To your rearranged bodies go

I’m re-reading To Your Scattered Bodies Go and, of course, pondering the arrangements.

The premise is that all humans who ever died (for some convenient definitions of ‘human’ and ‘ever’) are simultaneously resurrected (for purposes unknown to them) on an artificial planet whose surface is one long and twisty river valley. In each neighborhood along the river there’s initially a majority of people from one region (spatial and temporal), but also a large minority of random others. Why?

How would I arrange them? Perhaps by date of birth. Arranging by date of death would be more likely to bring enemies together.

Alternately, having fallen in love with topological coordinates, I’d use a kinship graph: each person is directly linked to parents and children. I’d be interested to see the overall shape of this graph, as embedded in Rn. If enough generations are involved, the longest axis of this embedding is close to the birthdate axis: your parents might have no common ancestors within a thousand years, but they can’t have been born a thousand years apart. But what are the other axes like?

Turning away from mathematical nerdery now — One minor character says he’s especially pleased to regain the leg he lost in a road accident at age 50. That’s consistent with the apparent policy of restoring adults to age ~25 (and children to their age at death). But what is the Revivers’ policy on birth defects, genetic and otherwise? If you grow up with a damaged brain, can your mind be installed in a normal brain? If you live to adulthood without legs and are then revived in an adult body with legs, how easily can you learn to use them? How many limbs do Brittany and Abigail Hensel get?

2022 Nov 04: I made a more stable page collecting thoughts from this thread.

5 thoughts on “To your rearranged bodies go”

  1. Love the Philip Jose Farmer books. Got hooked on the World of Tiers series, then dug into the Riverworld books. Haven’t finished them yet, not as compelling as World of Tiers. “Why” is one of the major story points throughout the book series. Wonder if they ever come up with a good reason? Seems like a good way to write yourself into a corner . . .

  2. This reminds me to the Strugatsky novel The Doomed City, which describes a strange (perhaps artificial) world where some people from different places on Earth and different times are brought.

  3. If monogenesis of language is true, then between any two speakers there is a chain such that each member can converse with both neighbors in their native language (excepting creoles); and if on my Riverworld you’re near all your ancestors (as much as that’s feasible), such a chain is usually easy to find; therefore most of the world could be a dialect continuum.

    Some surprising koines could develop.

  4. I now have no memory of that re-read of TYSBG.

    If the time axis is collapsed, the dialect continuum is like a bedsheet crumpled into a ball and crushed flat; any small part looks like a lot of unrelated layers. Nearly everyone can talk to some neighbors, but to find a chain between two arbitrary neighbors you may have to look far beyond the neighborhood.

    Likely there are many languages whose speakers are outnumbered by descendants who speak only an imperial language (Spanish, English, Arabic, Russian, Chinese …).

    Jonas, see also Ken MacLeod’s Cosmonaut Keep, with humans of different times, hominids of two or three species extinct on Earth, and sapient saurians from before Chicxulub.

    Will, I don’t recall whether I ever read the last of the Riverworld books. I remember some critic’s remark (probably about Pohl’s Heechee series) that, when a series points toward eventually meeting the Creator, that ending is almost sure to be a disappointment; and that’s why the writer rarely gets there.

  5. The eigenvectors give coordinates in billions of dimensions (but I expect sigma to be small in most of the dimensions). List all the triples of people (or perhaps only the Delaunay triangles), in order of their longest edge. Build up a surface from this list of triangles, shortest first, requiring only that at each step you have a set of topological discs: no tubes, no Möbius, no cross-caps, no closed surfaces (because you want partial discs to join each other eventually). Eventually all the people are included in one clean surface. Bring this into 3space and ‘inflate’ it by making the people repel each other, or at least those with whom they do not share an edge, while preserving edge-lengths as much as possible. Or maybe treat the edges as flexible cables of fixed length, and fit the biggest possible sphere within.

    Now, for each person find the integral over lifespan of the sine of latitude, and make a vector normal to the local surface with that integral as its signed magnitude. The sum of such vectors gives the rotation axis.

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