaos or gnarl working for you.]

Talk about conspicuous consumption! Huge areas of Earth are to be drained of interest to support a few smelly, pecking Peng. There’s just the one dot of bright, happy Peng gnarly amid a million hectares of dullness.

How many Peng does Earth have room for? Suppose the Peng want to live on land, not water. Earth’s surface has 150 million square kilometers of land, that is, 1.5 * 10^8 square kilometers. And I’m supposing that a Peng (or a small Peng family) requires the computational resources of a land area that’s a hundred kilometers by a hundred kilometers, a Peng ranch of, once again, 10^4 square kilometers. Doing the math, on Earth’s whole land surface we’d have room for some fifteen thousand Peng ranches. Only the cream of Pengese society need apply! Announcing the Wigfalls of West Philadelphia! Assuming the Peng won’t be moving into the intrinsically dull zones, Earth’s developers will only have room for maybe five to ten thousand Peng ranches.

Wow. I’m thinking of some great possibilities here. Peng realtors! Sell-out Earth developers!

4 Responses to “Missing Gnarl. Peng Parasims.”

  1. Jon Groff Says:

    I think the idea of a race that ‘farms’ complex quantum interactions is a very cool idea. I guess thats the next step after nanotech.
    I really resonate with the concept of quantum interactions as computational in nature. I think its just another way to look at things rather than a radical change in ideas, perhaps a better way. Picturing the fabric of spacetime as that which results from the energy, or results from the computation inherent in quantum interactions fits with existing theories. Things like scale dependance of quantum effects become a statistical averaging of computations. It would then make sense that you can only walk thru walls 1 in 10^64 times. I imagine that you could describe the microwave background radiation as the minimum matrix necessary to support computation and hence produce spacetime. There is no computation at absolute zero.
    It would also lend itself to describing gravity, the most confounding of forces. Would it be that gravity has the least computation and is more scale dependant statistically variant? This might explain why stars and galaxies form, since these computations are the most basic.
    It could then be stated that physical laws are the result of these computations rather than the cause or the framework.

  2. VirusHead Says:

    Gnarly parasims, man. Favorite line: “They’re like ice-sculptures in a blast furnace, being kept together by a zillion gnats with trowels and Slushy cones.”

  3. Jon Groff Says:

    Actually, as pointed out in your other works, it’s only a cool idea if we have it and they don’t. Advanced civilizations tend to subsume less advanced ones. The more advanced the technology the greater the consumption and efficiency of consumption of intermediate and end-result ‘gnarl’. From the chemical; wood and petrol burning, to the atomic; fission, fusion, spin isomer, to the subatomic; say, anitmatter; to the fundmental; quantum level or zero-point extraction.

    Slowly, societies become the ultimate leeches of gnarl at lower and lower levels, until they are sucking down the very fabric of spacetime.

  4. Steve H Says:

    Rudy, this is furkin outrageous! Gnarl-stealing is such a cool idea that there has to be something impossible about it. Would Pi round down to 3? Would clouds tend to be square, or spherical? Would we put on Barry Manilow instead of Zappa, or would Zappa just sound like Manilow? More vitally, would all those little osmotic membranes and Krebs’ cycles and stuff in our bodies work anyway? Could an embryo develop normally sans-gnarl?
    Have you read Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun? (Set aside several months if you haven’t.) Some of the mysterious characters are revealed to be ‘aquastors,’ material beings projected by the brains of the starships orbiting Urth; one turns to dust as the ship supporting him goes out of range. Apparently a dead person can go on for years with help from a shipbrain. Maybe the Peng are all being broadcast from a source? Maybe each Peng has a different source. If I were going to be a parasim, I’d have a para-parachute, namely if my source was cut off I’d want to be restored later in mid-sentence without losing data.
    . . . and, wouldn’t islands be better for the Peng, as they could steal gnarl from the ocean around them instead of angering the humans? Maybe a few of them could be allowed to stay at the end of the book; put ’em on Easter Island, or a ship.

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