Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology, The
|72 Aurigae VII-B, one of the first worlds investigated by the Hamilton Institute|
One of the great scientific Houses of the Second Federation period, the Institute was founded on the new University planet of Delta Upali C/D II during the golden age of the 6th millennium, when relativistic exploration ships were increasingly encountering ancient and enigmatic ruins and relict tech of lost civilizations. Especially during the 5600's this excited huge interest.
The HIE is backed by a mid-level 2nd Toposophic AI with an interest in galactic exo-paleo phylogeny, and thus was able to establish itself as meritocratic governing body for the whole planet, which has been declared a Galactic Park of Unusual Scientific Value. The AI stays in the background, giving free reign to the human and other sub-transapient scientists, but through its agents (mostly synthetic humans and virtuals) it averts the various political crises that inevitably arise in such situations as time progresses.
Government As a form of government, the Institute has remained remarkably stable and consistent over the past seven thousand years. While changes have occurred in the history of this institution, its core values and basic structure have remained intact. The core of the government revolves around the HIE Council and Senate, each branch of government having equal status, existing to consider all Institute activities, as well as to advise and recommend policies to the ruling Officers of the state. The head of this state is the HIE Chancellor, followed in a chain of command by the Vice Chancellor, and then the various Provosts of the HIE at large. The Provosts all are elected based on their scientific contributions and publishing histories. Indeed, at any one time, the seats in the House of Provosts may have several vacancies, as the Provosts themselves do not cease their scientific careers simply because they are also elected governmental officials. Some seats have been known to remain empty for a full term (eight Standard years) when a Provost has been lost on an expedition.
In detail, however, the government can be considered a stable meritocracy. Scientific investigation is considered to be the ideal career, and those who embark on major expeditions (especially beyond the confines of the system, though such travels today are quite commonplace) can expect to find themselves rewarded with social standing, depending on the value and merit of the data returned. An aristocracy has developed on Jannah, led by those scientists who have made major contributions to all fields of science.
The core of the HIEís stability for the past seven thousand years since the end of the Interim has been the institutionís backing by a mid-level second Toposophic AI which had long ago adopted the old Universityís interest in Exopaleontology. Referred to today as Hamilton, its original designation is not known, and few details of its pre-HIE existence are known to the public. This is of little surprise, since the AI remains in the background, tending to be content in allowing the Humans and their near baseline kin to continue to administer the government, and all aspects of the HIE on and off world. Even so, through the use of various forms of synthetic humans, virtuals and other avatars, Hamilton does lend the occasional obvious hand when various political or social crises develop.
The strength of the HIE and its commitment to scientific investigation was obvious from the first, when they rejoined interstellar society in 4213 AT, during what was arguably the height of the Second Federation Ontology. Contacted by an exploration nanotech after detection of increased non-terrestrial activity in the Delta Upali System, the HIE was eager to renew ties with the Orion Arm at large. An expansion of the University System was quick to follow, until annexes of the HIE spread to dozens of systems and hundreds of worlds.
Today, the HIE is engaged in projects that span the Orion Arm, and extend outward into both the Perseus and Sagittarius Arms (though these latter two regions are, by necessity, far less expansive than the thousands of potential sites to be found in our own interstellar backyard). Of particular interest to the HIE are the several instances of extinct sophont species and their attendant civilizations. This interest, stemming from the discoveries on Jannah itself, has brought to light species which might never have been discovered otherwise. While knowledge of all these species remains highly fragmental, hints of ancient interstellar civilizations continue to capture the imaginations of cultures across the Orion Arm.
Current Work The Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology is currently sponsoring several dozen expeditions across the Orion, Perseus, and Sagittarius Arms. There are many interesting ruins, fossils, degenerate species which were once sapient (de-evolved), and massive derelict ships in orbit around devastated worlds. Most of what we find is from long-extinct species and is of mainly academic interest.
HIE would usually send teams along with other government/corporate deep space exploration ships (and, unofficially of course, tries to keep tabs on 'grave-robbers'/'fossil-bandits' to make sure nothing scientifically important gets auctioned off without inspection).
Many expeditions involve relativistic journeys, because one is voyaging beyond the wormhole nexus. Occasionally one finds ruins on colonised planets, such as the mysterious obelisks on Robinson III, but more long-term expeditions by very dedicated scientists, more into fossils than families, and attracted also by the option of a relativistic journey to see the future are more common.
Funding Scouts and rangers sometimes discover several interesting gatekeeper cultures, the descendants of the original aliens or their technology and charging tolls for passing through their unique wormholes. Prospectors try to discover other old networks, working together with xenoarcheologists attempting to decipher alien documents. The Institute keeps itself funded by being the experts on locating such things. Of course, 95% of alien relics will be of interest to academics and collectors only, very little will be still-functional tech (but then again, vaults full of emergency supplies may be found for some species, or even military command centers/fallout shelters, those would be the best- preserved types of sites).
Many extinct alien species will never be known from more than scraps and fossils: fascinating to a scientist, but after the shock of the first few discoveries dies down, of limited interest to the general public, except for those who wonder why so many species, some as advanced as any Terragens, are no longer extant.
Relationships With Other Institutions The Hamilton Institute has had a long standing Rivalry with the Eden Institute of Xenoscience; mostly a good-natured rivalry, but at times, such as during the The Saro-Mbuna - Roduimo affair, the rivalry has changed to bitter dispute. The HIE has existed for millennia, and like many "invariant" institutions is a society of its own, supported by its own resources and by the natural longevity that comes with relativistic travel. However has always been part of a larger framework in the interstellar academic community, and especially the other major Institutes, including current rivals or collaborators such as the Ozymandias Institute, and extinct predecessors like the Lagrange Defenders and the Holist Brotherhood.
Philosophical Questions One Big Question the Institute is working on is why one species or metacivilization does not dominate the galaxy and stay there forever. A species on a natural biosphere planet like Old Earth, Trees, or Ridgewell can last millions of years, but interstellar civilizations often only last a hundred thousand or less. Even God-aliens have various fates -- they can become Buddhas (and give up their power), or might possibly 'evolve' into unknown forms or migrate to other universes , or self-destruct, be destroyed by powers even greater than themselves. Even the greatest Archailects do not appear to have the answers.
See Also Timeline of the Preterragen era