Image from Bernd Helfert
Transitionism is a blanket term for a number of philosophies which "bridge the gap" between bionts and virtuals, particularly uploads. Transitionism can be traced back to the later Interplanetary Age when the gradual rise in the number of sentient AI and larger use of upload technology were beginning to cause tensions among many bionts who feared that they would soon be forced out of a livelihood thanks to the far greater efficiency of the virtuals and AI. Throughout the millennia it has gone through many different incarnations and has formed a subset of many more complex belief systems.
The first form of Transitionism (often labeled primitive Transitionism) can be traced to George Sangramesh Mohanty, a superbright AI researcher of the late Interplanetary Age. Mohanty, a pioneer of early brain upload and simulation technology expressed a worldview in which the AI and virtuals were not meant to surpass bionts, or to be competitors. Virtuals were merely the next step in a person's cycle. Instead of viewing the biont body as obsolete or inefficient, he claimed that it was a good host for the mind for a certain time. Once the body began deteriorating, one should prepare oneself to be uploaded into an inorganic substrate. Being uploaded allowed one to take advantage of mind expansion and development, thereby surpassing the limitations placed on human thought by our biological brains. Surviving examples of Mohanty's writings seem to show that he was a confirmed Immortalist: death and aging placed an inconvenient restriction on the development of human intelligence and consciousness and since upload technology allowed a way to bypass that restriction, it would be foolish not to make use of this advantage.
Mohanty's school of Transitionism attracted a sizeable following and seems to have been on good terms with both the biont-dominated governments and research agencies as well as the rising AI. Once brain upload technology became reliable, Mohanty uploaded himself and after a few decades left the solar system with a number of students and follower to further explore his ideas of biont-virtual interaction. With Mohanty's departure, primitive Transitionism was eventually relegated to a less mainstream position and with the coming of the Technocalypse, it effectively ceased to exist as a structured philosophical school.
With the rise of the First Federation and the first true cooperation between humanity and the AIs, Transitionism once again became popular. Some organized schools developed, some of which were nothing more than advertisements for Megacorps specializing in upload technology. AI worship groups such as the TransCyberian faction also adopted the Transitionist memeset, however they extended it beyond mere uploading and self-improvement. For them uploading one's consciousness was only the first step towards the final goal of eventually merging with a high toposophic AI or alternatively, becoming a intellect of equivalent capability. This new Transitionism developed parallel to Keterism and there was probably significant cross-fertilization between the two. As Terragen civilization began to spread outwards again, Transitionist groups also started moving outwards and formed an important middle ground between the ahuman AI on one side, and luddite and anti-AI groups on the other.
Over the span of Terragen civilization, Transitionism has cropped up in many different forms in many diverse contexts, generally in areas with a high biont population as well as a significant virtual and AI presence. Philosophers and historians have come to classify Transitionist philosophies and religions into four main divisions:
Primitive Transitionism The earliest form of Transitionism, similar to what was preached by Mohanty. These philosophies consider uploading as the next phase of a biont intellect's life cycle. Though uploading is acknowledged to be a means, rather than an end, individuals are meant to choose for themselves exactly what to do after becoming a virtual entity. One is expected to continue one's intellectual development, this does not necessarily imply a need for toposophic development. Traveling the galaxy and gathering new experiences is just as acceptable.
Extended Transitionism This form has at its core the belief that every intellect has a duty to expand and develop itself as far as possible. It is quite similar to Keterism, except for it's biont-centric viewpoints. The ultimate goal of any sentient biont is to escape natural death and once the biont way of life has given all it has to offer, it is time to move on. Many schools propagate the idea that after becoming an upload, one should also strive to rid themselves of the psychological as well as physical limitations of biology. This means augmenting oneself with mental capabilities out of the reach of most bionts: powerful parallel processing abilities as well as the ability to think in multiple spatio-temporal dimensions, not just the four to which one is generally limited as a biont. One is encouraged to explore these new abilities as well as to experiment with various substrates, while remembering that the ultimate goal is always to became a high toposophic entity and continually pushing the limits of one's mental abilities.
Solipsist Transitionism This is generally considered a somewhat heretical offshoot of mainstream Transitionism. The basic reasoning is that as a biont one cannot avoid continual interaction with the physical world (except perhaps while sleeping or under the influence of hallucinogenic substances). But uploading immediately frees one from the inconvenient interactions of the physical world and helps one on the way to complete solipsism. Theories along these lines are much less common than the previous two forms, mostly because large solipsist powers (such as the Panvirtuality) are generally anti-biont to start with. But many of the more liberal solipsist polities see Solipsist Transitionism as a good way to gradually wean bionts away from their inefficient lifestyles.
Biotransitionism Biotransitionist philosophies have mostly developed in biotech-dependent societies as a reaction against the standard Transitionist ideas. These groups subscribe to the idea that while uploading into an inorganic substrate may have had advantages during the early centuries of Terragen civilization, modern biotech, especially in areas such as the Zoeific Biopolity and the Red Star 'M'pire makes uploading unnecessary at best and downright destructive at worst. Recent achievements such as the high toposophic Silk God have further strengthened the argument that pure bionts are just as capable of mental and toposophic development as virtuals and AI.
The above four forms are accepted to be wide generalizations and there is often considerable overlap between them. While the development of highly advanced quantum effective biotechnology has meant that standard Transitionist arguments are no longer quite as convincing as they once were, the vast differences in technology level in various parts of the Terragen sphere means that there are still large pockets where traditional Transitionism still holds its grounds. Many have claimed that Transitionists are sarcophobes, albeit to a mild extent. But most Transitionist philosophers reject being labeled as sarcophobes for two main reasons: adherents to transitionism are often encouraged to explore whatever experiences their biont bodies can offer them before becoming uploads and secondly uploading is mostly only encouraged when the biont body shows signs of failing (generally as a result of old age or incurable disease). This would be in contrast to actual sarcophobes who reject their biont bodies, simply because they are biont bodies, and with any greater goal of increasing mental capacity. However it cannot be denied that some of the more hardline Transitionist sects are quite sarcophobic in nature and that solipsist transitionism is actually quite a popular philosophy among numerous sarcophobic societies. Transitionism has a mixed reputation, many credit it with fostering cooperation between bionts and artificials while many believe that it is just another form of AI propaganda to dominate bionts.
Text by Basu
Initially published on 18 March 2008.