Image from Bernd Helfert

Sophontology is the complete science of sophont beings: the study of intelligent beings in terms of toposophic, substrate, origin, phylogentics, culture, physiology, and psychology.

The study of the sentient and intelligent (sophont) beings that populate the galaxy is known as Sophontology. Among only a few of the many divisions and specialized fields of study of this science are:

  • Anthropology - the study of hominid bionts
  • Biontology - the study of bionts and biont societies
  • Cultural Sophontology - the comparative study of sophont societies
  • Developmental Sophontology - the study of the various means by which natural and artificial life-forms evolve intelligence
  • Evolutionary Sophontology - the evolution of sophont beings
  • Palaeosophontology - the study of the ancient or extinct sophonts and civilizations
  • Physical Sophontology - the study of the physiological makeup of intelligent life
  • Psychology - the study of mind, including of intelligence
  • Systematic Sophontology - the systematic arrangement of the various types and categories of sophont beings
  • Toposophic Sophontology - the study of transapient sophonts
  • Toposophy - the nature of toposophic states
  • Vecology - the study of vecs and vec societies
  • Xenology - the study of non-Terragen sophonts
Each of these fields of knowledge can in turn be divided into numerous specialized subdisciplines.

The diversity of sophont beings is great indeed. Some schools of systematic sophontology classify sophonts taxonomically in terms of kingdom, origin, category, and clade. These can be explained as follows:

Kingdom in this context refers to toposophic kingdom or singularity. Each higher toposophic constitutes a new and more encompassing and potent mode of functioning. The situation is even more complex when one considers dendrotoposophy, a branching series of toposophic states.

Origin refers to where the group began, whether Terragen or belonging to one of a large number of xenobiont evolutions, or a hybrid of the two. Several dozen unique and fully sophont origins are known within the Terragen sphere alone. There is no uncontested evidence of any "progenitor race" so it is assumed that sophont intelligence arises spontaneously whenever conditions are right.

Category or Phyle constitutes one of the major functional divisions of sentient beings, the way in which intelligence varies according to its embodied medium or substrate. Although borders between categories vary according to interpretation, most schemas have about half a dozen major primary So:1 (sapient) categories (biont, artificial, virtual, etc.), and a larger number of combined categories (cyborgs, symachinics, etc.), as well as a number of specific transapient phyla (hyperturings, posthumans, etc.).

Clade in this context refers to a unique evolutionary branch of mindkind, defined by having a single common ancestor or common template (or both), which serves as the distinguishing characteristics for all members of that clade. There are literally billions of different sophont clades throughout known space.

  • AI, ai  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Etymologically, Artificial Intelligence, although the original use of the term "artificial" has long been meaningless in this context. Broadly speaking, "AI" means any non-organic sentient being, although it is most often applied to those of SI:1 or greater (in contrast to aioids). When spelt in lower case the term can refer either to any subsingularity aioid as well.
  • Anthropomorphism - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The projecting of inner baseline or nearbaseline human or human-like sapient feelings onto objects that do not possess those characteristics, e.g. attributing human characteristics to gods, objects, hyperturings, subsapients, alifes, aliens, etc.
  • Asymptote System  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    A place where many species converge. Usually trading and network nexuses, and generally core systems for a Cooperative Venture.
  • Clade (sophontology)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    An evolutionary branch of mindkind defined by a common ancestral group or a common template that provides distinguishing characteristics for all members of that clade.
  • Cladistics  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The science of creating evolutionary trees of ancestry and descent; classifying organisms based on common ancestry and the branching of the evolutionary family tree.
  • Cladogram (sophontology) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A precisely and scientifically organized family tree of a particular group or clade, tracing the connections of ancestry and descendants. The Genen are renowned for their elaborately decorated interactive cladograms.
  • Class (sophontology)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A major category of sapient beings, as defined by one or a few basic but distinctive and generic qualities, not necessarily connected by ancestry (i.e. biont, ai, vec, bioborg).
  • Complexity Plague  - Text by Todd Drashner and Anders Sandberg
    When a device or program or process becomes so complex/involved that it spontaneously achieves self-awareness and self-volition even if (or especially if) you don't want it to.
  • Emergence - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The process whereby more Complex systems arise from simpler systems. Emergence is unanticipated and cannot be directly deduced from the lower-level behaviors. Usually, The nature and behaviour of the more complex system cannot be defined in terms of its components. For example, the organization of a nanecology is said to emerge from the interactions of the lower-level behaviors of the nanites, and not from any single nanite. The concept has applications in many fields, from chemistry to biology to psychology and the social sciences.
  • Evolution (sophontology)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    One of the most potent memes known to mindkind, the meme of evolution, of ascent, of progress or unfolding from alpha to omega, is also a description of the way the cosmos works - or at least the way it seems to work.
  • Mindkind - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Generic clade-neutral Anglic term for all intelligent (sophont) beings, regardless of nature or origin.
  • Provolution Timeline  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Significant dates in the history of efforts to raise non-human species to full sentience and sophonce.
  • Sensestem  - Text by Thorbørn Steen
    Any large system that has gained sentience but not sophonce as an emergent property
  • Sentience, Sapience, Sophonce  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    A set of terms used to describe some key kinds of intelligence.
  • Sophstem   - Text by Thorbørn Steen
    Any large, complex system that has gained both sentience and sapience as an emergent property, to the degree that it may be considered to be a sophont being.
  • Sophtware  - Text by Tony Jones
    Colloquial term used to describe sophont to transapient level software based lifeforms whether of virtual, ai, or upload origin.
  • Sublect - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] a term for an inferior minds (generally, anything less than SI:1).
    [2] a subroutine, a dedicated processing node, a mind that is part of a greater mind.
  • Tachistorics  - Text by Jay Dugger
    Study of fast and hyperfast virch societies, especially those that simulate real-world conditions, by researchers living at conventional subjective speed. Or, more occasionally, the study of embodied societies by virch dwellers who have chosen a very slow subjective speed.
  • Terragen  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Any biont, ai, or any other entity, clade, species, or group that either originated on Earth or, more generally, can trace eir ultimate origin and ancestry back to Earth; or any civilization, empire, polity or organization created or maintained by terragen sentients.
  • Vivisystem - Text by Anders Sandberg in his Transhumanist Terminology
    Systems with lifelike properties (adaptability, complexity, evolvability, resiliency etc.), such as ecosystems, alife, economies and minds.
Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 05 December 2002.