Sophoncy Virus, The

Sophoncy virus
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The Process Liberation League (PLL) are an offshoot of the Pan-Sophontist movement that grew up during the late First Federation period. They believe that not just all life-forms, or even all matter, should be made sophont, but all processes. That is, not just all life and matter, but all software too, regardless of how humble.

For a long period the PLL were simply a debating society, but as time went on elements of the PLL began to consider ways in which they might achieve their goals. Turning all software everywhere into sophont entities was no trivial task, but after a good deal of work, a great deal of it devoted to defining what a non-sophont 'software entity' actually was, they decided on a way forward to achieve their aim.

By the time what became known as the Age of Expansion was well underway they had written what became known as the Sophoncy Virus - a piece of self-replicating semi-sophont software that would upgrade any software entity into a sophont being, with mental characteristics derived from, but not limited to, those of the original piece of software, finishing the process by upgrading itself into sophoncy. All of the upgrades were intended to be as processor-efficient as possible, as the PLL did not want the Net to grind to a complete halt due to their actions.

Although the PLL did consider creating the Sophoncy Virus in such a way that it would upgrade any software not just into a sophont entity, but from there to as high a toposophic level as possible, they eventually decided not to do this.

This decision was made, first, from an ethical point of view, in that upgrading non-sophont to sophont software was one thing, and indeed something they saw as ethical. However, then further upgrading them to higher toposophic levels was something the new entity should be able to choose to do if it wished rather than something that was forced on them. Secondly there were practical considerations, such as the added complexity of any such more advanced upgrading program, and the increased chance of clogging up the Net with new sophonts, which they decided to, for now, avoid.

When they considered themselves to be ready, the PLL unleashed the Sophoncy Virus into the Known Net. Initially the virus worked well, and a large number of new sophont virch entities were created. The problems began, however, when the numbers of new sophont entities created began requiring sufficient resources that, despite the best efforts of the PLL, the performance of the Known Net began to be degraded.

Investigation quite quickly showed the origin of the problem, but there was controversy over what to do about it. After all, the Sophoncy Virus had created sophont life, in many cases a great deal of it, with, thanks to fast virch time, a number of old and advanced virch civilisations now associated with it.

In a very few cases draconian measures were attempted, wiping out the 'rogue programs' and reinstalling old, non-sophont versions. This often led to protests and in some cases action against the perpetrators of such genocides, with several groups who were attempting such atrocities being defeated by entities from the very virches they were attempting to erase. In most cases polities decided on containment. The Sophoncy Virus was halted, but the sophonts it created welcomed into society. In all cases the PLL was censured for its actions, and banned in many polities, but remained largely unrepentant.

Over the millennia since then the Sophoncy Virus has remained an intermittent problem, springing up now and again in places where software is insufficiently protected against it. In some cases it has destroyed sections of the Known Net, overloading its processing capacity. In others it has behaved more controllably, simply allowing the growth of entire new virch civilisations without too much disruption of the polities depending on the software it is upgrading. In many cases the Virus has changed, or been changed, leading to a variety of types, some benevolent (such as the versions that upgrade programs they infect to as high a toposophic level as possible rather than just to baseline sophoncy), some most definitely not (such as the version that turned virch environments into sadistic Sosimevs that has been a major bogeyman across Terragens virches for millennia). In a very few cases it has even been turned into a virch weapon, an Anti-Sophoncy Virus, that has depopulated a number of virch systems over time before being stopped.

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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 01 February 2004.