Middle Tech is a term used for the characteristic technologies of Old Earth from the Industrial Age to the late Information Age. Though powerful, these technologies have high energy and material requirements in proportion to their outputs, and can cause resource exhaustion and environmental degradation if the mechosystem is not carefully managed to capture and recycle its products and its abundant wastes. Middle tech societies may take a variety of forms, but the diversity of middle tech societies on any one world or megahab may actually be small due to the levelling effect of rapid local transportation and communication.
Characteristic midtech includes nonsentient computers, interactive media, presentient and subturingrade expert systems, network architecture, basic biotech with crude gengineering, nuclear fission, chemical rocket engines, electronics, artificial dyes and fertilisers, artificial fibres, fusion weapons, crude solar cells, antibiotics and other synthetic drugs, inexpensive refining of raw materials, basic automation, and mechanised agriculture.
Though of course midtech is widespread as a component in higher tech societies, exclusively midtech societies are vanishingly rare. Midtech lacks the stability of both higher and lower tech levels, so such regions either evolve to high tech societies or slip down to a more sustainable lowtech level. Nevertheless midtech level artifacts may be popular among modosophonts in higher tech societies who prefer items that have powerful effects but are easy to operate and repair.
2d - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Flat screen, non-holographic visual display.
Adaptive Mimetic Materials - Text by John B A piece of matter designed to gather specific biometric traits of a being and store them for later recovery or broadcast/narrowcast to a dedicated recorder. The most common is the adaptive mimetic material handle, which samples both palm print, finger prints, bioelectrical signatures, and sweat chemistry amongst bionts. With careful design, such materials can gather similar abiometric data from cyborgs and vecs, mapping the specific frequencies released by actuators, relative actuator strength, precise beam lengths, etc. This is often used as a cheap security measure.
Adbomb - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, based on original by Michael Beck Subliminal memebot broadcast devices, scattered them around a designated area, they release a message into the brain of everyone in the area, usually an advertisement. Banned throughout much of the Civilized Galaxy, they are widely used in market state free zones such as the NoCoZo, and out towards the Periphery where the reach of the noetic and other big ai states is not very strong.
AFV - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Armoured Fighting Vehicle. Any macroscopic armoured military fighting vehicle equipped with a selection of projectile and/or energy weapons, whether wheeled, tracked, walker, or a ground-effect, Industrial Age to Recent.
Alcohol II - Text by Daniel Harle One of the first biologically active systemic nanotic injections, designed to keep a 'reasonable' (non-fatal) level of alcohol in the blood stream and to scavenge the unpleasant biochemical byproducts of alcohol metabolism.
Arachnoweave - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Fabric created using biomimemetic synthesis of spider-silk proteins. Strong yet subtle and light, used for a variety of purposes, including police and military body armor, sporting clothing, and fashion statements.
Arcjet - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Simple very lo-tech rocket used for short low power thrusters, such as station keeping motors and satellites. A non-flammable propellant is heated (not combusted) by an electrical heat source, causing it to undergo a phase change (from liquid to gas) and is then expelled out of the nozzle under pressure. Although extremely inefficient and low thrust, arcjets are very reliable and require no sentient or subsentient ai controller. Almost any fluid from spare drinking water to human urine to vec cleaning oils can be used as a propellant in an emergency.
Arcology - Text by Anders Sandberg, Trent Shipley, and M. Alan Kazlev A planned, building/ neighborhood/ city that is integrated into the landscape and enables the inhabitants to live holistic lives, integrating work and play. Arcology designs are fully 3-dimensional, mega-structure cities which can in theory achieve much greater efficiencies, and promote more social interaction than 2-dimensional cities, while using far less land and consuming fewer resources.
Artificial Intelligence - Text by M. Alan Kazlev The foundation from which AI developed, from Information Age Old Earth. Still a knowledge field in its own right. Artificial Intelligence involves programming computers, non-sentient virtuals, nano, and bots to emulate sophont cognitive abilities, and eventually to acquire sentience in their own right. It involves a large number of interrelated fields, including fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, neural networks, pattern recognition algorithms, natural language processing, and speech, comlink, or affinitylink recognition. Today many software packages are widely available that can automatically enable most non-sentient computational devices to be provolved to sentience.
Autocannon, Cannon - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Large-calibre (generally 20-40 mm) self-aiming rapid-firing kinetic weapon fixed to armored vehicles, gunships, or Mecha.
Autonomous Agent - Text by M. Alan Kazlev In general, an ai or aioid that has limited perception of its environment but is still able to process information to calculate an action so as to be able to perform a task or seek a goal.
Bacca - Text by Anders Sandberg Family of crops derived from the tobacco plant through gengineering during the interplanetary era and later. Designed for use in space hydroponics, different strains produce livestock feed, vegetables, drugs and decorative flowers. Especially common is Qianxuesen, a bacca vegetable eaten by terragen bionts boiled or mashed.
Barbwire-Bush - Text by David Hallberg The Barb-wire Bush is a genetic construct designed for use in low-tech entrenched fortifications, such as those on the Western Front in the First World War of Old Earth, or in any number of prim to low-tech conflicts in the millennia since. It may also be used in civil settings as a low-cost privacy and security measure.
Body Armour - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Body armour developed early as protective suits made of such materials as leather, shells, wood, and basketwork, later supplemented by metal and synthetic materials.
Boltzmann Machine - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Stochastic neural network systems that are capable of learning hidden structure in data.
Brainstorm - Text by Todd Drashner Semi-legal drug occasionally used by baselines/near- baselines seeking to solve a complex problem without the assistance of an ai.
Bubblehabs - Text by Stephen Inniss Artificial habitats that float in an atmosphere, usually the atmosphere of a cool gas giant or ice giant planet.
Capacitors - Text by Stephen Inniss A capacitor or condenser is a passive electronic component consisting of a pair of conductors separated by a dielectric (non-conductor). Advanced designs allow capacitors to act as potent energy storage devices.
Cellular Automaton - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A vir dynamic system that is composed of an array of cells. All interactions are local, with the next state of a cell being a function of the current state of itself and its neighbors. Cellular Automa are a non-sentient common environment for alife experiments. Today some alife species (most notably the AKD) exist in cellular automata. Cellular Automata are also important in the creation of virchworlds.
Ceramic Engineering - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, based on the original by Robert J. Hall The science and technology of the processing of ceramic materials. Deals with the chemical, electrical, mesoscale, optical, physical, and structural properties, applications, and behavior of ceramic materials, including the raw materials required and the various manufacturing process (macroscale dumb, mesoscale smart, bionano and biomachinic organic, and nanofabrication) of forming, synthesising, drying, and firing ceramic products.
Chameleon Suit - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; minor additions by Stephen Inniss Full-body stealth suit covered in specialized interlinked mesobots and nanobots that form an Optical Phased Array. The background on one side of the suit is detected via cambanks and this is then projected on the other side, enabling the wearer to be invisible. Some models also have built-in laser capacity. Not as sophisticated or impervious to detection as a janusuit, and easily detected by most perimeter security tech (motion analysis, nano cloud, sonics, interferometry, etc). It is still used in some kinds of games and sports, or on occasion for casual anonymity where security devices have not been deployed. It is till popular among some feral and barbarian groups.
Chemical Engineering - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, based on the original by Robert J. Hall The macro-, micro-, meso- or nano-scale chemical conversion of raw materials into such end products as bioplastoids, synthetic petroleum products, dumb (macroscale) detergents, plastics, natural and synthetic fuels, pharmaceuticals, fullerenes, hardcopy paper, and industrial chemicals. While most products can be easily synthesized with any household nanofab, chemical engineering is still important in the mass-production of large quantities of material in large chemical plants.
Chemosynthesis - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Primary production of organic matter using various substances and chemical reactions instead of light as an energy source; a common phenomenon throughout the galaxy, but rare in terragen ecologies.
Chromatoclothes - Text by Mike Parisi "Smart" clothing that mimics the chromatophore firing patterns of certain species (most notably Bitenic Squids) that use chromatophores for communications.
Cimri - Text by Anders Sandberg Kitchen MRI tool, used to check temperature, texture and juiciness of food by nuclear magnetic resonance.
Clone - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A biological organism asexually reproduced or bionanonically copied from another cell or genome or a template thereof. A clone is genetically identical to its original.
Cognitive Diuretic - Text by John B A 'rebranding' of so-called 'truth' drugs such as sodium pentathol. They don't enforce truth, by a long shot - just make you feel like talking and reduce superego 'pressure'. Hence the name. (Note that some clades use similar materials to help spark wildly creative brainstorming situations, from whence comes the phrase, "Gimme my thinkin' cup!").
Computer - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A computation device, which may be sentient or non-sentient. AIs can be either sentient computers, or complex systems residing in the RAM of computers. Without computers, galactic civilization would be impossible.
Crack - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Dumb, smart, or turingrade software that permits the user to penetrate a program or system even without a password. Often illegal but difficult to enforce, because of the ease by which such programs can be copied (a few are even self-replicating).
Cycler - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A ship or habitat that travels along an orbit or route in such a way that it rendezvous with other stations, orbitals, planets, or stars along the way. Cyclers may be small or large, sparse or luxurious, slow or fast, interplanetary (also called an Aldrin Cycler) or interstellar (also called a Schroeder Cycler), completely passive (simple ballistic orbit) or with course correction drive units. Depending on the route and speed, a single cycle may take anywhere from a few months to many millennia.
Dumbtech - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Generally, tech lacking any sort of inbuilt ai, aioid, or information-processing systems or micro- or nano- systems. More often found away from the main capitals, or on prim worlds, and wherever there is no angelnet support. During the early days of human history, from the stone age to the industrial age, all tech was dumbtech.
Ear, The - Text by John B "The Ear" is used by baselines to indicate if they are under surveillance by active sensors or via active transmissions.
Evolutionary Algorithm - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A computer program that simulates the processes biological evolution; a problem-solving system that use computational models of evolution as key elements of design. All alife, evolutionary ai and aioids, and self-evolving virchworlds are determined by evolutionary algorithms.
Expert System - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Not an AI, but a program that contains the knowledge of an ai or a biont, and is hence invaluable in the operation of ultratech, the solving of difficult problems, consulting for advice, etc. Expert Systems basically tend to have a high intelligence/skill level, but a very low turing number. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create expert systems with high intelligence levels, as pushing the skill factor up automatically raises the turing factor as well.
Firewall - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Software, hardware, or firmware that protects an AI, program, or agent from attack.
Firmware - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Software encoded into the hardware or wetware. Programming involves replacing the circuitry or chips or implants. Many simple bots, nanites, and simple bioborg modules and wetware applications are based on firmware.
Fossil Fuel - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Naturally-occurring, energy-rich carbon-based substance, such as shale, petroleum, coal, or natural gas, in a Gaian Type world's crust that was formed from ancient organic material. During the Industrial, Atomic, and early Information ages on Old Earth fossil fuels were burned in a criminally negligent manner, resulting in drastic climate change and ecological crisis that was only repaired during the late Interplanetary Age.
Friendzines - Text by Tony Jones A form of electronic media, not entirely unrelated to the madvert, but rather more benevolent, they are a combination of electronic magazine, news source and companion, combining an expert system optimized towards research and information storage with another expert system tooled towards interpersonal interaction with a specific user.
Fullerene - Text by Stephen Inniss Any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube, as opposed to forms of carbon such as graphite or diamond which make extended networks that lead to crystals, or to amorphous forms of carbon such as soot.
Fusion Reactor - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Power generation through the release of heat through a controlled nuclear fusion reaction. The hot plasma is confined in a magnetic bottle. Dedicated expert systems and subturing computers are required to ensure that the magnetic bottle remains at exactly the right charge to safely hold the plasma. Fusion generation is a widely relied upon power source throughout much of the galaxy, both to power large vehicles and settlements. Although not as efficient as amat, it is considerably safer, since there is no need to store amat and a magnetic failure means the hot plasma disperses causing only minor local damage.
Gauss Gun - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Generic term for kinetic weapon that uses a magnetic charge to accelerate a projectile. Hand-held models tend to use a simple small calibre (usually 2 to 4 mm) high density solid ferrous slug which is accelerated to hypersonic velocity. Some variants use a combination of explosive and magnetic accelerant. These weapons rely on a very high rate of fire to make them effective. Large vehicle or ship-mounted gauss guns with open barrels are called rail guns.
Geckotech - Text by John Edds Use of nanoscale hairs (setae) to provide adhesion by Van der Waals forces.
Genetic Algorithm - Text by Anders Sandberg in his Transhumanist Terminology Any algorithm which seeks to solve a problem by considering numerous possibilities at once, ranking them according to some standard of fitness, and then combining ("breeding") the fittest in some way. In other words, any algorithm which imitates natural selection.
Ghost Interface (alias Washu pad) - Text by Peter Kisner Device in which the computer holographically projects an interface screen in some area near the user. The screen can be "touch" sensitive, with the computer monitoring phalangial position in relation to the projected image, or view-screen and "keyboard" can be separate projections. Ghost interfaces are usually activated either by a command word or easy hand gesture.
Intelligent Agent - Text by M. Alan Kazlev An autonomous software program or very simple ai (usually turingrade but sometimes only subturingrade) that performs a function on its own, such as searching the Known Net for information based on certain criteria.
Knowbot - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Knowledge robot, a data miner or intelligent search agent, a type of software-only aioid, instructed by users to scan networks for various kinds of related information, regardless of the language or form in which it expressed. May be turing or subturing grade.
Lofstrom Loop - Text by Anders Sandberg in his Transhuman Terminology Dynamic launch loop using a continuous stream of linked magnetic units to raise payloads above the atmosphere for launch.
Lorrey Loop - Text by Steve Bowers Advanced form of Lofstrom Loop using three geostationary terminii in orbit at the points of an equilateral triangle, and three ground terminii opposite them, connected by a stream of vessels or particles which travel in Hofmann orbits (except when in the atmosphere), thereby saving energy.
Mecha - Text by Steve Bowers Humanoid Armoured Fighting Vehicle, basically a manned walking weapons platform. Can range from an armoured exoskelton only slightly larger than the occupant, to an excessively large construct the size of a skyscraper.
Mitebot - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Microscopic or near-microscopic organic or mechanical robot, usually arachnid-like in form. Similar to a gnatbot except that it crawls rather than flies.
Nanomachine - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Pran Mukherjee Generic term for a microscopic or molecular mechanical (non-biotic) device, for example a hylonanite or nanobot. It is important to note that nanomachines (and indeed nanites in general) do not have to be nanoscale; they may simply be microscale machines that can manipulate nanoscale objects.
neoSQuID - Text by John B, additional comments by Steve Bowers New Superconducting Quantum Interference Device - a device which is capable of nanometer-resolution of microvolt discharges over a meter distance, or better.
Net - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Distributed network of processing nodes, data-storage and distribution faculties, and virtual environments. See also Local Net, Known Net.
Nuclear Reactor - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A power plant that uses controlled atomic fission or fusion to generate energy.
Operating System, o/s, os - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Any software program that manages and provides a variety of services to application programs, including user interface facilities and management of input-output and memory devices. Operating systems are usually nonturing or subturing, more rarely dedicated turing or superturing, more rarely still (e.g. in ISOs) hyperturing.
Optical Computer - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A computer that processes information using light instead of electrons. Each stream of photons represents an independent sequence of data, thereby providing extremely massive parallel computation. Nanooptical computers can use a single photon as a bit.
Overcharge - Text by John B This is a deliberately destructive biostimulant cocktail designed to greatly amplify the capabilities of the baseline body. It is often considered to be the 'last gasp' of the pure baseline warrior concept.
Pencomp - Text by John B and Todd Drashner Networked processing device allegedly very popular in the period leading up to the nanoswarms, and definitely for some time thereafter.
Photoelectrochemical Cell - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Generic term for a wide range of cheap and easily fabricated, flexible photovoltaic device based on nanocrystalline materials and conducting polymer films, that provide a very high efficiency ratio of conversion of sunlight to electrical power. Widely used in many space habitats and for ground-based planetary power production for remote habitats and instruments.
Photonics - Text by M. Alan Kazlev based on a list by Robert J. Hall The study of the control of photons, especially for the transmission of information. Includes technology such as lasers, laser amplifiers, fiber optic cables, light-conducting buckytubes, light emitters, sensors and imaging systems of all sorts, charge-coupled devices, optical communication systems, holography, phased array optics, optical computers, and all types of optical data storage systems.
Plastic (material) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; some additions by Stephen Inniss A synthetic or semi-synthetic amorphous solid material, typically a polymer of high molecular weight made with monomers organic compounds that may be natural or synthetic in origin.
QED Fusion Reactor - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, Inspired by an entry in the Lunar Institute of Technology The electrostatic fusion reactor first suggested by Robert Bussard of 20th century Old Earth (C.E.), uses fusion fuel confined by a spherical voltage potential well of around 100,000 volts. It makes an excellent, and fairly low tech (late Information Age / early Interplanetary Age equivalent) light power plant, that it can be used as part of a basic high thrust to weight ratio propulsion system for spacecraft and aircraft. Basic propulsion versions have a specific impulse of between 1500 and 6000 sec.
Quantum Computer - Text by Ben Higginbottom Proposed by the grandfather of Nanotechnology Dr. Richard Feynman (basis of the legendary Feynman expert system) at the First Conference of the Physics of Computation in 12 AT (1981 c.e.). A Quantum Computer is radically different from the Turing state machines that preceded the first universal operational machine 'Harvey' in 48 AT (2017 c.e.).
Quantum Cryptography - Text by Anders Sandberg in his Transhuman Terminology A system based on quantum-mechanical principles. Eavesdroppers alter the quantum state of the system and so are detected.
Qubit - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A "quantum bit," used in quantum computing. Quantum mechanics allows for a qubit to be both zero and one at the same time, and hence to store two possible numbers (zero and one) simultaneously. N qu-bits store 2N possible numbers, thus is able to perform 2N possible solutions to a problem simultaneously. This is what gives the quantum computer its enormous power. Measurement is via quantum decoherence, which causes the qubit to collapse into a standard binary state of either zero or one.
Railgun - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A ship or vehicular mounted kinetic weapon that uses magnetic fields to accelerate a shell at very high velocity (in some cases relativistic). Often employed in batteries in capital ships and starfortresses, which have sufficiently power reactors to provide a power source. Small ship, fighter, vehicular, mecha, and handheld versions have less velocity and may also require an additional power source.
Ratbot - Text by Jorge Ditchkenberg The earliest type of practically usable and self-governed bot known to the terragens. It emulates some aspects of terragen rodents.
Recombinant DNA - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Basic primitive technique used in gengineering, dating back to early Information Age Old Earth. It involves cutting the DNA into discrete segments, and then recombining the segments to form new genes. The recombinant DNA molecule is then inserted into a cell.
Robot - Text by M. Alan Kazlev; some additional material by Stephen Inniss A programmable hardware or software device, agent, or expert system, either non- sub-turing, or dedicated turingrade, that follows certain instructions in order to perform tasks autonomously. A physical (hardware) robot mechanical manipulators and sensors. A robot may perform a physical task normally done by a biont, often with greater speed, strength, efficiency, and precision. Although vecs are sometimes also called robots (because of similarity of appearance), robots differ from vecs in that they are less cognitively flexible, and lack or have only limited initiative. Most vecs would respond to being called "robot" the way most sophont bionts would respond to being called "animal".
RV-5 Transport Vehicle - Text by M. Alan Kazlev inspired by entry by Kevin Self Robust and popular Federation era all-environment wheeled vehicle used by extraterrestrial mining and exploration teams. The RV-5 carried four crew and a limited amount of cargo, and came with turingrade expert systems and pilots. Both electric and hydrogen fuel cell versions were available. Variants on the design remained common for centuries on many middle region, frontier and less developed worlds.
Scanning Probe Microscope - Text by M. Alan Kazlev An atomic and information age microscope-manipulator that allowed researchers to see individual atoms and molecules. The device was fitted with a fine point that allowed it to push atoms or molecules around on a surface. A precursor to nanotech.
Scion - Text by Stephen Inniss A partial or full copy of a sophont, using the same substrate as the original.
Sea Of Logic Machine - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, based on KurzweilAI A computer or information processor constructed only of NOR gates. Many aioids are constructed as a sea-of-logic machines.
Self-Propulsive Tethers - Text by Steve Bowers Satellites which are joined by tethers orbiting any world with a magnetic field will generate electrical power by passing through the lines of magnetic force; this energy can be used to power ion thrusters for example and thereby power rotating tether systems, amongst other uses.
Sentience Algorithms - Text by John B and Pran Mukherjee The flow of steps which, when followed, allow an organized system to develop and maintain a degree of sentience. The underpinning of ai design. Required massive (at the time) neural nets or even more massive emulations thereof on hardware, state vector machines, and other information age new technology, being massively parallel (capable of running many many tasks simultaneously, or at least appearing to be able to do so to an outside observer.)
Smart Dust - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Scattered meso- or nano- bots used as an invisible surveillance device.
Solar and Microwave Passive Propulsion - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Microwave and optical laser and solar sails have the attractiveness of providing a virtually engineless and fueless craft; photons simply provide the momentum necessary to send the spacecraft to its proper destination. But as with every form of space ship propulsion these, too, have their share of disadvantages: pointing accuracy of laser-driven probes, dependence on ground infrastructure for laser or maser launched and propelled ships, low intensity of solar light outside the solar system for solar sails, ultra-low payload mass (which makes them perfect for nanoprobes but very inefficient at larger scales), vulnerability of the huge sails (hundreds of square kilometers) to accumulative micrometeoriod damage, etc.
SpamShield - Text by John B Any program used to protect against messages that contain unwanted information or memetic manipulation. The SpamShield can be set to several modes, depending on the region and the user's level of tolerance. The most common modes are 'off', 'reword' or 'delete'.
SQuID - Text by John B Superconducting Quantum Interference Device - a device which is capable of nanometer-resolution of microvolt discharges over a meter distance, or better. Designed based on the relatively crude quantum engineering practices of the 2nd century a.t., they are commonly still found in cheaply designed consumer electronics where greater precision is not needed, such as latch sensors or activation zones.
Transistor - Text by M. Alan Kazlev based on original by Ray Kurzweil A switching and/or amplifying device using semiconductors, first created in 1948 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley of Bell Labs (pre-singularity Old Earth). These atomic age devices were soon superseded. During the early to middle Information age molectronic and nanotransistors were developed, thus enabling extremely dense and fast rates of computation.
Triphibious - Text by M. Alan Kazlev A vehicle that is able to travel on or under water, on land, and in the air. Triphibious vehicles are very popular on Pacifica.