The alien infiltrators

have weird ontological ideas. They fear


will decide they're "doomed to create God". They also seem to think "creating God" is their mission or fate or something, and at least think they understand the purpose of the disc and everyone's appearance there.

Can someone elaborate on their worldview? What makes them tick?


They believe themselves destined to become "God"

The aliens believe that they will take over the whole disk, communicate with their counterparts on neighboring disks, and eventually produce an intellect of enormous capacity, i.e. God.

The collective is well on its way towards occupying a tenth of the disk, or at least of sweeping it clean of competing life forms. Eventually it will open negotiations with its neighbors on the other disks, joining the process of forming a distributed consciousness that is a primitive echo of the vast ramified intelligence wheeling across the sky so far away.

Eventually it will open negotiations with its neighbors on the other disks, joining the process of forming a distributed consciousness that is a primitive echo of the vast ramified intelligence wheeling across the sky so far away. And this time round, knowing why it is being birthed, the new God will have a level of self-understanding denied to its parent.

Missile Gap

They are not afraid humans will decide that they are destined to create a god, per se. In fact, this is precisely their own goal, as detailed in the preceding paragraph! It is because (in the termite's minds), only one species, one group can give rise to a God that they suppose humanity's reaching this conclusion would be bad for business.

"Well, sooner or later they're going to turn dangerous. They have the historic predisposition towards teleological errors, to belief in a giant omnipotent creator and a purpose to their existence. If they start speculating about the intentions of a transcendent intelligence, it's likely they'll eventually ask whether their presence here is symptomatic of God's desire to probe the circumstances of its own birth. After all, we have evidence of how many technological species on the disk, ten million, twelve? Replicated many times, in some cases. They might put it together with their concept of manifest destiny and conclude that they are, in fact, doomed to give birth to God. Which is an entirely undesirable conclusion for them to reach from our point of view. Teleologists being bad neighbors, so to speak."

Missile Gap

The "vast ramified intelligence" mentioned here is the highly technologically advanced civilization that created the vast disk on which the termite-like aliens, humans, and countless other species exist.

This isn't exactly a religious perspective, as such, but rather informed speculation about the purpose of the Disk. It would seem that "God" is simply used as a kind of shorthand.

The author has confirmed on MetaFilter that this is indeed what is going on.

The whole Alderson disk thing is a live-action ancestor simulation (that is: one running on a real platform rather than in a software sim) by an unimaginably distant-in-time Kardashev Type III civilization, who are probing questions about the origins of tool-using space-going civilization using the galaxy's largest petri dish. (One which is difficult for the cultures growing on it to escape, and which can conveniently be sterilized by triggering a nearby supernova if things show signs of running out of control.)

Insofar as they have a philosophy or religion, it is influenced by the structure of their own eusocial society:

Yes, thematic issues are writ both large and small; it's really about eusociality vs. individualism (hint: on a cosmic scale, the eusocials win—at least in this story).

They believe humans to be inferior because of their inability to cooperate.

Humans are not useful. The future belongs to ensemble intelligences, hive minds. Even the mock-termite aboriginals have more to contribute.

Missile Gap

As such, they feel that their superior, hive-mind organization is destined to take over the disk.

Amusingly, the termite aliens are probably hypocrites. A major point of the book is the bias of human beings: how they tend to see themselves as the center of the universe, as destined to achieve some grand goal ("manifest destiny").

Group minds aren't prone to anthropic errors.

Missile Gap

The termites, however, share the same species-centric view as humanity. What they believe is the definition of anthropic. They believe that their hive mind will eventually echo the "vast ramified intelligence" that created the Disk, when it may in reality have quite as little in common with them as the humans. They believe that they were placed on the disk to recapitulate the evolution of the Disk creators, but with more self-awareness, ironically a highly teleological viewpoint.

Note also that they implicitly assume that all the other disks will have eusocial societies, and therefore will want to join them and create God. This is itself manifest destiny, but for the termite species rather than the human one.

  • 1
    Thanks - great answer. I had made the mistake of taking the things they said at face value. Jun 1 '16 at 16:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.