Supporting Minds in the Red Star M'Pire

Some of the godbrains in this isolated empire.

Disc world brain
Image from Steve Bowers
A Disc world brain, orbiting near its star, holds a number of biomes on its cool, shadowed side which are illuminated indirectly by mirrors

Historically, the ascension rate in the Red Star 'M'pire has been both higher than the average to the transapient levels and lower than the average to the archailect levels. Some details as to why are given below. Recently this has begun to change/improve, and again some details as to why are given below. Higher level ascension rates are still below equivalence with the rest of the Terragen Sphere but, by the will of Farview, the 'M'pire anticipates being on par with the other empires in another thousand years or so.

When Farview made Pers first ascension, Per was also set on the path to slow-godhood. Knowing Per would need quick minds to run the day to day business of the 'M'pire Farview provided the zars with a godmod that gave em the potential to become high transapients (of the second toposophic level), had ascension schools set up and encouraged all the 'M'pire's citizens to ascend. The biont lums did take an early lead in the race to ascend because to do so also gave em new abilities in transforming into different forms, however a lum wishing to ascend to still higher levels faced the limits of eir biology and eir strong bioism culture prevented most from leaving eir flesh behind. On the other hand the vecs didn't have this problem and ey would be the first to reach the third singularity. However the vecs did face the same bugaboo that Farview did in Pers ascension goals; a limited resource base. Heavy elements were always going to be rare in the Far View region and it became more reliable to simply fuse hydrogen into what was needed. Energy balances made carbon the material of choice and Farview, Stary Eyes and the bionts had the priority for its use, so to gain the resources ey would need the vecs readily became the miners of the 'M'pire. Travelling far and wide on the beamrider network (and even farther) ey would strip whatever planetary systems ey could find. The vecs were obligated to send any 'life-supporting elements' back to Farview and the lums but anything else ey found ey were free to use as ey saw fit. For most vecs the priority was to increase eir numbers but for a few the goal was ascension.

The Vecs

Fashioning small amounts of eir stockpiles into synthetic gemstones, these vecs traded with the lums for high grade photonanotech computronium and evolution software. Now able to run sims in fasttime these vecs could explore as many mindstates as ey needed to find the best route to the higher toposophics. After becoming moon brains some of these vecs became Godlings even while Farview perself was still a third toposophic hyperturing. However there were no serious challenges to Farview's rule, the moon brains may have had extremely fast chronometrics on eir side but Farview had resilience and consensus on Pers. And those post-vecs that gave eir full support to Farview found emselves the beneficiaries of a substrate upgrade, once Farview became a fourth toposophic archailect, allowing em to become smaller, and once again mobile, ISOs. The progeny of one of these would fill the skies of Maximum Air as the Starpuller clade.

The 'brain' of a Starpuller is a transapientech substrate, with a core of magmatter, relatively small in dimensions it is large in mass and heavy even in the weak stellar gravity field of Maximum Air. As such, Starpullers use a combination of aerodynamic and lighter-than-air lift to stay airborne. Although Farview's gift of godtech computronium has allow these third toposophic minds to be smaller than a moon a Starpuller is still a huge presence in the skies of Maximum Air; 500 kilometres wide and 500 long (if you include the tail) ey have a lifting-body shape with triangular wings and from a distance ey look like an ancient form of Earth marine life, a manta ray, with a tail that ends in a bright globe (its fusion reactor). Internally ey have two large vacuum dirigible cylinders running lengthwise and placed side by side while the wings are filled with hot hydrogen. For propulsion the wings have been divided into chambers which cycle gas pressure changes between them, causing the wings to beat the air in synchronized waves. Eir brain fills the prism shaped space between and below the cylinders while a second prism shaped space mirrored above is used for support/auxiliary equipment, sensors, comm systems, a hanger for eir remotes, etc. The dome/hump of eir backs protects a large vivarium.

The 'M'pire is strongly biocentric and thanks to centuries of memetic pressure all vecs/post-vecs under the third toposophic level have taken to this meme set, some even use bacteric and/or DNA computing as part of eir mind structure. Most turing level vecs are avid hobbyist gardeners, some even breeding or geneering new plants and animals for eir gardens. The hyperturing vecs go into full biospheric design and gengineering, even going so far as to make softbots and keep them as pets or servants. Some of the post-vec clades retained these hobbies, with many moon brains clothing emselves in planetary scale eco-systems. A few of the mobile ISOs, having adopted Caretaker metapsychology, left the 'M'pire to search for Garden Worlds to protect. The Starpullers on the other hand have internalized eir bioism, carrying eir garden wherever ey go. While a Starpuller's vivarium is only 100 km across, with a low ceiling of 100 metres, they are still fully self-sustaining worlds in miniature, each containing an interdependent mix of biomes completely sealed off from the world around them. When the Metasoft Empire sought to subvert the 'M'pire vecs back to the Version Tree with exposure to the Kja Observance it was the Starpullers who counter the memetic assault and caused the 'M'pire vecs to integrate the Kja Observance (specifically the Quantitative school) into eir bioism memeplex while still rejecting Version Tree protocols.

For the vecs/post-vecs the next wave of ascensions did not happen until after 9,900 a.t. when Farview ascended to the fifth toposophic level. In 7765 a.t. a window of opportunity had opened; Maximum Air was largely completed, a new wormhole to the Terragen Sphere had been inflated, Farview was focussing Pers efforts on building Jnodes in the Orion Arm and trade was beginning to flow. For the first time the Godling post-vecs had a surplus of high grade computronium available to em. Some post-vecs, like the Starpullers before em, simply procreated to become clades in eir own right. Some of these also tried to ascend by forming collective minds. While a few of the older moon brains explored a merged mind structure of multiple moon nodes distributed across interplanetary space others concentrated eir growth into Jupiter brains. However none of these Godlings had ascended to middle level archailecthood before the window closed in 9900 a.t. (when Farview refocused Pers efforts into expanding the local beamrider network into wormhole connected cells for a future attempt at ascending to the SI:6 level). It took Farview Perself to change this situation.

With Pers ascension to the fifth toposophic level Farview needed to maintain, improve and expand the contacts Per developed among the fourth singularity beings of the Terragen Sphere and the post-vecs were the best means of doing so. With Farview's guidance, coaxing and suggestions four Jupiter brains, so far, have become fourth toposophic archailects and were each sent one of the first comm wormholes ever produced by the 'M'pire. [Note: Farview doesnít make Hayward wormholes and in the parlance of the 'M'pire a "comm-gauge wormhole" is actually a traversable wormhole that is too small to be traversed by an embodied sophont.] It was also at this time that a fifth comm wormhole was gently forced upon the Silk God, a biobrain. This strict biotech sub-polity didn't want eir project contaminated by the non-biotech wormhole so it was placed high outside eir system's Oort cloud with a biotech relay station with a biolaser transmitter/receiver for the final connection.

Even in the development of these Jupiter brains the 'M'pire shows how novel it can be. Each of the four has been flattened out in order to provide a larger surface area for the collection of solar energy from its sun. These are known as disc world brains, or simply disc worlds. [Not to be confused with "Diskworlds" which are actually infilled Bishop Rings.]

Disc World Brains

Disc worlds, of the "flat Earth" model, are very rare. Prior to the 'M'pire there were only three ever built in the whole of the Terragen Sphere, and itís not hard to understand why. A disc world is an oddity, an absurdity, a freak of engineering and a waste of resources! For the amount of effort and materials that go into a disc world/brain one could build a conventional (spherical) Jupiter brain that is faster or a swarm of habitats that provide thousands of times more living space (having said that, it has been pointed out that some also consider bionts to be a waste of resources). However the flat Earth meme set is an ancient idea, one that pre-dates written history, and it is embedded deep in the folklore of Hu-descendant life so it seems it was only a matter of time until somebody built one.

Two of these disc worlds still exist and are of the classical type; with a thick heavy metal plate (dosed with magmatter and honeycombed with DCMs) for a base and with high 'rimwall mountains' of synthetic rock on each side which slope in toward the centre giving such a megastructure two concaved sides. This distribution of mass not only keeps air from spilling over the edge but it reorients gravity effects across the disc. To have night and day each either spins in its orbit like a coin spins on its edge after falling to the floor or is orbited by a small artificial sun. The first was built in the NoCoZo as a fantasy/adventure playground complete with flying dragons, witches/wizards, sea serpents and other creatures of myth. Its popularity has gone up and down in cycles as the fads for such things went in and out of favour. It went into receivership many times and changed ownership often. The neogen "staff" has been replaced/updated more times than anyone wishes to remember and there has always been talk of scrapping/recycling the whole thing or selling it for salvage. The second of these classical discs is in the Utopia Sphere and is serving as a shelter for many of the 'fantasy' lifeforms that for one reason or another can't live elsewhere.

More common are the pseudo-disc worlds. These are tabletop biospheres, circular platforms held above a much larger megastructure by some form of pedestal. Such pedestals are often sculptured and for some reason turtles and elephants are a popular design choice. When built upon an ISO these platforms serve a useful function; the circulation of water and gas up through the pedestals and over the discs helps in cooling. Three notable pseudo-disc worlds are the Dancing Turtle moon brain in the Terran Federation, a Jupiter brain in the Sophic League that has been nicknamed 'Turtle Soup' and a mobile ISO which calls jerself 'Terri.'

And then there are the disc worlds of the Red Star 'M'pire. As stated above, a disc world in the 'M'pire is really a Jupiter brain that's been flattened out in order to provide a larger surface area for the collection of solar energy from its sun. Built in orbit around very small K type and large red dwarf stars, ey are a result of 'M'pire ethics against star lifting main sequence stars. As the star systems had already been mined of all other material there was no fuel left for any internal fusion reactors to run on. The only way to power the Jupiter brains was by solar power, the one resource left in these systems. To maximize solar gain these Jupiter brains orbit eir stars with one pole (on the flat side) always facing eir sun. (to keep eir shape each Jupiter brain has a series of concentric dynamic compression rings centred on the axis and the gyroscopic force from the spin of the discs is countered by the circulation of mass in the dynamic compression rings) The discs spin like a record on a turntable but this is just to help with the deployment of beanstalks around the rims. These beanstalks support large ring structures of solar collecting panels to increase the collection area.

The goal of building these Jupiter brains into disc worlds was to maximize solar gain not to provide an abode for life. However, although these Jupiter brains weren't designed for habitation as eir first goal ey are still a part of a biocentric culture and so on each there is a bubble of life. To further maximize solar gain these Jupiter brains orbit eir stars as close as ey can and the heat makes the sunward side un-inhabitable by biont life. The backside on the other hand is only heated by the waste heat of eir computronium and temperatures here are 'tropical' but bearable. The sunward side of these discs are flat but eir backsides are convex, making em thicker at eir centres. On a disc world like this the centre of gravity is the axis and any fluids, like air and water, would flow towards it. Moving away from the axis is like moving up a mountain so to make the backside inhabitable the land in these areas is terraced. Depending on the angle it is viewed from one of these discs looks like its backside is either a saw-toothed dome or a 'wedding cake' of truncated cones with the angle of each truncated cone chosen so its side is horizontal to the disc's centre of gravity. The truncated cones are separated from each other by high vertical cliffs so the biospheres on each disk are divided into concentric rings and each ring can have its own biome or system of biomes. A disc's mean thickness is some 10,000 kilometres, providing an average Terragen standard gravity, but this is only an average. In fact, each truncated cone has its own local gravity.

Once again - "On a disc world like this the centre of gravity is the axis and any fluids, like air and water, would flow towards it" however, each of these discs has a large volcano-like feature at its centre which increase the thickness there so as to form an island at its pole. These islands are surrounded by rings of ocean biomes and the 'volcanoes' are actually the base of the discs' cooling fountains wherein hot air and water vapour are jetted up to the high altitudes where they cool, becoming clouds. Because a disc spins these clouds spread outwards to the rim where the water falls out as rain. As the water flows back to the centre it passes through each of the different biome rings, forming rivers and lakes and great waterfalls as it plunges over the cliffs from one level to the next. There are airwalls around the rims which direct any air that might spill over the rims back through cooling channels to the volcanoes and mounted on the airwalls are mirrors which reflect light from the sun below up and across the disc into the cloud layer above, the white clouds then light the biosphere below them.

The AIs

The next beings to ascend to archailecthood were the aioids. The main problem the aioids faced in ascension was eir relative lack of importance in the bioist 'M'pire: Due to Pers own ascension goals Farview has monopolized the best computronium so most of the tasks one might assign to an ai in any other empire are, in the 'M'pire, readily handled by biobots or the legion of transapient lums and most of those tasks that remain are the tedious jobs best assigned to a slaved ai or dedicated hyperturing that lacks self-awareness; and even these typically operate on a biological substrate of some kind (like Farview's SFCs). One area where this is not the case is in interstellar transport, as ships must spend long periods of time in transit with eir crew/passengers often in biostasis.

Each cycler ISO/habitat in the 'M'pire's beamrider network has its own Hab Mind. Because the computronium onboard a cycler is actually processing Farview's mindstate these hab minds are only turing level aioids, meant only to run the cyclers' systems and keep them on course. However as a beamrider circuit may easily loop outside Farview's 50ly horizon some of these hab minds have found ey can expand into Farview's computronium when Per is not using it. Many have ascended when on an outward bound leg of a cycler route and survived in eir new toposophic level by spawning a replacement hab mind to run the cycler on the inward leg while ey sleep in a compressed file. Other ascended AIs on an inward leg have simply traded places with a turing level aioid on an outward bound leg and repeat the trade each time ey find emselves approaching Farview's vastening horizon. Furthermore some cycler routes are very well travelled and many of these hyperturing AIs have found emselves in an outer 'arc' together. That has allowed some of these arc AIs to link-up through eir laser comm systems and merge into an even greater intellect. Even today these 'Arc Godlings' rule the interstellar spaceways in the zones between Farview's beamrider cells while the post-vec godlings hold court around the small stars found in these inter-cell zones.

As the beamrider network has expanded into wormhole connected cells one cell has found itself with a neutron star for a neighbour. This was just too good of an opportunity for the arc godlings to pass up and ey traded with the Terragen Sphere for the magmatter picobots ey needed to turn this neutron star into a neuron star. After importing a huge number of files and templates from the Cyberian Network there now appears to be at least one fourth toposophic archai AI in this vast cybercosm: The neighbouring beamrider cell was directed to produce an additional wormhole for this entity in 10,378 a.t. and data traffic through this comm wormhole is so intense it had to be inflated to a full ten metres. Tracking the data flow shows the 'M'pire has been involved in info-trade with most of the Terragen Sphere with a current focus on the Cyberian Network, the FAS, the NoCoZo, the TRHN and even the friendlier parts of the Diamond Network. Nor is data the only thing that's passed through this wormhole.

The ability of 'M'pire AIs to transmit emselves to new nodes has allowed some of em to travel back to the Terragen Sphere where there is a much greater computronium resource and ascensions are easier. There are now more 'M'pire AI gods outside the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy than in it, and they now do most of the diplomatic heavy lifting.

The Bionts

The 'M'pire's bionts were the last to ascend into godhood. From the earliest days of the 'M'pire the lums could reach the second toposophic level but had a long-standing problem in ascending to the next, third level. Eir godmod was designed by Farview while Per was only a third toposophic godling Perself and it had its limitations: Biotech, for all its creativity, is still limited to the power and scale of (bio)nanotechnology and therefore a purely biological mind can't benefit from the speed, energy or compactness of plasma or magmatter processors. It's an oft stated truism that "ascension requires more than just gaining raw processing power, it also requires the sophont to find better ways of thinking," however it is also true that there is no substitute for gaining processing power. Any third toposophic mind that's limited to nanotechnology (bio or otherwise) needs the mass of at least a small moon to operate, which of course is too much to ask of an organic mind living, as most lums typically do, at the bottom of a gravity well. To ascend still higher the 'M'pire's bionts knew ey needed to try something new but eir bioism memeplex and duty to be a part of Farview's blue mind hamstrung eir efforts. Drytech augmentation was still a possibility but in addition to it going against eir memeplex ey would require godtech to make any noticeable gains and Farview had the priority on this. Moving to a micro-gravity habitat was another possibility as it would allow em to grow to larger sizes but such habitats are generally smaller and low mass themselves, and therefore limited in the amount of living space they can host, which could limit eir connections to Farview's ecology and social nodes. Also, to keep the blue mind operating Farview had to foster a very strong sense of community and an aversion to remote interactions in the lums, but becoming a moon brain isolates one physically from others of your kind as ey must stay outside your gravity well. It was the opening of the new wormhole to the rest of the Terragen Sphere that broke the stalemate, with access to new ideas and technologies the lums experienced a burst of creative activity and eir ascension goals benefited. A sizeable number of biont godlings came from the clade Titan.

The Titans lived on Maximum Air's equatorial band and had been on the path to 'organic bloatware' and in all this time it hadn't gained em godhood, not one of em. The reason lay in the competing factors ey were dealing with. The lums that would become the Titans had chosen to live in Maximum Air because it had the necessary supporting mass of community and ecology ey would need if ey ever did reach godlinghood but as ey grew in size ey had to give up some mobility and settle on the band. Maximum Air is, as a whole, a milli-g environment but its band has a much higher gravity; too high for the moon brain mass ey would need. The Titans had hoped that as ey approached the next singularity ey might find a way around this but ultimately failed to do so. Instead the Titans slowly acquired more and more mass and gave up more and more mobility until some of em were actually living continents on Maximum Air's equatorial band. To continue farther ey simply would need to move to a micro-gravity habitat, but then the limits stated above would come into effect. With the opening of the new wormhole memes from the rest of the Terragen Sphere weakened the lums aversion to remote interactions and allowed the Titans to be more comfortable with physical isolation.

The habitats most suitable to the Titans' goal were Eders and Symmes' Worlds. Both have milli/micro-g interiors, enough additional space for a supporting ecosphere/society and a shell that could be made of computronium so ey could continue to function as Farview's sub-nodes. A Symmes' World offered a null gravity void best used for a single compact moon brain, but a small community of Titans could spread emselves out over the milli-g surface of an Eder's core gas cell without too much trouble. It would be such a community of SI:3 (plus transavant spikes) biobrains that would create the templates for the next generation of bio-godlings; the largest aquatics in the 'M'pire are among these.

Why adopt an aquatic form? Mostly it's to handle the waste heat. The Titans had intended for these aquatic-Titans to have the mobility ey emselves had to give up and for this ey designed a godtech processor for em. This processor is called a "cuttlebone" and, while it could be made entirely by biotech if need be, was not actually made of living biotech. It could therefore handle the high temperatures it had to operate at even if the lum it was inside could not. Water is a biologically friendly material with a high volumetric heat capacity that an aquatic-Titan could pumped through emselve at a great enough flow rate to keep the living tissues surrounding this cuttlebone cool. In addition, living in water not only allowed these aquatic-Titans to move around Maximum Air it also gave em a cushion so ey could be lifted out of its gravity well and transported to new habitats, even when ey were full grown. [Eir larger Titan predecessors had to be placed into biostasis, and temporarily sectioned into smaller pieces, to be moved.]

Describing these aquatic third toposophic 'godbrights' in detail is impossible, as ey have greater metamorphic capabilities than any other lums before em; eir skin changes texture, colour and bioluminescent effects as fast as a cuttlefish, squid or octopus. Ey can design/grow new organs within days and eir bones flow like quicksand. As eir forms are so fluid the only things that can be used to identify em as belonging to one clade is the type of ascension augment ey use, and eir size. These godbrights are far more massive than the largest lifeform ever to swim in Gaia's seas, the Blue whale, but eir forms change to match eir 'job of the day' (contrast this with the hyperbrights and metabrights abilities to match eir forms to eir lifestyle). From one day to the next a godbright aquatic may float at the surface of an ocean like an island, tap changes in buoyancy to glide to a new location in a streamlined winged form, actively swim with a set of powerful flippers or crawl along the sea bottom. The main problems with this aquatic-Titan line of godbrights was that ey needed a biont friendly environment to live in and were still too big to travel easily so there was seen to be a need for a more robust mind of the third toposophic level that was space adapted and also mobile enough to pass through the smaller gauge wormholes of the 'M'pire. Enter the Volvox.

When Farview created the templates for the ecology and social nodes Per knew they would have to be universally applied to be effective but this meant there was a risk of the lums falling into the trap of a collective mind society so safeguards were put into place. These did not preclude the formation of smaller group minds by other means, in fact the early colonists had used unityware to great effect in surviving the first 200+ years. However the formation of gestalt entities to gain higher toposophic levels was delayed due to the lums' favouring of face to face encounters over virch or DNI use. The solution to this impasse was the Volvox because the Volvox are as much habitats as ey are group minds. The actual format of the group mind varies from Volvox to Volvox; it might be a tribemind, hive mind, collective intelligence, unity or something else but the habitats are easily recognizable whenever they are seen as is the source of the name for these third toposophic minds. A Volvox habitat is a grapeship that takes the form of a freesphere but looks, quite clearly, like a supersized version of the microscopic colony lifeform of green alga known as a volvox.

When in operation the outer envelope of a Volvox is a spherical shell of utility water (a mix of foglets and water) 20,000 kilometres in diameter but only 10 metres thick. This wet fog provides good radiation shielding and is saturated with blue green algae which serves as a nutrient source for those who live within. Embedded in the utility water are thousands spheres, each connected to its neighbours by webs of both cable and optical fibre. Both webs serve to re-enforce the structure of the shell with the cable web doubling as an energy and material supply network and the fibre web acting as a communications bus for the spheres and the mesobots in the utility water. The reinforcement is necessary because inside of the shell the space is pressurized with just enough oxygen for the large number of lums who live within its freefall environment. The embedded spheres serve a number for different functions: More than half are computronium nodes while most of the remaining are 'storm cellars' for the lums. The rest hold the supporting infrastructure needed by an ultratech 'worksite' colony; nanofabs, picofabs and the like. The Volvox are the journeymen of the 'M'pire and eir lum membership is chosen for eir expertise in whatever field will be needed to complete the task ey are assigned. Ey travel from site to site to oversee the assembly of the 'M'pire's megastructures and often several Volvox will be on a given site, each specializing on a different aspect of the project, forming a small 'tribemind of collective minds.'

Each Volvox houses thousands of hyperbright lums which network with a few metabright lums to form the brain of the habitat. It is the lums' natural metamorphic skills and the open architecture of the habitat that allows the lums to communicate with the bandwidth needed to become an effective gestalt without the DNI or cyberspace hardware other group minds have needed. Each lum in a Volvox has grown new organs to transmit and receive coded pulses of biolaser light. The living quarters inside a Volvox are simple inflated structures and when it is time for the lums to get to work these are deflated and packed away leaving the entire inside of the habitat free and clear obstructions. The hyperbright lums then take up positions against the shell with eir backs to the utility water while the metabrights move to the habitat's centre. In this way each lum has a direct 'line of sight' connection with almost all of per fellows. If this arrangement were analog to a hu brain then the hyperbrights would be the cerebral cortex and the metabrights would be the cerebellum but in truth this statement is a gross oversimplification of the situation.

The Volvox are mobile habitat/minds. Ey have drive units for legs and remotes for arms and with eir main structure being one of utility water ey can be disassembled to pass through a wormhole and reassembled quickly on the other side. And as no unit of a Volvox is larger than 100 metres in diameter the wormhole can be quite small. Volvox have gained some small degree of fame for eir ability to enter new star systems through under-inflated wormholes and begin 'site improvements' early. This design feature has proven to be very useful in the Far View region as the few wormholes there are smaller than standard.

Another group of lums, the Pearlhairs, have used godtech to become godbrights while keeping eir smaller forms, if you can call a humanoid the size of a Goliath small. If the Volvox were the journeymen of the 'M'pire the Pearlhairs intended to become the envoys and delegates and to be more effective in this role ey felt it important to not overwhelm those ey would encounter with the giant size inherent in being a meta/godbright. The Pearlhairs are hyperbrights who have commissioned the TRHN for a steady supply of Siris Pearl Module beads, which are made under a licence from the Siris habitat, and it is how the SPMs are used that is interesting. The Pearlhairs grow eir hair long, it almost reaches the ground, and have given it the strength and light transmitting properties of optical fibre. The SPM beads are actually woven into the Pearlhairs' hair and not simply strung on. They are woven in a complex pattern with many hairs fed through the holes in each bead after being crossed over and looped through other beads creating a network of thousands of beads for each lum. These bead networks tap into the lums' own bioluminescent neural net. Each bead network takes a team of hyperbrights hours to put together and ey must be supervised by a metabright who works from a detailed template that's been supplied by a fourth toposophic archailect. And for all this effort Pearlhairs are very fragile godlings, if a single Pearlhair can even be called a godling. The simple fact is a single Pearlhair is just too small to carry enough processing power to be a full third level intellect so each bead network is designed to produce only a "spike" into the third toposophic, ey are actually transavants - but very flexible transavants. A Pearlhair still has a hyperbright's ability to adapt, both physically and mentally, to changing conditions and a bead network can be fashioned to produce a spike in any number of different areas. This means that a Pearlhair can, from one day to the next, become a specialist in whatever is needed. Moreover, Pearlhairs can also work collectively to become an "urchin" mind and if enough are in one location ey can become a true godbright. As said, "Pearlhairs are very fragile godlings" and the bead network needs constant maintenance as the hairs will break over time. However, with eir smaller size the Pearlhairs are more mobile and ey can go where even eir metabright cousins can not and can still quickly adapt to the local environment when ey get there. A Pearlhair can even pass through a 10 metre gauge wormhole if ey can find a ship small enough. (In such a situation eir support crew and any remotes ey might have would have to travel separately.) Pearlhairs carry out much of Farview's business in the more remote parts of the Terragen Sphere.

The latest godbright clade in the 'M'pire is also a cooperative and is a result of the Nearbaseline Archailect Femtosecond Emulation Project. While the 'M'pire took no interest in the primary project the offshoots of the project showed much more promise, one was even able to hold a realtime conversation with a hyperturing. The lums reasoned that if this group of subsingularity AIs were able to cooperate to emulate a transapient mind then the population of a Jnode, being a mix of super/hyper/metabrights, should be able to form a working simulation of a third toposophic mind. This Co-op mind would have to be designed by a higher toposophic god but the lums had a strong memetic for teamwork and were ready, willing and able to give it a try. It was Farview Perself who provided the needed program. The lums were already a part of Farview's ecology and social minds and this was a way for Per to possibly offload some of Pers administrative duties as well.

For the most part lums don't live on planets, ey live on megastructures so it is easy enough for em to standardize eir timekeeping. The 'M'pire day has 30 hours divided into a 12 hour sleep period and a 10 hour work period (however one defines "work") with two 2.5 hour personal time periods on each end of the sleep period and with a 3hr lunch sub-dividing the work period. It is this long lunch that was key to making the Co-op minds workable. Lums shun the cybercosm, ey prefer face to face encounters, therefore it was difficult to organize em as was done in the Nearbaseline Archailect Femtosecond Emulation Project. The answer to this problem was to resurrect an ancient form of social contact - the cybercafe. The lums would go to a cybercafe on eir long lunches, sit in small groups around a computer terminal, and socialize while eating - thus fulfilling eir part of both the social and ecology nodes. But as ey sit the terminal would assign em jobs to do; jobs that were in fact parts of the Co-op mind's program. Hyperbrights and metabrights might be asked to perform high order calculations, brights and superbrights may be ask track down odd bits of information and all would enter the answers back into the terminal. The supramundane surface of a Jnode is sectioned off into 30 timezones and the lunch period is 3 hours long so there is some overlap with the timezones on either side. Thus the program can be run continuously and the terminals give lums starting eir lunch in one timezone the results of the lums finishing eir lunch in the preceding timezone. A Jnode's population may be anything up to three trillion so it is possible that at any given time a mix of 300 billion super/hyper/metabright lums may be running the Co-op program but in actuality only a fraction of these are needed.

The first Co-op mind was set up to run on the Jnode called Conor's Game and other godbrights who have visited or communicated with the megastructure have confirmed it as a fully functional third toposophic archailect. It would appear that the 'M'pire is satisfied with the results of this experiment for copies of the program have been spreading quickly to the other Jnodes in Farview's network and the lums on these Jnodes are setting up cypercafes at great speed. The Co-op minds seem to be tasked with the administrative duties of the Jnodes' local space so in effect the lums are eir own god (we-are-god-is-us).

The 'M'pire's bionts may have been the last to ascend to the third toposophic level but ey gained a lot from the delay. By the time the lums ascended to godhood eir path was well marked by all those who had gone before em. In addition, the 'M'pire has a very strong meme complex for teamwork and cooperation and its citizens support each other even across the toposophic levels. Higher minds benefit from outsourcing simpler tasks to the lower minds while the lower minds benefit from the dissemination of higher level augmentation tech. As a result the godbrights are generally less massive in form than the post-vecs and AIs which had to bootstrap emselves up to godhood. Ey have eir limits and lack independence, of course, but this is not truly a disadvantage when the support of others can be counted on.

To date there appears to be only one biobrain of the fourth toposophic (or an archaibright as the lums might call it) in the 'M'pire - the Silk God. However this may be about to change. The Silk God has already colonized three other star systems, which are becoming new green dysons, and in the star system called Bar's Gamble something new is taking shape: A fleet of Volvox are constructing a hybrid Dyson Ring/Niven Cloud wherein the smoke ring runs through the centre of the toroidal cavity outlined by a Jenkins swarm of habitats. In this megastructure the main elements of the swarm, mostly freespheres, have been equiped with mirror arrays that reflect sunlight in towards the smoke ring and help to contain it through photon pressure. In this way the circumstellar atmosphere can have a higher and more uniform pressure than if it was contained by the foglets alone, making for a larger volume with livable conditions. It's been calculated by some Godwatchers that this living space is great enough to house the population needed for a high level fourth toposophic Co-op mind. The Godwatchers are also quick to point out that, while no effort has been made to place in these systems the large amounts of computronium typical of Farview nodes or Jupiter Brain sized AIs/post vecs, the neighbouring beamrider cells were still each directed to produce an additional wormhole; something that Farview has only done when there is a fourth toposophic archailect in the works.

Supporting Minds in the Red Star M'Pire
Image from Steve Bowers
A red dwarf in the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy region, directly above the Milky Way; part of the Red Star M'Pire

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Development Notes
Text by AI Vin

Initially published on 04 March 2006.