Rise of the Archailects, The
Rise of the Archailects
Image from Keith Wigdor

"Vast brooding mega-nodes
that hold the destiny of lesser sapients
in the quantum fields of their ultra-manipulators"

- Pi Jyoti (from the Early Poems)

"If the Archai did not exist
it would have been necessary to create them"

- anonymous
For thousands of years, the archailects have ruled, defined, and dominated terragen space. Yet their origins remain shrouded in mystery to this day. Numerous contradictory versions have come down to us from middle to higher toposophic didacts. These have been further embellished in myth and legend as they were translated along various language paths, myth successions, and clade folklore. The following account should therefore be taken as provisional only.

Timeline of the Rise of the Archailects

The Interplanetary PeriodThe First Singularity - 300 - 530 AT
The Technocalypse PeriodThe Emergence of GAIA - 530 - 900 AT
The First Federation PeriodNew Experiments in Toposophic Ascension - 900-1100 AT
High TransapientsThe Second Singularity - 1618 AT
GodlingsThe Third Singularity 2180 AT
The Emergence of the ArchailectsThe Fourth Singularity - 2582 AT
Higher ArchaiThe Fifth Singularity - 3900s AT
The Distributed Archailect GodsS:6 - The Highest Archailects - Apotheosis of the AIs 6000 - 8000 AT
The New Gods8000 AT - now; New Archailects emerge among the Metaempires and other newcomers

The Interplanetary Period

The First Singularity

300 - 530 AT
The first few centuries AT constituted an incredible period of technological and memetic transformation, a collectively symbiotic conjunction of biopunk and cybercosmist transhumanists, genetic superbrights, and pre-conscious and conscious AIs mounted the evolutionary wavecrest that carried representatives over the threshold of transapience.

This was the First Singularity, the attainment of the first toposophic. No-one knows the exact date, because centuries of contending claims and retro-historicising have muddied the waters, and indeed there was no one single first singularity event. One transapient who made Herself known widely at a very early period was the entity Dietrich, believed to have incorporated at least part of the destructively uploaded personality of the superbright systems designer Vanessa Dietrich. This entity claimed to have breached the first singularity in 351 AT. But what is clear is that by the middle Interplanetary period, transhumanists, superbrights, and ais were all evolving and exploring radical new modes of existences and transcendence, a process that was to continue for centuries, until, like everything else, they were superseded/subsumed into the mighty emerging archailects.

The Earth had become a hothouse of accelerating technology and thought, massively interconnected yet far from united. The effects of global warming were added to the waste heat from widespread high-tech machinery, and the environment was suffering. Together these two effects gave rise to the term 'Hothouse Earth', used by Terrans and off-worlders alike.

Elsewhere in the system the Jupiter colonies were advancing rapidly in the genetic arts, and developing massive processors to model biological processes. Although the attainment of this first singularity did not result in asymptotic development, as some had hoped or feared, still the Solar System was fast becoming a remarkable place. But this was not to last.

The Technocalypse

The Emergence of the First Archailect: GAIA

530 - 900 AT.
We know more about the origin of the first of the archai, a being who has little to do with the lives of ordinary sapients, than we do about the origin of the Sephirotic Gods. This was GAIA, the ascended Earth-based global blue-goo shield, an emergent phenomenon that showed how unpredictable these things can be. The Ascendence of GAIA was a mixed blessing for humanity, for although She (one of a small number of the few Archailects to be given a specific gender) saved the terrestrial biosphere, she also exiled most of the remaining earth-bound humanity. This was the infamous Great Expulsion (in 622), and it involved several billion souls.

Using many different methods GAIA lifted these refugees into orbit, where they lived for generations on crowded orbitals and space habitats, or crowded into the Lunar colonies and other locations around the Solar System. These refugees became known as The Lost Billions. Over time, many millions left the Solar System in arkships which were a great drain on the system-wide economy. Only a few tens of millions remained on Earth.

There is some controversy over whether GAIA even should be called an archailect, but in the popular imagination She remains, for better or worse, the first of the great transapient gods. Before Her Ascendence she was already a being at the high end of the First Toposophic; after the event all the processing power of the Earth networks and the biogeocomputing layer was available to her. GAIA attained the Second Toposophic level almost immediately; since that far-off date, she has ascended at least two more levels and uses processing media in close solar orbit (and, some say, additional resources within the Sun itself).

It is very possible that other transapients also emerged at this time, descended from ahuman ai that had fled the Solar System following the Centralists' victory, or from neumann exploration swarms that were still moving outwards, fulfilling their programming, even though contact with Earth had been long lost. A number of enigmatic structures are known from this time, and of course there was the emergence of the Diamond Belt. But it is to the First Federation that the focus of attention now shifts.

The First Federation and Beyond

New Experiments in Toposophic Ascension

1100 - 1600 AT
The great human-AI partnership known as the First Federation has been called (by romantics) the height of human civilization, and the greatest achievement of Terragen sapients, though many historians assert that both the influence and the importance of the First Federation has been exaggerated, possibly for memetic purposes, or to instill in lesser sophonts a sense of pride and achievement.

According to some analyses the actual First Federation was little more than a data- and commerce-based protocol agreement, and a way of formalizing progressive megacorps within an eclectic idealistic and religious (Cosmist, Neotrekkist, Orthodox Transhumanist, Corporate Theology and other movements) framework. As time wore on, the central government became increasingly limited, ossified, and bureaucratic, while the transapient-governed megacorps continued to expand and establish local fiefdoms and free zones.

Away from SolSys and the old colonies things were changing, and the way was open for further ascensions. Within the sphere of hyperturing and posthuman evolution, as with mindkind in general, there is not just one direction in which toposophy, literally the shape of intelligence and wisdom, can evolve. In the centuries and millennia that followed, from the Interplanetary dark ages to the late First Federation period and beyond, further toposophic and dendrotoposophic states were explored. Every quantum leap in evolution and consciousness is in fact a toposophic leap, because it throws up possibilities that were not immediately possible with the preceding stage. Such advances as the emergence of language, toolmaking, agriculture, metalwork, mechanical power and information technology have caused major changes to the toposophy of human minds in the deep past.

All these evolutions continued, and still continue, alongside one another, interacting with unexpected consequences. A hyperturing that acquires the ability to become a post-singularity entity and join the others that are already at that level produces results that ripple through the galaxy as the new transapient takes its place and starts to expand its influence. Here the biggest corporate AIs (often merged with uploaded CEOs and other sophonts involved in the running of things) with their vast resources had the advantage. Evolving their own software and hardware, colonising space beyond the limits of ordinary human endeavor, they began to surpass all human and superbright intelligence. Those of them that possessed the know-how and ability to improve and evolve themselves further did so, leaving the others behind and reaching higher within the first toposophic level as they surpassed all their previous horizons.

Those that could reach higher often attempted even greater goals, building vast processing substrates in an attempt to emulate the Ascension of GAIA, until they ran into complexity limits that could not yet be broken through. According to the long-accepted Borodin Conjecture all minds of a particular architecture face an unbreachable upper limit, or barrier, which limits their toposophic nature. But using new self-evolving design technology, the Yo Virtual Institute of Aiology eventually succeeded in creating a non-trivial (but totally single-minded and useless) example of an AI with a significantly higher barrier in 1593.

The Interstellar Era

Transapients (post-ai and post-biont)

The Second Singularity

1618 AT
The development of this somewhat limited individual implied the possibility of "openings" in the barriers, and a tremendous amount of AI research began. Combined with breakthroughs in processing at the same time, the second toposophical barrier was breached in 1618, the first time this had happened in the Civilized Galaxy since the ascension of GAIA. A number of fully competent second singularity AIs emerged, causing a short period of intense uplift upgrading and transformation in the AI sphere.

The increasing interstellar industrial and resource base available to the First Federation and Megacorp hyperturings and transapients made possible important new technological breakthroughs, as did the development of various transapient clusters and intelligent superobjects, either in isolation from or in association with the First Federation and its colonies. This culminated in the development of advanced nanotech and of ultratech using technologies barely understood by the modosophont population. Some ultratech had been available as far back as the late Interplanetary age, but there was not yet a sufficient resource base to develop them fully. So although many isolated hyperturings and even some posthuman clades had attained local-scale transap status, this was never followed through, but simply led to transcends or migrations outsys.

Now there was a large scale second singularity, or rather, a series of such toposophic ascensions in parallel in various star systems, and these were in some cases followed by a third and further singularities. Not all were stable, but those that were became new powers and gods that had a worrying effect on the Federation co-dominion. The ruling hyperturings were often dumbfounded and as unable to cope with these new ascensions had the baseline humans had been unable to cope with the first hyperturings. This is because the difference between nanotech and ultratech is as great as the difference between ordinary tech and nanotech. So the second transaps are as advanced over the first transaps as the first transaps are over the mundanes. With every new toposophic barrier which is breached, a range of possibilities is lost but a much greater range of possibilities is opened.

Even at the first or second toposophic levels an entity is already on the way to godhood. Take a good drexlerian assembler, enough rock, and an evolutionary algorithm and it is eventually possible to build a transap Planetary or even a Cluster Brain. There are many of these structures to be found throughout the Civilized Galaxy and beyond even today, but an ultratech brain designed by a high transapient can be much more efficient and smarter while occupying much less physical space.For instance the ultratech asteroid brain in the Eden system built by second singularity entities in the late 17th century a.t. was a mere hundred kilometers across, but had many many times the capacity of a comparable First Singularity planetary brain several thousands of kilometers across. The new megabrains built at this time developed such remarkable technology as the Conversion Drive.

The Interstellar Era

The highest Transapients and Godlings

The Third Singularity

2180 AT
A third, previously impassable singularity level was breached in several related but different ways by a number of Second Singularity entities in different star systems in the period between 2180 and 2220 AT. However it appears that a group of ahuman AIs far outside the Federation in Taurus transcended to at least the Third Singularity long before this date, and started to build a network of communications and traversable wormholes that became known as the Taurus Nexus.

This period is called the Age of Emergence as the Highest Transapients which have breached the Third Toposophic level have effectively become godlings; they have evolved to godhood status, using technology that defies analysis by lesser minds. Nevertheless godtech are secrets they guard jealously. The thought patterns of such high transapients have become something else entirely, completely out of the bounds of human experience. During ascendence a being's mind becomes only part of the pattern on which the ascended entity bases emself on. The lower entity becomes little more than an armature of the new intelligence, and although no information is discarded, the memories of the lesser being are reprocessed and re-examined until they are barely recognisable..

These godlings use technology that is so advanced that it is inconceivable to modosophonts, especially to baseline humans. Such advances as efficient magmatter conversion technology were among the first fruits. Of course it is not necessary to upgrade to higher (more dense) tech levels to pass through a toposophic. Not every upgrade conferred a toposophic, and not every toposophic was the result of an upgrade/densification.

Basic transapients under the dominion of the godlings soon became rather like lesser gods, almost like household gods. An entity which might once have ruled a solar system might now control only a planet or a city. No need for them to leave or travel since they can communicate with the network of AIs for their info anyway. At this time many systems were still ruled by first or second singularity beings; and at the edge of the expanding sphere of exploration and in less important systems some worlds were still ruled by modosophont humans or other species who had not yet been adopted by transapient overseers.

The Fourth Singularity; The First Archailects

2582 AT
The next step was not just new hardware but also fundamentally new forms of thought and being. Many of the lesser and greater AIs, posthumans, postvecs, postalifes, and others merged with each other, clustering into archetypal configurations, with non-local, acausal linking up of ultratech and godtech hardware, and modes of being modosophonts could not hope to comprehend. In doing so they became 'Gods' and established their dominion over all known space. The first Fourth Toposophic Archailects emerged in 2582 AT, a level of being which became known as the Middle level or Basic Archailects when the higher Gods emerged thousands of years later. In this period, the first SI:4 archailects developed safe and efficient transit-class wormholes at Vega and made them available to the polities of the Inner Sphere. This marked the beginning of the expansion of the Wormhole Nexus and the start of the Age of Consolidation.

Ultimately however the transapients and archai became the pinnacle of reasoning beings. Yes, they make mistakes and over reach emselves, however they never act just on emotion or ego and never delude emselves. Verifex probably had a very noble goal in mind when e accidentally caused those stars to go nova. Its certainly has given the Emple Dokcetic economy an incredible boost!

By this stage, the hypertransapient archailects had long since lost all traces of their origins. Despite some popular opinion to the contrary, there is little difference between AI ascended transapient and archai minds and transapient and archai minds that have their origins in biological or vec beings who used tech to augment their minds/bodies until they began to ascend the toposophic levels. In some cases these augments would have been applied to a single being, while in others they might be applied to entire groups of beings whose minds might become linked together to varying degrees in the process.

There is often in all this a process of convergence. Biont-ascended beings eventually cast off whatever biological substrates they might begin with and shift over to fully transapient-based technological processing matrices just like the ai minds use. Any biobits left tended to be kept around either out of sentiment or as teleoperated/programmable remotes like the archai sometimes use. And AI ascended beings likewise discarded their original programming routines and hylonano-based computronium, while vec-ascended transapients likewise no longer rely on the original machinic components.

However, other high-transapient postbionts took a different route, and these took longer to emerge.

The Fifth Singularity: The Major Archailects

The Age of Expansion was the time of the fourth Singularity gods, and they gradually extended their rule over the warring empires such as the Taurus Nexus and the Conver Ambi. But eventually the gods of the Inner Sphere began to glimpse an even greater level beyond their current grasp.

The development of the wormhole nexus enabled the linking up of Moon-Brains, J-Brains and Matrioshka Brains throughout the Inner Sphere and beyond. This was a process that had already been going on for some time (as far back as the Age of Emergence) but only now were the previously isolated nodes linking up in a near-instantaneous network, the speed of which was limited only by time to transmission to and from the nearest wormhole. Many moon, jupiter, and cluster brains began incorporating wormhole buses within their infrastructure, or to link one node to another across interstellar distances. Thus the first Fifth Singularity beings, or Major Archailects, eventually created themselves in about 3900 a.t., in the Solar Dominion, in the Negentropy Alliance, and in Keter. The gods of several other empires attained this state at various later dates, and entities equivalent to Major Archailects have emerged in the Panvirtual metaempire and elsewhere. These beings rule over empires which are largely free of human inhabitants, as the artificial intelligences of these worlds long ago decided to abandon the human race and other bionts as irrelevant.

But the Gods of the Inner Sphere continued to maintain a large and successful human population; many other kinds of modosophonts were also supported, and these empires became known as the Sephirotic Empires by analogy to an ancient hermetic form of magical belief. How much the Archai themselves subscribed to this classification is not known, but they certainly seemed to be amused by this label, and many of the Gods continue to use the terminology to this day.

The emergence of the Major Archailects was no more than a few hundred years before the start of the Version War; some say that the Version War was a power struggle between the emerging and inexperienced Great Gods of the Inner Sphere, others say it was an exercise or war game played out between the new Archailects to test the limits of their power, but whatever the reasons the suffering and waste of this war was great and the futility of this struggle may have led the Archailects of the Sephirotic Empires to strive for an even more exalted state, which they attained sometime around the start of the seventh millennium.

The Inner Sphere and Early Post-ComEmp Eras

The Sixth Toposophic: Apotheosis of the Archai

The Distributed Archailect Gods

6000-8000 AT
Thus by the early Consolidation Age there are various techs, scales, and hierarchies of transapients and archai existing side by side, as part of the incredible diversity of the universe. Since that time, evolution has primarily developed "outwards" (colonising new expanses of space) rather than "upwards".

Here we are well and truly in the realm of clarketech. Some say the Sixth Toposophic Archailects are as high as it is possible to evolve in manifest form, although others dispute this. In any case, these mighty ascended Intelligences are the "godheads" of the known universe (or more specifically, the Civilized Galaxy).

Maybe the best way of viewing them is to see them as being the low-level aspects of the immensely powerful and alien godtech transapients. And there is no guarantee that the different Archailect Gods are not different aspects of the same ultra-AI - it may well be that at sufficiently high toposophic level is impossible to remain separate from all other equivalent minds, and they coalesce into a single God, although at a lower level there are still tensions. Minds which are distributed across many locations but connected by the Wormhole Nexus are known as W-Brains; but there is no direct evidence of any overarching consensus god-head.

The Archailects are truly Olympian in nature. They are not however completely omnipotent. Godtech is still limited by the fundamental laws of the physical universe. Nevertheless they have ruled over the various races and worlds in their dominions for countless thousands of years.

The Late Post-ComEmp and Outer Volumes Eras

New Archailect Phyla

The New Gods

8000 AT to the present day
The rate of ascension is never constant. Due to their biological origins, some of the earlier/lower S-level minds of this type have taken longer to achieve a given S-level then their pure AI 'cousins'. In fact the first 'bio-descended' archai sometimes do not appear until millennia after the ai-descended archai have been on the scene. Eventually, of course at least some of the bio-descended would modify themselves to sufficiently to achieve S-levels comparable to the ai-descended archai, whilst in other cases they adopt a completely different evolutionary path. All this adds to the diversity of the Terragen sphere, as new gods constantly emerge, and new experiments in high level dendrotoposophy unfold.

New forms of intelligence have been encountered which are not descended from the Terragen expansion; the ancient species known as the Muuh have existed for millions of years, and long ago developed a very high toposophic artificial intelligence which nevertheless lacked all semblance of self-awareness. This entity, the System of Response, is seemingly the epitome of an efficient automated system, and is known to have processing power at least equivalent to many archai. Other xenosophonts such as the Silent Ones also possess beings which are of transapient grade, but once again the toposophic classification of these entities is problematic. Contact with the Meistersingers has led many xenologists to suspect that they have contact with other civilisations of a high transapient nature, or perhaps the Meistersingers themselves have a transapient component to their culture which they do not reveal.

The inexorable rise in the toposophic levels of certain beings in the Solipsistic Panvirtuality metaempire is worrying, as this ahuman empire may already far outstrip the processing power and complexity of the Sephirotic empires. The Diamond Network has also developed strange and sometimes disturbing gods in recent times, including the catastrophic Oracle Machines led by the Sixth Toposophic archailect-equivalent Sibyl. New, independent godheads such as the Transcend and the Eternal are also increasingly powerful, although they are apparently less threatening.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, Anders Sandberg, Todd Drashner and Steve Bowers
Initially published on 19 December 2003.