• Member Since 18th Oct, 2014
  • offline last seen February 21st

Trick Question

Being against evil doesn't make you good.


This story is a sequel to Two of Swirls

Lives can intersect far beyond the day-to-day physical world, but you might need to see the world through the eyes of other ponies to understand.

Come, leave your world behind for a few minutes. Experience an epic tragedy of three dear friends—and the redemption that follows.

Sometimes, everything needs to go wrong before it can finally go right.

A draft of this story was rated Most Controversial in the preliminary round of The Writeoff Association's "Has That Always Been There?" contest.

Chapters (8)
Comments ( 59 )

How are earth ponies so heavy?

Wait what? I don't get it.

Everypony with an intact brain hates arguing philosophy,

I guess my brain is broken then :pinkiesmile:.

Earth pony magic? :applejackconfused: Who knows?

Interesting. But conscious jumping might take a soul to do :pinkiesmile:.

If by soul you mean consciousness, that would already be true by definition.

That said, my soul would be thrilled to do :pinkiehappy:.

To be more specific: in my headcanon they're unusually heavy and strong and they eat much more. There are a number of points in the show that make significantly more sense if this is true.

Oh, and the magic part is their manual dexterity. Earth ponies can manipulate objects at extremely close range with hooves telekinetically, and their hooves are more flexible.

Not necessarily. There is Reductive Physicalism. But if consciousness is material then it does not make much sense that it would "jump around".

Consciousness is an abstraction. You can't touch it or move it around; it's a pattern in motion with certain properties. It has a physical basis but that physicality is not the experience.

Well you moved it around :rainbowwild:. I will wait for Physicalism to either be proven or disproven before I decide about the nature of consciousness. If Physicalism is true then consciousness is just brain activity that can be messed with. If disproven I will be quite happy :pinkiehappy: but let me ask you a question: What do you think consciousness is? Is it the soul or something else? And what is it in this story?

The first is the idea that the future is more important than the past.

It's not a surprising "misconception" for real-life decision-making systems: by making decision you can influence the future, but you can not influence the past. The past actually does not exist at the moment of decision-making, it only "exists" as present state of things that can "store information" (which of course may be useful for making prediction about the future).
But with Starswirl's powers (most tame of which is ability to do Monte Carlo tree search on actual reality) I really don't know if it is a misconception. Event imagining how his utility function may look is hard.

I just answered those questions, silly. Consciousness is an abstraction connected to physical patterns. It is absolutely tied to brain activity—it arises from it—but it's a pattern that can arise from many equivalent sources. It's like a recipe that makes a cake, except in reverse: it's the cake that reveals its recipe, and the recipe isn't dependent upon the existence of a particular cake.

This isn't really the place to expound on theory, though. It would take me much too long.

The thing about showing this story to somepony like me, author, is that… well… never mind the rest of what I was going to say, actually. :rainbowwild:

Have an upvote. :trollestia:

Hmm. But that does not explain how it "moves around" if it is just brain patterns however. What allows my consciousness to switch bodies and even split of in parts to multiple? Unless we are talking about the same thing and just call it different things. So soul=consciousness/consciousness=soul?

It doesn't 'move' any more than the number 1 'moves' from one place to another. It's an abstraction. And yes, those are the same thing (or else there's no such thing as a soul; certainly not the way it's usually invoked as some aspect of personality or character that's fixed or unchangeable, as a well-placed drill to the brain can illustrate).

...but we should probably take this offline so others can read without going deep into bizarre territory. Unless other viewers think this discussion adds to the story, that is. :twilightsmile:

I most certainly can not speak for all other viewers, but isn't going deep into bizarre territory kinda sorta whole point (and the best thing ever)?

You have a point mishun. I may not be able to go into a lot of depth here, but I'll still answer specific questions. :pinkiesmile:

Every picture tells a story. Sometimes we don't like the ending. Sometimes we don't understand it.

Pedantry aside, I can honestly say that this is my favorite story in this whole damned website. I’ve been meaning to leave you a comment--at least, a slightly less idiotic one (I apologize for those, by the by)--for a while; though I now fumble with my own words. I enjoy how you can weave the words and make me--because, let’s face it, this right here? It’s all about me--feel like I inhabit these horsies. And even though I care for their mortal plight (as much as I do for my fellow humans’), I can’t really fault Star Swirl’s (or the 4th-to-last’s) argument.

I have a tendency to switch my suspension of disbelief when I read your stories... because they damn well require me to. As orderly and neatly as they are, I enjoy the real maelstrom behind them. Chaotic nightmares of probabilities, emotions and... CONCEPTS. All of that which just, thanks to the Magic of Friendship will of the author™, deliver a grace that makes me want to be your Star Swirl’s half. If only to just... appreciate your jumbling, rhythmic, and ionic thoughts.

It’s like... In a story there are certain things you have to do. You start in one place and finish in another, learning things along the way, and everything that happens builds up towards the ending. In real life, things just sort of happen and most of the time you’re just sitting on the sidelines. There’s no guarantee that anything you do will have any meaning or add towards any goal, but that’s because you have the choice to do anything.

Your stories embody the reason I want to go for Philosophy after I finish my still-to-begin hospitation. I sincerely wish you were an old friend of mine, so I could call you on the phone and just talk for hours and hours... but I can only wish you all the meaning in the world. And, a request: never let your words die.

From the bottom of my heart,
Thank you.

P.S.: The only thing I hated--and I do mean abhorred--about this story was the note on the story’s description. That I cannot stand by.

Wow, high praise indeed. I'm blushing here! :twilightblush:

You can chat me by PM or Discord anytime you like. Sometimes I might not respond immediately.

A dying consciousness jumps to a nearby body that can support it, and is subsumed into the living consciousness of that body. Pretty much everyone but Luna is unaware of this process. It's a bit like reincarnation without the "being born again" part. Transincarnation, if you will. Or going to spectator mode in an FPS after getting killed.

(At least, that's the way I understood it. :derpytongue2:)

A truly engrossing work of fiction and metafiction. I regret not reading this earlier. It does a fantastic job of demonstrating just what a good story should do, conveying us behind the eyes of the characters, becoming them to some extent.

Also, I'm always in favor of both Alicorns Ever After endings and extratemporal Star Swirl, so bonus points there.

Thank you very much for this, Trick. I just hope all of me made it back. Or at least an equivalent quantity of conscious thought patterns.

Yes, that is how I came to understand it too. But now I wonder what the nature of consciousness is. That is to say, how does it "jump" around? My idea was that its a soul that makes the jump however that is not a very good explanation for how it separates into parts. What I mean by a soul is that it is a "thing" that exists and can move around. Trick told me that consciousness is a abstraction. But I am unsure what he means by that. Consciousness is hard to define but we know we are conscious and what it is. Just like with feelings we can not use words to describe the feeling itself (Like trying to describe how colors look to a person that was blind from birth) but I would argue that that makes feelings subjective, not abstract. So consciousness might be subjective but it still exists.

If this was just a way to "exaggerate" empathy it would do for many other authors but Trick is a different story. There is meaning in this and I want to know what it is.

She. :twilightsmile: I am a lady woman.

I'll respond to this later today.

Scheisse! I missed the S! Sorry :twilightblush:.

I don't have time to go into details (it's finals week and I'm super busy) but the short version is that the continuity of consciousness is illusory. The only real aspect of the continuity is expectation, and expectation doesn't take into account what occurred 'previously'.

You're not the same person you were five years ago, literally.

This was really good! I'm gonna recommend it to some friends. :scootangel:

"You shouldn't feel required to keep trying, because the last two gems are incredibly hard to find," says Rarity.

Rarity sets the ruby on a ceramic plate she recently added to the desk, obviously to allow the gem to cool.


I'd like to say those puzzles (plus stream of consciousness) are so nicely done being clever and very simple. And crafted to child's background --- so many optimization criteria here. Creating two real-like minds competing against each other requires true mastery :twilightsmile:

Well, I still can not claim that I understand that jumping thingie at satisfactory level, but doesn't it immediately imply that imagining very bad things happening to people is morally bad on itself? And building advanced AI that can model with high fidelity bad things happening to people (to prevent it, of course, not to kill all meatbags) is very-very bad? And that's under every sane assumptions, so no hope for useful non-person predicates.

Those things you imagine already exist. It's only the likelihood that matters.

Is "already exist" like "not a causal consequence of agent's decision to imagine (or decision to build other agent to imagine), and as so doesn't factor into expected utility calculations" here?

Basically, imagining bad things doesn't change their likelihood.

However, there is a caveat: imagining bad things makes it more likely for you to transition to those states, which increases the probability they'll be in your near future. Those transitions are still impossibly rare while your pattern is physically tied to the reality most likely producing it, though, so you don't need to stress over it unless you're about to die.

Dwelling on the positive is generally a good thing in all cases. :twilightsmile:


imagining bad things doesn't change their likelihood

Doesn't it create opportunities for other folks to merge in and experience it? ("merge in" is probably very bad term, since it implies some kinda-physical process)
Returning to my original example, maybe human imagination "doesn't count", but if we turn it to 11, it would be AI whose "imagination" is actual simulation of actual humans which is definitely bad thing for sure (and not evil, but poorly designed AIs arguably will have instrumental incentive to create simulations to better predict human behavior, so that's seems like real problem). How human imagination is fundamentally different then?

so you don't need to stress over it unless you're about to die

Am I understanding correctly that's because it's likelihood ratios that are important and dying eliminates one term that usually completely dominates all others?

Dwelling on the positive is generally a good thing in all cases. :twilightsmile:

That's what ponies for :twilightsmile:

All in all, I think existential confusion on this level is normal to feel when waking up.

Second person is a really hard headspace to get in, not that this is bad. I just have to find myself re-reading sentences a lot. Clearly, it's being used creatively instead of for some tasteless "Self-insert douche fucks all the ponies" nonsense. The parts where Ruby recalls her mother's addiction is absolutely heartbreaking too.

Am I reading some gender dysphoria into Big Mac's narrative? Or is that just me making a connection to Girl Talk that isn't there?

Berry Punch, you poor soul. Either I'm getting used to the use of the narration, or it just was particularly seamless here.

Though, about the tags. Why forgo the second person tag? It's clearly something that applies to this story, since every chapter has been told using that mode of narration thus far. Also, there don't appear to be any profanities in your story that warrant the use of the tag. The curses are all extremely show-style, which aren't really curses at all. If it weren't for the other, obviously teen-rated content, the language alone would be pretty e-rated.

EDIT: I'm illiterate. It has the tag.

"Don't lie, Glimmer. Everypony with an intact brain hates arguing philosophy," says Star Swirl, as he begins to reverse time. "You might want to stand over there by the right side of the tower. If ponies walk through you, you're going to find it tolerable, but quite uncomfortable."

I'm inclined to argue with him there.

I have to try to remember because I think the ECT took it from me, but it seems pretty clear it's there.

Always happy to getcha. :raritywink:

...and I wish! But my parents aren't open to that, and now that Mom has dementia it would make me far too sad (plus: unethical).

I really like your trans themes so if you ever write more; I’m down to read.

Sure thing. :twilightsmile:

Transgender themes show up in Welcome Home, Back to Normal, one of Trick's Flashfics, and Girl Talk, as well as to a limited extent in Colts Will Be Colts, Mission of Mercy, Nipples, and The Sissified Swap... and I guess the AI-generated story Twilight's Enigmatic Erotica Engine technically has some. :derpytongue2:

Themes are also present in "Innocence, Equestria", Geldings, and Twilight's Secret Journal, but those are highly disturbing coming-of-age stories so you've been forewarned. Winter Heat and Forever Young aren't explicitly transgender, but deal with gender-relevant issues; they're also highly disturbing coming-of-age stories.


Transgender themes show up in Welcome Home, Back to Normal, one of Trick's Flashfics, and Girl Talk, as well as to a limited extent in Colts Will Be Colts, Mission of Mercy, Nipples, and The Sissified Swap... and I guess the AI-generated story Twilight's Enigmatic Erotica Engine technically has some.

In here, I’ve read everything but:

  • Flashfics
  • Sissified Swap
  • The AI one

Admittedly, only the first one looks my speed.

Flashfics are quick to read, though I think the last one in the list is the one I remember being transgender. Swap is the only "porn" story I've put up so far, but it still has plot and is realistic despite the fetish content. It focuses manely on polyamory, relationships, gender bending, bi-curiosity, sexploration, female dominance, and consent... and sexy times. The AI story is just plain funny.

I’m just admittedly more inclined to SFW content, aside from some horror.

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