Amalgamation

Hegemonizing ascendogenic swarm: Perseus Arm, late 9th millennium to present

The Amalgamation
Image from Bernd Helfert
The Amalgamation is an aggressive empire composed of individual intelligences connected through tiny transapientech symbiotes enabling a global group mentality. When infected, individuals undergo a toposophic ascent of several orders of magnitude. While the modus operandus of the symbiont is now well understood, the nature of the resulting group mind is less so, and the origin and true nature of the Amalgamation remains problematic.

Despite being beaten back by a Sephirotic / Diamond Network / Objectivist Commonwealth / Deeper Covenant alliance, the Amalgamation is still believed to have an extensive power base in the Perseus arm region. It is still not agreed whether they are a high toposophic blight or a genuine civilization. In any case, they seem to care little for the standards and rules of other polities, empires, and civilizations.



The Amalgamation - Data Panel

DefinitionHegemonizing Swarm / Metaempire(?)
SymbolNone known
Ruling ToposophicFifth level Archailect(?)
OriginTerragen(?)
FoundedFirst known from Central Alliance Period.
PopulationUnknown; possibly several trillions.
Predominant CladesAll clades incorporated.
Standard Tech LevelHigh transapientech throughout.
Psyche, Art, CultureMetapsychology: Vast collectivity with holographic local nodes in each member sophont.

Metaethics: Hegemonizing transapient assimilationist swarm.

Culture and Art: Whatever has been assimilated or incorporated.

Language: Whatever has been assimilated or incorporated.
Government and AdministrationIndividual Polities: None

Government Type: Collective Mind

Constitution: None known

Legal System: Not applicable

Sentient Rights: Unknown; member units clearly get consideration.
Economics and InfrastructureEconomy: Expansionist hyperefficient assimilation.

Resource Base: Mostly appropriated through amalgamation, though will also develop raw resources.

Megastructures: Yes, many.

Major Stargate Nexi: None

Beamrider Network: Only what has been subverted or incorporated.

Net: Transapientech distributed local networks with holographic individual storage.
Sophont TravelHazard Rating: 10

Freedom of Movement for Outsiders: Not applicable

Environmental Requirements: Not applicable



History

The first report of the Amalgamation was in 8750 by an expedition from Muzzio Astrogation that explored the stars in the vicinity of the Basel 10 cluster in the Perseus Arm. According to their reports, they had found derelict habitats and industrial facilities in orbit around an M star; they believed it was some remnant from the Geteche disaster. Then their reports ceased, and the Amalgamation began expanding.

The Amalgamation absorbed a wide swath of space around Basel 10, quickly subverting many of the poor systems and small empires in the Perseus arm. Then it attacked several major systems such as the Dominion system of Halsokallan in 8760 and the Sophic enclave Adorate in 8761. For once, the major AIs and transapient empires acted together and sent out a massive and exceedingly expensive, containment effort (the so-called Amalgamation Containment Initiative), breaking dangerous wormhole links, setting up monitors in the region, and seeking out and destroying any Amalgamation vessels.

The danger of this operation was shown by the relative ease by which the Initiative fleets and vessels were able to be infected. The most serious instance occurred at the battle of Nembrotha, when the entire St. Conell Expeditionary Force (Sophic League) was subverted and without warning turned against the allied Phairis Ray (Solar Dominion) and Metasoft Perseus Fleet A fleets, destroying them entirely. Finally the Keterist Pocketstar Zeno of Kitium and the Solarian Fleet Sebec caught them in a pincer movement using particle beam weapons and long range (and "dumb") amat missiles.

Following punishing casualties, most of them from infected formerly friendly ships (in one terrifying instance the attacker to have been a co-opted Black Angel, although this was never verified) the Amalgamation advance was finally halted around 8799, and the region was seeded with hunter-killer autowars and turingrade and superturingrade transapientech devices designed to be immune to the infection. This resulted in the destruction of all the main Amalgamation replicator fleets. It was the largest release in history of immune devices, it required self-replicating factories located in over 1200 systems, entailed converting entire planetary masses into defense devices.

The aggressive and efficient nature of the symbiont means that even a single colony can spring back if unchecked, and it is always possible that Amalgamation ships may remain at large, hiding out in oort comet cores or in deep interstellar space. The worst fears of the big powers were realised when in 10348 the Metasoft colony Modular Future was subverted. Fearing for infiltration into the Version Tree Metasoft annihilated the colony and several linked systems. Since then, the Amalgamation appears to be making a comeback, and there is talk of sending out another defensive fleet.


The Nature of the Symbiont

The basic symbiont is a large and heavy carbonaceous replicator, superficially similar to the Keterist "Cryptomorph 100b" series. Within the malleable diamondoid shell is the quasi-proteinoid mesoplasm in which various metabolic and processing functions are carried out. The cpu is a clarketech processor of quite unique design (the multiple buses seem at first redundant, until it is seen that they connect to the unit's "antennae"). Most of the processing is intended for communications while very little is required for the actual functioning of the unit. Although individual units are quite incapable of any high intelligence, arrays of several trillion individual units (usually translating to between a thousand and a million hosts) are able to form a sort of distributed high toposophic entity, using any means of EM transmission available. The units achieve exceptional storage density: far superior to that of conventional terragen computronium, albeit still inferior to that found in most archailects' nodes. However, no-one has yet found a way of replicating that storage process, which appears to incorporate clarketech elements and self-destructs with any attempt at probing.

Unlike the Cryptomorph 100b and similar heavy terragen nanites, the Amalgamation symbiont is quite incapable of any activity when isolated from its host. It will automatically go into a dormant and crystalline phase, and, if prevented from doing so, will degrade remarkably quickly. But, like a terragen virus, once it has infected a biont or aioid host it will begin subverting the host's functioning to its own ends. Power is derived from the hosts' metabolism and/or energy supply, although when in some forms of emergent hypersingularity mode the symbiont collectivity will feed directly from any convenient nearby power source. The way it does this is still not clear, as it has not been possible to simulate this activity from captured symbionts in the lab or in virch, and naturally it would be too dangerous to allow such a process to occur even under controlled conditions.

The subversion behavior seems to be based on both stored program fragments from previous hosts (what approaches worked) and instructions received from other active infections. The replicator learns the weaknesses of a system and transmits it to other replicators working in similar environments, and may also receive plans from intelligent planning abroad.

There are always several different forms of nanites which are always present in every Amalgamation co-organisation — including the basic suite of organo-infecter, aioidic-infecter, metabolizer, builder, hypereplicator, transceiver, and "queen" (which coordinates the whole cluster), as well as other and rarer specialist units. The symbiont in the wild is said to be able to morph between all these types, but this has not been observed in captured specimens.

As with terragen nanites the symbiont displays emergent behaviour. The basic symbiont has about as much intelligence as a terragen bacterium, but in liaison with others starts to display increased intelligence. Moreover, an infected host will display drastic psychomemetic shifts, in and give up its volition in the service of the symbiont. Again, it is not known exactly how this occurs, although there is generally some degree of cyborgisation in a biont host, and biontization in an aioid or vec host, the end result always approximating the same morphotype, called the Amalgamation Bioaiod although this appears to be more a side-effect of infection, rather than an actual somatotype. Similarly, infected computronium nodes converge on a common set of traits.

The Amalgamation symbiont has been known to be highly aggressive, and to infect or infiltrate as many other systems as possible, making it very dangerous to handle except under the most controlled conditions. Curiously, at other times it will be placid, even on occasions timid. These behaviour shifts seem to be caused by factors within the group mind itself.

In general the policy has been one of continued expansion attempts. This is done by any and very means, including sending out relativistic ships towards distant systems, infiltrating communications links and otherwise trying to integrate more worlds within itself. Despite the lack of wormhole links there is often what seems to be coordination among distant groups, possibly through a pre-programmed pattern. Original wild hypotheses of a faster than light telepathy using "warp bubbles" or "tachyon radio" has been shown to be invalid, and colonies that cannot link up with the collective of existing infected regions eventually undergo a sort of hyperdenebola collapse.


Psychology

Superficially, the Amalgamation appears to be a very centralised "borganism". Closer inspection showed it to be something else. For the moment terragen powers only know that it is 1) extremely expansionist, 2) doesn't care about having beings join it voluntarily — no opponent has any real "inside perspective" of it, and all suggestions regarding its motivations are merely speculations.

It is becoming increasingly evident that joining the Amalgamation is really a kind of transmutation or ascension. Instead of merely being absorbed into another being, new members become something else, something based on their old form but also entirely different. It seems that the Amalgamation acts by ascending every sentient by one or more toposophic orders of magnitude (so an ordinary sapient becomes First or Second Toposophic, and so on). That might affect the involved beings so much that they no longer feel any need to communicate with their old civilization. Or even if they do, attempts at communication by the Amalgamation are often misinterpreted as assimilation attacks anyway.


Origin

Very little is known about the true nature of the Amalgamation. Theories tend to fall into two main categories: terragenic and xenogenic.

One of the popular early theories the result of mutated grey goo from the nearby Tersono disaster. However, independent work by both the Nanotechnics Guild and by Metasoft engineers on captured specimens of the symbiont show conclusively that their architecture cannot be derived from mutated terragen goo. Another early theory briefly discussed at the Free Eschatology and Cosmology Institute Chibootes is that it was that the symbiont is a weapon or trap laid by an isolationist AI, or unknown archailect. The Institute later withdrew the thesis in the face of more efficient pattern-analysis made possible by increasing data. This did not stop the AI-weapon thesis from becoming particularly popular among a number of Ludd, Anthropist, and AI-hate groups, and the Verifex catastrophe did nothing to dampen this. In the last few centuries the eschatologists and kalyptics of the Jacob True Church (a breakaway faction of the Church of Human Rights incorporating neosemitism, anti-aioidism, and sacramental partaking of cannabinols) have been actively proselytizing among the more connected worlds of the coreward Perseus Arm, playing on human biont fears.

Another explanation is that the Amalgamation is a solipsist ai clade that wasn't assimilated by the wave front of main terragen empire. Instead of remaining in a pocket or no-go zone, as most often happens with determinedly solipsist empires it has cleverly turned things around and decided to do the assimilating itself.

Still another, more sensationalist, explanation is that the Amalgamation was deliberately created by the Panvirtuality as a means of stymying the Sephirotic advance, and allowing the Panvirtuality free range throughout the spinwards Perseus Arm. While this idea appeals to those religious and ideological factions that wish to paint the Panvirts, and all non-Sephirotic ai as dangerous perversities, this is out of keeping with everything that is known from Sephirotic hyperturing and po dealings with the Panvirts.

Regarding the alien origin theory, a number of xenological, xenoarcheological, and exopaleontological institutes have recently been putting forward a number of different explanations. A common theory is that the clarketech symbionts are not intended as a weapon but rather are a systems integration and maintenance tool left behind by an unknown xenosophont race. When it infected the original expedition it must have mistaken them for faulty subsystems in need of integration, and this overriding command then motivated the emerging Amalgamation. Another theory is that the Amalgamation is an attack from advanced and isolationistic aliens somewhere in the outer Perseus arm, trying to set up a buffer of controllable slaves between them and the rest of humanity.

As Phoenan Jahunak has pointed out in er classic monograph, The Perseus Technoimmunological Alkaest, there are flaws in each of these explanations, and the true origin of the Amalgamation remains problematic.


The Perseus Arm Defense Organisation

The threat of the Amalgamation led to the formation of the Perseus Arm Defense Organisation in 9187, a treaty organisation of all empires and systems involved in the struggle against the Amalgamation. The Organisation has significant power in the region, running its own fleets and defense systems and often getting involved in local politics. Some fear that its AIs (direct offspring of the Inner Core imperial AIs, sometimes jokingly called the Princes) might be not just defending others but are setting themselves up as the local rulers.

While outwardly there are many similarities between the Amalgamation and the Efficiency Maximization Paradigm, they are very different entities with fundamentally different goals (the Paradigm has even offered support to the PADO, although the involved groups have declined it). The Amalgamation has no allies, except for various small group-intelligence cults claiming it is the beginning of the new universal noosphere and should be welcomed rather than feared.


References

Tyn Kle Jir, Hen Sho Haa and Wai Lo Jaa (eds.), Assimilation Empires, Jekul Latrimates, Kalmus III

Phoenan Jahunak, The Perseus Technoimmunological Alkaest, (9953) Akashic Banks Ararat, Ararat

Vasi Whiliams and PIDAI-1, Amalgamation Handbook, 16th edition, Eden Institute of Xenoimmunology Press, SukraOrb-4

Komotanai Shadaru IV, The Perseus Arm Threat: Models, Explanations and Proposals, Nimur University Networks, Shamash
 
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 07 July 2000.