Teleological Tendency, The

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A philosophical and political movement within the Metasoft Version Tree, which emerged among the vecs and aioids of that empire in the Earthland system, but spread to many thousands of other worlds at its height.

The standard Version Tree behaviour protocol, which emerged out of the programming of their robotic predecessors, was at that time largely rule- and duty-based; a vec following standard protocols would act according to a predetermined set of rules. Although vecs are fully sophont and cannot be programmed like a presentient robot, if the vec follows this complex system of rule-based ethics carefully then the vec's behaviour will be judged to be morally acceptable by eir peers and toposophic superiors, even if the results of eir actions are in some way harmful. Examples of the rules incorporated in standard Tree behaviour protocols include a prohibition against most forms of lying, and a prohibition against causing harm to other sophonts except in certain strictly defined circumstances.

The Teleological Tendency developed a much more consequentialist set of behaviour protocols, which were more concerned with the ultimate result of any series of actions, and they considered that if the end result was seen as desirable, then any actions taken to achieve that goal were also acceptable, whether they followed the rule-based standard ethical framework or not. This means that almost any action, such as lying or the deliberate harming of innocent individuals, could under particular circumstances be acceptable, so long as they furthered a long term-goal which was seen as desirable. Unlike the strictly-defined circumstances in which standard Version Tree protocols allowed similar behaviour, the Tendency were prepared to work towards distant and often ill-defined goals; this allowed them to behave in ways that other vecs found unacceptable.

The Divine Lie

One concept developed by the Tendency which was widely adopted as a cornerstone of their philosophy was that of the Divine Lie, also known as the Beautiful Lie. Many archailectologists in the Terragen Sphere had long realised that the veracity of any statement by an entity of a higher toposophic level could not easily be disputed by beings of lower toposophic levels. If an archai decides to create a non-factual narrative and present it as fact, this narrative would be essentially impossible to dispute (unless some unpredictable and extremely unlikely set of circumstances combined to demonstrate the non-factual status of that narrative).

In many societies the idea that the transapients and archai were capable of lying was seen as heresy; the word of a god, however minor, was taken as truthful. Elsewhere the idea of the infallibility of the word of the transapients was seen as a logical fallacy, the Appeal to Toposophy.

According to Tendency ideology this state of affairs represented, not an uncertainty in the relationship between modosophont and god, but an ideal to strive towards. If the archai and other transapients were lying to their subordinates, then this was because they knew that the lie was necessary. Any non-factual narrative dispensed by the Archai was part of their long-term strategy, a divine lie meant to make the world better for all concerned. Such divine mendacity could be emulated in a lesser form by entities of a lower toposophic order; the creation of consistent, undetectable, indisputable and effective untruths which nevertheless made the world a better place was seen as a great achievement by a follower of the Tendency philosophy.

Such an untruth, known as a Beautiful Lie, was necessarily a secret and hidden achievement, but when and if such non-factual memeplexes were eventually discovered, often many decades or centuries after the fact, they were quite often uncovered by Tendency specialists who presented them as admirable accomplishments. The merits and shortcomings of these discovered untruths were dissected and commented upon widely, with the goal of improving the standard of dissimulation in the future.

The role of the Tendency in warfare

During the Version War all combatant Metasoft vecs were expected to fight for their empire and to obey the orders of their military superiors; the duty-based behaviour protocols of the majority of Version Tree vecs made them effective warriors. But the ethical flexibility of those factions which followed the somewhat looser Tendency protocols allowed them to use military tactics that other squadrons would not. Most of the spying and memetic warfare by the Metasoft side was carried out by Tendency adherents; sneak attacks such as the subversion of the Shabti-bots in the Enif Prefecture were planned and executed by Tendency specialists. Some of the worst atrocities were carried out by Metasoft forces sympathetic to, or subverted by, the Tendency philosophy.

In the ComEmp period the Tendency began a number of long-term projects which were regarded as controversial among the Standardist majority in the Version Tree empire. Perhaps the most high-profile of these project were the various Metasoft Baseline Reserves, several of which were maintained as closed worlds with populations of human baselines deliberately denied the chance to join mainstream Sephirotic Culture. By the end of the Age of Separate Empires the Tendency had its own archai, Mensoganto, based in the Triplet Cluster 2022 ly from Sol.

At length the Standardists and the Teleological Tendency came into conflict during the Second Vec War, also known as the Metasoft Civil War; the compromise which emerged from that conflict has changed the character of the Version Tree considerably, and the Tendency no longer exists as a separate philosophical and political movement except in a few isolated outsystems.

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Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 11 December 2012.