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Neogen

NEOGEN
Image from Bernd Helfert

The kelp forests of the Phihigh sea were so lush that from orbit they made the archipelago look like a continent. Every day I'd swim from one island to another, relishing the abundance of life we'd created. Swarms had geosculpted the region into an oceanic plateau with an average depth a little over a meter, once that task was complete they'd seeded it with a neogenic ecosystem according to our specific designs. My own contribution to the project seemed modest compared to the shoals of hoopers or the migrating coral that formed the foundation of a thousand islands. Nevertheless my brightbushes could be found all over the seafloor providing a vital ecological role. They somewhat resembled a terrestrial dandelion head, though with hundreds of flexible, finger-width polyps rather than seeds. Small aquatic animals swam through their fronds in mating rituals before anchoring their spores close to the center.

The polyps continually grew from their ends, adjusting their surface pigment with each new stretch according to a chaotic metabolic circuit. The result was as striking as I'd hoped with each hemispherical bush displaying a different pattern and pallet. I'd designed them using the standard carbohydrate replicator for the terraforming project but had also engineered a fifth of their proteins to synthesize each other through prionic cascades independent of the genome. I'd won an award for the beauty of that system. Our models predicted a stability for that trait of only a few thousand years but couldn't reliably guess what evolutionary paths they might take.

At a size of 50cm or so the mechanical strength of each polyp reached a point where a strong wave could tear it from the brightbush. I'd designed this with input from the oceaneers; too weak and they'd break off prematurely but too strong and they'd overgrow and choke the ecosystem. A torn free polyp was a sight to behold. Immediately upon breaking epidermal membrane pumps would expel their pigment in a powerful jet of rainbow ink. This nourished micro-organisms whilst propelling and hiding the polyp from predators that fed on the now vulnerable spores. It would then drift on the sea, carrying its clutch of spores. Most would die off or be eaten but a small number would drift to a quiet, empty patch of the floor to anchor and start growing anew.


Excerpt from Tyrol's Travel Notes: Interviews with neogenicists.



Gengineered life forms are a common feature of habitats throughout the Civilized Galaxy, from the myriad biological clades and their modified ecosystems to wholly synthetic mechasystems. Not satisfied with one particular phenotype Terragen kind has always sought diversity in its physical (not to mention virtual) forms. Sitting on, and often straddling the line between radical tweaks (significantly engineered bionts derived from evolved species) and moravecs (rationally designed nanomechanical/electrical beings) are neogens; biological organisms designed de novo using biochemical processes and parts not otherwise seen in "natural" life forms. As with the cyborg clades, neogens have often been difficult to pin down as a category of terragen life. The extent of their novelty compared to evolved organisms is a spectrum rather than a hard border and throughout history and culture whether or not an organism is counted as a tweak, mechasystem or neogen has varied. However, there are some commonalities in definitions that have held roughly consistent across time and space:

- Neogenic organisms are bottom up, emergent systems. Unlike many (but not all) vec and biobot designs neogenic life is the result of a complex interplay of thousands of biochemical molecules.

- Neogenic organisms have no significant overlap in genetic, metabolic or other fundamental biochemical processes AND/OR components with naturally evolved life

Even within these definitions much disagreement can be found. Early neogens were often the product of so-called "synthetic biology" which used standard terragen biochemistry with processes derived from a variety of disparate sources and little in the way of novel biological structures. In some parts of the terragen sphere many vec clades are considered neogenic if the majority of their processes operate under principles of emergent mechanochemistry, regardless of any core top-down systems. Comparison to bots and vecs also extends to taxonomy as neogens lack an organisational lineage that can aid in assigning a higher-order clade or phyle. A less difficult option is for neogens to be classed by the biochemistry of their genetic molecule, the most common being: P (polypeptides), C (carbohydrates), N (nucleic acids), O (polyoxomolybdates) and S (silicones). Even amongst these there is great diversity (such as DNA, RNA, GNA, TNA and LNA, all variants of N-replicators that have a plethora of viable forms each) in addition to the vast landscape of possibilities for basic biomolecules with which to form self-sustaining metabolisms.

As with provolution neogen projects also have a wider technological and social component, for example: a neogenic clade template is likely to be incompatible with the majority of medical and augmentic technology (let alone mundanities such as environmental configurations, transport infrastructure and hygiene protocols). Designing appropriate interfaces and substitutions where possible is often a task greater than the neogenic project such developments are for, an issue compounded exponentially when entire ecosystems are constructed. As such it is considered good practice across the Sephirotics for neogenicists and adopters of neogenic clades to ensure full biological data and environmental/technological needs are logged in a public archive (for those wishing to travel whilst wearing a neogen clade body it is strongly advised such data is carried in one's exoself).

Like any herculean R&D task in the terragen sphere the design of neogenic life and development of its extended phenotypic needs can be relegated easily to automated systems. However, like provolution neogenics is a hobby more often left out of the hands of automation than not (though less so the ancillary work). Designing a new organism or clade is an accomplishment of note and respect in much of the civilised galaxy, especially within the Zoefic Biopolity, and neogenic biospheres for terraformed planets are frequently held up as inter-cultural monuments, often to the extent that they are offered protectorate status by the otherwise aloof Caretaker Gods.

 
Articles
  • Autowupodologists  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Wup sub-phyle.
  • Biomodvert, Biomadvert  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A biomodified life form hybridised with a madvert.
  • Biophone  - Text by Ernst Stavro Blofeld
    Geneered organisms whose entire raison d'etre is to make music.
  • Cromag, Clade (aka Clade Neander)  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Pseudolazurogenic prim clade created by the vec Dimimimon4 in the mid 5th millennium a.t..
  • Designer Life  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Designer life has existed since the Information Age, starting with glowing rabbits and bacteria with messages hidden in their genomes.
  • Designer Phages  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    A major biotech field during the later Information and early Interplanetary periods.
  • Dimimimon4ians - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Generic term for biont clades created by Dimimimon4 in the mid 5th millennium a.t.. These included Clade Gikk, Clade Cromag, and Clad Fedhead.
  • Dragon (morphotype)  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Dragons of many different types have been created using lazurogenic and neogenic techniques, often from crocodile or avian genes.
  • Erotogen  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev with additions by Anders Sandberg and Tony Jones
    A neogenic clade optimised for a highly diverse and voracious sexual lifestyle, known for how they physically and psychologically adapt themselves to their current partner(s).
  • Fractaroni Spaghetti Worms  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Transapient clade of a-life/neogen hybrids.
  • Glidemonkeys  - Text by Steve Bowers and Todd Drashner
    Popular Neogen pet based on a fictional prototype
  • HaRoNa  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Neogenic centauroid species created by the Power Manteos in 2587 to be: 'Keepers of songs, tellers of tales, guardians of art and culture'.
  • KaTaWaHa  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Neogenic centauroid species created in 3674 on Drayos Gamma orbital.
  • Lauro, Clade  - Text by Chris Shaeffer
    A race of humanoid Superior neogens.
  • Methanoids  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Methane-respiring cold-adapted extremophile humanoids created by House Genen in the Zoeific Biopolity; very widespread and often actively involved in opposition to terraforming projects. Important faction in the Epp War.
  • Neogen - Text by Todd Drashner
    A biological being or species created entirely from scratch rather than by modification of naturally evolved stock. A product of neogenics, the technology of creating life from lifeless materials.
  • Nu Joloth  - Text by Morgan Heacock and Steve Bowers
    Non-humanoid neogen clade.
  • Octogen, Clade  - Text by Thorbørn Steen
    A clade noted for its nano-dependent physiology and for its resulting skill in the nanotech design and construction.
  • Pteranodon People  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Human-Pterosaur neogen-splice created by the Ptaphric Magic Potter.
  • Rainbow Bubbles  - Text by Liam Jones
    Neogen species consisting of distinct spheres constituting a group mind.
  • Shimmerers, The  - Text by Liam Jones
    Neogen/Neumann clade in the Serpens outer volumes.
  • Soomia  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev from original concept by Kevin Self
    A clade of neogen-splice artist provolves, originally designed as companions to human artists. They long ago established an independent homeland in the Utopia Sphere and their own reputation for artistic talent. Soomia or gorups of Soomia tend to travel widely for extended and so are known throughout Terragen space.
  • Tupilaks - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Composite bioborgs or neogens, built from cultured organs or limbs. While not often seen much use outside specialised applications, building bioborgs from modular parts is sometimes more cost-effective than engineering entirely new species.
  • Wup  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Anti-culture secretionpunk movement. A Wuppista is a bioborg/neogen male with enhanced and enlarged genitals who would put on public performances, in which nearby property and bystanders would be sprayed with blood, urine, semen, saliva, feces, and, worst of all, wupple.
 
Related Topics
 
Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev

Initially published on 09 December 2001.

 
Additional Information