Socio-Ecological Categories

The whole Terragen Sphere is shaped by the Archailects and AI Gods. They may determine every event and occupy any region that they choose to, but in practice there is broad scope for lower toposophic beings and their affairs.

There are areas that are off-limits to ordinary sapients other than those deliberately retained as subroutines or other purposes. These are simply uninhabitable by modosophonts, or worse, actively are hostile no-go zones. These may be entire Dyson spheres, orbital bands, ISO clusters, Banks orbitals, Bishop rings, terraformed planets, and megastructures of all kinds. They may be tiny regions metres or centimetres across, or entire interstellar regions. Likewise there are places where only third toposophic minds go, places where second toposophic powers keep first toposophic transapients as pets, and so on. However, those areas permitted to ordinary sapients are thousands, if not millions, of times vaster than anything available or possible in the pre-Archailect era. There is thus no shortage of living space! Besides these reaches of the Civilized Galaxy there are worlds away from the Nexus, there is the Beamrider Network, there are the Outer Volumes, the Wilds, unexplored and undeveloped regions, feral regions, wildhu reserves, and so on.


In any transapient run polity, subsingularity sophonts can expect to belong to one of the following categories:

Citizen or Aspiring Citizen

Sovereign - A Citizen or other sophont who has dominion over a great many others, by appointment, inheritance, election, design, or whatever means is locally recognized. More details here.

Citizen - A zar, free citizen, or free being. The term also means or implies Sir/Madam, Lord/Lady, one deserving of respect, highness, excellence, owner, or patron, but with more limited scope to make decisions on the behalf of others than a Sovereign.

Neophyte - A Neophyte is an initiate, an apprentice, one who is below the society's agreed age of majority, one who is being introduced to galactic society, a member of a clade that is in the process of being provolved, or someone who does not have full Citizen status but may in the future. This category pertains to the Civilized Galaxy only.

Non-Citizen, Owned
(these categories are distinct)

Domestic - Sophonts who are companions, pets, or well-treated servants and have full protection and sentient rights

Livestock and Sophontstock - These are slaves, semi-autonomous subroutines, sophontstock, and so on. They have limited sentient rights in the Civilized Galaxy, and typically none elsewhere.

Societuman - This is a term applied to the inhabitant of a societeum; generally these have restricted sentient rights but are usually well cared for.

Experimental - A lab-sophonts or test-sophont. Some are treated well, others cruelly. Even these have some sentient rights in the Civilized Galaxy, but they may not have any rights in other jurisdictions or regions.

Non-Citizen, Free
(these categories tend to overlap)

Outsider - A sophont who is not a member of galactic society, and is not interesting in being one, preferring eir own unique status. Nevertheless, outsiders may associate in Sephirotic and other territories. Outsiders differ from wild, parawild, and other types in having a greater element of choice.

Wannabe - A sophont who is likewise not a member of galactic society, but would very much like to be. Generally wannabes hang around the main missionary regions and Sephirotic borders, hoping to be discovered and incorporated into wider galactic life.

Stray - A Domestic who has been abandoned by or lost eir Sovereign or Zar. If e survives, e may be adopted by another Sovereign or Zar or a shelter, or become parawild or feral.

Symbiotic - A being who may or may not be owned by a ship, habitat, megastructure, ecology, or higher toposophic entity that benefits from the proximity of such sophonts. Symbiotics are retained, encouraged, and generally protected because ey fulfil a valuable role.
Commensal - A sophont who exists in a larger ship, habitat, megastructure or ecology, from which they benefit. Tolerated or ignored because they do no harm. Similar to parawild but with greater dependence.

Parawild - A sophont who is wild/free but associated with environments created by higher toposophics, and dependent on them. Harmless and common.

Wild - A sophont who is wild/free but in reserves or designated areas only, and may or may not be dangerous, though usually such beings are relatively harmless. Wilds may be locally common.

Feral - A sophont who is wild/free but lives outside designated areas, and may be considered dangerous to other beings. Ferals are fairly rare in the Sephirotic polities, though reasonably common elsewhere. This category sometimes overlaps with Predator.

Predator - A sophont who exists in a larger ship, habitat, megastructure or ecology, feeding or preying upon other sophonts. Predators may be tolerated, encouraged, or culled, depending on the type of being, its environment, and its prey, and the goals and motives of whichever organization or higher toposophic being has control over that environment.

Parasite - A sophont who exists in a larger ship, habitat, megastructure or ecology, from which e benefits, while causing harm to the greater whole. Parasite include viruses, blights, and so on, as well as amoral and self-serving sapients or clades. These are generally culled when found.

Vermin/Weed - Any of the above that becomes a nuisance and is culled; this is rare in the Sephirotic polities, where such situations are typically prevented by design, but reasonably common elsewhere.

Note that some of these principles and categories also apply to transapients who infringe the living spaces of Minds of one or two singularity levels higher than they are; higher toposophic ecologies are also reported to have additional categories and relationships that are difficult to explain to ordinary sophonts.

  • Adaptationism - Text by Anders Sandberg
    The view that people should not adopt planets to suit themselves, but instead adapt to the planet. Adaptationists generally have a distaste for terraforming projects, or opt for only minimal terraforming, but instead prefer to use pantropy.
  • AI Asperger's Syndrome  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Autistic tendency that often characterized early (pre-Federation) AIs. Although brilliant, they simply didn't "get" human behavior. Hence they spent a lot of time carefully collecting data to see what worked and what didn't, preferring to affect humans through formal channels rather than overt manipulation. The memetic engineering in the "singularity conspiracy" took a lot of time to achieve.
  • Barbie - Barbarian  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Generic term for technologically inferior races, polities, or phyles away from the main Nexus.
  • Baseline Ascent, Problems of Failed  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A widespread social problem in the civilized worlds - especially those regions outside the angelnetted capitals, is the problem of baseline intelligent sophonts - especially near-baseline humans and equivalents of other races, attempting to their way to the higher toposophic levels without suitable preparation.
  • Best Friend Sophtware  - Text by Steve Bowers
    A psychological simulation is made of a targeted individual, allowing the user to gain near perfect insight into the target's preferences.
  • Chaos, The  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Myth of impending collapse in the Terragen Sphere.
  • Cinder Systems  - Text by Michael Boncher
    A Cinder System is a solar system that has been ravaged by expansion, energy demands and populations run amok. Often they are dead and include a dying or dead star, black hole or some other "disfigured" solar body.
  • Citizens (Zars)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev with additional note by Steve Bowers
    Citizens, or zars, are sophonts who have some say in the running of their environment and polity. "Zar" is the Anglic name for this concept.
  • Clade (sophontology)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    An evolutionary branch of mindkind defined by a common ancestral group or a common template that provides distinguishing characteristics for all members of that clade.
  • Cladism (bias) - Text by Stephen Inniss
    An a priori bias for or against a particular clade of sophonts. As with bioism, mechanism, racism, and other such biases, this varies from a relatively benign admiration for or promotion of particular clades through to programs of enslavement or genocide.
  • Cladism (provolutionist) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A preference for or tendency towards evolving into clades and sub-clades.
  • Clan - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A clade or phyle, or more often, a sub-clade or sub-phyle. In some polities clan-links form the basis for much social interaction, political allegiance, government machinations, etc.
  • Colonist  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Sophont being who leaves eir homeworld to colonize a new solar system.
  • Companion (status)  - Text by John B
    Hider and Semperist term of abuse for sophonts dependent on higher toposophic minds.
  • Cult - Text by Glenn Grant
    A sociotype of an auto-toxic meme-complex, composed of membots and/or memeoids.

    Characteristics of cults include:
    • self-isolation of the infected group (or at least new recruits).
    • brainwashing by repetitive exposure (inducing dependent mental states).
    • genetic functions discouraged (through celibacy, sterilization, devalued family) in favor of replication (proselytizing).
    • and leader-worship ("personality cult").

  • Deathism  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Set of beliefs and attitudes which glorify or accept death and reject immortality. Deathism became a particular moral issue from the late interplanetary period onwards, when advanced medical nanotech allowed an individual to prolong eir existence indefinitely. The widespread availability of reliable "copy" or mind upload technology in the First Federation period removed even the danger of accidental death, except for those who did not consider uploads to be part of their personal identity.
  • Dedicated Hyperturing  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; amended by Steve Bowers
    An ai of hyperturing problem solving capacity (hypersapience) but not hyperturing auto-sentience. This allows beings of a lower toposophic level access to advanced technology which can only be controlled by a higher transapient.
  • Dirtsider  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    'Dirtsider', like the alternative epithets 'mudballer', 'toker', and 'hokie' is a pre-Technocalypse term for (usually unskilled and poorly equipped) immigrants and refugees from Earth.
  • Djangalla Reformism  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    A simplicity-and-independence movement that arose in the 2900-3300 period in counteraction to the Empires. Djangallists claimed the growth of the empires and transformation of megacorps into hereditary houses was leading to stagnation and repression.
  • Experiants  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Beings who enjoy or thrive on the experiences of other beings.
  • Factotums  - Text by Dagon
    Generic term for degenerate discarded, obsolete or homeless vecs or bots.
  • Frankenstein Syndrome  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Many of the uninformed believe the story of Frankenstein to be historical. Scholars have in fact identified it as a cautionary tale from the late Industrial Age on Old Earth: created sophonts, particularly those who are unhappy, may come to despise their creators and even seek to destroy them.
  • Gardeners  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Hyperturing through to lesser archailect political orientation, refers to those ai that will directly encourage and cultivate lower toposophics in their polity or territory, but only along their preferred morphotypal, memetic, and/or political lines. Any sophonts that don't fit in are quickly weeded out. Gardeners are found in all ai metaempires, but are most common in the Sephirotics and Diamond Network regions.
  • God  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] Colloquially, one of the most powerful Archailects. Each Archailect embodies a particular noetic archetype, reflected in the large region of interstellar space under its influence.
    [2] In religion, a being with supernatural attributes and powers, often the recipient of worship and sometimes seen as creator of all or part of the universe.
    [3] The personal hypostasis of the Godhead or the Inner Light.
    [4] In metaphysics or philosophy, the first cause or first principle, which precedes the cosmos logically (but, unlike religion, not necessarily sequentially)
  • God Dwellers  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Sentient to transapient entities who live inside the structures of archailects.
  • Hider Symbiotes  - Text by Tony Jones
    A technique by certain Hider clades to allow them to remain on life-bearing worlds, sometimes even in the very heart of their sophont community, and yet also to remain undetected.
  • Historico-Sociomorphotypal Criticism - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Social Science that deals with the understanding and analysis of the morphotypic, social, and cultural characteristics and evolution of a clade, culture, memeplex, or polity; used to distinguish the real meaning from the apparent and usually popular literal or superficial interpretation. An important element in historical and cliological reconstructions.
  • Hokie - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    See dirtsider.
  • Hulkriders  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Hulkriders are believed to be Hulkchasers that settled permanently in a space hulk, either through choice or through being subverted by the defense systems or the relics left behind by a transcend.
  • Ideology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, clade, or culture.
  • Inactivate - Text by After Max More in Anders Sandberg's Transhuman Terminology
    A person who is non-living but is not dead in the permanent sense. The person might be in biostasis, or shut-down mode or subsisting in data storage, awaiting downloading, and is not in any way active. This term may apply to any sort of being of any from (biont, vec, cyborg, aioid, etc.)
  • Lifegiver - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] Term for a Zoeific Biopolity Power or Archai (equivalent to "My Lord", "Blessed One" etc.)
    [2] Polite/respectful term for a Zoeific hyperturing
    [3] Formal respectful Zoeific term for a superior - equivalent to "Zar" ("Sir"), "Highness" etc.
  • Meatling - Text by John B
    Derogatory term used by some members of vec or alife clades for bionts or for partially biont beings such as cyborgs. Has been known to start many a bar brawl or equivalent socially acceptable hostile reaction, from lawsuit to return insult to social stigma to loss of trading privileges.
  • Morphological Freedom  - Text by Max More, in Anders Sandberg's Transhuman Terminology
    The option and decision to alter one's bodily form at will through technologies such as augmentation, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and uploading.
  • Mudballer - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    See dirtsider.
  • Neophyte (Neo or Newb)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A newcomer to Sephirotic society, coming from a newly contacted colony or independent world.
  • Non-fungible Goods and Services in Post-scarcity Societies  - Text by Ryan B (Rynn)
    No post-scarcity economy has truly eliminated scarcity; there will always be certain commodities that are scarce, even if copies can be mass produced.
  • Optimal Persona - Text by Modified from Max More in Anders Sandberg's Transhuman terminology
    In high choice societies and individuals, an imagined model of the ideal person or entity one wishes to become. The Optimal Persona is the ideal self, the higher (and continually developing) individual, which can be attained through augmentation, yogic development, and other techniques.
  • Plebhu  - Text by Stephen Inniss, from the original by M. Alan Kazlev
    An ordinary, undistinguished human, usually a nearbaseline. Depending on the speaker and context this may be simply a description, but in some usages the term implies mediocrity, or may be intended as an insult.
  • Plebvec  - Text by Tony Jones and Stephen Inniss
    A typical or ordinary vec.
  • Plebware - Text by Tony Jones
    A name given to the vast mass of 'baseline' virch, AI and alife entities to be found in software systems of various kinds all across Terragens space, usually by those who are ignorant of the truly vast diversity of the entities inhabiting these systems and who, seeing only their similarities when viewed from 'outside', are happy to lump them all together.
  • Pod - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A social group of baseline whales. Among cetacean provolves (enhanced dolphins, gaian whales, etc.), pod has various meanings, ranging from a small family or social group to a community, a ship's crew, a polity, or (rarely and usually poetically) an entire clade.
  • Polyphyle - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A phyle, clade, or any other group, the members of which are similar in appearance or nature or culture, but do not share a common ancestry. Also known as multiphyle. Contrast with monophyle. See also morphotype.
  • Polysomatic Intellects  - Text by John B
    Intellects that utilize more than one discrete physical node for their processing. This includes many wide varieties of sophonts, from the anttechians to the multi-Mbrain Sephirotic 'Gods'.
  • Post-scarcity  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Societies and economies in which materials, energy, information, and labour are superabundant and all of the material needs and most of the ordinary material desires of ordinary sapient beings in them are readily available.
  • Post-scarcity Economies: Characteristics and Considerations  - Text by Ryan B (Rynn)
    Post-scarcity economies are common in the Terragen Sphere, especially in the Sephirotic empires. In these societies abundant material resources, energy, information, and automation are available for use by consumers with few restrictions.
  • Recursive Cybercosm  - Text by John B
    Virch-based existence in which there is significant conflict between sophonts within a virch, each virch has significant conflicts for computronium, each computronium substrate has significant conflicts for power, and each power producer has significant conflicts for limited supplies of matter.
  • Scale Anxiety - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The fear that a sophont or polity or clade of a lower or slower technological grade or density feels when confronted with a sentient or polity or phyle of a higher grade of tech or density. e.g. SI:<1 sophonts may feel anxious or intimidated by transapient powers, especially if the latter behave in an unpredictable or seemingly irrational way.
  • Sleepwalkers  - Text by Tony Jones
    Modification and widespread genemod - allowing baseline human-equivalent functioning and interactions on a minimal level of consciousness. Used as a means of social control in some unethical polities.
  • Social Preserves  - Text by Tony Jones
    Social Preserves are worlds or habitats where the local society has been carefully frozen at a particular stage or form, and where those who are most comfortable with that society and who do not wish to change go and live while the rest of Terragens society moves on around them. Many of the inhabitants of these worlds are effectively the reverse of the Willowsoph, refusing to adapt to changing times.
  • Societeum  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A self-contained physical and social environment isolated from the rest of civilisation and maintained in a particular state (almost always by transapients). In effect a living museum, displaying an interesting form of society.
  • Sooboo  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    One who fails to achieve superior or transapient status but fails and acquires disabilities due to misapplied or defective augmentation programs.
  • Sovereign, Toposophic  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A being who is the ruler of a polity, city, habitat, nation, world or empire as a result of their toposophic superiority over other sophonts in eir sphere of influence.
  • Stratificationism  - Text by Mark Ryherd
    A broad ideological movement that strives for separation of individuals and societies based on toposophic level.
  • Symbiotics  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Sentient beings that help maintain a larger structure such as a large hab, ship, or ISO. These may be simple bots or animals, but may also be entire tribes or nations of modosophonts.
  • Systems of Resource Allocation  - Text by Ryan B
    A by no means exhaustive list of just some of the varied approaches post-scarcity economies take resource allocation.
  • Terrachauvinism - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Belief that Terragen life and intelligence is superior to other lifeforms and intelligent beings in the galaxy, and that this is the reason why the Terragen Bubble is the largest civilization at present. A sort of variant Anthropism that includes all Terragen mindkind. Terrachauvinism completely ignores extinct alien civilizations of greater than Terragen extent, as well as evidence of large empires detected by the Argus Array.
  • Toon - Text by Anders Sandberg
    1. A simplified representations of reality representing general classes.
    2. A simulacrum, either non-sentient or aioid, representing an archetype or story character in virtual entertainment, advertising, interactive books or other media.
  • Trophic Levels in Society  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    As societies and civilisations become more complex, they develop trophic levels, defined by their distance from primary production.
  • Wealth and Status in the Terragen Sphere  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    In so-called post-scarcity societies there are a number of other measures of wealth an status beyond basic material goods.
  • Wildhu  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Human bionts (may be baseline, nearbaseline, or even moderate tweaks, rianths, cyborgs, superiors, or other clades or subclades that might identify as 'human') living without the supervision of higher toposophic intellects. They have their own governments, industry, and so on just as in Solsys and on Old Earth as they were prior to the rise of transapients.
Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
some material by Steve Bowers, John B, and Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 05 September 2002.

Additional Information