A goal is the purpose, aim or desired result that an active entity (or group of entities) envisions, models, plans and commits to achieve. An active entity in this context can be defined as any entity which can act with intent; such an entity may be sentient, sophont or transapient, or it may be considerably less capable and simply following a set of ingrained behaviours. Often active entities act in a group to decide goals and strategies and achieve a common purpose.
A sentient, sophont or transapient entity may derive a goal or set of goals for itself, or it may choose a goal or set of goals from the goals adopted by other active entities. Often goals are the result of collective endeavour, conceived and elaborated upon by a group of entities working together. Subsapient active entities are generally born or created with a set of goals which are hardwired into their mental structure, goals which have emerged through a process of evolution, or have been deliberately designed by more competent actors.
Active entities that do not have a viable goal architecture must either acquire one or fall into inactivity and purposelessness. In some cases a long-dormant intelligent agent may be reactivated simply by giving it a goal or set of goals to work towards.
The complexity of such goals can vary, from simple survival, self- or sexual-replication to the collection of material resources, knowledge and the construction of infrastructure and societies. In most cases the sophistication of such goals will depend greatly on the intelligence and processing capacity of the entity or entities concerned, although some very toposophically-advanced entities appear to pursue a number of very simple goals.
A self-evolving individual may create a wide range of goals and move towards them, no matter how silly or unobtainable they are. Goals which have been adopted by various actors include the conversion of all matter in the universe to computronium or its equivalent; gathering and storing all available energy and/or information against the eventual heat death of the universe; propagation of supernovae to create more heavy metals; exploration of the quantum universe at a very small level(danger here be dragons); the creation and inhabitation of baby universes that support life or computation, especially if these are more congenial than the existing universe.
A goal is considered benevolent if it does not conflict with the goals of other entities, or can be accommodated by those entities with mutual benefit. Sometimes an actor might create a goal for itself which is actively dangerous, or conflicts very badly with the goals of other active entities. One example would be the destruction of all other active entities, or just their memories or simply their goal systems; another similar negative goal would be the subversion of all other sentient beings into a mental monoculture using itself as the template. Perversities and Blights have arisen on several occasions which have adopted one or several of these deleterious goals, and in some cases the stability of the Terragen Sphere has been in peril until these entities were neutralised or given alternative goals.
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 31 December 2002.