Any of a wide variety of bionts who have been re-engineered not for superior mental or physical skills, but simply to make their functioning as streamlined and biologically efficient as possible. This has been done by a number of entities down the centuries, some out of curiosity, some from ideology, some out of a sense of 'genetic aesthetics' and some simply because it is an interesting hobby.
Optimals are created by detailed analysis of the genetic codes of the basic, un-optimised, entity. This then allows the identification of duplication, redundancy and the use of compromises and mal-adaptations resulting from the necessities of biological evolution. Once this is done a new genetic code based on the original but with all of the imperfections removed is created, and from that a new race of bionts is embodied.
Part of the intention of the Optimisation process is to create a biont externally identical to the unmodified form, but 'perfected'. As such, although they look the same as the original types, they are an entirely separate species from them, and are not inter-fertile with them. Optimals do not suffer from genetic defects, and their entire biology tends to be superior to that of an unmodified biont of the same type.
One thing which has been noted regarding the Optimals is that have a slightly lower than average rate of transcension than unmodified bionts.
Note that Optimals are distinct from tweaks or nebs. With nebs and tweaks, the genome is adapted from the unmodified baseline human one, in a process of what is essentially provolution. With Optimals an entirely different approach is taken. Rather than enhancing what is there for greater efficiency, the genome is analysed in detail. An entirely new genome that will provide the same functionality in the most efficient way possible is then constructed from scratch. Compared to the unmodified genome, some genes will simply be removed; some will be replaced with others, however radically different, that allow the same job to be done as efficiently as possible. Overall, an entirely re-engineered, and optimized, version of the biont is created, rather than an augmented one.
There are some who have taken the idea of optimising bionts down a rather different route, which some consider to be an extreme form of genetic aesthetics. In their view efficiency involves removing from the body functions that they consider can better be done by technological means, leaving the body to focus entirely on the important matters, such as cognition. Functions that are 'out-sourced' in this manner include the synthesis of amino acids and the ability to handle lactose. Some no longer have a biological immune system, and instead rely on a technological alternative. Optimals of this kind are, of course, more dependant on technology than other bionts, but some consider that to be a small price to pay for the possession of an efficient and superior body.
There are many differences of opinion among Optimals over where the outsourcing of their biological functions should stop. Where the limits lie beyond which the entity is no longer a pure biont, but a cyborg or whatever. There is a spectrum of Optimals (and others entities too) running from the purely biont to those with as many of their biological functions as possible out-sourced away from their biological bodies to technological support systems.
Some Optimals are re-engineered to be as efficient as possible in a highly specialized way, but this is not what the original creators of the Optimals intended, which was for a sophont who is optimal for the entire set of social and physical environments for which humans are adapted.
Yet another lineage of Optimals takes a 'global' or holistic view. From their perspective, there is little benefit to increasing their own efficiency if by doing so they increase the burden on the systems of their hab. Thus they optimise for the most efficient total system; if it is easier from that perspective to outsource a function, then they will, but if it is easier to do something themselves, then that is what they will do.
Many consider that Vecs and aioids, being designed rather than evolved, are already close to, if not actual Optimals. Some xenobiologists have suggested that the alien species the Ultimates were optimised in a comparable way by their unknown creators some millions of years ago.
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 06 February 2006.