The quest for knowledge is a basic human trait, existing in nearly every human-descended species, including most of those created by humans such as vecs, AIs and provolves. However, the means to do it have changed over time. The scientific method of systematic empirical hypothesis-testing has been one of the most successful so far, but over time it has changed far beyond anything recognizable to a pre-singularity era scientist
One part of the change has been philosophical: new ways of viewing the universe, new ways of thinking, and new ideas about the nature of reality have caused the systematic search for knowledge to develop in unexpected directions. Another part is social: over the millennia the diverging Terragen clades have had utterly different needs, wants, and goals, which in turn has led to science developing in different directions.
Furthermore, the success of science itself can be counterproductive. One of the problems is the sheer amount of information that is available. Even artificially extended beings have to be selective in what they learn; there is simply not time and attention enough to learn everything (though some believe the higher level Archailects may accomplish this). This encourages specialisation, which in turn leads to different disciplines losing touch with each other and becoming mutually incomprehensible. Also, the advance of science can be hampered because new data can only be gathered under extreme conditions. This was one reason even advanced nanotech AIs had a hard time developing what is now known as transapientech. For some aspects they needed sizeable amounts of matter at nuclear densities, artificial black holes, and other exotica.
One problem is that science may go so far beyond the realms of ordinary experience that it becomes nearly incomprehensible to most people. One possible side effect of this phenomenon is the emergence of a specialised expert priesthood. Another is that science begins to appear irrelevant, or is misunderstood. Many cultures have crashed due to these pitfalls
The fact that there exist immensely knowledgeable entities such as the Archailects, and entire ancient alien civilisations that may have surpassed Terragen knowledge, has made many people less inclined towards research. After all, somebody already knows it in all likelihood. On many worlds the easy availability of household AIs and contact with the Known Net also means that curiosity is easily sated just by asking.
One way of dealing with this which has become widely used is Hermeneutic Science. HerSci as it is usually called does not attempt to discover new knowledge, but figure out what more advanced beings or civilisations have discovered. Even if the more advanced beings are friendly, it is often extremely hard to exploit their knowledge, as their explanations might be incomprehensible, clouded by intelligence barriers or otherwise garbled. The researchers study what the advanced researchers say and do, attempting to understand what it means and test their theories about this meaning empirically. In some cases whole chains of HerSci research occur, such as the famed transcendence institutes of Ain Soph Aur where ordinary sophonts study first singularity transapients, who in turn study the work of higher level transapients.
Another approach is the archive hunt. In many central systems or ancient universities there is bound to be everything worthwhile somewhere on the Known Net. Finding it can be nearly as hard as discovering it in the first place.
Some cultures have instead gone for "fundamentalist science" or "rebooting". They start from scratch, and researchers (sometimes simulated virtual researchers, sometimes real) work in isolation from earlier knowledge to discover the laws of nature and their applications. The drawback is the extreme expense, slowness and the many elementary rediscoveries, but in a few cases the new research tree bears fruit and produces a marvel.
- Anagnitics - Text by John B
The science of missing knowledge. This high-Sophont-level science/artform, as best can be described to the SI:<1 intellect, involves canvassing the entire body of knowledge available at a given place/time and 'mapping' that information on an 'information map' (both quoted terms are extreme simplifications according to the translating sophonts). This 'information map' can then be perused and, theoretically, voids of knowledge may be discovered - areas where there are physical restrictions/laws. (Agnitio - from latin "recognition, knowledge", and "an-" prefix for "not").
- Anakalyptics - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The science of discovering things in large amounts of information.
- Dubifier - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
A word used to make a statement uncertain or show the limits of its applicability ("The experimental data appears to fit the model in the parameter range tested", "I think so" etc). (Based on quantifier, something that tells how much there is of anything).
- Fundamentalist Science - Text by Anders Sandberg
"Rebooting" science from scratch. Researchers (sometimes simulated virtual researchers, sometimes real) work in isolation from earlier knowledge to discover the laws of nature and their applications. The drawback is the extreme expense, slowness and the many elementary rediscoveries, but in a few cases the new research tree bears fruit and produces a marvel.
- Glossary - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Steve Bowers
Words used in the Orion's Arm scenario
- Hencity - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The science of what will be. Similar to futuristics, but is non-probabilistic.
- HerSci, Hermeneutic Science - Text by Anders Sandberg
The study of transapient science and technology by beings of lower toposophic scale.
- Hydrology - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The science and engineering application of water or other fluids. The study of liquid water (or other liquids, e.g. ammonia, methane, etc. in exotic environments), including its physical and chemical properties, geographical distribution, fluid dynamics, interaction with the surrounding landforms (rivers, flooding, erosion, etc.), engineering for the creation and maintenance of rivers, canals, lakes, dams, seas and oceans, and the water cycle in ecology and planetology, and the part that water plays in making terraformed planets and megastructures habitable to biological organisms.
- Physical Universe - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The universe of physical matter and energy, determined by physical laws. Materialism states this is the only reality, while supernaturalist religion and esotericism assert that beyond the physical universe are one or more spiritual planes or dimensions.
- Scientific Method - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
The method of learning about nature from making observations, formulating hypotheses, and constructing observational or experimental tests to see if the hypotheses are accurate.