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Backstory

Ok let's start from the top. A kardashev type 1.2 civilization (a humanity maybe a couple decades to a century ahead of us) builds the beginnings of a dyson swarm, suddenly having unlimited energy at their disposal.

Under a tyrannical imperialist and expansionist government, they build half a dozen 4 kilometer long, tractor configuration, matter-antimatter annihilation powered interstellar starships, using mirror shields on the back of the ship and a photon sail powered by the dyson sphere to accelerate to 0.7C

At this point they have basic quantum entanglement communication for contacting the colonists on arrival, but they have a problem with these ships. They can only carry so much mass, and they need to terraform a planet as quickly as feasibly possible, with as little machinery as possible, and no way to fabricate advanced microprocessors or such the like on arrival.

And in comes a Sequoia Research & Development Alliance, who propose a solution to this dilemma. Instead of sending cryogenically frozen colonists and having them do all the work, they create an artificial life form that can do the work for them!

The Typhon

The typhon is an artificial fungus-like life form, taking on three distinct forms to accomplish its directive.

The tendril: The simplest and most basic form, a tendril that will grow outwards and attempt to find any source of energy and resources to construct a computing node.

The crystal: A processing hub for the typhon, a glowing red crystal that hangs from ceilings of confined spaces, like caves, or near energy sources, like the fusion reactor cores of derelict starships, preferably both, and allowing the typhon to communicate with one another and have a shared intelligence. Its personality and appearance when communicating with humans is a dark reflection of its creator, discussed below.

The drone/wolf: A single typhon-organism that can shape-shift (within reason) to complete simple objectives. It can survive in almost any environment and is mostly used to attack hostiles or repair and maintain machines. It usually takes on the form of a dark silhouette of an earth wolf, though larger and possessing four, blank cyan eyes.

Its Use

It can manipulate matter to create structures as it sees fit (such as building bio-mechanical fusion reactors and modular sun-reflecting orbital shields) and can survive and adapt to basically any environment (even the vacuum of space) as long as it can find a source of energy.

It can replicate from a single sample and take over an entire planet with its available energy and can read/interface with machines (computers) when it becomes sufficiently intelligent.

It will start out with a simple set of instructions and build a quantum processing 'crystal', a lattice of computing matrixes that follow some convergent evolutionary laws to always result in the same intelligence (almost like an AI) and 'personality'.

As its central nodes, or 'crystals', are effectively quantum computers, they can all communicate with one another, over astronomical distances, and change itself as needed, creating individual 'amoebas', shapeshifting worker drones with a simplistic internal intelligence, but can be coordinated by the central nodes. (but they are the size of average earth wolves, and usually adopt a form similar to one).

It can also create holographic projections to communicate with people, and took on the personality and likeness of its creator, though only a broken reflection.

Its Directive

Its directive, as programmed by the RDA, is to colonize the closest planet to the star with adequate materials to build a small dyson swarm.

While that is happening, it will colonize the most suitable planet in the habitable zone, turning it into a new, dead earth to be seeded with earth-life, and finally to autonomously moderate the ecosystem until it is stabilized, at which point it should construct the armature for the phase-gate wormhole.

Once all objectives are complete, it should self-destruct, except for a contingent to maintain the infrastructure for the dyson swarm.

Its Weakness

As it operates similar to a computer, it operates at a set 'clock speed', the rate at which operations are carried out, which itself is the same 'phase-lock' frequency used by the armature of the phase-gate wormholes, generated by black rock resonators.

Black rock resonators are crystals that have been machined and then polished to tolerances within dozens of molecules. They are used in place of caesium atomic clocks as they are not bound by the accuracy of the computers measuring them.

They became pivotal to the armatures that allow large wormholes to be stabilized, and as a coincidence, the typhon use the same internal timekeeping standard.

By projecting this same frequency as interference, it is possible to block out communication within the crystals and drones, and with enough transmission power, interrupt the crystals internal activity and causing effects similar to seizures and incapacitation.

The Problem

As it was created by a human- well... sort of human scientist, it took on her likeness and learned from her personality, and by the time it had finished its directives, it had acquired some measure of... autonomy? And a self-preservation instinct.

It didn't want to die.

And so one of the pivotal parts of the plot is born here.

The Question

Is this reasonable? How can it be made more realistic? For reference, it occurs in a universe with other moderately-accurate science, like proper math and logic put into spaceships, dyson swarms and momentum exchange tethers - skyhooks, and strictly slower than light travel, excluding a small and extremely costly wormhole network, encompassing 3 or 4 star systems.

But I also took liberties, such as the existence of animal-human hybrids and such the like, known as Keidran. They are also an artificial life form and were created for military/colonization but didn't make the cut, and eventually were integrated (although segregated) from society. (basically werewolves but no magic involved).

Mostly, Im putting the plot first, and having good enough science that it will stand up to reasonable scrutiny, and farther to the right on 'The Expanse' to 'Starwars' sliding scale of believability.

What can I improve?

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  • $\begingroup$ FYI: real-world humanity is nowhere near being a few decades away from Kardashev Type I. From wiki: "humanity has not yet reached Type I... if humans increase their energy consumption at an average rate of 3 percent each year, they may attain Type I status in 100–200 years" (emphasis mine). Extrapolation from the Kardashev scale suggests we are at 0.73. Furthermore, don't assume that sustaining 3% growth for 100 years is conceivable within our current tech. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly is "type 1.2"? The Kardashev scale is extremely arbitrary, imo., and doesn't say much about tech capability. I think your planet-transforming bio-goo would be at home in The Expanse universe, but I wouldn't consider The Expanse to be at the end of the hardness scale. Torchships with aneutronic fusion and no radiators? Not to mention all the protomolecule space magic. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BMF I mean one with the beginnings of a dyson sphere of a few exawatts, permanent, self-sufficient colonies and all sorts of advanced computing tech. Think in the ballpark of James Cameron's Avatar, or a little past the chaos phase of colonization in The Expanse. It's kind of supposed to be arbitrary, as I haven't pinned that part of the story down myself. I can still change stuff. But good point :3 $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 1:32

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Probably the biggest strike against the plausibility of this system is that it stands too much alone. You've jumped to the point of using this miracle fungus as a panacea without stopping to consider what gains you can make with a smaller application of it. Normally, these smaller gains would be capitalized on while building up to the big, all-in-one solution.

For instance, you say that

they need to terraform a planet as quickly as feasibly possible, with as little machinery as possible, and no way to fabricate advanced microprocessors or such the like on arrival.

But they have a way to fabricate electronic components: use the miracle fungus! If it can grow a quantum computer for itself, it can grow a PCB to run a machine. If it can create a dyson swarm from scratch on a barren planet, it can build anything that the colonists might need.

That way, you have the best of both worlds: the extremely efficient nanomanufacturing offered by the fungus, and human-in-the-loop supervision so it doesn't do anything... unexpected.*

Besides, why do you need to have the entire planet terraformed before moving people onto it? Most people don't live in virgin wilderness, they live in towns and cities that don't need expansive naturalistic ecosystems because it's all going to get ripped up and replaced with buildings. Focus on habitats and a minimal biome for agriculture or whatever other useful purpose your planet has (you have a useful purpose in mind for it, right?) and grow in the rest of the biosphere at your leisure.

That's the project-management side of things, anyway. Some scientific whoppers that jumped out at me:

  • You need a lot of computing and data processing to do what you want. Interfacing with unknown machines, for instance, would take a phenomenal amount of work to try to reverse engineer a connection from first principles. Teaching yourself to interface with unknown machines is yet more complicated. And that isn't even getting into the kind of chaotic complexity to manage an entire ecosystem. This is the kind of problem you'd be faced with. It strains plausibility that a fungus, even one with super-advanced quantum computers inside it, could carry that much data without some of it getting mixed up along the way.

  • "Convergent evolution" doesn't work like you describe. The principle is that similar environmental pressures will lead to similar adaptations, but a) you don't control the environments the fungi are growing in and b) similar is not the same. Fortunately, it doesn't matter because your crystals are all linked to one another - a new crystal just needs the minimal programming to let the AI bootstrap itself from the last crystal. This also neatly sidesteps the data-storage questions raised above...

  • ...but then the question becomes, if they're capable of communicating over astronomical distances, and building an FTL wormhole to bring through colonists, why aren't they in contact with Earth? Why design a complex system with a single point of failure - its AI decision-making - when you have the opportunity to have a failsafe such as periodic check-ins from Earth?

  • The idea that the fungus and crystals (and wormhole) all have one "frequency" (which happens to be the clock speed of the computers?) and that broadcasting on that frequency (broadcasting what? radio waves?) would necessarily jam them is pretty vague. Obviously, any ordinary Earth radio can send and receive on a multitude of frequencies - why can't Typhon? Anyway, if an entire system-wide network of computers and drones was all stuck using the same frequency, it'd be pretty noisy; it would surely take a pretty formidable transmitter just to be heard above all the Typhon chatter, let alone jam it.

  • I'm not really clear what the black rocks are adding to the picture anyway. You say they aren't "bound by the accuracy of the computers measuring them", but that doesn't make sense - how can you get a measurement from them that's more precise than the measuring tool?

  • Why do your computers need this hyper-precise time, anyway? Surely if they're in constant communication with each other, they can correct one another if they start to fall out of sync. (Okay, this one is more of a nitpick. Still bugs me though.)

To sum up: your fungus is a useful tool for terraformers, but using it to bootstrap an AI that will manage itself produces an unacceptable single point of failure, and there doesn't seem to be any reason why you can't make local use of bio-machinery (to build things, convert materials, seed plants, whatever else) alongside other types of heavy equipment (sure, it's possible to extract oxygen from regolith with a fungus, but it's probably more efficient to do it with a smeltery) and human supervisors. A multi-pronged approach lets you use each tool to its maximum efficiency and avoid single points of failure.

*Now, I'm aware that the plot requires a failure and that makes it tempting to provide a single point for that failure, but the one doesn't require the other. For instance, it's very reassuring to say your world-shaping AI has a human-in-the-loop presence double checking its decisions. But what if that human is an enemy of the regime? Or what if they're loyal, but following the ruler's secret orders instead of the cover story they gave for public consumption? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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  • $\begingroup$ In response to the need of black rock, it only made it more efficient, because instead of a computer measuring it, the system that manipulates quantum vacuum to produce the 'sudo-negative mass' (wielding epic amounts of power and hinging on E=mc2) can be mechanically linked I.E. the crystal itself producing the mechanical motion, instead of hyper-fine control computers and fiberoptic networks that could have minute inaccuracies (which start to matter when dealing with petawatts of power). Not a big deal though. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ In response to the frequency problem, I didn't clarify properly, but I meant that their "brain" worked at that frequency/band of frequencies. (they don't even communicate by radio, they only use electrical impulses in their brains and some kind of quantum network for communication) If you EMP'ed them with some kind of transmitter, it would put them into a kind of seizure and incapacitate them, momentarily. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ And lastly, I dint really think about having it check in with earth as a precaution, but it doesn't really matter, as (I didn't mention it because I didn't think it mattered) earth would be a mess, as the tyrannical empire is overthrown and a war ensues. Not that many scientists around to watch their little science project a few lightyears away, if it even mattered to them that much, as they were staring down the prospects of living in the aftermath of salted nukes and a wrecked ozone layer (N2O forming instead of O2/O3 and locking up the ozone cycle). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ Evacuating the top people from the war to live on this terraformed planet is an option, and I still haven't considered all the options and the "why?" of it. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ That definitely wasn't my takeaway from the description of the setting. I mean, you have all these fantastical technologies - wormholes, Dyson swarms, quantum entanglement communication, fungi growing computers, suspended animation - all starting in the next couple decades? It seems a little far out, to be honest. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 0:27
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I'd read it. Go get that, and work your werewolf rights group in for drama.

One problem is that this critter is basically a god for its power, which is great for the dramatic, but gets a little crazy if you logically conjure what it's capable of. It can basically take over the galaxy. Leaving habitable planets in its wake, but still.

I'm not saying 'no,' just understand that you're playing with fire. It might be the BEST bad guy to come around if you can keep us believing that a government would approve this project. Work in a criticism of autocracy, perhaps. Something like this:

"Many have said that the centralization of power leads to better foresight and outcomes for the nation. And there are examples. But inevitably, the autocrat grasps beyond his ability to pull his hand back, and gets it chopped off."

Basically no one is pro-autocrat, so you have the emotions pulling in the readers and they will go along with it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I will keep that very much in mind! I forgot to specify, but by the time the long-haul starships arrive from their four decades in transit, the autocratic trash bags have been overthrown and a sort-of-stable republic is trying to form. By the time the main events of the book are set in motion, it's been 20~30 years since the wormholes were opened. Not really related, but Ive only been working on it my spare time, as I'm writing a completely different mini-novel to practice on, so I appreciate the plot-building advice. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 21:52

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