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Our study of human history has numerous problems. 99% of history isn’t recorded. Writing has been around only for 5 thousand years, and much of what we know comes from archaeological evidence. Information is being shared more today because of the internet, but there is so much we still don’t know in the modern age. Adding to this, there is much interpretation built into any historical analysis and historians struggle with the concept of objectivity.

In this world, human beings share a universal consciousness. When a person dies, they are subsumed into this consciousness, which is known as "God". Thoughts, emotions, ideas, etc, are all subsumed into this consciousness and become part of a whole. In this way, it can be viewed as a perfect recording of all historical events, being completely unbiased in regards to facts.

Oracles are human beings who have trained to tap into this consciousness in order to gain a true picture of the past. This skill must be learnt, and is accessible to anyone. They are regarded as the historians of this world, passing on what they see for future records. They are used to discover and record big moments from history so we can gain a clear understanding of past events and why they happened, such as the rise and fall of empires, ancient cultures, etc.

However, there is a problem with this when you break it down. If this god is the seat of all earth history, it stands to reason that a person tapping into it can find things out about anyone. A detective investigating a murder could solve a case without having to do the leg work. A rival king could tap into this consciousness to find information on his enemies and their empires or armies, or business rivals could use it to spy on competitors.

I need to limit this system to the big moves and shakes of history. Events equivalent to WW2, rise and fall of Rome, cultures of Mesopotamia, etc. The big and important moments that shaped the world on the grand scheme, rather than the lives of individuals. This way, there can be one, linear version of historical events that doesn't depend on interpretation, but leaves the lives of people out. How can I make this happen?

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    $\begingroup$ There's a quirk in your mechanics, that being that a businessman would only know about his rival's activities if an immediate witness has since died. So "businessmen" who go around killing witnesses will have much larger presences to the oracles, keeping witnesses alive as long as possible is a better way to silence them. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 23 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ Your "one, linear version...that dont depend on interpretation" depends entirely upon the interpretation of the oracle. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Feb 23 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Since when are humans unbiased with regard to facts? Or anything? $\endgroup$ – nasch Feb 23 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ Consider that your oracle is essentially trying to choose which one of several billion channels of TV reruns to watch. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 23 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ What happens to the universal record, if someone dies who is delusional, or with a biased view of an event, or who has a very strong belief or a genuine misunderstanding about something $\endgroup$ – Stilez Feb 24 at 9:08

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If the collective mind contains memories of people, well... It contains what people remember, not the factual truth. This poses multiple problems:

  • Conflicting memories, which may either be mutually destroyed upon merger, or lead to great levels of confusion;

  • Poor attention. You have found the memories of the sole witness of whatever, but they didn't see the murder because they were playing some My Little Pony game on their cell phone.

  • Fragmented memories. It is quite common for people who have undergone post traumatic stress or child abuse to have a kind of dissociation called fragmentation. This screws up the way the person collects, maintains and recalls memories. I think murder victims would have poor memories of their last moments.

  • False memories, planted on purpose to confuse the oversoul, either by one's own self and volition or forcefully.

  • The oversoul will have waaaaay too many stoned memories. Seeing history through the eyes of a junkie may be interesting, but not very useful for fact finding.

  • Storage. The oversoul has more capacity than you. It may be that in order to get some info from it, you have to forget an equal amount of info just to make space.

  • Emotional content. If you experience someone else's memories, you may feel what they felt. You will need psychological help if you go through a rape victim's memory.


Assassin's Creed has a similar concept, and its lore added two additional problems for people going through the memories of others:

  • Poor search indexing. You can't just go to that single precious moment which is all that you want. You have to spend 20-odd hours playing previous memories until you reach what you want.

  • Bleeding effectTM: spend too much time visiting memories and you start hallucinating pieces of those memories even when unplugged from their source.

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    $\begingroup$ Indexing was my first thought. Just look at the Internet: the amount of information is nigh unlimited! Plug your question into Google and... start reading unrelated result after unrelated result. Keep at it, it may be in the next result! $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Feb 24 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ A related concept: The more "memories" there are of an event, the easier it is to access. A secret murder at 7pm last night is buried beneath other people's mundane memories of eating dinner or travelling home at that time. Watching the Moon Landing is easy - for the broadcast. Viewing Armstrong or Aldrin's memories of being on the Moon is "hard" again. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Feb 25 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan, you overlooked one other possibility of false memories: ones not done deliberately but happen all the time. The classic example from 2001 is that many people recall that, on 9/11, they saw the first aircraft hit the WTC live on television, when that's impossible: footage of it only came later. It's a false memory that wasn't deliberate, but nonetheless there. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 25 at 22:49
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Read the histories of the oracles and you'll see they have certain quirks. Consider Cassandra, her curse was that her predictions were always accurate but that nobody would ever believe her. Other oracles were known for giving riddles or predictions that couldn't be interpreted until it was too late.

Your Oracles can see clearly into the past, but not so clearly into the present. That means that while they know exactly what happened, they're not very good at communicating it to others. In the simplest case they're talking to someone who was asking questions last week. In the worst case no two consecutive words are from the same conversation.

Riddles, confusion, and disconnection in time. The oracles know everything, they just can't tell you about it.

The next step is to find a balance.

An oracle at the pinnacle of their profession will be able to speak to a single person about an event with no other witnesses, say the victim of a murder, but they're also going to be the worst case of being unable to communicate with the present. A new oracle is still going to be relatively well grounded in time, but only be able to find out about events with loud voices in the past, great wars and civilisations with tens of thousands of witnesses. Their speech may only be light riddles, but the fine detail can never be seen.

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    $\begingroup$ You missed the Gordian knot oracle, and the Alexandrian solution $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Feb 23 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ Could you get a series of progressively less-experienced oracles to attempt to communicate with each other, slowly unravelling the riddles? $\endgroup$ – EvoGamer Feb 23 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @EvoGamer That sounds like a game of telephone. Good luck getting anything remotely useful out of that. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Feb 25 at 16:14
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It's very simple for two reasons.

  • Reason 1: It is a collective memory of DEAD people. You can't remember the juicy details about your hot neighbour or the bank account numbers of a rich celebrity if they didn't die. You could get some information on the enemy troops after people have died, but you can't be sure how accurate that information is depending on who died and what they knew. "depending on who died" means that if you kill a captured officer you can be more certain about the information he'll provide.

  • Reason 2: It's a COLLECTIVE memory. You ask information about some moment and place in history, everyone who feels they know something about it will respond. Steering through this mess is difficult for the user. This also means you get more clear info about things that more people know about. A murder on an important leader on national TV will be much clearer than a random death in a back alley, the back alley death might be so small that it's simply drowned out and will be mixed with similar deaths in the region and time period, making the information tainted and hard to understand.

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    $\begingroup$ Your reason 1 is ignoring that if you ever capture high ranking enemy, instead of interrogation and possible misleading information feed, you could just kill him and tap into his memory to get fresh information about enemy. Would be best interrogation method in that case $\endgroup$ – Miroslav Saracevic Feb 23 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Miroslavsaracevic how exactly is it ignoring that option? Reason 1 is about dead people. If you follow your interrogation technique then he joins the dead people, which is covered with the phrase "You could get some information on the enemy troops after people have died, but you can't be sure how accurate that information is depending on who died and what they knew.", which takes up literally half of reason 1. If you cant capture or kill a high ranking person, reason 1 remains in effect as well. I dont understand why you point this out when again literally half reason 1 points this option out $\endgroup$ – Demigan Feb 23 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ sorry, I misunderstood it as if it was referred to natural death of general people. I was pointing out that you could cause death of specific person to be relatively sure about his level of information. $\endgroup$ – Miroslav Saracevic Feb 25 at 9:24
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First, all of human history is...BIG. So what you'd want is specialists in particular areas of history.

Here's some fixes:

  • Time. You've got history, but immediate history is more difficult and confused to access. If you get anything at all, it's fractured. As time goes by, it gains clarity. 100 years ago is clearer than 1 year ago as the timelines of all the dead folk have had time to become part of the whole in an integrated and accessible way. For a god-like consciousness, several decades or a century isn't a big deal, and really, it might be a safety feature for just the kind of thing you are talking about.
  • Too Many Voices. The biggest problem here is organization and indexing. How can everyone possibly bring up the information needed? How can you hear one voice when there are millions? What this might mean is that bringing up info is difficult.
  • Lies, delusions and misremberances. Even if you can get the dead dude you're looking for, there's no guarantee that his perceptions are accurate. You call it a "perfect recording" but if humans are involved, dead or alive, there is really no such thing if you also have "Thoughts, emotions, ideas." Take a moment to research eyewitness testimony. Memory is a funny thing, and it's NOT perfect. I know your idea is perfect accuracy. But more than one thing can be true at a time. Consider the story of Logain from Dragon Age--some remember him as a hero who saved his troops from an overwhelming enemy and their country from a King who was beginning to collude with an old enemy, others consider him a traitor who left his king on the field. BOTH of those things could be and are true. It really depends on who you listen to.

You're talking about ONE linear, TRUE version of history, but I contend that there really is no such thing. Every event ever has depended on interpretation, on the perception of those involved.

I really do believe that it would be FAR, FAR more interesting and accurate if it was more confusing and harder to access. And what's true...that's not one thing. It never has been.

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  • $\begingroup$ There's also the problem that the memory is "uploaded" when they die. That can be a very long time from when the event of interest happened, and in that time the possibility of false memories, or even not remembering at all, greatly increase. Contrary to popular belief, humans do not record everything that happened around them; short term memory is "dumped" all the time. Everyone who commutes by car has experienced the situation where, if it's been a normal, boring drive, they can't remember a single thing about the drive as soon as they get home, even though it just took place. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 25 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Agree. If human memory is the source, it's already inherently flawed. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Feb 26 at 2:08
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/I need to limit this system to the big moves and shakes of history./

Signal strength increases with number of participants.

Imagine flying along at 10,000 feet. You cannot see a man lighting his cigarette. But you can see 5000 concert goers lifting their lighters for a torch song.

So too events. Participant number increases signal strength. If you want to see what OJ Simpson did on a given night, you have only the memories of the three individuals present as a source; too weak. If you want to see SuperBowl 44, you have the memories of thousands of attendees and millions who watched on TV. The more participants there are, the stronger your signal. You can set a number of participants necessary to make any perceptible signal for the oracles, and near that minimum number signal is still very weak.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. It leaves a mark in the collective consciousness of the world. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Feb 23 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ But big events does not imply many witnesses; nor does many witnesses imply big events. In the grand scheme of things, SuperBowl 44 (or any other SuperBowl) will be irrelevant. But suppose the Apollo moonlandings will turn out be significant events. Only 12 people have experienced them, all others have seen parts of it, and only via TV and film. $\endgroup$ – Abigail Feb 25 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Abigail You would still have the "Location" of that cluster of memories much easier to find and piece together. Having many perspectives would make the event more like a virtual reality experience where a single/low amount of people would treat more like watching TV from the oracles perspective $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Feb 25 at 20:06
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"This way, there can be one, linear, version of historical events that dont depend on interpretation, "

RL Example: In WW2, During Battle of Britain both sides were convinced that RAF was on verge of collapse. This belief shaped strategical decisions - RAF even started saving aircrafts, in order to still have some reserve, which made Germans think that not much is left. The only problem... recent studies show that both sides incorrectly estimated other side production rate and in the darkest hour Allies were decisively winning aerial war of attrition.

This information may be hard to get from a collective consciousness, but a dispassionate quartermaster (or accountant) may be a bit more useful. ;)

You don't want to make it a game breaking? Except already raised issues like false memories (including hallucinations), emotions... Why the process should be immediate? I mean if a soul needs a few decades to truly merge, then it does not matter for ancient history but makes it mostly useless from military perspective.

There may be even some interesting mechanism that for example sinner, individualist or very stron personalities would simply need a much more time to merge.

EDIT: Events equivalent to... evolving on savanna? Almost getting extinct 70k years ago? Leaving Africa? Ice age cycles? Slaughtering all megafauna on the way? Having sex with other hominids like Neanderthals and Denisovans? Domesticating plants and animals? Going in huge migrations throughout continents? (recent DNA test show that Europeans are mixture of local population + Middle Eastern + Siberian)

It can be quite interesting as history would start at dawn of mankind and not at invention of writing.

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You could make it take a really, really long time to find more obscure things. Everything that ever happened is a lot of data to sift through, so that should be reasonable enough. Like the internet, perhaps all of the major events could be well-indexed and easy to find. But the more specific and obscure things that an Oracle might want to know may be much harder to find. If the web page you're looking wasn't indexed by Google, it'd take a much longer time to find it, wouldn't you say? So as a limitation, just make it take an inconveniently long time to find things that are not the big moves and shakes of history. (This has also been brought up in this answer and this answer.)

Actually, this idea comes up in the manga ib: Instant Bullet by Akasaka Aka, and I think it presents the concept of the search duration limitation rather well (read right-to-left):

"The Akashic Records. All information is recorded there, from the beginning of the world to its end. My Ib is the magic to 'search' the Akashic Records and extract information from them. ...I'm sure my explanation of it makes it seem incredibly powerful, but the truth is, it's a nearly worthless power. The amount of data that exists in the world is far too vast to comprehend. Even a single search takes an inordinate amount of time."

"A week to learn where a lost wallet was dropped. A month to learn what Sera is thinking right now. To learn about the future the witch saw... Even a lifetime might not be enough. No matter what, it would take too long. By the time I had what I needed to know, it would all be too late. A truly, powerless, worthless magic."

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I think there's actually an even simpler answer: context.

Even if the oracle can see exactly what the dead person saw, thought and felt, that doesn't mean that they understand it perfectly.

The most obvious example of this is language: I won't gain any insight into the causes of the Second World War from watching Hitler's speeches unless I can speak German - and that's a language which millions of people still speak today. What if I'm observing someone who spoke North Picene?

Context is important for everything people do. Without that context, you can see what happened but rarely why, and so what comes out clearly are the big, objective moments but not the details of people's lives.

All you need to do is ensure your Oracle isn't a kind of cultural Babel fish - people will do the rest for you.

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How can I prevent an oracle who can see into the past from knowing everything that has happened?

No-one has the big picture.

At least - not for long.

Each death would represent only a small incremental increase in the God's information resource. This resembles a Clandestine cell system, such as used in spy networks. Orders would get passed down through ever shifting cut-outs, it would all consist of disjointed and sometimes contradictory information.

  • It would take a great deal of analysis by the Oracles to find underlying paterns of government or military strategy - and even then false trails, double and tripple bluffs would muddy the waters.

  • Leadership. Just as at the bottom of the hierarchy, the leaders would be surrounded by mutual anonymity - masks, mystery and would use secret passwords, handshakes and the signs and trappings of ritual to identify themselves and their position and role.

  • Every time a leader or trusted adviser died, a randomisation strategy would need to be implemented, a replacement leader by lottery, a change of course in strategies - a random shifting of resources to again muddy the waters and make themselves and their plans safely obscured.

  • Attempted infiltration of enemy cells, and climbing in their hierarchies would be something you'd constantly need to contend with and be attempting on your enemy.

Suitable citizens would be segregated depending on ability.

Intensive training would be given in:

  • Oraclular studies, strategy and the history and practice of clandestine networks and disinformation systems, insurgency and counter insurgency - these would become the future leaders, academic advisors and teachers, the most trusted. They would be afforded luxury and a harem to share - but no personal attachments which could be used as leverage against them.

  • Mathematics of codes and cyphers.

  • The enemy's culture and language.

  • Intelligence gathering techinques.

  • Subversive-insurgency to infiltrate and disrupt enemy networks.

  • Assasination. They would be threatened with hell-fire and promised rewards in heaven or rewards for their families on Earth to commit Lone-Wolf attacks on known enemy targets.

All in all, it's a recipe for scandal, intrigue and a pretty unpleasant and insecure workplace IMHO.

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Location

A simple and interesting way to limit it is to do so by location. 'God' is spread out over the world. The memories it contains are tied to the area where they occurred. For an Oracle to read them, the Oracle must be fairly close by.

Want to have an Oracle solve a murder? She has to go to the crime scene.

Need to do a study of ancient Greece? You won't be doing it from a hotel in Paramus.

Pick out the details of your enemy's plans in the war? Than you allied Oracle will have to get into an enemy base, or even better, their headquarters. And even that won't help if everyone who was present and has those memories is still alive.

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Background noise.

I need to limit this system to the big moves and shakes of history. Events equivalent to WW2, rise and fall of Rome, cultures of Mesopotamia, etc. The big and important moments that shaped the world on the grand scheme, rather than the lives of individuals. This way, there can be one, linear, version of historical events that dont depend on interpretation, but leave the lives of people out. How can I make this happen?

The data is there, but oracles have trouble exactly locating it. Because the Memory is so large that it's impossible to quickly zoom in any one point. And you cannot stay connected for very long, or your brain will seize.

So you can only zero on large events, something that left a large impression on the Memory. Once there, you can concentrate on smaller details; but you can't "remember" who killed Joe Q. Average, because the event didn't make a large enough impression. Even if it did, you'd be sore pressed in zeroing onto the memories of the actual murderer; and if he was the only one to know that he was indeed the murderer, connecting with any other memory will not help you.

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Concentration of memories determines clarity, accessibility, and importance. Time spent in accessed memories moves slower.

If you look at WW2, there are your oracles who could study it all their lives and have meaningful things to discern and discuss with fellow oracles. The pool of memories would be that immense. Your detective would have to search for vaguer trails acting in solitude, or with a team. He does not have historians from across the world curious about this cataclysmic event in human history. WW2 would. We could reach your mentioned objectivity after a process of historical research using this unique avenue. However, it would take time and many capable minds, not one of which could be an island.

Your other valve for how potent the power is would be its cost. Similar to other magic systems, as this system may be considered, the cost is a great place to balance its strength and usefulness. When you are roaming through memories, how long does it take to get there? Can your brain maneuver through the collective conciousness with enough detachment to do so efficiently, or does your reaction to everything you see along the way slow you? Perhaps processing the information left by the dead is a draining, costly thing.

Even your modern spy would take too long searching memories if their brain must process each thing in a substantial way. Then there is that issue of finding something which is so fresh to the world. It has not a large enough trail to be easily accessed or navigated, further exponentially reducing your efficiently at gleaming useful information. The longer you dig, the vaguer the trail, and the more you have to process to keep going further. One man can only process so much information in a certain frame of time.

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Oracles can only communicate clearly with specific people.

Let’s imagine an Oracle A. If Oracle A has a specific trait 1, then A might be “spiritually closer” (or some other handwavium) to people who have this specific trait 1. Likewise, if they have a specific trait 2, then they’ll communicate best with people who have 2 (and 1).

This way, given enough traits or rare enough ones, you’ll cut down the number of people Oracle A can communicate with massively. So for a small event such as a murder where only a few people were involved, it’s unlikely to the point of impossibility that A will be able to recover information; however, for a massive event, A will have many witnesses they can draw from.

And who knows? Maybe you just have to find an Oracle B to get more information.

A side effect of this is that ancient history will be weaker, as less people were alive then. This could be either positive or negative.

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Even though we witness events, we don't always know what exactly is happening. The simplest example of this is close up magic. So even though an Oracle may see something, they may miss what is actually happening.

Secondly, memories are a perspective. A person's memory is what they think they have seen.

Lastly, people don't remember things as they happened even though they may have witnessed them and understood them thoroughly at the moment they occurred.

Maybe these flaws can make prevent the oracles from seeing everything and limit their powers in some sense

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Have you read the Dune series by Frank Herbert? Especially Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune and God-Emperor of Dune touches on the subject of genetic memory, which bears a resemblance to your concept. The biggest difference is that Dune's genetic memory is limited to a single family line, and an individual would only know their parents until the time of conception.

The books establish three major obstacles for using such memory:

  1. Gaining access is a dangerous procedure. Untrained people simply die in the process. It might also require certain genetics; the books touch on selective breeding to create what they call the Kwisatz Haderach, which is the first male who can do it.
  2. There is a real danger of getting lost in the memories. Since an individual would have all memories of any ancestor until the conception of the next generation, it is easy to fall into a dream of reliving past lives, and lose the ability to differentiate between memory and reality.
  3. Any especially dominant character from the past can take control of the individual. Think dissociative identity disorder.

For your world, it sounds like only danger 2 and 3 would be applicable. But still, maybe your oracles was simply trained to only see the big picture and not delve too deep, in an effort to shield them from the worst of the dangers.

Also, if the full memory of all beings ever is accessible, how would you find any specific memory? It would be the equivalent to finding a specific strand of hay in a haystack. The oracles could be trained to only skim memories to get a sense of the big picture, and not delve too deep into any individual. This technique could also help against the aforementioned dangers.

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Information is only accessible through a link

Imagine that the internet existed without google and the only way to find content is navigating through hyperlinks. To clarify: its also like a library where you can only borrow a book if you provide either ISBN, title, author, etc.

So, oracle needs a link to the information and such link can be names, objects or places associated to the memory.

If you don't mind the potential for plot ideas there could also be specialized sorcerers that can set up obstructions like guardian entities, illusory perceptions or neuro-hazardous psychic traps at specific paths. Think of how government agencies can intercept searches for specific keywords or track visitors of certains websites.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Andres Tremols, please take the tour and read up in our help centre about how we work: How to Answer . Not bad for a first post, especially considering we don't exactly know how the oracles work, but I get what you're saying. +1 $\endgroup$ – Hoyle's ghost Feb 25 at 16:28
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When you contact the Oversoul, you initially don't get much of use. The Oversoul, while constructed out of human souls, is considering problems that humans cannot grasp.

Humans are constructed out of single cell, but the concerns of single cells are not really the concerns of the Human. If you imagine a cell being intelligent, it might be concerned about viruses, killer-T cells, internal decay, and the local biochemical environment. The Human is bothered that the light is taking too long to change.

The connection between these two is thin.

So contacting the Oversoul as a whole doesn't really do much for an Oracle, as the Oracle is roughly equivalent to a single cell in the Oversoul. The trick to making Oracular contact useful is a careful context rotation and projection to isolate a single soul.

Ie, you have to project the connection with the Oversoul down to a human level so you can interact with it and get human-level information on it.

The souls that make up the Oversoul still behave differently than independent human souls; they are part of a greater whole, and their purpose (like the cells of a multicellular organism, compared to single celled organism) and motivations remain very difficult to fathom. Still, at the single-soul level, you can get something.

Now, finding a particular soul is ridiculously hard and impractical.

You reach out, and you find a soul. You spend time getting that soul into focus, and viewing it separate from the oversoul. You start exchanging information, and understanding the language of that soul. Only then can you work out, piece by piece, what era, place and name that soul had in life.

If that soul has information you need, you can start communicating it. If not, you get to try again.

Finding one soul out of the trillions dead is impossible. But, finding any soul that died in WW2 is going to happen multiple times per year.

Assuming a trillion souls and 3 hours to connect to a new one and identify it sufficiently, 1000 Oracles working 10 hour days can get through a million souls/year, or 0.0001% of the Oversoul.

Over a century, 10k Oracles can contact 0.1% of all souls in the Oversoul. With 1 in 1000 souls contacted, you can have a really good sketch of history built up.

It gets even better if the Oracles can record how to contact a soul to make it more likely to repeat it. Then Oracle-indexes can be built up over time, and can be used to probe more deeply into historical events after they have been discovered.

This doesn't help with immediate history. Finding one specific dead person? It would literally take 10,000 Oracles a century to have a 1 in a 1000 chance of contacting that person.

This also leads to wonderful plot points. Some events are going to be extremely hard to find, and individual historical figures more-so. The Oracle-index of, say, Alexander the Great is going to be worth a lot. The Oracle-index of a major religious figure is going to be world-shaking.

If there are 10 major religious figures and 0.1% of the dead has been indexed, then the odds any of them are indexed is 1%. For most of them, close disciples are going to be accessible.

This also leads to another thing. If you are interacting with the souls in the Oversoul, do they change? And if they change, can you damage, destroy or harm them?

It would be common that people would claim to have the index of a major religious figure. And insane souls might even believe they are the major religious figure. So I would presume that major religions would claim that their founder's soul "transcended" and is not an individual soul in the Oversoul, and anyone claiming they have contacted them is a heretic, and souls that claim to be the figure are damaged by the adversary and must be purged.

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Your oracles can only access the past in real-time: If an event took ten years to unfold, it will take ten years' of oracle time to access.

Your situation is very similar (though more metaphysical) to the dilemma faced by real-life archivists and historians. There is a tremendous amount of material available that documents the past several decades, but virtually all of it came without an index. In the small institutional archive where I work we have, conservatively, a few thousand hours' worth of VHS tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, floppy disks, etc. (Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of slides and negatives.) A single videotape, for example, generally can't be digitized or viewed with sound faster than real-time. If we're lucky, there's a label on the tape with the exact date and subject matter, but often it will just say something like "1989 backup" or "Joe". Lacking infinite resources, this means that the vast majority of this material is destined to go un-reviewed.

For your world, perhaps the oracles can only "see" events unfold in the same amount of time that they actually took, or perhaps the bottleneck is in the transcription stage. Either way, your oracles' time is precious, and not likely to be spent tracking down where Joe Blow left his keys. Instead, the powers that be are going to spend this finite resource on answering the really big questions—those "big moments in history" that you mention. This will be easier, anyway, because the Oracles will have some idea of where to start looking and how to triangulate their search.

Some subordinate implications and possibilities of this approach:

  • One of the chief skills that oracles can hone is "reading" visions quickly to find clues about whether they're in the right time/place and using those clues from multiple spots in the timeline to zero in on the most relevant events to view.

    • You've said that anyone can access the universal consciousness, but for most people it will mostly be so much noise.
    • Only the trained oracles (or very gifted amateurs) can cut through all the stuff that happened in the Bronze Age Aegean to find the true events behind the legend of King Minos and the Minotaur.
    • The faster and more accurately an oracle can perform this triangulation feat, the more successful they are.
  • Questions about human events can be answered pretty quickly/easily, but getting answers to geological or evolutionary-type questions could easily take more than a human lifespan.

    • Oracling is a job, like any other, so if you want your oracles to spend more than the hours-per-day on a project you're going to have to give them an incentive to do so.
    • Conversely, you might need a way to slow down events that happen faster than human comprehension.
  • Multiple oracles can be "stacked" on a question in order to speed up the process and/or provide multiple vantage points for viewing the historical moment (perhaps to achieve that slow-mo effect).

  • You could leave open the possibility that oracles might be privately contracted. Your typical local PD isn't going to be able to afford the services of an oracle for every crime, but the occasional very high-profile case might warrant one's services. And an oracle might be called in to investigate that missing set of keys if $137 million is riding on it.

    • If you don't want it to be used this way, you could pass laws against it or make skilled oracles so rare (and their time therefore so precious) that only governments can afford it. But in either case you're still going to have a question of rogue oracles looking to profit from their skill.
  • Oracles are likely to have hobby projects, and will have "seen" lots of irrelevant material while searching out their targets. This opens the possibility for various character quirks for your oracles.

    • Some oracles might be like the stereotypical academic, with a passion for a particular topic or era, while others prefer to "leave it in the office".
    • Perhaps PTSD is an issue for oracles who must view, in real-time, things like wartime atrocities or extinction events.
    • You might need a code of ethics, e.g. for oracles who accidentally view private information when searching for a public event, or to discourage oracles from taking the "scenic route" to a target event.
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protected by L.Dutch Feb 25 at 17:20

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