Image from Steve Bowers

Occasionally, pieces come together, and the whole is greater than its many parts. Tribeminds are neither a hive mind nor a collective consciousness, but rather a tightly networked group of entities who retain their individuality but work together for the betterment of a mental "tribe".

Tribeminds are formed by modosophonts or by lower level transapients, sometimes as an experiment and sometimes in an attempt to compete and survive in a universe dominated by the more standard transapient minds. Although their average toposophic level may be far below that of a competitor, their power as a group can be far higher in certain applications. Though they are not strictly comparable to "true" transapients of the same toposophic level, some can reach as high as SI:>3 to SI:>5 as measured on some achievement scales, depending on the kinds of tasks in question. Details vary rather strongly with the composition of the group; tribeminds are in a way something like collective transavants, particularly if they can themselves manage to incorporate true transavants into the tribe (a task even more difficult than integrating more standard intellects).

In some ways tribeminds may seem more flexible than traditional transapients of similar level. With attention to configuration and membership most of their computing power can be concentrated in specific fields of expertise. On the other hand, they may lack some connections to information that would be obvious to "broad based" or "standard" transapient minds, because the specialization of equal level does not exist in the tribemind, or because critical information and viewpoints have not been fully shared between members.

Due to issues of privacy and individuality, and to communication lags over distances, tribeminds are not quite as secure or sound as a normal transapient of similar ability and power. They are much slower than standard transapients, and have a tendency to fission, or to disintegrate entirely. Often there are individual clashes that threaten the protocols of tribehood. A tribe can sometimes solve this problem over time by changing its membership, gaining or shedding individuals as needed as per rules set up by the members. In this way, a tribemind is similar to a club or fraternity/sorority.

Membership in a tribemind is almost always by invitation only. Most tribeminds do not wish to expose their true nature to the public. This can be dangerous if they have developed enemies who might exploit their weaknesses. To that end, the public face of a tribemind is identical to that of a typical higher level "landless" transapient (a transapient of or high power who has no responsibilities, population, sephirotic membership, or political backing).

Because each member maintains full individuality, under the information sharing protocols used for a tribemind, the link between tribemates may not be complete. Depending on the rules of the tribemind, data may not necessarily be fully shared among members. Nor can they have their body or systems taken over by other members without their conscious will. Members can at times if, permitted by the tribal protocols, be allowed "alone time" during which they cut themselves off from the network to do whatever they desire. Often it is during these periods that members travel outside their tribemind's resident system.

Most often, a tribemind stays in a single system for communication purposes or more rarely, to systems connected by the Nexus . Some tribeminds are made up of Moon brains or Jupiter brains, connected by wormhole links, but these are quite rare. It is rumored that some of these wormhole bus linked tribeminds are independent of the Nexus, making it an extremely secure communication system totally separate even from the Godweb and Known Net.

Tribeminds, even those consisting entirely of bionts and vecs , are usually very eclectic in their composition. Members may include the results of failed ascension attempts, or victims of Godshatter , or sabotaged Godseeds , though they are not a necessary element. Some tribeminds are mixed groups of all types: aioid, sybont , biont, and vec. They may have a central, more complete member that acts as a hub, to many satellites, but this is not always the case.

Tribeminds may on occasion even accept some baselines who have transavant capabilities, as that strange tool that gives greater essential functionality. The tribemind often works to elevate the transapient level and ability of its weakest link as to increase the power of the greater whole.

Socially, tribeminds may be able to communicate across a broad range of toposophic levels. Often, however, they limit their contacts with those of higher level than their most powerful "standard" transapient, to prevent discovery.

Many standard transapients seem to consider tribeminds to be annoying aspects of the toposophic ladder, and con artists of the worst sort. They see them as poseurs and impersonators trying to gain more power than they can truly handle and prefer not to deal with them if possible. Others view this as just an interesting twist to the social tapestry that is civilized space, and have devoted much of their existence to their study. Some such students consider tribeminds to be a good illustration of the fact that the toposophic schema is not a ladder at all, but a bush of possibilities.

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Text by Michael Boncher

Initially published on 11 December 2004.