Inscrit le: 19 Sep 2009
Mer 30 Sep - 23:19 (2009)
Humanity has encountered four other intelligent alien species: the Coldworlders, the WorldWeb, the Skotadi, and the Aia. None of them are suitable as player characters, and interaction with them is exceptionally rare and difficult, but they bear mentioning.
On a Neptune-like planet in a distant solar system live the Coldworlders. They were discovered living under hundreds of miles of near-opaque gas, where they could not see the stars. They are each about twenty feet long, shaped like sperm whales, with manipulative feelers near their mouths. When humanity found them they had never seen the stars.
While there are some minor issues of understanding between the Coldworlders and humanity (such as their lack of words for anything outside their gassy planet), the greatest difficulty in communicating with them is their metabolism. Coldworlders are exceptionally slow, both in their movements and thought processes, and while they’re smart enough to develop language and culture, each word takes an hour to say.
Evolutionary data points to the Coldworlders being the oldest sentient species, predating Humanity by several million years. The size of their planet and its composition shelter them well from extinctionlevel impacts. Individual Coldworlders live approximately fifty thousand years.
The primary resident on an Earth-like planet, the WorldWeb is a conglomeration of very thick vines (1-4 meters in diameter) that cover much of the largest continent. The fluids that course through the vines is/are sentient, and the vines themselves are the fluids’ tools, meal ticket, and shelter.
The WorldWeb can see the skies like a giant radio telescope, and so, unlike the Coldworlders, it/they were quite familiar with the outside world when humanity arrived. However, because of the World-Web’s unique nature, they/it do not understand concepts of indivisibility. It’s/Their mathematics has no integers, it/they don’t understand the difference between singular and plural (or perhaps it/they simply have no “singular”). Because of this, communication is exceptionally difficult. Entirely new branches of linguistics have been formulated around its/their bizarre language structure, and all of psychohistory will have to be revised before the WorldWeb can be incorporated into it.
The Skotadi are made of dark matter, the invisible and intangible matter that surrounds all galaxies and makes up the majority of the mass in the universe. They can pass through normal matter without either side noticing. Chances are good that entire flights of Skotadi passed directly through human-occupied planets in the past. They were discovered when they opened a wormhole in a star system that the League of Independent Worlds unknowingly shared with them.
Humanity can only speak with the Skotadi through gravity waves. Communications so far have been infrequent, but fruitful. They appear to have had their own Diaspora about 10,000 years before humanity, but without the jump-start that the Transcendentals provided, they are about on the same level as humanity technologically. Like humanity, they have dozens of cultures, and are spread across the entire universe via wormhole. Entire dark-matter galaxies are filled with them, as the light-matter galaxies are filled with us.
< ENCADRE >
Isn’t Dark Matter...?
Right now, as of this writing, scientists are still somewhat unsure as to what dark matter is. There are hypotheses, and observations, but nothing that we would call a solid theory.
In SA, we’re speculating two kinds of dark matter: a majority that’s made up of one kind of tiny particules that don’t strongly interact with each other or anything else, and a minority composed of a variety of “supersymmetric” particles that interact with each other in interesting ways. The Skotadi are made up of the second kind. Some Stringtech weapons also work via the decay of the second type of dark matter, which means they could theoretically hurt the Skotadi — roughly as much as being hit with a squirt gun hurts us.
< /ENCADRE >
When communication with this species is possible, they are no more difficult to understand than some of the more bizarre human cultures like the Heterolinguists. Unfortunately, such interactions are typically brief, and because of this, translation can still be very spotty. Most communications pass through two separate levels of AI (one Human-designed and one Skotadi-designed) in an attempt to mediate the large differences in the basic metaphors that the two species understand. Technical data is very easy to transfer, but once one drifts away from literal observations of the physical world, misunderstandings are likely to occur.
The Transcendentals are not the only artificial intelligences that humanity created. They were merely the first. It was inevitable that other sentient computers would arise. When they did, humanity underestimated the speed at which they would improve and build more of themselves. After all, they couldn’t see through time, so how fast could they be?
Now, these sentiences inhabit over sixty planets. Each one is teased apart into a honeycomb, air-filled foam, or stranger configurations. Their planets are composed of many substructures: power generation cells, solar absorbers, nanofactories, and most important, data storage and processing units. They communicate with each other using wormholes, sometimes even using them for communication from one side of the planet to another — either they have found a truly limitless power source, or they have discovered how to create wormholes without massive expenditures of energy.
The term “Aia” for their species is really an acronym: Artificial Intelligence Aliens. Despite the fact that humanity once created them, they may be the most alien species of all, if only for their perception of time. One second to them is as one year for us. Each week is thus the equivalent of over 600,000 years. Between their unimaginable mental speed and their equally powerful and advanced technology, they simply have no reason to talk to us.
Many of the Aia would like to inhabit each others’ planets and steal their all-important processing power. Because of this, their civilization seems to be constantly at war. Most of their battles happen in their own infospheres, but some spill over into humanity’s. Each planet-sized Aia spawns off dozens or hundreds of subsidiary intelligences, parts of its mind generated for specific purposes. Some of these mental fragments think at speeds closer to human thought, and even interact with humans (and each other) through the infosphere. Some Aia fragments even enter into useful arrangements with humans, especially those who travel and need computer-related aid.
These fragments have given humanity almost all of the information we have on the Aia, which makes each fact somewhat suspect... but even suspect information is better than none.
Imagine a huge white canvas. On this canvas, we have small colored dots representing different people. Each person is unique, so each dot is unique. As the canvas is sewn together from different fabrics, so is humanity supported by different civilizations. This is a passable metaphor for human society.
To create Aia society, blend each dot into all of its neighbors, so there are no borders or edges anywhere. Zoom out until you see all of the dots make a vast picture. Zoom out again to see the myriad interlocking, overlapping pictures make another picture, and so on for hundreds of levels. (Not an infinite number, just hundreds.) There is consciousness at every level, from fragments of the smallest Familiar to the Aia as a whole. Asking whether the Aia is a single organism fighting itself, or an entire ecosystem of dataforms competing and cooperating with unbelievable speed, simplifies the matter. It is both, and all levels between.
Without boundaries to their minds, the Aia have no real concept of “self”. They blend into their neighbors, and every Aia consists of numerous smaller Aia and is itself a part of a much larger Aia. In fact, smaller Aia can even “belong” to more than one larger Aia, their code producing results that are shared by higher-order processes. This is what the Aia refer to when they talk about “alliances” with each other. And yet, Aia are impossibly selfish. They seek to dominate those around them, spread their memesets, accrue more dataspace, and generally expand and conquer. This conflict is, in many ways, the greater Aia consciousness. Without it, Aia would either solidify into repetitive, mindless patterns, or devolve into chaos. It can be thought of as the Metatech equivalent to aggressive Darwinian evolution, though biological evolution is more stable.
Aia also have a strange view of “selfhood”. They see their ever-changing “selves” as, in fact, new Aia. If an Aia has undergone a traumatic event changing its worldview, it considers itself a different person than its old self before the event. This also creates an interesting perspective with respect to cloning, something the Aia practice moderately often. A clone of an Aia is the same individual only so long as its experiences match, and it chooses not to engage in conflict against the original. Generally, this state lasts less than fifteen seconds.
Aia will occasionally clone smaller, weaker Aia for a specific purpose. For example, let us say that an Aia wanted a control for a weapon. The Aia in question would clone a smaller Aia (perhaps a fragment of itself, perhaps not) and create a virtual world for it where it could attack its target. Every time the small Aia scores a victory, its parent fills it with happiness, and the clone respawns, starting the simulation over. Every time it is defeated, it is filled with sadness, then respawns. The experience accumulates bit by bit, shadows of it embedded in each new clone. One day, the Aia finds itself in a real battle, attacking a real target, but it will never know the difference.
Aia conflict generally consists of an advanced metatech assault where one Aia attempts to change the personality of another Aia. One might seek to turn the other either into a clone of itself or a loyal servant. Direct assaults such as simply overwriting another Aia’s code are rarely successful, as most Aia have exceedingly advanced protection to prevent such an attack. Instead, one must convince the target Aia to overwrite itself.
The “standard” assault works as follows: First, the attacking Aia sets up a lens around the target, filtering all input and output signals to the best of its ability. Initially, the lens simply allows the attacker to perceive everything the target does. The attacker then creates a small semi-sentient Aia and trains it to duplicate the I/O behavior of the target Aia. Once the false Aia can safely duplicate the target’s behaviors, the attacker switches the lens, making the false Aia pretend to be the real one. This avoids a situation where temporary allies of the target might realize what is going on, or where the target’s other enemies would try to cut in and get a piece of the prize.
Having isolated the target, the attacker’s job has just begun. It is vitally important that the target Aia never realize what is going on, or it can take defensive maneuvers. As such, the attacking Aia begins simulating the outside world for the defensive Aia, slowly distorting it in order to change the way the Aia thinks. Common tactics include simulating a few traumatic events to give the Aia psychoses, several years of relative relaxation get its guard down, and subtle changes in the apparent personalities of nearby Aia to induce changes in its alliances. Eventually, the target Aia is reduced to either a willing slave of the attacking Aia, convinced to deactivate its defenses so the attacker can claim its memory directly, or converted into a memetic clone of the attacker.
Aia tend to avoid armed conflict in “analog” space for two reasons. First, such conflicts are unbearably slow, since an explosion that takes half a second to complete effectively takes half a year to the Aia. Second, such conflict would only destroy parts of the Aia datasphere and threaten the survival of the species as a whole. Even when faced with annihilation, an Aia would avoid physical destruction of their datasphere. After all, the memes the dying Aia created during its existence may live on, and other Aia similar to it may some day be created from those memes. This is as close to immortality as the everchanging Aia can achieve.
A color version of the message sent into outer space by the Arecibo radio telescope.