Transapient-derived Technologies

The Towers of Perplexity
Image from Steve Bowers
The Towers of Perplexity on Prometheus; these towers appear to be supported by sound energy, but (possibly due to sonic dampening) the only discernable sound in the vicinity is a curious form of chanting in an unknown language. Local modosophonts extract sound energy from this region as a source of usable power.

The technologies first introduced by transapients vary from those that could have been invented by modosophonts through to those whose nature and purpose are difficult or impossible to understand. Those who study the technologies invented by transapients have divided them into three broad categories according to how easily they are understood used and replicated by beings of a lower toposophic level: 'High Ground', 'Middle Ground' and 'Low Ground'. High Ground technologies, quite possibly the largest number, are those that beings of a lower toposophic cannot use at all and often find difficult or impossible to even comprehend or detect. Middle Ground technologies can be used and maintained by ordinary sophonts, and are often comprehensible in some detail but that have never been created or independently invented by any society of ordinary sophonts. Low Ground technologies are those that in principle might have been invented by ordinary sophonts. Many Low Ground technologies actually have a documented history of independent invention, sometimes on multiple occasions, by societies of ordinary sophonts that do not have assistance from transapients. However they are typically quite difficult or counter-intuitive, and so in Terragen history they were more typically first invented by transapients and later given as gifts, reverse-engineered from samples, or created semi-independently based on the knowledge that they are possible and exist.

High Ground

High Ground technologies are utterly incomprehensible to even the most brilliant of ordinary sophonts, both in their real purpose and their mode of operation. It is impossible to cite examples of high ground technologies other than by analogy and rumour but they may sometimes be detected through their energy consumption or side effects, or by inference from comments made by transapients.

It is generally understood that the number of such technologies that exist is much larger than the number of middle and low ground technologies. Though some of these mysterious technologies are apparently essential to daily life for a transapient, and may well account for most of their energy and attention, ordinary sophonts and their civilizations have no more than incidental interaction with them. This is not to say however that High Ground technologies are always unimportant to ordinary sophonts. For instance entire worlds and civilizations of lower toposophic beings may be dependent on the waste heat and emissions of such devices. They may also be affected by their operations in negative ways, either because of their regular operations or because of mishaps and misfires in their operations. Accidental mass transcensions, various blights, the Gehenna Event, the Version War, the Technocalypse, and many other adverse historical events have been attributed (with varying degrees of plausibility) either to the intended operation or the accidental failure in operation of higher-toposophic technologies. On the other hand, there are probably other much more benign effects. For instance, some high-transapient sources quoted in What the Thunder Said aver that the relative peace, freedom, and prosperity of the entire set of Sephirotic civilizations is a side-effect of archailect-level communication technology protocols.

Transapients' descriptions of High Ground technologies, where they provide any at all, are patently oversimplifications. This is true whether the explanation is a year's virch interactive experience or whether it is a simple statement such as 'it is a sort of communication device'. More often there is no explanation at all, other than perhaps 'it is not something I am able to explain to you'.

Lower toposophic beings may on rare occasions trigger high ground technological devices, but using them at all for the incomprehensible purpose for which they were invented is fundamentally impossible. A common analogy is that ants might possibly nest in the inactive hulk of a computer, or be affected by the heat output of an active one, but they cannot use it or even turn it on. Some well-known artefacts may be high-ground technology items known only through their side effects.

Middle Ground

Middle Ground technologies can be used and maintained by modosophonts and sometimes in rare cases can be replicated or reproduced to a limited degree but there are aspects of their creation and operation that are beyond the ability of even the most ancient and sophisticated civilizations of ordinary sophonts. Often they seem to have been created specifically for modosophont use. At the higher end they are simply black-box devices that respond to a range of modosophont commands. Somewhere in the middle are such devices as wormhole gates which may be used and even manipulated once created but which no ordinary sophont can understand how to create other than in the most abstract and theoretical terms. At the lowest end these technologies are things such as magmatter or monopoles, or advanced synanotech that can be manipulated or even replicated once they exist.

A sufficiently skilled transapient may be able to explain the principles and operation of a middle ground device, sometimes even to the extent of being able to explain the repair or creation of such, if they are communicating with a highly trained and motivated modosophont or to a civilization that contains a sufficient number of such persons. Success in this is highly variable, depending on the technology, the transapient doing the teaching, and the nature of the person or civilization receiving the information.

The number of Middle Ground technologies is rather small relative both to the Low Ground technologies that are known to exist and to the High Ground technologies that are believed to exist.

Low Ground

Low Ground technologies are those that might in principle have been created by ordinary sophonts but were invented first by transapients. The enhanced creativity of even a 'mere' isolated S1 individual is such that nearly every technology that has appeared since the Interplanetary Age might be regarded as Low Ground in this sense.

Ordinary sophonts may receive low ground technologies directly as instructions from a transapient source, or reverse engineer them based on working models that come to hand. They may even invent them on their own, based on the mere knowledge that such devices exist or else in parallel with no knowledge whatsoever that a transapient invented it first. By definition low ground technologies can be taught to ordinary sophonts, though that teaching may in some cases require years, decades, or centuries of technological and theoretical advancement.

Ambiguities and Dangers

Naturally the borders between these categories are not well defined, particularly when a particular tech is first encountered. Whether a miraculous-seeming new technology is in the middle or low range or is a side-effect of some high ground tech is apparent only after long study and observation, or after conversations with one or several reliable transapients.

Gift technologies, given to individual modosophonts or to societies of modosophonts, may be low ground or middle ground, or may even (if they are 'black box' devices) be high ground technologies that seem to have useful side effects for ordinary sophonts. Which of these they are may not be immediately apparent, even if the transapient or transapients concerned provide an explanation. A few gift technologies have proven to be monkeys-paw devices (so-named after an ancient Old Earth cautionary tale) that have adverse unanticipated consequences when they are used.

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Text by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 10 June 2015.