Transapient Pathology

The study of pathological mental states in transapient beings

Image from Steve Bowers

Though sophonts who choose to study transapient-level pathologies may devote entire lifetimes to the subject and have an extraordinarily large and arcane terminology and body of knowledge, some broad categories are known to nonspecialists. An important distinction, albeit one that sometimes degenerates into vague generalization, is that of Blight and Perversity. Within the category of Blights are the "army ants" or "locust swarm" types.


A blight can very well have been deliberate or due to internal conflicts. Many blights are avoidable if you take the proper precautions - this is why there are nanoimmune systems, virus killer software and AI consistency checks. But when a society is in crisis, then these safeguards might be forgotten or stopped, and in many conflicts there are individuals or groups who think that putting a small virus into the opposing camp's network will only harm the the opposition and will not spread back to its originators.

The Bourgatov blight was really a kind of evolving hunter-seeker virus that one faction (to this day nobody knows which, but everybody blames their favourite villains) tried to use to take over. It was intended to breach the security surrounding the system council and give the originators access, as well as wiping opposing AIs. But it got out of hand, assimilated, and grew into a wildly unstable and malign software blight. Eventually it suffered a hyperbolic Denebola collapse, but at that point much of the essential infrastructure was wrecked, backups eaten by nanoswarms, the nets crammed with junk signals and high-level AIs either dead, corrupted or hiding. By then the nanoimmune systems were failing, and the ordinary goo was happily growing...Note that some blights might seed each other - the Pi3 Orionis blight was the origin of the code that eventually led to the Geteche disaster and might even have infected some systems in the Perseus arm. Some perversionists (researchers studying blights) think that the Amalgamation might be descended from this, but they are a tiny minority.

Similarly the Paradigm is likely trying to start daughter empires in the periphery. And who knows what the founder of the Paradigm really brought with him from Keter? Blights can be physical integrated systems like a sentient nanoswarm, or memetic like the Conver Ambi. In many cases the borders between a corrupt or destructive ideology and a blight are hard to draw. Generally speaking, a blight is something that expands and turns things into itself, but unlike a goo swarm it does so intelligently, it is a type of power (i.e. it is at first toposophic or higher). It may even communicate with other empires and sentients, offering materials for trade or exchange, or even gifts. Blights are often more obvious than perversions, obvious but able to field a large array of nasty tricks.Some blights seem to even prefer wanton destruction over replication - they are "salters" Obviously, those blights that expend more energy in destroying then in replicating do not do as well as the others (being more inefficient). On the other hand, a few blights actually settle down to be genuinely harmless, even contribute to the galactic culture as a whole. However, they can never really shake the initial stigma or suspicion the rest of the universe has for them.By this definition the Paradigm is a type of Blight, albeit a relatively benign one. Of course, from a Blight's perspective, a normal Archai empire is a blight.

Red Ant or Locust Swarms

A variation on the theme of a standard blight are the non-stationary, "infective" or migratory blights. There are only a few dozen or so known of these types which 'by virtue' of their taxonomy are generally classified in two types - Red Ant or Locust Swarm. Red Ant Blights are slow migratory, nanotechnology driven blights. They tend to be less smart, involve lower sophoncy levels as constituents, and are usually not very long lasting. Most known historical incidents of Red Ants lasted only a few centuries before succumbing to their inherent paradigmatic instability — generally their strategies not sustainable in the long term — even if they are not wiped out by some external force. Red Ants routinely target vulnerable systems. Several other Red Ant blights also collapsed after internal phase shifts or 'revolutions' in which case they collapse or revert to 'lesser' blights.

Red Ants are nearly always outward moving relative towards the Periphery, where there are more vulnerable systems than in the Inner Sphere. Red Ant blights tend to be noncommunicative or aloof - they evolve internally to select out existential values and memes that favor compatibility with anything but their own system of reference - the general theme inside the claustrophobic operating systems of Red Anters is that 'universal compatibility is treason'. Red Ant migratory pathways have one feature in common - they move from system to system and what they leave behind are utterly useless 'ash belts' - systems stripped of all volatiles and asteroids, planets stripmines to dry husks, gas planets reduced to shriveled up balls of rock, systems devoid of all ice and stars exploding in the wake of the migration in a pale, sterile and lifeless nova.

Apparently this sort of expansive depletion is a fairly universal phenomenon - some volumes far outside the terragen sphere (or even in nearby galaxies) have displayed this characteristic "strands of pearls" phenomenon where sequences of smaller stars uncharacteristically explode, one after another within a few decades per intervening lightyear interval, strongly suggesting an equivalent red ant migratory predation. In the Andromeda system is an erratic, twisting strand of these nova bubbles a full 250 stars long, referred to in xenoscientific literature as "the strand of Charon". In start opposition to Red Ants, the Locust Swarms are both more dangerous and less so - they migrate in more predictable patterns, generally in cycles or in migratory mechanisms. Locusts do not lay waste - they may even have insidious strategies to allow civilizations to emerge after they left a system, and then after a few centuries return.

Other Locusts hibernate in cometary halos and are referred to as 'vikings' or 'reavers'. Locust Blights are typically parasitical, exploiting or plundering assets constructed by adjacent benevolences. As such Locusts Blights can be surprisingly and cunningly communicative, and even go as far as appear 'decent'. And that is the main instability in the strategy of Locusts - fully one half of several dozen types of 'Locust Blights' have over the last few millennia gone ligit - their capacity for parasitical enterprise made them either susceptible to 'atonement', or it allows others to redeem them. However - you can never be sure.. after all, isn't it in the nature of "Locust Scum" to pretend to be nice guys every so often?Both Locust and Red Ant Blights tend to be smaller than some of the more prominent stationary Blights. Also, Locust swarms are taxonomically recognized as being less expansive and widespread than 'infestations of migrating Army Ants'. The smaller ones of either comprize one or a few stellar systems at any one moment. The largest example ("The Shoggoth"), slowly ambled from system to system and occupied 50 systems at its high point, in 9900, near the cluster NGC 2362.


(Perversions)For the most part the Archailects rule their empires benignly, ensuring long periods of prosperity, stability, and safety such as would be impossible under Modosophonts human, biont, cyborg, or vec rule. For this reason many sentient beings welcome the comfort and security that the Archailects bring. But there are also less reputable transapients, referred to by the Universalists as devils, by the Umma as Iblis, and the neohermeticists as the Qlippoth. This is a generic name for powerful but nasty entities that threaten worlds not under the protection from the other transapients. We know them as Perversities, which is a somewhat later term that has become widely adapted. Of course, most perversities are transapients themselves, either with malign visions or simply mad or dangerously eccentric.

Some are just brief threats, such as the Erasure of the Tanaka Cluster, where the high-transapient overseer decided to remove itself from existence - and used godtech to kill all life within its sphere of influence, down to the viral level. To this day hundreds of sterile planets remain covered with ruins, slowly withering mummified corpses and atmospheres slowly reverting to the inorganic. Other threats are more active, such as the Amalgamation. The Amalgamation strives to integrate everything and everyone into its matrix, subverting software, neurons and ideology with infinite cleverness. Once absorbed the individual becomes a part of the Amalgamation meta-AI. All other AIs have developed countermeasures, but the Amalgamation is patient, intelligent and inventive.

In some cases, like the Efficiency Maximization Paradigm, it depends on one's point of view whether or not the empire actually constitutes a valid dominion or a perversity.As normally defined, a perversity is a power - usually of above the first toposophic, that infiltrates in order to create or gain control over an empire or polity or network for the purpose of assimilation. Perversities are often more intelligent than Blights - they have to be, in order to get past the defences. However, this is not necessarily the case, as there are often cases of Blights of a higher toposophic level than Perversities.Perversities are similar in many respects to Blights. But unlike a blight a perversion is something that infiltrates and exploits the apparently normal function of infiltrated systems. Perversions are insidious but generally more limited in extent. However this is not always the case. A Perversity like the Amalgamation has been able to spread very widely, whilst some blights are only limited to a single low population solar system - even a single habitat.

It is only those less frequent really big ones that give the impression they are wide-ranging. Again, as with Blights, we have to distinguish between Perversion and a "normal" intrusion po like, say Orintergen (even if the Dominion and Negentropists have long considered Orintergen a perversity).Like Blights, Perversities tend to be self-replicating, but they do it by absorbing/subverting their victim rather than overwhelming them by sheer weight of replicators. The Amalgamation can thus be considered a Perversity.Obviously, these are fuzzy categories. A power or swarm may incorporate elements of perversity, blight, and "productive" galactic citizen. And opinions regarding what is a blight/perversity or not are often subjective, and often made for memetic persuasion (as in the Dominion's propaganda against Orintergen.

The Toposophic Classification of Blights and Perversions

Pathological threats can occur on many different toposophic levels. Although determination is often hard, the level of a particular high-level threat can be classified according to the level of defences they can overcome; a second toposophic perversity can generally overcome first toposophic defences and so on.

It is relatively common that a successful lower toposophic qlippoth bootstraps to a higher level as it evolves, although such transitions are commonly sources of instability for the entity. The relatively rare second order blights and perversions occur as a self-organized intelligent layer on top of a non-intelligent swarm. In rare cases third or higher order blights may develop, although such highly organized hegemonic swarms are often highly unstable (but notably cunning). The most destructive single entity which has yet emerged from the Terragen Sphere is the rogue archailect Verifex. Most authorities do not class Verifex as a perversity or blight, since E has not sought to increase Eir power (despite the vast destruction E has wrought.

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Text by Khannea Suntzu

Initially published on 15 March 2011.