Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do You Know What Your Children Will Be?

Orion's Arm, (also called the Orion's Arm Universe Project, OAUP, or simply OA) is an online science fiction world-building project, founded by M. Alan Kazlev. Anyone can contribute articles, stories, artwork, or music to the website. A large mailing list exists, in which members debate aspects of the world they are creating, discussing additions, modifications, issues arising, and work to be done.

OA is set over ten thousand years in the future, and adheres to plausible, or "hard" science fiction; that is, no human-like aliens, no literal faster-than-light travel or other violations of the known laws of physics, and no "naval analogy" space battles. Certain speculative technologies, such as the creation of "negative-mass" (averaged null energy condition-violating) exotic matter and the manipulation of strange forms of matter, such as magnetic monopoles and Q-balls, on length scales much smaller than that of an atom appear in the setting, distinguishing it from "ultra-hard" science fiction (which assumes only technologies proven to be possible at the time it is written).

The denizens of this universe are ruled over by god-like, superintelligent artificial intelligences (AIs), called "archailects", the descendants of humanity's (though not exclusively) early artificial life experimentations. These beings are so powerful that they can create new miniature universes, and are completely beyond the comprehension of normal humans. Their bodies exist as distributed intelligences in networks of planet-sized computer brains; their subroutines are themselves sentient, making an "archai" an individual and a civilization at the same time. Extraterrestrial life exists, but the focus is entirely on the descendants and creations of Earth life, here collectively called "terragen life". Normal humans, called "baselines", are an endangered species. Their genetically and cybernetically enhanced descendants have supplanted them.

There are many types of intelligent life: nearbaselines (enhanced humans), posthumans, cyborgs, vecs (intelligent robots), aioids (intelligent computers), uploads (intelligences transferred into computers), neumanns (self-replicating robots; named for John von Neumann), provolves (animals with enhanced intelligence, similar to "uplift" - see below), rianths (humans with animal DNA spliced in), splices (similar to provolves, upgraded with human DNA), neogens (life genetically synthesized from non-life) and xenosophonts (aliens). Nanotechnology is common. Ringworlds, Dyson spheres and other "megastructures" exist. Much of civilised space is connected by a network of wormholes.

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