External processing systems linked intimately to a user's mind

Image from Steve Bowers

An Exocortex is any processing substrate used by an individual to contain eir Exoself in a location which is external to eir brain (or core processing unit). The exocortex runs the individual Exoself and may be implanted within eir body, kept externally, or some combination of the two.

As the individual increases the use of eir Exocortex, it may eventually host the majority of the individual's consciousness. Over time more thoughts, perceptions, and memories can be generated or managed by eir Exoself, until the original mind is a small fraction of the whole thinking entity.

Many types of Exocortices exist within the Terragen Sphere. They are composed of many different kinds of computronium and have many different internal architectures. Due to this variety, there are also many different ways to categorize them.

Categorization schemes based on Exocortex type, processing power and method, or function are all common, although by no means exclusive, methods.

According to Type

Implantable: Exocortices of this type are contained within the user's body or main chassis. Biomods such as compubone, tissue replacement with computronium, or other methods may be used.

Wearable/portable: Some individuals carry a larger exocortex externally to support a more extensive Exoself for their mental processes. This type of exocortex can be embedded into almost anything: processor threads in clothing, whole clothes, patches, processor jewelry, or blocks of computronium (with the appearance of books, briefcases, backpacks, etc.) Arm-rings and helmets are particularly popular.

Independently mobile: It is also not uncommon for some sophonts to have companions that act as a mobile exocortex (such as brainbots) to provide extra computing power.

Individualistic groups often favor implantable, wearable or independently mobile forms of Exocortex over other methods of augmenting brain power which rely on externally-owned infrastructure, or which involve various degrees of collective consciousness.

Environmental processing: Because almost every structure or piece of furniture can be crafted to allow a sizable amount of computronium, it is not uncommon for Habs, ships or worlds to provide private exocortex servers for their resident sophonts. This provides greater processing power than a portable exocortex (but less than a Municipal unit) but is more likely to be restricted or filtered.
While traveling, the individual (or group) might link to their Environmental exocortices using high-bandwidth encrypted networking.

Municipal processing: Also called public or remote exocortex. This type includes Exocortices with the most storage capacity; often two orders of magnitude greater than individual exocortices. Municipal Exocortices are used by the general public and are almost always monitored by the local angelnet or other agents of the local transapient(s). Using a municipal Exocortex gives access to the public cloud including allowing users to run semi-independent instances of their Exoself in multiple locations at the same time. Although municipal Exocortices normally have more than enough capacity to meet the needs of the local population, there have been instances of transapient, or even archailect, level processor needs temporarily overwhelming them, forcing modosophont users off the system.

Access to Municipal Exocortices is often subject to local customs, which can vary based on philosophy, ethos, or etiquette. Some societies make municipal exocortices widely available while others restrict their usage.

According to Processing Power and Method

Different types or models of exocortices can vary greatly in their processing power and capabilities. This may be due to a number of factors, including the Singularity Level of the technology they are made from. A transapientech exocortex (S:1-S:3) may be a fraction of the size of a modosophont unit, while being orders of magnitude more powerful and efficient. Godtech computronium (S:4-S:6) often operates at energies and temperatures that biont tissues cannot withstand, setting a ceilings of sorts on just how capable most exocortices one may encounter are likely to be. But there are always rumors of gift-tech devices that appear to be entirely mundane while hosting 'magical' abilities that are only possible to the highest levels of the toposophic hierarchy. The search for such 'godmods' or the consequences of acquiring them form the basis for a significant fraction of the popular fiction published in any given year.

According to Function

General: These types of exocortices run the Exoself in a wide range of routine situations (e.g., operating multiple devices simultaneously, managing high bandwidth or multiple communications channels, high speed learning, etc.). This type is the most common and is often considered the standard against which the capacities of other types of exocortices are measured.

Specialized: These types of exocortices are optimized to perform certain tasks. This reduces their versatility but maximizes their functionality within their designated task. Sophonts may have many subsystems, each containing exocortices with different specializations. Different empires, polities, and archai may also have a preferred type.

Situational: These types of exocortices are contained inside devices that require mental skills to operate, but carry sufficient computronium to run the object themselves without having to connect to external resources. These types of exocortices are specifically designed for the device they are hosted in. An individual connecting to a situational exocortex will have access to a wide range of sensory inputs and skillsets associated with the use of such a device.

In its varied forms and types, the Exocortex represents one of the most common technologies in the Civilized Galaxy, second only to the Direct Neural Interface itself in the number of sophonts who make use of it every day.

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Development Notes
Text by Avengium
Todd Drashner
Initially published on 16 March 2017.