Weaving technology chains
To build the technology narrative, we need to plot out a chain of events, based on core cause and effects, over the era. This chain has to explain the rise and fall of Supremacy technology and re-emergence of some aspects of lost technology with the new psionic technology. With that said, there are two chains I am thinking about: the Navigator and the Gamer (Legionary). These two chains can be woven together, and woven with other chains, to make some form of 'meta-chainmail' (that sounds like it should have RPG stats, like 'meta-chainmail +5 resist bread attack'! 😛 )
Navigator and FTL drives
The Navigator developments go hand in hand with the FTL Drive developments. It's easiest to talk about them together, and how one affects the other. Some parts are easier to visualise than others and do not require much discussion for now. What I'm interested in for this post are the changes. To break it down by era;
Regular human can act as a Navigator to guide machine-made Blink-Drives. These Blink-Drives are powered by reality-side energy and use phase materials to distort reality and build the drive.
During the fall us humans are in a mad fight for survival. The machines abandon from humans under Article 5 of the Mars Accords and in the process, we lose access to TFL. All worlds are isolated.
Switch to Eldritch-Engines which use the power of the Infinity and are constructed by the Navigator's mind aided by man-made machines. Far less accurate and require far more from the Navigator, reliant on the increased psionic powers accessible by humans due to thy weakening of the Great barrier between reality and the Infinity, post-Psidemic. Navigators are more psionic and need extensive training to control their powers. The Commonwealth set up orders, the start of genetic engineering to improve abilities.
Navigator dynasties, based on bloodlines and breeding, the legacy of their genetic engineering. Starting to stagnate. Navigators are foetus like and live within sensory deprivation vaults. Feed data from their ships sensors, and only understand the world as a ship, so self-identify as star-ships (like those who self-identify as attack-helicopters). Even procreation between Navigators is handled at a ship level;
When two ships love each other very much, they drop their landing gear and deploy their universal coupling rings...The Birds and the Bees of star-ships
This is a symbolic mating. The reality is representatives of each Navigator house exchange DNA samples (Navigators are asexual and reproduce through artificial means, combining both DNA stands and injected them into a constructed egg).
The Eldritch-Engines no longer work, Navigators are their ships are stranded where they were last able to jump. Interplanetary communications are down. The Universe is collapsing.
Can a human conscience survive the Infinity? This opens the door for the multi-verse, time to hop realities!
Gamers vs Gribblies is one thing, Gamers vs Gamers is another. Fighting mindless Gribbly 'demons' is like taking on the computer in an early 21st-century video-game, but Gamer vs Gamer is real competition. That's like COD (Call of Duty), Counter-Stike, or Fortnite. Here everyone wants an edge, and cheating is on the cards. The events in the timeline drive the technologies of the Legionaries, the realities on the ground pushing Gamers towards genetic engineering.
Rack-farmers use VR for after-work games, and virtual socialising. These VR rigs are a development of the rigs use in the 'old days' to control Paleodrones (ancient drones, pre-Artiloid tech). The rigs can still control drones, except the machines have disabled this functionality. It can be re-enabled if a human wants to drone up and run around in the surface of their homeworld, but most homeworlds are desolate rocks devoid of life. Some humans enjoy drone combat, and there is a whole industry around that. However, there is no guarantee that human controlled drones are actually running around the surface, as the machines could simply run a simulation. Where the elite anti-VR gamers, customising real drones, are also running around a VR game and the machines 'damage' the real drones before having them stagger back through the air-lock.
Cosplay: The machines will build humans fully functional personal body armours and weapons from the VR games they play for conventions. These cosplay armours have VR heads-up displays. There is an industry of man-made and adapted customisations, mostly cosmetic, supporting gamers to help make their mark. The machines see this as part of our entertainment, and mating rituals, and keeps us out of trouble.
Guilds: we form gaming guilds. These guilds are built around drone combat, VR combat, and Cosplay exhibition combat.
The primary target is the demons. Gamers repurpose machine-made cosplay armours. This comes with VR overlay, head-up, technology, and running about is cosplay armour!
The machines are so accurate in their simulations that virtual files for games can be fed into old fashioned replicator machines (used to create the cosmetic customisations) and produce functioning equipment and tools. These machines still function as they are human accessible, and use older optoelectronic crystal chips or even archaoelectronic chips (preppers), and lack 'bio-photonics' cortex.
Now Gamers are fighting Gamers from other worlds. Not only new worlds where Gamers had the same idea, but also the continued fracturing of the nascent Empire of the Commonwealth. Their wish to gain an edge over other elite Gamers leads to an arms race, and guilds start fielding genetically enhanced Gamers (no machines to control the gene pool and tell humans 'no'). Rise of the transhumans.
The Guild Wars are in full swing. The Augmented Reality is used to change reality, and switches from a passive overlay system to implant technology. Guilds now have full control over their elite Gamers, by messing with their reality. Top Gamers are now AFG (Artificial Flesh Golem) emersed in a schizophrenic world of artificial-delusion fighting other humans as if they were 'Demons' and 'Orcs', crushing 'Goblins' underfoot.
Referring back to the Navigators, the Eldritch-Engines start to fail, and those who are not lost by the contraction, race back to Gaia world as the epicentre. Peace and love as we work out a way to escape the death of the Universe? Or Battle Royale! That's about when the machines turn up...
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Regarding the Navigators, there are some thoughts popping up at this very moment:
We gonna have to look at these ones at a certain point. Not so much the individual houses and their customs/aesthetics, but more their basic workings. If post-Psidemic Navigators are these a-sexual creatures who are one with their ship, I would imagine that Navigator Houses would consist of two classes: the Navigators themselves and their servants. These servants could take on many forms (regular humans, robots, genetically modified creatures, psionic entities etc).
We might have to dig up some of the ideas from the Vareya thread, basically a whole world dedicated to gladiatorial combat. Sort of a world wide Colosseum, entertainment broadcast throughout the empires.
It's funny that you should mention preppers. I was thinking of them earlier this week. I would imagine that during the good old Supremacy days there would probably be preppers in Ecorium worlds who are creating various backup systems that would activate in case the Machines would every pull back. During the Supremacy days they would be considered mad, but the Psidemic would eventually prove them right. One might of course wonder if the Machines would have been too happy about preppers, I would imagine that they would try to make that illegal or at least sort of cover this in Articles 3 and 4 of the Marc Accords.
Another tricky thing. If the Eldritch Engines no longer work: how can humans and machines return to that one world to come together?
Navigator Houses: Some of my 40K musings will turn up in the House structure, check the Nobilitie section of the Dark Age.
Vareya: You could work it up as an example. We will need examples for later on, when we create a community and a platform to share ideas. Maybe, one day, we'll collect together the worlds created by the community and publish them! I want to involve people.
Preppers: There will always be Preppers, as someone will always think of the worst-case scenario, contemplate it, and then prepare for it. It's part of the natural human survival instinct to plan for the future.
The Return: It is the Eldritch-Engines that fail, but Blink-Drives still work, which gives us two chains;
The machines need humans to guide their ships, so most of the original Navigators from the Supremacy era left with the machines during the fall, part of Article 9. So during the following era, the machines are out there, somewhere. These Navigators have been away from humanity for a very long time. They may have been places that the Commonwealth (and other factions) can only dream of. As the Universe starts towards the end of 'Stare into the Abyss' era the machines can use their Blink-Drives to jump back towards the Gaia world at the epicentre of the collapse.
While Blink-Drives can galaxy-jump, Eldritch-Engines can only star-jump and limited to the 'Milky-Way' (not our Milky-Way). The machine return from all over the Universe, but humans return only from within 'Milky-Way'.
The Eldritch drives us a different type of 'Navigator'. They were created after the machines left, a separate strain of humanity, during the end of the Psidemic era. Who's creation brought about the Commonwealth and the Stare into the Abyss era. This introduces a new set of 'Navigator' houses to pilot the ships with Eldritch-drives, which are very different from the original Supremacy era Navigators. These new Navigators are part of the engine; they 'create it'. For the time being, let's call them the Alchemists. As the Universe loses the anchors (ghods), and becomes less infused with the creative power of the Infinity, the Eldritch drives become less powerful. The Alchemists start to migrate away from the less infused space. The infused space is weakest at the edges of the galaxy. It is stronger towards the epicentre. So the Alchmics move away from the edges of the galaxy and towards the epicentre. Many return before the Eldritch-Engines ceases functioning.
During The Return era, we have a vast number of machines, and lots of humans. This multitude has to figure out how to circumvent the end of the Universe. The machines become very interested in the Alchemists. The machines' Blink-Drives still work, so the machines can still create machines that can breach reality. Combined with the new Alchemists, who can conjure a new engine within the machine created bubble, leads to a new type of drive/ engine. The Supremacy upgrades and jumps into the Infinity, a tiny artificial reality, and there they access the Multi-verse.
This ties together the two chains. For a while, they separated, but they combine in the end.
Preppers: But aren't preppers a breach of the Mars Accord? The whole accord is one of dependency relations, preppers break that (social) contract. I can't help but think of the Right to Repair movement here. The Machines could be comparible to big corporations like Apple here, in the sense that they want humans to consume their tech products, but not repair or modify them since it would mean that they'd no longer be dependent on the company.
(appended*) Whilst there will always be preppers, the question is whether this is legal according to the Mars Accord. Articles 3 and 4 stipulate the rights and obligations both sides of the treaty have. I feel that trying to circumvent that would be a breach. Would this mean that those who breach the rules would be cut off from Machine tech? I would guess so? This would then mean that the preppers would probably be a bit careful on how they'd prepare. I guess this would have many links to the Right to Repair movement. The relation between Man and Machine would be very similar to the relationship companies such as Apple has with their customers: buy and use our products, but don't you dare repair or modify them, dependency must be maintained.
The Return: I'm digging this notion of access to the multiverse, this can become very weird in many ways. You can imagine stuff like the Spiderverse movie in which many different incarnations of the same character pop up, or scenarios like The Man From The High Castle in which a military force seeks to conquer the entire multiverse. Regarding tiny bubble realities, it does remind me a lot of the whole Age of Sigmar setup, I should start reading up on that background since it might have a few ideas we can integrate into the mix.
(appended*) Multiverse: This becomes very interesting, perhaps this is the 'post-post-apocalyptic' idea/vision I was pondering about a while back. It's all rather messy and dystopian, but with a sense of optimism (new universes to explore). Dealing with the multiverse could be a lot of fun, be it various versions of the same character (think of all the different versions of Spiderman in the Spiderverse movie), of the idea of the conquest of the multiverse (the Nazis from the tv show The Man In The High Castle), or perhaps even something akin to pocket/bubble universes. The latter is something kinda reminding me of both Rick & Morty as well as Age of Sigmar, which reminds me...I really need to look into the background of that universe.
Preppers: I figure that the machines do not mind humans being Preppers, as the technology they can access is human-made and 'basic'. The machines would only step in if a Prepper faction stated designing AI to develop more advanced AI, intending to replicate a bio-photonics (what the Artilects are made out of). Even in this extreme circumstance, the machines would target the rival machine and leave the Preppers be. Other than that, the Peppers are so far down the technology scale as to be completely non-threatening.
Having said that; Peppers can be seen as hostile by other humans, a threat to stability. Armed Preppers who advocate for violence or lethal responses may provoke a death, which gets the machines involved. Humans know they cannot be seen as complicit in a death of a fellow human so would take steps to avoid that. Some societies, where a Prepper faction goes awry, may outlaw the behaviour.
The Return: Jumping into a multiverse is the Psidemic in steroids. With psionic-events, we already see alternatives to reality: small bubble realities within the larger universe. Those little bubble realities are mini-universes. Jumping into the multiverse could be upscaling this. As the universe shrinks, these bubble realities may remain. The shrinking universe no longer contains those that remain and they grow, like seeds in the Infinity. As they grow they overlap, each on its own phase, creating the first multi-layer of the multiverse the Supremacy will invade.
It seems we'd need to look into the consequences of breaching the Mars Accords. In the case of killings, the machines seem to pull back their technological services. In case of creating another AI or creating tech that would allow humans to function independently from the machines in case of (for example) a breach of Article 5, we see that the machines are a lot more lenient in their response. How so?
As for other humans' responses to the preppers. It is a bit of a trope/cliche that the preppers are a hostile group, arming themselves and going out to kill some other people. What if we turn it on its head? I could imagine that non-prepper humans might get rather hostile towards preppers in fear of what consequences the machines put on this type of behaviour. So perhaps the non-prepper humans would try to preventively evict the preppers from Supremacy society. How possible is it for humans to leave the Supremacy? Could they pack their bags, build a ship and just leave? If so, we could see many prepper like communities leave the Supremacy, trying to survive in space (as difficult or impossible that might be).
Breaching the Mar Accords means you get a technology sanction. It is quite difficult to breach the accords, as the machines only sanction in the case of death. Humans do not have the power to threaten the machines, and the machines control everything, so unless there is a death, nothing happens. Having said that, the human population is well aware that a single strike, that results in a person falling down and banging their head, and then dying, will catch you a sanction. Once sanctioned, you are pretty much done as the machines withdraw all tech-support and power, and lock you out of your hab-unit. It's then down to the rest of humanity as to what to do with you, and usually, it's not all peace and rainbows when dealing with a sanctioned murderer. In other words, the machines turn a blind eye to the fate of the sanctioned (the machines effectively ignore them) which means anything goes when it comes to the treatment by other humans. Sometimes, in the case of an accident, society may be charitable, other times instigate corporal punishment, even the death penalty.
Hostile? Getting back to the Preppers, I do not think they are all hostile; in fact, most would not be. Most would warn about the failure of the machines, or enjoy being self-reliant (with failure of the machines in the back of their mind), or enjoy camping. Friction is always a possibility between factions, but unless there is a death, the machines do not care, and everyone is very aware they want to avoid a death.
Evicting Preppers: on most worlds, there is nowhere to go. The atmosphere outside the Ecorium is hostile on most worlds. The humans forcing out the Preppers would have to be very careful, else there could be a death. If a Prepper is facing death by the hostile atmosphere, they do not have a lot to lose and may decide to take one of their attackers with them. There may be worlds (aside from the Gaia worlds) where it is possible to survive outside in less than perfect conditions, so there is a possibility for an exodus story. Though I suspect is the atmosphere is accepting, the Preppers may leave of their own accord. The ultimate challenge!
Leaving the Supremacy: If humans ask for space suits, and the machines supply the resources, the machines will let humans do what they want. Humans of the Supremacy are not prisoners or slaves, at least not at the hand of the machines. When designing their spacecraft the humans will not have access to Supremacy AI technology for the design, the machines will decline, but the machines will supply tools and resources. Humans would probably have free access to set up technology as we have now, but they are starting from scratch and have to work their way up. Machines are not going to aid in organising or putting it together. I imagine that this is a rare occurrence among the billions of colonies set up by the machines. Many worlds may be trying, but there is also the comfort of the machines' hab-unit beckoning when times get tough. Humans have an easy out.
SANCTIONED/ EVICTED/ ESCAPED/ INDEPENDENT HUMANS:
I'm kinda putting these all on one pile for this discussion since these figures are (no longer) part of the Supremacy. If you kill someone, the Machines sanction you and remove you from society, if you are a prepper and take a ship you are also leaving the Supremacy. I assume the Mars Accord (and more specifically Article 5) only applies to humans who are members/citizens of the Supremacy? Does this mean that killing non Supremacy members is tolerated/allowed? This does allow for a 'loophole' from circumventing the whole 'humans fighting amongst themselves' bit, if even in the most limited kinda ways (I doubt Supremacy citizens can really leave their colony worlds and travel to non-Supremacy colonies without Machine support).
HUMANS LEAVING THE SUPREMACY:
Whilst comfort is a very dominating factor, we should't underestimate human curiousity. I don't think it would be that rare amongst the billions of colonies that humans try to build their own ships and take off. There might be all sorts of social rules trying to prevent that, or maybe even social codes that would allow you to do this temporarily (only to afterwards embrace the Supremacy lifestyle again), sort of akin to Rumspringa amongst some Amish communities.
Sanctioned: The Machines only sanction the person who committed the murder. A 'murder sanction' is removing Machine provided welfare, support, goods, and services. Nothing more. The Machines will not evict that person from Ecorium; that is down to society. Once a person is sanctioned, they are no longer included under the Mars Accords, and the machines will turn a blind eye to whatever befalls that person. Nonetheless, all the non-sanctioned humans are still under the Mars Accords and forcing someone out into a hostile environment is tantamount to murder of a human. As the machines view it: two wrongs do not make a right. A human is not free to kill a murderer, and if they do kill a murderer, they will also be classed as a murderer.
Evicted: A person can only be evicted by the judgement of other humans with a given society. A judgement by their peers, and their peers will only do this if the world they are on can support life. The Machines make an exception for eviction into a life-sustaining ecosystem as humans are expected to be able to survive in nature. If a human dies in the wilds of a lush tropical world, they have died from natural causes. If they die on a barren world devoid of life and a non-breathable atmosphere, then the Machines look at it as humans using the environment to murder the evicted. Everyone who made the 'bad' judgement is then sanctioned. There is a limit to the collective responsibility and only those on a jury will be held accountable. As most humans do not want to risk putting their heads on the chopping block for making a band decision on eviction, most go with imprisonment. One some worlds this may be for life, on other worlds there may be a reformed period with other humans chipping in charity when the prisoner is released. Humans may forgive, but the machines do not.
Of course, sometimes humans do not forgive the crimes committed, and they are perfectly entitled to stand by and watch the sanctioned starve to death. The practice of 'holding' is often used for the unforgivable, which is being imprisoned and left to stave. This is not the same as being buried alive, as that would deprive the person of oxygen...
Which introduces a potential logic error: if Machine removes all support and services, then on worlds with a hostile atmosphere, they would also remove the supply of oxygen generation from the sanctioned. Oxygen generation produces a consumable good the Machine can deny. The only practical way the Machines could do this is to remove one single person's worth of oxygen generation from the whole of society, a 'quota of oxygen'. (Or wrap the sanctioned's head in plastic!) A 'quota' could work within the enclosed system of the Ecorium. If the Machines think it is okay to deny oxygen, then kicking someone out into a hostile does not seem such a big deal. However, I like the idea that the Machines set up a dilemma; that the humans know their oxygen quota has gone down, but they cannot 'kill' the sanctioned human. Humans can starve the sanctioned to death, but not speed it up by burring them alive, which leads to the idea that the Machines are setting up a system where the sanctioned to suffer for the longest time possible.
Variants Mars Accords: Perhaps this is where world variations come it, and a given worlds AG (Artificial Ghod, the world sentinel) may parse the Mars Accords slightly differently. Some world you can drive the sanctioned out into the hostile environment of a death world, and on other hostile worlds, you cannot? This works with the idea of worlds as experiments, and while the rules are generally the same, they are not identical. This would make the Mars Accords more a statement of intent.
Simple solution: Or we can tidy it up, and say the humans are perfectly entitled to ostracise the sanctioned and kick them out of the Ecorium to die a horrific death on the surface of a barren and sterile world? It would be internally consistent, and perhaps this has a suitable level of coldness for the Machines, and still allow plenty of variation. This variation would come about as the Machines may be a bit vague on what you can do, and say 'it's your judgement', 'you know the rules', and 'you're a moral agent'. In other worlds, the Machines are testing the humans. Perhaps something akin to a Turing Test, but a Machine version for humans? Some worlds figure out you can kick the sanctioned out, while on other worlds they are fearful to go that far and come up all kinds with alternatives. As the extreme is okay, humans may come up with all kinds of inventive ways to kill through denial.
Self-defence: the Machines do make an exception for accidental killing at part of self-defence, but many humans do. If you kill someone in self-defence, i.e. accidentally, the Machines will sanction you, by the jury of your peers may excuse you, and in these circumstances, other humans will give charity to support the sanctioned.
Rival technology: humans are free to use Machine provided resources as they see fit, but there are limited. The Machine class all AI as their Intellectual Property, as part of their corpus, their 'body', their ecosystem. Humans who make rival AI will not be sanctioned, but the Machines will destroy or steal the AI. This limits what humans can do. Without advanced AI building functions space ships is though, and building FTL is out of the window. Humans are inventive and like to find loopholes, so I imagine trying to hack human brains of willing individuals to act as computers is on the table. Of course, the Machines may take the view that putting pressure on humans, though religious coercion or other social pressure, to 'suicide their personality' may count as 'murder'. Humans like to find loopholes, and so do the Machines 😛
Independent humans: Humans are free to leave the Machine run Ecoria at any time. On a world with a hostile environment that would be inadvisable, but on a world that can support life; it's doable. On a life-supporting world, independent humans could exist and trade with humans in the Ecoria.
I really can't help but think of the Gom Jebbar from Dune. It could be that the Machines have a 'ranking' in what makes one human. So all humans are human, but some are more human than others? Or are we now entering dangerous territories?
Do the Machines tolerate other humans helping out those who have been 'removed' from the Supremacy because of breaking Article 5? The human peer jury might then be a very political thing. Punishment for killing could then be circumvented.
This is a very interesting scenario indeed. We could see many (post-)human societies setting on (potential) Paradise Worlds or adapted colonies. I would also imagine that many of these humans might perhaps alter themselves to survive in such environments. The question then is how far they could go in this before the Machines would consider them to be 'not human enough' and enact Article 7 of the Mars Accords.
Turing Test: The machines have a definition of 'human' that is one party within the Mars Accords. The Machines do not share that internal definition; they simply use the term 'human' in the human-readable text.
If a person does not fit the human category, they will be classified as something else. If a person is classified as something else, they are not part of the Mars Accords, instantly 'sanctioned', but not automatically categorised as a threat or an enemy (however other humans may see it otherwise). The difference is: the Machines will instantly kill a 'non-human' who uses violence against a human. No excuses. The Machines drop the Article 7 hammer. That is not the standard process for those who are sanctioned.
Sanctioned humans: Think of the Machine's sanction as passive-resistance. The Machines stop helping the human who is sanctioned. The Machines do not remove the sanctioned human. They often do not tell the human they have been sanctioned, as that would be interacting with the sanctioned human (providing information like that is classed as a service, and all service stop for the sanctioned).
From a sanctioned human's point of view: one day, everything stops working.
For example: the Machines can figure out if someone has murdered someone, and probably have a complete recording, and will sanction the murderer before the killing is even complete. This means all powered security doors stop working for the murderer (could still tail-gate and play it off a wanting to surprise a friend or some other excuse). No payment systems work for the murder. The killer cannot get back into their hab-unit (unless there is someone inside, their partner, to let them in. You can bet their partner will have a few questions!). The Machines will inform the human authorities and then us humans take it from there.
Independent humans: On Paradise Worlds, I can imagine there being all kinds of variations in human culture. Some heavily dependant on Machines to live a life of luxury the standard Mecho-Communist 'Luxury Communism' for Paradise Worlds (why do I feel that 'Paradise World' would have a registered trademark on it?). After all, we all know that in Communism, 'some are more equal than others' (that may not be the intent, but that is what we end up with).
Other cultures may want to 'test themselves.' The descendants of those people who driven to work 80+ hours a week, flat-out, with a heavy leaning on the Industrious personally trait (big five) and view self-reliance as a virtue, may limit their Machines interaction - but that's voluntary. It could be seen as a 'real life game' (The Machines could brand that), like live action role-play except actually living in the real world as a game (yeah, that's messed up). Like the games of survivor we see on tv now;
"Do you have what it takes to survive in the wilderness like your heroic ancestors who set up this colony? Are you worthy of their legacy? If you think you have what it takes: sign up to our exclusive Real Life Game: Jungle Town. Win big prizes building a town from scratch, using nothing but primitive technology! Call for help and you are out."
The fact it's so easy to back-slid to Machine dependence may make some cultures proud to how long they can resist the temptation. It may be part of a culture's mating rituals. Real Life game could be seen as a subversion, or cooping by the Machines, and the ones doing it for real and 'hard-core'. American conservative culture may fit this, as they could view the Machines as 'the government' programmed by 'Liberal Elites'. Of course, that makes no sense within the timeframes we are talking about, but the machines write the memories of the first generation, and they can write this 'anti-government' stance into the societal blueprint.
It could be that some Paradise Worlds start to look like ours, all run by humans, with limited machine reliance, but many pockets of humans indulging in machine Luxury when it gets too much. After all they are on a Paradise World, and they are all entitled to the executive package, and that comes with customised designed sexbots, which have 'human' bodies but with a bio-photonic cortex minds. Machines get everyone in the end.