Institute for Primate Provolution

Institute of Primate Provolution
Image from Bernd Helfert

The Institute for Primate Provolution is one of the oldest Terragen organizations still extant in the 105th century. It has never been a great military or economic power, and has maintained a low profile for most of its history. Most ordinary sapients see the IPP simply as an unusually long-lived organization with a relatively narrow set of interests: reliable and conservative, if somewhat secretive. However, the IPP has branches in nearly every part of the Terragen sphere, especially where humans or other primates are present, and within the realm of primate memetics and genetics the Institute's depth of knowledge and subtlety of application is unparallelled. Its cumulative influence on the course of Terragen history, simply by its leadership in the creation and improvement of primate clades, is subtle and difficult to quantify.

For many thousands of years the Institute has been near the forefront of development in promoting the memetic and genetic provolution of humans and other primate species. It produced many of the more common tweaks and patches now considered standard in the human nearbaseline population and other primate clades, and is responsible for some of the more popular Su templates (particularly the 195th human edition, which is considered a classic). Though the IPP is not responsible for any particular memeplex in its entirety, many laws and customs in primate-dominated polities, and many of the memetic designs that larger polities use to integrate human or other primate populations, have their origins in designs by the Institute's memetics faculty. The Institute has an uncanny knack for producing designs that integrate well into pre-existing cultural and political structures and are congruent with a primate clade's underlying instinctive biases.

The Institute's other claim to fame is the authorship of a very large number of unique and successful primate clades, each of which is a direct development of a baseline primate species of Old Earth. Though there are many other organizations and individual transapients that have undertaken work of this kind, the IPP excels in producing clades that are uniquely "true" to the traits of the original species, rather than being mere copies of the human model (a mistake all too easy to make when provolving primates). The IPP's clades have all proven to be fully viable as Terragens in the modern era, and survive and thrive across broad parts of the Sephirotic regions and even into the frontier. Of the fifty-two new species-based clades and the host of subclades they have produced to date, each has gone on to make a place for itself. No IPP clade has become a mere protected minority in the Utopia sphere, as is too often the fate of hastily or poorly developed provolves. In fact, on several occasions the IPP has been called in to undertake salvage and repair work when a provolution project involving primates goes awry.

For many millennia the IPP had its headquarters in Solsys itself, but more recently it has moved that centre to Ao Lai. (Gamma Leporis). Impressive though that system is, the IPP does not control any significant territories in any one system, for all of its thousands of branches across the Terragen sphere of influence.

History

The IPP has roots in the post-nanoswarm to early Federation period. It was founded by a company of bonobo provolves and human spacer tweaks who declared that they had discovered a cache of pre-nanoswarm scientific data in a polar orbit around Saturn. This cache contained data on the 174 primate species known to humanity on Old Earth before the Great Dying. This extraordinarily complete record, possibly a remnant of the Burning Library Project, included everything known regarding these species up until 112 AT: full genetic profiles, including those of many local races and sub-populations, behavioural, social and physiological data, ecological studies, full genetic and other data on commensal organisms, a large partially complete set of data on predators and food items, and even relevant human fiction and legends. Sceptics have long doubted this official story of the IPP's origins. To many of them it seems unlikely that the cache, even with the assistance of its guardian AI, Jane, could have survived undetected and unmolested for what must have been hundreds of years. However, the IPP has never retracted its original claim, and still celebrates the names of the Founders (including Jane) on Discovery Day once each Old Earth year.

Whatever doubt there may be about the story of its origin, the authenticity and quality of the data in the cache itself is undoubted. Its unique content was the foundation of the IPP's wealth, and as such was closely guarded with releases from it being carefully managed. The founders named themselves the Institute for Primate Preservation, and declared their intent to reconstruct and study the entire set of 174 species and several sub-races of primates described in the cache. Shortly afterwards, GAIA and the nascent Federation both declared the IPP to be under their protection. This allowed the IPP live through a rather perilous infancy in those tumultuous and competitive times. In the centuries immediately following the IPP somehow continued to survive and expand by a series of deft political manoeuvres together with carefully timed releases of information from their cache. It is thought that they had covert help from sympathetic Solsys AIs who had taken an interest in their cause.

Prime Habitat (known to irreverent IPP members as "the monkey house") was the first large-scale structure to be built. It held (and still holds) viable populations of all historical primate species, and was completed early in the Federation period. A separate research and development habitat, called Kasekala ("the hothouse" to IPP insiders) was built shortly afterwards. Building on their knowledge base from Prime Habitat, and on many of their studies of human baselines, nearbaselines, and chimp and bonobo provolves, the workers at Kasekala began to explore practical applications. The IPP became wealthy in a conventional sense, but also began a very successful practice of acquiring allies and supporters with simple gifts of valuable research information. They released important tweaks for nearbaseline chimps, humans, and bonobos, as part of an ongoing series that continues to this day. They also produced an excellent Superior package for the primate clades of the day, and have produced many others in the millennia since, each tailored to a primate species or clade (the human Superior template is now in its 214th release). On request they also provided consultation, mediation, and even entire redesigns for societies and polities with significant populations of humans or other sapient primates, a practice that continues today.

Eventually provolution and related work became so important to the IPP's continued existence that it renamed itself the Institute for Primate Provolution. As the Institute grew and expanded the scope of its work, it became famous for its series of extremely successful primate provolves, beginning with a Gorilla clade produced at Fossey Habitat and moving on to progressively more difficult subjects. A clade of sapient tarsiers is presently under development. The IPP's success in these ventures may have a great deal to do with their approach, which involves generations of careful testing and (once the clade reaches the necessary level of sapience) intensive consultation with the members of the newborn clade itself, followed by more generations of subsequent development. For all their great diversity, the IPP derived clades have a common style. They are as close to the original baseline species as possible for a technological clade, both physically and behaviourally, they are viable without any mechanical implants (though fully capable of using them), they have health and longevity equal to or greater than the current generation of nearbaseline humans, and they are initially of SI<1 level (though many have since produced Superior clades either on their own or with IPP assistance). All of the clades produced by the IPP remain friendly with their parent, and many continue to support it politically and economically. Many IPP members are individuals from the original client clades who have chosen to return to their "roots".

The Institute for Primate Provolution is moderately famous in provolution circles for never having botched a provolution attempt. IPP protocols are widely copied by more cautious and egalitarian provolve groups, and the IPP is sometimes called in to repair the situation when a provolve project has gone seriously wrong. Most famous is the case of the Rhesus Cyborgs, who vanished suddenly from the testing facilities of a small polity on the outer borders of the Negentropist zone in 6736, only to appear in stasis at Ao Lai a few years later. Subsequent work by the IPP is considered a model of restorative provolution. The resulting clade was upgraded to Berram7 0.5, freed of a botched "slave" mentality, and purged of a number of personal and societal dysfunctions. Contrary to IPP advisors the members of the new clade chose to retain their extensive cyborgization. They renamed themselves the Metal Monkeys. Members of this clade are still an important component of the IPP's rather small enforcement security division.

Over its history the IPP has somehow managed to avoid being absorbed not only by Gaianists, the Federation bureaucracy, the Genen, and various early megacorporations, but also by later powers such as the Zoeific Biopolity. It is widely believed that the IPP used its own considerable memetic engineering skill to accomplish this. Aside from its own transapient leaders it has managed to acquire the friendship and support of powerful polities, organizations, and transapients of many kinds, and has used that web of alliances to protect itself against memetic or physical aggression.

The IPP has survived several internal crises and divisions relating to its primary mission. The first significant debate was over its change of name and purpose, from that of simple preservation to provolution. Though that dispute was amicably resolved, many IPP members at the time became adherents of GAIA. It is known that at this time these dissident members took an entire copy of the original cache to Earth, apparently with the agreement of their parent organization. That is the sole known instance of such a transfer in the history of the IPP; the full content of the original cache has never since been released to the universe at large. Since that time, relations between GAIA and the IPP have continued to be friendly, but they are not as close as they were in the early years. Another major division was over whether to begin lazurogenic work and subsequent provolution of fossil species for which no genetic data actually remain. The traditionalists remained with the IPP, but a large number of former IPP members left and joined work at Ecotopia. There they went on to produce not only lazurogened species based on primate species as far back as the Miocene but also species based on myths and legends, such as the Yeti and Sasquatch. This group has now been entirely absorbed into the Zoeific Biopolity, though surviving individuals still remain in communication with the IPP, and share data on their projects. Most other disputes have either been resolved internally or, like the two Great Divides, have resulted in various daughter organizations. Most of these descendant organizations have gone extinct in the time since, have rejoined the IPP, or have become part of other organizations and polities. A few remain as small semi-separate entities under the IPP's protection.

Surprisingly, the IPP's sole current surviving daughter organization of any size has nothing to do with primates or even with bionts. It is the Institute for Vec Progress, a bot/vec improvement society composed largely of Vecs and interested AIs. The IVP was nearly exterminated by Metasoft extremists at the height of the Version War because of its supposed Revisionist tendencies. Though they were not, strictly speaking, Revisionists, they had always resisted the use of the Metasoft standard, or any other single standard, in their development work. Therefore the members of the IVP were targeted as heretics, and the IVP itself only survived because it was protected from terrorism and military action by its parent organization. The IVP still promotes the development of bots into congruent sapient clades, and encourages advances and diversity in vec hardware and programming. Though popular with the Silicon Generation and a number of independent Vec polities, it is still non grata in Metasoft territories. The IVP has become influential and powerful in its own right in the millennia since, and long ago developed its own headquarters and network, but it is known to retain a strong sense of loyalty to the IPP.

Having survived the megacorps early in its history, the IPP is a sharp and canny player when it deals with other, more overtly profit-driven organizations. In the past there have been several attempts by NoCoZo corporations to steal data or subvert personnel. However, this is a dangerous game to play with the IPP, especially if one's organization consists of humans or other primates, or even AIs programmed to work well with them. At least one such corporate attacker, Sirius Acquisitions, was completely destroyed by mass defections and resignations when the IPP deployed its famous "altruism" memeplex. Such direct confrontations are rare, however. More typical is the case of Faber Corp, a NoCoZo company that was in dispute with the IPP over its treatment and deployment of a subsapient variety of "worker ape" that had been derived from IPP stock. Negotiations over this matter fell through, but afterwards Faber Corp made one bad corporate decision after another, and eventually went bankrupt (see Faber). This kind of indirect demise has often been the fate of organizations that fail to make their peace with the IPP.

The IPP has not forgotten its original mandate, to preserve all of the primate species in its ancient records. At Ao Lai there are no less than four entire planets devoted to Old Earth baseline species (corresponding to the Old Earth regions of the New World, Africa, Asia, and Madagascar). In addition, the IPP retains populations of the thousands of sentient but subsapient species that were either developed directly by the Institute or that were developed by other organizations and collected for study (and in a few cases, for rehabilitation). There are, in addition, many clades of sapient primates in residence at Ao Lai, either as IPP members or as allies and guests.

Paradoxically, the IPP has been responsible for the extinction of many of the remaining populations of baseline humans. This is because by policy they make their current set of genetic upgrades available to any sapient being, on a community or individual basis. Few baseline human communities have survived unchanged in the face of such an offer; most have become nearbaselines or Superiors within less than three generations, usually as the result of a series of personal or parental decisions. The IPP has given refuge to some baseline humans and communities in their habitats in the past, but always with this eventual result. Interestingly, the descendants of such populations are often the IPP's strongest supporters. Preservationist groups have roundly criticized the IPP for its policy, but the IPP retort is that all sapient beings must be allowed the choice of provolution, and that freedom to self-improve should be fundamental. The IPP has strongly criticized such projects as Metasoft's baseline reserves, on the grounds that these communities are maintained artificially in this state by memetic manipulations and information restriction.

As may be expected of such an old organization the IPP has in the past gone through several phases of extreme conservatism and even apparent stagnation, but these have always been followed by a renaissance and a period of expansion. The IPP is presently in one of its strongest expansionist phases to date under an innovative Directorate and its audacious and charismatic Prime Director, Sun Wu K'ung.

The IPP Today

The true reach of the IPP's influence is unknown, but the fact remains that for all of its research stations, campuses, and branch offices its actual territories are minuscule. Its historic holdings in Solsys, including Prime Habitat, Kasekala, the various smaller habs such as Goodal, Galdikas, Fossey, and Jolley, and even the three great Bishop Rings created during the Second Federation (Atlantis, Mu, and Lemuria) are now relegated largely to the status of museums and pilgrimage sites. Even the newer headquarters at Ao Lai (Gamma Leporis) encompass only the output of two stars. Magnificent though the development may seem, with its numerous orbitals, its terraformed planets, and the thousands of new worlds still under construction, it is in no way comparable in scope to the massive development of Ecotopia, the capital of the Zoeific Biopolity, to which it has sometimes been compared. If the rapid rate of development now apparent at Ao Lai continues, perhaps such a comparison may be valid in another millennium.

The IPP has no major direct enemies, though to this day it has rather strained relations with Metasoft, and its reputation in much of the NoCoZo is unfavourable. It is, however, the occasional target of a number of anti-hu and anti-biont terrorist groups on the one hand, and of militant fringe humanocentric groups on the other. As may be expected, none of these hostile organizations has prospered. On the other hand, the IPP is welcome and even encouraged in the territories of most of the Sephirotic powers, particularly those dedicated to the protection or enhancement of bionts. The supposed covert activities of the IPP are a favourite topic for conspiracy theorists, given its pervasive presence and long history, but in all its millennia of operation it has never been shown to be more than what it claims to be.

The IPP is considered by some to be a cult because of its cohesiveness, secretiveness, and singularity of purpose. However, its members are often adherents of other major political, philosophical, or religious movements. For instance the founding members were mostly Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Christians (of the rather unorthodox Bonobo Rite, despite their name), and tended to be enthusiastic supporters of the early Federation memetic in their politics. Though there are still a disproportionate number of prominent IPP members with those beliefs, there has been no trend towards any single memeplex. The founding member of the New Beneficence was a former IPP member, and those beliefs are quite common at Ao Lai. This is to be expected, given the importance of the Gamma Leporis system as the Beneficence's former headquarters and that it is an important pilgrimage site, but the IPP is merely allied with that movement, not a part of it. Pan Sophontism is also common among the IPP membership, but again has never been a dominant force: IPP policy leads to work that is much less radical and more thorough than the kind of activity that Pan Sophontists favour and of course is restricted in scope to primate subjects. Presently, various forms of Penglaiese neo-Taoism are greatly in vogue at Ao Lai, but this is likely to be yet another passing phase. Studies have shown that any memetic adopted by a large number of IPP members is likely to spread widely among primate-derived clades in subsequent millennia. This fact has often attracted missionaries of evangelical philosophies or religions to Ao Lai in the past. IPP personnel away from Ao Lai tend to behave and believe rather like their non-IPP neighbours, and in fact are often locals who found the IPP and its goals to be of interest. Negentropists and Solarists are particularly likely to join the IPP.

Though a disproportionate number of IPP members are bionts, or AI's who are derived from bionts, any being of any toposophic level and any substrate may petition to join as an Associate. Once one is accepted at the Associate level, there appear to be no bars to acquisition of additional duties, privileges and titles, other than one's own talents and the approval of fellow members. It is common for intellectuals with an interest in provolution to maintain at least a nominal connection to the IPP. This is a level known as "affiliate", which allows access to discussions and information, but does not give a role in IPP decision-making.

For members below the first toposophic level, the IPP uses a complex democracy/meritocracy based on consensus, referenda, and gift exchanges, and (inexplicably to most outsiders) the occasional prank. It appears that its modes of transapient governance are of a similar nature. All members of sapient level or higher have a role in the IPP, and a great deal of personal freedom, though transapients are inevitably elevated to the positions of greatest importance. There is a semi-formal internal ranking system of Associates, Fellows, and Directors. Together the Directors choose a single entity to be the IPP's representative to the outside world. This individual is called the Primus (sometimes called the Top Monkey or the Monkey King by IPP insiders, to the annoyance of some prosimian and hominoid provolve clades).

The IPP's first transapient Primus was Jane herself, the original cache's AI guardian. She was chosen as Primus shortly after breaching the first toposophic. Other famous holders of the office have included Ishmael, Hanuman II, Birute, and Ozomatli. Each has served for a few years or a few centuries before retiring. The toposophic of the IPP's Primus has risen steadily over time, but seems to have been quite moderate given the IPP's New Beneficence connections. The last is believed to have been SI 3 or higher.

The present Primus is a transapient of unknown toposophic level. He (unusually for a transapient, he has a distinct gender) calls himself Sun Wu-k'ung, and like his mythical namesake is charismatic, talented, aggressive, unconventional, and audacious. His origin and early history are obscure to outsiders, but he is said to have been an early and extremely successful prototype of a macaque Superior, who has since ascended three or perhaps more toposophic levels over the millennia since his birth at Ao Lai. He first became well known within the IPP as a defender of IPP installations during the Version War. Later he toured the core Terragen systems for some centuries, during which time he is thought to have studied among the Sophics. Some believe he studied under Beneficence masters, though he did not undergo conversion. He eventually returned to Ao Lai, and as a Director he was a strong proponent of the IPP's Natural Longevity project, spearheaded several aggressive responses to memetic or military attacks on the IPP, and became very popular with ordinary IPP members as a result. Sun Wu-k'ung is fond of creating avatars of anything from presapient to SI:2 level. It is believed that several hundred thousand such sub-selves are active at any one time, supervising and encouraging IPP activities at Ao Lai and across the wormhole network, conferring with other organizations and polities, travelling the far reaches of the Terragen frontier, and spying on the IPP's rivals and allies. Rumour has it that he somehow acquired an extremely advanced godseed, or perhaps even a series of godseeds, either during his travels and studies, or from ancient pre-IPP sources at Gamma Leporis. Wu-K'ung is very probably the most expansive and aggressive Primus that the IPP has known over the course of its long history. During his long term of office there has been a tremendous growth of facilities and populations at Ao Lai, including additions to the wormhole network, masses of computronium, and an ambitious planet-formation project in the Oort cloud. Some believe that, like the legendary character whose name he has taken, he is on an eventual collision course with powers of the Inner Sphere.

Timeline (all dates are AT)

c.53 Inception of Burning Library Project

c.112 Completion of Burning Library Project

976 Cache of primate data discovered (probably a remnant of the BLP)

1001 Cache's discovery announced; Institute for Primate Preservation founded

1003 Gaia and Federation confer protected status on the IPP

1025 First IPP member achieves S1 (Jane, the cache's AI guardian); shortly afterwards she is selected Primus

1053 Habitat Prime ("the monkey house") completed near Saturn

1103 Institute for Primate Preservation announces 174 primate species re-created

1143 IPP announces first species studies complete; probable re-introduction of species on Old Earth

1150 IPP completes construction of Kasekala ("the hothouse")

1205 First Great Divide: IPP changes its name to the Institute for Primate Provolution; more preservationist minority moves with a copy of the cache to Old Earth

1309 First complete Human Upgrade Package released from Kasekala

1350 Bonobo and Chimp Upgrade Packages released from Goodall Habitat

1805 Gorilla Provolve Project released from Fossey Habitat

2270 IPP leases space at Gamma Leporis from the New Beneficence

2143 Orang Provolve Project released from Galdikas Habitat

2479 Siamang Provolve Project; Gibbon Provolve Project

2730 Capuchin and Gelada Projects

3052 Under the Primus Hanuman a master plan is created to create a sentient clade for each baseline Old Earth species in the IPP's ancient cache

4470 The IPP's branch offices are endangered in many places by the Version War. IPP shelters it's daughter organization, the Institute for Vec Progress, from attack by Metasoft Standardizationist fanatics

5870 Second Great Divide; many members of the IPP leave for the Zoeific Biopolity to carry out work on prehistoric or mythical primates and their derived clades

7040 Migration of IPP headquarters to holdings at Gamma Leporis (later named Ao Lai)

9340 Wu-K'ung chosen as Primus; development at Ao Lai, including formation of thousands of planets from its oort cloud; provolution projects accelerated

 
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Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 01 June 2005.