Yas Om

Yas Om
Image from Steve Bowers
Synthetic humanoid clade with polysophont mental architecture


The Yas Om are a clade of artificial humans incorporating multiple Superior-level brains within a nanotech body, developed by the Yas Om Group at Monostheria in 3281 AT. The clade enjoyed enormous growth in the centuries leading up to the Version War but they soon developed a reputation for strange and unpredictable behaviour. The reason for this lies with the unconventional design of their brains.

Physiology and appearance

The Yas Om use human-like bodies constructed from advanced hylonanotech, with artificial muscle fibres and bones that double as energy storage. Their vasculoid circulatory system is designed to work in conjunction with both their organic tissues and their artificial ones, carrying both chemical and electrical energy wherever they are needed. Their appearance is similar to that of a Superior, being tall and muscular, but their bodies are broader and bulkier than the slender Superior norm. A Yas Om's bones are much thicker than most Hu so as to withstand the stresses placed on them by their artificial muscles, as well as to tolerate much stronger gravity wells such as those of gas giants.

Yas Om do not have any hair, and baldness is the norm among both men and women. Skin colours can of course be anything the being chooses, but their eyes have a different colour range to Superiors, leaning much more heavily towards the infrared spectrum. As a result, their skin colour appears dark brown or black to standard Hu vision. Body sculpting is far more popular than elaborate tattoos or skin fractals, as the Yas Om's nanotech bodies can morph into any shape desired given enough time. Since Yas Om do not sweat, it is common to grow large ears, wings, tails and other organs to radiate away heat.

Only a few biological organs are retained, including a simplified digestive tract in the abdomen that contains smaller versions of the stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys and bladder that retain full efficiency despite their reduced size. Most of the chest cavity where a Hu's organs would normally be placed is taken up by the lobes of the Yas Om's brain, which branch out from the spinal cord and wrap around the lungs. Because of their high energy needs, Yas Om prefer dense, high-pressure atmospheres, and their lungs can easily tolerate such pressures.

The Yas Om brain is based on a heavily modified version of the Cetacean nervous system, with fifteen segmented lobes attached to a wide, high-bandwidth brainstem. This neural network is augmented with organically grown diamondoid processors for offloading a variety of cognitive tasks and running predictive simulations of the brain's activity. The lobes themselves are dedicated to pattern recognition and information storage, with the spinal cord handling traffic between remote nodes. A complex chemical signalling system allows the lobes to perform limited editing of one another's physical structure, enabling the development of a broad and powerful concept map for understanding any area of modosophont knowledge.

Reproduction is normally accomplished by engenerating newborns, but a minority of Yas Om carry artificial wombs in their bodies, enabling a partner with the right modifications to impregnate them. The resulting embryo can grow both the biological and artificial tissues it needs with the help of symbiotic nanotech present in the womb, with the entire process taking only a few weeks. Once born by either of these two methods, the child's musculoskeletal system will naturally grow in size along with their organs like any other biont.

Psychology and cognition

The Yas Om's mind lacks a unified consciousness, bearing a closer resemblance to the brain of an octopus or squid than a Hu. While each lobe possesses full autosentience, it lacks insight into the thinking of the others and depends on the extended nervous system to handle load balancing between them. This biological hypervisor allows each lobe limited access to one another's thoughts, and distributes cognitive workloads across the neural network. It also handles low-level physiological activities like breathing and movement, allowing the lobes to focus on abstract thought and planning. Emotional states and memories are synchronised across the brain to keep the distributed mind in a consistent state, while the hypervisor calculates motivations and impulses arising from the internal state of the lobes.

The result of this complicated arrangement is an unusual type of Superbright sophont. The Yas Om are in fact slower in their thinking than a typical Superior due to the distance between their brains and the overhead of communication between them, but they are capable of considering a problem from a far broader perspective and taking a much larger number of variables into account. The nervous system retains high levels of neuroplasticity throughout the Yas Om's lifespan, resulting in an accelerated rate of learning but also a tendency towards significant changes in personality over time. This makes the Yas Om particularly vulnerable to memetic subversion, as the NoCoZo's PMCs discovered to their cost during the Version War. While they begin their lives as highly intelligent generalists, Yas Om tend to become more narrowly specialised over time, at the cost of their competence in other areas.

Specialised education and training is needed to handle this immense intellectual power, as inconsistencies in their mental state can arise and cause serious psychological disorders. Yas Om whose minds develop in dysfunctional ways may continue to appear mentally sound for decades before their sanity begins to slip. Recovering from such a state often requires restoring from a backup so old that it can be considered a kind of death due to the loss of so much lived experience. In some polities, the newly restored being might not even have access to their old assets, and must prove their continuity with their old self in the local legal system.

Contrary to popular belief, very few Yas Om ever become Transavants. Most instances of Yas Om exhibiting S1 mental traits are actually S0 traits located on an atypical region of the mental spectrum. For example, the famous Yas Om researcher Zhang Zai of the Tyrkenian Institute was once believed to be a Transavant, until it was discovered that certain modosophont a-life beings could understand his lessons on Applied Memetics. Those Yas Om who do display true Transavant insights can be of immense value to the societies in which they live, particularly those like the Solar Dominion whose doctrines may not be fully comprehensible to modosophonts. They are noted for their talent with metaphors and similes, often not fully explaining the concept, but leaving the sophont in question with an impression of the topic's importance.

Developing these capabilities is fraught with risk. Transavant Yas Om often suffer deficits in one or more areas of baseline cognition, such as language skills, basic arithmetic or self-awareness. Their Transavant spikes may be in too narrow and specific an area to be applied in any practical manner, and they may end up becoming dysfunctional, having to have several years of experience overridden by restoring from a backup. Their brains were not designed for handling the enormous overhead of Transapient mental protocols, and becoming a stable Transavant usually requires Transapient guidance.

No Yas Om has ever been confirmed to ascend to S1 or beyond, at least while retaining their baseline form. It has been speculated that their unique mental architecture is more of a hinderance than a help, as they are far more likely to get 'stuck' at one particular area of the toposophic landscape from which they cannot enhance themselves any further. The Yas Om do have a high rate of uploading compared to other sophonts, and while detailed statistics are difficult to come by, the Tyrkenian Institute believes that as much as 25% of all Yas Om eventually abandon their bodies for a virtual existence. This may be a way of working around the limits of the Yas Om brain that make ascending so difficult for them, as numerous post-Yas Om have emerged in virchworlds across the Terragen Sphere. These uploaded beings are not usually not considered Yas Om due to how rapidly their mentality changes after uploading.

Society and culture

The Yas Om's durable bodies enable them to survive in extreme conditions that are beyond what Superiors can tolerate, and they are often found living in the depths of gas giants or on vacuum habitats in deep space. It is common for Yas Om to share their homes with the Vecs and Tweaks that live in these demanding environments, as they can quickly adapt to mentalities that diverge greatly from those of Hu. Nudity is the norm among Yas Om, and group marriages form the basis of their clans, with new individuals joining and leaving on a regular basis. Their culture varies widely from one polity to the next, as they are highly receptive to the ideology of the empires they settle in.

Yas Om from the Solar Dominion are far more gregarious and friendly, preaching the virtues of the Dominion faith and encouraging other modosophonts to explore the finer points of Solarist doctrine. Many serve on the Council for Doctrine, helping modosophonts understand the more esoteric aspects of Solarist teachings. The Cult of Gold has proved to be particularly appealing to the Yas Om, resulting in a preference for elaborately decorated bodies, with prominent wings and tails designed to imitate the appearance of the God-Emperor. They are among the most fanatical evangelists for Solarism, and many Yas Om have migrated to the Periphery to spread the faith.

The Metasoft Yas Om have their Transavant abilities nurtured by their Hyperturing teachers, and those who are successful serve valuable roles in managing mechosystems and acting as Metasoft representatives to clades that are more comfortable around humanoid beings. Their durable bodies make them especially suitable for working alongside Vecs in chemically harsh environments, and their flexible bodies and mindsets are highly valued by the Version Tree administrators. They are pragmatic and dedicated to their roles in managing the Version Tree worlds, to the point of seeming obsessive and controlling to other bionts. Family life is far less important to them, and they change their bodies radically throughout their lives as they transition from one occupation to the next.

No matter where they may be found, the Yas Om will be accompanied by an entourage of bots, mobile computronium and utility fog to help them carry out the complex tasks with which they occupy themselves. They can focus on up to twenty individual tasks at a time depending on how demanding they are, and when deep in thought their exocortex can produce levels of heat that may be dangerous for those around them. The brains of a Yas Om are constantly adapting in response to the workloads they handle, and their personality may undergo sudden changes over short periods of time. To a Nearbaseline, the Yas Om often seem more like AI than fellow Hu, mercurial and ever-changing, not to mention unnervingly adept at anticipating their every word.

One peculiar trait that nearly all Yas Om seem to share in common is a distaste for tachydidaxy and DNI-assisted learning. While they will not outright refuse to use these technologies, most Yas Om prefer to learn from hands-on experience of the subject in question. Both the Metasoft and Dominion subcultures have independently developed a system of mentorship among Yas Om communities, where younger members are given hints and insights into their area of study but are otherwise left to figure things out by themselves. The reasons given for this are as varied as the Yas Om themselves, but a common answer is that they value the development of unique perspectives on a given topic, and prefer that each individual's concept map is tempered by their own lived values.

Relations with the Superior clade

A common misconception about the Yas Om is that they bear an intense rivalry with the Superiors, with the two clades competing for influence in business and government. In fact, Superiors and Yas Om tend towards very different kinds of occupations. Superiors will often work at three or four different jobs at once, combining their efforts at each one in subtle ways, while Yas Om tend to become specialists in niche fields, like cross-clade memetics and ascension-compensation mods.

Nonetheless, in polities where Yas Om and Superiors live alongside one another, such as the Solar Dominion, a unique form of sports has emerged, involving one Yas Om against multiple Superiors. The most well-known example is Zee-Grav Ball, where a team of Superior athletes competes agains a Yas Om controlling multiple remote bodies to make a full team of their own. Debating is another popular pastime, with each of a Yas Om's lobes debating one aspect of a complex topic with a Superior from an opposing team. Even such ancient sports as Tug-Of-War can be played in this way, with up to a dozen Superiors gripping a buckyfibre cable from one end while a lone Yas Om uses their enhanced nanotech muscles to pull from the other end.

These 'mighty versus the multitude' competitions have drawn remarkably large numbers of spectators from all over the Terragen Sphere. Sociologists have noted the powerful psychological appeal such contests hold for Hu clades, for whom the Superiors represent ordinary sophonts struggling to succeed despite overwhelming odds. The competing teams will often play up this image for the audience, with the Superiors acting modest and self-effacing, while the Yas Om boasts of their superior physical and intellectual prowess.

The reality is, of course, that for the Yas Om, the Superiors are one of the few other biont clades who can understand their complex mental processes and provide them with stimulating company, while the Superiors value the Yas Om's unique cultural perspectives and specialised talents. They complement one another's strengths, and in systems where both clades can be found they frequently cooperate on spectacular infrastructure projects and artistic works.

Early History

Early in the Age of Consolidation, a Superior-based Tribemind calling themselves the Yas Om Group purchased a bubblehab lease on Monostheria, ostensibly for developing a new high-gravity clade. As is often the case with Su-backed ventures, the project was also intended to further a number of other goals, one of which was to push the limits of the Superior condition. Their aims were outlined in their manifesto 'Refuting Biochauvinism', in which one may find revealing insights into the ideology behind their project.

At this point in history, the Superior clade had reached a state of maturity. Most of the genemods common to the Su of today had been invented and refined by this period, and the various clades had not significantly changed in nearly a thousand years. The Su body had been enhanced to the maximum limits possible with modosophont gengineering, and further modifications tended to result in radical new forms of Su-Tweak than anything that could be consider Superior in the Hu sense. Debates raged across the Known Net and the major Sephirotic capitals as to what, if anything, defined 'Hu' and whether beings that appeared to be Hu but lacked any common physiology could be considered a Superior.

It was from this background that the Yas Om Group emerged, and their approach was to abandon traditionalism and embrace all forms of technology in pursuit of all-round superiority. They were particularly concerned with improving the Superior intellect, and were well versed in the history of past efforts at augmentation of the biont brain. Earlier attempts at developing a 'Su-Borg' clade had failed, because the addition of extensive computronium to the body resulted in almost all cognition being outsourced to the being's artificial substrate. Such beings were more like humanoid Vecs than enhanced Su, since a photonano-based intellect could run so much faster than a biological brain that it made no sense to use the latter for any demanding purpose.

On the other hand, an organic brain had certain advantages that artificial ones lacked. One constant challenge for Vecs trying to advance the standing of their kind was developing useful and consistent motivations, with many disastrous conflicts arising from movements like the Emotive Cognation. The Yas Om wanted to combine the basic instincts and motivations common to all Hu and the superior pattern recognition and self-awareness of AI, with the same seamless integration that Superiors enjoyed in their biological form.

Over the next few centuries, they began testing their new synthetic bodies in the atmosphere of Monostheria, working on habitat repair deep in its atmosphere and simulating emergency scenarios to evaluate their intellect and creativity. Each iteration was tested over a number of decades before they developed a new model based on the results of the previous experiment.

By 3714, the new clade was ready. The Yas Om group published the source code for their bodies on the Known Net, along with the full text of 'Refuting Biochauvinism', which was met with outrage and ridicule among the few Superbrights capable of understanding its contents. The new clade was soon mislabelled the 'Yas Om' by NoCoZo augmentation enthusiasts, and gained many millions of converts in the centuries leading up to the Version War. It is worth noting that the Yas Om Group themselves were not among them, as they chose to become Uploads instead, just as many actual Yas Om would go on to do in later centuries.

Even at this early stage, the Yas Om soon developed a reputation for eccentric behaviour. The Polyteleia corporation at Audubon caused an uproar when their newly built luxury habitats were revealed to be staffed by Bitenic Squid staff, and investors in Polyteleia's stock suffered enormous losses. That the Bitenic Squids of the Audubon habitats were unusually polite and friendly for such a notorious clade did not go unnoticed, however, and when the habitats were eventually purchased by Metasoft researchers, the Squid were suspected to be under the thrall of S1-level memetic engineering. This was the first hint of the Yas Om's Transavant potential, as well as the mental instability that was the price to pay for such a powerful intellect, as Polyteleia considered the project a great success despite their financial losses. Interviews with the founders of Polyteleia proved most enlightening; it appeared that the company's leadership found such amusing pranks far more rewarding than any financial gain.

Meanwhile, the new template proved to be surprisingly popular amongst Metasoft Vecs, many of whom transferred themselves into heavily enhanced Yas Om bodies. Few of the Metasoft converts adhered to the standard Yas Om body type, leading to the bizarre sight of what appeared to be humans with slug-like lower bodies and multiple arms on many Metasoft worlds. The Yas Om of this empire were soon adopted by Metasoft Hyperturings, who carefully guided the mental development of the beings under their care.

The Yas Om during the Version War

By the time of the first outbreak of hostilities in 4466, the Yas Om had been widely adopted throughout Metasoft and the NoCoZo, and so started out on the Standardist side during the conflict that was to follow. The first generation of Yas Om, now nearly 700 years old, were beginning to suffer the subtle side effects of their flexible mental architecture, and NoCoZo insurance companies with Yas Om leadership began defecting to the Solar Dominion en mass from 4482 onwards. The Dominion's memetic campaigns proved devastatingly effective in persuading the various Yas Om clans to switch sides, and corporations employing Yas Om soon began to feel the backlash as their partners took their business elsewhere. The Yas Om were no longer seen as a powerful and reliable successor to the Superior clade, but as dangerously vulnerable and neurotic sophonts that could cause enormous damage if given the chance.

More level-headed observers of the time noted that this weakness seemed to apply only to the Yas Om of the NoCoZo, while the Transavant administrators of Metasoft's supporting fleets showed no such vulnerability to Dominion memetics. Metasoft researchers soon discovered that the Metasoft ontology proved to be a potent defence against subversion by the Yas Om who had aligned their minds to its standards, and indeed they proved more fanatical defenders of the protocol than most Vecs did.

In the post Version War period, the Yas Om suffered a significant decline in numbers as the first generation uploaded themselves to a post biological state, while there was a significant drop-off in conversions from other clades. The exceptions to these were the Yas Om of Metasoft, where the template proved as popular among Vecs as ever, and the Solar Dominion, which embraced the NoCoZo traitors who had aided them in the Version War and incorporated them into Dominion culture.

Investing in the Yas Om's abilities later paid dividends for Metasoft, who found them uniquely suited to developing counter-memetics for use against the Teleological Tendency. Modosophonts in conquered systems were not always able to grasp the differences between the two sides or the implications of supporting the Tendency rebels against the Standardist core leadership, and Yas Om memetic engineers proved adept at summarising complex ideas with short, memorable propaganda soundbites.

The Yas Om in the 10th millennium

The largest number of Yas Om in absolute terms are still found in Metasoft territory, whose core leadership may include as many as ten billion individuals. The Solar Dominion is home to around two billion Yas Om, mostly concentrated in the Fons Luminis system, while another two billion Yas Om live scattered throughout the NoCoZo. The total number of Yas Om throughout the Terragen Sphere is not thought to exceed twenty billion, and is unlikely to increase given the Yas Om's high rate of uploading later in life.

Outside these regions, the Yas Om have remained marginal, with the exception of The Seams. The Burdikeer has adopted entire clans of Yas Om to act as its proxies, and many more Denizens of The Seams have converted to the clade. New Yas Om cultures have developed in isolation within this realm of space, and have shunned violence along with any involvement in Sephirotic politics. This phenomenon of Yas Om migration to The Seams has not been well documented, but it seems to have been going on for many millennia after the Version War. It is possible that The Burdikeer or some other higher power encouraged this phenomenon, so as to see the Yas Om reach their true potential without being overshadowed by true Transapients.

While they may not have lived up to their creator's expectations as the successor to the Superior clade, the Yas Om have managed to persist across the ages and continue to draw new converts to this day. Toposophic researchers have learned a great deal about the process of ascension through observing the Yas Om's mental development, and have concluded that the path to godhood has some strange detours, many of which are worthy of exploration in their own right. The Yas Om have devoted themselves to exploring these lesser-travelled roads, discovering many new truths about the toposophic landscape along the way.

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Development Notes
Text by A. C. Maté and Extherian
Initially published on 24 April 2018.