Unity - a group mind movement from Nova Terra

Image from Anders Sandberg

Unity began on the Tau Ceti colony of Nova Terra under Erik Atell during the Sol System dark ages.

In 764 A.T a preacher named Erik Atell appeared in Free Ford, a small town in the Nova Alliance Territories. He preached a vision of unity, communion and human development that would unite everybody in the disparate Alliance communities. He had some success, and went on preaching in many other places. His success was mixed, but the Atellians became more and more numerous and widespread. While religious movements were not unusual, the Atellians tried to encompass the whole of the Alliance instead of just a single community. They failed politically, since many of the Alliance communities refused to combine more closely or listening to the Atell memes. In Landfall the Atellians were regarded as just another religion.

Erik Atell realised that he couldn't achieve his vision just through persuasion, the communities had to be forced out of their isolation. He attempted to organise his followers into an army to "open up the closed". The endeavour failed utterly, and Erik was killed in 769 during the attack on a "hedgehog town". The survivors largely left the Alliance, moving to Landfall. There Erik's successor Yotik Henrigues began a new plan; instead of trying to found another settlement or merge with Landfall they should form a completely own colony in space. He exploited the remnants of the administration where he and a few others had connections to get the opportunity to buy the old space station (which was being replaced anyway). The Atellians moved up there en masse in 772, founding their own colony/nation Unity. Most people disregarded this as another crazy cult, but some worried that the Atellians might attempt another crazy venture. To soothe these fears Unity signed a non-intervention treaty in 778.

Unity developed into a closed, extremely connected society. Yotik promoted experiments with drugs and bionics to create a stronger sense of community, perhaps part of a scheme to keep control over his followers despite their hardships. Over the next decade the experiments succeeded - based on Landfall technology the Atellians managed to create a form of digital telepathy, uniting the community ever closer. Over the next years they explored ways of integrating themselves, ending in the formation of a number of Units, bionic group minds that remained in constant contact. Realising that the other people would dislike their approach they began to build a second home among the moons of Tartarus. Unity began asteroid mining and energy production, trading it for know how from downplanet and building new habitats. When the truth began to become clear there was little anybody could do, and the treaty remained.

The Unity Movement

Originally a militant sect, Unity grew into a whole way of life, an indigenous transhuman development. The basic tenet of Unity was the need for community: all humans belong together, and should learn to overcome the barriers that separate. Lies, neurotic hang-ups on status and ego, fear of closeness and the straight jacket of social taboos hinder humans from becoming close, and hence hinder their growth. Through a supporting environment and the mind interfacing technology Unity used it is possible to overcome or circumvent these problems, giving the individual a chance to truly becoming one with others. By culturing mental discipline humans could not just become closer, but also become something greater. The ultimate goal of Unity was to spread community across humanity, setting up local unities that merge together to form greater unities until eventually, in some indeterminate future, the whole of mindkind becomes an "Omega Society".

At the same time, Unity was pragmatic and also developed other sides of human activity. Until the arrival of the Federation, Unity engineering led the colony in advanced mental interfacing and orbital habitat construction, and the movement took a great interest in economics and politics. The leaders understood that other humans - especially baselines, might fear it, and hence carefully presented a friendly low-key profile. Unity members often left pointers behind to various net-presentations of what Unity is, what it believes in and how it works. Especially popular was the Grand Collaboration, a kind of collective philosophical quote collection expressing the views of all the unities and how they work together.

The arrival of Federation culture, and the more sophisticated hyperturing-based transhumanist and omegist memeticities and technologies it brought with it, was fatal for Unity. Unable to compete, the locals held on only in a few habitats as part of a Novan patriotic milieu. Others joined hyperturing or omegist colonies, and a few migrated outwards. Only their software, the so-called Unityware, proved quite appealing to Federation baseline humans.

By the late emergence period, Unity existed only as a historical curiosity, although it has been revived in many forms since that time by enthusiasts and for tourism purposes.

Unity Speak

Translated into verbal speech from the original direct neural code

Arch Mental architecture, especially the cohesion necessary for forming a unity. "Raising the arch" means to learn enough about each other so that unity can be reached.

Bigmeet Colony meetings, when everybody connects to the same telepathic forum. The term is originally from the Alliance.

Communion When two or more individuals have deep-level contact over extended periods of time.

Crack Potential problem in a unity's mental structure.

Deeps The deep levels of the mind, reachable for others only through great training.

Deja vu A mental structure or snapshot placed virtually somewhere in space; not unlike virtual objects in enhanced reality.

Dreamwalking When one part of the Unity is asleep, and the dreams trickle over into the consciousness of other parts. Regarded as a problem, a nuisance, a fun game or a way towards greater unity by different unities.

Encumbered When a unity becomes too large to remain stable, and tends to break up.

Gases Slang for non-Unity people. They are like gas molecules bouncing around without ever combining.

Group-satori The experience of total mental unification, a fairly rare experience.

IAI Interactable Artificial Intelligence, AI equipped to deal with Unity communications. No IAI ever successfully joined a unity until well after the First Federation period..

Imprinting When older members of a unity influence other members (especially neutrals) to take on their personality traits; often necessary to keep the group mind stable as generations pass.

The Isolation The feeling of loneliness Unity members feel when they are not connected with each other.

Legacy A unity that has persisted longer than many of its members.

Mudra Mental sign with a standard meaning.

Multiplexing Having each individual of a unity experience different, but complementary experiences.

Neutrals Native born Unity citizens that never really develop a distinct personality; often necessary in larger unities.

Omega The vision of an entire society mentally unified.

Overmind A very large unity or unity of unities. Very rare.

Partial A small or immature group mind, somewhere between a human collaboration and a true unity.

Piranha Parasitic memes spreading from minds to mind in a unity, like a catchy jingle or self-supporting thought pattern.

Popping When something comes together, especially when a new complex system finally starts to work stably.

Recover To join Unity.

Shallows The upper, most easily accessed parts of the mind.

Slip The accidental breakup of a communion or unity state

Subterra Hiding one's mental state or showing a false one.

Survival skills The basic knowledge of how to make the implants behave well, especially how to break connection with the net.

Telepathy Sending verbal or simple sense impressions through the network.

Thorn An emotion, personality, hang-up or thought pattern that makes it hard to reach unity.

Triad A Unity consisting of three individuals. Pairs are sometimes called dyads, and the series continue with tetrads, pentads, hexads and so on.

Unity The whole of Unity society, as opposed to the lesser unities.

unity A group-mind, the feeling of being one with others.

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg (slightly modified from the original in BIGV))

Initially published on 15 December 2001.