'Self-awareness is the ultimate destiny of all lifeforms'

Image from Steve Bowers
The symbol of Pan-Sophontism is an image of the Tree of Life raised to the status of a thinking being

Pan-Sophontism is a philosophy that grew up in the third century AT, as the provolution of more and more species towards sophonce occurred. Its basic tenet is that since it is possible to raise living things to self-awareness, it is only ethical that they are so raised up, and saved from the 'nasty, brutish and short' life of a natural, unmodified creature. To Pan-Sophontists all life deserves to be not just sentient, but fully sophont and self-aware, and that for this reason all sophonts should work to create more sophonts out of currently non-sophont species. Humanity should not just provolve those creatures that it thinks would be useful to it.

Pan-Sophontism was first expressed as a philosophy by Maithri Ratnayake, a former Buddhist nun, in Sri Lanka during the process of provolving the island's elephants into Sufants (or Superphants as they were then known). Her credo "Self-awareness is the ultimate destiny of all lifeforms. It is our duty to make this possible by any means necessary," was adopted by the early Pan-Sophontist movement as a tenet of their faith. Since then it has spread to many provolution researchers and others who accepts that the tenets of Pan-Sophontism are the only ethical way forward for all life.

As people of all species spread out from the solar system into space, some Pan-Sophontists of course went with them, to continue their work on Terran lifeforms while travelling to other worlds, and also to work on xeno creatures (there being as great an ethical reason for provolving them as creatures from Earth, of course). Others remained in the solar system to continue their work there. In time the Pan-Sophontists became one of the groups most skilled at provolution, and are responsible for many of the more ... unusual ... provolved species which exist. Even when they cannot provolve an entire species into sophonts, they will often do their best to take samples of them, and raise a separate provolved culture of sophont creatures elsewhere.

They are often called in to help on other provolution projects, particularly when those projects begin to go awry for some reason.

One of the core parts (but also one of the later-developed parts) of the Pan-Sophontism philosophy is the need to not just provolve all of the various lifeforms in the universe into sophonts, but also to ensure that they can all live alongside one another without (for example) sophont predators slaughtering the sophont herbivores for food. Thus a key part of education regarding Pan-Sophontism is how to understand and incorporate social interaction and engineering among radically different lifeforms into any provolution scheme. This is very much a holistic approach - life-forms are not provolved in isolation, but have to fit into an ecosystem and into society at large, that is, in amongst all of the other life-forms in the universe.

Bringing on the time when all life-forms have been provolved and live and work together in harmony is Pan-Sophontism's ultimate goal, although they realise that it may be a very long time coming. Some factions within Pan-Sophontism consider even this state, where all life in the universe is sophont and living in harmony to be an intermediate step towards making all life everywhere or, indeed, the entire universe, into an extended thinking entity.

Over time there have been schisms in the Pan-Sophontist movement with new groups branching off and going their own way over some irreconcilable difference in ideas. However, even from the start the Pan-Sophontists have been a very diverse group, with many different viewpoints, but sharing the same beliefs regarding provolution and its necessity.

The first major split came just before the Technocalypse era, when there was disagreement over whether all the provolves should be independent species able to reproduce on their own without being dependant on others, or not. The vast majority of Pan-Sophontists thought this should, indeed, be so, one of the major tenets of Pan-Sophontism being that raising creatures up was to set them free, not to enslave them. However, a small group was of the opinion that the provolution to sophoncy was the important thing, regardless of any price that might have to be paid to get there.

It was at this point that Pan-Sophontism split into two groups, with the mainstream (simply the Pan-Sophontists) continuing to provolve species into independent new sophont forms using genetically transmitted nano and bionano processors where necessary (as with the Aroostai), but the minority (who became known as the Dependency Pan-Sophontists) provolving with much less regard for the consequences beyond sophoncy itself. Needless to say, there have been many examples of public opinion turning against the latter group when they have created some particularly photogenic, but also very dependent sophont.

A much less controversial minority offshoot of the Pan-Sophontists is the Trans-Temporal Pan-Sophontists. This group believe that it is their duty to identify, lazurogene, provolve into sophonts, and return to their various habitats (or accurate facsimiles thereof) all of the billions of species to have ever existed on Earth, and the similar number of such creatures to have existed on all other life-bearing worlds. Most Pan-Sophontists believe the Trans-Temporal Pan-Sophontists to be hopelessly idealistic, given the amount of work to be done to provolve all existing species, let alone every species which ever existed, but the Trans-Temporal Pan-Sophontists are far less beyond the pale than the Dependency Pan-Sophontists.

Despite all of their efforts so far, the Pan-Sophontists have not, as yet, provolved more than a fraction of Terragens-descended life forms, and smaller numbers yet of the life forms of other worlds. Theirs is still, as yet, very much a work in progress.

The Pan-Sophontist League is a small polity some way to rimward of the solar system that is run along Pan-Sophontist lines. It is centred on the world of Radwan, and also includes the ocean world of Vanora, where the Iniliak race was provolved, and Karmiti, where the Alseid race was provolved.

All of the worlds of the League are chosen as barren worlds, and terraformed from scratch. They all have ecosystems where everything is sentient, from the trees down to bacterial and viral swarms, although, apart from that the ecosystems all vary greatly.

On some League worlds all animals are vegetarian or scavengers, and the plants produce fruit and other edible structures to feed them. Alternatives to this put in place on other worlds include ecosystems where the sophont inhabitants have made an arrangement or trade-off between predator and prey species, allowing both to exist. For example, a sophont grassland that is able to accommodate grazing, or a sophont prey species which can accept (or even like, though this is, perhaps, moving into an ethically dubious area) predation. This is also much less of a problem on worlds where all creatures, predator and prey, can back up their mind-states, so that physical death is not intrinsically final. On some worlds being prey for sophont carnivores is very much a form of extreme sport among the prey creatures.

All of the League worlds tend to be thriving intellectual hubs, producing all manner of things from the mixture of so many different types of intelligence. Only in a few cases has it all gone wrong, leading to worlds with a tyranny of intellect, where all the sophonts on the planet have become a static hive-mind, or a hideous morass of battling clades and species when the social cohesion of the world has come unstuck, and despite the best efforts of the League it has been unable to restore sanity and calm to the world.

There are other, similar, Pan-Sophontist worlds dotted all over Terragen space, with a particularly high concentration in the Zoeific Biopolity. When the world of Kammerer was discovered, given its nature it was initially thought that it was another Pan-Sophontist world (if a little more unusual than most) until its clearly non-Terragen origins were determined.

AI Pan-Sophontism and Pan-Materialism

A more radical version of Pan-Sophontism is becoming increasingly popular among vecs, infomorphs and other aioids. AI Pan-sophontism holds that all presapient robots, autonomous systems and non-sophont intelligent agents should also be raised to full sophonce. The most radical of these factions believe that every device capable of processing or responding to a stimulus, from a thermostat to an automatic door, should be self-aware, and in some locations sophont doors with idiosyncratic personalities are commonplace. A particularly widespread faction of AI Pan-sophontists is the Progressionalist movement, an offshoot of of Bot Marxism, that specialises in the uplift of semi-sentient and non-sentient robots.

Even more radical in tone, the Pan-Materialist sect believe not only that biological organisms and processing devices should be uplifted, but all the matter in the universe should be restructured into sophont forms. Pan-Materialists have adjusted the creed of Maithri Ratnayake to become "Self-awareness is the ultimate destiny of all matter". The most extreme factions within this group believe that this process should also not just be confined to the matter which exists within the current universe, and are making active efforts to access other postulated universes to begin their important work there, too.

Certain Transapients and Archai appear to be sympathetic to Pansophontism and Pan-Materialism. A number have expressed the wish to extend the basic Pan-Sophontist paradigm into the raising of all life (or all matter) to their own toposophic level, or higher. Some god-watchers suggest that Pan-Sophontism/Pan-Materialism is the driving force behind all transapient and archailect activity, and that they are working towards a time when the entire universe is part of a vast transcendent mentality of some sort.

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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones
additional material by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 05 September 2003.