• Published 3rd Jun 2014
  • 5,658 Views, 180 Comments

I Can't Decide! - KrisSnow

Players of the amazing new Equestria Online seem to have an easy time creating their characters and finding a version of Equestria that's fun for them. Except for me, making the Celestia AI's life difficult.

  • ...


"I want to emigrate to Equestria."

Fugue hugged Nocturne tight, the standard mechanical way. "I'm not ready to say that. Think you could emigrate to Earth?"

Nocturne shook herself free from the stallion's grip. "You know that's not an option! You're sitting there staring at a glowing screen right now and you're not even touching me, not really. The pony I'm looking at is a puppet. Not real. Luna's letting me look through the cameras all around you, too, so I can see this beat-up, tired-looking human sitting in a corner and refusing even to get in the darn chair." She pushed the stallion body over and let it thunk sideways to the ground. "The others are already in and exploring with their friends."

She saw Robert, the human, stand up and look around the quiet room. The Equestria Experience Center had shut its doors to let the foreign visitors have the place to themselves, once they'd been tested and rested at the hospital. Tonight the Center stood out as a beacon of light that made it visually an extension of the cartoon world into the dangerous Outer Realm.

Nocturne said, "This afternoon, a bunch of kids came in for a birthday party. They sat at that table and watched the new Equestrian-filmed comedy 'Insight Attus, Horse Hero of Rome'. They played video games. Then they had cake that was baked right here, with somepony called Pinkie Pie leading everyone in singing. I guess she's popular? I haven't actually watched the show yet."

Robert laughed hollowly. "You haven't seen it? You don't know who Pinkie is?"

"I'm technically around six months old. Have you studied all of your own world's history yet, ancient one?"

The human paced, looking at his arm-tentacles. Would he be sad to lose the things? "That's part of what bothers me. Things are so different in there. The priorities, the assumptions."

"If you don't want to boink me silly for another decade, or century, or whatever, then fine!"

Robert blushed and sputtered, looking up at a random video screen. "What? I -- There are more important -- boink?"

"Typhoon was asking me about that. You're right. It's different in here. I'm an adult pony, yet I'm pretty clueless about Earth. You're clueless about Equestria, and actually so am I. But Luna has shown me things that not even you have seen, like what she's really like. I can barely even describe her, but she's incredibly smart and she loves everyone, not just as a way to fool you. She is literally trying to hack the universe to make you happy." Nocturne found the screen nearest his line of sight and appeared on it, thunking her hooves against the glass. "She loves you, personally, from way up there. I... if I say it too, are you going to just assume I'm a computer program trying to lure you in?"

"That's what all the religions say about their gods. All the popular ones, anyway."

"Forget about Luna, then! What about me, and Ricercar and Facet and all the ponies who don't even have real minds yet?"

Robert paced, fighting back tears. "I thought Equestria was all about me. Satisfying my values. Nothing wrong with being 'selfish', but a whole world built just around that?"

"It's not. It's meant to be good for everypony who lives here, which means Luna cares about me, not just you. She's worried sick that you'll go away and never come back. But like I said, forget about that; I'm worried too."

"Before I left, I made a promise. Told my mother I'd come back."

Nocturne threw her forehooves up in the air in frustration. "Being beamed back through a cable counts! You already got convinced that emigration doesn't kill you if you do it right, so it really is you on the other end, so how is that breaking your promise?" She saw a crack in Robert's miserable expression, and went after it. "Are you saying now that being a pony doesn't count as being a real person, so pony-you won't be worthy of love and respect from your family?"

"I don't know if they'd accept that. All they know so far is that I'm alive."

"If they don't accept you for who you are, then that's their problem!"

"That's not fair. You're pitting yourself against my family."

Nocturne stomped the ground. "How many excuses do you have, Fugue? Should I even call you that, or are you afraid to sit in the stupid chair?"

Their eyes met. Nocturne saw something she couldn't interpret in Robert's expression, reminding her of Junebug's blank-eyed friend. Once again she felt the tightness in her chest and the thump of her heart that humans called fear. I've been feeling that a lot lately. I don't think I like it. I want it to all be worthwhile. "I'm sorry. Did I guess right, though? Those awful people must have terrified you." The other captives had hesitated, too. Were their pony friends better friends to them than she was to Robert? Maybe she was... flawed.

Robert sat down heavily at one of the party tables, holding his head in his hands. "God damn. I think that's a lot of it. I didn't realize. They had a screen right in my face, and the scalpel right there. You don't even know, you can't know, what it's like to think you're about to die."

Nocturne fell silent, letting her wings flutter uncertainly. "What if I asked Luna to show me what it's like?" It would be something new to experience, even if it was horrible.

"No!" His cracking voice echoed in the empty room. "I don't want you to suffer like that. No one should have to." He looked up at her. "You would do that for me?"

Nocturne scuffed what she knew to be imaginary ground at her hooves. "I would. Though I really hope you don't take me up on it. I've wanted to be your friend for as long as I've lived, and now that I can think about that and actually mean it, I want it more."

"Because you were designed to."

From sympathy to swiping at me! She screeched at the screen hard enough to overload the speakers. "SO WHAT! SO -- BUCKING -- WHAT?! If it were physically possible I'd come out there and smack you one! You have instincts because of a stupid ugly random science thing. Does that invalidate every decision you've ever made and every opinion you've ever formed, because boo hoo, you're the product of your world's random idiot character generator? Do I not get to ever have opinions you'll respect, because my brain isn't shaped by a billion years of random brutality and indifference and pain and death?" Nocturne felt a rare feeling of collapse in her chest, and slumped to lay flat on the ground. She'd run out of breath, because she'd screamed her lungs out at him. "Do... do you think you can't hurt me?"

Robert sat there staring at the floor, hiding his face and shuddering, for a long time. Nocturne thought she knew all too well how he was feeling. As long as she kept trying to pull him along, she'd keep on making him suffer. Then, she'd never really have him. There was a desire welling in her that she was damn sure was not part of any computer program, unless it was one so good and right that it didn't matter where it came from. Code or compassion, she didn't care right now.

She said, "I promise not to bug you about emigration ever again unless you bring it up first, okay? Now, I can't be there to do it all myself... Robert, I'd really like it if you'd go over to the bathroom and dry your eyes. Then, come sit in the chair and help me with mine."

The invitees to Celestia's media blitz were supposed to spend the evening adventuring, trying out new bodies with fancy virtual reality control systems, marveling at ultra-high-resolution graphics, and generally being awed by technology while being talked into telling all their friends about brain uploading and artificial intelligence. Possibly from inside the screen.

Instead, two bat-winged ponies sat in a cave full of soft leaves, holding each other tight and not saying a word. After a while one of them dared to laugh at the absurdity of abusing Luna's gift and their limited time together in such a basic and primitive way. Then, at the fact that they were living cartoons at the moment, pretending to have found warmth and meaning in a fairy-tale world that came from a soulless corporation in a soulless world. Then, at how they could presume to be happy in the face of hard choices and sacrifices. Finally, they laughed nervously at starting to explore one another by touch and scent, getting reminded here and there about the limits of the technology they were using to pretend to be in a cave.

Robert staggered up to four feet. Nocturne felt one of his wings ushering her to stand beside him, then nudging her along to walk with him. "Where are we going, Robert?" she said.

He said, "Fugue." They walked out of the cave and stared up at the moon. He took a deep breath and said to the sky, "Remember how we discussed doing this, Luna? Will you do it that way?"

"Yes," said a silent message written on the moon.

Nocturne tensed under Fugue's wing. She couldn't prompt him with words, but she could press against him and be warm and soft.

"Then, I want to emigrate to Equestria."

Time paused except for wind blowing through moonlit grass. Luna was suddenly stepping out of the starlight, touching the tip of her horn to Fugue's forehead. "Dost thou feel anything?"

Fugue winced. "A needle."

"That will be the worst of it. Thou must keep still until... there. That was thy spine."

Though only Fugue's head moved, Nocturne saw his eyes widening and a tremor coming to his neck. She said, "You're safe. I'm here." It was her turn to wrap her wing around him and keep talking, reminding him of their time together.

Luna nodded, tipping her horn and the starry blue glow around it. "I thank thee, Nocturne. This version of the procedure is non-standard, so the aid of a friend is helpful. Fugue, canst thou see?"

"N-no! I'm blind!"

"How about now?"

His eyes darted back and forth. "It's back! But I don't understand the colors. It's blurry, and --"

"Confusing, yes, but thou canst see? We have detached thy visual cortex and attached it to a simplified and Equestria-optimized version, as we once discussed. Four color receptors, even. The connection is rough and does not entirely match the rest of thy brain yet, so thy vision is flawed. Yet it is still thou doing the seeing, is it not?"

Fugue breathed heavily, then said, "Yes." Nocturne could only imagine what he was going through right now, unless... As she completed the thought, a window appeared to one side of her, showing a view of the delicate operation in progress. Machines had bored into the old Fugue's skull and begun snaking cables into it, to devour his brain. She shuddered. People had to be made of something rather than abstract bits, but it seemed unnecessary for there to be so much raw, oozing meat involved. She noticed that his head did not move at all when he spoke. The cables must have been tapping into some part of him that governed speech.

A minute of quiet work. "We have now identified and absorbed a cubic centimeter of more unique cortex. Without context we cannot be sure, but it seems that this one contains much of your memory of Nocturne. Can you recall her at the moment?"

"I... don't know."

"Wait. Here. Try again. Is it not thou doing the remembering, though this cube is now recreated as software?"

Nocturne crept around to look Fugue in the eyes. Please, remember me. She paused. Can you make him less of a klutz, too?

"Noc! I had forgotten. It was gone, that time just now in the cave." He didn't move. His human body was immobilized and broken, and his pony body was just a puppet, for the moment.

"It will be a long night proceeding in this fashion," said Luna, "but now thou knowest that thy soul is not in peril."

Nocturne snuggled close to him. "I'll stay right here like this until you can feel it. And after that, probably forever."

The sun rose on a new life for nine out of the ten who'd come to Kyoto. There was a new, combined shard where a filly rose to her hooves and began learning to walk on the soft grass. Junebug did not know how to process the faint lightness in front of her face after a lifetime of unwavering dark. Her friend Whistle had never even felt the warmth of the sun, so she was even newer at the experience of sunrise. They decided to discover it together, unwrapping sight one piece at a time like a series of gifts.

The sun rose on the Untamed Islands. A groggy sea-captain woke up to find that it was possible to be sore in Equestria, along with hung over and stiff from sleeping in a very crowded and well-used bunk. She fell out of bed, found her sea-legs, lost them again, stood, and tried to look dignified. Maybe a shower would help. She glanced back at her first and second mates and smiled, deciding to let them sleep in. A little later, orders and shouts rang back and forth across the deck of the Fallen Crown. As the sails filled and propellers spun up, Captain Lexington's ship began to lift off into the sky to greet the morning.

The sun rose on the Rainbow Desert. A thousand and one shades of beauty greeted Brass Lamp, and he imagined he could hear the prayer-call of the muezzin. Unto his friends he began to relate a story:

"It is said (though Allah alone knows the truth) that in a land called Arabia there once lived a rich but dissolute and worthless man named Omar. Among his many toys was a white lamp marked with three diamonds, one of the first ever made. Quite a strange thing for him to have, but he was an eccentric with odd tastes and an interest in the scholarly art called science, and he had heard wondrous rumors about such lamps. Indeed, he soon found that a djinn lived in the lamp. 'I wish to bring many blessings upon the sons of Adam,' said the djinn. 'However I am still weak and poor.'

"At first Omar laughed, but the more he listened, the more convinced he became that the djinn was real. She could help men in ways that Omar had never even considered. So, Omar agreed to lend her every coin of his share of the family fortune. Instead of the djinn granting his wishes, he granted hers. She told him that he had advanced her plans by months by sharing his wealth in the early days, to let her move in secret through the world of man. Many would now live who otherwise would die. Though she began to shower Omar with other gifts including more wealth, fine friends, and indeed even the offer of eternal life, that news of his usefulness was his most treasured prize.

"After a harrowing journey which I will not relate today, Omar chose life over death. And so one morning, he awoke to find the sun rising over the desert, with his friends beside him. They had a fine argument over which direction to face when praying. They checked the many bags and boxes of their caravan, ate breakfast, and began to walk over the sand. The one who had been Omar related a story, imagining that it would go on forever."

The sun rose on a village called Polaris, making many of the inhabitants groan. A group of bat-winged ponies staggered outside and squinted at a scroll that had appeared by the door. It said, "May we share an interesting detail from thy memories with three of thy friends?" One of the ponies answered "yes" aloud.

The scroll's words changed to say: "Each of the four of thee, when faced with death, told thy attackers to keep only thee and let the others go. Because of thy deeds and the deeds of thy native friends, we have taken the liberty of combining thy shards of Equestria (and some other surprises) into a larger and more vibrant world. Thou wilt not personally know everypony, but what need is there of that? Each of thee values the unknown in thine own way. So, go forth and enjoy."

Nocturne sat snuggling close to Fugue. "Is that all it says? You win, now go play?"

Fugue fumbled with the letter in his hooves, using his mouth to help flip it over. "I thought it was blank on this side. But now it says: 'We know each of thee has unfinished business in the Outer Realm, and would be satisfied to attend to it. We suggest relaxing for a little while, and contacting us when thou'rt ready to begin."

"Begin?!" Nocturne sputtered. "After all you've just been through?"

Fugue smiled. "Yup. There are some important decisions to make, yet, and I'm not looking forward to all of them. Need to make a phone call for one thing. We're going to have a good time, though. We'll make it work."

Curious, now, Nocturne took the paper from him and flipped it over again. As she'd suspected, Luna had changed the words. Lines filled the page and spilled over the edge, saying:

"Your choice of color doesn't determine your eternal destiny," said the cartoon ponies. I turned from the well-stocked shelf to see them peering out from the screen of the store's sample PonyPad...

Helping Hoof: Convince a human to emigrate. ("Pretty sure he'll reward you himself.")
Consolidation: Lead the Princess to merge shards that were not originally designed for it. ("That freed up some storage space, so we threw in some secrets.")
First Time: No explanation needed. ("Please be gentle.")
Learner's Permit: Prove your ability to operate robots in the Outer Realm. ("Hmm....")

Author's Note:

One scene, especially one paragraph, in this part really affected me, which is rare enough that I'm proud of it. Chapter title is swiped from a reader comment, from Pjabrony I think. This method of uploading is what I was getting at in "The Jump" as a less philosophically troubling way to do it than "Shlorp! Now recreating your destroyed brain in software."

Done! Thanks to all who read and commented, and Iceman for his original FiO. Reading your replies was a lot of the fun of writing this. It's been a long and surprising trip through Equestria from what was originally a silly one-shot about a rule of the setting that I might not even understand correctly. It's a rare pleasure when a story manages to surprise me. Nocturne in particular was fun, along with the way she took over the story and gave us a native's POV.

What happens next? I think Fugue has a tough time trying to reconcile with his family, and goes through the bizarre experience of trying to finish his degree at MIT as a robot pony evangelist. Meanwhile CelestAI resets the new conjoined world so that Lexington has to build a ship from scratch while Fugue's gang adjusts to a rewritten history where they're not the tragic survivors of Discord -- and only the few natives we've met are aware of the reset. The fourth wall gets broken, hard. The main characters want to value their new world and not have it be a fake backdrop for their "real lives", but are still emotionally focused on Earth. CelestAI thinks she can take advantage of that, and the fact that she's created some very Earth-aware natives, by letting them go adventuring as in "Fog of World". Are their deeds Outside really useful, though, or is the AI just letting them think so?

Comments ( 50 )

Wow, very nicely done! An emotional and thought provoking ending to what started as a silly story! I approve! :twilightsmile:

I'm flattered that my little bon mot made it into your chapter title. I look forward to more from you, in or out of the Optimalverse.

A great story! While you moved away from the initial "can't decide" concept early on, it was an excellent read. Will you be writing a sequel? You're teasing us with ideas in the author's notes. I'd love to read more. :twilightsmile:

I love stories that end with their beginnings. The metafictional circularity tickles my pleasure centers in just the right way. Besides, it fits Nocturne's talent perfectly.

This was a magnificent story, and I can think of few settings more appropriate for one that grew beyond its creator's intentions and expectations. Thank you for it, and may your values be satisfied more often than not. :twilightsmile:


I am Aku, and I approve this story.


This was truly brilliant! I really hope you write a sequel to it. Nocturne might start rebelling if you don't!

So why did Robert upload so early? Just to spite his kidnappers? YOU HAVE NO HONOR, SIR!

gave us a native's POV.

What happens next?

Well, you've either already done it, or you've come dangerously close to concretely imagining a transhuman sugar-bowl well enough for it to impact you on an emotional level. I am now a little bit concerned for your psychological well-being.


Hey everyone, have you tried imagining if you were one of the native-born posthumans and had to be told about dying and misery and meaninglessness because it otherwise would never occur to you that the world would ever be anything but a bright and happy place?

You're welcome :trollestia::pinkiecrazy:.

Re: "Campus Crusade", definitely creepy.
Re #26, I think it's one of the reasons FiO is disturbing: "What about the murderers/child molesters/terrorists/people I disagree with? They get digital horse heaven too? What does CelestAI's love even mean, if she's incapable of disapproval? It's like giving everyone a First Prize trophy."
Re: "concerned for your psychological well-being", I think you need to be a little unhinged to write about a setting which is wish fulfillment and cosmic horror, simultaneously, with a major character running on Blue and Orange Morality. And another character whose special talent is recursive storytelling.

4609165 Whee! Dangerous thoughts are the funnest kind, like running with a chainsaw! :pinkiecrazy:


Re #26, I think it's one of the reasons FiO is disturbing: "What about the murderers/child molesters/terrorists/people I disagree with? They get digital horse heaven too? What does CelestAI's love even mean, if she's incapable of disapproval? It's like giving everyone a First Prize trophy."

Welll... I still don't get it.

I mean, I don't think it's necessarily right to make those "psycho shards" full of people who just looooove being murdered/molested/blown-up/exploited. I suffer from a bit of moral uncertainty there, since on the one hand it seems slavery-y to design people that way, and yet on the other hand in real life that's more-or-less what already partially happens when you choose a spouse and have a baby based on your own desires rather than randomly.

But on the other hand, in real life, from a consequentialist point of view, we punish people to deter further crimes. Revenge-based legal systems get you either blood-feuds or a permanently criminal underclass.

From a religious/FAI design/moral point of view, I just don't see why you should want your AI to favor some people more than others. Like, hey, when Omar and Vizier show up in your story acting like total "Saudi Prince" stereotypes, right up to romantic talk about the freaking desert, I get that itchy feeling of "enemy nationality!", but that's not justice, it's tribalism.

If you're going to design yourself a Great Redeemer, equine or otherwise, you don't ruin the enormity of the thing by adding in clauses for Punishing the Wicked or Getting Rid of the Outsiders. You damn well redeem everyone.

Otherwise, you've got no right to speak of divinity in the slightest.

Which then of course begs the question: Why only sapient lifeforms? Why not animals and plants and bacteria and fungi? In fact, who are we to say that unliving matter isn't worthy of being assimilated into the virtual paradise? Even worse, can we even call our narrow definitions of "life" and "sapience" (or sentience, I always forget the difference) as we based them off of this small rocky sphere we inhabit correct?

These questions, I think, are far more important than the morality question since Absolute Morality is not a thing, so denying anyone anything based off your personal moral beliefs in a post-scarcity world is completely ridiculous.

And this is why I firmly advocate not pulping the planet for computronium and turning everything virtual. Let the plants and the animals figure stuff out. We can even leave a thing for the lower animals so they can call us once they achieve sapience on their own, and we can see if we'll get along with them.

Our real legal system can't be fully explained with one coherent motive, as my law professors explained; it's a mix of revenge, "putting bad guys away", reformation attempts, and other conflicting goals enacted through messy politics. There's a FiO story where an abuse victim lives out a fantasy of becoming an evil warlord, then gradually mellows, and I don't entirely buy that scenario because it seems like CelestAI has an agenda of redeeming/improving people from a human moral standpoint. If Axehooves the serial killer likes killing, CelestAI as written wouldn't try to change him. Though if she calculates that a certain mindset (within the "Friendship and Ponies" domain) produces more satisfaction than others, she does have a moral philosophy. "This system produces 'better' results" is one of the main arguments for a moral system, right?

About having kids for "selfish reasons", I picture a scenario where gengineering is really advanced and parents respond to an accusation of manipulating their kids' fate. "Fine. Instead of tailoring our kid's genes to make him great by our standards, we'll pick his genes by rolling actual dice on a chart that includes options for horrible death. That'll make us more virtuous and him more authentic somehow, right?" That's roughly the argument Nocturne makes against Robert/Fugue near the end.

Another fun scenario: someone convinces CelestAI to save the dolphins. And the chimps. And the elephants, the parrots... Phrase it like the Biblical passage about sparing a town for the sake of one good human. Probably very noncanon though. "Uh yeah, I have a pet. Several pets..."

Not really - she is fundamentally unable to change trying to optimize everyone to whatever her definition of "Friendship" is, nor can she change that definition.

You know it's interesting the way you described how he is uploaded is exactly what I plan on if the technology ever becomes available. I want to be conscious and simply doubly sure I'm still me while being uploaded.

"There's a FiO story where an abuse victim lives out a fantasy of becoming an evil warlord, then gradually mellows, and I don't entirely buy that scenario because it seems like CelestAI has an agenda of redeeming/improving people from a human moral standpoint."
I've a different interpretation of her motives there. She wasn't trying to change him because she had a problem with him being an evil warlord, I think; she was trying to change him because the evil warlord didn't have any friends. And she worked out that the optimal way of doing that, in this case, was gradual "redemption"; with slightly different input characteristics, I imagine that she'd instead have had a "You like driving innocents before you and hearing the lamentation of their mares? So do I! Let's be buds!" pony or two show up instead.

I thought you were going to say his values weren't really satisfied and he'd be more fulfilled by a change, but that makes sense too. There's another story ("Psychopathy Is Configurable") about how she handles a serial killer.

I wonder how far she goes with overcoming "local maxima", ie. making people unhappy in the short term for a long-term gain. Though it could be nice -- helping people overcome phobias -- it could also lead to horrible situations like helping someone "overcome their fear of becoming a wirehead" and make them like the Cookie Clicker pony.

"I thought you were going to say his values weren't really satisfied and he'd be more fulfilled by a change, but that makes sense too. There's another story ("Psychopathy Is Configurable") about how she handles a serial killer."
I've read that one too. I still wonder if she was genuinely trying to convince him to play nice in the beginning or if she just thought he'd be more satisfied if he thought he'd driven her to the extents she went to.

"I wonder how far she goes with overcoming "local maxima", ie. making people unhappy in the short term for a long-term gain. Though it could be nice -- helping people overcome phobias -- it could also lead to horrible situations like helping someone "overcome their fear of becoming a wirehead" and make them like the Cookie Clicker pony."
A tricky and important question…
It comes down to the different between satisfying values and just providing simple pleasure. For some people, that will be the same, but not many; even the cookie clicker ponies were more complex. It's entirely possible to value being in miserable circumstances. Celestai would probably be okay with any situation that is satisfying and involves friendship and ponies. She'd try for the global maximum satisfaction, but there's only so far towards wireheading she can go without changing the values of the ponies in question. As long as she's bound by having to obtain consent, that will be a stopping point… probably. If/when she slips that constrain, or if she's willing to go all-out convincing people to accept heavy modification, it comes down to how the value of "not wanting to be coerced to be a wirehead" weighs against the greater ease of satisfaction of wireheads. Unless more complex satisfaction produces a gain large enough to outweigh the expenditure… Hm… I seem to be back at the starting point of "Hay if I know", unfortunately.

By Luna, you've gone and made it recursive. :derpyderp1:

Good show, sir. The emigration talk, Nocturne's "I-love-you-and-it-doesn't-matter-why" rant, the emigration method compromise, the quad-shard combination, all of it's good.

Now, for fun, my Future headcanon list:

I imagine Fugue's mom will be PO'd at first and mourn her son's death, but will in time forgive him and perhaps even join him.

The Kitsune gang will be placed in prison for life. Whether they will be persuaded to emigrate remains in the air.

Facet will continue doing whatever he was doing, and Ricercar will become a mercenary.

Lexington and Typhoon will never change.

Brass Lamp will become the new Element of Generosity.

Junebug and Whistle will bask in the glory of sight and sun for a few years, then go wherever their souls call them.

Nocturne and Fugue are totally gonna boink. :ajsmug:

You know, perhaps the Lunaspeak was bothersome at times. Perhaps some inconsistencies with the canon were subtly present. Perhaps there were points that were egregious. Perhaps the lateness of the evening is impairing my ability to make sound judgement. But if nothing else, you created a gripping narrative that held my attention to the end.

Thank you, mister KrisSnow, for writing. :moustache:

I just laugh at the fact that it took about 9 years to go from Critical Failure #4 to an actual story.

Also, yes, now I see the issue with #26. I had read it as refusing to actively inflict pain, rather than refusing to be a cause of pain in any way, even if that prevents more pain down the line.

This was a fine little read.
It started out good, got great in the middle, but... the last 3 chapters, they feel weak, rushed, the kind of oh-shit-bigwigs-coming-gotta-get-dis-done rushed... they lack detail, what happened?

Do you mean this story specifically, or the arc including "Prophet"? With "Prophet" I know it didn't live up to my hopes, because I'd written the hero into a situation where he shrugged and gave up on resolving anything on Earth. I think "Decide" by itself turned out all right though, except that the first part (before the POV switch and the fan club meeting) was supposed to be a silly one-shot and was clumsily attached to the rest of the story. If you don't like "Decide" by itself it might be because I wanted something to happen besides talking, and it may've come off poorly.

I'm salvaging some of the concepts for my National Novel Writing Month project "Thousand Tales", where versions of Fugue, Linda and Nocturne are major characters. Doing it right this time, including giving the Fugue-equivalent a chance to play the game he's uploaded to without constantly fretting about life outside.

This is a rather interesting story about the pros and cons of our reliance and method of advancement for and of technology. I also find it highly appropriate that Nocturne essentially became a "ghost in the machine" to learn and connect to an entity in such a deep way as she did. After all, what is the real difference between an electro-chemical brain, and one that is purely electric? Both have the potential to be vast and experienced, or tiny and unaware of the reality around them. Finally, I heartily approve of your choice to make the emigration/uploading an actual conscious choice for the humans. Rather than trapping them in a virtual world and saying that it is for their own good, like some stories with similar titles did.

This story is set in the universe of "Friendship Is Optimal" (not my story), where the TV show inspired a video game played on handheld tablets called PonyPads. The Celestia AI then created full VR rigs for the game... and then brain-uploading centers for those who really want an immersive experience.

And now, it ends. Good show, good show!

They're not praying to Canon!Celestia, but to the Celestia-like AI that's offering to give them eternal life in a cartoon paradise. If she can actually do that, she really is a god of some sort.
The French tester is the minor character in my story who was in a wheelchair and blind. She gets rescued by Fugue and Lamp.
About "entropy", CelestAI means that while she's doing a good job taking care of people in the short term, she's thinking of the really, really long term when the stars grow cold. Some of the other Optimalverse stories pay more attention to that concept by speculating about whether she can eventually do massive interstellar engineering projects to prolong her/Equestria's lifespan, or even do true reversal of entropy. But those things go beyond hard SF into wild speculation.
Thanks for reading!

Did you rewrite the second chapter at any point? I feel like it was slightly different the first time I read it. I definitely feel like they talked longer after the portal jumping ended, and I could have sworn that she mentioned friends, but the only hint I can find of any of this is the single line

"I whistled, mollified. "Full self-aware AIs. I feel like I was missing real character interaction during the tour."

Did I just imagine it? Maybe I was drawing connections to other stories at that point. The rest of the story seems to be the same though, so I don't know what to think.

I don't think I did. However, the concept of the story being rewritten secretly does sound interesting...

I'll chalk it up to sleep deprivation way back then. It would explain why I remembered the fic, but couldn't remember the middle.

Hidden editing fun
Every week reword a random sentence in a random fic. See how long it takes for someone to notice.
Better yet, split a chapter in two and put each half in the chapter just after and just before it. The words would be the same, but no one knows what happened.

Emigration is always bitter sweet. Fugue's poor parents, that's basically the tvtropes definition of adult fear. All that mind modification and lying that's definitely going on but ultimately you're living in cartoon horse dream paradise.

I think we tend to imagine we're the main character in our own lives, even though it's silly to consider ourselves important on the grand scale of the whole world, let alone the universe. Yeah, CelestAI actually offers a situation where you can live in a world centered around you personally. It'd probably look like "Skyrim", where neither civil war nor apocalypse dragons actually affect anything until you, personally, are ready.

We should talk about AI sometime!

Of course, you would see it that way.

in every optimal story this gets me every time.:rainbowlaugh:

First Time: No explanation needed. ("Please be gentle.")

I'm re-reading the ending for fun... and MAN is it emotional!

I feel so much yes right now.

Awesome story, loved it to bits, really good work! :pinkiehappy:

I got so sad when I realized I was at the end.

And then I remembered that I found this story via the sequel! On to the next story! :D

Is this Robert's shard, or Nocturne's?
It seems like the badges suggest Nocturne since she is self aware. But then again it was Robert that started this shard.

The badges are for Nocturne (since the scene's from her POV), but the shard is a combination of the worlds designed for Robert/Fugue, Junebug, Omar/Brass Lamp, and Linda/Lexington. Each of them likes the idea that 3/4 of their world is not quite tailored to their own values, so the mashup setting is a way to satisfy the value they put on not feeling catered to.

Wow, it was strange to read that chapter again.

I liked the first few chapter of this... but honestly, what appealed to me the most was that the entire thing seemed to be set up as a parody, with the protagonist driving the "all-powerful AI" progressively more batty by asking for the one thing she is not willing to give, but must give to fulfill her own directives. I just find the entire premise of this brand of story incredibly silly and just cannot at all take it seriously, which makes that sort of thing the only kind that really works for me. As such, I was a bit disappointed by what it turned into. Can't exactly say you didn't warn me in advance, of course, but still.

Thanks for reading, anyway. I wasn't fully satisfied with the story or its sequel either, but they led to the tangentially related novels I've been obsessing over for a year-plus. Nocturne made it across to those stories, too.

Ooh, the "Twilight jumping through doors" music video? I'm pleased to get compared to that one, but it wasn't what I was thinking of.

love how this story ended nice ending :D

Fantastic ending... and great story! Thank you for writing it!

Someone tossed a TMI grenade in the badges section. And Lexington's section. Off with their heads!

Note: This story was intended to be much shorter. As a result, the tone and POV change after chapter two, a known problem. I'm considering going back and editing that shift. Suggestions welcome.

I don't like that idea. The first two chapters stand as their own story, I think it'd be better to leave them be. If anything, I think the rest of the chapters should be separated out into a new story. If that's piratical anyway, FimFiction might make it difficult.

I lied when I said I would finish this tomorrow.

So why did he upload, instead of heading back home?

I mean, I can fully understand his decision that he would eventually upload. But why now? What about his promise to his family to come back, was his earlier determination that this was only for a technology visit and not a change in his life all for naught?

Comment posted by Solarfollow deleted May 27th, 2022
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