My series 2113 is a speculative series of articles on a fictional timeline of the future set one century from now. This time portrays the future as it might be based on several premises. In 2010 there are many things wrong with the world, and we might experience major wars and crashes. Also, human rights are by no means set in stone, and those might devalue as well. Large numbers of people may die between now and 2113, and in a century we may have something resembling a Singularity, with just a few hundred million posthumans remaining. So the most important first premise is that we have no major catastrophes, and progress persists more or less without major industrial or societal collapse as it has for the last few centuries. A second premise is that we do not have a “tabula rasa” Singularity. The emergence of artificial intelligence occurs gradual and does not “displace” large sections of humanity, or the values espoused by current cultures. Again, this is by no means a certainty. In this preferred future the transition of human minds in to machine substrates and the recognition of non-human minds and human mental minds on artificial substrates is achieved seamlessly and “without major societal collapse”. The article also assumes a somewhat implausible continuation of the current abundance-assuming paradigm of freedom, free trade, globalism (or what might be labelled ‘Universalism’ in the 22nd century), a further increase and refinement of democracy and a growth of both individual affluence of all people, as well as a vast increase in individual affluence of elites.
The series is here: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6) … Since I abhor comment management on this blog due to spam predation, I will eventually invite my readers to respond with questions and criticisms, for which you are already encouraged to email me. The article may be reprinted or quoted with attribution. The article has specifically been made available for reprinting for Zero State publications, IEET, Transhumanity, Singularity Hub, Turing Church, Space Collective. I may opt to slightly edit the article later on. This is the 5th installment of my 2113 series.
Big things have small beginnings.
It was the year 2017. A modest cabal of unemployable game designers all over the planet endeavored to do something relatively new. These artists were inspired by the Novel Reamde, and wanted to push the boundaries of game design. Just a few years before Google Earth had been hacked and had spawned an ecology of “latched on” virtual reality games, augmented reality games and web sites that were accessible using proprietary Google Earth and some added software. By the year 2016 there had emerged a number of virtual environments in this geospatial simulatory environment. Early renderings were ugly and clumsy, much worse than the comparable Second Life. There were any number of private servers that latched on to Google Earth data, and these spaces offered gaming, collaborative brainstorming, art spaces, hacker spaces, meeting, pornography and all sorts of experiences. The most popular were combinations of versions of the game FromDust, MineCraft and Microsofts Project Spark. Within months the choice expanded to hacked world of warcraft servers (most of them considerably better than Blizzard venues), repurposed opensim, embedded Second Life and far more abstract and less recognizable environments, such as “ïnfinite world map” StarCraft2 games with hundreds of participants. Users coupled all graphics engines to work in tandem. Google more or less allowed (or encouraged) for the Google Earth embedding practice, since users had to actively download major bits of software and get them to work, so the initial years it was all all bugs and scotch tape.
Exavana was barely noticed at first.
The first incarnation of Exavana manifested itself in a specific region in Google Earth Wales. It was a parallel world that people could access through natural portals in the Google Earth locations. By 2017 you would see lots of avatars wander around in Google Earth, Exavana had access verification and only the best rendered and designed toons were allowed in. Users needed specific grade physical emulations to allow their avatars to move in a manner consistent with everyone else, and any aspiring users would need spectacularly decent designed avatars, using quite specific objective standards. Characters not only had to be tasteful (even if pornographic), they also had to make sense. In 2017 Exavana was a small fantasy duchy in Wales no bigger than a few kilometers by a few kilometers. Exavana was not owned by a single entity, but for design reasons late 2017 Exavana became a registered foundation in Switzerland.
Users crowd-sourced a ‘realistic’ kinesthetic model for sword fighting based on some work done by Neal Stephenson earlier, picked a spot over the Cambrian mountains in southwestern England and opened up for business.
From the get go it was selfevident that the chief architect of the endeavor was a genius. An old guy in his 60s, a socially awkward but an amazing designer and storyteller, he gathered geniuses around him as others would collect magic cards. The devoted team assembled a host of unique game design assets, in many case stolen content from other games. The crew ran a re-purposed and build-from-scratch Blizzard architecture and linked it up with off the shelf mocap controllers. It was all high bandwidth play – aspiring players would not be able to compete at anything under stable ten megabit connectivity.
There was a competitive element in the world. Game designers objectified and defined desirable in-world character qualities and interlocked these attributes using a “value algorithm”. This meant that as soon as a feature for a character (say, the ability to throw spears), this quality would be embedded in the game connected through other qualities (some as precursor traits) and connected to animations, damage. The more desirable the quality, the harder it was to obtain, within reasonable boundaries. This created an in-game mechanism of emergent scarcity, and that meant the acquisition of “simulatable” in-game traits turned in to an economy fairly quickly.
The mechanism made sense and it worked. Define what people most, and make those qualities only accessible after aquiring precursors, conquest, overcoming hurdles or making other effort. Or having to waiting or work in game a long time. Most traits could be acquired through Exavana community service (or volunteer grind) and since many traits were made mutually exclusive (a nimble and lithe character couldn’t effectively be very strong at the same time, etc.) this allowed for massive character diversification.
It is important to realize that there were characters in game that remained in existence for a century. From 2018 to 2118. After a few decades those characters had become deities, and before long they became Pantheon forces of nature. The acquisition of desirable traits was a lot easier before 2025, and this contributed to early characters being absurd powerful over time, but that was a good thing – it reinforced the history of the world. The game mechanism was based on characters careers – The avatars of respective players stayed in a chosen career for a few weeks or months, learned traits, and then moved to a new career.
Over time the number of traits that could be meaningfully defined in a virtual world ballooned to millions, and the time required to learn them all (insofar they weren’t logically exclusive to one another) quickly turned to thousands and thousands of years – i.e. effectively inaccessible.
The end result made sense – a world with competition for scarce fantasy resources and possible states. It was like a strategy game with high-detail avatars set in a pre-Christian parallel fantasy world. The early game allowed for character “permadeath”, but that didn’t last for very long. After a few years Exavana developed multiple dimensions, and two such dimensions were “Hell” and “Afterlife”, and it became possible to run quests to save deceased characters and return these to game life. Later versions also allowed characters from one player to “plex” in to collaborative unions, or “reincarnation trees”, each character in the pod having diversified skills, frailties, talents, abilities, aptitudes, traits and qualities. The design algorithm that defined how good characters had to look went up in imposed demands at the same time, so occasionally less well-designed or original old-timers found their avatars frozen, until that time they would be able to upgrade their styling or provide new rationales for outdated/flawed character concepts.
Exavana was still a relatively inaccessible niche game by 2020. It user base was less than thirty thousand in June 2020, but the land it simulated had expanded massively across parallel versions of England and parts of geographic Europe, and the land represented also ballooned – original one kilometer in the real world was one kilometer in Exavana. By 2020 it was a ratio of twelve kilometers in the game to one kilometer in equalent Google Earth spaces, and the ratio itself kept going up every year. Exavana was a lot geographically more expansive than the real world and new bits of land were retconned in to the world filling in white spots all the time.
This was the early 21st century, in “the dark ages of franchise”. Star Wars and Star Trek had died, due to the spectacular storytelling incompetence of big budget movie studios. People world wide were looking for authenticity and that invariably turned out being synonymous with non-profit, crowd sourced and non-corporate. Exavana was all these and within years of inception became equivalent for “cool” as well as “exclusive”. It was constantly quoted for generating amazing screen shots. Since people in the game spent careers on avatar styling, architecture, asset development, landscaping and game mechanics without any expectation of financial reimbursement, the game was a wind tunnel equivalent for functionality, challenge and beauty. The bar kept creeping up for character vetting, and even though many had feelings of deep resentment after having been rejected over and over, many more kept trying to get in. Taking part cost a lot of hard cash (28 euro a month), which added to the threshold for adoption. Last but not least it was incredibly hard-ware heavy, requiring space in your living room, a motion controller and motion capture cameras, all rigged to two state of the art PC’s, all with fiber-optic internet connectivity.
Exavana coasted along in Limbo for years, and was effectively bleeding recurrent users in the early 2020s. People logged in, played a while (“The Second Life effect”) and after a while didn’t return. Since many of these players had in-world developments, the process of neglecting in world investments lowered the bar for return, since these players would return to having lost half their property in world, after not logging in for a few months.
At the same time many people in the physical world were in considerable societal trouble. Unemployment was skyrocketing, and governments and corporations were constantly under siege by activists, protests, strikes, vandalism and populism. The default mode of governments to just ratchet up the police state had started failing in 2019, with a few dozen major whistle blowers coming clean on some major government false flag terror operation earlier in the century … such as the assassination of a US politician half a century earlier, and just how duplicitous banking had become.
Where Apathy was a global epidemic in 2010, in 2020 many of those same people had all turned radical activists by 2020. As we know in retrospect – people radicalize very fast when given access to virtual worlds. It turned out that the best way to psychologically vector people in to real world action was by means of virtual worlds.
This was called the Avatar effect, referring to three blockbuster movies by James Cameron. People who saw how beautiful existence could be in a virtual world became angry and bitter when they logged off and were faced with “reality”. People who were able to change and exert personal control in virtual worlds took some of that psychological control back in to the physical world and stopped being the real world equivalent of docile farm animals.
Virtual worlds, in retrospect half a century beyond 2020, were eventually to be understood to be the prime motivator in to people becoming angry, organizing and no taking no for an answer. Humans who had become subjected to designed virtual reality started looking at physical reality as “just another environment to play in” and “just another puzzle to solve”. These people also started assertively styling their own lives and “didn’t accept criticism on their lifestyle choices”. By 2020 75% of deep embedding virtual world aficionados were politically and socially active in the real world. Another popular term used for this was “the fight club effect”, describing a cynical disaffection for mundane, pre-cooked existence offered by modern consumerist lifestyles.
Imagine a game where people can be free. A world where people learn martial arts and sword fighting using kineasthetic motion capture. These same people were in effect using their minds on something else than flip burgers. These people were pretty relevant in physical confrontations. You don’t pick a fight in a bar with someone who is out killing virtual enemies, strapped to a pain emulator. Those people learn to keep fighting even after their are hit. This simple fact was being picked up by people in the real world who didn’t know Exavana – a typical veteran of a few years in Exavana looked the part in real life, and they knew how to overcome problems in a dispassionate and highly rational manner. In 2021 gangsters, police and politicians world wide were becoming damn cautious when confronting people who deep embedded in virtual worlds. These people played to win, and with great awareness of long-term consequences.
So as we might call the years 2019 to 2024 a brief winter era for these virtual worlds, a lot of foundational work was being done.
By 2023 a new player had emerged in the virtual world business. At the same time Exavana had been expanding in the late teens to twenties, another game designer had come up with a headset based GPS game, by the name Dust2Dust. This particular game environment took play in to the real world by means of high detail augmented reality. Play involved emulating and navigating a highly simplified landscape that overlaid the physical world. The system for Dust-to-Dust was an conceptual extension of the game Minecraft, linked to the existence of objects in the real world. D2D was not as visverally blocky as early minecraft. D2D used real world geographical map contouring and essentially comprised a game that allowed players to capture resources in a fantasy game that was linked to the real world by means of GPS data. In D2D you would allocate resources to your fantasy armies for either building castles and armies, or you would do plunder and conquest, but it always centered on your physicality in the world – your power reaches only as far as you were able to physically travel.
D2D allowed players to walk to street and while seeing reality (and cars and pedestrians that could conceivably run in to you) while playing the game, players also had to content with dangers, opportunities, challenges and puzzles. The distinctive play style of D2D gamers was iconic. Most of them had a mean dog (generally a stafford), to make sure they wouldn’t get their head tapped by people who didn’t much like AR gamers (or people who might want to snatch their headsets).
D2D was much like earlier success GPS formulas (Cratera, Ingress, AceGlobalConquest) in that these games were highly addictive and were all about capturing imaginary stuff in reality. In addition, D2D used bitcoin, and allowed for point to point bitcoin transactions. So when in 2024 D2D had exploded in to a 300 million user base game, and Exavana and D2D merged, the end result would have implications that would reverberate right across the entire 21st century.
The mingling of intricacies for Exavana and D2D was a new concept for humanity. The chimera of the two games spanned the entire planet. The world was suddenly a new place with new concepts that were no longer subject to design, control or understability. Hundreds of millions of people could now interface with an imaginary virtual world that allowed self-expression in to an imaginary fantasy creature, character advancement, motion capture combat, strategical investment and conflict. Distinctive spots in the real world, especially locations with cultural or historical relevance, became nodal points for competition. By 2025 ‘Exa’ had 90 million virtual world users (the kind with detailed avatars) competing to make their avatars more powerful, and some 1.2 billion users that were allocation resources in the associated GPS strategy game.
A billion people that would do anything to get access to the actual Exavana world.
Exa was not the first of many offering a complex diversified experience game; before Exa, CCP’s eve online had already broadened its user experience to incline multiple game formats in the context of a massively multi-player online universe, but Exa went all the way to include strategy gaming, dueling, investment games, social games, pornographic games, machinima, fashion design, metaphysics, networking, art. In 2025 Exa was not as all-inclusive as the bigger online worlds such as MetaLife (the 2016 successor of Second Life) or Gverse, but then again Exa was a consistent story where people went to play a uniquely styled version of themselves that was by and large consistent with all other aspects of the world.
Exa started expanding rapidly from cult to niche to elite to trendy to rage, and it didn’t really suffer the all-too common comedowns of other worlds. When other genre worlds started to decline (generally in 8 years after inception) Exa consistently found avenues to renew and revitalize itself. One great strategy was to create pockets of Exa that offer display space to other franchises – Disney’s Star Trek, Disney’s Star Wars, International Imports and Exports (the world of James Bond), Titan, World of Warcraft 2, Xenoverse – all used the unique design services to rent parts of Exa for display of their unique intellectual properties. Parts of Exa functioned as display space virtual reality shard worlds where game designers could use top notch graphic rendering services to showcase their IP.
In the mid 2020s the opportunities normall anticipate by people as to unemployment had become so disappointing that most countries started experimenting with forms of basic income, one way or another.
Most these basic incomes systems had proven disastrously unstable for regional economies, as any state-sponsored system of redistributive potlatch would quickly trigger an exodus of top income taxpayers. But the rich couldn’t endlessly flee. In the 2030s the tax nomads started running out of places to run, assets to invest in and banks to launder their dirty incomes and taxation systems were quickly catching up. Even the most radical randian libertarian billionaires had to accept the fact there were no safe zones to hide from “democrat nanny states taking their stuff”. In other words, Libertarians were fed up moving their assets from tax dictatorship to tax dictatorship. The old monetary system had collapsed, and governments had opened up free markets for currencies. In the late 2020s even the former United States (now the North Atlantic United Sovereignties) implemented basic income, started going after tax nomads with protectionism, and allowed “banks” to print private currency. From then on currencies and banks were in fierce competition, and this benefited governments and people living in various countries.
The availability of dozens of world wide privatized currency systems (with states competing in a rational system of reciprocal and consistent tax codes) made those same states dismantle to only provide the most essential survival needs of their constituents. It was a rational synthesis of far right wing libertarianism and far left wing socialism. But this paradigm could only survive if humans had something to do, and Exa was one of many emerging “meaning factories” to provide a sense of relevance for an ever higher number of irreversibly unemployed people.
Being unemployed in 2030 meant knowing you’d never have a job again. And most people in the ever bigger developed world realized that while consumerist lifestyles were dead never to come back again, life extension would soon be effective an accessible enough. People by 2033 knew they might live a lot longer than than any humans in previous history ever lived.
Longer lives, no work, radically reduced materialism, universal tools for play, communication, self-expression, self-development, spirituality and experimentation, it almost seemed like paradise, even in the early 2030s.
This world was a long shot from utopia or paradise.
Competition in 2035 was cutthroat and many people were desperate. The human mind, in particular the testosterone driven human mind, demands material possession, and preferably more material possessions than people around own. Especially in racially diverse society. All humans, in particular male humans, want more property than those other people they meet on a daily basis … in particular people with different outwardly genetic qualities. The world was in large part determined by genetic imperatives for breeding, even though most people in the western world had actually stopped actively procreating.
The 2030s were the era of radicalized self-expression, in large part due to cosmetic surgery. This was called “pandorism”. Full-body cosmetic surgery had become safe and cheaper than owning a car. The ability of humans to engineer outward qualities with surgical and biomedical interventions (while at the same time reducing effective biological age) interventions allowed bored, jaded human beings new forms of self-expression. If you were a Draenai in Exavana, you could become a Draenai in the real world, for only something like the financial equivalent of 20 thousand dollars (or less if you went black market). In 2035 some parts of some inner cities became hives of radical experimentation. Various bottlenecks for radicalization on the world looked more exotic and alien than 20th century science fiction movies, and while humans remained more or less humanoid, they acquired the ability to don fur, change the composition of eyes, change skin pigmentation, adjust gender, enhance bone density and muscle mass, increase or decrease size.
The old model of materialist consumerism was dead and a new paradigm had emerged. Few people owned the range of “stuff” that people in the 20th century owned. People lived in relatively cramped conditions compared to the 20th century, since mass mobility had become gruesomely expensive. So people opted to consume in terms of affordable services – entertainment, self-expression, virtual games, synthetic forms of religion, narcotics.
Unemployment had long since become an irreversible part of society, and had proven completely irreversible. Despite earlier trends in the 20th century democracy was now a lean and mean decision-making machine, and democracy had evolved in to an increasingly effective bartering tool for the masses. Corporations and financial elites had lost most their affluence in the ruthless 2020s, except for a few stodgy potentates, oligarchs and moguls that were mostly locked in the few remaining enclaves of authoritarianism. The world was rapidly moving towards treaties and one world government and a far more systemic democracy than any time in human history before.
People were so incredibly bored. And that is what was driving political progress – people were desperate to make their lives better, and the only way to do that was to make themselves feel better, younger, more alive, more empowered, healthier, saner, more educated. It was like a transitional funnel squeezing humanity in to posthumanity as toothpaste in to the future.
But one aspect of the human state didn’t change (fast enough!), and that was the primate brain. Humans might have animated tails, blue fur, giant green nightvision eyes, fully functional hermaphroditic parts and cybernetic hookup parts to a form of cyberspace humans wouldn’t even be able to define in 2013 – they still were stuck in underwhelming 1450 gram brains.
And in the 2030s this started changing.
Brain prosthetics had been illegal in most countries for over a decade. Earlier 2020s brain interface experiments had turned people stark raving insane (or dead), and the resulting freaks had become mostly unable to function in civil society. But Exavana was exceptional, and black markets catered to a market with over a billion of users. There was profit to be made on all sides of the fence. The first interfaces for Exavana were motion caption implants, allowing people to interact with their preferred world, and a close second were implanted high resolution displays. But it didn’t end there – some implants delved in to the brain neurology and while they allowed people to vastly prosper in Exavana, they became fairly disabled in the real world. Who cared if Exavana users were in a constant pervasive euphoric haze?
Experimental states of neurological aberration that might have resulted in a steady stream of aberrant acts and behavior in the material world only added to the range of experiences in the pervasively virtual realms, and Exavana was perfectly suited for this new mode of being. Exavana accomodated the posthuman perfectly – the alternate world had become so sophisticated that in terms of sensory experiences large sections generated more input in sight, sound, detail, consistency, smell, touch, movement, temperature ranges, tastes than reality would. Exavana even offered a palette of strictly virtual input ranges – complimentary imaginative wavelengths in the virtually optical, tastes that were the result of metaphysical explanations of reality not possible on terra firma.
Tens of thousands of these transitional human creatures that migrate in to Exavana starting 2034 had no plans to ever return to “normalcy”. They could only do so situating their material form in relatively expensive medical receptacles in a very small range of geographic locations. Local laws in most of the Arabic world, The NAUS, China strictly disallowed these radical lifestyle choices, but Japan and western Europe more or less welcomed these freedoms. The influx of neocortical humans started as a trickle and by 2038 had become a torrent. The new reality they immersed themselves in was still based on human brains, but it assumed these brains were constantly hyperstimulated by the rendition of their inhuman bodies in Exavana.
Evolution went in to overdrive. It had proved possible to trick human brains in to thinking faster by a magnitude of three, by replacing key surface regions of the brain. Nothing functionally changed – it was easy to make events in dedicated Exavana transpire faster. In the real world the possibility that some people might be thinking at a clock speed several times faster than other humans made not much difference either, as since 90% of the people were effectively left unemployable due to competitive technological investments that thought at speeds thousands of times faster, more precise than humans, a few tens of millions of people thinking a tiny bit faster than others wouldn’t make much of a difference. In in Exavana, where nearly all things were possible insofar some people regarded them as fun or meaningful, there were regions where time could be made to run slower or faster. This allowed for functional experiments as to closely watch what happens with brains when they are made to operate faster. As it turned out, there were hurdles every step of the way. These hurdles were overcome by peace-meal prosthetic intercessions.
This progress was made between 2036 and 2039, especially in India and the Russian continental region. Much of this research trickled down in to Exavana quite fast. The term for this speed improvement of human cognition was labelled “overclocking” and in this decade progress was made for improvements up to 25 times thinking speed. This proved the absolute maximum for thinking faster based on the native architecture of the human brain. The improvement involved nanotechnological replacement of neuron pathways, replacement of individual neurons, vast upgrades to the cellular neurological transmission speed and the introduction of a whole new brain infrastructure of electrical driven connectivity means. But the human brain is so successful because it is the artifact of evolutionary exploitation of natural constraints. The moment you really transcend hurdles you end up with human minds that don’t really function well in physical reality, or in social context. Experiments in Exavana were insightful, and it was very valuable to run experiments and then reset the subjects to a previous state, as defined by these experimental subjects beforehand.
This was a legal nightmare – people became voluntary psychopaths, or subjected themselves to arguably horrific mental states. And if it didn’t pan out, the experimenters would discontinue these mental states as surely as applying euthanasia on the person then alive, while resetting the person to a precious mental state. Did this constitute murder? Arguably it took fairly strange humans to subject a future version of themselves to arguably horrendous abuse, and this research was only possible in the last bits of human history and geographic space where such immoral things were still possible. Ten years later this would have become completely illegal everywhere, and those ruthless and paradoxical experiments in the 2030s provided valuable stepping stones to greater and more civilized experimentation and progress.
By 2039 the old model of the state had more or less lost all relevance. There were still countries, with elected governments, and capitals, and civil servants, but these had become embedded in a substrate of technological progress and infrastructure much as a scarab bug had become incapsulated to immobility in amber, small ball of attending feces included. 20th century legal atavisms had lost all relevance in the late 20s, and now they simply ceased functionality, much as a human landscape swept aside by a volcanic lahar. The majority of people survived, even though there was incidental great distress and incidental loss of human life. Existing welfare systems transitioned in to algorithmic based welfare state infrastructures. The only artefact that survived were courts of appeal. Democratic representation became agent based – citizens didn’t vote as such, they rather had elaborate discussions with artificial intelligence agents on the nature if their preferences. The AIgents interpreted the desires of their respective client constituents, and billions of AIgents (often dozens representing one individual respective clients in differing realms) hashed it out among themselves. Equally so the AIgents helped their clients (if they so desired) to integrate with the AIgents, or with desired prosthetic realms. These AIgents were not yet fully sentient in the human conscious philospophical, self-reflective, morally ambiguous sapient sense of sentience but they were very close for the smartest 50% of the species. As for the less smart, as said, between 2025 and 2045 a few tens of million people actually did die on the consequences of bad planning and flawed judgement.
If someone from 2014 would have been taken to the year 2042, nothing would have made sense. Streets were still streets, but what happened there all around could not be translated to experiences from a human from less than half a century earlier. Nothing would have depicted the hidden violence and upheaval of states being displaced by a franticly legalese mush of post-state globalism. The main concern was fair representation, and that nobody lost any entitlements. Those that lost most were quickly planning exit strategies, and in the 2040s most “relative privilege maintaining” exit strategies focused squarely on subjecting yourself to emigrating from the planet. This was possible, albeit extremely expensive and hideously uncomfortable.
In essence planet Earth in the 2040s started “cooking off” the irreconcilable privileged in to the surrounding near space environment. Anyone that couldn’t except the ever expanding tax rates (insofar what was transactionally evolving could still be regarded in primeval outdated terms such as “economy” or “taxation”) simply started packing. The process of packing implied liquidation of terrestrial investments and taking it all in to space. It can be argued that those that did were the lucky ones, as they prospered immensely from their sacrifices in terms of “economic”, “industrial”, respectively “technological” advances made off the planet. The entrepreneurs of the 2030s and 2040s settled on the Moon and Lagrange archipellagos, had a range of spacecoms there for 2-3 decades, and then moved on to the Asteroid belt in the 2050s-2080s. But it can argued with equal authority that those that didn’t leave Earth were far better off, since they were surrounded by the most elaborate cognitive infrastructure, service providers and a social safety net that was has in the 21st century steadily expanded to cater to every whim, human, transhuman and posthuman.
The only thing that can be said with certainty that in the 2040s many things were no longer left to personal freedom. The transitional phase from localize state to a pandemonic one world governance was one of necessity. Necessity managing scarce resources, necessity curtailing population growth and consumption rates, necessity reconciling massive disequilibrium in affluence and lack of human dignity, necessity making sure the planetary biomass wouldn’t end up dead and lost.
Many events in Exavana wouldn’t have made sense in 2014. The world was quickly becoming a exponentially expanding permutation of normal reality and mutating in to far abstraction of metaphor. The fact that the majority of the user base in 2050 were functionally cyborgs just to take part in the game made the game itself competitively demanding to a degree that would have been inconceivable to even people from the 2020s. In 2054 the game was situated everywhere, and there were hardware structures in all major cities that catered to the needs of users everywhere. This made the game a deeply political entity, and the pervasive political ideology of the vast majority of users was labeled after their leader, the wellknown philospopher David Pearce. David was now living in an underground structure in the Northern part of the UK, and had been a very influential figure in Exavana since the early 2020s. In game he personally comprised a pantheon of seven godly creatures, and his symbolic relevance in game was as pervasive as the philosophical significance of the person David Pearce in providing out-game resources for users. But most relevant he had become a voice for allowing users of the game radical interventions in their own neurology, genetic makeup and body. Although this was not a well-known fact at the time, the original David Pearce was long since entombed in a full body prosthetic device, and the attractive elfin gentleman that occasionally physically traveled to key locales world world-wide to lecture on utilitarian philosophy was a vat-grown clone body interspersed with cybernetic functionality. David Pearce used several of these bodies for a range of tasks, and as such could not longer be easily summarized as a singular human being. But what was most relevant was his less public research work, initially conducted with by several networking foundation world wide, and later in the 2090s funded by Lunar Bank.
David was reverse engineering the human mind, the human brain, the algorithmic human connectome and how it interacted with both genetic imperatives for survival. David had been dedicated since the 20th century on exorcising the ‘Darwinian Demon’, or the inherent pain, fear and negative aggression that was root fundamental in the human state. The project had advanced slow up to the early 2040s but with the emergence of universal artificial intelligence it became quite feasible to redefine the human soul in to a format that would still be rational, sane, social, highly intelligent – yet fully emancipated from the shackles of survivalist instinct and suffering. But as David was having results with his team of volunteers it became clear he was shirking the very definition of what it meant to be human. Many countries world wide had blacnkly disallowed his research or the products of his research in their jurisdictions, and several countries only allowed the fundamentally psychologically engineered humans to only manifest ‘in virtuo’. Human beings were still defines as such by and large because they had at one time been born as humans, and the law was constantly catching up in definitions to accommodate humans with multiple bodies, or humans that had complex multitasking abilities, or humans whose mind operated mostly on silicate (non-organic) prosthesis. Exavana was the perfect experimental environment for David Pearce and his ardent followers.
In early life Pearce was all about furthering the interests of abolition in a generic, ephemeral, theoretical manner. But as technology progressed, and Pearce got richer and richer from his online activities and speculation (he might tens of millions of vircred speculations in the 2020s) his goals became more specific. In the 2030s there had emerged the philosophical problem that specializing in a virtual existence had become something of an existential trap – once any person developed majority parts of his or her connectome to exclusively deal with the intricacies of virtual world, the actual world would never measure up. It would always be possible to create new ‘low-abstraction’ channels of information and meaning in virtual environments. It was becoming routine to directly funnel these in to new “synthetic” senses, or interface these filtered in to participants in gaming environments. The end result is that large parts of the minds of real people in gaming environments (as opposed to people with no guaranteed incomes, no state recognition, no vote, no citizenship rights – i.e. “game sprites” or “NPC’s”) became irreversibly incompatible with physicality.
David Pearce tried to reverse this, and in the 2060s he pretty much declared defeat. But what he succeeded in was maybe more relevant to the flow of society. In the late 2050s David succeeded in successfully deconstructing the functional difference between game characters and people. For a number of years game characters had been active in the game, generating their own game revenues and carving out a unique space in the massive VR worlds. Quiite often these were branch-away characters abandoned by former players, running on automatic pilot. Some of these were strictly speaking as sentient as players. In the years that various researchers worked to reverse the exodus of human citizens in to the massive abyssal spaces of the virtual, the number of entities that were morally equivalent to human minds in these dimensions had ballooned to many more than the number of players. Since in the 2050s material Ceteceans had rights citizenship, why not grant the same rights to game characters who were just as sentient? Several European countries were faced with these demands, and were confronted with real world voters expressing a clear vote to make it so – in 2061 millions of high-detail game characters were granted subsidiary UN citizinship. Many of these game characters were only fleetingly aware of the actual existence of Earth and had been under the delusion that Exavana was “real” and any backchannel talk of “Earth” was just casual reference of equivalent dimensions of realities. This allowed Pearce and his team to prove these minds were authentic, sentient and deserced just as much citizenship acknowledgement as actual human beings. This made little difference at first, as the vast majority of these sprites would never be able to leave these virtual worlds. It did however mean they could no longer be arbitrarily eradicated in-world. In some cases there had been situations where conspiracies of characters (both “real” and “emergent”) had proved able to permanently extinguish emergent characters, who hadn’t formally consented in advance to being exposed to permanent existential risk. In the 60s it would be permissible for game characters to “emancipate” and work to generate in-game income, and use that income to purchase hardware to emulate a full self-awareness, sentience, sapience and consciousness on par with natural-born human minds in Exavana.
This recognition had been a formulaic recognition of accountable personhood. In 2064 the first game-generated emergent persona succeeded in attaining citizinship rights in the real world, by treating reality as just another environment, struggling up the existential mountain and acquiring funds to “grow a real body”. At that very moment Earth had several billion more potential citizens, and the theoretical electorate of the planet close to doubled.
It also opened up the potential for returning formerly cryonic suspended patients to full citizinship status. This was done first, depending on definitions, in 2059. A well-known transhumanist who had been suspended in 2017 was informationally reconstructed to a detailed semblance and self-acknowledgement in a remote region of Exavana. It took the mind a few objective years (which meant- several subjective decades) to make sense of his new existential state as an informorph mind and attain all the cognitive affordances to sue for recognition of his personhood. This individual then also used “sprite” emancipation laws to formally sue for personhood and claim back rights of the real world financial trust left in his name – which had expanded to become several billion euro in investment value. By the 2070s all people that had once been cryonic suspended had become reconstructed (and in many cases information loss compensated for by means of therapeutic reconstruction-through-simulation to “fill in the gaps”.) and readmitted into existence. It meant that people who had died in the 1970s had found themselves in a quaint and somewhat perplexing shadow lands of the 1970s, to find to their massive surprise they had forgotten most of who they were, but had become therapeutic constructs (but not wholly) mostly dead people.
Information loss to Cryonic suspensees had dwindled to negligible in patients who had become frozen by better vitrification in the late 1990s to early 2000s from negigible information retrievability to pretty decent “Dawkinsian” vitrification in around 2010 and onwards. The amount of patients recovered thus never exceeded more than a few thousand “people”, but the philosophical relevance of these retrievals was profound for humanity.
This model of new people emerging was pushed to the breaking point in the late 1960s as various universities world wide started running historical simulations using offshoots of the Exavana format. While these simulations were never true enough to be able to long deceive anyone who was in them, these universities did cause major problems by running historical persona and allowing these to blossom in to full sentience. This again flooded the emancipation process with billions of minds, in many cases quite confused and angry minds from a range of “fairly small” historical simulations, all throughout the 2060s and 2070s, to seek readmittance to reality. The UN limited this process. It stipulated new laws to protect minds that could effectively argue they were real before a parole board,. but the UN also stipulated that anyone who could be held directly responsible for this emergence of a new sentience to be financially accountable as a parent for several objective years. This parental period expanded from a few months in the 2070s to one billion seconds (just over 30 objective years) in the year 2113.
Exavana in the year 2114 is by any reasonable definition bigger than reality, and there are many hundreds of billions of authentic sapient minds with citizenship rights “down there”. ‘Exflux’ from Exavana is modest – only a few million a year, mostly emergent sprites seeking to explore reality through emancipation. Exavana now runs on a planetary computronium substrate in subterranean nodes all over the planet. Each human-equivalent mind needs the functional equivalent of a large office building to render all the survival infrastructure, backup, communications nodes, energy processors and virtual reality simulations systems, so for (also including the many dozens of non-exavana systems) all of mindkind locked in perpetual mental activity below the surface of the planet, the total infrastructure in dedicated mass exceeds the mass of a major asteroid. That is getting close to what can be liberated in natural resources in the planetary crust using 2114 technology. Exavana and other systems have problems getting off the planet, since these virtual reality servers like to be within a few light nano-seconds of one another. Exavana has a toe-hold in several captured asteroids in geosync linked with sky hooks, and there is quite an expanding Exavana community (a few ten billion minds and counting) on Luna as well.
So now we are here, in Wales. The Exavana old country lies embedded under a bubble, restores to a semblance of its original state. It is emulated in a block of deep crustal iron computronium deep under North Sea continental basalt. All roads an pathways in Exavana lead to the source, this original bit of universal aesthetic aspiration.
In 2114 there are hundreds of billion souls in Exavana, many of them frantic swirls of meaning and beauty and adventure beyond what a person from 2014 might possibly conceive of or understand.