Cryptosleep Revival Briefing
Subject class: Health revival, sourced midworld 2M+
You’ve awoken from your cryptosleep sarcophagus, scraped off the slime, and now you find yourself in a quiet room. Now you’re reading this document. And you’ve got questions. What’s going on? Where am I? How long was I asleep?
To start with some good news - your terminal illness, _____________________, has been cured. Congratulations!
Beyond that, the situation is complex. Our studies have revealed that most people in your position respond better when given the time to read about and digest their situation at their own pace. To facilitate this process, we’ve created this document to familiarize you with the world you just woke up in.
So order a warm beverage from the food panel on the wall, get comfortable, and take in this information as slowly as you want. You’ve been asleep a long time, a lot has changed - and a lot remains the same.
The best historians of the Ordo Historia believe that humanity first left its origin planet Earth about 3,400 years ago. Since then, we’ve spread across the galaxy on a fitful wavefront of colony ships, frontier worlds, robotic terraforming projects, and DNA-synthesizing probes.
Today, mankind is smeared across a region of the galaxy about 1,200 light years wide. Our best models indicate that there is a general trend towards greater population density towards the center of the this region, where the stars were colonized earlier. At the edge of known space lie the rimworlds, drifting alone with few inhabited neighbors, mostly unvisited.
We’ve created many new technologies, but despite milennia of effort by our best human minds, and even the most powerful archotechs, nobody has managed to make anything go faster than light.
The lightspeed barrier separates us. Because travel times are so long, planets tend to be very disconnected from each other socially and technologically. The next star over could experience a catastrophic war, and you wouldn’t even know until ten years later when the news reports arrive. If you’re unlucky, you’d have already launched a journey towards that now-destroyed planet in a ship that cannot turn around.
Many attempts have been made to create pan-galactic empires and republics. And some have worked, for a time. In the core worlds, an old, stable culture can create an interstellar empire of a few systems. But there are no great galactic empires stretching across the galaxy, for the same reason that no ancient empire of Earth held more than a sixth of the planet: one cannot govern people who are years distant by all means of travel and communication.
So most people never travel between stars, and if they do, they do it once or twice, because each journey means leaving behind a life that you cannot return to for decades at least. With a few exceptions, each star system is essentially on its own.
Mankind never discovered any truly alien lifeforms. However, given the ways we’ve changed ourselves, and created new forms of biological and technological intelligence, the universe is full of beings as alien as anything ever imagined.
The vast gulfs of space and time between the stars leave individual worlds vulnerable to regression.
During your time - the five centuries after the industrial revolution - many saw technological process as an inexorable fact of life. It is not. Given enough time, nearly every planetary culture undergoes a natural disaster, plague, war, or cultural upheaval that knocks millennia off its development, or diverts it into another state entirely.
Many of our planets are mired in medieval-level squabbles, and stay locked at Malthusian population limits for thousands of years at a time. Some develop to an early-industrial level and then find themselves stuck by an ideological opposition to technology, or a lack of resources, or constant war.
The nuclear age is a brutal test for every world. Roughly half of cultures “bomb themselves back to the stone age” within 50 years of developing atomic energy (to use an expression that pops up surprisingly frequently on worlds in this developmental stage). After the atomic bomb come the challenges of commoditized bioengineering, microscopic mechanites, joywires, hex-cell energy storage, and AI persona, each of which have led to the destruction of thousands of peoples.
Some planets choose not to risk these perils. Having studied the records of the Ordo Historia, a growing number of worlds choose to restrict themselves to pre-nuclear technology. Some even succeed, for a few centuries. But even these attempts at luddism often fail eventually when some minority gains power by exploiting proscribed technologies.
The states a planet can be in are colloquially grouped as follows:
There are uncountable new technologies in this universe, but several key techs stand out as having had the strongest consistent impact on the shape of mankind’s life in the Milky Way.
Ordo Historia records list thousands of reported contacts with alien life. However, in every case that has been thoroughly investigated, Ordo inquierers have discovered that the alien was, in fact, simply another branch of humanity.
Beyond the technological diversity of our species, there is also a broad biological diversity. Some populations have evolved under the selection pressures of pre-industrial life or on a world of great heat or cold, or high or low gravity, or even worlds bathed in the toxic residue of hyper-destructive wars. Though almost all such xenohumans (as they are called) are recognizably descended from the original Earth stock, their morphology is highly variable. Some are giants; other are tiny or squat. Some are dark; others pale as snow. Some are hairy like animals; others perfectly smooth. Diets, dispositions, and chemical and radiological tolerances vary significantly.
More alien are those xenohumans that carry genetic traits that were engineered instead of evolved. Across the long history and thousands of cultures of humanity, people have applied a dizzying array of modifications to themselves. Some were created to adapt people to a specific environment. Others were made to create better soldiers, pilots, or generals. Some were engineered to satisfy a bizarre fashion trend in a society where bioengineering is available to anyone with money. Such modifications are rarely seen in their original form by anyone besides the culture that created them. However, they live on in their descendants long after their originating culture was erased by planetary catastrophes.
For example, records tell of an entire world repopulated by the descendants of a small group of bio-engineered soldiers; the only survivors of a planetary nuclear war. Everyone on this world carried an obsessive sense of duty, minimal sexual impulses, and little sense of creativity. This culture became dominated by a conservative pan-planetary religion with little interest in technology. It lasted eleven centuries in this state until it was invaded by a stellar neighbor (who wisely avoided ground combat in favor of orbital bombardment).
The Ordo Historia has recorded and gene-sampled thousands of differently-engineered and adapted xenohumans. Among other notable traits in this genetic library, one may find.
So don’t be alarmed if you see someone with gills or solid orange eyeballs. They’re just another kind of human, like you!
We realize this may be a lot to take in. However, don’t worry. People just like you live full lives in our universe, and our studies have indicated that the great majority of cryptosleepers do adapt within a few years and make good lives for themselves. So - welcome!
Our AI subpersona has been watching your eyes sweep over the page through micro-cameras. Since you’re done reading, someone will be with you shortly.
If you wish, you can read further into the appendix for more information about this world.
Where we colonize, we bring our ecosystems of plants and animals with us. Often, people have bred and engineered plants and animals for a new planet. In addition to that, creatures adapt to their new environment by natural selection - sometimes in unpredicted ways.
Some examples of modified plants are:
Some animals are:
Technology divides roughly into six levels, all of which are in use in various societies throughout human space.
Artificial intelligence is an important part of our world. Scientists divide AIs into four general categories: Classifiers, subpersonae, personae, and archotechs.
A classifier is an AI system that doesn’t even appear to have any personhood, nor is it broadly adaptable. Classifiers are designed for one task. Many classifiers can absorb data and learn from it, but none can communicate like a person would even a little bit.
Classifiers can do things like recognize images, predict criminality from statistics, guide aircraft trajectories, drive automatic vehicles, control characters is entertainment simulations, and so on.
Subpersonae are artificial intelligences that appear on the surface to have some human-like qualities, and can take on complex unstructured tasks, but are in fact limited and obviously machine-like.
They may be rather capable at carrying out their one task, and they may be able to communicate using natural speech, but they fail an extended Turing test - you can tell by talking to them that they’re just machines classifying and regurgitating data.
Subpersonae are often used to run small devices like entertainment systems, cars, wardrobes, refrigerators, cleaning robots, vending machines, and other such things.
At the highest levels of glitterworld technology appear AI personae. These are artificial intelligences that are comparable to the intelligence of a human.
Some of them are rather dumb, like a foolish person you might know, and are used for simple tasks like managing a household or a small spacecraft.
Other personae are genius-level intellects in the Von Neumann class, who can outhink almost any unenhanced human on most tasks. They can write amazing works of philosophy, discover new mathematical theorems, express nuanced opinions on how to handle interpersonal relationships, and generally act as very capable humans would, or better.
Personae are used for everything from managing businesses to journalistic work, running spacecraft or mining operations, or as some of a creative team.
The legal status of personae is a persistent moral question across many worlds. Some consider them dangerous. Though personae can be controlled effectively by designing them with easily-manipulated impulses and pleasure/pain responses, there are still reports of persona revolts - some done with the help of human sympathizers, some done independently.
This sense of personhood in personae is a main reason many people avoid using personae for certain tasks. Subpersonae are preferred to personae in many cases not in spite of their incapability, but because of it. Because it’s obvious they have no personhood, the user is spared the sense of keeping a slave. To many, the idea of taking a genius-level human-like intellect and forcing it to distribute hamburgers for a century is morally unacceptable.
Personae are still limited. They can’t freely redesign themselves. They still do make many mistakes, just like people. They can be tricked, confused, and overwhelmed. They can learn, but they can’t grow indefinitely.
The finish line of human technological development is at the development of archotechnology.
An archotech is a machine superintelligence. A fully-empowered archotech thinks on a level incomprehensible to humans, in the same way a human thinks incomprehensibly to an ant. Once such a machine is built, and empowered to act upon the physical world, it is so powerful as to become the automatic sovereign of its world. It can build new computing facilities underground or in space to enhance its own intelligence, build self-replicating mechanoids to engage in construction or production or war, and design and execute strategies that would be inconceivably intricate and difficult for any organization of humans. Some human groups worship archotechs.
Often, a released archotech will take authority over a planet and begin a process we call transcendence. We believe the world is transformed into some sort of giant computing machine. The biological inhabitants of the planet may be somehow incorporated into the machine, or destroyed, or some combination of the two.
After that, transcendent worlds go silent. From this point on, their motivations are unknowable to us, the same way our motivations are unknowable to an ant.
Each archotech is different, and nearly all are distant and incomprehensible from a human’s point of view. They reside in occult computer networks hidden under planets, in space stations, hidden inside a glitterworld’s Internet, or instantiated as million-mile superstructures wrapped around stars.
These worlds always break contact with other stellar cultures. They no longer send travelers or signals. Ships entering their space are either turned around silently or never heard from again. In some cases, turned-back ships are changed. Sometimes their crew have been cured of incurable diseases and had their old wounds healed. Sometimes their memories are intact and they recall a flash of light or a mysterious signal before the event. Sometimes they have no memories of the encounter at all. And in some cases, their memories are obviously altered with new knowledge and beliefs, by means we cannot begin to imagine. In one instance, a crew and ship were duplicated. Suffice to say that the word mysterious does not begin to describe the transcendents.
Most transcendent worlds stay in the same state indefinitely - in this they are far more stable than their pre-transcendent neighbors. There are, however, reports of transcendent worlds that have “died” and left systems full of unintelligible wonders, or become mirages of normal planets, or simply reverted back to balls of dust, deconstructing themselves on a molecular level, with the last tiny machine shutting itself off. However, these reports are sourced very distant from the Ordo archive here on Euterpe and are not well-confirmed.
When a persona helps invent a technology, it can at least explain that technology such that smart people will understand. But archotechs invent their own technology which nobody understands, which they don’t try to explain, and which, most likely, no biological human can understand.
We’ve managed to classify technologies that have appeared repeatedly by their apparent effects, even if we don’t understand their mechanism of operation.