Image from Steve Bowers
Many of the dolphins of Oro Mistral use handtech for manipulation when necessary

Handtech is a general term for technology that allows someone to manipulate objects, including not only the hardware concerned but any software required to operate it. It is most commonly used by individuals whose manipulative appendages are limited or lacking. In the earlier part of the Information Age, before regeneration technologies became common, it was used by some individual humans who had lost the use of their arms or hands. Later, the earliest dolphin provolves and the first sophont ais were among the first clades to rely on handtech. Today there are still many clades that are entirely reliant upon it. Even clades with perfectly good hands (or the equivalent) use handtech. In fact, the first inventors and adopters of handtech were human baselines, who used it to handle materials that were too small, large, hot, cold, or distant for direct manipulation.

The earliest full-fledged First Century AT handtech consisted of inorganic robotic devices controlled by actual hand movements or through a DNI device. However, in the present age it can mean a variety of different things. In terms of composition it may be biological, mechanical (including hylonano) or synano. It might be a permanent installation, something habitually worn or attached, or an entirely separate and independent organism or device. It might be controlled with an existing hand or other appendage, or it may respond to a DNI device, or it may be a symbiotic but entirely autonomous unit such as an agrimonkey or non-sophont bushbot that responds to higher level instructions. In some clades handtech requires not only the physical equipment but additional mental training or software, sometimes and including entirely new neural tissue or coprocessors. For instance, baseline cetaceans lack not only hands but the relevant structures in the brain. Some clades that use handtech have opted for autonomous servant bots or bionts rather than undergo such significant self-modification. By convention, sophont level agents (for instance a dolphin provolve's human partner or employee, or the sophont-level followers of a transapient ai who resides in computronium) are not considered handtech.

The Caleb (Talking Dog) clades have traditionally been habitual users of near-sophont handtech; they say that they feel comfortable with the companionship that such devices afford. The handbots that they use are regarded as an obedient and essential part of the pack structure.

There are clades that are incapable of almost any other technologies if they do not first have handtech. The early sophont cetacean clades are the most prominent example. Provolution in general and the pan-sophontism movement in particular have produced many more such clades, particularly in those derived from biont species that were originally invertebrate or aquatic, or from bots that were originally vehicles or other devices that did not need to manipulate objects. There are also some partial cases such as Kanumae, or various cephalopod or proboscidean clades that have some innate ability to manipulate objects but cannot mount anything more than the most limited Agricultural Age or Palaeolithic technologies if their handtech is lost or destroyed.

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Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 09 November 2008.