Re: Future Perfect

Anders Sandberg (
18 Mar 1999 13:45:09 +0100

"Scott Badger" <> writes:

> >Permutation City?
> >The Culture?
> >The High Beyond?
> Elizier, could you briefly describe these different environments for the
> benefit of those amongst us who are unfamiliar with the above references?

I'll do it instead:

Permutation City (from Greg Egan's book of the same name): a self-contained virtual universe completely independent of the physical universe. It consists of an expanding cube of replicating turing machines, each with its own expanding cube of memory (it is really a 6+1 dimensional cellular automaton). It is inhabited by uploads living in their various virtual worlds, as well as another cellular-automaton universe containing a simulated solar system inhabited by its own creatures.

The Polises (Greg Egan's _Diaspora_): After the Introdus, most of humanity lives as information in polises, nanotech supercomputers hidden here and there. The Earth is inhabited by the remaining "fleshers", many of which have re-engineered themselves to new forms, and space by the Gleisner robots, uploads in robot bodies. The polises tend to have different ideologies and aesthetics, ranging from introverted art to interests in politics (Carter-Zimmerman for example tries to make the other polises keep in touch with base reality). Citizens have access to all the possibilities of an upload existence, such as backups, copying, mental modification, enhanced introspection and everything else.

The Culture (from Iain M Bank's books): A big interstellar civilization of humans and AI. Since all material demands can be supplied by non-intelligent machines and most intellectual problems can be solved by the super-AIs (the Minds), people (and machines) mostly have fun: everything from playing with their drug-glands to building ringworlds to helping out less fortunate civilizations. It is a kind of anarchist alliance.

The High Beyond (from Vernor Vinge's _A Fire Upon the Deep_): the galaxy is divided into zones where different levels of complexity can develop. The Earth is in the Slow Zone where AI, FTL and nanotech is unfortunately impossible (see his latest book about that). Outside the Slow Zone lies the Beyond, where these things are possible, and outside that lies the Transcend, where *real* superintelligence is feasible. The High Beyond lies near the border, and is inhabited by millions of civilizations trading with each other, the Transcend and the Low Beyond. Many are more or less augmented, and there is a gradual drift as they move into the Transcend and new civilizations bubble up from below.

Other transhuman cultures from sf:

The Logarchy (from Walter John William's _Aristoi_): After the Earth was destroyed by grey goo, the survivors managed to create a new civilization based on a kind of meritocracy, which eventually evolved into the Logarchy. It is run by a few hundred Aristoi, people who are simply best at everything: they are both geniuses, artists, administrators and with impeccable morals (everybody can take exams to become an Aristoi). Each Aristoi is responsible for a domain of planets (many of which are terraformed new worlds), which he or she runs with the help of a hierarchy of administrators (also selected by examinations). The domains tend to become rather individual, and people can move freely between them. Mental techniques, AI-subpersonalities, an open interstellar internet (the Hyperlogos) and very long life extension are widely used, however only the Aristoi may freely experiment with nanotech due to the risks.

David Zindell describes several cultures in his books (Neverness, The Broken God, The Wild, War in Heaven). Most of the stories center around the Civilized Worlds which have decided against radical transformations of humanity; they are influenced by the Order of Metaphysical Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame, an academic organization. However, there are some groups who have developed in other directions: The Agathinians are humans who have re-designed themselves to live as dolphin- and seal-humans in the warm oceans of the planet Agathange, designing biological nanotechnology and working on building a planetary consciousness. The inhabitants of Alumit Bridge live in huge plastic cities where they try to form super-enlightened group-minds. There are several people who have uploaded themselves and become jupiter-brain gods, most notably Nicolas Daru Ede (worshipped by the Architects of the Cybernetic Church) and the Silicon Goddess.

The Protektorate (from Charles Platt's _Protektor_): An interstellar computer-run civilization, where semisentinent computers try to maximize human happiness according to a well defined code (think Asimov's laws, but more developed and flexible). Humans are biologically immortal, have access to over a 100,000 planets, their needs are supplied by automation and each has a monthly allotment of resources (you can of course earn more by trade); most humans simply play around. Unlike in the Culture, where the benevolent AI is superintelligent, the Protektorate discourages scientific research (especially computer science) - everybody has their needs fulfilled, it would only be dangerous to introduce new stuff. Of course, you are free to leave and set up your own planet somewhere else, but the temptation of the help from the Protektorate tends to make escape attempts fail.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y