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Perversities and Blights

Perversity
Image from Bernd Helfert

Transapient-pathology

A topic some sentients devote life-times to study, Transapient-pathology has a number of interesting issues. An important distinction, albeit one that sometimes degenerates into vague generalization, is that of Blight and Perversity

Blights

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.

Perversities (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 subsingularitist 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.

Toposophics

Blights and perversions can belong to many different toposophic levels. Although determination is often hard, they can be compared by what level of defences they can outsmart. It is relatively common that a successful lower toposophic quippoth 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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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 02 July 2000.