Far Edge Civilisation, The
Far Edge Civilisation
Image from Keith Wigdor

"Where are you going?"
"To the Far Edge."

— Alexander Cromwell's last conversation as a biont.

The Far Edge Civilisation

CapitalFar Edge
Current TerritoryAn egg-shaped star cluster consisting of 42 inhabited stars systems. The twelve most important systems are connected via macroscopic wormholes, all others via nano-gauge wormholes. Far Edge is connected to the Wormhole Nexus via Eden since 7754. Another wormhole is scheduled to arrive at Aldebaran in 10811.
Important SystemsFar Edge (capital, also location of Wintermute's Far Reach ISO), Waystation (important industrial centre), Black Light (all mass converted to computronium, home to aproximately 18 billion alifes), Fermi's Equation (location of the Sunchild, the Far Edge Civilization's only weylforge).
Current Population987 billion
Population Breakdown2.6% nearbaseline, 12.9% cyborg, 4.7% bioborg, 8.3% vec, 6.6% neogen, 5.2% rianth, 10.1% splice, 12.6% superior, 9.3% tweak, 6.8% uplift, 9.4% virtual, 8.8% aioid, 2.7% neumann.

The history of the Far Edge Civilization starts all the way back in the early Information Age, with a man named Alexander Cromwell. Cromwell is believed to have been born in 1981 c.e. and started a small but highly successful software company specializing in computer security, which later branched out into cybernetic implants and eventually into mind-upload services. While the company itself wasn't particularly remarkable, the man behind it certainly was. Cromwell utilized cybernetic augmentics that were very radical at the time, and became one of the first true cyborgs. Focusing on intellectual enhancements, he quickly attained supergenius level via biochip implants and wetware programming (and somehow avoided the psychotic breakdowns that were plaguing early cyborgs). This gave him the ability to compete with corporations led by the early tweak superbrights. He also made use of the most advanced rejuvenation treatments available, allowing him to rule his company until the middle 4th century a.t..

In 332 a.t. Cromwell sold his company and uploaded himself into a computer in Academion. He spent some time adapting to his new existence and modifying his code, before making over two hundred copies of himself. Each copy went their own way, researching nanotech, experimenting with AIs, exploring virtual worlds and a number of other profitable and unprofitable ventures.

This continued until 512, when the various copies converged at the asteroid habitat Heaven Rock and held a Far Edge Party. Some of them were barely recognizable; one unfortunate copy was thought to be an infiltrator AI before they recognized obscure parts of his neural network - he had taken up a career as a hacker. In any case, they quickly began modifying their code in order to link with each other. Although unityware didn't exist at the time, they did manage to form a primitive group mind. This new intelligence took the name "Wintermute" (background obscure, believed to originate from an Late Industrial Age / Early Information Age fable).

After having spent a few years optimising his code, Wintermute decided that SolSys was a little too rough for his tastes. He used his still considerable fortune to buy a Pioneer-class probe, some industrial grade nanotech and enough He3 to reach 0.04c (one of the copies had concentrated on finance and had managed their funds superbly). It has been debated whether it was foresight, a paranoid streak or just pure luck that allowed Wintermute to survive the Nanoswarm Age, but in any case Wintermute was accelerating out of SolSys and bound for Tau Ceti by the time the swarms were laying waste to civilisation.

Still a pre-singularity intelligence, Wintermute went into stasis during the journey to avoid degeneration, leaving only a subturing AI in charge. He entered the Tau Ceti system three hundred years later and caused a bit of a stir among the various powers, as everyone had already heard of the nanoswarms and were concerned that Wintermute's probe was infected. In the end he was allowed to stay, but forbidden to dock with any habitat or biosphere. A little put off by the reception, Wintermute contacted Unity and purchased unityware in exchange for AI templates and the latest research papers on the safe usage of nanotech.

Wintermute spent some time implementing this before retreating to the system's Oort cloud, where he settled down and converted a number of planetoids into computronium. For the next two hundred years nothing was heard from Wintermute, although a local media company attempted to make a documentary about him. They were, however, unable to get a reaction from the computronium structure. It was not before 1021 that the now heavily modified Pioneer-probe showed up in the inner system, Wintermute having transcended to the First Toposophic level in the meantime.

The Federation had arrived a few decades earlier and accepted the system as a member. Yet, Wintermute did not wish to rejoin civilization just yet; he had other agendas. He restocked with He3 and set out on a new journey at 0.04c, travelling to a far-flung system on the outskirts of the Diamond Belt. Wintermute arrived eight hundred years later, when the Federation had already crumbled and died, and spent the next two hundred years contacting and conversing with the various AI found there. It is unknown exactly what occured during this period - the Diamond-AIs are not very forthcoming and Wintermute himself has kept uncharacteristically silent about the event. However, it is clear that he found a semi-friendly higher transapient (now believed to have transcended to abstract toposophic levels) that supplied him with a godseed.

Wintermute selected an uninhabited system and unleashed the nanoreplicators he carried, converting one of the two local gas giants into a jupiter-brain. Wintermute ascended three toposophic levels and didn't emerge before three centuries later, as an Fourth Toposophic entity.

In the early 3000s amat-powered probes carrying modified subpersonalities of Wintermute visited a number of sparsely populated star systems. The probes declared to the surprised inhabitants that they wished to trade (at the time) advanced transapient-tech in exchange for genetic material. It is estimated that roughly ten thousand beings sold their genome. This caused some political and economical instability in the region, as surrounding powers tried to buy or steal the new technology. But by then the Wintermute-probes were long gone.

Wintermute embarked on his fourth interstellar journey as soon as the probes returned to him, setting course for a star cluster some 500 lightyears distant. It is unknown why he chose such a distant target, but it is clear that he desired to put as much distance between civilization and himself as possible - without leaving it for good. So for over a thousand years Wintermute cruised through interstellar space, while the Consolidation Wars laid waste to a considerable part of civilization behind him.

He arrived in the star cluster he had selected in 4144, and spent a couple of centuries scouting it out. One of the systems contained an easily terraformable planet which Wintermute settled down in. After sending out a broadband radio message declaring the cluster to be under his protection, he converted one of the local gas giants into a new jupiter-brain and started terraforming the planet he had named "Far Edge".

As the terraforming neared completion, Wintermute used bionano and the genetic material he had acquired to replicate colonists for the planet. Over the next couple centuries he painstakingly cultivated the Far Edge Civilization.

Wintermute remained highly secretive for several millennia, allowing no one to trespass upon his domain. Even so, Wintermute was fairly benevolent, as evidenced by one incident in 4377. A heterodox splinter fraction of the Ingolfsson Clade had already launched a colonizing expedition towards one system in the Far Edge Cluster, when Wintermute's radio message reached them. By then they didn't have enough amat left to go to another system and deaccelerate safely, so the colonists decided to risk it. When they arrived in the system, a ship containing a Wintermute submind was waiting for them. He gave them coordinates for a system with a terraformable planet outside the Cluster, and supplied them with enough amat to reach it safely.

The story was vastly different when a Dominion expedition at the height of the Version War sought to establish a base in the region for further strikes into Metasoft territory. Most of them were utterly annihilated in an extreme show of force. Only a handful survived to tell the tale, and that was presumably because Wintermute wanted them to.

In any case, besides those two incidents Wintermute was left alone in his star cluster until 7224 when he unexpectedly declared himself a Caretaker God (whether Wintermute can be described as a Caretaker God is still being debated) and acknowledged the Compact of Eden, granting free passage for everyone with benevolent intent. The Far Edge Civilization, that now spanned 42 stars, was truly a work of art. Not because of the astonishing diversity of the hundreds of clades in Wintermute's domain, but because of the culture he had crafted.

Members of the Far Edge Civilization have been described as contemplative, deliberate and calculating - often studying situations from every viewpoint, including considering what might have happened if something had been done differently. They also have a psychological stability that rival even Empaths.

Many theories of why Wintermute didn't reveal his project earlier have been suggested. The most prominent of these is that the carefully designed psyche of the Far Edge Civilization would not have been able to handle the outside world. Only after careful memetic engineering did it become possible. Still, it's just a theory - who knows how a Fourth Toposophic mind think.

The Far Edge Civilization is still alive and well to this day, and Third Toposophic Futurists foresee no significant problems in the immediate future for Wintermute and his star cluster.

Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Espen Antonsen

Initially published on 12 April 2003.