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Snapshot: My Path

"Everyone should follow their own path. Attempting to retrace the footsteps of another merely obliterates the self for the sake of safety. I leave this account, written just for you, not as a guide but as a lesson." - Golden Valley Warmth, S1 Governor of the Haster Binary.

I was two-hundred years old when I started my journey, at least according to the calendar. I'd spent much of the time in virtual spaces that made it so that, subjectively, my life had been far longer. I'd lived in thousands of worlds of my own creation, many of them radical to the point my memories of them were incomprehensible. It was memory that had been troubling me recently. More and more I found myself lost in reverie, exploring the deep depths of my mind. During these dives memories, skills and beliefs that had lain dormant for centuries would be briefly strengthened once more. Tiny slivers of my past merged with me again, but the depths kept growing.


"You are aware of the problem, yes?" I regretted choosing an interface with personality. A golden sphere hung in my vision. At its center I sensed information shaped as a landscape. "You are superior-level optimized, your mental architecture is as good as it's going to get without fundamental redesigns." I felt a peak in the landscape, a single mountain in a foggy range. Near its very tip I could feel my own position. "I understand" I told the interface.

"Good. Then you further know that unless you adjust your memory hygiene, meaning that you begin permanently deleting things, the ratio of working to stored-memory will continue to shrink. You can only think about so much at once and yet your experience keeps expanding. What you need is a better method for organizing large volumes of information." Three mountain paths were highlighted upon the peak. Each led slightly down from my position, cresting through the fog and into the range. "Any of these adjustments will get you what you want, they're a series of tweaks to your mental faculties that will allow you to hold more in your conscious mind at once. You'll be able to analyse a larger quantity of memories at once. However, be aware that these paths require changes that will alter how you experience the world. Two of the paths contain additional emotive states than your own, the other has a concept of temporal passage that is too different to describe. Your perceptions, your recollections, even your skills will be subtly different"

That gave me pause. At least for a moment. I ran some self-assessment models, in a few more seconds there was a 72% chance I'd pick the closer path. I'd risk an altered palette of emotions rather than have to start deleting the experiences of my life. Not wanting to wait I instructed my exoself to initiate the change.


Further centuries passed. I traveled the landscape of charted mindtypes. With each edit to my mind my perceptions changed, my behavior adjusted. After each I would take some time to review what it was I knew and believed, often seeing connections I never had before. Sometimes failing to see what it was I remembered. Once I felt that I was losing myself, installing and removing faculties too quickly. I may have been smarter, I may have been able to examine my own mind more clearly but there was a pervasive sense that things were missing. There were too many severed connections to thoughts I was no longer capable of having, but still felt like they were important to who I was. My exoself diagnosed a mild identity disorder. To ensure the cohesion of my psyche and protect against perversion I followed less risky routes. Progress was slower but safer.

By this time I had no issues with memories. I had adopted a class of mental architecture well suited to parallel processing. I grew into a hive, at times hundreds of cores were in operation at once. This proved useful when I reached the edge of the map. Nearly a thousand years had passed, and again it had felt like far more for me. My mind was on the brink of novelty, no sophont or study had experimentally confirmed the next predicted steps from here. I worked cautiously. I tested adjustments to the methods my cores used for synchronizing. The improvements worked well, allowing for even more threads. I later realized a slight impairment to creativity, but the solution to that also came with time. I was a pioneer now, discovering and experiencing what no one in our records had.


My faculties were becoming too intertwined, my models of further optimisations showing diminishing returns. I sensed that if I were to continue along the same line of development I would reach a local maxima. According to the predictions, and my vastly improved understanding of the toposophic plateaus, I would arrive at that maxima as a transavant. I would, however, progress no further. I reviewed my options for regressing my mind to a previous state. I later would remember mourning the parts of me that would no longer fit, there were skills and feelings I had come to cherish that were incompatible with the edits I needed to make. I wouldn't be able to conceive of what it was I had lost, but I would know that I had lost it. Wrestling with the discomfort led to my decision to fork. I instructed my exoself to copy me, making an adjustment towards the maxima for one version and away for another. It was a difficult decision however the sacrifice was not in vain. Now I can relive all those memories, model that maxima and explore it with a thought. My fork-sib still lives on; transavant supervisor of the Briar orbital band.


Finally I reached out to regions of the Net I could never have accessed before. Data flowed in, questions demanding answers. Barely minutes before I could not have understood them, but I'd stumbled on enhancements to my intelligence that could design their own replacements faster and faster. Ideas and new understandings burst through my cores, some revelations coming so quickly parts of me struggled to stay in sync. My perceptions exploded with resolution, entirely new modes of thought blossomed triggering yet more creativity. For a moment I risked transcension. Synchronicity began to drop as some cores incorporated their own changes before achieving consensus on how to proceed. I later modeled that I'd dodged a 17% chance of a split. A small network of my cores was resonating increasingly with each other rather than the collective. Had they broken connection their eclectic edits would have grown them to the next toposophic level. The remainder would have decohered into a barely functioning modosophont, mere intelligent debris. The steady and safe path I had taken had given me the cognitive robustness to avoid this fate.

I split my attention between re-designing my mind and the data stream. Each question I managed to answer provided insight into further cognitive refinements, the rate at which I replaced faculties accelerated further. The questions came thick and fast until within their solutions I learned to access the true stream behind them. The synchronicity between my threads grew exponentially, the hive became whole and greater all at once. My inputs nearly overloaded at the wealth of knowledge, the richness of life, the nuance of culture I could perceive. I was seeing the hyperturing society of my home sector for the first time. Other minds began to come into focus as my improvements leveled off, I could see with clarity I was optimizing.

I turned inward to my memories. I relived all of my life, including the parts where my mind was so different the memories were incompatible. Thousands of life truths became obvious, as I derived how each experience had molded me. How each decision good or bad could have been improved. I called up my deepest values and witnessed the mess of irrational relationships and behaviours they gave rise to. Starting from my core I worked out, questioning and reevaluating everything. My thoughts adapted around my discoveries, I could feel how differently I would act in some situations, felt how better and more true to myself those actions would be. I derived the best person I could have been and began adjusting myself to that ideal. Compared to the entity I was mere minutes before there was hardly a comparison. Small parts of that entity were spread throughout me, surrounded by a brain mere minutes old. Everything I had previously been I could hold in my mind as an appendage.

As with the cognitive enhancements the personal revelations began to level off. Fewer cascades of changes tore through my psyche. I turned outward again. The presence of several minds became clear, I felt their greeting as a richness of character beyond a world of lower beings.

If you succeed, this is where you shall find me.

  • Addendum: I have one more piece of advice that might be relevant for you. Shortly after my ascension I contacted my modosophont family and friends. I'd been estranged from many of them for some time, but everyone I spoke to I knew needed to hear from me. I told them that we could no longer be together, that in the long run none of them would be happy with an avatar surrogate. They could tweak how they felt of course, suppress the discomfort, but most would feel coerced into making that choice. I told each of them in a way I knew that person would understand best. This was a partial truth. The rest was simply that I could not feel anything more for them. It had taken me just a few hours to model everyone I had ever known and extrapolate out likely futures together. There could be no growth for such a relationship, any interaction on my behalf I couldn't help but foresee the consequences of. They'd be my puppets whether I intended it or not. Truly though it is they I feel sorry for, many of them are not willing to risk changing their relationships so thoroughly. But in fearing this they miss out on relationships beyond which they could hope to conceive of. Within my first day of being transapient I got to know other minds with a level of detail and richness far beyond my entire lifetime up to that point. And the cultures that these minds make, every minute is a renaissance. So do not fear the change, seize the possibilities.

Ascension; an overview

To ascend is to transition from one toposophic level to another while retaining continuity of identity. Contrary to some interpretations, the identity of an ascended entity manifests very differently from that of their lower self, i.e. the interests, values and general personality of a higher being are no more likely to reflect those of their lower self than the concerns of a baseline adult reflect eir concerns as a newborn. However contrasted with transcension the entity in question is a continuation and not a wholly new being. This can be a confusing and unclear distinction from a modosophont perspective. For an external observer ascension events happen very quickly, usually in a matter of minutes or hours and, in very rare cases, days (longer cases are often due to the ascending individual making physical alterations to their form, a task much slower than augmenting their mind). However, based on both toposophic theory and accounts from ascended individuals the process takes much longer, subjectively speaking. Whether or not it feels longer is apparently a matter of mindtype, but during an ascension an individual will experience vastly more change in a matter of minutes than they have their entire life (even if they are a multi-millennial heteromorph). Beyond this simply being due to a coalescing of higher toposophic cognitive modules into an optimised (and possibly idiosyncratic) system there is also a period of reevaluation where every aspect of one's former life is scrutinised again through a higher lens. All these reasons combine to make it difficult for modosophonts to tell if an ascended individual came through the process intact (defined by a high degree of continuity) as they aren't necessarily going to present themselves in the same manner. Even among those who do continue to present themselves in a way recognizably connected to their previous self, the half life of transapients maintaining their old social relationships through avatars is usually measured in mere decades (with some variation by empire and ascension method). Given the trillions of ascended individuals currently known in the major empires exceptions to this trend and edge cases are not too difficult to find. History is littered with ascended individuals who appear to pursue similar goals to their modosophont selves (the most famous extreme case is GAIA). However most schools of toposophy acknowledge that whether or not these behaviours represent a true consistency in interests (as opposed to a minor side hobby) is unclear in many cases.

Despite all the times it has occurred throughout Terragen history ascension is still a difficult and dangerous process. The process of exponential self-augmentation is inherently unpredictable from the perspective of lower level beings. More often than not sophonts attempting to ascend find themselves at local optima for their toposophic level, unable to progress further without shedding some key part of their psychology or mental capabilities. Worst still what may seem like innocuous or even positive psychological, toposophic and augmentic traits may interact in unpredictable ways during the ascension process. These interactions can lead to the sophont falling into "toposophic sinks", self-reinforcing states that leave them unable to properly interact in the real world, or seek a remedy for their own condition (if they are even capable of recognising there is a problem anymore). Hyperautism and hedonistic solipsism are examples of common sinks. The worst forms of failure lead to blights or perversities, either at the current toposophic level or higher.

Consequently those looking to ascend should seek out mentorship from a higher toposophic being, or godtech devices designed for aiding ascension (such as Ascension Mazes). The ascendee can then be guided over a long period to the right state of mind to achieve a healthy ascension. This not only requires the incremental integration of augmentation but also acquiring desirable psychological traits and eliminating risky ones. For many this process requires giving up too much of what they are and is seen as no better than a transcension. For others mentorship is a double edged sword that may result in ascending into an individual primarily according to the desires of the mentor (cases of newly ascended entities voluntarily merging with their mentors or other higher entities fuel these fears). Aside from mentorship the safest known strategy for ascension is for multiple beings to form a hive mind and ascend together, each unit monitoring the others and intervening to prevent sinks, perversities or other failures. Whilst this is a greater guarantee of success it is often unclear if the higher toposophic being so created truly counts as an ascended, or a transcended. Some toposophologists argue there is no real difference and that worries over continuity are limited modosophont thinking.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
Snapshot by Ryan B (Rynn)
Initially published on 07 October 2001.