Panthalassic ocean planet containing extensive water-cooled cybercosm

Shenno, an Ocean World
Image from Steve Bowers
Star 4 Scorpii
Type A3V
Distance from Sol 431 ly
Luminosity 20 x Sol
Planet Henson
Type Panthallasic superterrestrial
Diameter 23090 km
Semimajor axis 5.7 AU
Orbital period 9.57 standard years
Rotation period 48.1 standard hours

Colonised in 2751 by the Keterist expansion venture Kolumbi Networks, this large, cool waterworld far from its local star was seen as a good candidate for the construction of water-cooled computation nodes. When first discovered this planet was covered in a relatively thin layer of low-pressure water-ice; beneath this covering was a deep water ocean, nearly 100km deep. Between the ocean and the rocky mantle was a thick layer of high-pressure water ice, disturbed by a relatively low level of volcanic activity which rarely broke through to disturb the liquid ocean.

The Network colonists, mostly superbright humans and dolphins accompanied by several first singularity transapients, began to build insulated habitats on the icy surface, but these settlements were of secondary importance compared to the computation modules which they suspended in the ocean at a depth of ten kilometers. Each module was constructed ftrom diamondoid computronium from carbon extracted from the planet's thick atmosphere.

Small and fast, these computation modules were generally 300 metres in diameter,with a hollow core to allow water to pass through and carry away heat. This size was chosen to ensure that the nodes experienced a very low signal latency; any human equivalent virtual being uploaded into such a node, even when operating a million times faster than a biological human, would experience no noticable subjective delay when communicating with other similar entities within the same module.

Each module consumed around 500 GW of power, and produced the same amount of waste heat. The first modules were constructed using S:1 technology, and could accomodate around a billion human equivalent entities with a minimum amount of virtual environment modelling; most accomodated far fewer than this in a richer environment. A module could support thousands of S:1 transapients, but most modules supported fewer than this, a few dozen at most. In less than a decade a few second level transapients began to emerge, as ascensions and transcensions began to occur in these submarine processor matrices.

By the Second Federation Era the oceans of Henson supported several million hot processor modules, each separated by a respectably large volume of water. The additional heat produced was sufficient to melt the surface ice on this planet, and the relatively small population of incarnate nearbaseline humans who lived on the surface constructed a number of floating diamondoid cities, which were often visited by the local clade of enhanced dolphins. At length archailect-developed processor technology allowed a single distributed Third Singularity godling to take up residence on Henson, in a network of hundred-kilometer high towers that stretched from the ocean floor to above the surface of the sea.

At first, power for the modules was produced by fusion of the deuterium in the water, or collected by photovoltaics on the ice or floating on the ocean; later power was imported from a swarm distributed in a wide ring around this world. The water of the ocean became warmer, melting the icy mantle to a somewhat greater depth, but still providing an excellent heat sink for the Keterist processor modules.

The Empire of Thought

The first processing modules to be emplaced in the ocean of this world held large numbers of virtual modosophonts, mostly uploaded humans, provolves and splices. These entities constructed a series of virtual environments around themselves that were reassuringly familiar, usually an idealised version of the real universe. Many of the most populous modules were configured to resemble virtual planets, with individual cities and settlements arranged in consistent locations on their surface. Other modules resembled large, or very large, space-based habitats, some of them apparently rotating, others in virtual freefall.

Over time the virtual environments incorporated within the modules became more diverse; some became vast virtual cities, often reflecting their underwater status by mimicking the oceanic settlements of Merpeople and enhanced dolphins. As the inhabitants of these modules were themselves becoming more diverse over time, so did their virtual environments; often several wildly different environments would be superimposed, so that a virtual citizen could transfer from one extraordinary cybercosm to another with a simple thought. This multifaceted environment, distributed between an increasing number of modules in the slowly warming seas, became known as the Empire of Thought.

Following Keterist principles, the various nodes compared and contrasted their experiences over time, trading social and intellectual capital in a complex information economy. Data channels between the modules began to fill the open seas between the modules, but most of the ocean remained empty to allow for convection transfer of heat towards the cooler poles. Slow 'sneakernet' submarine transports carried data storage media between the modules, often including inactive copies of virtual sophonts who wished to relocate their main focus of consciousness to new locations.


By the end of the Second Federation Era the virtual sophonts of Henson were extraordinarily diverse. Many modules held one or more first or second level transapients, some of which were attracted towards Cyberian ideals of cryptoanarchy. The rate of ascensions and transcensions was respectably high, so the number of transaps was increasing over time. Although newly uploaded humans and other uploaded bionts were immigrating into the Empire of Thought at a steady rate, most of the inhabitants of this planet at this time were entirely virtual in origin. Aioid minds, independent intelligent agents and mobys were becoming far more common than virtual ex-bionts.

One particularly common method of creating new virtual entities at this time was the practice of memeiosis, otherwise known as memetic meiosis; two or more virtual entities would divide their memories and personality traits into discrete units and exchange them to create a new individual, typically taking half of each parent individual to make a new whole. If carried out correctly, memeiosis could mingle the memories and traits of uploaded humans with uploaded provolved animals of various kinds, or with entities that once had been vecs, or sentient spacecraft or buildings, intelligent search engines or sophont traffic control routines. Increasingly memeiosis was being used to blend more than two mentalities, sometimes several or even dozens of minds contributing a little to the mix.

Transcension therapy

The Keter Dominion was largely successful at keeping out of the Version War, while working both openly and in secret to find new solutions to the ontological schism that was a major factor in the war. Much of the groundwork for the ComEmp Ontology was wrought in Keterist mind-worlds like Henson. But even in toposophically advanced worlds like this, the processes of ascension and transcension were risky endeavours, with a high proportion of such events destined to end in failure, and a smaller but significant number ending in blights and perversities. The virtual beings who inhabited Henson had an extremely long subjective history, with a wealth of experience in toposophic remediation due to their skills with memetic meiosis. Since the ComEmp period Henson has become a centre for the study and treatment of failed ascension/transcension events.

In the Current Era sophonts from all over the Terragen Sphere come here for therapy of various kinds, with the aim of regaining some sort of functional mental state, usually returning to their previous level but sometimes successfully completing the process of transcension or ascension. In some cases no such cure can be found, and the entity is deactivated or passed to one of the higher transapient moon- or Jupiter brains that can be found in the outer reaches of this system and beyond.

A number of unconfirmed stories have long been in circulation about a blight that escaped from captivity and threatened the local sector at some date in the Ninth Millenium; but these events (if they ever occured) appear to have been almost completely suppressed from the databanks of this empire and remain only as terrifying rumours.
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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 25 October 2012.

From an idea by Keith Henson
Transhumanism and the human-expansion into space-A conflict with physics