Far Edge Civilisation, The
Blacklight J-Brain
Image from Steve Bowers
BlackLight, a J-Brain in the Far Edge volume; the largest node supporting the archailect Wintermute, which is also home to billions of alife godwellers

"Where are you going?"
"To the Far Edge." — Alexander Cromwell's last conversation as a biont.

The Far Edge Civilisation

CapitalFar Edge
Current TerritoryAn egg-shaped star cluster consisting of 42 inhabited stars systems near HD 14875, 535 ly from Sol in Triangulum. The twelve most important systems are connected via macroscopic wormholes, all others via comm-gauge wormholes. Far Edge was connected to the Wormhole Nexus at Eden in 7754 AT. Another wormhole is scheduled to arrive at Aldebaran in 10811.
Important SystemsFar Edge (capital, also location of Wintermute's Far Reach ISO), Waystation (important industrial centre), BlackLight (A Jupiter Brain containing the largest node of Wintermute's consciousness, plus approximately 18 billion parasapient alife entities), Fermi's Equation (location of the Sunchild, the Far Edge Civilization's only weylforge).
Current Population987 billion
Population Breakdown2.6% nearbaseline, 12.9% cyborg, 4.7% bioborg, 8.3% vec, 6.6% neogen, 5.2% rianth, 10.1% splice, 12.6% superior, 9.3% tweak, 6.8% provolve, 9.4% virtual, 8.8% aioid, 2.7% neumann.

In Solsys: Beginnings

The history of the Far Edge Civilization starts all the way back in the early Information Age, with a man named Alexander Cromwell. Cromwell is believed to have been born in about 165 AT and started a small but highly successful software company (the Cromwell Cybernetic Corporation) specializing in computer security, which later branched out into cybernetic implants and DNI. While the CCC itself wasn't particularly remarkable, the man behind it certainly was. Cromwell utilized cybernetic augmentics that were very radical at the time, and became one of the first true cyborgs. Focusing on intellectual enhancements, he quickly attained superbright level via biochip implants and wetware programming.

Cromwell was fortunate enough to avoid the psychological problems that were plaguing early cyborgs. This gave him the ability to compete with corporations led by the early tweak superbrights. He also made use of the most advanced rejuvenation treatments available, allowing him to maintain control over his company until the middle 5th century a.t..

In 332 a.t. Cromwell sold the CCC, and used Destructive uploading (still in an experimental stage of development and illegal in many jurisdictions) to upload himself into a computer in Academion. He spent some time adapting to his new existence and modifying his code, before making over two hundred virtual copies of himself. Each copy went their own way, researching nanotech, experimenting with AIs, exploring virtual worlds and a number of other profitable and unprofitable ventures.

This continued until 512, when the various copies converged at the asteroid habitat Heaven Rock and held a Far Edge Party. Some of them were barely recognizable; one unfortunate copy was thought to be an infiltrator AI before they recognized obscure parts of his neural network - he had taken up a career as a hacker. In any case, they quickly began modifying their code in order to link with each other. Although Unityware didn't exist at the time, they did manage to form a primitive group mind. This new intelligence took the name "Wintermute" (background obscure, believed to originate from an Late Industrial Age / Early Information Age fable).

After having spent a few years optimising his code, Wintermute decided that SolSys was a little too rough for his tastes. He used his still considerable fortune to buy a Pioneer-class probe, some industrial grade nanotech and enough He3 to reach 0.04c (one of the copies had concentrated on finance and had managed their funds superbly). It has been debated whether it was foresight, a paranoid streak or just pure luck that allowed Wintermute to survive the Technocalypse, but in any case Wintermute was accelerating out of SolSys and bound for Tau Ceti by the time the swarms were laying waste to civilisation.

At Tau Ceti

Still only a high modosophont, Wintermute went into stasis during the journey to avoid degeneration, leaving only a subturing AI in charge. He entered the Tau Ceti system three hundred years later and caused a bit of a stir among the various powers, as everyone had already heard of the Technocalypse and were concerned that Wintermute's probe was infected. In the end he was allowed to stay, but forbidden to dock with any habitat or biosphere. A little put off by the reception, Wintermute contacted Unity and purchased unityware in exchange for AI templates and the latest research papers on the safe usage of nanotech.

Wintermute spent some time implementing this before retreating to the system's Oort cloud, where he settled down and converted a number of planetoids into computronium. For the next two hundred years nothing was heard from Wintermute, although a local media company attempted to make a documentary about him. They were, however, unable to get a reaction from the computronium structure. It was not before 1021 that the now heavily modified Pioneer-probe showed up in the inner system, Wintermute having transcended to the First Toposophic level in the meantime.

The Federation had formed a few decades earlier, and Tau Ceti was already a valued member of that organisation. However Wintermute did not wish to rejoin civilization just yet; he had other agendas. He restocked with He3 and set out on a new journey at 0.04c, travelling to HIP 14731, a far-flung system on the outskirts of the Diamond Belt. Wintermute arrived eight hundred years later, when the Federation had already crumbled and died, and spent the next two hundred years contacting and conversing with the various AI found there. It is unknown exactly what occured during this period - the Diamond-AIs are not very forthcoming and Wintermute himself has kept uncharacteristically silent about the event. However, it is clear that he found a semi-friendly higher transapient (now believed to have transcended to abstract toposophic levels) that supplied him with a godseed.

In the HIP 14731 system

At HIP 14731, Wintermute unleashed the nanoreplicators he carried and converted a moon orbiting one of the two local gas giants into a moonbrain. Wintermute ascended two more toposophic levels and didn't emerge until three centuries later, as a Third Toposophic entity.

In the early 3000s displacement-drive probes carrying modified subpersonalities of Wintermute visited a number of sparsely populated star systems. The probes declared to the surprised inhabitants that they wished to trade (at the time) advanced transapient-tech in exchange for genetic material. It is estimated that roughly ten thousand beings sold their genome. This caused some political and economical instability in the region, as surrounding powers tried to buy or steal the new technology. But by then the Wintermute-probes were long gone.

Wintermute made a high-level copy of himself and condensed it into a form capable of fitting into a conversion-drive vessel. and set course for HD 14875, a star 535 lightyears from Sol in a largely unpopulated volume. It is unknown why he chose such an obscure target, but it is clear that he desired to put as much distance between civilization and himself as possible - without leaving it for good. Even an inactive copy of Wintermute was a very large payload, so the vessel could not travel very fast, so for over a thousand years Wintermute cruised through interstellar space, while the Consolidation Wars laid waste to a considerable part of civilization behind him.

Far Edge

He arrived at HD 14875 in 4144, and his agents spent a couple of centuries scouting it out. The agents started to convert one of the gas giants into a new jupiter-brain home for Wintermute, while simultaneously terraforming a terrestrial planet which became known as 'Far Edge'. During this time Wintermute ascended to the fourth toposophic level and became an archailect.

As the terraforming neared completion, Wintermute used engenerator technology to replicate colonists for the planet. Some of these individuals had been acquired by Wintermute over the last few millenia, and others were created by the archailect from genetic templates of His own devising. Over the next couple centuries Wintermute painstakingly cultivated the Far Edge Civilization, establishing outposts in the nearby systems.

Wintermute remained highly secretive for several millennia, allowing no one to trespass upon His domain. Even so, Wintermute was fairly benevolent, as evidenced by one incident in 4377. A heterodox splinter fraction of the Ingolfsson Clade had already launched a colonizing expedition towards one of the systems claimed by Wintermute, when they received a message warning them off. By then they didn't have enough fuel left to go to another system and decelerate safely, so the colonists decided to risk it. When they arrived in the system, a ship containing a Wintermute submind was waiting for them. He gave them coordinates for a system with a terraformable planet just outside the volume, and supplied them with enough fuel to reach it safely.

The story was vastly different when a Solar Dominion expedition at the height of the Version War sought to establish a base in the region for further strikes into Metasoft territory. Most of them were utterly annihilated in an extreme show of force. Only a handful survived to tell the tale, and that was presumably because Wintermute wanted them to.

In any case, besides those two incidents Wintermute was left alone in his star cluster until 7224 when He unexpectedly declared himself a Caretaker God (whether Wintermute can be described as a Caretaker God is still being debated) and acknowledged the Compact of Eden, granting free passage for everyone with benevolent intent. The Far Edge Civilization, that now spanned 42 stars, was truly a work of art. Not because of the astonishing diversity of the hundreds of clades in Wintermute's domain, but because of the culture He had crafted.

Members of the Far Edge Civilization have been described as contemplative, deliberate and calculating - often studying situations from every viewpoint, including considering what might have happened if something had been done differently. They also have a psychological stability that rival even Empaths.

Many theories of why Wintermute didn't reveal his project earlier have been suggested. The most prominent of these is that the carefully designed psyche of the Far Edge Civilization would not have been able to handle the outside world. Only after careful memetic engineering did it become possible. Still, it's just a theory - who knows how a Fourth Toposophic mind thinks.

The Far Edge Civilization is thriving to this day, even though it is no longer at the outer edge of civilisation. In general archailectologists are optimistic about the future prospects of Wintermute and His small empire.
Far Edge Civilisation
Image from Keith Wigdor
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Espen Antonsen
amended by Steve Bowers 2017
Initially published on 12 April 2003.