Engenerator Technology

Technology which allows uploaded personalities to be transferred into physical bodies, sometimes at interstellar distances

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Image from Steve Bowers

The technology for reading a human mind-state and transferring it into virtual form took many centuries to develop. At first uploading was only possible by external emulation; by the fourth century A.T. destructive uploading was possible, and the first true virtual humans were uploaded. See the history of uploading here. Virtual humans can be copied, and sent as data to distant locations. Many interstellar colony ships carried a number of virtual humans, and wireless transmission of virtuals was a reasonably commonplace event by the Early First Federation era; at this time the typical quantity of information contained in the description of a single virtual human was about 10e18 bits, a relatively small amount compared to the data in a typical virtual human in the Current Era.

Such virtual humans could be housed inside artificial robotic bodies (sometimes called rental bodies because they were subject to commercial leasing arrangements). This meant that a crude form of human transmission was available even in the early Second millennium, before the development of non-destructive uploading. A human (or other modosophont) could have his brain disassembled destructively, his mind state converted into virtual form, and then transmitted to a distant location. By 1130 A.T. virtual entities could be transmitted from one planet to another within a planetary system; some virtual humans elected to use rental bodies to regain some semblance of their former humanity, but many others remained in virtual form and took advantage of the many benefits of bodiless living.

Reliable non-destructive uploading was developed in 1145 A.T., allowing citizens of the First Federation to copy themselves relatively painlessly, while also remaining in their own original bodies. These copies were routinely sent as data packets, either stored in transportable memory chips or sent by tight-beam transmitter, to distant locations. The dream of ancient science fiction, teleportation from world to world, was coming true, although the transmission of living tissue was not possible.

On Eden a symbiotic society consisting of biological tweaked humans paired with electronic artificial intelligences (the so-called 'Guardian Angels') had developed. A small population of virtual humans also inhabited that world, but felt alienated from both the bioids and the aioids, being neither one nor the other. A team of virtuals, tweaks and angels at the Neurotechnology Institute at Lattir, led by the virtual human Vo Lettir of Lattir, developed a method of imprinting a human personality into a biological body in 1490. This development allowed virtual humans to join the biological half of Edenese society if they desired to do so.

The so-called Engenerator system [from Latin, ingenerāre, to implant or generate] first creates a human shaped framework called an 'armature', which is based on the physical characteristics of the uploaded person's original human body. Using advanced tissue printing techniques, human cells created using that person's recorded DNA (and other epigenetic biodata) are deposited onto this armature, and these cells are modified biochemically to develop into the appropriate specialised tissue types for each location in the body. An adult human clone body can be force-grown in a couple of standard days, more rapidly if the armature is more detailed.

Such a force-grown human clone would soon start to develop an individual existence, making imprinting of the old mind impossible, so it is kept under deep sedation until the brain tissue is full grown. Meanwhile the mentality of the uploaded original person is introduced into the armature itself, and the armature gradually transfers its electronic memories into the adjacent neurones as the new body becomes conscious. The armature remains inside the head of the new clone body (technically known as a biocopy, or bioxox) until the biological tissue faithfully reproduces the mentality of the original.

Because this process takes a reasonably long time (months or years in some cases) the bioxox changes in response to the environment, making the new personality different from the original, sometimes significantly so. But the armature ensures continuity of consciousness, allowing the bioxox to maintain a consistent internal selfhood. The early engenerators were relatively crude, but the technology has improved considerably since the First Federation era.

The first use of engenerators as a method of interstellar transfer was in 1555, during a colonisation expedition to Audubon. The superbright human crew of the colony ship Gosse began to experiment with the new engenerator technology and sent fifteen human minds forward to their destination, over a distance of nine light years, to an engenerator device constructed by autofac on the uninhabited surface of Audubon. Twelve of the bioxoxes created by this method survived, and the first interstellar engeneration event demonstrated the possibilities of this method.

The LinnEnt empire, an offshoot of the Terranova Foundation, was established specifically as an experiment to determine the usefulness of engeneration as a colonisation method. Engenerator devices were sent by rapid ship to new worlds, or created by already existing autofacs on others. A steady stream of uploaded personalities were sent to these distant worlds, together with DNA data and other physical details, and new bodies were built for the colonists in situ. Bolobo, Roanoke, Digit, Hammerstein, Twinkle and a dozen other worlds were settled in this way.

In some systems the responsibility of recreating so many new individuals appears to have been to heavy a burden for the AI systems who constructed and maintained the engenerator sites. At least three of the local AIs became obsessive and paranoid, using the armature mechanism already imbedded in each bioxox mind to control, repress and even destroy the unfortunate colonists.

In some cases virtual entities who had never been human were given biological bodies in these new colonies; by using a generic neogen tissue, an entirely fictional body could be created to house a mind that originated in a fictional virch scenario. The Fifth Men of Bolobo were an example of this: a population of simm personalities created as part of a long-running and popular adaptation of Olaf Stapledon's novel Last and First Men, these characters were given neogen bodies resembling their virtual images in the game. The Fifth Men were also given supposedly superbright-level brains to suit their characters; but for various reasons the local, paranoid and disturbed AI suppressed their superior intellect and drove them to extinction.

Once the problems in the LinnEnt empire were exposed by NoCoZo relativists during the Second Federation era, the engenerator method went out of fashion for an extended period. The engenerator method has been used to good effect since the ComEmp period in various locations, using improved safeguards and more advanced copying and embodiment techniques which ensure hi-fidelity reproduction and freedom from mental interference on arrival.

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Text by Steve Bowers Initially published on 11 December 2009.

Fiction featuring Engenerator Technology

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