Homo Economicus
Homo Economicus
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A typical Economicus using multitasking mods, supporting feedbots and extra power support.


Most cyborgs augment their intelligence using computronium implants, seeking to gain the benefits of high-speed substrates while retaining their biological mind. But there have always been those willing to go a step further and replace their brain entirely with artificial processors, seeking greater performance even at the risk of radically altering their personalities. These so-called 'Changeling' clades seek to become true biont-AI hybrids, editing and overclocking themselves in pursuit of their goals. The first cyborgs to adopt this lifestyle became known as Homo Economicus, and it was the emergence of the NoCoZo that brought their clade into the mainstream.


Transitioning to a fully electronic brain has been a goal of cyborg cultures since the Interplanetary Age, but early computronium was too bulky and crude to fit within the confines of a human skull. The first uploads in Solsys had to control their old bodies remotely from the computer clusters where their minds resided, and though turing-grade processors continued to shrink in size, the expertise to build these advanced CPUs was lost during the chaos of the Technocalypse. On top of this, cooling and powering a CPU within a biological body was a non-trivial obstacle, and even when computronium became small enough to fit within the skull during the early First Federation period, external batteries and cooling systems had to be fitted to the user's head for the technology to be viable.

Not until the late First Federation period would the dream of a fully cybernetic brain in a biont body be realised, made possible by the improvement of gradual uploading methods using nanotechnology, as well as DNI capable of connecting directly to a user's nervous system without the need for a translator. Computronium could now power itself directly from the nutrients in a user's bloodstream, as well as running at low enough power levels to be cooled by the body's natural thermoregulatory processes. Replacement of the brain neuron by neuron with organically grown processors mitigated most concerns about continuity of consciousness, while providing a much more accessible way for bionts to augment their intelligence.

Among the first clades to take advantage of these new advances were ambitious Nearbaselines, who put their new high-speed minds to use in business and finance. The electronic synapses of these cyborgs far surpassed the switching speed of the neurons used in biological tissue, allowing them to outperform even the most talented Superiors. But they were not content merely to run their minds at faster subjective speeds, and with the emerging field of psychoware they redesigned their motivational systems to derive greater pleasure from planning, process management, and game theory.

These cyborgs called themselves Homo Economicus; a new clade of human capable of working non-stop for their shareholders with no sleep required and only short breaks for eating and excreting. It was not long before these requirements were also done away with, thanks to artificial organs capable of synthesising nutrients from energy-rich chemical feedstocks with a minimum of waste generated. For a brief time, it seemed as though Economicus would come to dominate at the modosophont level of society, driving lesser bionts into poverty due to their inability to compete.

Unfortunately for Economicus, great progress had also been made in the development of non-sentient expert systems, which quickly began to take over from sophont labour in every field of expertise, leading to a true post-scarcity economy for the first time in Terragen history. No sooner than they had been created, Economicus had already been rendered obsolete. Though they continued to thrive in the post-Federation era, their business endeavours became no more than an eccentric hobby, unnecessary for survival and indulged in merely to stave off the boredom of immortal life.

With the founding of the NoCoZo in the Age of Consolidation, the Economicus clade found a new lease of life. Though their high-speed minds no longer had the decisive advantage they once enjoyed, their lack of need for rest and high productivity lead to great demand for their services, and Economicus became the single most popular cyborg clade in the NoCoZo. The life of an Economicus is a simple one, with an endless supply of work and a rich mental life free from feelings such as boredom or restlessness, which some long-lived bionts eventually find to be a burden. This has contributed to their widespread distribution in the present day, along with a steady flow of converts to the clade.

Physiology and appearance

The Economicus upgrade package was initially tailored for the genomes of Nearbaselines and Superiors by Federation-associated megacorps. In the modern era, compatible versions have been developed for Tweaks, Provolves, Splices and many other biont phyles; the term Homo Economicus refers specifically to cyborgs based on human phenotypes. It is usually administered through an autodoc, or simply by running software in a user's DNI, allowing their medisystem to replace their brain and internal organs with high-performance artificial equivalents.

The brain is converted into a series of ring-shaped diamondoid processors, each connected to a pair of valves and a power socket on the back of the skull. Economicus uses a vasculoid circulatory system instead of blood, which is circulated through microchannels in the processors to remove heat and can be pumped through the valves to an external refrigerator for greater cooling performance. With extra power delivery through the rear sockets, Economicus can overclock their processors to speeds tens of thousands of times greater than what biological neurons would be capable of.

Artificial organs replace the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive and excretory systems, which are capable of synthesising all nutrients required by the body from chemical fuels. These feedstocks are loaded into the abdomen though the navel and can also extract wastes from the body, allowing for a non-stop lifestyle with minimal maintenance downtime. Wear and tear suffered by the joints and muscles are repaired as soon as they occur by medicytes, and specialised tissues surrounding the processors convert nutrients into power. Even the skin is optimised with a bioluminescent layer capable of optical data transfer.

The bodyplan remains largely unchanged by default, but optional enhancements include additional limbs for manipulating multiple objects simultaneously, enhanced muscles for high-speed movement, large fins for greater heat dissipation and compubones for even more processing power. Most Economicus do not have any hair or clothing to avoid obscuring transmission, making up for a lack of wearable fashion with augmented reality displays. Since they typically have little attachment to any particular physical form, Economicus often diverge greatly from their original clade.

Psychology and Cognition

During the uploading process, the biont's mental structure is optimised for greater efficiency and performance, especially the functions of sensory processing and motor control, which are greatly simplified. This frees up CPU cycles for use by the simulated cerebral cortex and subcortical areas, allowing Economicus to think much more quickly than they could with their original brains. Without external cooling, they are capable of thinking and perceiving the world around them dozens of times faster than a typical biont, while with it they can think thousands of times faster. Alternatively, they can run at much slower speeds, but with greatly increased multitasking capacity, dividing their consciousness into a hivemind. Each submind can handle its own separate task, with one out of every twelve minds also acting as a hub for the others, allowing Economicus to handle up to 36 tasks simultaneously.

Handling the enormous amount of information generated by such advanced parallel processing can be challenging for any subsingularity being, and Economicus often use integrated psychoware to detect relevant patterns in the data. One of the most frequent criticisms of the Economicus upgrade package is that it prioritises brute force computing power over enhanced insight and creativity, but members of the clade who try to correct these flaws by redesigning their minds often find that other areas of performance suffer instead. Despite their high-performance electronic brains, Economicus are capable of quickly reaching the limits of their mental potential, and trying to expand their capabilities even further inevitably requires tradeoffs between sheer capacity and refined understanding. Nonetheless, editing one's mind for greater performance in specific areas has become a popular pursuit in Economicus cultures, and on rare occasions some even manage to ascend to the next toposophic level.

Being designed from the ground up for the world of business, Economicus uses a rationally-oriented system of motivation, deriving pleasure and satisfaction from managing complex processes and predicting market trends using simulated modosophont subminds. They experience an intense compulsion to generate ideal solutions for a given set of parameters, especially when the customer may not be able to articulate exactly what would satisfy them. For Economicus, the world is a series of mathematical problems with ambiguous end-states, and determining which potential outcomes are worth investigating is just as rewarding as reaching the perfect outcome. Calculated risk comes naturally to them, and in fact Economicus are untroubled by poor results, relishing the chance to refine their models even further. They can be frustrating to work with for other sophonts, but few would disagree that they deliver exceptional results.

Society and Culture

Although it was designed for productivity, the Economicus template has been adapted for many other purposes since it was first introduced. Devotees of the old First Federation religions such as the Philosophy of Abundance and Zarathustrism found that the Economicus mind was a natural fit for their spirituality, and that they could use its multitasking skills to maintain relationships with loved ones without distracting them from enlightenment. Vecs interested in exploring organic forms have also used it in their Kja Observance rituals, and many virtual sophonts take advantage of the fact that its reproductive organs remain intact to produce children with their ril-world partners. In many ways, Economicus are ideally positioned to bridge the embodied and virtual ways of life, creating hybrid cultures wherever the template is adopted in large numbers.

Their high bandwidth network interfaces also make the Economicus template a popular choice for group minds, particularly those which incorporate vecs as members, since Economicus can natively understand the protocols required. Many of the largest market speeder collectives are composed of Synthetics and their Economicus employers, acting as both producers and consumers at the same time, their economic output driving entire societies. Even Economicus that prefer to work alone participate in modding communities, where the latest methods for optimising performance are shared between members. Though no one lifestyle or culture dominates among Economicus, what they share in common is the longing to break new ground in their chosen endeavour and the willingness to adopt whatever modifications are necessary to achieve that goal.

Homo Economicus in the 11th Millennium

Over the course of the last millennium, it has become fashionable in the NoCoZo to conduct business relationships face-to-face, or as close as is possible, seen as a sign of 'authenticity' and 'engagement' with customers. Most entrepreneurs have adapted to this trend by using avatars, but those using cyborg forms like Economicus make a marketing point out of the fact that the customer is coming 'face-to-face' with the actual computing node hosting their consciousness. Thanks to this good fortune, there are now around 240 trillion Economicus in the NoCoZo, while the clade also serves as a means for Keterists and Solarists to pursue ascension using a humanoid form. Around 60 trillion Economicus reside in the Keter Dominion as of 10,000 AT, along with 30 trillion in the Solar Dominion and 20 trillion in the Sophic League.

Perhaps the greatest draw of the Economicus for those who convert is their undiluted focus on their goals, enabling tremendous productive output that can transform entire societies in a short period of time. Though it is sometimes abandoned after the task for which it was employed is done, many sophonts enjoy the sense of clarity and lack of anxiety they experience as Economicus. On the other hand, the performance and efficiency oriented mental architecture of the clade has been criticised as leading to psychological stagnancy and obsessive behaviour, though this is as much a deliberate lifestyle choice on the part of converts as an inherent part of the Economicus template. To this day, Economicus continues to serve as an ideal form for those who want to work without interruption for decades or even centuries on end.
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Development Notes
Text by Extherian, updated 2020
from an original concept by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 07 November 2001.