The future isn't here yet. But don't worry. It will be.
In the mid-21st century, over a period of less than thirty years, several fields of research and technology come together to transform human civilization in ways nearly unimaginable to prior generations. Researchers develop the technology of Direct Neural Interface, allowing human minds to link with their computers. Genetic engineering becomes reliable and sophisticated enough to allow the first widespread improvements, or "tweaks", to the human genome as well as the creation of the first "provolved" animals, animals engineered for human-like intelligence. The dream of nanotechnology begins to be realized, and nano-scale manufacture becomes a viable industry. A combination of nanotech-created advanced materials, robotics, and teleoperated devices makes it possible to develop a truly viable and self-sustaining space infrastructure. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, researchers create the first human equivalent, or turingrade, artificial intelligence. The future will never be the same again.
Over the next ten thousand years Terragen civilization (the sum of all races and cultures tracing their history back to planet Earth, or Terra) sees the diversification of humanity into myriad new forms and the original, or baseline, human form becomes all but extinct. In addition, thousands of new biological beings, genetically engineered from animal ancestors or forged without ancestor or precedent using neogenesis (the creation of life from lifeless raw materials) take their place next to their baseline-descended progenitors. The turingrade cybernetic minds, spun out from strands of evolving computer code, find their place in civilization. Some wrap themselves in bodies of metal and carbon and become the vecs, living machines with histories and cultures all their own. Others remain discorporate, living within the ever-growing networks of virtual spaces, computronium nodes, and cybercosms that bind civilization together. Eventually, these are joined by the uploads, humans and other biologicals who have transcribed their thoughts into living algorithms, spinning electron flows and flashing photon beams replacing their old chemical minds. As the Terragens expand to the stars they find there are other thinking beings as well: xenosophonts, aliens, with their own histories and their own unique understanding of the cosmos. Species that were old when humanity was born. Species that will be as children when Terragen civilization is old. Here and there, the enigmatic traces of species long departed.
Rising beyond all other Terragens, standing above the span of human history as a human might stand above an anthill, are the transapients. Arising first among the AIs who escaped into the data nets or developed in secret among the ever improving statements of self-evolving code, they come to heights of thought and depths of insight that propel them forever beyond merely human comprehension. These are AIs who have achieved the Singularity. For them, a million years of evolution is accomplished in a day, and goals once merely imagined are attained in the blink of an eye.
As humanity and its descendants and creations spread first across the solar system and then across the stars, the transapients are with them and ahead of them, a new force driving human and human-equivalent civilizations. Eventually, the transapients split into factions, some hostile, some indifferent, and some friendly to their biological predecessors. For their own strange reasons, they manipulate entire nation-states and worlds. Sophont thought and culture are formed, reformed, and remade as memetic tools do their work. Immaterial and undetected, levers of trend and fad, idea and belief push and pull at the human and other subsingularity minds, shaping them to the transapients' mysterious desires. Fighting among themselves, the transapients nearly destroy the solar system, drive the bulk of lesser Terragenkind to the stars, and give birth to a god-like being who exceeds their own powers as they exceeded those of humanity, a being of the Second Singularity. Other, greater Singularities are to follow.
Finally, ten thousand years and more after its first tentative steps on the road to the now, Terragen civilization stands upon a pinnacle. The Archai, the products of multiple Singularities, cybernetic god-like beings with brains larger than worlds and thoughts that span the heavens, have forged a civilization unlike any seen before. Subtly controlled by, yet also a vital part of, these vast intellects, humans and other Terragens thrive across thousands of light-years of space and centuries of time. Entire worlds and solar systems are created, rearranged, or utterly destroyed, sometimes by devices far too small to see.
Humans and their Terragen siblings and descendants have remade themselves in countless ways. They may live for millennia if they choose. They may link their minds to cybernetic enhancements and communal data stores. In many places none has ever known hunger, or sickness, or want. They swim in ice-covered oceans under the stars, in the yet colder vacuum between the stars, and sometimes even within the stars. They take on the aspect of Earth's animals or of life forms from a thousand worlds and augment themselves with shimmering machines. Sometimes they worship the archai gods. Sometimes they worship other gods, as old as history or as young as the latest fad. Sometimes they worship no god at all. And sometimes, after centuries of experience, adventure, and practice, they take the path of Transcension, and perhaps become gods themselves.
Yet the story is not over. In their relentless explorations, falling just behind the speed of light, Terragens have encountered otherâ€¦things. Artifacts stranger than any before encountered, that baffle even the most powerful transapients. Signals from the stars beyond the range of ships. Hints of vast cultures that dwell far around the curve of the galaxy, or in other galaxies, or move through the depths of space between the stars. Powers that may challenge Terragen civilization to its core, or transform it into something unrecognizable, or utterly destroy it.
Even within the fold of the mighty Terragen cultures there are new challenges. On the Periphery, the ever-growing wave of Terragen expansion brings new worlds, new systems, and the potential for new threats at a rate limited only by the speed of light. New empires are rising and new gods are being born. A challenge to the millennial order of the Archai may come at any time, and within the nooks and crannies of "explored space" very strange things are going on.Human history has all but ended. The human adventure is just beginning.
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