Mirrored Owls

Distributed nanocyborg clade that favours gas giants

Mirrored Owl
Image from Steve Bowers

Basic Biology

Mirrored Owls are a race of symaiote group mind nanocyborg organisms that favour gas giants. Usually the nodes of a Mirrored Owl multividual will be found in a symbiotic relationship with local gas giant fauna. Although few jovians have their own indigenous ecologies, in many cases terragen biotechicians have created jovian life, and these beings serve as hosts for the Owls, thus creating a hybrid higher level intelligence residing on top of the simpler beings.

Each Mirrored Owl exists as a mind emulation computed by a set of lower-level nodes. Each node is usually a single creature native to or designed for the local environment. These vary in size and kind quite dramatically across all Mirrored Owls. Examples of Mirrored Owl hosts include the Anandan Flitters, Ruach Toroids, and Ruach Singers.

Nodes of a Mirrored Owl connect by optica-, maser- and radio-telepathic networks [1]. The connection equipment varies from swarm to swarm, and tracking changes in node hardware provides the best guide to taxonomy for Mirrored Owls. Presumably, node-hosts gain some benefit from it, although exact advantage is hard to determine and varies widely between swarm-nets.

Reproduction is variable. The Owls can both reproduce more of their swarm bodies, reproduce by splitting and reproduce by partially merging elements of themselves with elements of others.


Mirrored Owls import little aside from artistic supplies they cannot make. These include nuclear or exotic explosives of all kinds, electromagnetic gear such as high-powered pulse-forming networks and broadcasters, and light-weight materials of various and highly-specified electrical properties. Mirrored Owls occasionally purchase or hire spacecraft, usually weather modification networks, power satellites, and transportation between gas giant planets. Communication satellites do not hold much interest for these creatures. Few swarm-nets use satellites to extend themselves, instead using them to simply co-ordinate and communicate with other swarm-nets. They also buy a small number of mental architectures and fluid dynamics models just before colonization efforts.


Aside from their atmospheric artwork, Mirrored Owls sell their services in "Jovian-forming" gas giants, fluid physics, meteorology, and biosphere control technology. This last usually involves adapting their node hardware to new hosts. Sales of this technique have happened only rarely, as it is (a) most useful when designing ecosystems from scratch and then only at the higher end of the food chain, (b) Mirrored Owls refuse to bear any liability for the results, (c) their exorbitant prices.

Some swarm-nets will accept long-term options on stellar colonization in return for their services.


Conservatism characterizes Mirrored Owl swarm-nets. Their refusal to extend their networks across even primitive satellite relays best exemplifies this. Other examples include their preference for a single favored viewpoint in their artwork, and its strong emphasis the visual modality. Their refusal to record their unique weather-performances on any media and their emphasis on eyewitness audiences demonstrates their conservatism.


The Mirrored Owls claim to descend from educational hardware used by a group of heretical Genetekkers, possibly the Nature Meiosa clade of Atavists, in the Outer Solar System during the Interplanetary Age. They claim an educational theory praising "natural wisdom" came into vogue. Briefly, this romantic idea suggested experiencing life as animal or as a plant would teach the student to appreciate the struggles of life: hunting, feeding, rutting, mating displays, fleeing predators, and so on. This romantic idea appealed to Gaian sympathies among the Genetekkers.

The existence of Mirrored Owls in the Solar System remains very much in doubt. No supporting evidence exists, although the motif of storms similar to Great Red Spot recurs constantly in their art, and the legend of "Lost Jove-Home" is a strong and very detailed myth in their culture. Finally, the swarm-nets claim their name descends from a trickster character in Earth folklore.


Mirrored Owls enjoy great notoriety for their atmospheric artwork, which involves creating cloudscapes and storm sculpting. Their art is designed to be obviously and esthetically pleasing in the range of baseline vision, at least in its classic modes. In pieces designed late in Mirrored Owl history incorporated electromagnetic/radio and olfactory modalities. Wind symphonies are generally neglected as "too hard to appreciate." Sacrificing nodes is generally considered poor artistic form. One significant exception was the auto-lobotomization of 6-From-Sol/4-From-Jove in 3673. That performance yet remains the acme of tragicomic atmospheric art among Mirrored Owls.

Current artistic trends divide into three groups. The most recent and controversial development has been the use among young colonies of their art for advertisements. Condemned by older swarm-nets, the recent extension into effects visible only from orbit has been strongly attacked. Some of their auroral works are, however, more accepted. Rectilinear effects in cloudscape are generally considered virtuoso efforts, and receive the derision and praise typically given such work. Finally, the animated representative mode of their artwork has begun a resurgence in some worlds. This is usually treated as a reaction to the commercial works and enjoys wider acceptance. Some observers suggest this has ritual significance to the Mirrored Owls.

Famous Personalities

Well known individual swarm-nets include Advection of Pure Drylines, Unfoldment of Orange Turbulence, and several other important philosopher-artists of note.

Relationship with other Groups

Relationships between Mirrored Owl swarm-nets and other jovic clades are sometimes complicated. On Barawatten, where Keterist posthumans migrated into the jovian atmosphere, there was sometimes tension and in other cases hybridization. While some Keterists joined the Mirror Owls as a new subclade, others competed for resources, while still other Keterists decided to settle the metallic hydrogen core rather than the atmosphere.

Conflict between Mirrored Owl swarm-nets and other clades involves atmosphere skimmers harvesting gases from jovians. The Owls find it disagreeable even when they do not inhabit the planets, since it disrupts the aesthetics of meteorology. So they have been constantly campaigning against it, causing no little friction with skimmer clades.

Ruach Singer
Image from Steve Bowers
A Ruach Singer, one of the more common hosts for Mirrored Owl networks

Note: [1] Jovian planets have an exceedingly powerful magnetosphere that makes radio-telepathy impractical unless the transmitters has sufficient power to overcome the magnetic flux density. Although electromagnetic waves can propagate quite well through a strong magnetic field, the radio noise of the planet would drown out communications. With the right encoding and signal processing power, combined with the correct atmospheric conditions, it is possible to send radio signal in jovian clouds at certain bands. In most cases however multiple maser/laser link is required.
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Development Notes
Text by Jay Dugger; additional notes by Anders Sandberg and Ben Higginbottom
Initially published on 23 September 2001.