Many clades have nonsophont ancestors, such as provolves, alifes, and assorted items of sentient technology that achieved sophonce. However, many were created as they are now, without undergoing any evolution. The process of creating simulated evolutionary precursors of these clades is known as prevolution, a pun on "provolution" using the ancient Anglic prefix "pre-", meaning "before".

Reasons for Prevolution

The nonsophont ancestor is an important meme in some cultures: the early hominid for baseline humans, the baseline animal for provolves, and the pseudo-sophont infomorph for sapient alifes. Prevolution is performed mainly to fill this cultural niche for wholly artificial clades, with the resultant creatures often being used purely as symbols--actual specimens are sometimes never brought into ril, even in cases where it would be possible. This also has the effect of creating an opportunity for novel scientific research, as no sophont is aware of the new clade's characteristics at first. In an autotopian society such as those found in the Sephirotic core, this is a highly valuable opportunity for those who lament the fact that most scientific innovation has long since receded over the horizon of modosophont understanding.


Prevolution is almost always performed using a high-resolution virch simulation. A digital environment is created holding a pre-technological culture of the clade in question (equivalents for infomorph clades vary) composed of simms to avoid ethical issues. A time-reversed simulation of evolution is run, the virch computing the environment in "hops" into the past and then determining a lifeform that would have existed in such an environment and that could plausibly have evolved into the lifeform of the previous hop.

Finally, when the desired amount of evolutionary regression into the past has been reached, the resulting species is kept as the final product (intermediate stages may also be preserved). The realism resulting from this method largely depends on the length of the hops: the shorter they are, the more realistic. Of course, shorter hops also require more computational power.

Hundreds of thousands of non-sentient lifeforms have been created via prevolution, some from clades that do have real ancestors but whose members wished to create alternate ones. This figure only includes those with extant instances, not those that were simply preserved as archived data. If archived species are counted, the number increases by three to four orders of magnitude. The results of prevolution often have a limited precursor to sophonce, and many of these now exist in preserves in the Utopia Sphere and Biopolity.

Provolution and Prevolution

It has, much to the distress of Anglish speakers, come to transpire over the course of Terragen history that several prevolves have undergone provolution. The attitude of the resulting sophonts toward the clade they were derived from varies greatly, from a large-scale familial friendliness to a rivalry over which clade has the superior design (as the prevolves' physical form is, like most species that undergo the process, almost always altered significantly during provolution). On some occasions an armed conflict has resulted, although it was rarely out of genuine hatred; more often, such events occur in a competitive spirit. Though one could make a case that provolved australopithecenes and similar sophonts are examples of this, very few were created through genuine prevolution, and thus are usually not considered as examples of this phenomenon.

Examples of Prevolution

For reference, some examples of prevolved clades and brief descriptions of the results have been presented here:

  • When run on Enhanced Dolphins, a prevolution algorithm generated a mammalian, land-dwelling creature. It was, however, partially amphibious, and had begun to develop increased lung capacity. This is thought to resemble the land-dwelling ancestors of Old Earth dolphins.
  • The same algorithm run on a different clade of Enhanced Dolphins, however, instead resulted in a sea-dwelling reptilian creature. It was not a true fish, as it lacked gills and instead possessed high-capacity lungs, which it periodically refilled by coming to the surface of the water to inhale. This is an example of prevolution generating an alternative ancestor to a clade, very different from the reality.
  • Applying prevolution to a relatively near-to-baseline human Superior template resulted in a radically different lifeform from the baseline human ancestor, being a small, near-sophont, tree-dwelling creature that moved with high, sustained speed thanks to its optimized anatomy. Placing it in simulations with baseline Old Earth primates resulted in a rapid reduction in the numbers of the primates as the new species out-competed them.
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Development Notes
Text by Alphadon
Initially published on 11 May 2018.