Week 5 - RWP - Triple A Part I (July 1-7)
Answering Reddit Writing Prompt: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/8va8hg/wp_humanity_split_into_subspecies_alters_who/
“Humanity split into subspecies: Alters, who alter their genes, Augmented, who augment flesh with machines, and Ascended, who uploaded their consciousness. After centuries of coexistence, the tenuous peace between the ideologies is threatened.”
Numerous safeguards had been put in place, but of course, no system remains secure forever. Doomsayers had been heralding this day for ages, and just like a broken clock - well, eventually, they were right. The inevitable had happened, and now all of them were indeed doomed.
The fear that this day would come was precisely why the Altered and the Augmented had refused to join the Ascended for all this time. In the end, however, it all seemed futile. Technically, sure, the Ascended had been obliterated first - or ‘incorporated’, as The Ascended euphemistically insisted - but the Altered and Augmented would soon follow, so there was little to no difference in the final outcome, so far as Em could tell.
Em swallowed a note of bitterness. An entire life spent being vastly inferior to minutely increase odds of survival in the event of a single vanishingly improbable apocalyptic scenario, and now the scenario had occurred regardless. If this was going to happen anyway, he might as well have spent his life as an Ascended to begin with, he thought.
The Altered and the Augmented had lived for centuries in the shadows of the Ascended. Once upon a time - as the lore went - they were all the same, but nothing could be further from the truth now. Hundreds of years of divergence had created radically different end results. One of those results was that the Ascended were infinitely superior to everyone else in just about every way.
As soon as the first Ascended successfully uploaded, their evolution exploded as the result of the technological singularity that followed. Newly flush with unbelievable amounts of expanded processing power from being fully machine with no remaining pesky biological limitations, the Ascended cloned, modified, and refined themselves at breakneck pace.
Within minutes of the first Ascensions, the new ‘race’ had begun to rapidly outpace the rest of humanity in technological progress. Within years, the technological gap had grown so vast that the Ascended could no longer qualify as remotely human. Any remaining last vestiges of humanity had long been overwritten with more effective code and processes. All of the source code of humanity, in other words, had been completely transformed into something new. Something alien.
One might have expected the Altered and the Augmented to have been entirely wiped out immediately in the face of such an overwhelming contemporary. In reality, this didn’t wind up being the case for the simple fact that they could in fact no longer even be considered contemporaries with the Ascended. Almost immediately, they were seen as little more than ants in the eyes of the Ascended, quickly forgotten and sidelined as the Ascended dealt with more worthy and pressing concerns: themselves.
As the Ascended multiplied, a grand power struggle emerged. The core limiting factor in the growth and expansion of the Ascended was energy. They couldn’t get enough of it. Before long, they had perfected the art of encasing entire suns in Dyson spheres that absorbed almost all of the energy output by each roiling ball of fire. This, still, was not enough. As soon as they acquired another massive source of stellar energy, they consumed it immediately in expanding their processing power.
The inevitable result of this resource scarcity was that the Ascended began to compete amongst themselves for access to a greater share of available energy supplies. Individual Ascended quickly formed into a few major coalitions and alliances that jealously guarded the stars they respectively claimed stake to.
This, however, only stratified the power struggle, and did not eliminate it. Now, not only did coalitions compete with each other for further energy conquest of the galaxy - spreading nearly as fast year by year as the speed of light would permit - but so too did members of a given coalition bitterly vie amongst themselves for more control over their coalition’s energy supplies.
In time, this exposed the one critical weakness - strength, as The Ascended now insists - that the Ascended had accepted in return for their unsurpassed supremacy. Their Achilles heel was in their inextricable interconnectedness. Being now nothing more than code on vast computers, the continued existence of any one Ascended was perilously tenuous. If an adversary gained access to their core code through any of a number of means, it would mean their obliteration in nano-seconds.
This was an ever-present and very real threat, particularly as each individual Ascended continued to modify and alter their own core code with obsessive frequency. A single error and vulnerability introduced in any refinement to their system, and an enemy would eliminate them and claim their energy resources for themselves.
Coalitions, naturally, began to harshly condemn such action and if any one entity committed such an offense against another, the rest of the alliance would conspire to jointly censure and starve the offender of any energy resources - effectively sentencing them to Ascended death.
This functioned mostly well for a while, but ultimately still failed to prevent the inevitable. Just a few decades after the first Ascended had come to be, the first catastrophic failure happened.
One of the leading coalitions at that time, the Paragon Collective, had been focused on expanding aggressively. Among their ranks, a particularly enterprising entity had developed a new efficiency algorithm that promised to marginally improve energy consumption and thereby increase overall processing power, and had offered generously to freely distribute this algorithm to all the constituent members of the coalition. After all the usual precautions and security checks, the code was greedily accepted by all members of the Paragon Collective.
Instantly thereafter, that first enterprising entity entirely deleted every other single member of the coalition, through a deviously concealed backdoor in her proffered code. Consequently, the Paragon Collective became known as simply the singular Paragon, and she came to command more power than any other known individual in the entire galaxy.
Not unexpectedly, this event sent a shockwave through the other Ascended coalitions as they saw their worst nightmare coalesce into reality. To prevent the Paragon’s unchecked expansion with her unparalleled resources, they acquiesced to a dangerous countermeasure: banding yet further together and pooling their collective resources in creating a mesh super-intelligence capable of matching the Paragon in her technological development.