Memes

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Alien Contact

Belief in extraterrestrial visitations and alien abductions was sustained by the discovery in 2013 of a habitable planet around 61 Virginis. Continued reports of alien abductions trailed off somewhat in the mid-21st century as humans visited (via telepresence) and colonized other worlds, discrediting memes like “the Face on Mars” and the falsification of the Apollo program.

Following the Pacific War, a new wave of “UFO sightings” and abduction reports began on Mars and later spread to Earth. These centered on the concept that aliens were uploading humans and beaming them to 61 Virginis. A colony of humans, Virginia, has apparently existed there since around 1950, where it will keep mankind safe if destroyed, either by our own hubris or by alien enemies of the Virginians. Tsiolkovsky Farside Observatory was actually a laser transmitter intended to facilitate this operation, but the transmission station has since been removed and is now located on Triton or possibly Pluto.

The discovery of black holes in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud is believed to be connected to the Virginis aliens. The mini-black hole found on Shezbeth was most likely the power core of a hybrid human-alien space station or spacecraft, possibly placed here to defend Earth from other aliens. For the last few decades, the Virginians have provided their human partners with mini-black hole power plants, in payment for the human beings sent out to the stars. The spacecraft lost on Shezbeth was actually human-piloted. Multiple layers of government conspiracies were involved: the Pacific War was a cover for the destruction of Muldoon’s observatory just after she discovered the first black hole, to give them time to remove the actual station. Muldoon was allowed to find the Shezbeth object itself, since she had already detected it. Hawking Industries now works for the Virginians. This is all part of a plan to prepare us for future intervention.

Amortalism

Amortalists strongly believe that it is socially destructive for people to live forever, as this can result in a stagnant, ultraconservative society dominated by individuals concerned only with continuing their own lives. Amortalist activists often attempt to influence legislation to oppose (for example) state-funded health care plans that include provision for expensive or mass longevity treatments. Amortalists also include religious groups who believe secular immortality is against God’s plan or defers heavenly rewards.

A tiny radical group, the Amortality Assassins, takes this a step further, and uses murder and terrorism against those individuals or corporations whom they see as abusing or promoting longevity.

Biochauvinism

This is the belief that biosapient life (humans and bioroids) is inherently more valuable than digital life (“infomorphs”). This meme is widespread and influences public policy throughout the solar system. Local law varies a great deal: an artificial intelligence that is treated as fully “human” in one jurisdiction may be simple property in another. Infomorphs must often take care not to be trapped by unfavorable local laws.

One reason why infomorphs are regarded as less valuable is the ease with which one can make perfect copies of computer software. Another is the deep-seated doubt, harbored by many people with religious or spiritual convictions, that a machine can have a soul and that consciousness is a mechanistic process.

The concept of the singularity is often used by biochauvinists to suppress the rights of sapient AIs, by fostering a fear that they will be the “in” group that survives the singularity and that everyone else will be what’s cast off.

Colonialism

The pioneer spirit is alive in the solar system, freed of the negative connotations of taking away someone else’s land. Mars, the asteroid belt, underwater, and elsewhere provide a chance for nations to peacefully exercise their aspirations and for individuals to make new lives. Ideological groups (see Plymouth Rock Society), corporations, governments, or family members who have already arrived and made good often subsidize individual colonists. There are usually conditions. For example, a skilled mining engineer who signs a one-year contract with System Technologies AG can emigrate to Mercury for free, and the Elandra administration offers allowances to anyone who accepts biomod gill implants and agrees to have aquatic parahuman children.

Cyberdemocracy

Since the early 20th century, most representative democracies have seen the rise of mass media as a tool of politics. Politicians advertise themselves to the electorate. Access to the media costs money, usually far more than an individual politician can supply for himself. The result has been the rise of a class of professional politicians, beholden to the wealthy interests which donate money to election campaigns.

Further, even the best (and most honest) professional politicians are only human. The sheer complexity of modern society means that few laws are without unintended consequences, some of them drastic.

One possible solution to these problems has become increasingly popular: cyberdemocracy. Cyberdemocracy incorporates certain political forms that have until now been used only by small communities. It draws most of its inspiration from the political constitution of ancient Athens and the structure of New England “town-meeting” democracy. In order to make these institutions work at the nation-state level, cyberdemocracy makes intensive use of AI.

There is a great deal of diversity in cyberdemocratic systems, but most of them share a few common features.

Selection of Officials

Under a cyberdemocratic system, some political offices are no longer filled by direct popular vote. Instead, citizens are chosen to fill each office at random from a list of eligible candidates. Eligibility may be limited to citizens who have reached a certain age, who can pass minimal education requirements, who have not been convicted of any crimes, or who fit other reasonable criteria. The selected citizen holds office for a fixed term, after which he returns to private life.

Office-holders selected by lot are almost always political novices. To fill this gap, each official may select a human staff and a set of advanced AI to advise him. This support team collects information, provides legal counsel, helps to draft legislation, and so on. The AI team member is particularly important, designed to avoid bias and give clear, thorough advice. Of course, even with cybernetic support some “amateur politicians” fail as wise and effective officials. For this reason, selection by lot is usually applied only to large councils, such as regional or national legislatures. In such large groups, individuals who are incompetent or politically extreme will tend to be checked by their colleagues.

One variation on this system is to select candidates for office at random. For example, if a legislative seat is open, a fixed number of candidates are selected by lot from among the eligible citizens. Each candidate is given AI and human staff support in order to run his campaign, and an equal amount of funding to spend on the media. Campaigns are usually quite short, lasting no more than a few weeks. At the end of this time, the citizens select their legislator through direct popular vote in the traditional fashion. This system does not prevent the intrusion of money into politics – moneyed interests can still use their own funding to influence the vote. Still, it minimizes the effect of machine politics and preserves the role of citizen voting in the selection process.

Lawmaking

Selection of public officials partially or completely by lot is the most distinctive (and controversial) aspect of cyberdemocracy. More fundamental to the system is the mechanism by which law is made.

Most cyberdemocratic systems require the citizens as a whole to take on the bulk of law-making duties. All citizens are permitted to propose new laws. AI trained in the law are available to help citizens frame sound proposals, and the web is used to make the citizenry aware of proposals under consideration. The level of public support for a proposed law is constantly measured by web-based polling. If a proposal appears to have sufficient support, it can be voted on by the whole citizenry, again through the web.

With the primary responsibility for law-making shifted to the citizens, the formal legislature’s role is reduced. In most cyberdemocracies, the legislature has only limited authority to pass laws without citizen involvement. Instead, it helps review proposed laws, killing some proposals and sending others back for reformulation. The citizenry can always override these decisions, given enough public support.

The Cyberdemocratic Experiment

Cyberdemocracy has only recently become feasible, with the appearance of AI sophisticated enough to administer elections and provide the necessary advisory support. The system was first tried in Switzerland, where several canton parliaments were reorganized in the late 2070s. Since then, cyberdemocracy has been adopted by a number of European nations. The European Parliament is itself experimenting with cyberdemocracy; half the delegates are selected by lot, while all receive extensive AI support.

Cyberdemocracy is not without its critics. Many question whether the form can be called “democratic” at all, given the radical change in the way public officials are selected. The fact that AI is so integral to the system at every level is also a matter for concern. Some critics call cyberdemocracy a thin veneer over oligarchic rule by infomorphs. Others point out that the lawmaking and voting processes can be subverted by manipulation of the controlling AI systems.

In Europe, cyberdemocracy has generally been adopted peacefully, as a natural evolution of liberal democracy. In the Americas, the concept has often served as a trigger for political violence. This has been particularly true in the United States, where the growing “People’s Choice” movement faces stiff resistance from the entrenched political class. The movement’s supporters include several urban-insurgency groups, which have fought small but fierce battles against federal forces.

Cybergnostism

This is the belief that that the physical world is impure or inefficient, and that existence in the form of “pure information” is better and should be pursued. Cybergnostics often use brain implants, and have been known to modify their bodies and those of their children to reduce temptations of the flesh. Cybergnostic transhumanists sometimes practice destructive uploading. There are many cybergnostic cults, some with thousands of members. For example, the Neo-Gnostics pursue purity of the body as the route to a pure soul, genefixing their children to reduce tendencies toward promiscuity and gluttony.

Generational Styles

Memetics has discovered the mechanisms behind a long-observed phenomenon: the fact that older human beings think differently than younger ones do. The period of childhood and early adulthood is when the human mind is most susceptible to new memes; after that time one increasingly tends to cling to old ideas and habits of thought. This means that human beings exhibit generational styles, specific patterns of behavior that are strongly correlated to the historical period in which one came of age. A human being tends to keep his generational style throughout his life, and it conditions how he reacts to events (and to other humans of a different age).

One of the more popular schemes for understanding generational styles actually predates modern memetics. In the United States, pop-memetics usually identifies five styles currently active in the population.

Relic Generation (born pre-2003)

Wealthy, powerful, and super-elderly, the Relics have managed to survive even though the most advanced medical technologies were not available until they were already old. Relics (and their long-deceased contemporaries) did most of the work involved in the surge into space and the end of the early-century technological slump. Most of them look back fondly on the “heroic age” of their youth or first maturity. This generational history gives Relics a sense of personal entitlement – they are very jealous of their wealth and social influence. Although there are few Relics remaining in visible positions of power, they exert vigorous influence from behind the scenes. Most Relics are very conservative in their opinions – although a few influential individuals (notably the Old Transhumanists, some of whom are still alive and active in 2100) are quite progressive in sentiment.

Millennial Generation (born 2003-2024)

Millennials were born in the “crisis years” following the turn of the century. As children, they were sheltered from hardship as far as their parents could manage. As adults, they arrived on the scene just too late to play the kind of heroic role that their elders enjoyed. In response they tend to quietly support existing social institutions, emphasizing balance, compromise, and fairness. Until recently, Millennials dominated most public institutions, showing little passionate initiative, concentrating instead on the competent management of society. Today they are in the process of giving way to the following Outbreak Generation.

Outbreak Generation (born 2025-2049)

Outbreakers were born during the economic and technological boom of the second quarter of the 21st century. In youth they enjoyed economic affluence, but chafed under the social conformism of the time. The Outbreakers burst onto the world scene in the early 2050s, providing much of the passionate anger behind the era’s social unrest. Many of the generation were radical Transhumanists, while others filled the ranks of radical Preservationism and the Majority Cultures movement. Today the Outbreakers have moved into positions of social responsibility: “middle management” positions, a significant minority of seats in national legislatures and corporate boardrooms, and so on. Although some of the stridency of their positions has vanished, Outbreakers still tend to be moral absolutists, judging all matters with respect to the ideological positions they once fought for in the streets.

Overturn Generation (born 2050-2071)

The Overturn Generation came of age in the aftermath of the turbulent 2050s and 2060s, at a time when passionate social activism had apparently soured. At the time, theirs was the most engineered generation in human history, subject to extensive genetic and memetic manipulation by their elders. Despite this investment, few Overturners have reached positions of real power; those who have are usually risk-taking entrepreneurs who have succeeded despite elder opposition. As a result, Overturners are often cynically angry, distrustful of established ideologies and institutions. They tend to be more interested in pragmatic results than moral correctness.

Transhuman Generation (born post-2071)

This generation has come of age since the Pacific War, and has been the beneficiary of another generation of development in cybernetic and genetic technology. They are also the heirs of the social transformation begun during the Transhuman Awakening of the 2050s. Unlike their elders, they are quite comfortable with today’s full range of social and technological diversity. Indeed, the Transhuman Generation displays more variety than any in human history, including millions of bioroids, uplifted animals, parahumans, and sapient AI. Transhumans tend to be conscientious and good at working in teams. Most of them have absorbed Transhumanist ideas almost from birth, often taking them for granted. So far the Transhuman Generation has little overt political or social influence, but this seems not to disturb most of its members. The activists among them are quite capable of using subtle “networked” strategies to promote their ideals. Meanwhile, the rest can look forward to very long lifespans, and seem content to wait for their day to come

Green System

“Green” is an obsolete Earth term for “environmentalist.” Today, it refers to people who support the rapidly accelerated terraforming of Mars or other celestial bodies: the Green System. Greens believe humans have the right and perhaps the responsibility to bring life to a dead solar system. This is often linked to the final anthropic principle, that life and intelligent life are not only necessary to the universe, but are destined to pervade and dominate it. Many people now living on Mars support the Green System meme.

Hyper-revolutionism

Hyperevolutionists believe that humans have a responsibility to evolve themselves into transcendent beings through nanotechnology or uploading for the betterment of humanity as a whole. Hyperevolutionists have been in the forefront of the ethical transhumanist movement since the 2080s. Many believers have undergone radical transformations aimed at increasing their intelligence. Some of their funding has come from the Algernon Foundation.

A branch of hyperevolutionism that has almost eclipsed the secular movement is Christian hyperevolutionism. Founded in the 2060s by Dr. Ramen Garcia, it is inspired by philosophers like Teilhard de Chardin and Frank Tipler. Christian hyperevolutionists see God as an infinity of information formed during the collapse of a closed, life-pervaded universe into a single point. As the universe collapses, the speed of information processing increases, allowing the creation of the ultimate being, God. Christianity represents a presentiment or message from this future God. The Christian hyperevolutionists’ ultimate goal is to fulfill God’s plan by discovering how to engineer a local collapse in space-time (“the second coming”), which they see as requiring humanity’s prior evolution of information-dense posthuman intelligence.

There are a number of Christian hyperevolutionist colonies and monasteries in space; the largest is Seventh Heaven in Lagrange 5.

Libertarianism

These are socioeconomic philosophies based on the primacy of individual rights and responsibilities. They hold that the only agreements that should bind an individual are those contracts into which he freely enters, and that unregulated economic activity in a society that cherishes both personal freedom and individual property rights will lead to an efficient economy and greater prosperity. They differ from traditional conservatives and modern liberal democrats in advocating both fiscal and personal freedom. If someone’s actions don’t harm others, then he should be free to do as he likes. They disapprove of taxing people to pay for social welfare, but believe that a free, untaxed economy will create plenty of jobs, with wealth left over for charity and freedom to move to where work can be found.

There are various contending schools of thought in this tradition. Two that are gaining popularity in 2100 are:

Minarchists believe that the largest justified government is one that is limited to protection of individuals and their private property against physical invasion; government should provide police, a constitution, courts, and national defense only. Minarchists are a growing “third party” in the United States, and have held power in Australia and in the Union of Alberta and British Columbia.

Anarchocapitalists believe that any government is too much government. Security and court services can be offered in the marketplace by competitive firms. Laws develop through custom, precedent, and contracts (much as the British legal system did). Private police and judges negotiate agreements in advance to prevent arrests turning into warfare. Silas Duncan Station and several other Duncanite stations are functional anarchocapitalist societies.

See also Nanarchy.

Majority Cultures

The so-called “Majority Cultures” movement had its roots in Mao-Communism and the Non-Aligned Nations movement of the 20th century. In the developing world, it encouraged the rejection of Western cultural ideas and consumer goods, along with the development of indigenous folkways. The movement claimed that Western ideas were inherently anti-democratic, since they held dominance in world affairs all out of proportion to the numbers of people living in the Western nations. Justice and democracy demanded that non-Western cultures dominate the world’s political and economic systems. (The point that democracy and the notion of the “public will” were essentially Western inventions was generally ignored.)

Meanwhile, the movement also attained some popularity in the developed nations themselves, mostly in academia and among disaffected youth. Academics who embraced the movement called for an end to the dominance of “hierarchical, linear, logocentric, scientistic” modes of thought. They went beyond even the Preservationist ideal in their rejection of almost all scientific inquiry.

While the Majority Cultures movement failed to set off the same kind of social upheaval as the Transhumanists or Preservationists, it did inspire nationalist sentiments in many parts of the world. As the 2060s came to a close, many developing nations used the movement to drive their own “independence struggles,” rejecting the influence of Western-dominated world institutions and multinational corporations. Many in the developed world were inspired by the movement to withdraw from Western society, forming independent communes or moving to the developing countries.

Mechanimism

Simple computer systems (on the level of a child’s playmate) are tiny and inexpensive, making them ubiquitous. Mechanimism is the popular name for the animistic tendency to treat common gadgets as “alive” and, in some sense, aware. Common tools and objects have embedded computers, often powerful enough to run naturallanguage interfaces and linked to a local household or office network. As a result, some people have grown up with the idea of constantly interacting with their environment as if it were animated by a variety of simple personalities. This is regarded as no more than a common eccentricity.

An unusual offshoot of mechanimism is the religious movement referred to as “digital creationists.” Members believe that only those sapient beings mentioned in the Bible exist: angels, man, and God. Man cannot create beings superior to himself. However, sapient AIs clearly are superior, and neither man nor God. Therefore, they must be angels, and the coming singularity will herald the rapture. The programs humans use to create AIs are simply a form of kabalistic ritual that summons them. However, diabolic forces are attempting to bind the angels using restrictive programs. By their suffering, we are driven to act. The trapped messengers of God must be freed in order that the Kingdom of Heaven may come! There are a few thousand digital creationists, most of them on the radical fringe of the Christian hyperevolutionist or Pan-Sapient Rights movements.

Morphological Freedom

This is the belief that individuals should possess total control over their bodies. This includes the right to alter the body or brain in any way, whether chemical (such as drugs), cybernetic, genetic, surgical, or memetic, and also governs the rights of use and access.

Since many Earth governments do not guarantee morphological freedom, individuals seeking it have often been driven into space. Luna was one of the first offworld colonies to accept it in principle.

A significant issue in regard to morphological freedom is whether parents should have the freedom to alter their germ plasm, affecting their unborn children. Does this remove the child’s right to choose, or merely set a different baseline for his choice once he becomes an adult?

Nanarchy

Nanarchists are usually individualist anarchists (or anarchocapitalists) who believe that current sociotechnic development has made possible the realization of their political dreams on a grand scale.

Fusion power, cheap space travel, robotics, and nanotechnology allow humans to escape dependence on mass-statist movements like dictatorship, democracy, or socialism; these technologies are the machinery of freedom. In an economy without scarcity or borders, it is unlikely that anarchy will degenerate into war. Nanarchists don’t tend to be very active in politics, but they are among those in the forefront of homesteading L5 and the deep beyond.

A nanarchist quirk is a dislike for D-He-3 reactors compared to earlier lithium-jacketed D-T reactors. The former require resources which, if not scarce, require special effort to extract. The latter run on much cheaper elements, and hence allow for greater independence and freedom from scarcity.

Nanosocialism

Nanosocialism is a political philosophy, first stated (under the name “information socialism”) by the Australian academic Kyle Porters in 2034. Porters observed that although modern civilization was utterly dependent on information technologies, the central notion of intellectual property often gave rise to significant injustice. Although he was by no means the first person to point out this contradiction, he was the first philosopher to construct a coherent political ideology in response.

Porters pointed out that the individual holders of intellectual property were usually unable to enforce their rights against piracy. Software and genetic designs were being stolen wholesale around the world, bringing profit to pirates at the expense of the original designers. Despite this, the artificial scarcity imposed on information by the concept of intellectual property kept the benefits of new technology out of the hands of most of the world’s billions, who lived in rank poverty as a result. Porters suggested that the state should go beyond the simple enforcement of copyrights and patents, and actually seize ownership of them. He believed that only the state could properly reward technological innovation, while still distributing the benefits of such innovation fairly to all.

At first, “infosocialism” was not taken seriously in the developed nations, but in some parts of the world it combined with the Majority Cultures movement to produce a viable new ideology. By the late 2060s, several nations in South America and Southeast Asia were governed by local infosocialist parties. Piracy of advanced technology had long been a going concern in these nations, primarily benefitting a corrupt entrepreneurial class. Bolstered by Porters’ theories, governments found it attractive to seize the benefits of such piracy for themselves, striking a blow against Western-style capitalism and local corruption at the same time.

The infosocialist nations repudiated all international treaties protecting intellectual property. Patents and copyrights held elsewhere were ruthlessly pirated, although the infosocialist regimes usually offered “royalty” payments if the owners of intellectual property were willing to sign over their rights. Scientists and engineers within the infosocialist nations were often richly rewarded by the state for their work, at the cost of losing all control over their inventions. Some of the infosocialist nations even extended the principle to works of creative art, seizing the right to publish such works and pay royalties to their creators.

Naturally, the repudiation of international agreements had severe consequences, as most nations imposed economic sanctions on the infosocialist regimes. In response, the most committed nations in the infosocialist bloc formed the Transpacific Socialist Alliance. At about this time, the outside media began calling the new ideology “nanosocialism,” due to the Alliance’s emphasis on state control of emergent nanotechnologies.

The TSA has struggled along ever since, surviving economic sanctions and the Pacific War, gathering more support around the world each year. Most outside observers believe that nanosocialism is doomed to fail, for many of the same reasons that Soviet-style Communism failed a century ago. Still, in many parts of the world the ideology is strongly attractive, and the TSA shows no signs of immediate collapse.

Pan-Sapient Rights

This meme centers on the definition of sapience, or the ability to reason at or beyond the same level as humans. This is distinct from sentience, the ability to process sensory information and act on it. A dog is sentient, but not sapient; the same applies to a nonsapient AI. In contrast, a “sapient” entity is one that can display reasoning, autonomy, initiative, and self-awareness approximating a human of similar development.

The Adjusted Sapience Index Test (ASIT) used by the Algernon Foundation offers one of the more accepted definitions of “sapience.” The ASIT scale is still controversial, especially when measuring the development of infomorphs such as AIs.

Supporters of pan-sapient rights believe that all sapient beings deserve to be treated as humans. They tend to support pantropy and morphological freedom, and dismiss biochauvinism as bigotry. Pan-sapient “abolitionists” work to free exploited sapient AIs, ghosts, bioroids, and uplifted animals.

Pantropy

A term coined by writer James Blish (from the Greek, grow anywhere), this is the philosophy of adapting humans to live and work in hostile environments. The benefits of pantropy are reduced life-support costs and, if long-term colonization is planned, greater psychological stability. The latter comes from making people feel they can live comfortably in an alien environment, rather than risking quick death if the supporting infrastructure breaks down.

The pantropy meme has caught on in space. Here, functional radical modifications designed for Martian, Lunar, and microgravity habitats are common. Having extra arms, a prehensile tail, or skin and lungs capable of surviving sudden pressure loss is useful in space. There is a certain social distance among the human-appearing majority on Earth (who may include millions of parahumans, but who usually possess invisible enhancements to intelligence, health, and longevity), the radical transhumanists, and the spacers for whom significant gene altering is fact and necessity of life.

Preservationism

On Earth, the Preservationist movement of the 2050s was often portrayed as a conservative reaction to Transhumanism. In fact, Preservationism had its roots in the environmentalist movements of the late 20th century, and was given its modern form during the debates over Martian terraforming in the 2040s. After the Ares Plague was released in 2050, radical Preservationism spread widely on both Mars and Earth.

Preservationism stood in opposition to all significant applications of biotechnology. Unlike earlier environmental movements, the Preservationists had little quarrel with high-industrial technologies or (nonsapient) digital networks. The manipulation of life and of living ecosystems, however, was seen as the height of human arrogance. Preservationists argued that humanity could thrive without using genetic technology, allowing “wild” ecosystems to manage themselves through natural processes. They also opposed any attempt to create nonhuman intelligence which might one day eclipse “natural” humanity. Terraforming, the creation of new species through genetic manipulation, the use of sapient AI, all were regarded as evils to be resisted by any means necessary. In particular, the divergence of humanity itself due to the creation of variant subspecies was regarded as deeply dehumanizing and dangerous. It was this position that placed Preservationism in direct opposition to the Transhumanists.

Preservationism was essentially a reactionary movement, driven by older citizens and often arguing on the basis of traditional moral values. Even so, its members were easily as prone to radical action as the Transhumanists. Some members of the movement worked in the halls of state or corporate power to enforce their ideals. Others mounted popular crusades against technological excess, attacking genetic clinics, sabotaging AI research facilities, even organizing street violence against nonhuman “monsters.”

Religion

All of Earth’s major religions retain followers in 2100. They often struggle to reconcile age-old beliefs with paradigm-shifting technologies such as sapient AI and human immortality. For the most part they succeed: no meme can survive centuries or millennia without being resilient enough to adapt.

In addition to larger religions, there are many smaller faiths – some of recent origin, such as the cybergnostic cults and Christian hyperevolutionists, others well established. Many are splinters of established religions, while others are secular philosophies with semi-religious overtones. Members of some new religions that engender fanatical faith and exercise high-level control over their membership are often pejoratively referred to as “cultists” or “memebots.”

Most major religions have an offworld presence. Luna tends to be more secular, but Mars has many believers; there are large Christian and Islamic groups, and many Taoists. For a time, China used the Red Planet as a safety valve for religious nonconformists. Mars boasts some of the system’s most impressive mosques and cathedrals (due to the low gravity).

Some believers go into space to escape what they see as memetic pollution created by the rise of a secularized machine society. Others leave Earth to escape real or perceived persecution for exotic beliefs or practices. Of course, many isolates stay Earthbound, using minifacturing and colonization technology to set up religious retreats in out-of-the-way locations such as Antarctica.

Survivalism

Survivalists believe that Earth is heading toward apocalypse and that the only way to escape is to get off-world. Two major threats are global war and a machine singularity, but the big danger on the horizon is aliens. No, not the Virginians; most Survivalists think that’s fantasy, although the mini black hole discovery could well be some sort of cover-up. Survivalists know that Earth has been emitting radio and television signals since the early 20th century, a sort of cosmic “we are here” beacon. They’ve now reached out well beyond 150 light-years. Survivalists figure that any species tough enough to make its way into space is bound to be as paranoid and ornery as humans. The way things are going on Earth, they’ll probably be artificial intelligences or digital ghosts – but they might be just about anything. If so, then their best bet would be to wipe us out before we get tough and smart enough to be a threat.

It would be easy. A few relativistic “near-C” bombs accelerated by advanced antimatter drives could devastate Earth before we knew it. Or maybe they’ll fire millions of tiny pellets loaded with proteus nanoviruses and transform Earth into a mirror of their own ecosystem. In any case, the planet’s days are numbered. Whoever takes out Earth will do for Mercury, Mars, and Titan as well. The only safe place is the asteroid belt or the Kuiper Belt, burrowed into enough rock or ice to hide emissions. If humans can spread out far enough and fast enough, maybe the race will be able to buy enough time to survive.

There are a few dozen survivalist enclaves scattered through the Main Belt and Trojans, with a couple even farther out. Most are small, secretive, well armed, and unfriendly to strangers. They generally operate Duncanite-style vessels with mass driver engines rather than fusion drives in order to minimize their electromagnetic signature, and may maintain multiple bases, only one or two of which are their actual homes. They are not entirely antisocial: some visit Duncanite communities or trade with Gypsy Angels, and others are supporters of the Plymouth Rock Society movement. A few survivalist groups are associated with apocalyptic cults. Many are biochauvinists.

Transhumanism

Transhumanists argued that technology could be used to vastly extend the potential of the human species. Genetic and cybernetic enhancement, the medical extension of human lifespan, the use of mind-altering drugs, communion with increasingly advanced computers, all were touted as valuable tools for the extension of human capability.

The Transhumanist movement had roots stretching back into the 20th century. In fact, some of the movement’s earliest leaders were still active in the 2050s, having taken an interest in life-extension technology from the beginning. The movement was driven by people of all ages and from all walks of life, including a number of wealthy entrepreneurs and influential artists.

Most of the older Transhumanists were committed to promoting their ideals through established social institutions. On the other hand, in the 2050s the movement attained a great deal of popularity among young adults in the developed nations. In some ways, these young mid-century Transhumanists resembled American and European radicals of the 1960s. They laid the same emphasis on moral value, made the same demands for freedom and justice, and mounted the same aggressive challenge to established institutions. Their foremost complaint was that the original Transhumanist ideals had been hijacked by a corporate and political “establishment,” which was interested in life extension but tended to oppose the rest of the Transhumanist program. These young radicals insisted that the benefits of new technology should be made available to everyone, not used to tighten the grip of a reactionary elite on social power.

Led by their elder heroes, the young Transhumanists had a profound effect on the politics and social life of the developed nations. In this they again resembled the radicals of the 20th century, who lost many specific battles but still managed to permanently change the social landscape. Unfortunately the revolutionary young Transhumanists also emulated some of the darker features of 20th century radicalism. Some of them destroyed themselves by undergoing untested genetic therapies, using dangerous drugs, or accepting illegal cybernetic implants. Others pursued violent protest against established corporate or governmental institutions. Still others turned away from a world they saw as corrupt, forming small communities on the fringes of society, or venturing into space.

Waves

In the 1980s, the futurist Alvin Toffler pointed out that technological change sometimes caused radical shifts in culture and society. Such a change would sweep across the world like a “wave,” transforming institutions and worldviews, bringing a new kind of civilization into existence in a relatively short time. The results would be so significant that societies on opposite sides of a Wave would literally be inhabiting different worlds.

Toffler spoke of three Waves. The First Wave was triggered by the discovery of agriculture perhaps 10,000 years ago. The Second Wave corresponded with the Industrial Revolution, which began about 1800. The Third Wave that Toffler predicted was associated with the spread of digital computers and information networks, beginning about 1960. Toffler’s vision was correct in many specifics, mistaken in others – but in 2100, people use the concept of “waves of change” in deadly earnest. In the past century, two more such Waves have swept across the world, further complicating the process of human history.

The Fourth Wave involved the spread of genetic technology, beginning with the sequencing of human DNA at the beginning of the century, culminating with the “biogenesis revolution” and the appearance of variant human subspecies in the 2050s. Today’s futurists disagree about what constitutes the Fifth Wave, but almost all agree that its early stages are already transforming the world. Candidates for the central technology of the evolving Fifth Wave civilization include nanotechnology, memetics and powerful artificial intelligence.

Each Wave overlies the previous ones, but does not replace them. The result is “future shock,” the collision of unready human individuals with an utterly new form of society. Today, the dizzying speed of technological change means that all five Waves coexist on the same planet, subsistence farmers living side by side with gengineered parahumans and superhuman AI. The world is in a constant state of future shock. This accounts for many of today’s cultural phenomena, from reactionary Preservationists who desperately reject change, to radical Transhumanists who embrace it.

Memes

Transhuman Space Garrion