Known Net, The
known net
Image from Bernd Helfert

The Known Net was originally the culmination of the InterstellarNet, which grew out of the Federation and pre-Federation InterPlanetaryNet, which in turn was a development of the Internet and its World Wide Web of the early Information Age. There is a lot of history here, layers and layers of code and webpages and virtual worlds, enough to keep the most hardworking cyberarcheologist busy for many lifetimes.

The Internet was barely 30 years old when the first experimental linkages were made to servers established on stations in Low Earth Orbit, and in the decades shortly after in CisLunar Space and elsewhere. For more than four centuries, the IPN defined interplanetary civilization, and weak tendrils ensured contact even with the new colonies of Tau Ceti and the early Centauri System. Even at the height of the Technocalypse, the IPN continued to relay information between isolated communities, keeping the flame of civilization alive.

After the foundation of the First Federation the Solsys InterPlanetaryNet was linked to the various colonial IPNs by a network of laser links. These powerful laser tranceivers became known as the Lightways, a term which is still in use in the Current Era. Despite a lag of many years regarding communication between stellar nodes, the ISN (InterStellarNet) proved one of the great success stories of the Federation, helping to cement all mindkind through a universal protocol and ontology, while still encouraging the individuality of the colonial memeticities. The Federation Corporations were fully aware of the market value of the far-flung colonial fashions and cultures; eventually through overuse they killed the distinct cultures, and by the age of Emergence there was really only a single Federation culture, and that already decaying into regional imperial powers.

At the same time, the migrating colonists, developers, and ais established a new node of the ISN wherever they went, linking it back to the main Solsys nucleus. As distances increased the center was unable to hold, but just when it seemed everything would fragment the 3rd, 4th and higher singularity AIs created the Wormhole Nexus; by sending data-rich beams at light-speed through the Nexus, the reach of the Lightways were vastly extended and the speed of communication greatly increased. Over the following centuries the galaxy shrunk, and far flung stars were able to be linked as if they were only separated by interplanetary distances. Meanwhile, further colonies and development ais and bionts continued to take civilization further and further out, in an expanding frontier now accelerated even more by the discovery of reactionless drive.

This vast interlinkage of data, this information hyperhighway, the Wormhole-linked Backbone and the relativistically linked rest of settled space, became the Known Net, the totality of all virtuality within terragen civilization.

Including literally trillions of nodes, quadrillions of virtual worlds, and quintillions more file-clusters, the Known Net is the single largest and most complex aggregate of information ever made by terragenkind. The name is ironic, for no-one, not even, it is said, the archailects, know for sure how big the Known Net is, or how far it extends, for it is based on hardware that itself replicates and spreads organically, with every new star system developed.

The backbone of the Known Net is through the wormhole Nexus; every nanosecond, countless quadrillions of bits of information are beamed through the stargates, from one IPNet to another. It is often said that the real purpose of the wormhole nexus is to ensure rapid dataflow between the various primary nodes of the Known Net, and that everything else, ships, passengers, freighters, is just window dressing, stratagems to keep the nearbaselines happy. Regardless of the truth or otherwise of this assertion, there is no denying that the amount of virtual entities and copies that are transmitted through the nexus is much greater than the number of rl sentients.

Yet although the Known Net is optimally linked by wormholes, it is not dependent on the functioning Nexus for its existence, as each node and mirror is autonomous and itself fractally and holographically incorporates much of the totality; if not the details than at least all the main databases, agents, and simulations, in itself, interfacing with rl through numerous agents, expert systems, icons, and daimons; and where no infra-structure exists, using neumanns to create the infrastructure where needed, and communicating with other nodes and mirrors relativistically, by laser link, ship, and interstellar catapult. That is why the Known Net was diminished by the Version War and other catastrophes and alarms that have shaken the Nexus, even if it was slowed for a while. Even now, much of the Net exists outside the Nexus, serving countless otherwise isolated habitats and colonies, exchanging packets of information over vast distances at the glacial speed of light, and sometimes even developing and evolving on its own.

Often a particular type of cursor or icon may actually a spy program that was used to collect data by advertisers. This is a problem as old as virtuality, the conflict over who really runs a sentient's technology, that sapient or the corporations owning the software. In almost every case it is the corporation, and since the late information era the software worked for them, rather than for the user (hence the somewhat cruel term, "luser", used by anti-corporate cyberians and equivalents to describe all the other sapients).

With so many levels of sub-sentient, sentient, sub-sophont, and sophont devices around, the level of urban legends and tall tales about tech is truly enormous. Occasionally such legends actually turn out to be true.

Often also, panics over possible perversions could be almost as bad as actual perversions, as millions of near- baselines attack and destroy certain pieces of ubiquitous and moderately essential tech that is rumored to be dangerous. Memetic attacks to convince a population that a perversion in beginning can be frighteningly effective; and many examples of memetic warfare do involve stratagems like this.

A few useful terms:

av: a digital persona, the "body" one takes on while facing or virching

cyberia: with a capital "C", the empire alone is referred to, but with a small "c" it may indicate the totality of virchspace

cyberian: anyone who spends a lot of time in virchspace

face: [verb] (in this context) to virch, to interface with a digital reality

fastime: existing in the Net

new territories: any newly constructed, copy- or av--traversable virtual world, universe, or node; especially one that has been incorporated into Cyberia. As the Known Net expands, New Territories are constantly added.

node: any connected component of the whole Net, serving as a local substation for the larger matrix. May be anything from a small processing substation that serves a single hab or station to a major planet-wide or even megastructure mirror of all of the important Known Net functions and databases galaxywide, complete with its own digital ecology and indigenous virtuals.

relay: a hardware node in the Known Net which may include hi-tech, ultratech and god-tech servers, docks, service stations, even catapults and microwormhole gates. Some Relays may be as small as single robot laser link, while the biggest (in some of the built-up capitals) are practically universes in themselves

subnode: a node inside a node. Technically, all nodes, even the biggest, are subnodes of the entire Known Net

virch: [noun] any digital or simulation, interactive media; [verb] to access or face with such media

virchspace: any digital environment that is traversable and habitable by sentient, subturing, turingrade or higher virtuals or avs, regardless of whether it is linked the entire Net or not.

virtual: a digital, non-rl entity
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev; additional comments by John Snead
Graphics by Bernd Helfert
Initially published on 12 October 2001.

page uploaded 12 October 2001, last modified 25 July 2007