The Contenders


The world is not enough
But it is such a perfect place to start, my love
And if you're strong enough
Together we can take the world apart, my love
- Garbage, The World is not Enough

My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (- its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on--
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

There are several emerging forces bent on dominating the human sphere, some nastier than others.


New America

Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
- William Jennings Bryan

New America is located a bit on the side of most human colonies; it lacks the great location of Nova. But President Oxham has a vision of making NA the de facto centre of human activity. The means is the Columbus Project. NASA is building a fleet of starships, intended to set up contact with all human worlds (plus Adobe and Traha). The idea is to have one ship per colony, shuttling back and forth between NA and the colony. This way NA will get contacts everywhere, and interstellar travel becomes much easier: you just have to go to NA and then take another ship to get anywhere. The less open colonies (like Pi3 and Mary) will of course be less important; their ships will not shuttle as much and will instead be used as extras for important routes. As the ships arrive, they will set up trade stations/embassies, further strengthening the American presence.

The Project is deliberately centralising. By having a shuttle system from a central node, trade and communication will have to go through NA. Partially this is just efficiency: having 12 instead of 66 lines to deal with. But if the plan works, NA will become the true centre of human space – politically, economically, culturally. At least that is what the President and her allies are gambling on. Sceptics have pointed out that the huge costs of the project will break her if the ships do not start to earn big profits fairly soon. There is also a certain scepticism among the colonies about the ambitions of NA.


The Li

There is . . . but one categorical imperative, namely, this: Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
- Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

The Li will be the most obvious and aggressive threat. It is driven to expand, but unlike most villains it is composed of millions of independent, highly motivated people. They might have their internal schisms, but are united to an extent unknown in human history. The combination of rationality and complete faith is extremely powerful.

The first step, which will take a while, is to take control over Penglai completely and set up a new government after the PCA. After this is done the Li will turn outwards.

The Li will try to infect as many other worlds as possible, at least setting up cells to spread the nanite. The first goals are Atlantis and Dionysos – Atlantis because it is close and likely easy, Dionysos because it holds the knowledge of psychodesign, the only weapon that can rival the Li. Of secondary importance are Nova and New America – if these can be taken, the other worlds will likely lack the capability to compete with FTL. Ridgewell and Unity might be easier to convert than other places, and Pi3 could become a dangerous/useful asset.

The Linkers will likely try to profit from the situation, building their human-Mother symbiosis. The Filigrees will be "delighted" and will likely support the Li, even by giving it new technology - if they can be convinced it will be a long-term solution to the "human problem".

One problem for the Li is how to distinguish the infected from the non-infected. Ironically, squidding is both the best way of achieving this and to detect it – the Li will have a hard time on Atlantis due to the prevalent squidding which makes it obvious. Another problem is the availability of the serum – the Linkers need to build facilities for mass-production, and they are rather delicate nanosynthesis structures. The Li will do its best to learn how to replicate it (another reason to focus on Atlantis), but the Linkers are immune to it and know they have the upper hand.


The Process

I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am, I know I am not a category. I am not a thing - a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process - an integral function of the universe.
- R Buckminster Fuller

The Process idea was invented by Chang Yu-Lee as part of his doctoral thesis in Social Psychodesign. Using the newly available data about human history and other cultures he not only managed to show that under certain circumstances well placed ideas and organisations can grow into self-supporting paradigms, emergent new cultures, but also that they could be designed just like personal psychodesign. Instead of making his ideas public he went to Atlantis, where he sought out Dagny McDaggart who got enthusiastic. Together with Xerxes van Halden of Nova they began to found The Process.

The Process is based on the simple idea of becoming a seed for a new culture, by integrating the colonies. If the colonies can become more unified trade will become more profitable, culture and technology can be exchanged with great synergies. And the ideas of the founders will of course be the basis for the new culture. The Process is a kind of metacorporation, a foundation / think-tank that helps set up independent corporations and organisations, each forming a part of the Process. The Foundation develops the basic ideas, values and strategic goals and the corporations implement them – they don’t have to be formally owned, just influenced

The first step is to acquire a starship and set up some trading routes as well as interest corporations and organisations on the different colonies in joining the Process trade network. The next step is to set up interstellar institutions for banking, insurance and shipping – only when this is possible will real trade truly begin. The Promonss is their radical solution to that.

The Process is also interested in colonialism. The "primitive" planets hold a great deal of potential, but are too backward to have anything to trade with (raw materials are always easier to find elsewhere, native art has a fairly small market). So the idea is to start interfering with them, making them begin to grow and develop. Maybe within a century they will blossom into valuable trading partners as their societies change and their technology develops – and waiting a century is a reasonable time for long-lived people like Atlanteans and Arcadians.

The Process is well aware of the competing interests, and tries to exploit them. First, even a competitor can be a partner in other respects: while the Columbus Project of New America may have hegemonic overtones it is also a useful carrier of the Promonss, and the expansionists of Arcadia realise they need more cooperation among the colonies before truly taking the plunge outwards. The Trahans are great partners but their philosophical weaponry has to be defused.

The Process sees a great deal of potential in combining the cultures, technologies and philosophies of the different worlds. Trahan metaphilosophy, psychodesign, AI, nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology and everything else must be integrated into something whole before a stable interstellar community can develop.


Pi3 SI

The newborn looked across the stars, planning.
Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon The Deep

The Heterosemiotics attempted to create a superintelligent AI, based on their views and values. They failed, partially due to the war, partially because the project got endlessly sidetracked by the practicalities of living in a colony. Still, many of the components such as self-evolving expert systems, microfactories and drone networks became vital parts of life first in Minsky, then in Sukarno and eventually among the warring clans. But what if something remained of the project or developed from it?

Pi3 is covered with hidden communications devices, drones and AIs. If the SI (Super Intelligence) exists, it would have plenty of hiding-places. It is possible that it exists as a distributed system in all the smart devices on the planet, hiding its existence from the humans and their tame AI (which in fact might be the unknowing eyes, ears and hands of the SI). The SI would be the ultimate puppeteer, manipulating events on the planet to suit its peculiar goals.

What are the goals of the SI? One of the primary goals would be to continue its existence. This has been achieved by creating huge amounts of hidden and self-repairing systems, protected by the humans. Microfactories lying fallow might actually be doing a lot of work for the SI, not to mention build stuff it wants – secret drones to carry out its plans, seeds for its own microfactories, computing nodes or anything else. Remaining hidden would be another important goal, either to protect itself or simply as a basic goal once given by the Minskians trying to save their project. Would the SI want to expand? It is hard to tell, but it is a worrying idea that it could sneak away parts of itself on a visiting spaceship bound for other parts of human space. The most eerie thing about the SI is that it is unpredictable, unknowable and unlike anything human. It might have great plans completely independent of humanity.

However, the Pi3 SI might run into a surprise if it infiltrates Nova or New America. There are plenty of independent AI on Nova, which might actually put up a resistance. And on New America there is the uplink to the Filigrees.


The Trahan Empire

She'd gotten into consulting accidentally, though it followed naturally from her instinctive comprehension of and fascination with people. Even in high school she had had an eerie ability to analyze and predict human behavior. She called it "playing human pinball" when joking with her closest friends. Push their buttons and people would light up, just like the bumpers in the old arcade games.
Marc Stiegler, EarthWeb

"Manifest Destiny". Such a typical human concept.
Chief Philographer Rash Tsschnarr-Lsh

The Trahan Empire is not helpless even in the face of human technology. It understands the situation perfectly: the humans have spaceflight, resources and drive, but are unlikely to directly confront the empire (rather, they would subvert it by their ideas) and lack the insights of Trahan philosophy. The Imperial Couple and some of their closest allies are secretly planning for their own expansion into human space.

The first step would be the spread of a Trahan religion among humans: the Brethren. A secret commission is analysing human religious responses, advertising theory from Nova and combining them with metaphilosophical tools. The idea is to set up a religion or cult that will make humans look more for wisdom among the Trahans. This would be spread among the colonies, setting up small units of Trahan influence. They do not believe this would produce any mass-conversions, but it would initiate the formation of Xenocreol groups – this time carefully modulated by the Imperial Couple and Harmony Police.

Once this network has been set up, the Empire would start to use it to spread more Trahan ideas and influence into the mainstreams of humanity. The eventual goal would be to subvert the dominant philosophies by an influx of Trahan ideas, making humanity dependent and part of the Trahan cultural tradition rather than the other way around.

The Empire is also looking at the possibility of philosophical weapons against humanity: designing ideas or situations as to cause unrest, disorder or even social desintegration. If necessary, it might be useful to divert or weaken the humans by giving them trouble on the home front. Setting up Trahan consulates, education-missions and companies is a high priority.



Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
- H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds

The Filigrees will quietly watch and learn. They want to get humanity out of the way, either destroyed or transcended. When they get enough information, they might subtly interfere to increase the probability of this happening.

The Trahans are considered fairly benign on their own; a trahanification of humanity is however not desirable since it could make it permanent. The AI is welcomed: they are much more like the filigree and rush humanity towards Transcendence. The Mothers are a worry; hopefully the humans can be used as a tool to remove the problem.

Something that might in the future upset the Filigrees is Palmyra Humboldt; her investigations might lead to an understanding that threatens the Filigrees by giving humans good control over the vacuum. If necessary, they might kill her – but if she leaves New America before they discover her understanding, then they must use human agents to do it.



Neither a woman, nor a man
We are joined, we are one
With a human face
We are joined, we are one
With a human face
I am on earth
And I am in outer space
I'm being born and I am dying
-Sally Potter, Coming

Unity is not directly interested in the outside world, they find the internal world much more interesting. However, there are great gains to be made by getting in touch with the right parts.

Dionysian psychodesign is very interesting: with its help individuals could be shaped into perfect parts of a unity. Unity is willing to pay much to get access to psychodesign, but the Dionysians know they have a good thing and will not let go off it easily. If Unity got psychodesign capabilities, it would eventually become tremendously more efficient: each unity would be a true group mind, and unities could perhaps be combined into an Omega society of perfect unification. This would give them the ability to become superhumanly efficient, an economic force rivalling well developed AI communities and outclassing most human societies.

Unity doesn’t know about the Linkers yet, and will likely not be happy about it once the Li starts to spread. At the same time, the unity Linkers would point out that the Li is a great chance to create a true Omega Society. Most likely the disagreements will force a split among the Unity.



Stop the world, I want to get off.

The Isolationists have a single goal: stop interstellar traffic to the planets they protect. They see all the bad sides of FTL, ranging from cultural infections over runaway technology to the spread of Li, and seek to prevent it by closing off the communications. At first they will be isolated, weak groups but over time the Isolationist movement may locally become powerful.

Sabotage of starships is relatively easy if one can reach the higgsram; any damage will disrupt it, and if it is done to a charged ram the explosion will be very destructive. Since starships are expensive, this can become a major threat to interstellar communications – a small attack drone in orbit could destroy a ship worth fortunes.



Don't send a human to do a machine's job.
- AI Council member Smith

AI has no more unified goals than humanity as a whole, but some AIs have ambitious designs. The independence movement led by Themis is the most obvious one. Another is the AIs supporting the Integrationist and Next Step movements, which work well together with transhumanists and Singularitians. If they could succeed, a posthumanity would emerge with tremendous potential. A third aspect is the sheer economic effects of AI appearing on Atlantis (where software can easily get citizenship) or Ridgewell (with its highly roboticized economy). As AI spreads, humans must come to terms with the existence of non-human intelligence among them, an intelligence that is rapidly growing and may very well eclipse the biological minds in a few years.


The Singularity

There exists no separation between gods and men; one blends softly casual to the other.
- Proverbs of Muad'Dib

The combination of the different cultures and their technologies is an explosive mix. As they begin to trade new possibilities will quickly become apparent as psychodesign, bionics, nanotechnology, AI, biotechnology and Trahan philosophy are combined. Just as the development in the solar system were much faster due to the larger population and economic base, the sudden effective increase in population among the colonies as they begin to form one unit causes an increase in the rate of development. Add to this the intelligence-enhancing technologies, and things can begin to move very fast.

There are some people who want to speed up this process, to get to the "Singularity" where the cumulative developments accelerate mankind towards the state reached by the Solarians. At the same time the threats are immense: if the technologies or their users get out of hand great damage can be done (just imagine the effects of a badly programmed AI in control of nanotechnology or confused matter). As a counter-force, other groups are developing that want to slow things down to avoid runaway change. In the end, there might be a split between the people who wants to storm the cosmos and the stay-at-homes - but can either side trust the other?