Baseline Reserve Controversy, The
Image from Steve Bowers
Zhou, a Baseline Reserve planet with a late Bronze Age level of technology, recently contacted by the Human Potential Trust
The Metasoft Version Tree has a long tradition of maintaining terraformed worlds with populations of entirely unaltered human baselines; these are the so-called Baseline Reserve worlds. The reasons behind this are varied; some vecs claim it is part of a redux strategy - given that baseline humans first spawned the Terragen Civilisation, isolated populations of them may be able to reboot it in event of its fall (similar efforts have been put in place elsewhere in the Terragen Sphere). Other vecs simply enjoy maintaining a place for a rare species that is less suited to modern life than others. The practice of maintaining Baseline Reserves has been a source of controversy, both inside and outside the Metasoft empire. Many commentators observe that, if a Reserve is maintained in a condition that does not allow the baseline humans access to the advanced medical technology, augmentation tech, media and databases that most citizens of the Sephirotic Empires take for granted, then those baseline humans are deprived and likely to suffer needlessly.

The events of the Second Vec War resulted in significant change to the nature and number of Baseline Reserves. Before the war, approximately 100 reserves were scattered across Metasoft space, most of which were kept both isolated and primitive (though many analysts predict at least another hundred exist in secret, some go as far to suggest there may have been more than a thousand). The exact state of technology differed between the worlds, many were kept at states equivalent to humans within the Paleolithic through to the Early Iron Age. Others, such as Earthland and Jafalgia, were in full contact with mainstream Metasoft civilisation, and relied upon social factors to preserve a significant population of unaugmented humans.

After the war and the defeat of the Teleological Tendency, life on many reserve worlds changed dramatically. Some stopped being reserves altogether and instead became fully integrated within the Sephirotic Empires. Of the rest approximately two thirds had both their isolation and technology restrictions relaxed to varying degrees. The makeup of those Reserves where technology remains at least somewhat underdeveloped is approximately 35% Primitive, 30% Lowtech, 20% Midtech and 15% Hightech.

The specific restrictions and management methodologies vary dramatically depending on the guardian that is in charge; particularly where the Reserve is in a remote location, the supervising power is unlikely to consider the opinions of others. A prevailing opinion however, has surfaced amounting to a basic minimum of medical care, augmentation, tourism and communication that inhabitants should have available to them, however keeping within the goal of a Redux Strategy strict population controls ensure that baselines represent >90% of the population (for prim and low-tech this number will generally be even higher). Those non-baselines allowed to visit, or even live on reserve worlds most often have limited rights to obtain affluent positions, to travel and in some cases even to speak.

Consent has been a difficult issue with Baseline Reserves throughout their existence. After the Second Vec War, dozens, if not hundreds, of worlds were made aware of the rest of the galaxy for the first time, with their previous Metasoft rulers keeping them in ignorance. Wherever inhabitants were aware of the Sephirotic empires, the knowledge was severely limited and superficial. As part of the reforms, a large effort was made to give a choice to the billions of Baselines within Reserves, with many choosing to leave (often for other prim worlds, but ones with less restrictions), however many remained, and Baseline Reserves lived on. There were few objections, even from staunch opponents, to Baseline Reserves where inhabitants had been given the explicit choice to stay or not, diversity and freedom are pivotal Sephirotic principles. Objections however did begin to arise when new generations were born. Was the consent of their ancestors enough, or did every generation have to consent, did every individual have to consent? No universal answer has ever been given, with different guardians managing their wards in different ways. Some make periodic proclamations, some consult with each and every individual on their desires after educating them on the outside galaxy, some leave contact to lone-explorers who would periodically pass through Baseline Reserve systems and offer "a one-way ticket off this rock".

Major Anti-Reserve Factions

For the remaining Reserves (approx 1/3 of the Reserves that were not completely opened up), the supervising powers simply left, leaving the Reserves completely to their own devices, resulting in significant criticism and controversy. The Baseline Support Group and the Human Potential Trust were established by individuals and polities across Sephirotic space who believed that the wealthy, developed and technologically advanced worlds had a moral obligation to support primitive worlds. They began seeking out prim and low-tech worlds not connected to the Wormhole Nexus, particularly those Baseline Reserves that had been abandoned after the War, and proactively sought to offer both technological and cultural development to either the worlds-at-large, or free transport to individuals who wished to leave. While both BSG and the HPT have made significant achievements in the previous millenia, both organisations have publicly stated that their work is far from over, especially if there are hidden or secretive Baseline Reserves that are still uncontacted.

The biggest objection to Baseline Reserves has historically come from the Pan-Sophontist faith, who firmly believe that every world and individual in the galaxy should be actively provided the opportunity to be brought into the broader Sephirotic community. Pan-Sophontists believe that every living species should be provolved to sophonce, so that every species within a biosphere can participate in the community to the greatest extent possible. Many Pan-Sophontists believe that every biont entity which is already sophont should be allow the opportunity to develop further, towards superbright and superior status, and eventually towards transapience. Even more radical are the Pan-Materialists, who hold that all matter should be reconfigured in order to give it consciousness, in order to join the community of mind. To a Pan-Sophontist or Pan-Materialist, the existence of Baseline Reserves acts as a brake on the on-going process of raising the toposophic level of the Universe.

Pro-Reserve Factions

The Pan-Sophontists, the BSG and the HPT has been opposed by a number of groups dedicated to preserving the Baseline reserves in an uncontacted state, many of which are sympathetic to the philosophy of Authenticism. To an Authenticist, most or all of the benefits of modern civilisation are artificial and false, and as such they distort the true, 'authentic' nature of the species concerned. To an Authenticist, every augmentation and neurological enhancement alters and 'pollutes' the psychological characteristics of the individual, causing them to move away from their naturally evolved state towards an ultimate condition that is indistinguishable from any other artificially intelligent entity. Authenticists often oppose any kind of provolution or lazurogenetic reconstruction as well, stating that the results are qualitatively different from any naturally-evolved organisms and are wholly inauthentic. Ironically, most Authenticists do possess some augmentation, and almost all have access to modern medical technology, but they generally profess to limit their use of such advantages as much as possible.

Also broadly sympathetic to the concept of Baseline Reserves are groups and institutes involved with the maintenance of wildsap reserved worlds and habitats, those who maintain worlds reserved for lazurogened Australopithecines and Homo Neanderthalensis, and worlds with populations of baseline whales and dolphins which are isolated from their provolved cousins. The Terragen Wildlife Foundation is one faction which is dedicated to preserving populations of as many unprovolved species as possible, including near-sophont species such as chimpanzees and orangutans, and they are directly opposed in principle to the tenets of Pan-Sophontism. A significant fraction of these groups are similarly opposed to interference with reservations holding baseline humans, since in many cases a population of true, unaugmented Baselines which enters into full contact with the rest of the Terragen Sphere will fairly rapidly adopt a wide range of adaptations and most will become Nearbaselines within a century or less.

In the Current Era, Wurm and a number of other 'extreme' Baseline Reserve worlds have been acquired by Caretaker God entities, thus removing them from mainstream Sephirotic civilisation. Curiously, the controversy around Baseline Reserves has been largely confined to modosophont and low transapient circles, and most higher toposophic entities decline to state any opinion on the matter. During the Second Vec War, the Standardist Faction of the Metasoft Version Tree used the existence of the Baseline Reserves as part of their justification for the conflict, but many modosophont historians are uncertain about the true motives of each side in the war. As always, the precise motivations of transapients and archailects remain unclear.

To this day there are a small, but significant, number of vessels sponsored by Pan-Sophontists, Pan-Materialists, The Baseline Support Group or the Human Potential Trust, exploring Metasoft space seeking to make contact with the few remaining isolated Reserve Worlds which have not been sequestered by Caretaker Gods. Occasionally one or more of these ships will succeed in making contact with a little-known or hitherto unrecorded Reserve world, with varying degrees of success. Curiously enough the Version Tree archailects make little attempt to intervene in these contact events, for reasons of their own.
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Development Notes
Text by E C Hammond
Additional material by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 11 December 2018.