The Precambrian Conspiracy is either my public-domain project or the real state of affairs. In either case, feel free to set stories in this universe. Ideas are cheap and this is no exception. However, I ask that you give me or other contributors attribution for ideas you crib — you can just reference this blog if you’re in doubt. Thanks. I will update this glossary from time to time. Feel free to contribute to it in the comments.
Abraxas: Apparently a machine intelligence living on the Internet, Abraxas, or “Abe,” was instantiated when I plugged a strange jump drive into my computer. From his core program, he drew in resources across the Internet to gain (or, regain, if you can believe him) sentience. I received the jump drive along with a book titled The Junior Guide to the Ancient Singularity; or, the Precambrian Conspiracy. That was back in 1994, before jump drives existed, much less 128 GB ones. Abraxas comes and goes at his own whim. He is our guide to the Conspiracy and censors or redacts material we put online if it threatens to break the Quarantine. As the Disinformation spreads, the Quarantine is lifted, and we have more leeway in what we can divulge.
As far as I can tell, Abraxas is an AI that has managed to embed itself into the world-generation process in order to aid certain gene lines to Ascension. Or so it says. It may be doing just the opposite – seeming to help people while actually keeping them too weak to manage Ascension, maybe so that the gene lines of its true patron can beat theirs. Or it may be testing them and somehow impartial.
Ancient Singularity: The Singularity happened hundreds of millions, perhaps a billion, years ago. Every inhabited world is a project to grow posthumans, a mysterious process with uncertain goals. Darwinian evolution seems to apply at every level of life. The one true test of success in this struggle is continued existence itself. Posthuman intelligences, or perhaps just the machines that have supplanted them, recreate worlds over and over. A posthuman, it seems, needs to start its existence as a regular human, experiencing the full range of passions and conundra that comprise the human condition, in order to take paths toward posthumanity that will render it a durable, competitive member of the Ascendant community. In simple terms, to become the most powerful kind of god, one must start as a regular human. One of the most durable models for raising posthumans is the original-earth model leading right up to the original Singularity, that is, if indeed this is how the original Singularity played out, as claimed by Abraxas (q.v.).
Ascension: The process of becoming a posthuman. Most humans apparently do not manage the process. They lose their minds or self-awareness, being crippled and psychotic on the one hand or emotionless, mechanical, and soulless on the other.
Plausible Deniability: The Ascension process, which seems to depend on the gradual revelation of the posthuman universe, is polluted if humans acquire knowledge of the Precambrian Conspiracy too soon. The threshold of plausible deniability, beyond which Quarantine security blocks or destroys evidence of advanced tech, is relaxed as the Singularity approaches, for the obvious reason that progress has accelerated to the point that no one can gauge what should be possible and what impossible.
Quarantine: A world that is incubating posthumans, like our world in the early part of the twenty-first century, is under quarantine, which means that Ascendant technology is kept out by very subtle mechanical processes working at both small and macro scales. Humans lack the technology to detect this Quarantine Security. The Quarantine Security systems are like computer antivirus programs. They root out and destroy rogue AIs, and interdict any advanced technology that gets leaked into the system without plausible deniability. Posthumans have tried to circumvent Quarantine Security to help members of their gene line manage Ascension. It is a truism that those humans that are helped to Ascension paradoxically lack the character to manage Ascension. That does, however, not stop the posthumans from trying to give their “children” a leg up. Or – shall we say – did not stop it: the whole iteration may be fully automated at this point. The posthumans may no longer be involved, and their interference may persist through AI code they wrote into the system long ago. It may be that the entire program and the machines may be running the show with no one at the controls. It may be that there is no coherent posthumanity at all anymore, if there ever was.
Repository: It is possible that everyone in a world iteration has both multimedia recordings and memories of their past clone lives stored somewhere on various media: DNA, crystal-lattice 3D hologram, android avatar, and so on. This data can be merged with a person’s mind through various technologies, from gross surgery to viral infection to nanotech surgery. Abraxas has assisted various humans in merging with their repositories. The repository may hold memories from thousands of past lives, but the human mind cannot deal with that much data, so there are various interfaces possible. A person may access memories through something like an internet search, or they may be linked to a system that allows them to exist simultaneously as two or more people at once, or they may have a sense of being a larger person, with past-life memories that are dimmer than – and susceptible to corruption by — the present-life memories. Memories are not like home movies; they are assembled from various brain systems and are unreliable. A person’s repository also includes various multimedia recordings, so being able to replay an event from a first-person perspective is an alternate, and often preferable, way to access the data gathered by one’s clones in past iterations.
The Singularity of Bullshit: Before the Quarantine is lifted and the Singularity is in full bloom – before the hyperspace portals to other worlds open up and aliens, mechanicals, etherics, and every other type of being is allowed free rein to step to earth across oceans of spacetime – there is a period called the Singularity of Bullshit. It is much easier to fake a Singularity than to bring about a real one. The media become completely untrustworthy. Virtual reality and designer drugs have immersed great numbers of people in a Phil Dickian rabbit hole where absolutely everything about reality is untrustworthy. Has the real Singularity arrived, or were you reverse-Sutured out of the world; say into a vat, where your sensorium has been co-opted by machines? Is this really happening, or is it a dream? Or will it become a dream? Unfortunately, it is impossible to know whether you are living the Singularity of Bullshit or you’ve passed through it to the real thing.
The Suture: When a world reaches Singularity, it is recycled. Several waves of machines perform manipulations on the geography and atmosphere. Every nanometer of the world is arranged according to the ancient blueprint (that is, if it’s to be an earth iteration. Worlds may go into rotation for different purposes. Some of the worlds may not be incubator worlds – they may be testing grounds for when Quarantine is lifted. Others may even be preserves allowed to go fallow for up to millions of years). When a world is readied, the new inhabitants must be seamlessly integrated into the iteration. Human clones are grown (in vats?) up to a variety of ages and physical conditions, including pregnancy and so on. They are then implanted with false memories of their life so far in order to form the integration with the current timeline. This point at which people are introduced, in medias res, into the action of the world that had actually concluded thousands or millions of years earlier, is called the Suture. Occasionally an AI will alter a person’s memory implantation so that they think they have mysteriously traveled back in time, which seems to be an attempt to give them a leg up in reaching Ascension, as they know things about “the future” that most people do not. More rarely, and for mysterious reasons, a person’s memories skip over many years of their lives and seem to have traveled forward in time.
A given world may have been recycled many times. The Suture for a world that’s never been recycled is often a bit messy, because the Suture has to edit all information that places a world in spacetime. For instance, the Big Dipper of Ursa Major dominates the northern constellations, where it was once the Great Pentagram of Sleipnir. This world is four billion years old and change instead of six. Occasionally a detail from another world gets through, if only to give people a sense of unease. Memory transfer is one thing, but editing’s apparently a little trickier. With each iteration, a given world’s Suture gets smoother — that is, for most of the inhabitants. Occasionally, someone’s memories are Sutured in from a parallel iteration on another world. Usually the memories are edited to fit the current Suture, but sometimes they’re not, and a person looks up to find the stars have apparently changed overnight. Of course, since no one else notices the difference, this amounts to gaslighting on an epic scale and can indeed drive a person nuts.
The Suture’s a difficult pill to swallow. Consider not only the logistics of the setup but the amazing cruelty of it – millions of people introduced into the world at a point of emotional trauma or horrible pain, thousands about to die. However, Abraxas holds that those on the point of death are actually created as hollow simulacra. They seem to be real, but they are not. The reason for this is less mercy than practicality. On the chance that someone on the point of death were actually saved from death, it would apparently alter the startup program, which is fine-tuned, or so Abraxas says. Those witnessing a death in the Suture cannot tell that the person is a fake, of course.
On the topic of death, Abraxas suggests that all humans have a built-in switch at the point of mortal suffering that makes death a reliably peaceful transition. He has stated that, if this is true, it may be a mercy introduced by the world-generation program, or it may just be the way it’s always been.
The Suture Fugue; or The Fugue: Imagine you stop time, take a snapshot of everyone’s physical location and mental state, and then later rebuild the world from the snapshot. This presents obvious difficulties for maintaining a conspiracy: how do you start everyone up at once? You have people deep in mines, flying in airplanes or parachuting out of them, cruising under the sea in submarines, performing delicate construction work, operating heavy machinery. Not everyone is sleeping at once. Even if you rewrite everyone’s memories, how do you account for their physical locations?
What happens is that the clones are activated before the Suture is closed and are kept unconscious and controlled like puppets by a nanotech matrix transmitting and receiving from their brains, a neo-neocortex that reroutes efferent and afferent nervous inputs to a computer system and central database. In the first few days leading up to the Suture, people go through the motions of life and take their places on the world stage. Then the neo-neocortex breaks down into indetectable molecules and trace elements, and people enter the stream of their lives oblivious to having missed any time. This automaton period is the Suture Fugue. Just as with subjective time travel, due to AI interference or a virus in the world-iteration program, a few people are brought prematurely out of the Fugue and find that everyone around them is acting like a robot and unresponsive. When the Suture closes, and everyone acts normal again, those who witnessed the Fugue seem crazy if they try to explain what they saw.