Science Fiction Dictionary

ADHOCRACY: A non-bureaucratic networked organization. “This form is already common in organizations such as law firms, consulting companies and research universities. Such organizations and institutions must continually readjust to a changing array of projects, each requiring somewhat different combinations of skills and other resources. These organizations depend on many rapidly shifting project teams and much lateral communication among these relatively autonomous, entrepreneurial groups.” [Scientific American, Sept. 1991, p.133. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970]

AEONOMICS: (from aeon and economics) The study of the economic problems of immortal existence. [Mark Plus; August 1991]

A-LIFE: Artificial life: The modeling of complex, life-like behavior in computer programs. A-Life forms can evolve and produce behaviors not contained within rules set by the programmers. See also the Introduction to Artificial Life by the Santa Fe Institute.

AGORIC SYSTEM: open, free market systems in which voluntary transactions are central.

AI: Artificial Intelligence. See the Artificial Intelligence Resources for more information.

AI-COMPLETE: (In analogy with NP-complete) A problem where the  solution presupposes a solution to the `strong AI problem’ (that is, the synthesis of a human-level intelligence). [Definition from the Jargon File]

ALEPH: A point or state where an infinite amount of information is stored and processed (As in the Omega Point). [Mitchell Porter]

ALGERNON: Any human who, via artificial or natural means, has some type of mental enhancement which carries a price. [Eliezer S. Yudkowsky 1996, the term based on the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes) ]

AMORTALIST: A person who opposes death.

ARACHNIOGRAPHY: A bibliography of web pages. [Andrew J. Butrica]

ARCH-ANARCHY: The view that we should seek to void all limits on our freedom, including those imposed by the laws of nature. [T.O. Morrow, 1990]

ARCOLOGY: Arcology is a termed coined by Italian architect Paolo Soleri in 1959 to describe the concept of Architecture and Ecology working as an integral system. Arcology designs are fully 3-dimensional mega-structure cities which can (theoretically) achieve much greater efficiencies, and promote more social interaction than 2-dimensional cities, while using far less land and consuming fewer resources. See also the FAQ of Arcosanti [Definition by Nathan Koren].

ARROW IMPOSSIBILITY THEOREM: The theorem in economics, due to Kenneth Arrow, which says that you can’t construct a “social preference function” (ranking the desirability of varius social arrangements) out of individual preferences, while retaining a particular set of features (“nondictatorship” – the social preference function can’t be just one person’s individual preferences; consistency – the social preference function can’t rank A above B, B above C, and C above A; “positive relation” between individual and social preference – if the social preference function ranks A above B, and some person’s individual preference changes from “B above A” to “A above B”, that shouldn’t cause the social preference to switch to “B above A”; and an “irrelevance” assumption which I don’t quite remember, but is something like this, that if an individual changes their mind about the relative worth of C and D, it shouldn’t affect the social preference standings of A and B.)

ARTILECT: An ultra-intelligent machines (from “artificial intellect”). [Hugo de Garis, Cosmism: Nano Electronics and 21st Century Global Ideological Warfare].

ASEX: A person who has been physically and mentally altered so that she no longer is male or female [Greg Egan, Distress]

ASIMORT: (a) A dead science fiction writer. (b) A dead secular humanist. (c) Any person who believes it to be their duty to die to “make room” for future generations. [Mark Plus, April 1992]

ASIMOV: An AI that has been constrained in some way to serve human interests [ Rudy Rucker, Wetware 1988. Based on Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics]

ASSEMBLER: A molecular machine that can be programmed to build virtually any molecular structure or device from simpler chemical building blocks. Analogous to a computer-driven machine shop. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

ATHANASIA: The act of preventing death. [W.T. Quick, 1988]

ATHANOPHY: A philosophical system that offers a possible means of overcoming death scientifically. [Michael Perry, 1991]

ATHEOSIS: The process of recovering from belief in God. [Mark Plus; August 1991]

AUGMENT: A person whose physical or cognitive abilities have been technologically expanded beyond the range of natural humans. [David Brin, The Postman]

AUTOEVOLUTION: Evolution directed by intelligent beings instead of natural selection.

AUTOEVOLUTIONIST: Someone who regards autoevolution as desirable; the opposite of a biological fundamentalist.

AUTOMATED ENGINEERING: The use of computers to perform engineering design, ultimately generating detailed designs from broad specifications with little or no human help. Automated engineering is a specialized form of artificial intelligence. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

AUTOMORPHISM: “Living as art”, a sub-movement of transhumanist art where self-transformation and living itself is the medium.

AUTOPOTENT: A system having complete power and knowledge over itself. [Nicholas Boström 1996, Predictions from Philosophy?]

AUTOSCIENT: A system having complete knowledge of its inner workings. [Mitch Porter, originally in the form auto-omniscient. January 1998 ]

BABY UNIVERSE: See basement universe.

BASEMENT UNIVERSE: A small artificially created universe linked to the old universe by a wormhole. This could then be used for living space, computing or as an escape from a decaying universe. “Baby Universes” has been postulated by some theories about black holes (see This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 31) by John Baez) and inflation cosmology.

BEAN DIP CATASTROPHE: (humorous) A potential disaster at the far edge party: if it gets big enough the bean dip will form a black hole.

BEANSTALK: A strong cable lowered from a geosynchronous satellite and anchored to the ground (often with a small asteroid at the outer end to provide some extra tension and stability). This would provide cheap and simple access to space using elevators. Also called an orbital tower. (See The Orbital Tower by Jerome D. Rosen and sky hooks) [This is an old idea in science fiction and probably first discussed by Yuri Artsutanov, although it was popularized by Arthur C Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise (1979). The term Beanstalk was spread by the roleplaying game 2300AD by GDW.]

BEKENSTEIN BOUND: The Bekenstein Bound is an upper bound of the amount of information inside a spherical region with a given energy. Information in this context is to be understood as distinguishable (quantum) states. Due to the uncertainty relations it is possible to derive a bound of the form

I <= (2 Pi E R)/(hbar c ln2)

where I is the information, E is the energy, R is the radius, hbar Plank’s constant, c the speed of light. It can also be written as

I <= k M R

Where M the mass in the region and k a constant having the value ~2.57686*10^43 bits/(m kg). This bound was derived by J.D. Bekenstein in another but equivalent form, relating the entropy of black holes to their area (S = A/(4 hbar G), where A is the area of the event horizon).

BERSERKER: A self-reproducing machine programmed to destroy (intelligent) life. The existence of berserkers is one possible explanation for the Fermi paradox. [Fred Saberhagen, several science fiction stories]

BETELGEUSE-BRAIN: A jupiter-brain so large that it has to be supported by its own radiation pressure to avoid collapsing. [Mitchell Porter 1995]

BIG CRUNCH: Opposite of the Big Bang: the singularity at the end of time, in a collapsing universe.

BINERATOR: (Binary system plus generator) A megascale electrical engineering device built around the interstellar plasma flow between unequal size stars in a binary system. The hollow tube like device uses charged plasma particles flowing through it to produce electricity [Steve Burns]

BIOCHAUVINISM: The prejudice that biological systems have an intrinsic superiority that will always give them a monopoly on self-reproduction and intelligence. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

BIOLOGICAL FUNDAMENTALISM: A new conservatism that resists asexual reproduction, genetic engineering, altering the human anatomy, overcoming death. A resistance to the evolution from the human to the posthuman. [FM-2030]

BIONICS: (a) The science of connecting biological systems to artifical organs, or other systems. (b) An attempt to develop better machines through understanding of biological design principles or imitation of biology. The first use is most common among transhumanists and science fiction fans, the other is most common among cyberneticists. [Origin uncertain, although it seems to have been popularized by The Six Million Dollar Man]

BIONOMICS: Literally, the merger of biological and economic theory. In its more figurative sense, the merger of the world of the made and the world of the born. Bionomics will flourish as an academic discipline because as the two worlds merge, economic systems will assume the properties of biological ones. [The 500-Year Delta, Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker 1997]

BIOPHILIAC: someone who values life of all kinds for its own sake.

BIOSTASIS: Broader than “cryonic suspension”; suspension of all biological activity, by infusing the patient with cryoprotective chemicals and freezing or vitrifying (cryonic suspension), or by chemically bonding cellular components in place. [K. Eric Drexler, 1986]

B-LIFE: Biological Life (as opposed to A-Life).

BLIGHT: A malign infomorph that uses perversion attacks to increase its own power. Like a computer virus, but with intelligence. [First used by Vernor Vinge in A Fire Upon the Deep].

BLIND UPLOADING: To upload somebody by scanning their neural patterns and simulating them directly with little or no changes (also called brute force uploading) [Anton Sherwood, December 1994]

BLUE GOO: Nanomachines used as protection against grey goo and other destructive nanomachines, possibly even used for law-enforcement (nanarchy). According to the entry in the Jargon File, it is sometimes used to denote any form of benign nanotechnology in the environment. [Alan Lovejoy]

BOGOSITY FILTER: A mechanism for detecting bogus ideas and propositions.

BORGANISM: 1) An organization of formerly autonomous beings who have merged their individual wills to create one, collectively conscious being; 2) The social and political theory that advocates the creation of borganisms. [, >H HUMOR: Borganism in the media]

BREAKEVEN POINT: As medicine and life extension advances, the life expectancy of the population increases somewhat each year, and this process may accelerate given new technologies or new knowledge. The longer you live, the more medical advances will occur during your lifetime which extend your life expectancy. During this extra time more medical advances can occur, and so on. If the increase of life expectancy becomes larger than one year longer life/year lived the breakeven point is reached (after the fusion physics term for the point where more energy is produced than is used to drive the reactor) and individuals have a finite chance of living indefinitely. Quite naturally the breakeven point presupposes that medical advances never run into any firm barriers, and that they can be developed fast enough, which is of course very speculative. [Anders Sandberg 1997]

BROADCATCHING: “Catching television and other media selectively so that the sum of the collected parts is personalized.” (Quote by Nicholas P. Negroponte, Scientific American, September 1991, p.112.) [Coined by Stewart Brand, The Media Lab, 1987.]

BRUTE FORCE UPLOADING: To upload somebody by scanning their neural patterns and simulating them directly with little or no changes, and no attempts to refine the patterns (also called blind uploading). This is often used as a benchmark in discussions about what capabilities are needed for full uploading.

BUSH ROBOT: A flexible robot structure, where each manipulator branches off into smaller copies of itself, forming a fractal tree over many scales (possibly down to the nanoscale). Each branch would contain a distributed system to calculate movement and minimize central processing [Hans Moravec, Mind Children].

  CALCUTTA SYNDROME: The condition in which the ratio of available mass to population falls below the minimum level necessary to support a given quality of life (M/P < mC). [David Krieger, November 1991]

CALM TECHNOLOGY: Technology that recedes into the background of our lives. [Likely Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown at Xerox PARC. See The coming age of calm technology]

CALORIE RESTRICTION: A reduction in caloric-intake for the purposes of slowing one’s rate of aging as well as preventing disease or the morbidity/mortality associated with disease. So far this is the most promising (if somewhat cumbersome) life extension method; animal experiments have shown definite positive results with a low-calorie diet. See also the Calorie Restriction FAQ.

CASIMIR EFFECT: A small attractive force which acts between two close parallel uncharged conducting plates. It is due to quantum vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field which creates a lower energy density of the vacuum between the plates than outside them. The effect was predicted by Hendrick Casimir in 1948 and verified in 1996 by Steven Lamoreaux. See Physics FAQ.

CEREBROSTHESIS: (from cerebral and prosthesis) n. An electronic device interfaced with the brain to overcome a neurological deficiency, such as normal human intelligence. (Cf. neuroprosthesis – see Extropy #7). [Mark Plus; August 1991]

CHINESE ROOM: A thought experiment due to John Searle attacking the strong AI postulate. A person in a locked room carries on a dialogue with us by way of Chinese written on paper passed back and forth under the door. The person in the room responds according to instructions stored in a vast library of rule-books, and does not understand Chinese. Since the person doesn’t understand the language and the rule-books obviously lack understanding, Searle claims that there is no real language knowledge involved. Searle likens dialogue with a computer to this situation, and hopes that it makes it clear why he says that computers are not aware. The scenario has been widely debated, but proponents of strong AI point out that the system room + person could be said to possess knowledge of Chinese, in just the same way as the neurons in a human brain (which themselves lack knowledge about Chinese) can form a system that can know the language.

CHRONONAUTS: Those who travel through time, either by biostasis (cryonaut) or through possible loopholes in physical laws as currently understood.

CHURCH-TURING THESIS: The proposition that there is no way to compute the answer to any question that is beyond the powers of a universal Turing machine.

COBOTS: Collaborative robots designed to work alongside human operators. Prototype cobots are being used on automobile assembly lines to help guide heavy components like seats and dashboards into cars so they don’t damage auto body parts as workers install them. [Wired 5.07 Jargon Watch]

COMPUFORM: To turn matter into computronium. [Charlie Stross Dec 1999].

COMPUTRONIUM: Matter supporting computation, especially artificial substances suitable for high efficiency computation. [Eugene Leitl].

CONCENTRATED INTELLIGENCE: An intelligent entity (esp. a Jupiter-Brain) which is spatially concentrated into a single volume, as dense as possible, to reduce communications lag. This arrangement is not as flexible as a distributed intelligence, but probably more efficient.

CONSILIENCE: n. From William Whewell, who in his 1840 synthesis The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences spoke of consilience as a “jumping together” of knowledge by linking facts and theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation.

CONNECTIONISM: n. The approach to cognitive science that gives a fundamental explanatory role to neuron-like interconnections rather than to formal or explicit rules of thought.

CONTELLIGENCE: (Consciousness + intelligence) The combination of awareness and computational power required in an Artificially Intelligent network before we could, without loss of anything essential, upload ourselves into them. [Timothy Leary]

CONTINUITY IDENTITY THEORY: The theory that “I” am the same person as various future and past selves with whom I am physically and temporally continuous. (Cf pattern identity theory).

COSMYTHOLOGY: Non-scientific usage of loosely understood scientific ideas (often filled with catch-phrases and buzzwords like “quantum”, “chaos” and “emergent”) to explain or “prove” pseudoscience or mysticism. Typical examples are claims that quantum mechanics proves that consciousness has an essential role in physics or that the “butterfly effect” shows that magic is possible. [1995, Vic Stenger, The Unconscious Quantum]

CRYOBIOLOGY: The study of the effect of low temperatures (below the freezing point of water) on biological systems. A primary goal of this field is the preservation and long term storage of organ systems such as hearts, kidneys, etc. for use in transplantation. This goal has not yet been reached and currently only individual cells and organisms consisting of only a very few cells (such as embryos) can be successfully treated, stored, and revived.

CRYOCRASTINATE: v. To put off making arrangements for cryonic suspension. [Mark Plus; August 1991]

CRYOGENICS: The study of materials at very low temperatures (near absolute zero). Cryogenics is a branch of physics.

CRYONAUT: A cryonically suspended person.

CRYONICS: A branch of science that aims to develop reversible suspended animation. Until suspended animation is achieved, most cryonicists favor the use of cryonic suspension as a last ditch effort for people whose medical options have run out. See my Cryonics Page for more information.

CRYONIC SUSPENSION: A (currently non-standard) medical technique for attempting to prevent the permanent cessation of life in individuals on the brink of death. It involves the use of low temperatures to halt metabolic decay. A person who is cryonically suspended can not be revived by current medical technology. The freezing process does too much damage. What is accomplished is that once frozen the person’s biological state does not change. The reason for performing a cryonic suspension is the belief that science, technology, and society will advance to the point where revival of the person is both possible and desirable.

CRYP: Cryptographic currency, digital cash. Payment by electronic means where the seller is guaranteed payment, but the buyer can remain anonymous. [Eli Brandt, 11/11/92, on the Extropians E-mail List]

CRYPTO ANARCHY: The economic and political system after the deployment of encryption, untraceable e-mail, digital pseudonyms, cryptographic voting, and digital cash. A pun on “crypto,” meaning “hidden,” and as when Gore Vidal called William F. Buckley a “crypto fascist.”

CRYPTOCOSMOLOGY: The study of possible reasons we haven’t found any evidence for other intelligent life in the universe (the Fermi paradox), especially looking at reasons why advanced intelligence would blend in with their environment. An adaption of the word cryptozoology, the search for unknown or imaginary animals.

COMPUTRONIUM: A highly (or optimally) efficient matrix for computation, such as dense lattices of nanocomputers or quantum dot cellular automata. [Eugene Leitl]

CYBERCIDE: The killing of a person’s projected virtual persona in cyberspace. This may be part of a VR game, or may be an act of vandalism. [Max More; August 1991]

CYBERFICTION: Science fiction embodying the technological ideas of cyberpunk, without necessarily embodying cyberpunk’s amoralism or nihilism. [Max More, May 1991]

CYBERGNOSTICISM: The belief that the physical world is impure or inefficient, and that existence in the form of “pure information” is better and should be pursued.

CYBERIAN: A person belonging to the Timothy Leary/Mondo2000 psychedelic side of the transhumanist movement.

CYBERNATE/CYBERNIZE: To automate a process using computers and robots.

CYBERSPACE/CYBERMATRIX: The informational and computational space existing in and between computers.

CYBRARIAN: Computer Net-oriented information specialist. [Jean Armour Polly, 1992]

CYPHERPUNK: One interested in the uses of encryption using electronic cyphers for enhancing personal privacy and guarding against tyranny by centralized, authoritarian power structures, especially government. See Crypto Anarchy and the Cyphernomicon by Tim May.

DEANIMALIZE: Replace our animal organs and body parts with durable, pain-free non-flesh prostheses. [FM-2030]

DEATH FORWARD: automorphing so fast and profoundly that individual continuity is lost. (In analogy to fast forward) [Alexander Chislenko 1997]

DEATHISM: The set of beliefs and attitudes which glorifies or accepts death and rejects or despises immortality.

DEEP ANARCHY: The view that “the State” has no real existence; states can be abolished only by changing beliefs and behavior. [Max More, 1989]

DEFLESH: To replace flesh with non-flesh. [FM-2030]

DIAMONDOID: Like diamond; chemical structures or systems (especially nanomachines as envisioned by Eric K. Drexler) based on diamond derivatives or stiff carbon bonds.

DIGITAL PSEUDONYM: basically, a “crypto identity.” A way for individuals to set up accounts with various organizations without revealing more information than they wish. Users may have several digital pseudonyms, some used only once, some used over the course of many years. Ideally, the pseudonyms can be linked only at the will of the holder. In the simplest form, a public key can serve as a digital pseudonym and need not be linked to a physical identity.

DISASSEMBLER: A system of nanomachines able to take an object apart a few atoms at a time, while recording its structure at the molecular level. This could be used for uploading, copying objects (with an assembler), a dissolving agent or a weapon. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

DISASTERBATION: Idly fantasizing about possible catastrophes (ecological collapse, full-blown totalitarianism) without considering their likelihood or considering their possible solutions and preventions. [David Krieger, 1993]

DISTRIBUTED INTELLIGENCE: An intelligent entity which is distributed over a large volume (or inside another system, like a computer network) with no distinct center. This is the opposite to the strategy of Concentrated intelligences. Distributed intelligences have much longer communications lags, but are more flexible in their structure and can survive damage to their parts.

DIVERGENT TRACK HYPOTHESIS: Cultures tend to converge towards a few attractor states (for example borganisms), while the attractor states diverge from each other. A rival to the strong convergence hypothesis [Nicholas Boström 1996, Predictions from Philosophy?]

DIVERSITY_IQ: A basic measure of the capacity to survive and prosper in the Age of Access. Diversity IQ is built on the ability to move freely and tolerantly among people of various races, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. [The 500-Year Delta, Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker 1997]

DIVIDUALS: A copy of a personality surviving in more than one body. Example: “Keith Henson wishes to become a collection of such dividuals so that he-plural can explore the galaxy in parallel.” (See the Far Edge Party) [Mark Plus, 1992]

DOOMSDAY ARGUMENT : If humanity is assumed to grow exponentially until it ends at some point in time (“doomsday”), then it is more likely to find a randomly selected human near the end of history than at the beginning. Hence, since we are alive today we can deduce that we are close to the end of history and use Bayesian reasoning to estimate the expected remaining time. The argument (which can be applied to many other things, such as the remaining time the Earth is inhabitable) is hotly debated, and involves many subtle assumptions of probability. [The argument originated by Brandon Carter and was published by John Leslie in The End of the World (Routledge 1996)] See A Primer on the Doomsday Argument by Nick Bostrom.

DOWNLOAD: To transfer an mind from one computational matrix to another, especially a slower one. See Upload.

DRYWARE: An artificial part of a cyborg (usage similar to hardware, software and wetware) [Anton Sherwood 1995].

DUBIFIER: A word used to make a statement uncertain or show the limits of its applicability (“The experimental data appears to fit the model in the parameter range tested”, “I think so” etc). (Based on quantifier, something that tells how much there is of anything) [Heath M Rezabek, ca 1992]

DYSON SPHERE: A shell built around a star to collect as much energy as possible, originally proposed by Freeman Dyson (although he admits to have borrowed the concept from Olaf Stapledon’s novel Star Maker (1937)). In the original proposal the shell consists of many independent solar collectors and habitats in separate orbits (also known as a Type I Dyson Sphere), but later people have discussed rigid shells consisting of only one piece (called a Type II Dyson Sphere). The latter construction is unfortunately both unstable (since it will experience no net attraction of the star), requires super-strong materials and have no internal gravity. The Dyson Sphere is a classic example of mega-technology and common in Science Fiction. See also The Dyson Sphere FAQ.

ECOCALYPSE: (from ecological and apocalypse) A projected ecological catastrophe which would destroy all life on Earth. [Mark Plus; August 1991]

ECTOGENESIS: In vitro reproduction; synthetic wombs.

EI: Emergent Intelligence. An intelligent system that gradually emerges from simpler systems, instead of being designed top down.

EMBRYOMEME: Suggestion of a new meme to be used in a group with a shared set of knowledge. Usualy made by somebody with an inflated ego trying to coin the phrase. [Max M Jan 1999]

EMULATION: An absolutely precise simulation of something, so exact that it is equivalent to the original (for example, many computers emulate obsolete computers to run their programs).

ENHANCED REALITY: A personalized view of reality, the result of filtering, translation and addition of new perceptions (such as annotations, information or virtual objects). Unlike VR (virtual reality), which is immersive and only deal with virtual objects, ER would improve interaction with real objects and situations (in addition to virtual objects). See Intelligent Information Filters and Enhanced Reality [Alexander Chislenko].

ENVIROCAPITALISM: The use of free markets to protect the environment.

EPHEMERALISTS: Persons who reject immortalist technology and values (the result of deathist thinking). [MM, 1990, from “Ephemeral”, Robert A. Heinlein, 1958]

E-PRIME: E-Prime is English without the verb “to be” in its sense of “is of identity”. It originated in the tradition of General Semantics, to avoid many of the pitfalls of natural languages which confuse the outside world and the observer. For a more detailed introduction, see E-Prime: English without the verb “to be”.

ESCALATORLOGY: (derogatory) a fatuous belief in an endless evolutionary escalator exalting the human race. (refering to escathology, the study of final things, and especially the physical escathology of Frank J. Tipler). [Mary Midgley]

THE ETERNAL LIFE POSTULATE: The assumption that life, once it arises in the universe, lasts forever (primarily made by Frank J. Tipler in his Omega Point Theory).

EUPSYCHIA: A society specifically designed for improving the self- fulfillment and psychological health of all people. A culture or sub- culture made up of psychologically healthy or mature or self-actualizing people. A Eupsychian sub-culture is “decentralized, voluntary yet coordinated, productive, and with a powerful and effective code of ethics (which works).” (Maslow.) [Abraham Maslow, 1954]

EUTHENICS: Improving the current generation, as opposed to eugenics, which seeks to improve future generations [R.C.W. Ettinger, Man Into Superman, 1972].

EVOLUTURE: An organism produced through evolution; the antonym of creature. [Mark Plus, June 1991]

EVOLUTIONARILY STABLE STRATEGY (ESS): A strategy which is remains the most optimal even when there are a small number of individuals using other strategies in the population.

EXCONOMICS: The study of possible trans- and post-human economies.

EXES: Ex-humans, posthuman beings. [Hans Moravec, Mind Age 1995]

EXFORMATION: Exformation is useful and relevant information, not just data. [The original definition by Tor Nörrestranders was the information which has been abstracted away, and now is implicitly included in the message].

EXISTENTIAL TECHNOLOGY: (existech) A technological framework for self-determination and mastery over one’s own destiny. [ Steve Mann, VibraVest/ThinkTank: Existential Technology of Synthetic Synesthesia for the Visually Challenged]

EXOPHOBIA: The fear of new, complex and different things; everything outside normal experience.

EXOSELF: Systems linked to the self in a cooperative way, extending the mind and the body. Especially used about the systems supporting an uploaded personality, providing information, virtual reality and monitoring. [Greg Egan, Permutation City]

EXTROPIA: A conception of evolving communities embodying values of Boundless Expansion, Self-Transformation, Dynamic Optimism, Intelligent Technology, and Spontaneous Order. May be instantiated in virtual cultural communities such as those on the Net, or in future actual communities such as Extropolis or Free Oceania. [T.O. Morrow, 1991]

EXTROPIAN: One who affirms the values and attitudes codified and expressed in the Extropian Principles. See also the Extropy Institute website.

EXTROPIATE: 1) Any drug that has extropic effects, including all cognition enhancing and life extending drugs. [David Krieger, December 1991] 2) a derogatory term for passively optimistic perversions of the extropian meme like “technology will make everything better”. Extropiates makes believers passively wait for everything to get better instead of doing something about it (a kind of rapture of the future) [Gregory Houston Mar 1997]

EXTROPIC: Any action or process that promotes extropy.

EXTROPOLIS: A proposed Extropian community located in our solar system, probably at L-4 or L-5 orbits, or the Asteroid Belt. [Max More, 1991]

EXTROPY: A measure of intelligence, information, energy, life, experience, diversity, opportunity, and growth. The collection of forces which oppose entropy. (Also a extropian quarterly magazine, see the Extropy Home Page) [T.O. Morrow, 1988]

FACULTATIVE ANAGOROBE: A person who participates in the market, but can survive without it (by analogy with “facultative anaerobe”, a bacterium that uses oxygen if present but can survive without it) [Mark A. Plus 1995]

FAR EDGE PARTY: One of the main problems of exploring the stellar systems of the galaxy even for very advanced civilizations is that a serial journey even at the speed of light would take so long time that most of the stars would have died during the journey. One solution is to parallelize the problem: the explorer travels to a new system, creates a number of copies (xoxes) of himself and sends them to other systems, while he remains behind exploring the system (this is a variant of exploring the galaxy using von Neumann machines). After around 10 million years, when all of the galaxy has been explored, the explorers gather together at a prearranged place, and exchange or merge their memories (“The Far Edge Party”). This was proposed by Keith Henson as a possible method for a single individual to visit all of the galaxy within a reasonable time.

FEMTOTECHNOLOGY: See picotechnology.

THE FERMI PARADOX: “If there are other intelligent beings in the Universe, why aren’t they here?”. Since it appears to be quite possible for a technological species to spread across the galaxy in less than 10 million years (using von Neumann machines) or otherwise change things on such a large scale that it would be very visible (see Kardaschev types), the lack of such evidence is puzzling or implies that other technological civilizations doesn’t exist. There have been many attempts to explain this, for example the “Wildlife Preserve” idea (the aliens doesn’t want to interfere with younger civilizations), that they transcend and become incomprehensible, that they hide or that they are actually here, hidden on the nanoscale, but the problem with these attempts is that most of them just explain why some aliens would not be apparent. [ E. Fermi]

FLATLANDER: Mildly derogatory term for someone who has never been off a planetary surface, i.e. into space. Resonant with the term used in Edwin A. Abbot’s classic mathematical fantasy Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions to describe two-dimensional creatures unaware of the third dimension of space. [from Larry Niven’s “Known Space” stories]

FLUIDENTITY: pun on fluid identity and/or fluid entity. A state in which traditional boundaries of identity are completely in flux while immersed in a superliquid economy, cyberspace anarchy and/or distributed Super-Intelligence matrix (see functional soup). [Paul Hughes, May 1998]

FOGLET: A mesoscale machine that is a part of an utility fog. [J. S. Hall 1994]

FORK: to use a nondestructive form of uploading to create an infomorph version of youself while still keeping the old biological version. See the Practical Mind Uploading Approach. [Adam Foust, December 1995]

FREDKIN’S PARADOX: The more equally attractive two alternatives seem, the harder it can be to choose between them – no matter that, to the same degree, the choice can only matter less. [Minsky 1985, The Society of Mind].

FUNCTIONAL SOUP: A possible posthuman state where knowledge, mental modules and access to physical bodies can be shared between distributed infomorphs largely independent of the physical substrate of their world. Terms such as individuality become diffuse, and are replaced with teleological threads. [Alexander Chislenko, Technology as extension of human functional architecture]

FUTIQUE: Stylishly futuristic.

FUTURE SHOCK: “A sense of shock felt by those who were not paying attention.” [Michael Flynn, ANALOG, Jan 1990. Coined by Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970]

Frankencracy: A Frankencracy is a government that uses the trade of body parts as a tool of state.

GALAXY BRAIN: The ultimate (?) distributed intelligence, an intelligent being with parts spread across an entire galaxy. The internal communication lags would be on the order of tens of thousands years, making the top level very slow (but subminds could be much faster). The parts could be jupiter brains or other intelligen superobjects.

GAUSSIAN: People whose characteristics (like intelligence or length) are normally distributed (the Gauss distribution); normal people in both senses of the word. Used to refer to unaugmented people, since augmented people could have a radically different distribution of characteristics.

GENEGENEERING: Genetic engineering.

GENETIC ALGORITHM: Any algorithm which seeks to solve a problem by considering numerous possibilities at once, ranking them according to some standard of fitness, and then combining (“breeding”) the fittest in some way. In other words, any algorithm which imitates natural selection. See the Genetic Algorithms FAQ.

GENIE: An AI combined with an assembler or other universal constructor, programmed to build anything the owner wishes. Sometimes called a Santa Machine. This assumes a very high level of AI and nanotechnology.

GREAT FILTER, THE: The Great Filter refers to the hypothetical mechanism(s) or principle(s) by which the great number of potentially life-bearing planets get filtered out before they have produced intelligent life forms that expand into cosmos. See also the Fermi paradox

GREEN GOO: Nanomachines or bio-engineered organisms used for population control of humans, either by governments or eco-terrorist groups. Would most probably work by sterilizing people through otherwise harmless infections. See Nick Szabo’s essay Green Goo — Life in the Era of Humane Genocide.

GREY GOO: Self-replicating (von Neumann) nanomachines spreading uncontrolably, building copies of themselves using all available material. This is a commonly mentioned nanotechnology disaster scenario, although it is rather unlikely due to energy constraints and elemental abundances. More probable disaster scenarios are the green goo, golden goo and red goo, khaki goo scenarios. As a protection blue goo has been proposed.

GÖDEL’S THEOREM: (Gödel’s incompleteness theorem) Any proposed axiom set for arithmetic is either consistent (no contradictions can be derived) or complete (it will say yes or no to every arithmetic proposition). In other words, any axiom set strong enough to include arithmetic which is complete will be inconsistent (it will say yes and no to at least one question).

GOLDEN GOO: Another member of the grey goo family of nanotechnology disaster scenarios. The idea is to use nanomachines to filter gold from seawater. If this process got out of control we would get piles of golden goo (the “Wizard’s Apprentice Problem”). This scenario demonstrates the need of keeping populations of self-replicating machines under control; it is much more likely than grey goo, but also more manageable. [Originated on sci.nanotech 1996]

GUY FAWKES SCENARIO: If nanotechnology becomes widely available, it might become trivial for anyone to committ acts of terrorism (such as making nanomachines build a large amount of explosives under government buildings a la Guy Fawkes). This would either force strict control over nanotechnology (hard) or a decentralized mode of organization.

HALLUCINOMEMIC: An idea that induces hallucinations (“Some things have to be believed to be seen”) [John McPherson July 1993]

HEAT DEATH: A cosmological end state of universal thermodynamic equilibrium – ie the same temperature everywhere, meaning there’s no energy for anything except reversible interactions.

HIVE COMPUTING: Using unused computing resources in a network to speed up calculations or distribute parallel programs. [Probable origin: Hive Computing: working together for the common good by S teve G. Steinberg, Wired 3.11, November 1995]

HOMORPH: A transhuman or posthuman with a humanoid body [Greg Bear, Eon]

HPLD: Highest Possible Level of Development. This is a concept (and abbreviation) from a Stanslaw Lem story. The idea is that there is an end-state of technological evolution, when it is possible to carry out everything consistent with physical law, and that this end-state is essentially unique. Because of the uniqueness of this state, it is possible to theorize usefully about it, while the paths between here and there are shrouded by mind-boggling complexity (AKA the Singularity). [definition by Carl Feynman. The original story is “Altruizine, or A True Account of How Bonhomius the Hermetic Hermit Tried to Bring About Universal Happiness, and What Came of It”, in The Cyberiad]

HYPERTEXT: Massively interconnected database providing the ability to track information in all directions, notify you of updated information, etc. [Ted Nelson]

HYPONEIRIA: Lack of dreaming, a pathological deficiency of imagination. [Dean Shomshak, January 1996]

HYPOTECH: Hypothetical technology [Michael M. Butler]

IA: Intelligence Amplification. Technologies seeking to increase the cognitive abilities of people.

IDEAL IDENTITY: An internal model of our personality as we wish it to be; the person we seek to become [Max More, Extropy #10].

IMMORTALIST: A person who believes in the possibility of, and who seeks to attain, physical immortality [Max More, Extropy #10].

IMMORTECHNICS: Collectively, the technologies which are applied to attempt radical life extension, such as calorie-restricted dieting, cryonics, uploading, etc. [Mark Plus, July 1991]

IMP: Electronic implant, especially in the brain. [Ron Hale Evans]

INACTIVATE: Non-living but not dead (in the latter’s permanent sense). A person in biostasis, or one subsisting in data storage, awaiting downloading. [Max More, 1989]

INFOGLUT: A state of voraciously gathering information, with little or no care for its quality or relevance. Often infoglut develops when an information starved person finds a dense source of information, like the Internet. Closely related to information overload, but more insidious since the victims think they actually profit from it.

INFOMORPH: An uploaded intelligence, or information entity, which resides in a computer. See Charles Platt, The Silicon Man, p.109. [1991]

INFORMATION-THEORETICAL DEATH: A person has reached information-theoretic death if a healthy state of that person could not possibly be deduced from the current state. The exact timing of information-theoretic death depends on presently unknown details of how the brain works. The current best estimates put it several hours after clinical death. Definition from the glossary in the Cryonic FAQ by Tim Freeman.

INLINE UNIVERSITIES: (as opposed to online universities), nanocomputer implants serving to increase intelligence and education of their owners, essentially turning them into walking universities [Max M. Rasmussen]

INTERFACER: A person who acts as an interface between virtual corporations or other net-based organizations, and the physical world and its local economic rules. [Robert Ingdahl, December 1995].

INTERNALNET: An information network inside a living body, for example between nanochondria, bionic implants or external wearable computers. [Ken Clements 1996]

JUPITER-BRAIN: A posthuman being of extremely high computational power and size. This is the archetypal concentrated intelligence. The term originated due to an idea by Keith Henson that nanomachines could be used to turn the mass of Jupiter into computers running an upgraded version of himself.

KHAKI GOO: Military nanotechnology; see grey goo.

KARDASCHEV TYPES: A classification of possible civilizations after energy usage. Type I civilizations control all available energy on a single planet. Type II civilizations control all available energy in a solar system (for example, using Dyson spheres). Type III civilizations control use all available energy in an entire galaxy. (Mitch Porter suggested that a Type IV civilization controls all available energy in the entire universe) We are currently moving towards a Type I civilization. [Nikolai Kardaschev, 1964].

KNOWBOTS: Knowledge robots, first developed Vinton G. Cref and Robert E. Kahn for National Research Initiatives. Knowbots are programmed by users to scan networks for various kinds of related information, regardless of the language or form in which it expressed. “Knowbots support parallel computations at different sites. They communicate with one another, and with various servers in the network and with users.” [Scientific American, September 1991, p.74.]

KOLMOGOROV COMPLEXITY: The Kolmogorov complexity of a string of bits is the length of the smallest Turing machine program which produces the bit string as output. (It is therefore somewhat dependent on one’s choice of Turing machine, but since every Turing machine can be emulated by an universal Turing machine with a constant increase in program length this doesn’t matter much).

LEONARDO DA VINCI SYNDROME: Creative people often get more ideas and visions faster than they can implement them, making them unable to complete a project before rushing off to the next (like Leonardo da Vinci).

LINDE SCENARIO: A scenario for indefinite survival of intelligent life. It assumes it is possible to either create basement universes connected to the original universe with a wormhole or the existence of other cosmological domains. Intelligent life continually migrates to the new domains as the old grow too entropic to sustain life. [Mitch Porter, 1997. The name refers to Linde’s chaotic inflation cosmology, where new universes are continually spawned.] See The Linde scenario, v0.01

LIQUIDENTITY: See fluidentity.

LOFSTROM LOOP: An beanstalk-like megaconstruction based on a stream of magnetically accelerated bars linked together. The stream is sent into space, where a station rides it using magnetic hooks, redirects it horizontally to another station, which sends it downwards to a receiving station on the ground. From this station the stream is then sent back to the launch station (a purely vertical version is called a space fountain). This structure would contain a large amount of kinetic energy but could be built gradually and would only require enough energy to compensate for losses when finished. Elevators could be run along the streams, and geostationary installations could be placed along the horizontal top. [Named after Keith Lofstrom, who did the first detailed calculations on it in: Lofstrom, Keith H., “The launch loop — a low cost Earth-to-high orbit launch system,” AIAA Paper 85-1368, 1985 ].

LONGEVIST: A person who seeks to extend their life beyond current norms (but who may not wish to live forever) [Max More, Extropy #10].

MASPAR: Shorthand for MAssively PARalell computers, computers using many simple processors at the same time.

MATAGLAP: Mataglap is an Indonesian word meaning “dark eye” or, probably, “dilated eye.” It is an indication that someone is about to go berserk and start killing people at random. I applied the word in Aristoi to a berserk form of nanotechnology that devoured the planet. (From Walter John Williams FAQ). See also grey goo [First used in the nanotech sense in Aristoi 1992].

MEGATECHNOLOGY (or MEGASCALE ENGINEERING): Technology using energies, scales or methods far beyond the current levels (but still bound by physical law). Typical examples are ground-to-orbit beanstalks, Lofstrom loops, terraforming, Dyson spheres, stellar husbandry and Tipler cylinders. See also the megatechnology page.

MEME: Self-reproducing idea or other information pattern which is propagated in ways similar to that of a gene. See also the memetics page. [Richard Dawkins, 1976.]

MEMETICS: The study of memes. [Douglas R. Hofstadter]

MEMIE: (after genie) a thought which, once out of the mouth, does anything it damn well pleases [Bob Arter, July 1993]

MEMIUS: An effective spreader of ideas [John McPherson July 1993]

MEMOTYPE: 1. The actual information-content of a meme, as distinct from its sociotype. 2. A class of similar memes. (Glenn M. Grant)

MEMOID (or MEMEOID): True believer in a meme and willing to die for it. [Keith Henson, 1985]

MEHUM: Derogatory term for “mere human”. [from the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Wilson and Shea].

MERCHANCY, n. A proprietary, commerce-oriented quasi-state which claims sovereignty over its land and property but not the allegiance of its citizens/clients; e.g. Mr Lee’s Greater Hong Kong in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. [Anton Sherwood, 1994]

MESOSCALE: A device or structure larger than the nanoscale (10^-9 m) and smaller than the megascale; the exact size depends heavily on the context and usually ranges between very large nanodevices (10^-7 m) and the human scale (1 m).

MINDKIND: All intelligent beings.

MOLMAC: Molecular machine [Kilian, Gryphon]

MORPHOLOGICAL FREEDOM: The ability to alter bodily form at will through technologies such as surgery, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, uploading. [Max More, April 1992]

MUTUAL REALITY: Multi-user virtual reality. [Benjamin Jay Britton 1996]

NANARCHIST: Someone who circumvents government control to use nanotechnology, or someone who advocates this. [Eli Brandt, October 1991]

NANARCHY: The use of automatic law-enforcement by nanomachines or robots, without any human control [Mark S. Miller].

NANITE: Slang term for a nanomachine (see nanotechnology), esp. a machine able to replicate itself. [Popularized by the Star Trek episode “Evolution”]

NANOCHONDRIA: Nanomachines existing inside living cells, participating in their biochemistry (like mitochondria) and/or assembling various structures. See also nanosome. [Ken Clements 1996]

NANOFACTURE: The fabrication of goods using nanotechnology [Geoff Dale 1995].

NANOMEDICINE: The use of molecular-scale devices (nanotechnology) to repair damage and boost the immune system. For some applications, see Nanotechnology and Medicine by Ralph C. Merkle [Max More, Extropy #10].

NANOSOME: Nanodevices existing symbiotically inside biological cells, doing mechanosynthesis and disassembly for it and replicating with the cell. Similar to nanochondria. [Anders Sandberg January 1998]

NANOTECH: Slang for nanotechnology.

(MOLECULAR) NANOTECHNOLOGY: The technology of precisely- constructed molecular-scale machines; from nanometer: a billionth of a meter. For a good introduction, see What is Nanotechnology? or Ralph C. Merkle’s nanotechnology page. See also my nanotechnology page. [K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, 1986]

NEG: Someone who typically complains, moans, and whines, Someone practicing the opposite of dynamic optimism.

NEOLOGOMANIA: The transhuman enthusiasm for neologisms, especially the creation of words with many prefixes. [Brian Manning Delany]

NEOMORPH: A transhuman or posthuman with a non-humanoid body [Greg Bear, Eon]

NEOPHILE: One who welcomes the future and who enjoys change and evolution.

NEOPHILIA: (From the Jargon File, with a slight hacker bias): The trait of being excited and pleased by novelty. Common among most hackers, SF fans, and members of several other connected leading-edge subcultures, including the pro-technology `Whole Earth’ wing of the ecology movement, space activists, many members of Mensa, and the Discordian/neo-pagan underground. All these groups overlap heavily and (where evidence is available) seem to share characteristic hacker tropisms for science fiction, music, and oriental food. The opposite tendency is `neophobia’.

NEOPHOBE: One who fears change and wants to abort technological and social transformation.

NEUROCOMPUTATION: The study of how natural and artificial neural networks process information.

NEURONAUT: A person who explores their own neural functioning and internal mentational processes by various means, including deep introspection and meditation, psychoactive drugs, mind machines, and neuroscientific understanding.

NEURON STAR: A neutron star used as a basis for a densely packed mind (similar to a jupiter brain or a omegon) exploiting neutronium or quark matter for computation [Damien Broderick, 1996]

NEUROPROSTHESIS: Implanted cybernetic brain augmentation.

NEUROSUSPENSION: Cryonically suspending only the head or brain of a person.

NOOTROPIC: A cognition-enhancing drug that has no significant side- effects. (cf. extropiate). [C. Giurgea]

NOW SHOCK: Being shocked or confused by the rapid changes that has already taken place, a kind of future shock before the present. [Michael Rothschild 1995, “Cornucopia Or Black Hole?”, Upside]

NUTRACEUTICAL: A foodstuff or parts of foodstuff that offers medical or health benefits related to the prevention and treatment of disease.

OFFLOADING: Removing the cognitive load by various means, such as enhanced reality, knowbots, graphical user interfaces, hypertext or information screening. [Felix Ungman 1995]

OMEGA POINT: A possible future state when intelligence controls the Universe totally, and the amount of information processed and stored goes asymptotically towards infinity. See the Omega Point Page. [Origin: Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. See also Barrow and Tipler, The Cosmological Anthropic Principle or Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality for a more modern definition.]

OMEGON: An intelligence turning itself into a neutron star, black hole or even a baby-universe in order to increase its computing speed or to evolve towards a Omega Point. [Vic Stenger, 1995]

OMNESCIENCE: The widespread lack of understanding and knowledge of science. [Raymond Tallis, Newton’s Sleep, 1995]

O’NEILL CYLINDERS: A pair of cylindrical space colonies that rotate around their respective axis to produce simulated gravity (one rotates clockwise and the other counterclockwise to minimize torques). See O’Neill cylinders in Island One for discussion and some good pictures. [Named after Gerard O’Neill who described them.]

O’NEILL COLONY: A rotating space colony, especially large ones with internal ecosystems, such as O’Neill cylinders or Bernal spheres. See my space-colonization section. [Named after Gerard K. O’Neill]

ONTOLOGICAL CONSERVATIVES: “Basement reality dwellers”, people who regard physical reality as fundamentally important and simulated/emulated realities as bad, due to fear of the unknown elements or the effects of such simulated realities. They regard solid state civilizations as a bad idea. [Natasha Vita More November 1997]

OPTIMAL PERSONA: An imagined model of the ideal person we want to become. The Optimal Persona is the ideal self, the higher (and continually developing) individual much like Nietzsche’s conception of the ubermensch but applied to the individual. [Max More,1993; same term but different conception from that used by Bruce Sterling in Islands in the Net.]

ORBITAL TOWER: See beanstalk.

PANCRITICAL RATIONALISM: A nonjustificationist epistemology in which every statement is subject to criticism. See the entry for PCR in extropian FAQ for a good introduction, or Pancritical Rationalism: An Extropic Metacontext for Memetic Progress by Max More for a more detailled treatment.

PARTIAL: A computer simulation of part of a person’s personality, created in order to carry out a task not requiring the entire person. [Greg Bear, Eon, 1985]

PARTIALATE: A partial personality used as a personality surrogate (see persogate). [Max More, July 1991. See Cryonics, November 1991]

PATTERN IDENTITY THEORY: The theory that “I” am the same individual as any other whose physical constitution forms the same or a similar pattern to mine. (Cf continuity identity theory).

PERICOMPUTER: Any small portable device such as a laptop computer or PDA (personal digital assistant). [Lawrence G. Tesler]

PERIMELASMA: The closest approach on an orbit around a black hole, similar to the words perigee for the Earth, perihelion for the sun, periastron for a star, etc) [Geoffrey Landis]

PERSOGATE: A portable expert system used as a personality surrogate (as in Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix). [R.E. Whitaker, June 1991]

PERVERSION ATTACK: Infiltrating somebody’s computer systems in order to use them against their owner. [Vernor Vinge]

PHARMING: Short for pharmaceutical farming. The process of genetically engineering crops to protect them or their consumers from disease. For example, researchers at Texas A&M and Tulane University have genetically altered potatoes to include antigenic material from E. coli bacteria, one cause of diarrhea. Theoretically, such potatoes could both feed people in developing countries and vaccinate them against E. coli. [Gareth Branwyn in Jargon Watch, Wired, January 1996]

PHYLE: A race or tribe; a body united by ties of blood and descent, a clan. Used in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age to denote non-nation based cultures and societies.

PHYSICAL ESCHATOLOGY: a branch of theoretical applied science studying how intelligent life could affect and survive in the remote future. The field was opened by Freeman Dyson by his paper Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe (1976).

PICO TECHNOLOGY: Technology using objects on the pico- and femto-scale (as nanotechnology would use nanoscale objects). This would involve nucleons and other elementary particles doing useful work, involving quantum effects. Unlike nanotechnology, picotechnology has no feasibility proofs and remains pure speculation. Also called femtotechnology.

PIDGIN BRAIN: An artificial part of a posthuman brain designed so that activity, memories and skills stored in it can easily be transferred to other pidgin brains, a “neural ligua franca”. [Michael M. Butler]

PINK GOO (humorous) Humans (in analogy with grey goo). “Pink Goo to refer to Old Testament apes who see their purpose as being fruitful and multiplying, filling up of the cosmos with lots more such apes, unmodified.” [Eric Watt Forste August 1997]

PLEXURE: “The ability to see knowledge as through different lenses, that is, through different epistemological systems, to enter and hold different worldviews.” [David Zindell, The Broken God]

POME: A computer-generated poem.

POSTHUMAN: Persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals. See also the Extropian FAQ for their definition of Posthuman. [Term: FM-2030 Def.: Max More]

POSTJUDICE: A negative opinion based on exposure. [Perry E. Metzger, 1997]

POWER: A posthuman entity of tremendous intelligence and capability, possibly the result of transcending [Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep]

POWERSHIFT: A transfer of power involving a change in the nature of power, from violence to wealth, or from wealth to knowlege. [Alvin Toffler, in Powershift, 1990]

PRISONER’S DILEMMA: A two-player non-zero sum game where each player can choose between cooperation and defection. The pay-off matrix is:


cooperate (C)

defect (D)

cooperate (C)



defect (D)



If both players cooperate, they get 3 points each. If they both defect they earn just one each, if one defects and the other cooperates the defector will gain 5 points and the cooperator nothing. If the players will play the game only once, it is rational to defect, but if they will continue to play it several times (the iterated prisoner’s dilemma) different strategies become possible. In this case mutual cooperation gives a high pay-off, but defectors can exploit naive cooperators. But since mutual defection does worse than cooperation cooperators can come do dominate the population as long as they are not too vulnerable to defectors.

The game is a standard model in game theory, and has been widely modelled in theoretical sociology, theoretical biology and economics. It seems to capture some of the tensions between selfishness and altruism, which has led to a great interest in what strategies are evolutionarily stable in the iterated dilemma.

The name derives from a scenario where two prisoners have to independently decide if too testify against each other or not. See also Principia Cybernetica on the dilemma.

PRIVACY MANAGEMENT: Privacy management Critical in the Age of Access and one of the next great growth sectors. As connectivity spreads, privacy management will become the ultimate status tool. [The 500-Year Delta, Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker 1997]

PROLONGEVITY: The idea that human lifespan can and should be extended. [Gerald J. Gruman, 1955]

QUANTUM COMPUTING: Computing using quantum effects, especially to solve untractable problems (like factorization or breaking cryptosystems). See also my computing page.

QUANTUM CRYPTOGRAPHY: A system based on quantum- mechanical principles. Eavesdroppers alter the quantum state of the system and so are detected. Developed by Brassard and Bennett, only small laboratory demonstrations have been made.

QUASISPECIES: A fuzzy distributions of genotypes characterizing a population of quickly mutating organisms or molecules. [Manfred Eigen]

RAPTURE OF THE FUTURE: Naive optimism that everything will be all right in the future and that future technology can solve every concievable problem. [Tom Morrow]

RED GOO: Deliberately designed and released destructive nanotechnology, as opposed to accidentally created grey goo.

RED QUEEN PRINCIPLE: (after Beyond the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carrol, where the Red Queen points out “in this place it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”) In evolution the principle says that for an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its (relative) fitness. (See the red queen principle in Principia Cybernetica) [L. van Valen 1973]

RED QUEENED: to be outrun by evolution or change (see the red queen principle). [Damien Broderic, June 1997]

REMEMBRANCE AGENT: A software agent that augments human memory by watching the current context (for example what is written in an editor) and displays a list of documents which may be relevant. This is a simple but workable form of intelligence amplification, likely suited for wearable computers. (See Remembrance Agent: A continuously running automated information retrieval system) [Thad Starner 1995]

REVERSIBLE: A process that can occur in both directions, i.e. A->B and B->A. Reversible processes do not produce any entropy.

RIF: A Rifkinite, or supporter of Jeremy Rifkin and his anti-genetic engineering, anti-nanotech crusade; against any and all research or implementation in these areas. [Glenn Grant, 1990]

SANS CEILING HYPOTHESIS: There are no upper limit to what sufficiently advanced intelligent life can do (as opposed to the view that there are fundamental limits set by physical law).[Paul Hughes]


SAPPER MEME: An offensive (as opposed to benign or defensive) meme, intelligently-designed to infect a host, reduce the host’s memetic immunity, and prepare the host for infection. [Keith Elis, April 1998]

SCHEME: A meme-complex. (Douglas Hofstadter)

SENTIENCE QUOTIENT : In the article “Xenopsychology” by Robert Freitas in Analog of April 1984 there is an interesting index called “Sentience quotient”. It is based on: The sentience of an intelligence is roughly directly related to the amount of data it can process per unit time and inversely to the overall mass needed to do that processing. This would be something like baud/kilograms. And since that would rapidly turn into a real big number, base 10 logs are used. The “least sentient” would be one bit over the lifetime of the universe massing the entire known universe, or about -70. The “most sentient” is claimed to be +50. Homo sapiens are around +13, a Cray I is +9, a venus flytrap is a peak of +1 with plants generally -2.

SHIH: “Shih was the opposite of facts and raw information; shih was the elegance of knowledge, the insight and skill to organize knowledge into meaningful patterns. As an artist chooses colours or light to make her pictures, a master of shih chooses textures of knowledge – various ideas, myths, abstractions, and theories – to create a way of seeing the world. The aesthetics and beauty of knowledge – this was shih.” [David Zindell, The Broken God 1993]

SINGULARITY: The postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotechnology, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived. See also the Singularity Page. [Vernor Vinge, 1986]

SINGULARITARIAN: One who advocates the idea that technological progress will cause a singularity in human history. (cf. Singularity in Extropy #7.) [Mark Plus, August 1991]

SKY HOOK: A long, very strong, cable in orbit around a planet which rotates around its center of mass in such a way that when one end is closest to the ground, its relative velocity is almost zero. It would function as a kind of space elevator; shuttle craft would anchor to the end and then be lifted into orbit where they would be released. It is closely related to the idea of a beanstalk. [Originally described by Y Artsutanov in 1969. The name was propbably coined by Hans Moravec in Moravec, Hans, “A Non-Synchronous Orbital Skyhoo k,” Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, Vol. 25, No. 4, October-December 1977, pp 307-322 ]

SOCIOTYPE: 1. The social expression of a memotype, as the body of an organism is the physical expression (phenotype) of the gene (genotype). Hence, the Protestant Church is one sociotype of the Bible’s memotype. 2. A class of similar social organisations. (Glenn M. Grant)

SPACE FOUNTAIN: A vertical stream of magnetically accelerated pellets reaching out into space, where a station held aloft by its momentum reverses the direction and directs it towards a receiver on the ground. Essentially a simpler version of a Lofstrom loop. [I’m not sure who originated the idea, judging from Robert Forward’s Indistinguishable from Magic it was a collaborative effor t. A paper about the idea can be found in Hyde, Roderick A., “Earthbreak: Earth to Space Transportation,” Defense Science 2003+ Vol. 4, No. 4, 1985, pp 78-92 ]

SPIKE, THE: Another term for the singularity, suggested by Damien Broderick since the growth curves look almost like a spike as it is approached. [Damien Broderick, The Spike 1997]

SPOCK MEME: The idea that transhumans will evolve to the point there they will have no need for emotion or love. This is unlikely since emotions are important for cognition; a more likely development is refined emotions with less evolutionary baggage. [ July 1996]

SOLID STATE CIVILIZATION: A posthuman or alien civilization where most people have no physical bodies and exist as information inside computers.

SMART-FACED: The condition resulting from social use of cognition-enhancing drugs: “Let’s get smart-faced.” [Russell E. Whitaker, December 1991]

SPONTANEOUS VOLUNTARISM: A fully free society, with a totally free market and no institutionalized coercion. [Max More, 1989]

STAR LIFTING: To remove material from a star for industrial use or for stellar husbandry. Possible methods would involve increasing its rotation until material began to drift off the equator or squeezing it using intense magnetic fields from particle accelerators. [ Dave Criswell]

STELLAR HUSBANDRY: To control the evolution and properties of stars, especially to stabilize them, prolong their lifetimes, manipulate the stellar wind, lift off useful material or create new stars. Typical methods would be star lifting or mixing the stellar core with envelope material to make hydrogen burning last longer. [ Dave Criswell]

STEWARD: Someone who wants to manage the world as a precious resource, as opposed to extropians who want to let an evolution-like process change it (it should be noted that the term extropian used in this definition doesn’t necessarily cover all people calling themselves extropians). The stewards and extropians represent divergent philosophies of change: stewards think about what is already there, while extropians think about how things can or will evolve. [Jaron Lanier, SPIN Magazine november 1991]

STRONG AI POSTULATE: The assumption that an intelligent machine can be built, at least in principle. Some versions of the postulate are more narrow, and say that intelligence is computable on Turing machines (i.e. the mind is a program). This essentially means that intelligence is only dependent on pattern, not its material basis.

STRONG CONVERGENCE HYPOTHESIS: All sufficiently advanced cultures converge towards the same state. A rival hypothesis is the divergent track hypothesis. See also HPLD. [Nicholas Boström 1996, Predictions from Philosophy?]

SUSPENDED ANIMATION: This term refers to the ability to start and stop, at will, a biological system (usually a person) through some physical means (usually the use of cold temperatures). Suspended animation does not currently exist.

SYNTHESPIAN: An artificial actor, for example a 3D model animated by motion capture from a real actor or a computer program.

TAZ/Temporary Autonomous Zone: A mobile or transient location free of economic and social interference by the state. [Hakim Bey]

TECHNOCYTE: A nanoscale artificial device (especially a nanite) in the human bloodstream used for repairs, cancer protection, as an artificial immune system or for other uses. [A Sandberg 1995]

TECHNOCALYPS: The fusion of utopian dreams and apocalyptic fears of the millennium [Michael Grosso]

TECHNOSPHERE: An expanding sphere of civilization/technology, spreading outwards using von Neumann Probes or simple colonization. Judging from how most life behaves, it will gradually restructure matter and energy inside itself in various ways. Due to the finite speed of light it can only spread slo wer than lightspeed. [Mitchell Porter].

TELEOLOGICAL THREAD: A sequence of goals following each other. Refers to the possibility of strong morphological freedom, where individuals can change all their properties and their configuration; only the general goals may stay the same, and they may drift forming a teleological thread. [Alexander Chislenko, Technology as extension of human functional architecture]

TERRAFORM: To change the properties of a planet to make it more earthlike, making it possible for humans or other terrestrial organisms to live unaided on it, for example by changing atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature or the climate and introducing a sel f-sustaining ecosystem. This will most probably be a very long-term project, probably requiring self-replicating technology and megascale engineering. So far Venus and especially Mars looks as the most promising candidates for terraforming in the solar system. See also the Terraforming and Ecopoesis page and topical words: terraforming. [Jack Williamson 1938]

THEORETICAL APPLIED SCIENCE: Theoretical applied science is the study of technology that is based on conservative and contemporary scientific knowledge, but have not yet been created. Especially it studies what is possible and impossible according to known physical laws. [See Theoretical Applied Science by Nick Szabo.]

TITHONUS SYNDROME: The consistently negative portrayal of immortality in fantasy and science fiction. Based on the Greek myth of Tithonus, who was granted eternal life but forgot to ask for eternal youth [S.L. Rosen]

TIPLER CYLINDER: A theoretical way of time-travel is using the spacetime warping around a very massive, infinitely long cylinder rotating near the speed of light around its axis. [Originally described by Frank Tipler in “Rotating Cylinders and Global Causality Violation” Physical Review D9, 2203-2206 (1974)]

TIPLERITE: A person with religious faith in Tipler’s Omega Point Theory (So far very rare, if any). [“The Tiplerite Church” was mentioned briefly in The Nanotech Chronicles by Michael Flynn]

TRANSBIOMORPHOSIS (TRANSBIOLOGICAL METAMORPHOSIS): The transformation of the human body from a natural, biological organism into a superior, consciously designed vehicle of personality. [Max More, August 1991]

TRANSCEND: v. To become vastly superhuman and incomprehensible for unaugmented beings. [Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep]

TRANSCENSION: The transition between humanity and posthumanity [Erik Moeller, June 1996]

TRANSCIENT: A very advanced and fast being. [Tom Morrow, April 1996]

TRANSCLUSION: A thing existing in more than one place at once; virtual copying of information used in hypertext systems, such as Xanadu. [Ted Nelson, Byte, September 1990]

TRANSHUMAN: Someone actively preparing for becoming posthuman. Someone who is informed enough to see radical future possibilities and plans ahead for them, and who takes every current option for self-enhancement. See also the Extropian FAQ for their definition of Transhuman. [Term: FM-2030, Are You A Transhuman? Def.: Max More (The word was used earlier by Damien Broderick in The Judas Mandala 1982(of which an excerpt called “Growing Up” was published in Galileo 1976), and in “Transhuman 2000” by FM-2030 in Woman in the Year 2000 (Ed. Maggie Tripp) in the 60’s or early 70’s)]

TRANSHUMANISM: Philosophies of life (such as extropian perspectives) that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life- promoting principles and values. See the Transhuman Principles, Definitions of Transhumanism and the Extropian FAQ for their definition of Transhumanism. [Max More, 1990]

TRANSHUMANITIES: Art, literature, and other aesthetic media for transhumans (or transhumanists). [Mark Plus, 1990]

TRAPDOOR FUNCTION: A function that is easily computable, but whose inverse is very hard to compute unless an extra bit of information is provided. The term is used in cryptography. See the Cryptography FAQ.

TURING MACHINE: An idealized computer consisting of an infinite tape and a read-write “head” which moves back and forth on the tape, reading and writing, according to a rule set that refers to i) what it sees on the tape ii) an internal “memory” state.

TURING TEST: Turing’s proposed test for whether a machine is conscious (or intelligent, or aware): we communicate via text with it and with a hidden human. If we can’t tell which of our partners in dialogue is the human, we say the computer is conscious.

ÜBERGOO: A related term to grey goo, used (jokingly) to refer to the mistaken idea that during the singularity powerful technologies would decimate non-transhumanists, and that some transhumanists would see this as desirable (which is clearly against the Transhuman Principles). [Dale Carrico 1996]

UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING: Also known as “embodied virtuality”. Computers that are an integral, invisible part of people’s lives. In some ways the opposite of virtual reality, in which the user is absorbed into the computational world. With ubiquitous computing, computers take into account the human world rather than requiring humans to enter into the computer’s methods of working. See Mark Weiser, “The Computer for the 21st Century” Scientific American Sept. 1991, Jim Morrison and Ubiquitous Computing at Xerox Parc.

UPLIFT: To increase the intelligence and help develop a culture of a previously non- or near-intelligent species. [From the Uplift novels by David Brin]

UPLOAD: (a) To transfer the consciousness and mental structure of a person from a biological matrix to an electronic or informational matrix (this assumes that the strong AI postulate holds). The term “Downloading” is also sometimes used, mainly to denote transferring the mind to a slower or less spacious matrix. (b) The resulting infomorph person. For more information, see the Mind Uploading Home Page or my upload page. [The origin of the term is uncertain, but obviously based on the computer technology term ‘uploading’ (loading data into a mainframe computer).]

UPLOADER: (a): A person advocating uploading. (b): a person making an upload.

UNIVERSAL CONSTRUCTOR: A machine capable of constructing anything that can be constructed. The physical analog of a “universal computer”, which can perform any computation.

UNIVERSAL IMMORTALISM: The view that the problem of death can be solved in its entirety (including bringing back those “dead” who were not placed into biostasis) through a rational, scientific approach. [R. Michael Perry, 1990]

UNIVERSAL TURING MACHINE: A Turing machine with a rule set which allows it to imitate any other Turing machine (if the rule set and the input of the machine to be emulated are presented on the tape).

UTILITY FOG: A collective of nanotechnological devices (“Foglets”) that link together into a complex network in the air, able to work together to exert force in any direction or transmit information between each other. This would give users almost complete control over their environment. See Utility Fog by J. Storrs Hall [J. Storrs Hall 1994]

VACCIME: (pron. vak-seem) Any meta-meme which confers resistance or immunity to one or more memes, allowing that person to be exposed without acquiring an active infection. Also called an `immuno-meme.’ Common immune-conferring memes are “Faith”, “Loyalty”, “Skepticism”, and “tolerance”. See also entry in the memetic lexicon. (Glenn M. Grant.)

VASTEN: To enhance one’s mind strongly (“to become vast”), related to transcending. [David Zindell, The Broken God]

VENTURISM: An immortalist transhumanism founded on the principles (1) to do what is right, understood as implying the benefiting of intelligent life and the reduction or elimination of abuses to the same; and (2) the advocacy and promotion of the worldwide conquest of death through technological means. See The Society for Venturism Home Page [David Pizer, 1986]

VIEWQUAKE: Insights which dramatically change one’s world view. [Robin D. Hanson]

VIRIAN: Of or relating to the Church of Virus.

VIRION: The infectious unit of a virus. 2. (capitalized) A carrier of the Virus meme-complex. [Duane Hewitt]

VIRTUAL COMMUNITY: A community of persons not located in close physical proximity but forming a cultural community across computer networks.

VIRTUAL RIGHTS: Rights given for convenience to a partial; these rights are really rights of the person whose partial it is, rather than of the partial itself. Similar in some respects to currently existing corporate rights. [Max More, July 1991; See Cryonics, November 1991]

VITOLOGY: The study of any life-like system, including biology and artificial life. [Max More, December 1991]

VIVISYSTEM: A systems with lifelike properties (adaptability, complexity, evolvability, resilency etc.), such as ecosystems, alife, economies and minds. [Kevin Kelly, Out of Control 1994].

VON NEUMANN MACHINE: A machine which is able to build a working copy of itself using materials in its environment. This is often proposed as a cheap way to mine or colonize the entire solar system or galaxy. An early fictional treatment was the short story “Autofac” by Philip K. Dick, published in 1955, which actually seems to precede John von Neumann’s original paper about self-reproducing machines (von Neumann, J., 1966, The Theory of Self-reproducing Automata, A. Burks, ed., Univ. of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.). See also the John von Neumann page at Xerox.

VON NEUMANN PROBE: A von Neumann Machine able to move over interstellar or interplanetary distances and to utilize local materials to build new copies of itself. Such probes could be used to set up new colonies, perform megascale engineering or explore the universe (see the Far Edge Party).

WEBORIZE: To place information on the WWW.

WETWARE: Similar to hardware, but denotes a biological system, most commonly the human nervous system (see also dryware). [According to the Hacker’s Dictionary its origin is probably the novels by Rudy Rucker].

WORMHOLE: A postulated topological structure in general relativity, where a space-time “tunnel” links two distant points with a shortcut. Whether they can be physically realized is not known, and they seem to require exotic matter to be stable. If they can exist, and can be built, they could provide a possible way to travel faster than light (in a global sense, since locally the travellers would move slower than light). For more information, see Traversable Wormholes by Michael Clive Price.

XENOBIOLOGY: The study of (possible) alien lifeforms and their biology. Other related words are xenopsychology (the study of alien mental processes), xenotechnology (the study of alien technologies) and xenosociology (the study of alien societies). [First use unknown, but the word has been extensively used in science fiction].

XENOEVOLUTURE: An evoluture from a planet other than Earth. [Jay Prime Positive, December 1991]

XEROPHILIA: Not from the Greek root xero, meaning “dry,” but from the company that turned its dry-copying procedure into a global trademark. The love of copying, and the ability of everything to be copied. [The 500-Year Delta, Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker 1997]

XOX: (from Xerox) An (atomically) identical copy of a person. A kind of dividual. [Tihamer Toth-Fejel December 1995]

XOXER: A being who wants to create xoxes of itself. [Tihamer Toth-Fejel December 1995]

ZERO KNOWLEDGE PROOF: An interactive or probabilistic proof that demonstrates that one person has a certain pice of information without revealing it. Very useful in cryptography.

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