Data certification tags recognised throughout the Terragen Sphere

Image from Anders Sandberg

As light-speed message packets thread their way through the Known Net, they may be received and re-transmitted many times. At each stop they may be consolidated, checked for dangerous or contraband content or for signs of tampering, amplified, re-routed, adapted to new transmission media, charged for these various services, and so on. In this way the message is relayed across distances of hundreds of light years of interstellar space, or through multiple wormholes. Naturally these various waybills, certificates, and so on are of interest to recipients, so they are usually added to the content of the message. For historical reasons, each packet of additional information is referred to as a 'stamp'. In many places the stamps themselves have intrinsic interest, and in some cases nodes on the Net are in the habit of creating stamps that contain additional messages or artwork. This may be something mandated by the local polity, or it might be the habit of whichever AI oversees that node. Wormhole guardian AIs almost invariably add a stamp to any messages passing through.

If the travelling information is itself a sentient or sapient being, it may or may not choose to read the stamps collected on a journey, and may or may not choose to retain them. Some well travelled virtual and ai individuals keep and treasure their entire personal stamp collections. Others retain just a few that are of sentimental value. More stationary sentient beings may also collect the stamps that attach to Known Net messages. A message bearing stamps from distant regions, or stamps acquired during some notable event such as the Version War, or stamps created by a notable node AI poet or artist, especially one who is now extinct or transcended, may be highly valuable even if the message itself is quite routine.

The certificates that attach to material packages, whether they are sent a few kilometres or whether they cross interstellar distances and pass through stargates are also sometimes called ‘stamps’, but here too the term is used not for any physical object but for information content; the stamp is simply applied as information in the computronium of the object’s packaging. Stamps associated with material goods are many orders of magnitude rarer than those that are attached to data.

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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 27 November 2011.