Terragen civilization is built on many things, but some of its strongest pillars are the core technologies that form the basis for so many aspects of culture, both in the modern era and for thousands of years before. Below is a brief listing of the technologies that form the basis of civilization, and for each a description of some representative devices and applications based on those technologies.
- Artificial Intelligence
- Virtual Reality
Nanotechnology may be biologically or mechanically based, although in practice these two tend to blur. What all nanotech has in common is the ability to manipulate matter on the scale of individual atoms, and thus to construct almost anything that can physically exist. In practice, nano-assemblers require the correct template or instructions and building material or feedstock. Even basic nanotechnology provides amazingly powerful and efficient labor for every imaginable type of production and service.
The introduction of the first crude nanotechnology during the 21st and 22nd centuries of Old Earth and Interplanetary Age civilization was hailed by many as the greatest revolution since the introduction of technology itself, and perhaps since the emergence of life on Earth. Even so, nanotech was an evolution rather than a revolution, and emerged from the pre-existing knowledge and devices.
Angelnets are a well known and commonly expected use of technology by transapient intellect. The archetypical angelnet is an all-pervasive utility fog system tasked with protecting sophonts and/or local subsystems by reducing or preventing accidents and deliberate attacks. In some circumstances other systems of extensive and networked technology may perform the same task. Angelnets establish total control over a planetary or megastructure surface, atmosphere, and orbital or cis-hab space environment. The secondary functionality of angelnets varies widely, but includes distributed processing capabilities, networking, weather control, creation and movement of infrastructure, Known Net relaying, virtual reality support, and virch-rl interfacing, luxury tech, and scanning underground and above ground features and structures. All of the major archailect worlds and capitals are heavily angelnetted.
For most bionts within the civilized galaxy, angelnets are synonymous with comfort and peace of mind, and a powerful symbol of sephirotic civilization, and the virtues of transapientech in general.
Artificial nanomedical systems
Artificial nanomedical systems, colloquially often known as artificial immune systems, are a common technology within the Inner Sphere and the more advanced areas of the Middle Regions. The systems employ a broad array of nanotechnological devices operating within the user's body and working to both supplement the host's natural biology and provide rapid repair of any damaged tissue.
Artificial nanomedical systems offer numerous advantages over their natural counterparts, including the ability to maintain the body in a 'benchmark' state established beforehand (thereby eliminating aging), the ability to 'learn' and share data with external systems (such as other immune systems, laboratories, and central databases), the ability to heal tissue at a much faster then normal rate, and the ability to allow users to alter their appearance within broad parameters.
A sophont equipped with an artificial nanomedical system is immune to virtually all forms of natural disease and infection and can heal or regenerate from nearly any wound that is not totally destructive. Average lifespan using such a system is potentially unlimited although in practice 1500 years is about average before accident or suicide leads to either permanent death or a complete restoration from Backup.
Biotechnology includes everything from simple agriculture and animal domestication through genetics and organ transplants to DIY gengineering, neogenics, biospherics, and mature bionanotechnology and beyond.
Biotech is as creative as life itself. In the eight and a half millennia since the first crude attempts at gene-splicing on Old Earth, trillions of species of bioengineered organisms have been created, or have evolved from gengineered neogens. These range from the eternally young and cute Metaneko kitten to supercomputing bacteria to lickersucker domestic cleaners and grukovores acting as ecological maintenance machines, to say nothing of the billions of species of organisms designed simply for the sake of bringing a new species into the galaxy.
In the first century AT it was discovered that the crust of the Earth, down to a depth of up to ten kilometers, was populated by an ecosystem of chemosynthetic bacteria living on hydrogen generated from igneous crustal rocks. It was estimated that the total mass of this crustal ecosystem could, perhaps, be as great as that of the entire land and sea ecosystems of the planet. It was theorized that the conditions allowing such as ecosystem to exist would be found in any Earth-like world in or outside the life zone.
Not long after this discovery, it was speculated that if the native crustal bacteria could be replaced by genetically engineered bacteriological computers communicating chemically, or perhaps by chemically-powered nanomachines, then the entire crust of a planet could be turned into a vast, self-powered and very physically secure, if rather slow biological computer. This was dubbed BioGeoComputing (BGC).
Since then BGC systems have been introduced to many worlds, usually as part of the terraforming process, but in some cases later in a world's development. The BGC systems are used to provide vast and ubiquitous computer systems to new settlements (by their drilling down to the 'computing strata'), and for large-scale computing efforts, such as ecosystem modeling. Many also run significant virch worlds.
Genetically engineered trees employing bionanotech. Created to function as a biological space habitat, they were first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in the early Information Age.
A fully-grown tree is a spherical structure up to a hundred kilometers across and generally consists of 4-6 trunk structures growing out from a comet nucleus. Branches grow from the top of each trunk and intertwine and merge with each other to form a single structure. The trunks and primary branches are hollow and contain a breathable atmosphere and symbiotic ecology as well as a space adapted ecology on their exteriors. Various sub-species have been engineered to survive at a variety of distances from a star and under various wavelengths. Generally found at distances ranging from 0.5 to 4 AU around stars in the G, K and M class. Often a popular habitat for space adapted bionts.
In systems where the trees have been long established entire 'orbital forests', consisting of hundreds of trees spread across millions of cubic kilometers, may be found in the most desirable orbits.
"Computronium" is a catchall term for a wide range of substances comprised of very densely packed computational elements. From a human baseline's macro-scale point of view, it would appear to be a continuous substance, much like human brain matter. It is used by higher intelligences for its speed and efficiency. Using it reduces signal times because of the short distance between each element and the fact that the huge number of processing units per unit volume means only a small volume of it is necessary to do a certain amount of work.
Like all computer equipment, there are many different grades and implementations, ranging over all levels of technology.
Colloquial term for a class of diamondoid based processing devices used as the fundamental unit for constructing Second Singularity mind cores as well as various other applications.
A basic processor consists of a diamondoid block measuring 1cm x 1cm x 1mm in size and massing approximately 0.352 grams. A UC typically operates at a baseline comfortable temperature of 300 degrees Kelvin with an input power of approximately 100 watts. Ultimate chips use phonon (quantized vibration packets) based computation and data transmission methods which are much more efficient than photon based designs at temperatures below ~1000 degrees Kelvin in a diamondoid substrate.
A single Ultimate Chip is capable of processing some 5.09911 E21 bits per second and storing approximately 4.88 E20 bits within its structure. When linked to other processing units or external transmission devices designed to operate in the phonon regime it is capable of transmitting information at bandwidth rates of 8.77 E23 bits per second.
In the modern era Ultimate Chips continue to form the basis for Second Singularity minds as well as many of their technologies. They also provide the foundation for the computation and communication networks of a number of civilizations. Even those cultures with access to Third, Fourth, or even higher singularity level technologies will often use 'Ultimate' chips to operate their lower level communication and processing nodes.
An AI, posthuman or Local Archailect Node of extremely high computational power and size. This is the typical megascale concentrated intelligence. Jupiter-brains are usually constructed from the mass of disassembled and transmuted gas giant planets. They may vary somewhat in size but are generally similar in size to their namesake. A standard Jupiter-brain (or J-node as they are often called) is approximately 140,000 km in diameter and masses more then 300 times the mass of the planet Earth. Jupiter-brains are one of the most common computational nodes employed by higher-level archailects. A single node may provide accommodation for an S4 mind while an array of hundreds or thousands of nodes (networked together using wormholes) supports an S5 or S6 hyper-intellect.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence involves programming computers, non-sentient virtuals, nano, and bots to emulate sophont cognitive abilities, and eventually to acquire sentience in their own right. It involves a large number of interrelated fields, including fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, neural networks, pattern recognition algorithms, natural language processing, and speech, etc. Today many software packages are widely available that can automatically enable most non-sentient computational devices to be provolved to sentience.
A transapient AI that has been constructed so as to be totally loyal to an individual or group of lower toposophic level. The Aiviser is almost always a gift from a yet higher toposophic sentience and thus very rare. A few godtech artifacts, with an Aiviser subservient to the user, have also been uncovered. It is common belief that it is not possible to make an Aiviser of ones own or higher toposophic level. At least none are known to have been created by sub-singularitan sapients.
A virtual reality environment provides a convincing replacement for the visual, auditory, tactile, and other senses, including senses with no 'real world' equivalent. Initially (early Information Age), virtual reality required the use of special helmets to provide the visual and auditory environments. By the middle Information Age, virtual reality could be provided by ubiquitous contact-lens-based systems and implanted retinal-imaging devices, as well as comparable devices for auditory "imaging". By the early Interplanetary Age, virtual reality was commonly provided by direct stimulation of nerve pathways using neural implants.
The name given the sum total of all the various simulations, emulations and VR environments in existence across the Known Net at any given time. Some of the oldest Inner Sphere VR creations (known as The Realities) have been in continuous operation for over 9000 years and are sometimes said to match or even exceed the complexity and scope of the 'real' universe. It is not at all unusual for entire planetary or solar civilizations to choose to emigrate into the Cybercosm or one of its Realities. The current emigration rate has held steady at 1-2 billion beings/year for the last several centuries. As of the last census, it is estimated that the Cybercosm contains some 10 E 20 virtualities with some 10 E 10 mimicking (to baseline senses) the fidelity of the 'realized' universe.
Cybercosm based discussion forum employed by various transingularity minds to converse and perhaps argue about those questions and issues that are of long-term or theoretical interest to minds at SI: 1 and above. Multiple communication hierarchies and conceptual process support nodes allow the Noosphere to host users across the entire range of S-levels. Although the vast majority of the conceptual structures generated within the 'sphere are beyond baseline or Superior comprehension, it is rumored that such ideas as the nature of the universe, its origins, and its possible future are but some of the topics 'discussed'. The Noosphere is one of the oldest nodes within the Cybercosm and is even believed by some to have its roots within the 'Internet discussion groups' of the early and mid Information Age. Total active membership at any given time is estimated to be around 3.3 trillion although this number is uncertain due to the great flexibility of the definition of 'individuality' among many of the higher-level members.
An Artificial Wormhole is a traversable wormhole created to allow apparent 'faster-than-light' travel between two points in the Universe. It has two entrances (mouths) called "termini". The termini are connected to each other via the wormhole 'throat', and are kept open via the natural vacuum fluctuations of space-time. By traveling the distance between the mouths, a space vessel can travel immense distances in an FTL-like fashion in the time it takes to travel the throats length in normal space, but without violating Special Relativity. Traversable wormholes constitute the only possible way to travel faster than light (in a global sense, since locally the travelers still move slower than light). For various reasons, including virtual particle flooding and the formation of Cauchy horizons, wormholes cannot be used as time machines.
The sum total of all the star systems connected by wormholes can be broken down into three levels:
The Godweb was built by the archailects, for the archailects, following their emergence to high toposophic states, as a way of rapidly transporting matter and information across interstellar distance and allowing the archailects to expand their minds to an even greater degree. Although some archailects may have been interested in bionts and vecs and cyborgs and other subsingularity beings, while others weren't, this was irrelevant to the business of building the Godweb.
As the centuries passed, lower toposophic minds and polities began to attempt to explore the Godweb. Often they were destroyed, and in a few cases entire solar systems (where the adventurers had come from) were sterilized, reconstructed, and repopulated with more obedient life forms. But in a few cases they were successful. It was discovered that certain archailects didn't really mind the lower toposophics going through some of their wormholes, and in a few cases they even began building a few small wormholes especially for the lower minds and helping them avoid dangerous (guarded by ahuman) wormholes.
The Known Net
That portion of the Godweb that is accessible to non-archailect level minds for regular use.
The Known Net is a vast interlinked network of data using wormhole-linked backbones and relativistically linked secondary nodes. It encompasses the totality of all modosophont accessible knowledge, information and virtuality within Terragen civilization. Including literally trillions of nodes, quadrillions of virtual worlds, and quintillions more file-clusters, the Known Net is the single largest and most complex aggregate of information ever made by terragenkind. The name is ironic, for no-one, not even, it is said, the archailects, knows for sure how big the Known Net is, or how far it extends, for it is based on hardware that itself replicates and spreads organically, with every new star system developed.
A significant fraction of the Known Net is through the Wormhole Nexus; every nanosecond, countless quadrillions of bits of information are beamed through the stargates, from one star system to another. It is often said that the real purpose of the Nexus is to keep the lower level minds happy and that everything routed through it, ships, passengers, freighters, is just window dressing, a stratagem to keep ordinary sophonts out of the gods' way. Regardless of the truth or otherwise of this assertion, there is no denying that the number of virtual entities and copies transmitted through the Nexus is much greater than the number of embodied sentients.
The Wormhole Nexus
The Wormhole Nexus is the portion of the Known Net that is configured to allow the passage of bulk matter such as spacecraft. A modular and ever expanding network of artificial wormholes that already spans much of explored space, it is more than six millennia old, and it is still growing at an accelerating pace. While there are several smaller nexi still unconnected to the main network, when one speaks of the Nexus there is no doubt what is being referred to.
The Nexus allows even the lowliest sophont to cross most of the known galaxy in only five or six standard years of shipboard transit interspersed with instantaneous wormhole 'jumps'. It is the circulatory system of the entire Terragen bubble, conveying goods, services, data streams, and sentients of all kinds to where they are needed, or where they wish to go.
Without ships there could be no galactic civilization. Information transfer through laser link and nanogauge wormhole alone is not sufficient; physical transport by spaceship is necessary to fully bind the galaxy together. The type of ship design, function, and drive has varied greatly throughout history and among the different polities, clades, cultures, and societies, but all ships serve a vital common purpose. Nothing symbolizes Galactic Civilization as perfectly as the Ship.
Sizes and Types
Ships vary in size from vessels small enough to fit into a human hand to craft hundreds of kilometers in length. Some ships carry only a virtual crew of uploads or ais, while others hold entire self-contained ecosystems and corporeal populations of tens of millions.
Ships serve a variety of functions, from basic flyby probes doing initial surveys of new solar systems to intersystem and interstellar transport that ferry sophonts to those worlds and systems both with and without wormhole gates. Much less common than these craft, but usually far larger, are the mobile habitats. These are entire communities or even civilizations that choose to spend nearly all their time in flight, traveling through the dark of interstellar space and using stars and planets as mere waystations on their journeys.
A number of propulsion methods and technologies have been developed across the millennia. Some are the product of ordinary sophont minds, some are transapient designs, and some are the result of archailect imagination and insight. Virtually all are in use at some place or other within the known galaxy. In increasing order of both capability and complexity, some representative propulsion technologies are:Fusion Drive:
The standard fusion rocket uses the D-3
He fuel cycle, with high temperature superconducting coils to extract a magnetic flux tube from a toroidal magnetic fusion reactor and exhaust the thrust. There were many technical difficulties to be overcome; especially involving magnetic field strength and the size and weight of the coils. This engine only became practical with the invention of lightweight super-compact fusion reactors during the mid-2nd century. They very quickly became standard, until they were supplanted in the inner solar system by the anti-matter fusion hybrid drive that became economical with increased output by the big amat cartels of the period.Matter-Antimatter Drive
The Anti-Matter drive harnesses the energy released in matter-antimatter annihilations. Compared to fusion or ion drive the Matter-Antimatter engine can be incredibly powerful, although advanced tech is required to fully utilize this. Cost is generally high, because of the expense of amat, and some polities do not allow amat vessels to dock at the main ports, because of the danger of a catastrophic explosion if there is an accident.Beamrider
Interstellar mass beam propulsion system first conceived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries c.e. The system uses arrays of mass beam projectors to magnetically accelerate self-maneuvering 'smart dust' micro-pellets to near light speed and direct them toward a vessel equipped with a powerful magnetic/plasma sail. The pellets vaporize upon impact with the magsail and transfer their momentum to the craft, accelerating it to a significant percentage of the speed of light.Conversion Drive
Conversion drives (or monopole catalyzed fusion drives, as they are more formally called) use massive artificial magnetic monopoles to increase the efficiency of a standard fusion drive up to nearly 100% if so desired.
In its most basic form, a conversion drive is a reinforced fusion drive using magnetic confinement to contain the fusion reaction and eject the resulting high-energy plasma from the vessel to provide thrust. In their lowest power mode, most conversion drives still operate in this manner and are no more efficient or capable than any other fusion drive system. However, when desired, massive artificial magnetic monopoles (usually held in storage rings surrounding the reaction vessel) are magnetically injected into the containment chamber and repeatedly cycled through the reaction zone at its center. Through the process of 'S-wave sucking' the monopoles induce baryon decay within the plasma stream and effectively convert a greater percentage of the fusion fuel into energy than would be achievable through thermonuclear processes alone. By increasing the number of monopoles passing through the reaction zone, either by increasing the number of monopoles used or cycling them through at faster rates, drive efficiency may be increased to levels approaching 100%.
At such levels the drive exhaust is effectively a beam of high-energy gamma rays focused to near laser-like intensity. Great care must be taken to avoid irradiating planets and habitats along the vessel's flight path or even destroying the vessel itself if there is a containment or drive reflector failure. For these reasons, as well as the remote but finite possibility of a runaway conversion reaction (something not possible with a standard fusion drive) most systems in the Civilized Galaxy strictly regulate the power levels of conversion drives operating within them and require long range and interstellar-capable vessels to operate at much less than maximum power while anywhere within a prescribed distance of the system primary (generally at least one light-day).
When powered down, the monopoles are magnetically collected and stored until the next time the drive is in operation.
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