Redux Strategy, The
The following is an excerpt from the collection of humanist essays, The Musings of Greater Minds by the popular 105th century scholar and philosopher, Aksyaja N'stet.
Terragen civilization faces a potential crisis. There exist only a handful of spacefaring species, and the galaxy is littered with the remnants of extinct civilizations. Still, by and large, it remains quite empty. The Fermi Paradox remains maddeningly relevant. If intelligence and singularity ascension is as easy as the presence of numerous post-singularity species suggests, why hasn't the galaxy been overwhelmed with aggressively expansionist civilizations? Life is easy to create from lifelessness; intelligence is frequent enough in arising from nonintelligence that it poses something of a problem. Numerous intelligences have achieved interstellar spaceflight ... but not one has succeeded in conquering the galaxy. The absence of choking mobs of extraterrestrial sophonts suggests that the Great Filter, postulated millennia ago by Information Age thinkers as a mechanism for the Fermi Paradox, exists somewhere in Terragen civilization's future, rather than in its past. Something is killing off spacefaring civilizations on a massive, unrestricted scale. More disturbing yet, it seems to be doing so without leaving the barest hint of what it could be.
The problem with many theories invoking natural disasters as a mechanism is one of overkill. A cataclysm large enough and powerful enough to wipe out an advanced starfaring civilization would have to be *so* large and *so* powerful as to wipe out *all* life, at any level, everywhere. For instance, a sudden rash of supernovae, a nearby gamma ray burst or a galactic core explosion could extinguish not only intelligent starfaring clades, but most bacterial life as well. Furthermore, such a massive, galaxy-scale "reset event" ought to leave ample evidence of its occurrence. Such evidence is lacking in the galaxy today ... so all but the most intricate of these naturalistic hypotheses must be ruled out.
Some other theories suggest an artificial Filter. Marauding superintellects, or berserker constructs such as the fabled Dawn Hunters may be responsible for the dearth of intelligent life in the galaxy. This hypothesis faces a circular trap, however. The Dawn Hunters were built -- where are their builders? And if they are so effective a deterrent to interstellar expansion that the galaxy today is so empty, then why is interstellar civilization possible at all? If a species like the Muuh were capable of repelling a Dawn Hunter attack eons ago, then why haven't other more advanced races done the same? Why do we not see such races today lording over the galactic prize their conquest of the Great Filter has earned them?
A more successful and generally favorable hypothesis turns to toposophics for its rationale, basing its agent of destruction in the psychology of sapience itself. Intelligence, they suggest, is inherently unstable and self-destructive. Particularly when subject to singularity-type discontinuities in their scope and process, intelligent minds are prone to break-down and dead-end evolution. This hypothesis is supported in part by toposophic findings, which suggest that many paths of ascension are dead ends themselves, it being much more difficult to ascend further from some toposophic points than from others.
A reasonable extrapolation of this would lead us to conclude that, as intellects ascend higher in the toposophic scales, the number of opportunities for further ascension diminish. Dead ends become more numerous and thus more frequently encountered at the higher S levels. Over any time scale, the eventual fate of a dead-ended mind must be extinction. It simply has nowhere else to go. As this principle applies to individuals at higher toposophic levels, so it applies to civilizations consisting of such individuals. Over time, the majority of members of a given intelligent species can be expected to ascend through the toposophic levels to reach dead ends. Once these ends are reached, they can advance no further, and have literally nowhere else to go but to extinction. The Great Filter then, is not a physical entity, but a characteristic of our own minds. Those species that ascend in their entirety may be putting all their eggs into one basket. As all members of those species ascend toward the same dead-ended toposophic point, their collective fate is sealed.
The lesson for Terragen civilization is obvious. Always make sure you have a fallback position, which in this case means you must always keep around members of your species that operate at a lower, more "fundamental" toposophic level. This ideas has been formulated into a doctrine known as the Redux Strategy. Adherents to this doctrine seem to inhibit the universal ascension of the human species. Many of them cultivate and shelter their own communities of lower-level sophonts -- primarily baselines, as these are seen as the most fundamental and "primordial" modes of humanity. These guarded baseline societies represent Terragen civilization's "fallback position." Scattered as far as possible across the galaxy and protected as much as can be from higher toposophic influences, these baselines are seen by their keepers as the seeds of a new society. The Metasoft Baseline reserves are a prime example of this strategy.
Some take this idea to extremes. They practice a kind of husbandry among lower level sophonts, "assembling" and "purifying" what they consider to be "pure" strains of baseline minds, which they jealously guard and shelter from other potentially doomed higher toposophics out of fear that their seeds will be tainted. As toposophic ascension produces more and more "mad" superintellects like GAIA, Verifex, the Queen of Pain and their like, proponents of the Toposophic Filter theory point out these examples of doom drawing ever nearer. They go to ever greater lengths to "protect" their investments in civilization's future — their "children." They cultivate these baseline groups to be their eventual surrogates in a new age.
Some call them mad, but in the end, only their children will know for sure whether they were right. And, at any rate, most recognize that the Great Filter must still exist somewhere out there, waiting. In light of this, they are more than willing to put up with a little madness, hedging their bets against a day of judgment they all know will someday come.