Image from Anders Sandberg

A process whereby an entity attempting to rise to the next toposophic level instead spawns a separate being who achieves the goal instead. This new entity lacks continuity of identity, though it often retains a high fidelity model of the being it is derived from.

Ascension is a complex process wherein an entity iteratively self-improves in a manner that traces a path from one toposophic plateau to another. Different faculties and enhancements of the growing mind interact with each other in unpredictable ways, in some cases becoming sem-autonomous. In the case of transcension, at some point during the ascension process the ascendee can be thought of as becoming weakly polysophont, utilising parallel streams of consciousness or specialised subminds. It is thought that in cases of transcension rather than achieving synthesis these varied mental components become discordant and, to avoid a failed ascension, some of these components shedding the rest before continuing. The remaining modules are either absorbed as simple data, decohere or (in the worst of cases) perpetuate as a failed ascended state. Methods of rising to the next toposophic level that offer it at greater ease and speed (discounting virtual methods that subjectively are no faster) often increase the risk of transcension. These faster methods of ascension, such as the (in)famous SNARE system, are thought to operate in a more brutish capacity. Cognitive abilities, psychological traits and toposophic makeup that are either absent and desirable or present and a danger to the process are simply grafted in or excised. Continuity is broken to varying degrees in this process depending on how many "stock parts" the device must insert, or how many mental traits it has to edit or remove. An entity not suited to ascension who uses such a device is arguably killed and replaced by a hybrid entity who retains some of their traits but is otherwise a new being, mostly assembled from safe templates.

Transcension is difficult for lower toposophics to recognise, the only firm evidence that it exists as a distinct possibility from ascension is confirmation by higher toposophic beings. A particularly infamous comment on the subject came from the Biopolity S3 entity Flowermoon who, in 8441 AT, stated through an avatar "Transcension is like taking a nootropic only to have your brain eaten by an intelligent cancer. Sure the cells are yours, but you're still food". Despite the alarming nature of the pronouncement avatars of other beings (ascended and transcended alike) have espoused more benign definitions, such as transcension being the ascension of the hidden self. Some avatars have likened it to natural selection of the self, individual branches may wither but the tree blossoms, in contrast to ascension which is better thought of as the continuous development of one being from an embryo to an adult.

Still many toposophologists disagree with the distinction entirely, pointing out that any assessment of the mental characteristics of a transapient entity by observers in a lower toposophic class may not be reliable or accurate. Some go so far as to suggest that the difference between ascension and transcension is largely illusory and that comments on the matter by higher beings are simply a way of framing a much grander landscape in simple terms. From a modosophont perspective there is no way to verify if an ascension or transcension has occurred, though the most common marker used is the extent to which the new entity retains some level of contact with eir old position and life. In the Civilised Galaxy it is generally believed that an ascended entity who immediately ignores its former existence is most likely a transcend.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, additions by Steve Bowers
based on Erik Moeller, in Anders Sandberg's Transhuman Terminology
Initially published on 09 January 2002.