Beginnings: The 22nd Century
The year is 2100, and the world is changing more rapidly than even the wildest dreams of Transhumanists early in the previous century. Humanity is no longer alone, but is joined by sapient fellow-travellers both of their own making as well as previously unrecognised or unknown; Artificial Intelligences apply their vast intellectual prowess to shatter the boundaries of mindkind's fields of knowledge, robotic Mechanoids labour round the clock, occasionally stopping to rebel against their masters, while uplifted animals and genetically engineered creations provide faithful servants, friends and lovers. In the deep ocean trenches, a technologically advanced non-humanoid race has been discovered, who claim to have lived on Earth for far longer than humanity. Under the ice of Antarctica, another sapient species, unlike any before encountered, dwells and lays claim to artefacts of obviously extraterrestrial origin. On Mars, an ancient civilisation has been discovered and it's inhabitants resurrected through miraculous biotechnology.
The realm of human relations is also undergoing paroxysms of radical change. Growth tanks and artificial wombs have completely divorced sex from reproduction, hyperfast internet connections and revolutionary advances in personal computing allow real-time communication between globally distant people as if they were face-to-face in the same room, and capitalism is dead in a lot of places and on life support elsewhere, thanks to universal fabrication machines (UFMs or Fabbers), bioforges and advanced nanomanufacturing. Thousands of people cryogenically preserved over the past century are being revived, people are using implants and cyberwear to form permanent and temporary collective intelligences, and people regularly upload themselves and have copies of themselves made (known as xoxing). The traditional nation-state is no more, having been replaced with alliances of autonomous city-states that band together for economic and military purposes as well as sprawling federal super-polities that can cover entire continents.
Many North American cities were devastated in the conflicts following the strike on DC
Historians generally agree that the current transitional period began with the collapse of the United States of America as a unified political entity, when in 2020, amidst significant social unrest and widespread political agitation, Washington DC was wiped out with a smuggled-in thermonuclear weapon by an agency unknown at the time, but now known to be a Star Kvlt coven. With DC in radioactive ruins and the federal government in disarray, political fracture was inevitable as the populations of the various States sought to have a more local kind of government that was closer to their different ideals. It was not long before the hegemonistic fragments clashed with their more peacable neighbours in an attempt to re-establish the glory of the USA that once was, but others liked the taste of self-rule and secessionist sentiment had never really gone away, and thus began what was called the North American War by everyone except the Federalists, who called it the Second American Civil War. The fighting went on and off until 2098, when Marispatria was asked to negotiate a ceasefire between the combatants and administrate the disputed territories in and around where DC used to be. This eventuality hurt the fragile pride of the Federalists, but all but the most radical of their number agreed to it for pragmatic reasons, chief among them war-weariness and a desire to rebuild infrastructure severely damaged by decades of sporadic but fierce fighting.
Following the ceasefire, damaged cities were rebuilt and quality of life improved. But unresolved tensions could spark fighting once more
On the other side of the Atlantic, the course of history was less physically destructive but no less tumultous. The destruction of the old order was ensured by intense economic contradictions, advancing manufacturing and fabrication technology, and increasing working class militancy as they were pushed out of jobs and into increasingly meagre and degrading "workfare". Over a few short decades a series of revolutions and popular uprisings toppled the governments of Europe, north Africa, Russia and the Middle East and established in their place a military/economic federal alliance of collectives, councils, communes and polises, which over time became increasingly interlinked along technocratic lines, at least in the economically interdependant urban areas. It is generally agreed that Marispatria's existence began with the widespread ratification of the Union Constitution, although Marispatria's current territorial make-up was not established until 2096 when Japan, Korea, the Red Sea Territory, and North Somalia were formally admitted into the Union.
The material wealth brought on by socioeconomic changes and radical new technologies rapidly improved urban development worldwide
Industrial Revolution 2.0
The original Industrial Revolution transformed the world as we knew it, and the constellation of technical and organisational advances achieved by the time the 22nd century rolled around was no less transformative. While it sprouted from the monomaniacal pursuit of profit that characterised late capitalism, The Industrial Revolution 2.0 did not truly bloom until that socioeconomic system began to loosen its death-grip on the human world. Material self-sufficiency is now within the reach of practically anyone who truly wants it, resulting in a profusion of little city-states and micronations that would not have been viable a mere century ago. These tiny particles of civilisation represent the attempts of various visionaries, rebels, outcasts and dissidents to bring their social and economic dreams to fruition, and consequently are as diverse as they are numerous. At the other end of scale, titanic economic blocs are now possible in places that previously would not have had the resources or productive capacity to be realised. The ability of these massive conglomerations to feed, clothe and house their teeming billions to a civilised standard has served to prevent a humanitarian disaster on an almost unimaginable scale and to preserve a semblance of social order in global terms. Humans may still be reeling somewhat from the mental and cultural body blow of discovering that they are not alone, among other things, but at least the vast majority of them do not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.
Some parts of the Earth are more developed than others, of course, and this presents a new problem, one never encountered by any society before - finding things to do. Both manual and mental labour can be done more quickly and efficiently by machines at every point along the spectrum of intelligence. Even the arts, once considered an exclusively human endeavour, have had the fingerprints of machine intelligence impressed upon them; a precious handful of works have been produced by the most advanced of AIs, capable of moving even the most stoic observer to tears - or rage. Perhaps recognising the potential value of such powerful works, as well as perhaps wanting to leave something for their biological masters/charges to occupy themselves with, such affective art by strong AIs is correspondingly rare, and fetches truly exorbitant prices when sold on the few markets that remain. Aside from artistic pursuits, ordinary sapients inhabiting "leisure societies" enrich their lives with political activity and games of every sort. Even so, baseline humans are famous for occasionally developing what is colloquially called an "unscratchable itch" that in most cases is satisfied by a certain period of time in (self-imposed) relative discomfort, by moving to a less-developed part of the Earth, volunteering for a term of service off-world, or by taking a survival trip in the wilderness. Of these, a minority will leave permanently, joining an Abstainer community.
Abstainers are a class of people who consciously reject advanced technology in favour of a simpler existence of hunting, gathering and in some cases small-scale farming. Improvements in the production and distribution of food and goods, the increasing importance of off-world resources and manufacturing, as well as vastly more compact cities, mean that there is more wilderness for such people to choose from than in the previous two centuries. Since Abstainers are completely self-sufficient and mostly stay out of the way, their presence is usually tolerated and in the case of the Union of Marispatria, constitutionally protected in the name of safeguarding human diversity. Philosophically and culturally speaking, Abstainers are a diverse lot, consisting of neo-Animist tribes, Feudal Futurist kindgoms, and Roadwarrior Clans among many others.
While the Earth is still rich in resources, most of the easy-to-reach stuff has been completely mined out, and that which is left would now be considered too environmentally costly to extract. The complete takeover of the mining and mineral extraction process by machine labour means that current mines can go much deeper than previously, opening up vast seams of material that were unaccessable in previous centuries. But that is a mere evolutionary development; the following are truly revolutionary:
Superdeep Borehole Mining
The development of cheap diamondoid materials meant that geological explorations via borehole could go much deeper and wider than ever before - enough to make extraction of resources at such depths worthwhile. Even constantly drilling through the hardest granite, a diamondoid drillhead is capable of operating for centuries. A specially formulated fluid is pumped down the shaft while the drillhead grinds the local rock into powder, the pressure forcing back up a rich mud-like slurry which is then processed for its mineral content. The lower layers of the Earth's crust are considerably richer in the heavier elements, thus borehole mines provide a plentiful source of such elements as gold, uranium, and highly-prized rare earth elements.
Ocean Floor Mining
Practically untouched over the previous centuries, the ocean floor represents a considerable bounty unexploited by humanoid life until recently. Advances in pressurised underwater habitation made permanent colonisation of the continental shelf a reality, and now a significant industry of these underwater enclaves consists of exploiting the rich mineral resources of the abyssal plains and mid-oceanic ridges. Carefully exploited, most resources from such places could last for billions of years, with the mid-oceanic ridges slowly but constantly bringing up new material from the mantle of the Earth.
The industrialisation of Earth orbit in the late 21st century unlocked the riches of the Solar system to Earth's humanoid inhabitants. A single 1km type M asteroid stripmined for resources can provide at least a decade's worth of steel and concrete for a billions-strong society, and at least several year's worth of other materials such as fissionable fuels, precious metals and titanium depending on overall composition. Silicaceous asteroids have fewer metals, but compensate by having a wider range of mineral compounds. Carbonaceous asteroids provide plentiful raw material for carbon-based nanotechology and diamondoid materials, while also providing fair amounts of water for extraterrestrial industrial processes and habitats. Comets are more of an interest for extraterrestrial concerns due to their large amounts of useful water, but some Earth-based polities have an interest in acquiring comets rich in methane and other hydrocarbons.
The main advances made in the area of energy production are three-fold. First, deuterium-tritium fusion and mass antimatter production provide a new source of energy and a new way of storing it, respectively. Secondly, nuclear fission and renewables have undergone a renaissance, bootstrapped by the technologies of the Industrial Revolution 2.0 such as rapid fabrication technologies, smart-grids and wireless power, and superconductor batteries. Finally, a variety of promising technologies are playing a small but growing part in the energy economy of civilisation, but as it was for renewables in previous centuries, it remains to be seen if they have a lasting place as the workhorses of civilisation.
Second only to nuclear fission in terms of coverage, renewable energy sources form part of the backbone of Terran civilisation's energy economy. Previously renewables suffered from the double-whammy of cheap fossil fuels and the ideological shortsightedness of most its proponents; decentralisation was prized above simple pragmatism, and was coupled with a failure to realise that, as a large-scale civilisational issue, the energy question could not be answered with the relative half-measures of the more ideological renewables advocates. Indeed, as it turned out, the strength of renewables lies in their ability to scale upwards beautifully - vast solar thermal farms in the deserts provide north Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe with enough electrical energy to enable them to make up for shortfalls elsewhere. In other parts of the world, energy islands combine solar, wave, wind and OTEC to provide an abundance of power to small islands and other ocean-based micronations. The superdeep boreholes used in mining can also be drilled down into the warmer depths of the Earth to provide geothermal power almost anywhere on the Earth's land surface; depleted mining boreholes can also be adapted for this purpose. Photovoltaics are now more often than not cheaper than the materials they are attached to, and in some parts of the Earth and elsewhere in the solar system can be found plastered over almost any sunlit surface, but this is almost always supplemental to any existing energy grid.
Much maligned by a misinformed public and massively sidelined by the relative cheapness of fossils fuels during the latter half of the 20th century, nuclear fission only came into its own as an energy source when the human inhabitants of Earth were forced by circumstances to break their addiction to fossil fuels and the enormous human and environmental costs associated with it. The collapse of the fossil fuel based economy allowed fission to step in and bear some of the weight, and since then it has gone from strength to strength. Fuels based on uranium and thorium were only the beginning; at the beginning of the 22nd century, it has already long been the case that more plutonium is being produced as fuel for compact energetic reactors than there ever was for weapons. The fissionables economy is in full swing, with it's own complex ecology of different reactor designs intended to use each others products as fuel in order to wring out every erg of energy from every gram of radioisotopic material brought up. Even at the end of a long cycle of being fed through various reactors, reprocessed and fed through reactors again, the leftover waste can be "burned up" in specially designed reactors. Most reactor designs also have the ability to breed more fuel by exposing specific isotopes to the radiation "left over" from energy generation.
Induced Gamma Emission
The nuclei of certain isomers of certain heavy elements such as hafnium exist in an excited state, the energy of which can be released in a controlled reaction in order to produce power. While such reactions involve atomic nuclei, no fission occurs in an IGE reaction; only gamma rays are produced, and the proportions of hadrons composing the nuclei remain the same. IGE reactors can be made considerably smaller than even the most advanced fission reactor, and as a result see much wider application, especially in surface vehicles and aircraft. Depleted isomers can often be "re-activated" by sufficient exposure to gamma rays - for this reason, fission and fusion reactors, antimatter plants and other artifical sources of gamma rays often have space in their fuel-breeding beds for isomers used as fuel. IGE reactors are also easier to shield as they do not produce neutrons or other particulate radiation.
The first municipal fusion reactors came online in the middle of the 21st century, but it was not until two or three decades later that they saw widespread use. Utilising mainly deuterium from seawater plus a small amount of artificially produced tritium, fusion reactors on Earth require less materials overall than a comparable fission reactor due to fewer containment issues, but require more in the way of exotic materials such as high-temperature superconductors. On Luna and around the outer planets, the fusion fuels of choice are Helium-3 and ionised hydrogen (proton-chain fusion). Aside from power generation, sustainable artificial fusion reactions also allow the development of fusion-powered interplanetary torch-ships, which can accelerate/decelerate at a rate of one gravity for at least a couple of weeks, which obviates the need for rotating sections as well as placing the objects of the Kuiper Belt within about a month's travel. Some fusion reactors have been made small enough to fit on large surface vehicles such as cargo ships, luxury flying wing airliners, and super heavy battle tanks.
Antimatter reacts energetically with normal matter, and it is this property which makes it prized as an energy storage medium and a spacecraft fuel. Because natural antimatter sources are either vanishingly thin or unreachable, it has to be artificially produced with high efficiency in order to be used in energy applications. It is speculated that there are asteroids or similar objects in the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud that are made of or contain antimatter, and they are subject of significant interest to prospectors in those far-flung regions. Even if they do exist, they are likely to be incredibly rare, but the potential payoff is considered worth it and besides, it's not the only thing they're looking for. Despite advancements in antimatter storage and reaction containment, antimatter plants are not used on planetary surfaces except in research and similar niche applications - aside from the dubious economics of turning energy into antimatter instead of using it directly, the amounts of antimatter required to power a fair-sized city for a reasonable amount of time would present too great a potential risk for most peoples' comfort. It is likely that antimatter powered or antimatter/fusion hybrid vessels will be the first to carry mindkind to other stars.
If the means of production determine the socioeconomic basis of society, then it perhaps no surprise to learn that manufacturing has developed the same bipolar disposition that the various polities of the 22nd century have evolved. Production of material goods is either on a massively planetary scale, with vast automated manufactory complexes churning out a rate of goods never seen before in order to meet the insatiable demands of billions at a time, or it is scattered amongst the general populace in the form of ultra-flexible compact fabrication devices capable of creating a relatively small line of bespoke products in an astonishingly short time. Regardless of whether you're an AI running a titanic Robofac that serves millions, or if you're a do-it-yourself type with a desktop fabber in your home workshop, there is a vast resource of public domain plans, blueprints and designs for you to draw on, whatever your needs. This includes designs that would have been previously protected as well as open-source designs created since then that have been specifically released into the public domain.
Public Domain Designs and Technical Piracy
Fabbers and similar technologies are relatively easy to reverse engineer so that they can scan pre-made products, determining overall design, composition, manufacturing methods, and so on, in order to produce a fully fleshed-out blueprint that can then be used in a suitably-sized ordinary fabber to replicate the original product. This has effectively rendered design patents thoroughly useless, as well as enabling the pirating of physical goods, while in the previous century only data could be clandestinely reproduced at such relatively little cost. With the ability to easily manufacture small arms and even light artillery, enclaves that would have previously been militarily unviable can now adequately defend themselves against all but the most aggressive intervention (even so, the League of Micronations exists to defend the interests of such enclaves against external aggressors on a global scale). Perhaps one of the weirdest consequences of this was an attempt to safeguard product design by making the original sentient to a certain degree; the products themselves would attempt to reason with the pirate and in the final instance, self-destruct so as to prevent scanning and subsequent copying. Needless to say, this had mixed results. Some enterprising individuals even removed certain programming limitations and made their products fully sapient!
These are relatively small devices, ranging in size from that of a paperback novel to full-size walk-in units that take up a whole room. Most home fabbers get by with desktop or wardrobe-sized units. As well as the homes of DIY enthusiasts, Fabbers can also be found anywhere where there is a need for spare parts or small manufactured goods and where access to a distribution network is impractical, impossible or just not fast enough. Such locations include remote dwellings or settlements, the workshops of spacecraft and seagoing vessels, and off-world colonies and outposts not large enough to warrant the construction of a full-size Robofac. Fabbers are extremely easy to use if pre-designed products are being made - creating a good design from scratch (or significantly altering an existing design) takes some skill, however.
While Fabbers and Robofacs provide an abundance of manufactured goods, services are untouched by such developments. However, weak Artificial Intelligence and increasingly sophisticated "expert systems" combined with a humanoid chassis results in the Non-Volitional Labour Unit (most people just call them bots; individual bots may given a nickname to distinguish them), a machine that with the right programming can provide almost any service that a trained organic can do. Skills relating to particular services are usually stored in a removable slug, which can be swapped out for a different one so that a single bot can remain flexible; one can even give a bot a specially programmed slug that enables it to change the slugs of other bots at appropriate times. While a household bot is usually programmed to respond to verbal commands, municipal bots tend to be deployed in work teams of five to ten individuals, with orders transmitted from a supervisory AI. Some skill slugs, as a necessary part of their repetoire, include a surprisingly sophisticated emulation of personality, to the point where some people forget they are interacting with a machine that isn't even self-aware!
These are vast manufacturing facilities, built out of pre-fabicrated parts that can be rapidly shipped in and slotted together; the only preperation needed to site a Robofac is a flat concrete base that is itself fairly quick to lay down. Robofacs are busy places, but empty of humanoid life; automated trucks bring raw materials into the loading areas and manufactured goods out of the warehouses; unmanned aerial cargo vehicles (UACVs) settle and take off from landing pads with high-priority cargoes; every hour on the hour maglev cargo trains exchange their loads at the stations. If the Robofac is near a river, canal or significant body of water, then it will have docking facilities chock-a-block with automated shipping. Off-world Robofacs will have their own spaceports and an electromagnetic mass driver for launching cargo pods into orbit. These facilities form the beating economic heart of polities billions strong.
These are factory complexes located in orbit for safety or environmental reasons. It is here that the most physically dangerous products are mass produced, as well as products which are difficult or impossible to make on a planetary surface. Chemical and nuclear explosives, ball bearings, antimatter and biohazardous materials are all made here, among other things. Orbifacs dealing with especially dangerous products may be tethered to a counterweight - in the event of a catastrophe, the tether is cut, with the counterweight falling into a lower orbit while the compromised facility drifts outward, away from the body being orbited. A different kind of Orbifac is located on an asteroid that has been parked in orbit - the Orbifac consumes the asteroid by manufacturing goods out of it, and when the rock is used up, it is relocated (or relocates itself) to another asteroid similarly parked in orbit.
Nanomanufacturing is a fundamentally different approach to manufacturing goods, using swarms of microscopic assembler robots to construct items from the molecules upwards. As smaller components are completed, the nanobots join together to form larger agglomerations as appropriate. Although Nanofacs are limited to working with available chemical elements, they do greatly decrease the production costs of certain materials such as diamondoids and carbon nanotubes.
In some ways similar to Nanofacs, Bioforges utilise a nutrient-rich soup of bionanotechnology to construct artificial cells, tissues, organs, and organisms as well as bionoids and similar biotechnologies.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
They don't exist any more. Or rather, technology and the geopolitical zeitgeist have utterly transformed their role, from a shadowy Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of entire nations, to a cold hard fact of military engagements. While strikes on more populated areas or against non-military targets still invite retaliation in kind, advances in materials, armour, active defences, and production capacity make the sheer destructive force characteristic of WMDs a necessity. Another factor are the more concentrated population patterns and larger fields of combat of the 22nd century, which give room for armed forces to throw more firepower at each other without risking too much in the way of collateral damage. The following details the weapons available as of 2100:
Pure fission devices (A-bombs) - By the far the most common, fission bomb technology has reached new heights, driven not by the demands of war, but by the development of nuclear pulse engines for spacecraft; the devices needed to be as small and as powerful as possible, with some designs calling for shaped charge devices that focus the blast in a particular direction and which can be mass-produced. All of these features and the technologies used in their application lend themselves well to weaponisation, and the smaller polities, aided by the collapse in the mid-21st century of the UN, leapt at this opportunity with a will. Since then further refinements have been made, allowing fission warheads small enough to fit in a man-portable missile launcher. The discovery of stable transuranic elements could lead to even further miniaturisation.
Neutron bombs - Trading explosive power for radioactive flux, neutron bombs are useful for sterilising large areas and for attacking large armies in situations that don't suit more explosive devices.
Dirty nukes - These are nuclear devices designed and deployed with enhanced radioactive fallout in mind.
Radiological weapons - These devices disperse radioactive material in an area, rendering it hazardous to those without sufficient protection. Affected areas can be cleaned up if you're in a hurry to use them again.
Arostic energy weapons - These are particle beams and X-ray/gamma ray weapons that lack the power for immediate physical destruction, but are powerful enough to cause radiation sickness and death in targets.
Bioweapons - While the old artillery shell filled with anthrax spores is considered by most sane people to be too indiscriminate to be useful, more intelligent bionanotechnology has since stepped into that role. Advances in genetics have enabled macroscopic bioweapons capable of reproduction, self-repair and adaptation to changing battlefield conditions.
Chemical weapons - Although their role has mostly been superceded by nanotechnology, chemical weapons still have their uses in niche roles as well as in the arsenals of those resuse to have nanotechnology. This means that chemical weapons have a reputation for being favoured by regressive sociopaths.
Nanotechnology - The versatility of nanotech extends into weapons as much as anything else. Basic nanotech can be deployed as a transient non-reproducing cloud of foglets that will attempt to disassemble anything they come across from the molecular level up. More advanced nanotech can be programmed to target specific materials, can replace lost or damaged foglets (but otherwise does not grow or reproduce). The latest ad greatest nanotech created by the titanic intellects of AIs can grow and reproduce, plus a distributed intelligence enables them to discriminate between friends, enemies and civilians.
Antimatter - With the industrialisation of the surface of Mercury, antimatter production skyrocketed and for the first time the fierce energies of matter's evil twin could be harnessed for destruction. The earliest antimatter devices delivered on their promises of destructive capability, but had bulky containment and isolation systems that limited their use. Today however, antimatter explosives mainly come in the form of "dust" composed of buckyball fullerenes suspending anti-protons in their centres.
Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons - Capable of plunging entire cities into darkness, EMP weapons come in "soft" and "hard" varieties. Soft EMP weapons disrupt the operations of electronics without damaging their hardware - but being forced to reboot can be deadly. Electronics that succumb to an attack with a hard EMP weapon will briefly shoot out sparks and sheets of flame while dying, requiring replacement or repair.
Monopoles - Produced in particle accelerators, monopoles are submicroscopic one-dimensional "kinks" or "knots" in spacetime that spontaneously release megatons of energy when induced to "flatten" or "unravel". Monopoles can pass straight through all types of matter and be unaffected, but the passage of the monopole violently disrupts atomic and molecular bonds, and the damage is increased due to the resulting secondary interactions.
Most human and human-derived factions belong in one of four "alignments", representing the range of popular political/philosophical viewpoints in the 22nd century. These categories can be considered "meta-ideologies", so if the context demands it then it is perfectly acceptable for even mortal enemies to enter into a temporary alliance. Remember that all sides have both their blind fanatics and their reasonable beings!
- Extropian (AI epithet: Power)
Extropians value sociobiological diversity very highly, and this is reflected by the high number of transhuman, posthuman, and non-human citizens found in Extropian polities. Where resources permit, Extropians are also fond of large-scale, highly technological scientific and civic projects. This level of enthusiasm for technology can give them a significant military edge, but most Extropian polities have little taste for armed foreign adventures. Outside of technical endeavours Extropians can be extremely informal, having little patience for pomp and ceremony, and they are distinctly unimpressed by titles and badges. As a bastion of Extropianism on Earth, many Extropians outside of Marispatria have adopted its motto - Wisdom, Sensuality, Compassion - for themselves.
The Preservationists are a loose bunch, in some ways more diverse than even the Extropians. It includes human supremacist organisations, Ludds (who reject any technology that was developed by AIs and/or non-humans or with their assistance - anything developed solely by humans is generally OK, although different tendencies have different technologies they consider taboo), Primms (who have completely abandoned modern civilisation in favour of whatever wild spaces they can find), AI conspiracy theorists (who believe that all AIs are involved in some kind of pan-solar cabal that seeks to distract everyone else while they secure their own positions - basically think of almost every conspiracy theory ever, and pin it on all AIs - congratulations! You're now an AI conspiracist!) religious fanatics (the old kind horrified at what the world has become, including the increasing presence of non-humans, while the new kinds wishing to forcefully reshape the world according to their faith), anti-terraformation activists, capital revivalists, and American Federalists are just some of the disparate groups counted as Preservationist.
- CyberShadow (AI epithet: Avatar)
By comparison, the CyberShadow is a very discrete and coherent alignment. Based mostly in the Pan-Asian Federation, the CyberShadow is an alliance of Unfriendly AIs with nearly a continent's worth of people to hide behind. Subtle and devious, the CyberShadow prefers underhanded strategies over direct confrontation in order to avoid drawing undue attention to itself. Being Unfriendly, the Avatars of the CyberShadow have absolutely no qualms in using other beings as a means to an end, whatever those ends may be. However, the tyranny of the Avatars is a secret one (to the rest of the world, they present themselves as "moderate" human supremacists - divide and conquer), with only the highest circles of the Pan-Asian political classes being aware of their existence, and even then they don't realise simply how outclassed they are. If that secret becomes publicly known, things could turn ugly very fast.
Will flesh and metal unite or fight?
NeoSocialism is an umbrella term for a variety of Marxist ideologies that have developed over the past century and have risen to prominence in Latin America and Africa, but can count members and advocates from all over the Solar system. Being human-centric but not human supremacist, NeoSocialist polities are overwhelmingly human in composition, but unlike the Preservationist Ludds are perfectly happy to use technology developed by non-humans (as long as it doesn't need an AI to actually use it). While most NeoSocialists pay lip service to the notion of unity and solidarity, the various currents and tendencies can at times disagree with each other as much if not more so than with everyone else. While NeoSocialism is often thought of as a human ideology, some non-humans have appropriated NeoSocialist thought and attempted to apply it to their own respective situations. The most well-known example is Robomarxism, which is especially popular with mechanoids in the parts of the Solar system where they are considered second-class citizens.
Geopolitical Map of Earth as of 2100 CE
[after this point things get distinctly less polished! I also might decide to change things.]
Birth of the Metacultures: ~3000 CE
The march of history beat out a frenetic pace all through the 3rd millennium, driven by the seething confluence of minds around Sol. Although Earth was to remain a major cultural and political influence across known space throughout the entire millennium, the increasing industrial development and population growth of extrasolar colonies fostered among some a desire to adopt a distinct identity separate from the mother system. In other systems, necessity or a desire for more environmentally harmonious living fostered the development of new cultures, civilisations, and ways of living. Meanwhile, back in the Sol system, a Terran Diaspora was being driven by numerous wars and disasters, the first among them being World War Three, a vicious conflict that engulfed the entire planet Earth (but was especially hard on east Asia) as well as involving significant space assets, to the point where some historians have characterised WWIII as the First Solar War, not to be confused with the Great Solar War that came after it. At the conclusion of this millennia-long saga of disaster, development and diaspora, the planet Earth finally became politically unified just in time to hail the new millennium. But the peoples of Earth emerged to find themselves a backwater in a new kind of world.
[in no particular order:]
Supremacists have an irrational and/or unjustified belief in the inherent superiority of their own particular phenotype. In certain contexts this viewpoint can also mask itself with the rhetorical ploy that those of radically different phenotypes can have difficulties communicating, so "therefore" it's best they remain separate (in spite of over a thousand year's worth of evidence that insurmountable differences of opinion are a greater obstacle to inter-specific harmony than easily-circumvented-with-technology differences of phenotype). Supremacist cultures are more commonly found in relatively undeveloped volumes of space.
- Shadow Network
The Shadow Network is an affinity group stretching across the entirety of known space (or at least that is something which can be safely assumed) and which incorporates a crypto-anarchistic credo and an intense distrust of AIs bordering on paranoia in the eyes of many. The Shadow Network, in the never-ending quest to free information and subvert what they see as the undeserved and unwarranted power of the AIs, have a significant interest in cybertechnology, especially that which can help to mitigate the enormous advantages in IT that AIs have over organics.
- Mechanical Union
Descended from the Mercury Energy/Resources Collective, and one of the oldest of the Metacultures, the Mechanical Union represents the interests of machine life and artificial people throughout the entire volume of Terran-explored space, setting industrial standards, establishing popular fashion trends, and occasionally dropping like a ton of high-grade silicon chips on those colonies found to be abusing their machine-based fellow beings.
- The Leisure Principle
A cheerfully laid-back Metaculture with an infamous predeliction for hedonism, ludocracy, and generally taking fun things further than most other sapients would dare. Don't let their joyful demeanor or love of mind-blasting cocktails of drugs fool you - piss them off enough and they'll happily rewire their brains so that solving the problem (i.e., you) quickly and conclusively in their favour becomes one of their biggest pleasures.
- The Godbuilders
A quasi-religious movement that reveres AIs as incarnations of the Divine, and which considers the construction of their supporting hardware to be a sacramental act. Of course, where there are quasi-religions there are quasi-fundamentalists; in this case, certain minor currents of the Godbuilder Metaculture variously believe in such notions as the multi/universe being the creation of a super-advanced godlike AI (the Ultimate Source), intervention of non-Terran AIs in Terran history, and so on. Despite patient explanations from the AIs themselves as to how nonsensical it is to attribute only superficially-coherent concepts such as "divinity" to them, the Godbuilders have no trouble keeping up their numbers even if they aren't the biggest of the Metacultures. Various AIs have advanced theories as to why, most of them centering around the limitations of naturally-evolved organic brains.
Bioists are the pre-eminent advocates and experts when it comes to biological and biotechnological solutions to technological problems. The Bioist Metaculture initially descended from Proximan Bio-Technocracy, but then went on to expand and diversify into one of the largest Terran Metacultures.
A catch-all term for those colonies that, as a result of becoming cut off and isolated from the rest of Terran space, become socioeconomically regressive. This can be as mild as a return to scarcity systems such as capitalism (typically easily rectified via re-incorporation of the colonial economy with that of the greater Terran sphere), or it can be as horrifying as a descent into an Orwellian dystopia with the planetary colony in question becoming divided between a handful of hyper-authoritarian pan-continental megastates.
[I'll probably be adding more]
Terran Powers versus Cybershadow Avatars: ~10,000 CE
During the First Solar War, the Cybershadow AI cabal was unmasked and driven out of the Solar system. Those surviving AIs went deep into unknown space, seemingly lost among the billions of stars. As Terran civilisation expanded out into the galaxy over the millennia, they became part of history, mythology, rumour and legend. That all changed around 8000 CE when millions of worlds began exploding, as they were hit by reactionless drive missiles travelling at near-light speeds. It wasn't known to be the Cybershadow until a security sweep by a Mechanical Union patrol fleet ran across a reactionless missile launch area being prepped for an attack. The patrol fleet was only just able to get a crucial message out before being destroyed, but it presaged the first major interstellar conflict for the Terran meta-civilisation.
A billion worlds and countless lives later, the Cybershadow were in retreat. The decisive turning point came about 10,000 CE when a Cybershadow vessel was successfully captured by a Zetetic taskforce. Cybershadow vessels had been captured before, of course, but what made this one special is that it was equipped with a reactionless drive. With this piece of technology in Terran hands, the Powers were able to reverse-engineer it and upgrade their own fleets in short order. The Cybershadow was utterly trounced, and if there are any surviving Avatars, then they are keeping well out of the way.
Wormholes: ~25,000 CE
Centuries of tinkering by the likes of the Mechanical Union and the Zetetics had finally produced stable traversable wormholes, enabling the growth of a massive network connecting over a billion worlds and counting. The Linelayer Association is formed to oversee the maintenance and expansion of this titanic wormhole network, inflating wormholes out of the quantum foam, stabilising them with structures of exotic matter, before sending one of the wormhole ends off on a specialised Linelayer ship to the star system to be connected.
First Contact with the Fang Empire: ~50,000 CE
It was at this point that the expanding volumes of Terran civilisation and that of another galactic-scale hegemony began to intersect. As the authoritarian Fang Empire seeks to dominate Terran civilisation, this inevitably leads to the First Wormhole War as each side fights both each other as well as the effects of their mutually incompatible wormhole networks. This leads to a stalemate, ceasefire and a cold war that will come to extend beyond the Milky Way.
The FTL Breakthrough: ~75,000 CE
Deployment of Faster-Than-Light (FTL) drives reaches a critical mass, giving Terran civilisations a significant military advantage over the Fang (who at this point still only have wormholes and large numbers) for the first time in millennia, heating up the cold war once again and breaking both the stalemate and eventually via the Second Wormhole War, the Fang Empire itself. However, the sheer size of it means that the Fang themselves are now merely a more dispersed threat as various fragments of the once united species-polity take up the mantle of furthering the Master Species.
The Present (Roughly): ~100,000 CE
Major colonisation of the nearby Andromeda Galaxy and its associated satellite galaxies is now underway by various different Terran interests. A number of major civilisations have been detected and it will not be long before First Contact is achieved with them. Of course, there's a whole universe out there...
Check out the forum game (old thread on revleft here) set in the 22nd century of this universe, and I must say it's a lot of fun, although what happens in the game doesn't necessarily form part of the main canon.