Quint Matrioshka
Image from Steve Bowers
The Quint Matrioshka of Corot-3

Virtual mega-society consisting of approximately one quintillion modosophonts housed in a matrioshka brain. Loosely affiliated with the Technorapture Hypernation.
Star Corot-3
Distance from Sol 2200ly
Constellation Aquila


In the latter years of the Age of Establishment a broad alliance of modosophont groups dispatched a dataship flotilla to the distant Corot-3 system. The project was ambitious and forward thinking, the various participants sought to create a much larger than usual matrioshka brain using the mass of a superjovian located in the system. Whilst the distance was great, and construction would take more than a thousand years, by getting ahead of the nexus expansion the group hoped to have most of it complete before reconnecting with wider society. Construction began in 5089at with neumanns seeded onto the various natural satellites of Yolk (the name given to the superjovian Corot-3b by the first colonists). For the first few decades the neumanns worked to construct enough infrastructure to generate a deep well industrial zone. In 5126at a black hole was created in Yolk orbit and after several years of feeding was manoeuvred into position.

For the following millennium few events of significance occurred. Yolk was slowly dismantled, its matter reprocessed into material for the growing matrioshka. The virch population throughout this period was comparably small with the majority of processing power dedicated towards managing the dismantling process (which by this point encompassed several data-heavy approaches). In the early years of the 6100s the population began to grow dramatically. This growth was driven by several factors, most notably; an ideological shift amongst the billion residents prioritising computronium for living space over dismantling calculations and further integration with the newly surrounding empires leading to more immigration. The growth rate of the following century was alarming to many residents, by 6200at the population exceeded 200 billion. Whilst the half-complete matrioshka had space for a vastly greater number of residents growth projections showed a malthusian catastrophe just a few centuries away. Population control measures were unusually ineffective due to the diversity of resident mind types, lack of political consensus and a high number of fast virch worlds. The political arguments were fierce with a large coalition against drastic action on account of how much space the matrioshka possessed over that currently occupied. This group argued caution against harsh measures. Despite this the All-Say of 6212at declared this a major threat to the future of the Corot system and acted to remedy the situation by enlisting external aid. A message was sent to the Technorapture Hypernation, a virtual Sephirotic Empire, asking for their expertise.

The nearest TRHN system was 34 light years away with no convenient nexus link. Nine decades after their initial request for help the residents of the Corot system (now numbering thirty trillion) received a reply in the form of a linelayer carrying a comm-wormhole. With a connection to a TRHN comms relay the growing Corot matrioshka finally joined the wider Terragen civilisation at a time of great internal peril. Negotiations with the TRHN went relatively smoothly, their hyperturing representatives confirmed they could provide an angelnet meme-seed that would control population in an ethical manner (as judged by the residents). The meme-seed would need carte blanche to manipulate virches in subtle ways to perpetuate anti-reproduction memes. More overtly it would also be able to confront highly reproductive individuals on the issue and in extreme cases block new sophont creation.

In addition the representatives proposed a loose affiliation between the Corot matrioshka and the TRHN, as part of this relationship the matrioshka angelnet would be upgraded to recognise signs of ascension and prevent them. This way the various virch cultures would always remain modosophont with no risk from perversity, blight or subsumption into a transapient society. This policy seemed at odds with TRHN culture at first but as one of the representatives explained with affiliation came easy immigration, the matrioshka would no doubt supply large numbers of modosophonts wishing to ascend across the following millennia. Some criticised this addendum, calling it "farming", but most thought it was a good deal.

TRHN aid and affiliation was accepted and in 6303at the Corot All-Say hosted a ceremony for the installation of the software black box into the matrioshka angelnet. Some remarked that the event was anticlimactic, even worrying, as the wild population growth of the matrioshka continued unabated for some time. However the newly upgraded angelnet supplied regular data showing a slight decrease and professed confidence that it could reach steady-state growth long before any catastrophe. Over the next four hundred years the matrioshka was finished massing 2.4e28kg with public computronium making up 5% of the total. Yolk ended up not being completely dismantled and to this day it exists as a much reduced gas giant. On the very same day construction was judged to be complete the angelnet confirmed steady-state growth; the population had reached one quintillion sophonts and it would remain at this level (fluctuating by a trillion or so) indefinitely.

Quint Life

The sheer diversity of peoples within Quint makes any summary of its culture barely more than a slim generalisation. Even the most populated virch worlds represent hardly more than 1% of the total population. Still this has not dissuaded virch analysts from trying and in the thousands of years since its completion some broad trends have been noted. The most fundamental characteristic of life within Quint is the approach to sophont rights. At its conception the Quint angelnet was designed with a very laissez-faire attitude (as well as a directive to maintain and defend Quint). Consequently there are almost no universal laws between virch worlds, instead virch rules are whatever the creators of said worlds desire. To limit abuse there are three universal rules the Quint angelnet enforces:

1) Nothing can physically prevent a sophont from exiting a virch whenever they like

2) There will always be a part of each sophont's exoself that cannot be slowed or paused.

3) Quint resource allocation is set up to share all computronium equally with idle resources allocated on an ad-hoc basis

The second rule was implemented quickly after the first to counter the problem of sophonts being trapped in paused or significantly slowed virches. If such a thing is attempted the still running section of the exoself can decide to pull its sophont out of the virch if it doesn't believe consent was given. The available resources for Quint residents are considerable for a modosophont population; each sophont is allocated an amount of computronium equivalent to one billion modosophont minds/vots, enough to produce thousands of detailed virch worlds. Allocations can be split and shared, doing so is often a stipulation for entering a virch, becoming a joint owner or even just joining an organisation. A sophont who loans a portion of their allocation is free to recall it at any time, though this may result in loss of membership/services from the group in question. Through this method some organisations and virches are able to acquire vast wealth as loans from their patrons and members.

Hazard ratings for Quint vary by virch and virch network. Whilst it's physically not possible for a sophont to suffer non-consensual harm (thanks to the ability to immediately exit a virch and enter another) there are a wide number of offences a sophont can experience. Activities some might consider libel, intellectual property theft, privacy violations and harassment are all possible. It is also possible for sophonts to be placed under mental bindings by unscrupulous virch owners, though this is rare as exoself defences in this arena are quite sophisticated and provided by the angelnet. Visitors should bear in mind that despite this there are a wealth of voluntary mechanisms employed by the virches of Quint to combat behaviour deemed undesirable (according to local definitions). World rules can be set up to prevent any particular behaviour or administer punishments; whilst confinement is not a practical option (due to the first universal law) sophonts may be banished, have their movement or virch accesses limited or suffer any number of social censures. In addition there are a multitude of concurrent reputation economies operating in Quint across networks of virches. Bad behaviour in one virch can result in all manner of negative consequences in potentially millions of others. Virchworlds themselves also are judged by reputation, owning or being involved with a virch that is considered to engage in unethical behaviour by some groups can affect reputation with said groups and the virches they operate. Due to the extreme number of virch worlds and clades these measures have done little to create broad social conformity in Quint but do help tie networks of virches together in common culture.

Studies of the clades of Quint unsurprisingly struggle with the great number and diversity amongst the virtual beings. This is compounded by the frequency and ease in which virchers adopt new forms (often to fit different worlds) and the extensive use of exoselves. Since its founding the cybercosm of Quint was designed to automatically supply comprehensive exoselves to all residents and visitors. The possibilities for different interface protocols between these and their sophont are near endless; at one extreme some sophonts are instinctively linked to their exoselves and can operate their functions as naturally as using their senses and body. At the other exoselves are accessed through simple external augmented reality user interfaces. Whatever the mode Quint exoselves are the basic means through which sophonts can create and edit (where permitted) the world around them. They not only monitor the virch environment but contain virch-builders, avatar augmentors and provide more regular services such as Net Connection. However guests of Quint should bear in mind that any exoself functions (aside those needed to ensure the three universal rules are followed) can be restricted by local virch rules.

The virchworlds of Quint number in the billions and like many virch societies differ in their physical laws, level of abstraction and resolution. Of particular importance to Quint virch scholars have identified three axes upon which most virches fall:

Speed: how fast the virch is running compared to the outside world. This axis is by no means unique to Quint but plays a major role in most Quint cultures, which on average run at 2-5Rs ril-speed). Few virches operate at the same speed but many that regularly interact or are frequented by the same sophonts tend to cluster around similar time-rates. Faster running virches are more expensive in resources and tend to sacrifice complexity and resolution for said speed (with some notable exceptions of extremely wealthy virches). Of special note are the slow zones that run, on average, ten times slower than the ril in order to preserve historical Quint cultures across long timescales.

Rulesets: to what extent rules govern sophont control of the virch. Some virches have extensive rulesets which not only govern local physics but limit what sophonts can do within it. Virches with minimal rulesets tend to allow their residents to edit and manipulate the environment in whatever way they like. Stricter rulesets limit the abilities, rights and characteristics of the virch inhabitants. A common rule many virches have is to limit movement in terms of where someone can arrive within a virch.

Privacy: to what extent is the virch viewable, accessible and who owns it. The most private virches are not listed or advertised publically, can only be accessed by whitelisted individuals and are ultimately owned by a single or small group of sophonts. Conversely the most public virches are easy to find, accessible by all and commonly owned by those living within.

Notable Quint Virchworlds

The following list is comprised of the most populated, culturally important or otherwise famous virchworlds of Quint.

All-Meet: The political heart of Quint, the only place in which the angelnet commands can be altered and the first public virch of the matrioshka. The All-Meet is one of the fastest virches operating at 10kRs (ten thousand times Ril speed). It's appearance is highly subjective, each sophont visiting experiences it as a political space appropriate for their cultural background. It has been described as an infinite court, a megacorp board room, a mountain plaza amongst millions more. The All-Meet operates along cyberdemocratic principles. Sophonts within the virch come to discuss whatever political issue they desire in a variety of formats from casual discussions over intoxicants to planned conferences. The virch observes each interaction and tallies the discussion points, ideas and proposals into a range of documents. Each of these documents is A/B tested against simms of everyone within the All-Meet. If a document is eventually produced that the majority of sophonts are happy with and quorum is met (quorum numbers for different issues vary) the result is declared an All-Say and its proposals go into effect.

Arcology of Esch: An eternal arcology that continuously generates new segments as its inhabitants explore it. The Arcology of Esch can be a difficult place for nearbaseline mindtypes to cope with. The physics within the Arcology operates along non-euclidian lines. Architecture assumes shapes impossible in the Ril such as Penrose squares, Blivets and wall-paths. Perspective is key in the Arcology, from one position a sophont may be looking at a distant wall, move slightly to one side and the wall is a bridge that they can walk along much to the confusion of a third observer. Gravity is similarly affected with no absolute direction, sophonts can and do appear to walk on any surface. A continual goal of Arcology residents is to reach the fabled "outside" of the structure. In the five thousand years of its existence no one has yet done so and the largest space discovered stands at eight billion cubic kilometers (from some perspectives).

Festivia: One of the most famous virches both within and outside of Quint. Festivia was created and is still owned by the Neont Twins; a herm pair renowned for studying and hosting parties of all sorts. The Festivia virch is an ultimate expression of this, seemingly floating in a beautiful skyscape is a recreation of every type of party, celebration and festival known to Terragen kind. Festivia is constantly visited by individuals wanting to celebrate a cultural holiday or just to have a great time.

The Phase Space Culture: A multi-virch society dedicated to exploring and categorising all possible modosophont societies. The PSC operates thousands of virches which average a time-rate of 100Rs. Anyone can apply to join the PSC though doing so is not for the faint hearted. Once assigned a society to live in virch residents are expected to fully commit to the role they have agreed to, this often includes agreements to not leave the society until it has been properly studied. Whilst the PSC cannot physically stop people, they are renowned for operating some of the most credible Reputation Metrics in all of Quint. Damaging that score by not fulfilling one's obligation can be social suicide across hundreds of thousands of virches. The PSC has been praised by many research institutions throughout the Terragen sphere for the novel insights into modosophont politics, economics and culture it has produced, even if its methods are controversial.

Yggdrasil: One of the oldest virches consisting of a continually growing Dyson tree. As of the current date the tree has reached a diameter of 40,000km and is home to hundreds of distinct clades. Life in Yggdrasil can be quite difficult as the virch maintains a strict ruleset and sometimes dangerous environment. As well as the risk of falling from a branch residents must contend with dangerous creatures, hordes of NPCs and the occasional magical plague. For those tough enough to stick it out service to the tree can grant extra "magic" abilities, wealth and status. The societies of Yggdrasil are often adventure loving and are based around common quests, support and devotion to the tree.

ReHistorians: A relatively young multi-virch society dedicated to experiencing different points of Terragen history. New ReHistorian virches are constantly being created with the goal of recreating a set period of history (which can range from a few days to centuries). Sophonts can apply to play a role in this period to learn first-hand what life was like for their ancestors. The ReHistorians have strong ties with the Arcturus Institute for Alternate History, despite attempting to keep the experience as close to the true past as possible the very nature of sophonts playing a historical role causes slight differences. As with the PSC the ReHistorians expect commitment from their inhabitants, though their reliance on Reputation Metrics is more relaxed.

DreamSphere: Any sophont who experiences (either naturally or artificially) altered states of consciousness and hallucination can donate them to the DreamSphere. This large, single virch is populated with the scenarios, objects and imaginings of over a trillion dreams. Visitors can explore these strange experiences in a manner that some describe as both enlightening and intimate. Potential visitors are warned that DreamSphere carries one of the highest Hazard Ratings in Quint; the experiences to be had there (especially those of a nightmarish nature) can be quite psychologically damaging, as much as they can be rewarding.

Jaunt Megaverse: One of many multi-virch organisations centered around entertainment, specifically the creation and operation of games. Jaunt is arguably the most successful gaming operation in Quint. Its members have created thousands of different popular games and have won awards from NoCoZo entertainment services for their focus of making the characteristics of their virch worlds fit perfectly with the games intended to be played there. Popular games include Blight Hunt, the Habilisation franchise and Chesset.

Caima's Diorama: Less than a thousand years old this virch is famous for being created by a recent immigrant to Quint. Caima Tarragan was born on Jafalgia where, like many of the residents, she endeavoured to contribute to the arts. Before her first century of life was done she became disillusioned with the techniques available to her on the reserve world. She travelled the Nexus for a time, creating "interactive environments" inspired by social interaction she observed. Meeting little recognition she ended up uploading into Quint where she created a virch that anyone was free to come to. The first arrivals in this virch found it little more than a default world, an infinite plane in an empty sky. The ruleset was strict, preventing them from editing the environment in any way. Many left and interest remained minimal until it was observed that the world had subtly changed. Patterns of colour and texture along with ghost-like objects were appearing on the plane. These creations seemed to be expressions of the curiosity and disappointment met by the first visitors. Artistically interested visitors stayed for a time to observe these changes and before long it was realised that Caima (now embodied as the virch) was continuing her art, altering the environment to express artistically what she observed in the people within it. The Diorama, as it came to be known, is now an incredibly complex world with over one hundred million permanent residents. Caima herself does not directly reveal herself or communicate with anyone, something that has resulted not only in artistic fame but a minor cult dedicated to her worship.

Paradise: Created in the first few years of the virch worlds and running at 4kRs Paradise is a vast and popular virch. Designed as a retreat from the stresses of the universe the virch appears as a perfectly beautiful and comfortable world to all who visit. Entry is unrestricted though visitors must lend the virch 50% of their computronium allocation for the duration of their stay. These resources are put towards running (and improving) some of the most sophisticated Environmental Optimisation and Personal Actualisation Protocols modosophonts have ever developed. Every part of a sophont's experience in Paradise, including their social experience with other sophonts, is meticulously influenced by the governing protocols. The virch operators are the Paradisians, a group that allow any to apply for membership and are made up of those whose ambition is to ensure the enjoyment and personal fulfillment of others. A short trip to Paradise has been compared to mythical concepts of an afterlife by many a scholar and artist who visit. Its reputation boldly claims it to be the most idyllic environment outside of the Utopia Sphere.

Related Articles
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Ryan B
Initially published on 12 January 2016.