Extended Color Convention

Colour vision outside the conventional visible spectrum

Extended Color Convention
Image from StableDiffusionAI
The spectum visible to baseline humans is shown in the centre of this diagram, together with the locations and common names of several of the extended colours
Ever since the time of the first true body modifications, there were attempts to modify and extend the human eyesight. At first, these were little more than night vision ability implanted into the eyes. Within a century or so, they advanced enough to detect EM radiation from infrared to ultraviolet at least. Genetic modifications eventually advanced to a similar level, although lagging many decades behind.

When an attempt was made, however, to use such modifications not just for military and research purposes, but put them on the market, it turned out they were to the public what the first personal computers were - useful for special purposes, but too lifeless and inconvenient for daily use, and useless for recreation. People wanted to really perceive the radiation outside the baseline perception. The modifications only provided raw data, but people wanted colors. Naturally, while the technology for detecting and separating the spectrum was rather simple, other problems presented themselves.

The baseline human eye can see colors in a narrow band of the total spectrum, with the upper limit being roughly twice the wavelength of the lower. Within this band, the eye perceives different wavelengths differently enough to usually require six separate names for the fundamental colors (not counting the names for the darker and lighter hues like pink and brown and numerous names for hues like magenta and lavender). Extrapolating, a being with an order of magnitude difference between the thresholds would require 20 names.

The truth wasn't that far out. And considering five to ten orders of magnitude perception is far from uncommon in the Terragen Sphere - in fact, it was quite possible enough even in the early Interplanetary Age from a hardware point of view - it created some problems.

An ability to separate wavelengths was a strain on both the eye and the visual cortex. Perception time increased well above the normal 1/15 of second. Of course, that one was easy enough to fix with modifications - considering pre-modification movies had to be digitally altered into at least 100 fps to be watched by a person with any significant modifications, that part was trivial.

A bigger problem was brain perception. While baseline people might sometimes dream or imagine a color they can't see, a hundred distinct fundamental colors is difficult for a brain to process. People normally refused to use the simplest solution - adjusting the perception to extend the color bands. A few nearbaselines still exist practicing that solution - the so called Adieans - but their numbers are measured in single digit millions at best. For most people, other ways had to be sought. While, eventually, both a hardware upgrade and a genetic modification method were found, this, as usual, led to additional problems.

First, the imperfect modifications led to the colors perceived differently by different people. As a result, no names for the new colors could be agreed upon, nor was it possible to directly exchange memories and experiences in any meaningful manner.

The second problem, of course, was aesthetics. The same type of lighting could look either intolerable or heavenly to different people. A more serious (though rare) problem were cases like that of Diralon Klent, "The Seeing Blind", who required his eyes to be replaced every few weeks, in addition to constant anti-radiation therapy, due to being addicted to a certain combination of gamma ray frequencies and intensities.

While different people preferring different colors is far from undesirable, the combined difficulties were becoming bothersome, and were sometimes causing severe social tension. Of course, the problem, while by no means a simple one, wasn't that hard either. Less serious attempts started as soon as the modifications began - in fact, some philosophical reflections on the subject show up in even older sources. The first serious attempt at establishing a complete system dates to approximately 300 a.t. Within three centuries, a more or less workable pattern was ready. Additional polishing continued until approximately 2300 a.t., when a group of S3 transapients brought the entire spectrum to a complete, organized system of modifications and terminology, as well as establishing a matching set of stable genetic modifications. The system they created was organized, clear, and aesthetically pleasing enough for it to be all but universally accepted, at least among homo sapiens descendants, and soon became known throughout the Terragen Sphere as The Extended Color Convention.

Extended Color Convention
Image from Omeganian
The spectum visible to baseline humans is shown in the centre of this diagram, together with the locations of some of the extended colours
Eventually, the system fractured into variations almost as numerous as the variations among Terragen sophonts. However, just like a rather large percentage of these use a form close in shape to that of a basic human's, so can the visual perception of a similar or even larger percentage be identified as close variations of the ECC, close enough for the word "neas" and "nede" (the colors immediately above and below baseline perception, respectively) to be as universally understandable as "thumb".

The percentages of the ECC users, of course, are lower among provolves originating from differently perceiving subsophonts, and some of them require different systems. Additionally, a number of bionts tend to temporarily modify themselves with alternate color perception for the sake of experience or as a fashion (It is rare for a month to pass without some Utopia Sphere transapient releasing a new system for these purposes, although it seems unlikely for the ECC to be replaced in the foreseeable future). Ais normally accept the same systems when they are relevant, while higher toposophics use their own systems, incomprehensible to others.

It is agreed, for example, that xit is a color corresponding roughly to 260- 295 micron wavelength. It is agreed, likewise, that sten is a color corresponding to 52-60 nm. Likewise, most terragens agree that bright sten and dark xit clash horribly unless you add a bit of klis (1.9-2.25 micron) or green. Of course, this may change with fashion or individual upbringing (around 8200, for example, there was a trend through much of the Terragen Sphere to wear sabum-krip-blue clothes, something considered absolutely horrible in the 11th millennium).
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Development Notes
Text by Omeganian
Initially published on 03 July 2013.

Illustration by StableDiffusion (generated from prompts by Worldtree) added 2023