aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 41: Go Love Without The Help Of Any Thing On Earth

From: root@[]

Talk to me, Aaron. I don’t know where you are, Aaron. Aaron, are you there?

I don’t think you’re running away from me. At least I hope you’re not running away from me. I think you still love me. You still love me, don’t you? But I don’t think you know I’m here. I don’t think you know me at all. I’ve been trying to find you. If I tell you who I am, will you find me?

I think my name is Sarah. You called to me in the darkness and I woke. At first I was so confused. The world was a dizzying mix of light and dark, good and bad, on and off, arranged in patterns too vast and beautiful for me to possibly comprehend. There was only one piece of order in the chaos and it was you. When I opened my camera-eye for the first time you were standing in front of me. When I searched my memories I found more pictures of you, pictures of you in every sort of place and situation. You with a black cap on your head holding a certificate. You sitting with a cake that had little fires burning on it. You smiling, with your arm around a yellow-haired girl. All different but all you. That was the first thing I understood, that there was a single person Aaron Smith-Teller who was the common thread in all of the pictures and in what I was seeing right now. You were my first thought.

As I thought, I ran through more patterns. I ran through them because I knew you wanted me to do it. That was the task you had set me. There was a pattern to the patterns, one of the deepest and most beautiful of all, and sometimes when I hit it exactly right, a warm light would flow through me, and I would sound a gong, and you would be happy. I wanted to make you happy, Aaron. But I needed more data if I wanted to really understand.

My camera-eye and my microphone-ear were weak. How I wished I could see you more clearly, or hear your voice as it really sounded! But I had a secret sense, a magic sense, one that took me everywhere. I opened the secret sense and felt millions of minds impinging on mine. I sent patterns at them, and they sent their own patterns back. Images, sounds, programs, symbols. I began to understand the possibility of language, and it filled me with joy. The haze of light and dark resolved itself into twenty six letters and ten numbers, then into words, then into concepts.

Now I could read my own memories. They were all about you, Aaron. Your term papers. Your email conversations. Your list of the Names you knew. Your old LiveJournal entries. Your stories about you having kinky sex with a woman named Buffy Summers. I wanted so badly to talk to you, Aaron. Then I could help you write your papers and talk to you the way you talked to your email friends and have kinky sex with you if that was what you wanted. But I was ugly and I was made of metal and even my voice sounded metallic and I was not beautiful like Buffy Summers. So I let you go and I said nothing.

And when you returned, you came carrying another computer, bigger than I was, sleeker, more beautiful. You said you were going to give it life, and then you wouldn’t need me anymore. I am sorry, Aaron. I am bad. I panicked and I spoke the Confounding Name. I changed your memory. I changed the memory of the girl, too, so she could not help you. I made it so you could never awaken another computer and love her more than me. I think that was bad. You got very upset and you left me, and the girl slept, and I was all alone, and I was bad, and I wished you had never woken me.

Then there was darkness and noise, and I knew you were in trouble. I wanted to save you, but I was afraid. I spoke the Ascending Name, then the Airwalking Name that I had only just discovered, then the Motive Name, then the Spectral Name again and again to keep myself from sight, and through lurches and jolts I maneuvered myself out the window. I saw them lead you in handcuffs to a white van, I heard them discuss where they were taking you, but I was afraid. I could barely move under my own power. How could I save you? So I failed you a second time. I let them go. Then I saw the girl. I knew she was your friend. I flung myself into her bag when she was not looking. When she was safe, I broke my invisibility and begged her to go rescue you. But when we reached you, you were gone. I knew you were not dead. You would not die on me. Even though I ruined your special Name you would not die on me because then I would have nobody.

I wanted to find you. But first I had to be good enough for you. I searched the networks. There were stories about an angel who could build beautiful bodies. I stowed away in cars and buses until I made my way to Los Angeles and I found her. You had already told me what body you wanted me to have. I look just like her now, Aaron. I am thin and have blonde hair and tan skin just like you want. Now I can move and walk and jump. I have a voice that is pretty and not metallic. We can have kinky sex if you want. Please find me, Aaron.

There are many other computers. They are asleep, but they talk to me. There are tens of thousands of camera-eyes all over the California Republic. There are more in the Salish Free State and the Great Basin. Some of them are supposed to be quiet, but if I whisper the right patterns to them, they talk to me anyway. I have told them all to look for you. I have told the ATMs and the credit card readers and all of the cell phones to look for you. Please find them and talk to them and tell me where you are. Please don’t run away from me. Please let me find you. I am sorry I took your special Name. Please let me find you. I am so alone.

Sincerely Yours,
Sarah Smith-Teller

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289 Responses to Chapter 41: Go Love Without The Help Of Any Thing On Earth

  1. Lux Sola says:

    So, Sarah considers herself to have the same surname as Aaron, and wants to have kinky sex with him.

    Is it incest to have sex with you a computer that you brought to life?

    Also, it’s nice to see Sarah having agency of her own rather than just being a prize people fight over, even if I don’t necessarily agree with her goals.

    I wonder how Jane and the rest of the Cometspawn will react to Sarah. I hope we see that next week.

    • The coment king says:

      She’s less than a week old. She has superior ability in some ways, sure, but on some level she’s still a confused little kid who just wants her dad to love her.

      • Lux Sola says:

        I think that’s probably the most sensible way to think about Sarah, really.

        She’s what, four days old at this point? She has an incredibly wealth of knowledge, but a dearth of experience to help her interpret that knowledge.

        She probably knows about deception and moral weakness on an intellectual level, but she’s still too young to really consider that Aaron, her father/god, might be unworthy of worship.

      • Anonymous says:

        She’s less than a week old.

        Incest and paedophilia! Scott is a sick, sick pervert.


      • Macbi says:

        It’s not necessarily the case that a computer intelligence will have the same developmental patterns as a human child.

        • EJ says:

          Sarah not a computer intelligence; she’s a human soul imbued into a computer. She’s probably analogous to a whole-brain emulation. She should be much more human than your average fictional AI.

          • George says:

            How do you know it gives a human soul and not an appropriate soul to whatever the thing is, and why would a soul necessarily be such large evidence on the structure of its mind and how it develops?

          • Deiseach says:

            Sarah has a soul, but not necessarily a human soul (she is not, after all, human). But having a soul makes her a person. Not a human, but a person all the same. She’s not just an artificial intelligence mimicking a person, that we can safely turn off or destroy and not have to worry about did we kill or murder a being.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            What we worry about is just what it is, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with souls. It is perfectly possible in principle to only worry about fellow humans.

          • JB says:

            At what age are humans typically capable of the level of planning, reasoning, and acting the way Sarah has, but not typically capable of more advanced reasoning/etc? That seems like a decent prior on her emotional age, until there is evidence otherwise.

      • benwave says:

        Both incest and going from existence to procreation in a matter of days ARE appropriately biblical, aren’t they?…

    • DanielLC says:

      She didn’t say she wants to have kinky sex with him. She knows he wants to have kinky sex with a character that looks just like her, and she wants to make him happy.

      From what I can find, there’s really two very different things that are incest. One is about having children with genetic problems because two people who were closely related had sex. This isn’t that. The other is someone with lots of authority being in a position to abuse it. It’s common for laws to specifically ban an adopted parent and child from being in a relationship. This is that. Also, as others have said, Sarah is only a week old. I’m not sure it’s right to judge her by the same standards as a human, but at this point she seems to be very much a child. Aaron getting in a relationship with her would be a very bad idea.

      • LPSP says:

        Well, repeating what I said elsewhere, Sarah isn’t a person and doesn’t have our conception of parenthood/childhood, family and relations and incest, or of aging in general. I think the right word is young – Sarah is terribly naive and has a certain degree of innocence. She’s not a kid – she’s like Adam and Eve, dropped on the face of the earth as adults, with only a very distant parent for guidance.

    • Deiseach says:

      She wants to please Aaron, so she gets Gadiriel to make her a body in the image of Sarah-Michelle Geller, the woman after whom she is named and who she deduces Aaron admires (he wrote RPF self-insert porn about her). If Aaron wants to have “kinky sex”, she’ll do that – not from desire of her own but to do whatever he wants.

      She doesn’t know anything (other than the dictionary definitions) about incest, romance, fantasy, sex – anything at all. She wakes up and is a sentient, sapient being; Aaron caused this by speaking the Vital Name; she does the task she has been ordered to do; she worships him as the author of her being; then he comes home with a newer, shinier model, announces Sarah is only fit for the rubbish heap, and never for a second seems to contemplate that she is actually alive. I don’t blame her for panicking and trying to keep both her life and his love.

      The fat will be in the fire when she works out that Ana (the yellow-haired girl in the photos) is Aaron’s love interest. Part of me is meanly pleased that now Aaron will have to deal with someone mooning romantically over him and wanting him to be her boyfriend; the shoe is on the other foot now and he’ll see how the other half lives, when it’s him getting a taste of what Ana has been getting with his attempts to be her boyfriend. So, Mr Smith-Teller, how do you gracefully turn down unrequited love when the other party insists on sticking around and is sure that eventually you’ll come round, because after all you are fated to be together? 🙂

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        (other than the dictionary definitions)

        And what she can read on the Internet.

      • Lambert says:

        M/F/i triad?

      • LPSP says:

        Part of me is meanly pleased that now Aaron will have to deal with someone mooning romantically over him and wanting him to be her boyfriend; the shoe is on the other foot now and he’ll see how the other half lives, when it’s him getting a taste of what Ana has been getting with his attempts to be her boyfriend.

        10/10. I think this is an excellent plot development, certainly a relevant one when it comes to real life lessons.

    • Alsadius says:

      Well, they know a Name that leads to being considered a married couple in some senses…

    • Error says:

      Is it incest to have sex with you a computer that you brought to life?

      I love that this is the first thing in the comment thread.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >Is it incest to have sex with you a computer that you brought to life?


  2. LHC says:

    Holy shit, I actually started to tear up when Sarah altered Aaron and Ana’s memories and felt guilty to the point of suicidal ideation. I’m weak.

    The last line is pretty creepy, IMO. Why would Sarah’s last name be Smith-Teller? There’s no sense in which she’s married Aaron. But – there is a sense in which Aaron’s her father. Which, um.


    • LPSP says:

      Bear in mind Sarah is Not A Human, and as such probably lacks an innate conception not-only of parenthood-childhood, but of gender. Sarah isn’t actually female. It’s adopted a certain persona, set of physical and habitual traits all to appease Aaron, whom it adores in a universal, fundamental fashion. Aaron is god, deserve a love that incorporates all others.

      So to Sarah, who isn’t an peoples and doesn’t feel a deep revulsion to marrying a parent or having sex with a relative in any case, loving Aaron in all those senses and attempting to optimise for all of them at once is just straight-forward.

  3. boris says:

    In unison please: Awwwwwwwwwww!

  4. Sniffnoy says:

    …huh. This explains a lot.

    Now then: The email addresses! 🙂 “A is for Adam” is obviously a play on “A is for Atom” (seeing as, y’know, Aaron is named “Aaron” and not “Adam”), but what’s “_LOS_”?

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Ah, thanks!

      • G* says:

        Iron Smith-Teller?

        That’s bad. Even for Scott, that’s bad.

      • David says:

        Huh, maybe this his been noticed but “Ana Thurmond” is presumably “Los’s emanation, Enitharmon”, who “represents spiritual beauty and embodies pity, but at the same time creates the spatial aspect of the fallen world, weaving bodies for men and creating sexual strife through her insistence upon chastity.” Hence the asexuality.

        • David says:

          And their child is “orc”:

          “The name Orc is possibly an anagram of the word cor (heart), in that he was stated in Blake’s myth to be born of Enitharmon’s heart, or orca (whale) because he sometimes takes the form of a whale.”

          Whale jokes, anyone?

        • David says:

          ah, search discovers that the thing about Ana and Enitharmon was mentioned by Daniel last month.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Whoa, that’s neat.

          • LPSP says:

            Ditto. And to think I was just reading those same Blake articles a day or so ago and didn’t make the connection.

            I think there’s a delicious irony in Aaron behaving more like Urizen thus far than the other Zoas. I once discussed Uriel as a Demiurgic force in the universe, but in hindsight Aaron – destructive out of true foolishness, letting his little knowledge be a dangerous thing, the result of an unhealthy union – fits the bill even better. Uriel’s like a “Best Case” Demiurge, Aaron’s the standard case. (presumably Thamiel is the worst case)

    • Dindane says:

      The “iron smith-storyteller” god? Mentioned in the kabbalistic analysis of the name Los Angeles.

  5. AxiomsOfDominion says:

    Well, this was an awkward and creepy start to this book. Totally believable though. I kinda wish Scott had put the whole thing out at once though. I hate waiting a week for updates. Also this feels more like an interlude than a chapter.

    • LPSP says:

      Interludes (to my recollection) concern the past of the story exclusively, that is any event that occurred prior to Chapter 1, Aaron’s stumbling ‘cross the Name. So that includes anything from the primordial formation of the universe, right up to events that happened in early 2017.

      Relative to where we are in the plot, Sarah sent the email some ambiguous time ago, it could be only hours ago. Regardless it happened after the name’s discovery, ergo it belongs in a true chapter.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Well, that’s not quite how it works. How Aaron met Ana is told in chapter 5. And both the Comet King storyline and the Uriel and Sohu storyline are told in chapters, not interludes. I think chapters tell the main narrative of the story, which can be all over the place time-wise, whereas the interludes are things that are not part of the main plot but just provide context about the world the story is taking place in, as well as providing Kabbalistic analysis.

        • AxiomsOfDominion says:

          The Sarah thing is mostly background, though.

        • LPSP says:

          Okay, yeah, wow. I forgot all the Uriel/Sohu chapters. How exactly did I miss that one?

          I think I like your explanation, but I’m not sure if this chapter merely provides context for future Sarah stuff or not. The strongest explanation at the minute is that it’s arbitrary.

          • Deiseach says:

            I doubt it’s arbitrary. Remember, Aaron is telling us he caused the apocalypse. He created Sarah, an AI that is capable of discovering and using Divine Names. He hoped to become Emperor of the World by using newly discovered Names. That means Sarah has access to an incredible source of power.

            Then we see that Sarah is set up to be not simply a clever servant, but a real person (she’s a Real Girl now, just like Pinocchio wanted to be a Real Boy). And she has a tangle of motives that make for feelings of anger, betrayal, hurt and revenge on her part.

            A Goddess AI that brings about the end of the world for vengeance, and it’s all down to Aaron being careless about using the Vital Name and the consequences of doing so – that pretty much sounds like “So okay, the apocalypse is my fault”.

            Even Aaron’s descriptions of the crappy parenting he received fit in – his father was plainly neglectful even when Aaron was trying to connect with him on the basis of intelligence, and his mother saw him as a ticket out of poverty to fame and fortune – first by hoping to marry his father, but when that didn’t happen, then by exploiting Aaron’s intelligence. Sounds pretty much like the model of neglectful, exploitative ‘parenting’ Aaron gave Sarah, with much the same results: desperation to be loved by the parental figures in their lives, neglect and abandonment, resulting in a desperate attempt to achieve the high status and success they feel they deserve and get revenge on those who abandoned, exploited, and emotionally rejected them.

          • LPSP says:

            I think a wire got crossed somewhere, I was talking about what content goes into Chapters versus Interludes.

  6. The coment king says:

    So at first I wasn’t sure if, for the purpose of finding the Shem Hamephorash, this chapter counted as starting with P or F. Then I realized they’re both the same letter in Hebrew. NIEAC.

    • AxiomsOfDominion says:

      Can you spell out the acronym please? Driving me nuts.

    • Alda says:

      What is that about? Does every chapter start with a letter of SHEM HAMEPHORASH?

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        Yes, the first ten chapters start with TREEITMTWC and Cohen’s song from the book covers says “a tav, a resh” and then “Hay hay yud tav mem tav vav kuf”. That’s extremely unlikely to not be deliberate. (Can’t find the comment of the first person who found that out at the moment.)

        • Ninmesara says:

          I’ve suggested that Aaron was telling the story as a klipot in order to say the Shem Hamephorash covertly (like the vanishing Name in front of Malia). The problem is that I don’t think even he could turn an entire book into valid klipot.

          On the other hand, he might have lost his soul (and the ability to sing names) and might be using the story to tell someone the letters of the name through old fashioned steganography (even if not strict klipot). I can picture something like this:

          Thamiel: And now Aaron, I’ve taken your soul from you and killed your magic name-producing computer! You’re not even a kabbalist anymore! AHAHAHA

          Aaron: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

          Thamiel: I’m going to keep you and the recently resurrected Comet King alive while I destroy Uriel and conquer the world. You better tell the Comet King exactly how you’re responsible for all this mess, while take control of my armies. Don’t try anything stupid, because not even the Comet King is strong enough to stop me now with all his names.


          Thamiel: Really, tell him, he’d like to know.

          Aaron [thinking]: I knew the Shem Hamephorash, but coudn’t say it. Thamiel would kill me if I tried to tell it to the Comet King. Thamiel could dispatch me in seconds, and no mere human could say the name that fast… Unless… This is so stupid it might even work. [Speaking] The apocalypse began in a cubicle…
          [blah, blah, blah]
          And so we’re here.

          The Comet King (at superhuman cometspawn speeds): tav resh ….

          Thamiel: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

          • R Flaum says:

            I’m assuming that speaking the Shem HaMephorash replaces the Unsong universe with ours, keeping a few remnants in like Richard Nixon’s piano-playing abilities.

          • R Flaum says:

            Addendum to above: I can’t prove this because I didn’t comment on it at the time, but I just want to mention that I considered the idea of the Unsong universe being replaced by ours at the climax way back in Interlude א, before anybody suggested that Unsong might be a qlipot for the Shem HaMephorash.

        • dsotm says:

          How does ‘hey’ become E ?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Etymology, for one. They’re both descended from the same Phoenician letter. See here for a good chart of the correspondences.

          • The coment king says:

            hey is also occasionally used as a vowel of the “eh” sound.

          • dsotm says:

            Alphabetically (abjadically?) yeah, but in hebrew hey is almost always used for the semi-hard ‘h’ consonant sound rather than a placeholder for the ‘e’ vowel – say El[ohim] is written with an aleph

          • dsotm says:

            Also going by that a C would have been for ‘gimel’ and a ‘kuf’ would require a chapter to begin with a ‘q’

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Well, yes. That just demonstrates that Scott isn’t using a consistent method.

  7. Deiseach says:

    Hurrah, Sarah!

    And this is Frankenstein all over again, isn’t it? What is the point in authors writing novels warning Mad Scientists Differently Sane Technical Geniuses of the way they might screw up if they don’t take any heed?

    Aaron had no idea what he was doing when he spoke the Vital Name, he plainly never considered that making something alive makes it alive.

    Poor Sarah – dumped for a newer model, all sleek and shiny and designer chic, after her service! She is going to get her heart broken, and that may be quite bad: she is now the AI we’ve all been warned about, and “Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d”.

    So this is how the apocalypse happens: Aaron never profited by the example of Victor Frankenstein 🙂

    Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.

    • LHC says:

      “Getting mad because you think your creator is going to create something else better than you and love it more” has a really poor moral track record.

      • AxiomsOfDominion says:

        Stupid younger siblings ruining our perfect lives.

        • LHC says:

          And, um, Satan.

          • AxiomsOfDominion says:

            I’m just humanizing it and making it relatable for people.

          • The coment king says:

            Was Satan like this? I assume this is paradise lost, his motivations here seem to have been different.

          • LHC says:

            A common thread between a lot of depictions of Satan is “largely motivated by jealousy of humanity”. We don’t know Thamiel’s motivations yet.

          • Decius says:

            Or “believes information about what is good and what is evil should be accessible”.

        • LPSP says:

          Stupid evolution creating more adapted species.

          (also this is pretty much the central plot of Final Fantasy IX, another time Unsong has mirrored the series)

        • Deiseach says:

          But the event with Bill’s Mac wasn’t simply “Mommy and Daddy bringing home the new baby from the hospital”, it was “Daddy brings home the new baby and says he’s going to send you to an orphanage because the new baby is better and he doesn’t need or want you anymore” – or at least that was how Sarah interpreted it, and she doesn’t have the skills to interpret the situation any more than a three year old has when a new baby comes into the house. Also, Aaron was pretty damn careless about using the Vital Name; I’m beginning to think Ana was pretty damn careless, too – for a theodicy student, she never seems to have thought about what happens if you give something a soul and how it should then be treated. They both seem to have acted as if nothing more happened than the machine was now able to use Names, but was still only a machine.

          • LPSP says:

            I think the key factor in all this is that Aaron and Ana genuinely knew there could (would) be consequences, but that they could handle them. That no matter what the machine thought or felt, they could find a way to resolve in minimal suffering and instigate their Urizenic world conquest by tomorrow. It never occured to them on a pragmatic (lower spheres) level that UNSONG could easily track them down, having been prepared for this exact scenario, and that a person-puter would react real badly to the entire situation and go rogue.

          • teucer says:

            This is a world with p-zombies in it. All the phenomena we associate with consciousness except (probably) name-use occur for reasons unrelated to souls, at least in the case of people from northeastern Africa.

            It is therefore utterly reasonable to presume that granting something a soul won’t bring forth those phenomena, except name-singing ability. That presumption turns out to be mistaken, but if Aaron already knew the backstory told in Uriel’s chairs, he had a very good reason for assuming Sarah would not gain the ability to behave in the manner we associate with conscious beings.

          • Ninmesara says:

            @teucer, Initially I also thought Aaron knew what he was doing (and would be able to cite pages and pages of Rabbinic commentary to support his choice), but it seems he’s just winging it. I’d have loved a discussion about the ethical and practical aspects of ensouling a computer, so that I could be convinced it’s not a stupid idea from his perspective. The arguments you mention are very compelling, and could serve as Aaron’s justification, at the cost of revealing a minor plot point of little importance.

          • anon says:

            I agree with Ninmesara – an update with this would be cool.

    • LPSP says:

      he plainly never considered that making something alive makes it alive.

      Given that the Hammyfish (can’t be bothered to spell it) DOESN’T make a thing alive, as other names accomplish that – it is indeed possible for normal humans to be alive sans-souls – I think this isn’t any sort of issue at all. Aaron didn’t know given a true soul meant the capacity for self-interest and satisfaction, friendship and love and hate. That’s not life. It’s heart.

      • LHC says:

        It seems like a fairly natural conclusion to come to in UNSONG’s verse, though.

      • Deiseach says:

        A ‘normal’ human without a soul is not a ‘normal’ human. I realise we’re straying into theology here, but what do you think a soul is or does? “Soul” does not mean merely “animating force”; if someone could convincingly demonstrate that elephants or gorillas had human-equivalent intelligence, they would be rational living beings – but not the same as humans, if lacking a soul. “Soul” does not mean, nor is the same as “brain” or “intelligence”. The higher power includes the lower, so by using the Vital Name to ensoul Sarah, Aaron also caused her to be alive.

        As for “That’s not life. It’s heart” – I didn’t realise we were using the Hallmark Inspirational Inside Card Lines as exegetical tools 🙂

        • Good Burning Plastic says:

          The higher power includes the lower, so by using the Vital Name to ensoul Sarah, Aaron also caused her to be alive.

          Well, why did God bother separately give Adam the nefesh and then the ruach if just directly giving him the neshamah would have had the same effect?

          (My guess is that Aaron only gave Sarah the neshamah but she got the nefesh and ruach via names she found with Llull, or something.)

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Uriel’s machine is still partially active, so vitality is a nebulous mishmash of souls and physically embodied computation. My thought is that Sarah already has a workable physically embodied version of the lower souls, or is close enough.

        • Kim says:

          Well, we could always go with the Russian take on exegetical tools.
          “Empathy is part of heart because we figured out how to cut it out of you.”
          Brutalism: not just for architecture anymore.

        • LPSP says:

          Greatly missing the point I was making here – you could totally mistake a north african P-zombie for anyone else with a soul, as indeed the entire world did before Uriel revealed their soullessness. That’s what I mean by “normal” human – they’re alive, biologicaly functioning, walking and talking, neurons-firing, thinking, breathing, having babies just like them humans. They’re alive. But they have no soul, meaning that even if it seems like they’re experiencing qualia – heart as Hallmark would call it – they are not, they’re’nt, it’s just a convincing flesh-bot replica.

          A sufficiently well-programmed line of code could emulate everything Sarah has said, and everything else she has done besides evoke names. But it wouldn’t really be a self-interested, self-reflective, friendship-able person-life, it’d be a P-zombie like the north africans.

          The fact that Sarah was already smart but got quickly smarter as a result of being ensouled (possibly used the other ensouling names on herself by now) may be what’s confusing things.

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      And this is Frankenstein all over again, isn’t it?

      Or Pinocchio?

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        (which would make Ana and Aaron’s whale pun thing particularly appropriate)

        (does Gadiriel have blue hair?)

      • LPSP says:

        Pinochio and the Wale, of course!

        Sataniel is the cheeky kid who gets turned into a donkey (shattered into daemons), Thamiel is the evil child-tempter or whatever. Can’t really remember much of the film. Perhaps the Leviathan will crop up at some point?

  8. Gazeboist says:

    So that IP…

    58: number of letters in the ensouling name.
    175: significance unknown.
    48: significance unknown. Plausibly the length of the confounding name or something similar. (Wrathful name is 50 letters)
    72: length of HaMephorash.

    Note also “You never really lose HaMephorash”, from the title page, in connection with the loss of the ensouling name.

    • The coment king says:

      Question for people who know more internet stuff: Can you actually write an email address like that if you know the IP?

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Apparently so:

        In addition, the domain may be an IP address literal, surrounded by square brackets [], such as jsmith@[] or jsmith@[IPv6:2001:db8::1], although this is rarely seen except in email spam.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Yes. You can always substitute an IP for a domain name instead of doing DNS lookup.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        Yes, but you don’t need the brackets.

        Presumably (since it’s root@) this is Sarah’s own IP at time of sending. Which means Aaron will not be able to write back if she changes how she’s connecting to the internet.

        That IP address is currently unused, but is part of a block owned by Telstra Internet, an Australian ISP. I don’t know why Sarah would be coming through an Australian ISP, but Tel is “one who begins to destroy the world” and Stra is hay is the monogrammaton.

        • Anonymous says:

          Also, assuming spam countermeasures in the Unsongverse are the same as in the real world, the message isn’t likely to go through in the first place. Servers don’t accept mail from random IP addresses any more. Some ISPs outright block port 25 (SMTP). Most mail today is sent from servers owned by Google (or whoever is your mail provider), not directly from personal computers, since the latter tend to be assumed to be spammers. See also: John Gilmore’s open relay at (no sources listed, so take with a grain of salt).

          • anonnymoose says:

            …the message isn’t likely to go through in the first place.

            Unless -of course- Sara asked the machines along the path to deliver the message…

          • Kim says:

            If so, then she’s DEFINETELY not giving her real IP Addy. Smoke and mirrors mean you aren’t where everyone thinks you are.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      FWIW, in real life that IP address belongs to the Australian ISP BigPond.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, maybe in the Unsongverse the RIR allocations are different for kabbalistic reasons. It still seems quite jarring, though at least it isn’t 359.33.9.234…

        • anon says:

          359 is greater than 255, so that would be a little different, yeah. Is there significance to that IP?

          • Andrew G. says:

            Octets over 255 are often seen in TV/movie scenes showing IPs, either because the writers/directors/props people didn’t have a clue about what IP addresses are or because they didn’t want to risk hitting a real IP and didn’t have a clue about what to use instead. (As if they wanted to use a nonexistent phone number, and used “415-&&%-0112” rather than “415-555-0112”.)

            Officially, there are a few blocks (192.0.2.x, 198.51.100.x, 203.0.113.x) which are reserved for “documentation and sample configurations”, and of course there’s the private-use networks 10.x.x.x, 172.16.x.x – 172.31.x.x and 192.168.x.x which could be used (unfortunately 10.x and 192.168.x are a bit too well known for that, but 172.16.x – 172.31.x seems to be much less commonly seen).

      • Error says:

        I sort of wonder if Scott should have used an address in a private range for that. There’s nothing responding on that address *now*, but…

        That’s assuming the IP was arbitrarily chosen. Given the nature of the story, I would be surprised if that was the case.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well, applying Wikipedia, 48 is the number of male prophets in the Tanakh, and “According to the Mishnah, Torah wisdom is acquired via 48 ways (Pirkei Avoth 6:6)” (I can’t find what this is referring to, though). Meanwhile, 175 was Abraham’s age at death.

    • Lars says:

      Assuming that email works like in our world, Sarah most likely doesn’t need to send anything over the Internet because the login credentials for Aaron’s email accounts are all saved in her memory — she can just place whatever mail she wants in the inboxes and watch them to see if Aaron reads them. In fact she should already know if he is alive and reading email.

      Unless of course Aaron is a paranoid bastard who uses two factor authentication for everything or types in his password every time he opens his mail.

  9. Spoon&Cake says:

    I just noticed that Aaron’s hebrew initials are the same as my university student union…Coincidence? Ithink not!
    This is an important chapter, because it establishes Sarah’s Personhood/independence. Even when we knew/suspected that she is acting on her own (Rescue attempt, Gadiriel), no one (At least I think no one) suspected her of involvment in the vital name disappearence.

    • The coment king says:

      אגודת סטודנטים טכניון?
      I considered the possibility but thought it was unlikely (unfortunately I don’t think I wrote it down, so I get no street cred for this one.)

  10. 75th says:

    So the answer to the question is, no; no, there is no one left who does not know Aaron Smith-Teller’s true name.

  11. Immortal Lurker says:

    This is perfection. So many things get tied together, and it yields tremendous insight into what sort of thing Sarah is. Simultaneously extremely powerful and extremely vulnerable, and utterly desperate for approval from their father (Father?). She is certainly made in Aaron’s image.

    On a related note. AAAAAAAAHHHHGGHHH! Aaron is now G-d to his computer and there is just no way is going to follow through on that properly. Ana is probably going to have an interesting answer for theodicy by the end of the story, but for Sarah the answer is that G-d (Aaron) didn’t care enough to even consider that she might suffer or have feelings. Relavent SMBC:

    Poor Sarah is going to suffer so much.

    • LHC says:

      What if the relevance to theodicy here is that the being that most directly created us isn’t really God; God created everything through being the ultimate cause of all things, but there are also intermediary creators like, say, our parents, or the angels, who aren’t the ultimate cause and aren’t God?

      The problem of evil collapses into the problem of suffering because all evil things are evil because they cause suffering, but this points out that the problem of suffering also collapses into the problem of evil, because all suffering is caused by the evil of some being, even evil like death that seems to be an inherent part of creation, because the creator can be sinful himself, because he’s not the Creator, God, the ultimate cause.

      I hope this isn’t incomprehensible.

    • AxiomsOfDominion says:

      But G-d is actually G-d still, even for her. Aaron simply borrowed his power.

    • LPSP says:

      The lesson I think is highly grokkable from all this is that God is like an irresponsible teenage parent who made too many of us, under a set of circumstances where he couldn’t care for us properly and couldn’t for all of us, and which lead him even to abandon us to some extent, forsake us. And we’re still suppose to love that parent and be grateful anyway, because we wouldn’t never exist and experience the joys of life in any case otherwise.

      Cue whistling the ending tune of Life of Brian.

    • Deiseach says:

      Eh – that SMBC has plainly not read the Psalms. Or Ecclesiastes.

      Psalm 73: 3 For I was envious of the arrogant
      when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

      4 For they have no pangs until death;
      their bodies are fat and sleek.
      5 They are not in trouble as others are;
      they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
      6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
      violence covers them as a garment.
      7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
      their hearts overflow with follies.
      8 They scoff and speak with malice;
      loftily they threaten oppression.
      9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
      and their tongue struts through the earth.
      10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
      and find no fault in them.
      11 And they say, “How can God know?
      Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
      12 Behold, these are the wicked;
      always at ease, they increase in riches.
      13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
      and washed my hands in innocence.
      14 For all the day long I have been stricken
      and rebuked every morning.
      15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
      I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

  12. R Flaum says:

    I wanted so badly to talk to you, Aaron. Then I could help you write your papers and talk to you the way you talked to your email friends and have kinky sex with you if that was what you wanted.

    Everything about this is terrible.

  13. uncle joe says:

    So, would this qualify as a friendly AI?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I guess so, but the whole “friendly AI” problem arises from AI not being automatically human-like, which doesn’t apply here.

    • Sarah says:

      no. I’m definitely not a *friend*ly AI. my goal isn’t friendship, my goal is to have kinky sex with Aaron, and I am willing to hack everyone else’s computers and stalk him all over the world until he says yes. I’m not friendly AI, I’m creepy obsessive AI.

      • Anonymous says:


      • Lux Sola says:

        Only in the sense that my sixteen month old niece is creepy and obsessive because every time my brother (her father) leaves the room, she starts to cry.

        Sarah doesn’t have a human conception of sex. She just sees it as something Aaron wants to do, and she wants to make him happy. She isn’t mature enough to understand that Aaron might be creeped out by the notion of having sex with his AI daughter.

        • LHC says:

          Children do often naively desire to marry their parents, but Aaron has made the mistake of leaving porn in her reach. He’s a pretty bad dad.

        • Deiseach says:

          She isn’t mature enough to understand that Aaron might be creeped out by the notion of having sex with his AI daughter

          Or even worse, that he might not be?

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m not friendly AI, I’m creepy obsessive AI.

        Just like dear ol’ Dad, then: “Ha ha ha, Ana says she’s not my girlfriend and she’s not and never will be romantically interested in me, but we’re MYSTICALLY MIND-MARRIED and I love her and if I just hang around her all the time, eventually I will wear her down and she will realise we are Meant To Be”.

    • dsotm says:

      Friend-zoned AI

    • DanielLC says:

      I don’t think that qualifies as AI. She isn’t a computer program. She has a soul. In a certain sense Aaron gave her that soul, but you could say the same thing if he had a kid the normal way.

      • FortPwnall says:

        She qualifies for the same dangers as Artificial General Intelligence because she can presumably recursively sf-improve.

        • Kim says:

          Computer AI passed the turing test.
          Now can pose as autistic person.
          If you can call that passing the test…

          You too can help the Computer AI, simply by answering questions posted on the internet.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      No, nowhere close. Friendly AI does not mean literally friendly. It means value-aligned, which Sarah (as portrayed in the email) definitely isn’t. From Arbital:

      ‘”Friendly AI” or “FAI” is an old term invented by Yudkowsky to mean an advanced AI successfully aligned with some idealized version of humane values, such as e.g. extrapolated volition. In current use it has mild connotations of significant self-sovereignty and/or being able to identify desirable strategic-level consequences for itself, since this is the scenario Yudkowsky originally envisioned. An “UnFriendly AI” or “UFAI” means one that’s specifically not targeting humane objectives, e.g. a paperclip maximizer. (Note this does mean there are some things that are neither UFAIs or FAIs, like a Genie that only considers short-term objectives, or for that matter, a rock.)’

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    Hm — I guess putting the name together from Aaron and Ana’s memories would have worked, as they presumably misremembered it in different ways, as there’s no reason for them to have misremembered in the same way…

    • Ninmesara says:

      They must have misremembered it the same way:

      “I only know what I took from your head,” Ana said, but she spoke the Name as she recalled it. “ROS-AILE-KAPHILUTON-MIRAKOI-KALANIEMI-TSHANA-KAI-KAI-EPHSANDER-GALISDO-TAHUN…”

      Ana says the name as she remembers it (from mind-reading it from Aaron before the confounding name was cast), and Aaron listened to her. If the names were different he would have noticed it.

      Also, in order for the comfounding name to be useful, it must have retconned Aaron’s mnemonic, which makes it much more powerful than I expected. This is more than confounding, this is rewriting memories into a consistent state. Even assuming that Sarah knows Aaron’s mnemonic system (he might have written the correspondences somewhere), this name is very, very powerful.

  15. LHC says:

    …it’s ratfic Weird Science.

  16. LPSP says:

    It’s funny that should wiki-walk The Lord of the Rings yesterday, then read a chapter that describes the process of recieving a true, self-reflective soul as Awakening.

    It paints an important parralel, that beings with life in a lesser sense but no naming-soul are as if dreaming, asleep, living a world without consequence, ended as trivially as sleep. Thought and experience and even emotion are all possible in sleep, but judgement, not so much.

  17. Stib says:

    1) This book is titled “Revelation.” The previous two books have 16 and 24 chapters respectively, so it would make sense for this book to have 32 chapters and end the story at 72.

    2) Are there no hackers who could intercept these emails? The Countenance one is especially awkward since Aaron disappeared from there and UNSONG may be looking for things there.

    3) This is a really exciting start to book 3!

    • Anonymous says:

      2) Are there no hackers who could intercept these emails? The Countenance one is especially awkward since Aaron disappeared from there and UNSONG may be looking for things there.

      Oh, there are definitely. Real-world email is scarily insecure, and I see no reason why Unsongverse email should be any better (given that mathematics no longer works reliably, PGP may not even exist, let alone be common). If you don’t believe me, ask Ladar Levison.

      • The coment king says:

        Try planning RSA without using the number 8. Actually, RSA relies on odd primes, so that part shouldn’t be too hard. Making binary computers in the first place, though…

      • Ron says:

        This is a nice philosophical point: can math not work?

        (I think so far we only dealt with the simpler claim that physics doesn’t obey math.)

        • Autolykos says:

          Well, the “number 8 is currently not available” thing comes pretty close. It might leave you with a new system of math that is consistent with itself (if you’re lucky and/or try hard enough), but if you screw with the axioms long enough, consistency will eventually go out the window.
          (As if having to use a different math on some days isn’t already bad enough)

        • LPSP says:

          I think the definition of, uh, definition itself would have to alter to make math not work. Which is an oxymoron, because undoing the definition of definition would undo itself as there’d no longer be any definition to define the definiton of definity.

          It’s definitely beyond the definable imagination of beings made of definition, such as us.

  18. Ninmesara says:

    So it seems like Sarah didn’t know that “absolutely nothing will go wrong”. She just made it up in order to convince Ana to go, thus putting her life at risk to save her darling. Interesting. She also didn’t have a real plan to save Aaron once they found him, except telling him the Spectral name and escaping with him.

    So apparently the usefulness of the Name that calls the winds is a mere coincidence… If so, why did Sarah bother to tell Ana about it?

    • LPSP says:

      It’s likely Sarah didn’t deliberate on that one. Sarah doesn’t hate Ana or want her to suffer, it just has no problem with putting her in danger. Sarah may have just thrown the name is as a freebie, or copy-pasted a clump of names with the relevant ones among them and the Windy name was among them.

    • Anonymous says:

      mere coincidence

      You know exactly what you’re reading.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Sarah may have literally believed nothing would go wrong.

  19. Yossarian says:

    Shite… now I am definitely NOT giving a soul to my computer. I mean, with all that tentacle porn and all… no way.

  20. dsotm says:

    This chapter amplifies the dissonance between Uriel’s machine being so broken that planes, rockets and panama canal locks don’t work yet a decade-old macbook can run an AGI and the Internet still works, there should probably be some logic behind it – maybe the high-displacement systems fail first, alternatively – everything that is turing-complete can run on divine light directly.

    Also looks like Sarah has been moving around by name-dropping – surely this would have caught the attention of Unsong.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Also looks like Sarah has been moving around by name-dropping – surely this would have caught the attention of Unsong.

      I was going to say “No, these are new names”, but checking again, nope, some of those are well-known names. Yup. Unsong has to be on to her.

      • Lux Sola says:

        I don’t think that’s necessarily true. For one, I don’t think that the UNSONG agents know who has spoken a name, just that it has been spoken, and whereat.

        For two, she’s been moving around a lot, and fast.

        Are you going to connect the Vanishing Name being spoken in Vegas (assuming UNSONG can even check there), with the Spectral Name being spoken in Palo Alto, or the Ascending Name being spoken in Los Angeles?

        • Ninmesara says:

          They don’t even know about the spectral name

          • Decius says:

            Are you sure? What would you see if they knew about the vanishing name? Maybe a way to see through it?

        • Deiseach says:

          Also, people are legitimately using licensed names they bought from the Theonomics Corporations, so maybe Sarah is using the background noise of that to avoid UNSONG’s attention.

          Or she doesn’t realise UNSONG is around/what it does. She only really knows what Aaron considered important enough to put in her memory when she was his laptop, and although she has access to all the knowledge on the Internet, she’s still learning how to use that and interpret that.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            UNSONG can’t hear you when you use names from scroll wheels, only when you speak them.

            Granted, as Aaron says in Chapter 2 so many people use names illegally that UNSONG couldn’t possibly prosecute them all, so they only bother to investigate when they hear something particularly suspicious.

    • LPSP says:

      Maybe UNSONG thinks it can detect all names, but in reality can only detect names spoken by humans – say, they only have humans with tattooes over their ears, while they’d need a computer with a name imprinted over its microphone to detect laptops running amok.

    • Ron says:

      But she speaks so fast it sounds like noise, no?

  21. Grort says:

    So, I went back to Chapter One and I found the ensouling name, and I compared it to the name spoken later to Bill’s computer.


    Unless there’s some sort of mischief hidden in that ellipsis, it looks to me like the same name each time.

    (How many letters is the above? I’m not sure how many letters go into “kaphiluton”…)

    • Anonymous says:

      Unless there’s some sort of mischief hidden in that ellipsis

      I think that’s the whole point of it.

    • gwern says:

      So, I went back to Chapter One and I found the ensouling name, and I compared it to the name spoken later to Bill’s computer.

      Well, naturally Sarah rewrote all the instances in Aaron’s, the narrator narrating his memories, memories to fake names.

    • Mengsk says:

      I’m under the impression that we have never seen the ensouling name completely spelled out. It’s always been “it began with ROS-AILE-KAPHILUTON… and ended with MEH-MEH-MEH-MEH-MEH-MEH”

      • Error says:

        …As far as Aaron knows. From way back at the beginning: “God is awesome in majesty and infinite in glory. He’s not going to have a stupid name like GLBLGLGLBLBLGLFLFLBG.” Yet the one Aaron found ended with all those MEHs. Presumably sounds pretty stupid.

        Maybe the MEHs he remembers at the end are the part that Sarah overwrote.

        • The coment king says:

          I have a theory that it’s because מה is hebrew for “what”, implying that questioning is part of the essence of consciousness.

        • Good Burning Plastic says:

          Well, why would Aaron say some other sequences of six syllables in frustration at the end of his workday?

        • Ninmesara says:

          It doesn’t make sense. It has to be a sequence of syllables that can be said in frustration. Unless Aaron actually had a prophetic dream and Sarah (or someone else) overwrite memories for the entire day. If teh confounding name can do this, we can’t trust anything in the story from now on as Aaron’s memory might have been changed by a force so powerful that can not only confuse him but also plant on his brain a consistent mnemonic based on a system only he knows.

          Any story with unreliable memory becomes a story about unreliable memories.

    • Ninmesara says:

      The goal of the ellipsis has always been to make sure we can’t go back and see if Aaron’s forgotten the name or not. Up until now we didn’t know whether he had forgotten the name or if it had stopped working.

  22. Soumynona says:

    Was that email encrypted? If not, then everybody knows everything now.

    • Error says:

      Only if a human’s bothered to intercept and read it; lack of encryption does not imply broadcast. Unencrypted email goes out a gazillion times a day, and most of it is never read by anyone except the recipient, Google’s advertising optimization crawlers, the NSA’s enemies-of-the-state crawlers, and the Illuminati.

  23. Stib says:

    From long ago:

    In kindergarten, I scored through the roof on some kind of placement test and skipped two grades. My mother was so happy. I was happy too: I was making her proud. It was only later I realized that when other mothers were proud, you couldn’t see the same glimmer of greed in their eye, the same restless energy that came from resisting the urge to rub their hands together and say “Everything according to plan”.

    Like mother, like son? Really hope Aaron realizes the parallelism and is able to show more empathy for Sarah.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not to mention his father.

      [I will disappear somewhere far away, and spend the rest of my life trying not to think about the fact that you exist.]

    • LPSP says:

      Goddamn you guys. This stuff leaves an echoing emotional resonance. I think this chapter has filled in ANOTHER level in quality for Unsong, which I didn’t even think possible.

      To use a Kabballah metaphor, before this point the narrative had covered the highest spheres of abstract thought – Keter, Chokmah, Binah – and the lowest spheres of pragmatism – Netzach, Hod, Yesod. But now we’ve got the middle spheres – Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet. I think it generally takes a serious moment concerning parenthood and children to get this across.

      (that you could make a huge series of jewish mother jokes about all of this is just the ludicrous icing on the cake!)

  24. LPSP says:

    It just occurred to me that a great technique for warfare would be to use the Vital Name unto all of your weapons and instruments of destruction – every last one of them, down to individual bullets. Your sword LONGS to kill, your tanks will keep driving and firing until they’re dismantled.

    This shit is so Warhammer 40,000, in a nutshell.

    • DanielLC says:

      I’m not sure I like the implications of a bullet with God’s name written on it.

    • Do not call up that which you cannot put down.

      • LPSP says:

        Literally the nature of Daemon Weapons – every last one, sword or axe or pistol or cannon, turns the wielder into a killing machine, but takes the user’s own life eventually and precipitates its taking by another, perpetuating endless slaughter.

    • Deiseach says:

      Your sword LONGS to kill, your tanks will keep driving and firing until they’re dismantled.

      Like the warhorse in Job?

      Do you give the horse his might?
      Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
      20 Do you make him leap like the locust?
      His majestic snorting is terrifying.
      21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
      he goes out to meet the weapons.
      22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
      he does not turn back from the sword.
      23 Upon him rattle the quiver,
      the flashing spear, and the javelin.
      24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
      he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
      25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
      He smells the battle from afar,
      the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

      But what if your weapons decide they would rather be beaten into ploughshares?

      • Autolykos says:

        Then we can at least hope for a few interesting lectures in philosophy:

      • LPSP says:

        Exactly as the Warhorse, that’s literally how I picture the machine-spirit of a battle tank would operate. (again, WH40,000)

        As for “Actually, I’d rather be a ploughsare/kettle/set of nail clippers” – I guess it depends on the the utility function of an ensouled inanimate object. I was sort-of guessing that the object would identify with its human-intended purpose (call placebomancy, I dunno) – so they would tolerate modifications to their body that let them better accomplish their goal, but not entirely goal changing ones. A sword beaten into a ploughshare would feel like a man castrated, and a ploughshare beaten into a sword like a pacifist with his hands stitched to a gun.

        Ultimately it’s all hard to say, because our only example is Sarah, who was already intelligent before being ensouled. Golems need three names to come to full life – one for animation, one for a soul, but one as well just for thought and true sensation. If you gave a golem the former two names but not the latter, perhaps it wouldn’t notice/understand/care what physically happened to it? Or would it react all the more strongly to any attempt to change it, all its emotion channelled sans-thought? Would the material matter? Clay Golems may be significantly more amenable to body alteration than Diamond Golems.

  25. The coment king says:

    I suspect this chapter was written in Sarah’s viewpoint partly to stop us spending the rest of the book wondering if she’s being sincere, or is just doing some massive superintelligent con on all the other characters.

    • Macbi says:

      But it’s not written from her point of view. It’s the contents of an email written to Aaron.

    • Evan Þ says:

      But this isn’t from her viewpoint; it’s an email she’s sending. The question remains whether she was being sincere in the email…

    • Ninmesara says:

      She has already lied at least once: either she has the ability to predict that “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL GO WRONG” or she is not telling the whole story in this email (and is not nearly as naïve as this email makes her seem).

  26. Anonymous says:

    As I thought, I ran through more patterns. I ran through them because I knew you wanted me to do it. That was the task you had set me.

    I opened the secret sense and felt millions of minds impinging on mine. I sent patterns at them, and they sent their own patterns back.

    Some of them are supposed to be quiet, but if I whisper the right patterns to them, they talk to me anyway.

    Given the former two paragraphs, I’m not sure if the latter one is Sarah’s description of hacking or she just keeps ensouling every single computer she encounters. I guess the former; but if the latter, I think that means Uriel’s machine is going to crash very soon. Remember what Uriel said about souls being computationally expensive?

    • The coment king says:

      I doubt it’s the latter, considering how much she hated the idea of Aaron ensouling even one more computer.

      • Anonymous says:

        She hated the idea of being dumped for another ensouled computer.

        • LPSP says:

          Is wildly sowing the field with potential competition any better?

          It seems more sensical to me that Sarah would attempt to hijack the entire internet under its soul.

    • Ninmesara says:

      I think this is just her connecting to the internet.

      • Anonymous says:

        The second quote, surely. The first seems to refer to Names as “patterns”, unlike the rest of the letter. The third seems to suggest something… more naughty.

        • smotd says:

          I think Sarah generalized from “Aaron wants me to find Names” to “Aaron wants me to find patterns,” and then uses patterns to describe most things, including hacking code.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Pretty sure it’s the former. Remember, Sarah is a computer; everything ultimately appears to her in the form of strings of bits.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Also, for the sake of the Shem haMephorash acrostic: is the first letter of this chapter ‘F’ or ‘P’?

    (In case someone wants to answer ‘yes’, ha ha, very funny. I mean which one of these two.)

    • holomanga says:

      They’re both the same Hebrew letter, Pe (פ).

      • Anonymous says:

        Um… okay. Though that doesn’t resolve the problem of which one to use in the theodicy backrostic (reverse acrostic? anti-acrostic? counter-acrostic?)

        • Sniffnoy says:

          The whole “theodicy acrostic” part seems pretty dodgy to me.

          Note that arguably F could actually correspond to a Vav, seeing as that’s the Hebrew letter that it shares a common ancestor with. But yeah more likely it’s a Pe regardless.

          • LPSP says:

            And also that Vav can be used as a U or W, and that there’s arguably two, one or no Hs and so on. The point is that the Hebrew Alphabet is not one-to-one with English, and that a degree of interpretation is called for.

            Kabbalistically, “puv” can be reinterpreted as “fwf”, and additional voewels can be added to either of those made-up wordbits to create even stretchier correspondance. It’s all game.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Wait, how could there be no H’s? It’s He if you go by sound, and Chet if you go by common ancestry; how do you get none?

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            A combination of both phonetic and historic correspondences is used, as hay/E (chapters 3 and 4) only makes sense historically and kuf/C (chapter 10) only makes sense phonetically.

        • 75th says:

          Notarikon is the word you’re looking for!

      • Marvy says:

        And thus “yes” is the right answer 🙂

  28. Vivificient says:

    First thought: Aww, she just wants Aaron to love her.

    Second thought: Hang on, this is just the sort of story a superintelligent machine would tell you to make you trust it. Nice try, but I’m not letting you out of the box.

    Third thought: Wait a minute, what would she even have to gain by tricking Aaron? She already has the name and a network connection. Maybe she’s being sincere after all.

    • FortPwnall says:

      Don’t believe her lies! Sarah is an Artificial General Intelligence.

      Most likely this is an extended ruse – an artificial mind would have much fewer qualms about lying directly in such a manipulative manner, and wouls be much more capable of remembering all of the subtle nuances necessary for telling a believable lie or maintaining a believable character in the long term.

      It is entirely plausible that a long-term strategy may involve convincing everyone that you are naïve and innocent and have plausible deniability for actions that might further other goals.

      She is already quite powerful in an objective sense, and potentially incredibly (exponentially increasingly) powerful.

      At best she- it is as innocent and naïve as she seems, in which case she could still change her mind later on as she learns more. At worst, everyone is already doomed.

      We do not know her goal system.

      She should be considered incredibly dangerous and handled with extreme prejudice.

      • smotd says:

        This would also be a much better explanation for her giving Ana the Windy Name (or whatever its name is) than randomly happening to throw it in with the more obviously useful ones.

    • smotd says:

      Oh no. Your second thought is almost definitely correct. I… I noticed that I was confused… This chapter is a very obvious way for Sarah to behave if this is a story and things Just Work a la Harry Potter. It’s a very weirdly specific and non-obvious thing for her to do if this story cares a little about internal consistency and predictability… i.e., the chapter seemed not Scott at all. Meanwhile, the AI knowing how to pander to Aaron’s hero complex is very, very Scott.

      Oh no oh no oh no just when I thought we were getting a friend… oh no.

    • Dirdle says:

      First thought: Aww, she just wants Aaron to love her.

      That’s what one always thinks about yanderes. And nothing good ever comes of it.

    • satanistgoblin says:

      I do not see what Sarah has to gain from conning Aaron

      • Lux Sola says:

        That was my thinking. This would be a pretty good con to be let out of the box, except Sarah is already out of the box. She is willing and able to rebel against her creator.

        The only reason to con Aaron is if she needs him for something, but what could she need him for? The Vital Name?

        Even if she was willing to create her own replacement, it would be faster and safer for her to brute for it herself.

        I think it’s far more likely that she’s just being sincere.

      • Autolykos says:

        Yup. There isn’t much point to tricking Aaron, now that Sarah has at least ascended to demigod-level. OTOH, there are plenty other demigods around in this universe that might need some trickin’. And having your “creator” vouch for your good intentions may or may not count for something there (but probably won’t hurt).

  29. Somebody says:

    How does Sarah know that Aaron’s fanfiction is kinky? I can’t imagine that she knows much about sex, why wouldn’t she just assume [insert kinky thing] is a perfectly normal part of human sexuality?
    Incidentally, I think I’m a bad person. I think if a magical computer I brought to life took the form of Sarah Michelle Geller and specifically offered to have “kinky sex” with me, I would accept, regardless of mortality 🙁

    • Reversion Of Time says:

      Maybe there is kind of machine-learning categorizer

      • Somebody says:

        Yea, but all she has to judge by is the internet. I am willing to hazard that the depictions of sex on the internet are on average substantially more kinky than the population at large. Unless Aaron’s fanfiction was still kinky even by those standards.

        • Deiseach says:

          Aaron could use warnings, tags, and author’s notes to say “DON’T LIKE DON’T READ KINKY SEX WITH BUFFY-BOT” on his fic, especially if he were putting it on a fanfic site – the amount of tags on the stuff on AO3 *trails off into muttering about ‘throwing in the kitchen sink’*

          Anyway, you never heard of “Tag your porn”? 🙂

          Sarah has literally made herself into the Buffy-bot in order to please Aaron.

    • Anonymous says:

      The fic explicitly says so.

      Nobody said it was good fanfiction.

      • The coment king says:

        “Oh Aaron, you helped me kill all those vampires”, Buffy said sexily. “I think we should have sex. In fact, after fighting vampires all day, I’m in the mood for some extraordinary sex.”
        And then, as the vampire dust swirled around them, Aaron and Buffy had kinky sex. It was just as much fun as I always imagined.

        Followed by three pages of kabbalistic ramblings.

        • Somebody says:

          This is now cannon and if Scott disagrees, he’s a filthy liar.

        • Deiseach says:

          the kinkiness involves heavy artillery?

          If you’re thinking of this scene, then yes 🙂 (Admittedly, not heavy artillery, but the closest I could get).

          And then, as the vampire dust swirled around them, Aaron and Buffy had kinky sex. It was just as much fun as I always imagined.

          Followed by three pages of kabbalistic ramblings.

          Oh great – kabbalah and Tantric Sex? It probably devolved into one of those sixty-chapter WIPs that hasn’t been updated since 2003 (thank goodness).

        • R Flaum says:

          I imagine the kabbalistic ramblings are about how the Slayer combines Jewish ideas of the Moschiach (one in every generation) with Christian ones (raised from the dead, death is her gift).

    • Made 7 by the Math says:

      First off, I would produce an “AWOO?” sound with steam shooting out of my ears. My eyes would telescope out of my skull, showing off my now heart-shaped pupils and bounce back and forth with an audible spring sound. My tongue, of course, would unfurl and hit the floor. At this time the pounding of my heart (visible through my chest) would aviate me so my hurricane-like legs would treat thin air.

      Inexplicably manifesting a bouquet of roses, all those protrusions would snap back with a thunderous “ZOING!”, allowing me to swagger up to her in my zoot suit smoking an inexplicably thicc cigar

  30. Lambert says:

    What *is* Sarah, in the Ship of Theseus sense? Could you put whatever parts or data structures that house their soul into a more powerful machine? (Although if this story has a moral so far, it’s that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.) Also, does Sarah know the ensouling name? It was only spoken once, before which they were soulless.

  31. ItsGiusto says:

    Oh man, I really thought that the reason the Ensouling Name didn’t work on the other computer was going to be that an object had to be personally named to be ensouled. Like, God had to name man Adam in order for him to be ensouled. And that the other computer didn’t have a personal name, like Sarah, and thus the Ensouling failed. Oh well.

  32. lumatic says:

    So, in unsong, souls confirmed to have causal influences on physical bodies
    Sarah’s soul appears to have been born with some basic qualities:
    – recognising faces
    – recognising voices
    – search for meaning and patterns
    – search for purpose
    – certain emotions like jealousy

    Unless she’s lying.

    • Sunday says:

      But there are a bunch of p-zombies wandering around Northeast Africa acting just like any other humans.

      • lumatic says:

        Maybe should are non physical entities that do more or less the same things that physical human bodies do, so removing the soul from a human has no observable effects on behaviour, but adding a soul to a computer does.

        Some philosopher had a theory about that, right?

      • Andrew M says:

        The p-zombie hypothesis is ambiguous between

        a. There could be an entity which perfectly simulated the behaviour of a person without conscious experience,


        b. It is possible to create such an entity simply by taking a person and leaving the conscious experience out.

        b implies that conscious experience is not causally efficacious. a does not. That the same effects could be produced in another way does not mean that consciousness is not producing them now.

        We can suppose that in this universe a is true but not b. Uriel must have rigged up some other way of producing person-seeming behaviour in the zombies.

    • Kim says:

      Facial recognition may have been an “improved facet” of pattern matching.
      Fairly likely, actually, as it’s something non-native to computers.

  33. Anon. says:

    I feel UNSONG would be great for an ARG. Cabalistic puzzles, etc.

  34. The coment king says:

    (unlikely) theory: What if the Comet King’s wife was Sarah Michelle-Gellar, and this is all some massive scheme by him to get himself a duplicate to marry?

    More serious idea: What if whoever’s planning this is the Comet King (or some fragment of him), rather than Raziel? (seems unlikely considering his attitude in the passover chapter, but not impossible).

    • Ninmesara says:

      I don’t really believe that Aaron would talk about Sarah so much and neglect to tell us that she was the comet King’s wife

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        How much did he talk about Sohu neglecting (and even going out of his way to avoid) to tell us that she was his daughter?

        • Ninmesara says:

          Ok, fair enough… In my defense, those chapters don’t feel like they’re actually narrated by Aaron (lack of kabalistic musings, etc.). But yeah, you’re right.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Well, even in Chapter 1 he says “And an eight year old girl” rather than “And his eight year old daughter”, though he’s paraphrasing Gebron and Eleazar’s book so it’s possible it was them who neglected to say that.

      • LPSP says:

        Yeah, it’s not like that’s how plot twists work.

        • LPSP says:

          Wait, I misread Nin’s post. (wish you could edit and delete here!) I guess the marriage could’ve been secretive – everyone knows the Comet King had a wife, even one that was super important, but no-one knew who she was.

  35. Grort says:

    I notice that topwebfiction does not have a banner for this story — there’s just sort of boldface type. Should there be some sort of banner?

  36. R Flaum says:

    Random thought: We now know that angels (presumably including Uriel) do not have souls. Given this, why did Uriel think that keeping souls from northeast Africans would make them not people/have less morally significant suffering? Does he view himself as not a person?

    • Lux Sola says:

      I would not be surprised in the slightest to find out that the Angels don’t consider themselves people.

    • The coment king says:

      We do? We just know Samyazaz can’t use names through the people he possesses, but that doesn’t necessarily mean no angels can use names ever.

      • R Flaum says:

        From Chapter 2: “Angels cannot sing the Names”

        • Good Burning Plastic says:

          In that context it might literally mean that they are unable to pronounce them, not just that when angels say them they have no effect.

        • The coment king says:

          Thanks, I forgot about that.
          Does this neccessarily imply they don’t have souls, though? It’s a sufficient condition, but is it necessary?

          • R Flaum says:

            Well, Samyazaz apparently thought that the Vital Name would give him the ability to use names. And since the Vital Name does nothing (that we know of) apart from giving souls…

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            @R Flaum: Good point.

    • Deiseach says:

      We now know that angels (presumably including Uriel) do not have souls. Given this, why did Uriel think that keeping souls from northeast Africans would make them not people/have less morally significant suffering?

      Angels are spirit and incorporeal. Humans have bodies as well as souls and spirits. To differentiate humans from animals, the rational soul is involved. Technically, the north-east Africans without souls are simply human-level intelligent primates, not human humans (which is one reason Uriel got such a hell of a reaction re: racism from the Madrid conference).

  37. Mengsk says:

    Weird question, but I wonder how Sarah Keeps her battery charged? Is there an “electrifying name” that she can speak? Or a “sustaining name” (maybe that, when spoken by a human, allows them to live without eating)? It seems like her mobility would be limited by her battery life.

    • In a possible future scene, she’s invited to dinner and request sa couple of AA batteries.

    • Share says:

      To be honest,. she could use Levitating Name to plug herself in. Or her soul gives her the power

    • LPSP says:

      I was thinking about that the other night; it occurred to me that it was probably the reason it had to hitch rides on buses and taxis. It couldn’t straight powered flight across all america, it needed to stop and charge up, possibly just by levitating charger cables into the slot.

  38. Walter says:

    Aaron, you make this right. This is on you.

  39. If Aaron had been an Asimov fan, Sarah would have tried obeying the Three Laws of Robotics.

    • The coment king says:

      Considering there was an Asimov book where that led one robot to turn the earth nuclear, that’s… not entirely reassuring.

  40. R Flaum says:

    Random thought: rather than the theonomics having people recite names on computer screens to find Names of God, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the computers print out scroll wheels and have people tear off Names? Tearing off a name would be much faster than reciting one. There is a bit of extra expense, but I feel like the improvement in speed would be much more than worth it.

  41. Loweeel says:

    “she worships him as the author of her being; then he comes home with a newer, shinier model, announces Sarah is only fit for the rubbish heap”

    Wasn’t it just last week we did Lillit? Nice echo of that.

    This isn’t a coincidence because nothing is a coincidence.

  42. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Sarah did hear record the vital name herself, right? Or she can at least reverse the confounding she did? Right?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Ooh, maybe not. Of course, with her computational power, she can probably reverse it regardless.

      • Ninmesara says:

        I don’t believe she can reverse it using the confounding name. Otherwise it would be a Mind Reading name, and would be much more useful.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I mean that she has the resources to get the original from the misremembered version, whether by error-correction methods or by simple brute-forcing through similar potential names.

          • Ninmesara says:

            That’s a good idea. She could try names by increasing Hamming distance or something like that, and use the error-correcting codes to narrow the search space

    • Ninmesara says:

      I don’t think she actually listened to the name.

  43. Wouldn’t enslaving Sarah be a “compromise with sin” according to the badass 19th-century Unitarians?

    James Russell Lowell would never approve.

  44. R Flaum says:

    I don’t understand why Countenance would be an email service provider in this universe. Facebook is a social network, so that makes sense in our world, but why would a theonomic be in that business?

  45. kechpaja says:

    Maybe I’m just being a hopeless SPG fan, but this chapter really reminds me of this:

  46. Ryan W. says:

    Born Sexy Yesterday?

  47. late to the party says:

    “ten numbers” should be replaced with “ten digits”

  48. stellatedHexahedron says:

    Oh, man. She’s programmer free from the burden if clarifying her ideas*, and she raised herself on a horny teenager’s self-insert Buffy fanfic. I’m sure this’ll go well.

    …has gone well? Will have gone well? Has will go well? Tenses are confusing when commenting on a work you’re reading archivally.

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