What you've done is wrong. There'll be suffering on a grand scale no matter what we do.

But the aliens were wrong. I saw it on their networks. They thought their futures weren't fixed. I had to show them. I was helping a primitive culture.

No. You didn't have to show them anything. In another five generations they would have developed negative time delays for themselves and demonstrated determinism. But, they would have been ready for it by then.

But they were ready. They were! Lots of them already knew that the future was just as determined as the past, and that "free will increases with cognitive capacity".

Only some of them know it. They haven't all learned it during schooling as you have. If you look more at their networks, you'll find that many of them still think their consciousness is non-biological.

Oh... they don't... Do they? That's just in their historic documents, isn't it?

No. Look in their discussions. They still think their minds are permanent mysteries. Very few of them understand.

But that means...

Yes. It's a population with no defense against the technology you've just let loose. They don't even teach cognitive hygiene to their children. Proof of determinism will spread naive reactionary nihilism like a plague through a third of the dualists, and the other two thirds will resort to denialism. We modeled it. There will be chaos on at least three of their major land masses for up to two generations.

Can't we do anything? I've caused so much hurt and there's no way to stop it?

There is one action still under consideration. Once we have a confident prediction on the extent of the suffering, we'll re-evaluate the effects of lifting the surveillance-only ruling so we can provide planet-wide epistemic emergency relief.

There will still be chaos. If the intervention goes ahead, I will commit my future to guiding these aliens, no matter how frustrating and limited they are.

You will complete your training first.

This flash fiction was inspired by Ted Chiang's What's expected of us? While I've really enjoyed the couple of Ted's stories that I've listened to, I feel that the message in What's expected of us? (the idea that civilization now depends on self deception) is needlessly depressing and exacerbates an existing societal problem. We don't need self-deception to protect us from reality. We need ways to rid ourselves of persistent myths with as little pain as possible.

To listen to Ted Chiang's flash fiction, visit Aural Delights #37 on Star Ship Sofa.