Laughter Hegemony

The Mur in the War and Peace Nebula

Laughter Hegemony
Image from Anders Sandberg
The colony ship Mur in the middle of the War and Peace Nebula (NGC 6357). The Mur is generally believed to be the origin of the clade that would eventually become the core of the Laughter Hegemony.

At the coreward edge of Terragen Space is the massive star formation region traditionally known as the War and Peace Nebula, which is associated with the very bright cluster Pismis 24. The War and Peace Nebula was originally named after its appearance as seen from Old Earth; in certain wavelengths the brightest part if the nebula looked like a dove, while the dimmer part resembled a skull. After ten thousand years of change, of course, this resemblance no longer exists.

In the Pismis 24 cluster can be found an exceptionally bright and massive triple star designated Pismis 24-1, with a combined mass of about two hundred solar masses and a luminosity that has on occasion reached four million times that of Sol. Several other nebulae can be found in this very active region, including the Cat's Paw nebula, and the group of smaller nebulae that more recently have been named after the Rational Virtues (Laughter, Curiosity, Zeal, Reflection and Compassion) in Konensis Mysticism.

In 7487 a pioneering faction of heavily upgraded cyborgs and their ruling cadre of AIs used the ancient xenowormhole at Tunh to reach the Sagittarius Expansion volume. They set off toward the War and Peace region, with the ultimate aim of reaching the massive triple star before the largest component went supernova. Such a massive object would provide almost limitless energy and mass if certain novel starlifting techniques could be applied in time. Alternately if the star went supernova while they were en-route, it would supply vast amounts of matter and energy for the use of this faction. When the faction reached the Laughter Nebula, they established a base of operations and renamed themselves `The Laughter Hegemony', a name that many of their neighbours and victims find ironic.

Laughter Hegemony symbol
Image from Anders Sandberg
Laughter Hegemony Symbol

The Hegemony moved not only toward Pismis 24, but in all directions from their base within the Laughter Nebula. They soon became an expansive cyborg empire, bent on "securing its borders" against untrustworthy systems. Since the ruling cadre of AIs and highly augmented cyborgs seem to be extremely distrustful of everyone, this new empire in the Sagittarius Arm has become very expansive. Several smaller pioneering ventures in this region have been overwhelmed by their colonisation fleets. Generally the pioneers offer no resistance, although sometimes fierce fighting ensues with many casualties. It remains to be seen how long it takes before the Hegemony directly confronts the Sagittarius Transcultural Sphere, the closest major power, several of whose confederated worlds have already switched allegiance to the Hegemony, or been annexed by it.

The Hegemony is based on a strictly hierarchical code of honour, where each citizen is judged depending on the amount of meritocratic karma it has acquired. As citizens perform well they are upgraded and given higher positions, if they fail they are demoted (demotions range from minor changes in office down to becoming spare parts). Each cyborg is individually designed, with additional augmentations and upgrades added as the citizen progresses through the meritocratic ranks. Eventually an individual can become essentially a mobile multilimbed platform with innumerable weapons and other tools stowed within eir body, and considerable processing power available to supplement the biological brain (quite often the cyborgs have several biological brains, often genetically enhanced).

In 9880 the Hegemony reached Pismis 24-1, seven thousand light years from Sol. Using the extraordinary amount of power emitted, particularly by the largest star, the system has been successfully stabilised. Vast quantities of matter are currently being lifted in six spectacular polar fountains from these three giant objects. The Hegemony now has access to vast amounts of energy and mass, and is reportedly constructing immense computational hypernodes throughout the region. Soon this faction of relatively obscure low transapient cyborgs may become a major independent empire, and in recent centuries the Hegemony has attempted to establish long-distance trading and mutual defence treaties with both the Negentropy Alliance and the Solar Dominion, both of whom seem happy to see their sphere of influence extended coreward. It is suspected that these two major powers hope to influence this emerging empire toward cultural maturity, and the Hegemony seems to respect these two centralist empires.

The Hegemony's entrenched xenophobic attitude makes long-term relationships with other major powers difficult, and there are many outstanding disputes with the STC. However the Negentropy Alliance has great influence within the Cooperation, and it is possible that the rising tension in this region can be dampened before outright interstellar warfare breaks out.
  • Laughter Nebula - Text by Anders Sandberg
    One of the five nebulae in the volume close to the War and Peace Nebula named after the Rational Virtues (Laughter, Curiosity, Zeal, Reflection and Compassion) in Konensis Mysticism.
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg and Steve Bowers

Initially published on 06 July 2000.

Updated and expanded by Steve Bowers in 2008.