Digi, Digital Sophont

Native-born Virtual Sophont, also known as Digis or Mobys

Digi - native virtual sophont*
Image from Keith Wigdor and Midjourney AI
This Digi, or native virtual sophont, inhabits the cybercosm in which ve was born. However, some digis move from cybercosm to cybercosm on a regular basis, and a few become incarnate and occupy a physical body in Real Life

A virtual sophont who was born or created inside a virch and has no previous existence in Real Life

Virtual reality environments and scenarios (virches) are very widespread indeed in the Terragen Sphere. Many of the individuals who inhabit these virches are uploaded sophonts, people who have had a previous existence in various forms in the physical universe but have copied themselves into data form. Other inhabitants are virtual characters specifically created by the designers of the virch to perform particular roles in the scenario; such entities may be non-sophont 'vots' which can simulate the behaviour of a fully sophont being without actually being self-aware. Not all such tailor-made characters are non-sophont, however; some are fully sophont entities, designed by the creators of the virch to fill certain roles (these role-playing entities are often known as 'actors'; and some may even be avatars of the creators (or of other, interested transapients or archai).

A significant fraction of virches are designed to be entertaining or exciting in various ways; in particular some are described as 'adventure' scenarios, and these may be historical in nature, or depict a fantasy scenario, or even an alternate history or projection of the future. Generally, the 'leading characters' and many of the 'supporting cast' are fully sophont. Some of the leading characters are played by uploads of various kinds, or vusers; others are tailor-made sophont or nonsophont character simulations, based on real historical people or famous fictional characters.

However, once a virtual reality environment has existed for a relatively short period (measured in its own internal timescale), these various sophont inhabitants begin to propagate their numbers in various ways. The easiest way for a virtual sophont to propagate itself is by copying itself; since the sophont already exists as data, this data can be duplicated with relative ease. But excessive copying of particular sophonts can lead to a reduction in toposophic diversity, so is not usually encouraged. So more complex methods are usually employed.

One common method of producing new individuals in a virch is by virtual sexual reproduction. The characteristics of a virtual sophont are often encoded on a form of virtual DNA, and this data from two (or more) individuals can be blended in various ways to create a new individual, so that the child of virtual parents will inherit 'genes' from each parent. The expression of these virtual genes are modelled using complex algorithms, a technique which gives extremely realistic results in the Current Era.

However there are many virtual cosms where the pattern of inheritance is more complicated, and a virtual child might inherit characteristics from a large number of parents, or be artificially designed by entities living within that virtual world. In many ways this reflects the situation in real-life communities, where children and/or new sophonts may inherit characteristics from a large number of predecessors, or indeed be designed entirely from scratch.

This offspring (often, but not always, 'born' as a baby via a virtual pregnancy), is a native-born digital sophont created within the environment rather than imported from outside. Virtual sophonts generated in this way are generally known as digis, or digital sophonts. Another, older name that is still used in some quarters is moby, from the term mobile or mob, a term used in early computer games.

Other methods of creating new individuals

Native-born digital sophonts can also be created by merging two or more adult individuals, which results in a new entity with some or most of the memories and characteristics of the previous entities. These 'merges' are almost always carried out by transapients, archailects or transavants skilled in such techniques. In some cases, only a few characteristics from each 'parent' may be carried forward into the new 'child', with the remaining characteristics supplied from a stock of such data supplied by the merging specialist.

Background characters in a virch, especially an adventure virch, may be played by an 'actor' entity; these entities are generally fully sophont but are controlled to various extents by the transapient or archailect-level designer (or designers) of the scenario. Sometimes these 'actors' are upgraded to fully sophont and free-acting virtual inhabitants of the virch, and in many cases these free agents decide to mate with or merge with other sophont inhabitants such as uploads, vusers, or already existing digis to produce more native-born individuals.

Other characters are played by non-sentient simulations, known as vots or simms. Vots and simms can be programmed to behave in a very similar fashion to a true sophont, but they are not actually self-aware. Quite often, during the development of a virtual reality environment, these 'vot' or 'simm' subroutines will also be upgraded and become independent enough to be considered a sophont digi, and may mate or merge with other sophonts of all types to increase the population.

Over time the number of native-born virtual sophonts may increase within a virch until the number of digis is greater than all the other types combined. However, this does not always occur. After a period of existence in the virch in which they were born, many digis decide to migrate to new environments, sometimes in locations far across the Terragen Sphere.

Note that uploads and digis only represent a fraction of all virtual sophonts; many such entities are too abstract to be represented using a virtual body, and inhabit mathematical datascapes where they can manipulate information without needing to limit themselves by assuming a particular form. Such abstract entities are not considered to be digis, although they can become digital sophonts if they wish, and many do.

Digis are one of the most numerous types of sophont living in the Terragen Sphere - many of them are descendants of uploaded bionts and aioids, while many others have been generated procedurally; a significant number of digis exist merely as data, waiting for the creation of new virtual scenarios for them to inhabit. Only a very small fraction of all digis have ever been incarnated in Real Life, and most do not find that prospect desirable.

Image from Steve Bowers

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Updated 18 May 2024
Initially published on 06 December 2010.

Mob, Gaming - early computer game term in Wikipedia