Temporary Bodies

Temporary bodies, rental bodies, remotes, surrogates and related concepts

Rental Body
Image from Steve Bowers

A Temporary Body is an artificial robotic or biobot body into which a virtual person may download their mindstate, in order to interact directly with the real-life universe. The mindstate is activated in a substrate located inside the body (often, but not always, in the head), and becomes mobile. These bodies may resemble the original person's form quite closely, or may be generic bodies with few or no distinguishing marks.

Temporary bodies were first developed in the Solsys Era, soon after the development of Destructive Uploading, allowing the uploaded person to have control over a physical body once more.

A biological person who opts for full engeneration will be uploaded, then downloaded into a new permanent body based on comprehensive biodata including genetics and epigenetics as well as micro and macroscale phenotype, effectively recreating their old body from scratch. However, downloading into a temporary body is generally a much faster process. Many downloaded sophonts prefer temporary bodies, since they may be more resilient and adaptable.

Although some polities provide temporary bodies free of charge as an act of hospitality, many require that the user pay for them in some way. Often these bodies are hired by the user from a local commercial source; these hired bodies are generally known as Rental Bodies; other bodies must be paid for in advance, or mortgaged in some way.

Virtual sophonts who have never previously possessed physical bodies may be downloaded into a temporary or permanent body; such downloaded virtuals are known as incarnates. An incarnate will often, but not always, choose a body that resembles eir own personal self-image.

Temporary bodies for aioids, or vecs may be entirely mechanical in nature, or take biont or bioborg form if preferred. Vecs often use temporary bodies to house their consciousness while their preferred body is being repaired. Many aioids and uploads have multiple bodies stored for use on different occasions (or whims) as a lifestyle choice.

Snapshot: "Meatspace Tourism"

"Hello I'm Wil Bhakta. Pronouns he/his"
"You can call me Yuval. I'm a dolphinoid."
My pronouns? I hadn't lived in any place that expressed genders through language (rather than using something sensible like clade modifiers or operating system pronouns) in so long i'd forgotten people did that. ...But this seemed practical, really.
"This body I chose is nominally female, so I will say she/hers or they/ them. " That's what my assistant suggests my voice to say. I'm not entirely accustomed with this culture's local expressions of gender yet. Hadn't fully cared to learn them from the guidebooks I downloaded. Picked the type of dolphinoid body at random. My voice assistant speaks the translations anyway. I look the guides up now.
The two of us are eating our separate meals at the edge of the public park's lake, on separate seats. I'd come to visit the lake because a few other newly embodied virtuals had mentioned they were nearby. Rare, in this habitat. Not that many like me here.
But this Wil Bhakta is wearing a shirt with moving wave patterns on it, so it...he must be worth talking to. I -do- like waves. Liquid water has such fascinating properties, especially in large quantities. I'd touched some with my embodied fingers for the first time, a few minutes before. Made large ripples.
This 'Wil'-who-is-male had moved to stand next to me. Spoke with sounds.
"Good to know, Yuval. What brings you here to the orbitals this far out in the swarm?"
My assistant suggests.
"I'm a tourist. First day in the habitat. I've seen a cluster of waterworld habitats here, passing your orbital two months from now." my voice says. My body adds a "happy" sound and the flesh in my vocal chords vibrates.
"I see. So you're going to the waterworld habitats?" So many queries!
"The Atlantis orbitals? I decided to make a tourist detour first."
My assistant says he nods as if this is a good idea.
"Do you like waves? I could see you watching the ones in the pool over there. That and your shirt, with the wave patterns." I ask.
I wanted to add 'That's why I'm talking to you.' in the spirit of honesty, but my assistant advised against it. Some people here had trouble empathizing with the ways I think, apparently.
This question seemed to surprise him for some reason. The fluid dynamics of water waves -are- interesting.
"Oh yes, of course. Waves are pretty. But The Atlantis orbitals, They're oceanic habitats, right? With dolphinoids? Your ID data says you're from Tethys. Is that one of the habitats? The orbitals pass closest to us every five years, right?"
"I'm from Tethys, yes. I'm going so I can see the storm clouds. There's some storm planners there I like as well." The moving images of air-water interference appeared to be generated procedurally in the pleasant patterns on his garment. Possibly.
"Storm planners? Like, automated systems, or actual people, that plan out the weather in a habitat?" he asks. Wil doesn't seem to know much about storm planners.
"Yes" I can tell that Wil's searching through the net for Tethys while he's talking to me.
He looks at me, curiously. "That's not unheard of around here, but most folks leave that to the automated systems and the Transap Coordinators. Looks like I've never heard of Tethys habitat. Is that a habitat somewhere else in the matrioshka swarm here?"
My assistant tells me Oh, Small talk. "You haven't heard of it? No. it's a trinary ocean planet orbiting around Tethys Prime. Three terraformed waterworlds orbit one another. I'm technically from the main one, Tethys-III, with dark oceans, which makes the waves and clouds look nice, when you see them with light through the drones."
Wil frowns for a moment. Probably searching through astronomy charts. I see them flashing in his eyes "But that's nearly two hundred light years away! We're not connected to the wormhole nexus network in this system. Does that mean you engenerated your mind and body all the way here directly? That's so far!"
"Through several proxies, yes. I backed myself up each time for safety. And many times here locally when I arrived. Is that unusual here? "
Wil pauses, frowning "a little. Certainly not unheard of in this habitat, or any other in our orbital's network, but I personally haven't met anyone from another star system for a long, long time. Maybe we're a little slow and provincial here, or something."
"Perhaps" My assistant tells me that specifying further would be considered rude.
Wil gives me a long inquisitive look.
He shows his teeth and laughs like his ape ancestors "so you're an alien. Nice."
"I'm from another star system, yes." my voice says
"Interesting. Until last year our public records of Tethys said the system had fallen silent for a few decades, and before that had stayed mostly uninhabited. Did something happen?"
"There was a collapse, of a sort. You can read about it on your news, later. I'm told that the light signals from home reached you last year." My assistant told me to pause, then change the subject, in case he pressed further. "Do you like air-water wave dynamics?"
Wil frowns. Seems to accept the change in topic. "I... can't say that I've thought about the topic very much, to be honest. My Partner Winter chose this shirt for me."
My assistant finally connected and made a query for his shirt's availability on the local network. I checked the fabrication specs.
The air-water interference waves were not even procedurally generated. Just a long-looping video.
Just a recorded copy. Unoriginal. Less interesting.
"That is unfortunate." I turned to leave.
My assistant told me that he appeared confused again. I added "But thank you for talking to me. I enjoyed this conversation." My voice lied. "I'm going to examine the pond again"
The other embodied virtuals had also gathered by the pond and were methodically experimenting in making various ripples on the other side of water. I moved my legs to join them.


Artificial bodies which are controlled by a user who is located elsewhere are known as remotes, or surrogates. Remote bodies are often used when the user cannot physically travel to a location but has very high-bandwidth connections with that location. Remote bodies are useful in environments which would be dangerous or uncomfortable for the user; surrogates are often used in social situations or meetings and other activities where the user cannot attend in person for various reasons.

Eidolons are remotes which use utility fog technology for part, or most, of their functionality. Using even limited amounts of u-fog can mean that a user can interact with other persons and environments as if they were present. Eidolons are also useful when a user wants to interact remotely with an environment that is significantly modified by u-fog.

Transapients and other toposophically advanced entities often use remote bodies known as avatars in order to interact with lesser beings. Sometimes temporary bodies are used instead, which contain a reduced or partial version of the transapient inside themselves and are capable of independent thought and action; such reduced versions are known as proxy avatars, or proxavs.

Note that the term avatar is also used for a virtual body located inside a simulated VR environment which is controlled by a real-life sophont who is located elsewhere; both terms derive from the ancient Old Earth language Sanskrit, where the term avatara meant 'a descent to Earth from the heavens'.

Specialist bodies

Often, a temporary body or remote body might be significantly different from and more capable than the original body. Temporary or remote bodies can be designed to survive or thrive in dangerous environments, or on a different scale than the original. Some are used to mimic the form of alien lifeforms, especially xenosophonts, allowing the user to interact with intelligent aliens inside a body which is familiar to that species. In other cases, a fully synthetic body may be needed for some specific purpose. Some common examples are listed below.

Highly elongated forms are suitable for high-temperature environments due to their high surface area to volume ratio, and may use processors designed to function at temperatures that would kill or incapacitate an unprotected biont in seconds. A flat, slug-like body can be useful for navigating high-gravity environments, while in micro-gravity conditions a range of different shapes and limbs can be used, such as a sail-shaped body to catch the solar wind, or a spherical body with omnidirectional vision and thrusters for easy navigation. For scenarios where great physical strength is required, a body resembling that of the various Ultimate Vec clades is preferred. Even if Ultimate Muscle is not available, these bodyplans can still exert enormous amounts of force with modosophont designed artificial muscles. Bodies optimised for flight, high-speed movement and aquatic environments are also widely available from most fabricators, often requiring mental modifications to enable the appropriate reflexes for managing the body's capabilities.

Virtuals who wish to incarnate on a more permanent basis may also benefit from synthetic bodies if their virtual body would be particularly challenging to reproduce in biological form. This is often the case for enhanced uploads, whose mental abilities would require an impractically large biological brain to acommodate, so their minds are best incarnated in cybernetic processors. This is also true for sophonts from virchworlds running a physics model that is very different from the Ril. Many embodied bionts also choose to convert their body to an artificial form for performance or aesthetic reasons, or to simplify their bodily needs when living in inhospitable environments. This approach is common when colonising planetary surfaces that have not been terraformed for earthlike life, or when living in a habitat is considered undesirable compared to living in a vacuum.
Related Articles
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Michael Boncher, revised by Steve Bowers 2015
additional material by Ryan B
Initially published on 10 November 2004.

Snapshot by dfleymmes added March 2021
Specialized bodies section expanded by Extherian July 2023
Additional Information
Video: First Deep Sea Humanoid Robot Drone - located by Tom Mazanec, added January 2023