City-state on pre-Expulsion Earth

Image from Bernd Helfert

Academion was a social movement and associated polity on and around pre-Expulsion Earth.

With the ever-increasing complexity of science, engineering, and human society in the Information Age, integrating new knowledge into viable technological applications and policy proposals became ever more difficult. Many efforts at multidisciplinary research and study of the processes of science arose, not always without controversy. Several maverick scientific societies and research institutes formed Academion as an umbrella organization in 2051 CE (82 AT).

When first founded, Academion mostly operated as a virtual institution. It pursued unorthodox and controversial lines of research that its backers felt were nonetheless likely to be fruitful, from physics to the social sciences. Though acting as an advocacy group, it also conducted its own experiments in rented lab spaces and engaged in much work over the Internet, at times making use of VR and telepresence to facilitate higher quality long-distance collaboration and experimentation than allowed by the flatscreen videoconferencing of previous decades.

Nonetheless, as the movement grew, the desirability of having a physical base of operations became evident. An opportunity to finally achieve this arrived during the Great Downturn, in 2125 CE (156 AT). After five years of recession, the European Federation had decided to cancel its New Federal Cities project (begun in the wake of the success of Lyonesse) and sell off Aristos, the only partially completed island, located in the North Sea. Newly wealthy thanks to their philanthropic and corporate benefactors, Academion purchased the island and founded Academion City.

The island was seven kilometers in diameter and shaped like a five-pointed star, with each tip of the star itself containing three smaller points, one pointing away from the island's center and two perpendicular to the arm of the star. No structures had yet been built on the island. After purchase, Academion constructed educational, lab, housing, and commercial spaces, as well as infrastructure and utilities. Originally, Academion was legally affiliated with the Cayman Islands, but the wave of New Regionalism independence movements that swept the world starting in the 2150s CE (180s AT) meant that Academion was able to attain independence and join the United Nations as the Academion Free State.

In the 2180s CE (210s AT) Academion commissioned the construction of Academion Free Habitat, a Stanford Torus and attached zero-G spherical hab in geostationary orbit. Legally a part of the Free State's territory, the habitat was home to around 12,000 people throughout its history, mostly retired scientists as well as researchers specializing in the effects of living in space and of zero-G on biology.

On Earth, Academion City maintained largely the same population across the Interplanetary and Solsys Golden Ages, around 80,000-90,000 people. During its first century its reputation stayed true to its roots, being a haven for unusual research in such topics as early mapping of what is today known as the toposophic landscape, novel types of artificial intelligence, somatic and germline genetic engineering of humans and other vertebrates, life extension, and direct neural interfaces. Often it was simultaneously home to lines of research that would lead to incredible breakthroughs and to outright crankery - and observers were advised to be cautious in betting on which was which. Its embrace of such controversial lines of research resulted in it often being at odds with those nations that opted to tightly restrict or ban such technologies, occasionally resulting in much rancor at the UN General Assembly and even sanctions.

In later centuries, Academion's research into the exotic was eclipsed by institutions located away from Earth, especially near Jupiter. Nonetheless, it continued as a fairly standard (though large) university town. In its later years it became known for its eclectic architecture as well as its diversity of sophonts. It was a common tourist destination for visitors from the Gengineer Republic, due to being an early center of genetic engineering. Almost nowhere else on Earth could one encounter so many different beings, many of whom were almost literally aliens in the minds of the baselines of the day.

During the Technocalypse (2534 CE/565 AT), both Academion City and the Free Habitat suffered significantly, but did not fare as badly as some places such as Lyonesse. In the ensuing decades, the Free Habitat was gradually abandoned, later being dismantled as the Bracelet Band was built. Meanwhile on Earth, Academion City became a base of research into finding new ways to fight the technoplagues, whether through counter-swarms, AI, or other methods. Academion was involved in the effort to build the Global Artificial Intelligence Array (GAIA), but unbeknownst to them this would bring about their end. In 2590 CE (621 AT) GAIA ordered the Great Expulsion. Some minor skirmishes occurred on the island during the Last War, but in the end all but the Children of GAIA were expelled. Soon thereafter GAIA demolished the city.

Today Academion's site is covered by the expanded north polar icecap, as part of the ice age GAIA has initiated. Memory of Academion, small as it was, persists among historical enthusiasts and reconstructionists. The habitat New Academion in the Terragen Federation is an attempt at a revival of Academion's culture, as is the occasional virchfestival Academion Perpetua in the Cyberian Network. A replica of Academion also exists on the Fomalhaut Acquisition Society ringworld Diadem of Cityscapes.

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Development Notes
Text by ProxCenBound
From an original by Ben Higginbottom; rewritten 20 September 2023
Initially published on 21 September 2001.