Classification of Virch Worlds, The

OA Scene 23
Image from Keith Wigdor

There are intrinsically an infinite number of possible types of different virch worlds, and thus of the virch entities that can inhabit them. This obviously makes it rather difficult to differentiate virch clades and other groupings as they can all, theoretically, live in any virch space. Because of this a number of classification systems have grown up to allow different types of virch worlds to be distinguished. Some of these use various aspects of the properties of the virch; other classification schemes divide virch worlds along different lines, including, for example, along world concept-based ones.

It should be noted that regardless of the world it runs in, a baseline virch entity will normally require roughly the same computing resources (cycles per second, memory and so on). Likewise a higher toposophic virch entity will require correspondingly more and so on up the toposophic ladder. The only exception to this is the few number of known virches where, rather than the mind running as a process which effectively runs the virch body as a puppet, the mind is running 'naturally' as an emergent property of the simulated particles which make up the simulated brain.

The 'EC' System

One of the most common of these virch classification schemes, used by many non-virch entities (and because of this and the way it classifies virch worlds denigrated by many virch entities as far too physical-world-centrist) is the Erbagoos-Cylliw classification scheme (also known as the EC or 'Easy' classification system) invented in the first millennium AT by the two First Federation anthropologists after whom it is named.

The EC system assigns each of the vast continuum of possible virch worlds a position along each of four axes, all at metaphysical right angles to one another in an overall 'classification space'. Each axis defines a fundamental characteristic of the virch world which, in combination, allow the distinguishing of most virch worlds from one another. The EC system axes are:

1) 'Hardness' of Virtual Physics: That is, how closely the 'physics' of the virtual world matches that of the real physical universe. The further one goes from real physics, the more the virch worlds will have unrealistic properties such as magic, psionics, true faster than light travel, time travel and so on. Even so, virtual beings in these worlds will be in an environment that is indistinguishable from that of the physical world (taking any strange physics into account).

2) Difference from the Physical World: This axis is different from the hardness of the physics, in that positions on this axis (at fully simulated real-world physics) hold worlds which are fully consistent with the known physical-world laws of nature but which have used those laws to end up with a very different universe. An example of this would be the five-dimensional world visited in Information Age writer Greg Egan's Diaspora'. Again, inhabitants of these worlds will be in an environment that cannot be distinguished from a physical world with the same laws.

3) Level of Abstraction: This axis is described by its name. The higher the level of abstraction relative to the physical world the more the virch world tends into mathematical spaces such as hyperbolic spaces, Fourier transform spaces, Laplace transform spaces and so on. Although a world may be very abstract the level of detail and intricacy of such a world can be at least as great as that of the real physical world. Such a world cannot, however, be mistaken for the physical world.

4) Resolution Position: On this axis describes how detailed the virtual world is. A very high-Resolution world might simulate physics down to the quantum behaviour of subatomic particles, and would take vast amounts of computing power to run, and even then run slowly. A low Resolution world might appear to be as detailed as the physical world at a macroscopic level, but below that level there might be no detail (no internal structures) at all, and physics might be limited to purely Newtonian effects, or to high-level models simulating the bulk high-level properties derived from the lower-level, unmodified, properties.

The Resolution of a virch world gives its basic Resource Requirement, which is usually measured as the amount of computing power required to run that virch world at real time. Thus a small, low-Resolution world would be have a minimal resource requirement whereas a large high-Resolution one (such as the Mucoid Empire) would have a maximal one. Obviously the resource requirement increases the faster the virch world runs above real-time, and reduces as it slows down.

Note that the Resolution of a world can provide the only exception to the 'rule' that all minds require the same processing power to run. This is actually only the case when the mind is run as a separate process that controls its virch body as a 'puppet', and it is the body that is constrained by the resolution and of the virch. If, on the other hand, the mind is an emergent property of the laws of nature it runs in (as, it could be argued, is the case in the real world), then the amount of processing power a mind requires is entirely dependant on the Resolution of the world that it runs in.

Any given virch world has a position in these four axes, which governs how it works. So it is entirely possible to have a world with very 'soft' physics, which is very abstract and which is very different from the physical world. For example, the world that is inhabited by the Hyperbolics clade would have entirely 'hard' physics but be very different from the physical world and quite highly abstracted.

There are offshoot classification schemes from the EC system which divided some or all of the axes above into sub-axes depending on the type of abstraction or type of difference from physical-world physics, but all of these become very complicated very quickly, so many people, particularly baselines, stick with the EC system or something similar.

The 'DNZ' System

Another commonly-used Virch classification scheme is the Dendritic Noographic Zone (DNZ) system, also known as the 'Dense' system.

The DNZ is based on a colour-enhanced axis system, similar to the 'Easy' system. However, the DNZ system is based instead on three quantities of somewhat differing parameters from the EC system. This yields effectively six degrees of freedom for any given point within the system - the three spatial axes and the three primary colours, red, green and blue, used in projection. The system also applies different meanings to an axis value depending on whether it is positive or negative. The three primary axes are:

1) Physics: This is similar to the EC's 'Hardness of Physics' state vector. In the positive range the DNZ's 'Physics' rating refers to the degree of similarity between the 'physics' of the virch and the physics of the physical world. In the negative range it refers to all of the various alternate physical properties available in simulated worlds.

In addition, a 'red' coloration is used to indicate the degree of resolution within a given physical model. For example, if the physics modelled within this virch includes sub-atomic phenomena, does the particular virch actually model this, or does it use a higher-level model which includes the higher-level properties derived from the sub-atomic phenomena, but not the phenomena themselves.

2) Historical Divergence: In the positive direction this axis describes the point of historical alteration of the virch world as compared to the history of the physical world, starting at a base time of the Big Bang. The negative axis includes any number of historical models based on the DNZ modelling standard, a multi-terabyte document which links across the Known Net for specific and detailed information.

The 'green' coloration associated with this axis offers a vector towards a specific region in space/time.

A 'blue' coloration along this axis gives a vector radius for the space/time bubble modeled within the virch.

That is, if the virch is involved in a small area, the green coloration offers the specific location covered and the blue coloration will be faint. If the virch is involved in a large area, both blue and green will be bright, giving an overall cyan colour.

3) Reaction Time: This axis describes the simulation's speed in relation to that of the physical world. Negative numbers indicate virches that run slower than 'real-time', while positive numbers indicates faster reaction times. In publicly accessible virches it is rare to see a positive number on this scale of greater than a few orders of magnitude faster than 'real-time'. However, it is not uncommon in virches used by research and development facilities or in the development of danger-aversion procedurals.

To give some examples, a virch world which was an exact emulation of the physical world, running at the same rate as the physical world, with no computational boundaries, would, in the DNZ classification scheme be shown as an extremely large number, another extremely large number, zero, and have a colour code in the very light, almost white, range...

Similarly, a virch which was a short-real-time-duration, moderate-virch-space/time-duration emulation of the physical world would have a DNZ classification of some extremely large number, another large number (though not as large as in the previous example), a moderately large number, and a colour code with a large amount of red, some blue, and a variable amount of green based on the location of the virch world in relation to the DNZ zero point at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy.

The Covenant Data Scale

Tripartite classification scale used in the Deeper Covenant Worlds


Some virches have a degree of complexity that varies from place to place, and in time. For example, with an extremely complex virch environment such as the Mucoid Empire, where the processing load is very high, it is not unknown for virches to have most of the universe run at very low Resolution using modelling approximations (for things such as the weather), but as soon as someone within the virch starts to look at part of it in detail the Resolution of that part (and that part only) would be increased to the level where the detail the entity would expect to see there is modelled. Then when the person 'looks away', the Resolution will drop again, back to the lower baseline level. All of this has to be consistent between the different Resolution levels, but for very complex virches it is sometimes the only way they can be handled, even considering that they are run at far slower than real time.

Code Access

Most (but by no means all) virch worlds have access to their own structure, so that they can, if they wish, be re-written by their inhabitants. Most worlds prefer stability, though there are, of course, worlds that move at will through the axes of the different classification schemes. In some cases the ideology or philosophy of the entities living in the virch world governs its characteristics. Again, the Hyperbolics are an example of this.

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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 28 September 2003.

page uploaded 28 September 2003, last modified 14 July 2007