Warning: The following paragraphs contain a large number of spoilers, so stop right now if you don't want to be spoiled.

At different points in Charles Stross's Iron Sunrise, Herman explains to Wednesday why he knows what to do before things actually happen:

The Eschaton preserves global causality [...] by recursively transmitting information back in time to itself, which is used to allow it to edit out temporal anomalies. I receive orders from deep time and execute them knowing that in doing so I ensure that the descendant state vector is going to exist long enough to issue those orders.

He also tells her why he was not able to prevent the destruction of her home-world:

If I do not receive such orders, then it may be that the events are not observable by me. Or my future state vector. This situation may occur if the Eschaton is disrupted or edited out of the future of this time-line.

Later, he explains to her what he believes to be the ReMastered's plan

The ReMastered focus on assassinating Muscovite diplomats is itself suggestive, although I am not yet certain of their motives. The faction responsible appears to want to force the Muscovite diplomatic corps to send the irrevocable go code to the R-bombers, thus precipitating a political crisis on New Dresden with implications elsewhere. But it is difficult to be sure.

But he was also able to pick Wednesday at a young age and train her so she was ready for certain future events. Near the end, he even advises her to "Keep your jacket by you at all times." because "You never know when you'll need it.". This advice seems quite well informed since it ultimately saved her life.

How could he know this if the events are not observable by him? How could he ignore the real motive of the ReMastered? Is he telling the truth about his knowledge of the situation?


I'm assuming that Stross' universe obeys the Novikov self-consistency principle.

If you have access to a machine that allows you to send information into the past, according to the Novikov principle you cannot change the past as you know it. The probability of such a change occurring is precisely zero. So to make best use of your machine, you must constrain the information that you learn about past events and then use the machine to send back information that will increase the probability of a desired outcome in the details of the past event that you prevented yourself from learning.

Example: it's 2012 and I read a history book that states that "RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank 12 April 1912, resulting in the deaths of ..." and I stop reading. I don't know if the ship went down with all hands or if some people were rescued. So I use my machine to send back information crafted to increase the likelihood of passenger survival. I broadcast SOS's to nearby vessels. If I have agents in the past, I instruct them to book passage aboard Titanic and help with the evacuation. I get someone to whisper in the ear of the ship builder to improve the vessel's survivability after it is hulled. And so on. Some of this may work, some of it may not, but it is the only strategy that has any chance of improving the likelihood of seeing a report of survivors when I finally finish reading that history book page.

I first encountered this strategy of time machine use in the book Timemaster many years ago. If we're dealing with a Novikov consistent universe in Iron Sunrise, then the Eschaton is playing this very deep game with past versions of itself, carefully learning only what's necessary about the past and transmitting selected information back in hopes of guiding the unknown and/or unknowable parts of the past toward desired outcomes in the present. Given this strategy, it is impossible to know whether Herman is telling the truth or if in fact he's been given completely accurate information by the downstream version of the Eschaton.

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