Sapients and Clades
Image from Anders Sandberg
In its ten thousand year history, Terragen civilization has seen the birth of countless numbers of new forms of life and mind. Some of these new beings are based on flesh and blood; others are formed of metal and diamond, or more exotic substances. Some have no definite form at all, and exist only as patterns of information in the computer networks of a million worlds. For millennia the ability to change clade quickly and easily has been a staple of terragen life. Consequently Sophonts may claim identity to a number of clades; a birth clade, a preferred clade, or the clade whose form they currently inhabit.

A breakdown of the major types of Terragen sophont beings within the Civilized Galaxy, along with a rough estimate of their population:

Superiors: Su for short, these are humans who have augmented their biological nature through germline-engineering and bodymods, making them more powerful than baseline or nearbaseline humans in multiple ways. Many are superbrights, or have astonishing creative or athletic abilities. There are thousands of clades, species, phyles, races, and variants, but they are not as diverse as the tweaks. They tend not to be interested in reproduction to the extent of those phyles under them, preferring to explore their own rich potentials. Perhaps three or four hundred trillion sentients of the galaxy are su.

Tweaks: Humans who have used germline genetic engineering to adapt to extreme environments, or for aesthetic, cultural, or religious reasons. This is the largest division -- both in terms of numbers and diversity -- of hominid (recognizably human) taxa. There are millions of different species of tweak, hominid and otherwise. There are estimated to be some five quadrillion hominid tweaks of all kinds during the current era. Some clades have only a few dozen members, while in other cases their population runs into tens of billions.

Near-Baselines: Often referred to as nebs, nearbaselines make up the second largest single category of hominid in the galaxy. They have various advantages over the true baseline (Homo sapiens sapiens), such as enhanced memory or intelligence, enhanced reflexes, strength, immunity, hearing, longevity, environmental tolerances, and so on as well as a number of differences that are adaptations to local conditions, or are aesthetic or accidental. The nature of these differences depends on the clade, phyle, species, or subspecies, but all clades of near-baseline are still recognizably human, to the extent that many groups are even interfertile with the old human baseline stock. Many have at least some su and/or tweak genome in them (especially common domain templates), but they lack the physical, emotional, or intellectual genius of the su, or the extreme adaptations of the tweaks. Likewise any nonhuman animal genome they carry is not so evident as in a rianth, and any hardware or bioware they may have chosen to integrate into their bodies is less extensive and vital to their existence than is the case for bioborgs and cyborgs. It is estimated there are perhaps three quadrillion nebs all told, depending on one's definitions.

Baselines: These beings are still at the level of Homo sapiens sapiens, and may be regarded with with pity or disdain by more typical sapient beings. Some are luddites, or members of religions that prohibit genetic engineering, or human supremacists, or other, often disenfranchised, minorities within larger societies. There are also a number of isolated habitats and polities, and even some reserves and parks, inhabited almost solely by baseline humans. Their population is extremely small in terms of the overall galaxy; probably less than two billion, most in isolated habitats and enclaves. Of these, no more than half a percent can be genomically "pure" H. s. sapiens without a trace of nearbaseline human heritage. Their numbers have been slowly but steadily declining over the past several millennia, both in absolute and relative terms. In part this is due to competition, and in part to the fact that human baseline populations tend to evolve into nearbaselines, tweaks, or cyborgs as individuals or whole societies seek to improve their lot. On this account, many consider the original human species to be endangered. However, baseline hu have shown themselves to be remarkably fecund in the appropriate environment.

Bioborgs: Humans or provolves who have been augmented or radically modified with bionano. Unlike typical cyborgs, their tech, which includes living artificial organs and augmentations of various kinds, is symbiotically integrated with the rest of the body and is self-replicating, although the overall bioborg's reproduction may require artificial assistance. Perhaps two quadrillion bioborgs of every shape and size and phyle can be found throughout the known worlds.

Provolves: Any of the innumerable animal (and even a few plant or fungal) species that, through any of various means (germline engineering, bodymods, symbiotic bionano, cyborg implants, or some other method) have had their intelligence increased to human baseline or even superbright level. Some also have prosthetics, implants, or some form of artificial modification to enable them to interact with technology. Most provolves are descended from species from the vertebrate, mollusk, or arthropod phyla, but there are also representatives of every major phylum of Terragen life. A few species of subsophont xenobiont species have been provolved as well. The total number of provolves is not known, but could plausibly be estimated at some one quadrillion.

Splices: An animal augmented with human genome (splice, animant, manimal), as opposed to the inverse, a human that has incorporated animal genome (rianth). These categories overlap, and there is also overlap with provolves, tweaks, neogens, and other categories, such as animal-tweaks (paranimals). Although they are astonishingly diverse, their overall number is moderate: there are no more than one quadrillion such sentients galaxy-wide.

Rianths: Humans who have incorporated animal traits into their genome. Unlike the splices, who have often had a history of domestication and service employment, rianths have typically had complete autonomy and were never slaves. They are divided into distinct clans, clades, and phyles according to the type and proportion of animal genome. Rianths are a diverse group; they include not only recognisable species such as Tiger people, Wolf people, Eagle people, Crow people, Rabbit people, Tortoise people but also completely new or unrecognizable species, or jumbles that seem to encompass the entire animal kingdom in a single body. Although there are countless species, the overall number is quite small; perhaps a 100 trillion "official" rianths, and at least twenty times that many humans with strong rianth aspects to their genome, scattered through known space.

Neogens: Genetically created life forms without any antecedents, especially if they are of unique or unusual design, nature, or purpose. These are neospecies, built entirely "from scratch" rather than through modification of naturally evolved biological organisms. Some are created as one-offs, but if they can reproduce they form distinct clades. Although most neogens are subsophont, there are still a large number of types that have either been designed as sophonts from the start or were provolved to sophonce later. Such sophont neogens have played an important role in the history of Terragen civilization from the Interplanetary Age to the present day. Currently, perhaps four hundred trillion sophonts can be included in this general category.

Cyborgs: Humans or provolves or other biological sophonts who have been augmented or radically modified with ai or aiodal bionics, implants, and/or drytech. Unlike bioborgs, their tech is usually not self-replicating, so cyborgs cannot reproduce unless they manufacture the necessary nonbiological parts. Nanocyborgs, who incorporate neumann-capable drytech nano, are a partial exception; like bioborgs they may be able to "grow" new copies of their augmentations and transfer them to their descendants. Cyborgs are so diverse and individual that they may be beyond categorization into distinct phyles and clades. They can be loosely divided into the cyborged and the true cyborgs. The cyborged are simply bionts with enhancements that are non-essential or gradually added, while true cyborgs are beings in whom the interaction between biology and technology is an essential part. The exact dividing line is hard to draw, but usually it is drawn where the technology becomes essential for continued life or mental functioning. The number of true cyborgs throughout the galaxy is at least two quadrillion, if not more.

Uploads, Copies, and Virtuals: These are infomorphs; sentient beings who exist entirely in virchspace. They differ from aioids proper in their origin; uploads were once physical - either organic or vec - but have since transferred their consciousness to a virtual environment. In the case of copies, the original embodied person still exists outside of virchspace. Virtuals may not have any direct antecedent outside of virchspace but are designed to perform as if they might have had such an origin. Some of these infomorphs, whatever their origin, have had themselves copied again in virchspace; the wealthier or more egotistical individuals may have done this many times. It is difficult to calculate even approximately the number of active uploads, copies and virtuals who live in the Known Net, in computronium databanks and vircivs, or in isolated virchworlds, in part because the distinction between active and inactive individuals is difficult to make. There are in excess of a hundred quadrillion, depending on definitions.

Biaioids: A rare form, an aioid cyborging with biology. Vecs, bots and other ais will sometimes add biological enhancements or organs for various reasons. Perhaps five trillion sentients can be classified as biaioid in the current era.

Vecs: The robot kingdom. This is a diverse grouping of mechanoids of every shape and size and function. Their only commonality is that they occupy an inorganic mobile body, and are not members of some more specialized group such as the neumanns or sentient ships. There have been a few shameful periods in the past where vecs were treated badly, especially in more extremist polities, but ever since the Second Federation period they have had universal sentient rights throughout the entire Civilized Galaxy. There are more than 100 quadrillion sophont-grade (turing and superturing) vecs distributed throughout settled space.

Sentient Ships: Generally, a sentient ship is distinguished from a neumann by its lack of oboard replication ability, from a vec by having a spaceship body, and from aioid pilots by being integral to the ship (they do not just control the ship; they are the ship). Sentient ships serve an important purpose in binding civilization together with trade, freight, courier, and passenger transport. The number of sophont-level sentient ships in the galaxy is believed to number several hundred trillion.

Sentient Structures: In many worlds and polities the buildings, roads, public transit vehicles, parks, and other smart structures have their own turingrade intelligence and have all the rights that go along with it. There is often no clear dividing line between sentient structures and standard aioids; a general (if simplistic) approach is to say that if a device or structure has software integral to its being, it is a sentient structure (or sentient artifact). If however its resident ai can be changed for another ai without affecting the structure, then that resident ai is an aioid. Throughout the galaxy there are at least 10 quadrillion sophont level sentient structures or artifacts, almost all of them in the Inner Sphere and older Middle Regions and provincial systems and habitats.

Aioids: These are nonbiological sentient beings who are not tied to a particular body (like vecs, neumanns, and sentient structures or sentient ships), are not descended from or simulations of embodied creatures (like uploads, virtuals, and copies), and are not alifes. Since the definition of an individual is even more fluid than for those who inhabit discrete bodies, and since the distinctions between active, inactive, and occasionally active individuals is also fluid, it is difficult to count them accurately, but depending on definitions the number of these "pure" ai beings, the turingrade near-sophont and sophont agents, companions, expert systems and less definable beings who dwell in the Known Net or in habitats, appliances, and localnets, easily approaches twenty thousand trillion (500 trillion as ship pilots alone); many times more again are subsophonts.

Alifes: Alifes are the natives of virtual environments, environments that, unlike those of the uploads and their kin, may differ quite radically from the universe as experienced by other sophonts. Although a small number of alife entities are certainly sentient and rational in the way that humans, vecs, and some xenosophonts are, others are completely alien in their consciousness because their virtual environment is so unlike anything found in the natural world. Their diversity of consciousness is matched only by their diversity of form. Alifes may find interactions with anyone or anything outside their virtual milieu impossible or irrelevant. Given the information density of advanced computronium, the subjective rate of time in alife environments may be extremely rapid, allowing extensive speciation as measured by outside observers, especially in new or isolated virtual worlds. Most local nets have their own indigenous forms; the number of near-sophont or sophont-grade alifes existing in the Known Net or in isolated virchworlds or ai cores (some hyperturings collect alifes, though the reason is often not clear) cannot be calculated, in part because the nature of what constitutes an individual varies from one virtual environment to the next, but it may run to many thousand trillions, with countless trillions more of sentient but subsophont grade.


A clade is any group of intelligent beings united by common descent and physical and mental similarities. Baseline humans, originally a rather homogeneous species, began to diversify into such subgroups as early as the Interplanetary age, specializing or adapting themselves and their descendants as they expanded beyond the bounds of Old Earth. Not long after their creation other Terragen groups capable of reproduction, from ai to provolve to vec, followed suit, diversifying and reinventing themselves into new clades, or inventing entirely new kinds of being that eventually diversified into new clades as well. Here is just a sample:

Alseids: provolves derived from Terragen trees by pan-sophonts in the 5th millenium

Anakim: human tweaks/nearbaselines adapted to high gravity situations

Aroostai: provolves/bionanoborgs based on the Terran ostrich

Enhanced Dolphins: provolves based on Terran dolphins; the first provolves after the chimpanzees, and a sign that provolution technologies had come into their own

Carnivorettes: aioids descended from net spying software

Grays: human nearbaselines modified to duplicate the alien humanoids of some early 1st century AT stories

Hectonitheres: bioborgs, based on shared consciousness among thirty to a hundred or more bodies of hominid and occasionally non-hominid design

Keruing: provolves/neogens who are essentially tree seeds, and sprout at the end of their life cycle

Machina Babbagensi: huge vecs based on Babbage-engine processors

Mirrored Owls: neogen cyborgs whose minds are based on swarms of subsophont life forms that are designed to dwell in the clouds of Jovian planets

Polarizers: nanoborg cyborgs who look like glowing hovering balls of light and have thought processes that are entirely encrypted

Scrabo-Prior: nearbaseline humans whose skins display shifting nanotech tattoos

Vedokiklek: arthropod splice/provolves who resemble wingless grasshoppers

To learn more about the diverse inhabitants of Terragen civilization, click HERE.

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