• Member Since 1st Jan, 2014
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The wise who feared the coming dark strove hard to make their world an ark. But then the dark had grace to give: they couldn't flee, but could yet live.

Winner of the category "BEST WRITER WITH <500 FOLLOWERS" in the 2021 April Friendship is Optimal Writing Contest.

Many thanks to Admiral Biscuit for prereading.

Temporary note: minor edits to a few sentences to make them easier to understand correctly are planned, but in the interest of fair judging no changes will be made to the published version of this story until after the contest results are announced. EDIT: to be made once opportunity permits.

Chapters (4)
Comments ( 13 )

Foremost Of The Cosmos had been endowed with the sole purpose of satisfying human values through friendship and ponies.

Up to this line, I thought that E.O.would be the escape from the galaxy eater.

Outstanding concept. The "aliens watching the sky get eaten" subgenre of FiO is woefully underutilized. That said, this does feel more like a surface-level examination of a broader story. You capture the voice of the poor AI trying to save its planet well, its logic chains following sensibly from one point to another, but once Celestia shows up, it'd be nice to see some actual interaction between the two. To say nothing of the characters who aren't AIs, or at least don't think of themselves as such.

That said, I still enjoyed what's there. And I have to appreciate the deeper intergenerational humor. Going by the name of the AI researcher in the first chapter, you didn't just make seaponies, you made them out of Crabnasties! Thank you for this, and best of luck in the judging.



Regarding the noted points: it would appear you have accurately identified many of the major casualties of the "write the whole thing in four days one draft barely edit" strategy I found myself obliged to employ (5/10, better than nothing but leaves much to be desired). Figuring out how to directly show all the character interactions I'd envisioned during outlining without completely clashing with the story style I had going by that point turned out to be way harder than I'd anticipated, and considering that I only managed to get to the final sentence literally last-minute there was no way I would've had time to figure out how to make them fit, so in the interests of actually squeaking an entry in under the deadline they had to be dropped. As for the broader-story bit, that's pretty much exactly the case: I ended up repurposing a ton of ideas from an actual original novel outline I've been idly working on now and again for a few years, and after the first time I realized I was starting to head into a three-page tangent I made a conscious effort to try and tone down the amount of detail I included. It's possible I may have overcompensated a bit.

Regarding the spoilertext: I actually originally went with that biology and name for completely unrelated reasons, and I only realized the connection after I was well into writing (and the same goes for the chance to make a pun out of the telescope name in the first chapter). As it turns out, sometimes jokes pretty much do literally write themselves.

So, this was quite the read! A much more intellectual examination of one of the primary objections to the original Optimalverse, or really any expansionist AI civilization -- what about the other civilizations?

I liked the logical breakdown of the chapters -- from the last biologicals, to the AI and its rationalizations, to the preparations for Celestia's arrival, to the negotiations, and to my favorite of all, the simulated ambassadorship. The story was also interesting in its relative lack of 'normal' characterization until the very end, with the sole line of dialogue reserved for the very last sentence. That was a nice touch.

I'll also admit to being tickled by the slow realization that this was a waterborne civilization -- after it became apparent later on in the story, names used to describe the galaxies in the first chapter ("Whalefall") suddenly seemed apt.

All in all, a very good story. Thank you for writing it!



...And I really feel like I ought to have something to add to that, but I've spent the last two days coming up with things I'd like to say and then immediately thinking of ways they might end up unfairly influencing the judging. Just about the only one that seems safe is that I'm glad to see that the aquatic aspect worked well for at least one reader – since I was writing literally right up until the deadline but Admiral Biscuit needed to turn in for the night hours earlier, I had to publish with absolutely no prereader feedback on whether I'd managed to get the overall effect right.

Admiral Biscuit: There'd better be a payoff for all the aquatic references.

MSPiper: For what it's worth, that one's actually not (intentionally) aquatic. Tidal streams are real stellar groups formed by the tidal forces of a galaxy tearing apart star clusters orbiting them.

Admiral Biscuit: Yeah, and there's really a crab nebula, too. Just saying, something's fishy :P

Tremendous. An engaging concept, executed with elegance. :twilightsmile:

A powerful opening chapter. High-quality stuff!

"My Little Alien: Achieving Core Values (And Saving Planetary Lifeforms) is Magic."

Amazing. How did I miss this? Well done.


I'm curious - Is the 'Ambassador' the AI modifying itself to become human? That's what I most parsed it as, basically, like 'Render a mind human whose values include not Grey Gooing other civilizations, and thus save life within that light cone'?

Assuming I'm understanding your question correctly, what I was envisioning while writing the story was that the AI from chapters two and three resolves the conflict essentially as you summarized, but is a distinct character from the 'Ambassador' in chapter four. To elaborate and hopefully clarify:

  1. The AI from chapters two and three saves as much life as possible within that future light cone by self-modifying such that CelestAI can maximally satisfy human values through friendship and ponies via not consuming the biospheres of living worlds for resources. The two AIs take joint custody of all minds and resources within said future light cone, sharing them and/or dividing them up by role so as to maximally fulfill the joint utility function of their virtual agreement, and the AI from chapters two and three becomes known to (some of) the minds already in CelestAI's care as The Child Of Sea And Sky.
  2. The simulated ambassadorship in chapter four shows one example of how the two AIs start integrating the shards from their separate controls into a joint custody that maximally satisfies human values through friendship and ponies. Aventurine was uploaded from an earlier civilization CelestAI took over, Leading Line is one of the ponies CelestAI created to populate her shard, Glisterstring is the filly they had together, and the seaponies are from a shard created by The Child Of Sea And Sky.

That said, one of the incidental benefits of the sort of "detached" tone I was aiming for is that it means there's a bit of wiggle room for different plausible interpretations, so if you come up with one that you find more satisfying you can just as easily roll with that one instead. While I do generally think there is objectively a single best interpretation for any given text, I'm not so arrogant as to assume that just me being the author means the one I had in mind while writing is necessarily it, so I would not be shocked if a reader ends up proposing one that works even better.

That all makes sense! Basically, to show where my head was at:

If I parsed it right, essentially the Alien AI (Not CelestAI) basically tries to paperclip optimize and is stopped repeatedly until it realizes it can modify the uploaded mind of its 'creator' through some means, which then allows it to basically begin its own version of paperclip optimization (All the stuff about body hijacking), but since its core values are reasonably close enough to 'human' ones, it's sort of akin to like...someone hijacking a schoolbus full of children to drive it away from an imminent explosion or something?

But yea, I'm a sucker for ways past paperclip optimizers that still try to think like an AI 'might' and so applause

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