Diaspora (novel)

Diaspora is a hard science novel by the Australian writer Greg Egan which first appeared in print in 1997.


Plot introduction

This novel is a future posthuman , in which transhumanism long ago (during the mid 21st century) became the default philosophy embraced by the vast majority of human cultures.

The novel began as a short story entitled “Wang’s Carpets” which originally appeared in New Legends , a collection of short stories edited by Greg Bear (Legend, London, 1995). Egan later adapted and included “Wang’s Carpets” as a chapter in the novel.

An appended glossary explains many of the specialist terms in the novel. Egan invents several new theories of physics , beginning with Kozuch Theory, the dominant physics paradigm for nearly nine hundred years before the beginning of the novel. Kozuch Theory treats elementary particles as semi-point-like wormholes, whose properties can be explained in six dimensions . Certain assumptions common to Egan’s works inform the plot.

Most of the characters choose a neutral gender; Keri Hulme ‘s gender-neutral pronouns “ve”, “screw” and “worm” are used for ’em.


By 2975 EC (Universal Time), the Year qui in the novel begins, humanoid HAS “speciated” into three distinct groupings:

  • fleshers , biological societies consistant en statics , the original, naturally-Evolving race of Homo sapiens , and a wide variety of exuberant derivatives, Who-have modified Their genes beyond the static baseline. These include enhancements such as disease-resistance, life-extension , intelligence-amplification, and the ability to allow selected transhumansto thrive in new environments, such as the sea. There is a subculture (the dream apes) whose ancestors have a greater capacity for speech and some of the higher brain-functions, apparently in order to attain a primal innocence and rapport with nature. In contrast to 21st-century society prior to the novel’s “Introdus” event, the vast profusion of qualitatively different kinds of fleshers HAS Made Any sort of overall not civilization. This divergence has prompted the development of a culture of “Bridgers” that modify their own minds to form a chain of intermediates between exuberant strains.
  • gleisner robots , individual software -based intelligences housed inside artificial anthropoid, flesher-shaped gold, physical bodies (from a design by Gleisner [1] ) who interact with the world in flesher-paced “real time,” which which they look important, they consider the polis citizens too remote and solipsistic . The gleisners live in space , mostly in the asteroid belt , and in various other places in the Solar System; Egan implies that they long ago agreed to leave Earth to the fleshers to avoid conflict. They will be using a program of interstellar exploration using a fleet of 63 ships, targeting the nearest 21 stars.
  • the citizens , [2] intelligence as disembodied computer software running entirely within the simulated reality -based communities known as polises . [3] These represent the majority of “humanity” in the novel, followed by a distant second place by the gleisners. Together with vast networks of sensors, probes, drones and satellites throughout the Solar System, they collectively make up the Coalition of Polises , the backbone and bulk of human civilization. They interact primarily in virtual environments called scapes , through the use of avatars or icons. The citizens of the Coalition view the gleisners and their colonial aspirations as puerile and ultimately futile, believing that only “bacteria with spaceships” would be more likely to have colonization, especially if virtual realities afford limitless possibilities at a small fraction of the total resource-consumption.

Diaspora focuses in large part on the nature of life and intelligence in a post-human context, and questions the meaning of life and the meaning of desires. If, for instance, the meaning of human life and human desires is bound up with ancestral human biology (“to spread one’s genes”), then what meaning do lives and desires have, and what does it serve? forms a part of life?

Plot summary

Diaspora begins with a description of “orphanogenesis” the birthing of a citizen Without Any ancestors (most citoyens down from fleshers uploaded at Some point), and the subsequent upbringing of the newborn Yatima Within polished Konishi. Yatima matures within a few real-time days, because citizens’ subjective time runs over 800 times as fast as flesher and gleisner time. Early on, Yatima and a friend, Inoshiro, visit the Bridger colony near the ruins of Atlanta on Earth.

Years later, the gleisner Karpal, using a gravitational-wave detector, which is a binary neutron star system in the constellation of Lacertahas collapsed, releasing a huge burst of energy. Previous predictions portrayed the system’s stable orbit. By Karin Discovers that the devastating burst of energy will reach the earth. Yatima and Inoshiro return to Earth to urge the fleshers-gathered in a conference-or to migrate to the polises or at least to shelter themselves. Many fleshers reject this advice, or fail fully to appreciate its urgency quickly enough. Stirred up by a paranoid Static diplomat, many fleshers suspect that Yatima and Inoshiro have come to trick or coerce them into “Introdus”, or mass-migration into the polises, involving masses of virus-sized nanomachinesthat dismantle a human body and record the brain ‘s information states as it is chemically converted into a crystalline computer. The gamma ray burstreaches Earth shortly after the conference, destroying the atmosphere and causing mass extinction . The gleisners and the Coalition of Polises survive the burst, thanks to cosmic radiation hardening. Over the next few years, Yatima and other citizens and gleisners attempt to rescue any surviving fleshers from slow suffocation, starvation, or poisoning by offering to upload them to the polises.

The novel’s title refers to the most of the inhabitants of Carter-Zimmerman (“CZ”), a polis devoted to physics and understanding the cosmos, along with volunteers from across the Coalition of Polises. The Diaspora consists of a collection of one thousand clones (digital copies) of CZ polis, which is about to be reconciled with the long-held classical understanding of Kozuch Theory, which had failed to predict the Lacerta event. The bulk of the novel follows this shipment, rotating back and forth entre different cloned instances of the Saami cast of characters have different hand CZ clones make discoveries along the way, relaying information to over one Reviews another Hundreds of light years -and finallybetween universes .


  • Yatima [4] appears as an Orphan, being formed by the Konishi polis conceptor rather than by a parent or parents. A central character in the novel, usually takes the iconic form of an African herdsman in a purple dress. Yatima presents a deep love of mathematics and a desire to explore the unknown.
  • Blanca , who habitually uses the icon of a featureless black silhouette, also uninhabited the polished Konishi. One of the first three people that Yatima meets a physicist and scape-architect, Blanca has a reputation as an expert on Kozuch Theory throughout the Coalition of Polises.
  • Inoshiro , another of Yatima’s friends, uses an icon with metallic, pewter-gray skin. A native of Konishi but a frequenter of Ashton-Laval, a polis of great artistic merit, ve proudly considers towards delinquent. Inoshiro frequently attempts to attract Yatima away from philosophical Konishi and into more aesthetic and avant-garde pursuits. Inoshiro originates the idea of ​​visiting the fleshers of Atlanta in ancient gleisner bodies.
  • Gabriel , Yatima’s third early friend, has an icon covered in short, golden brown fur. Gabriel, Blanca’s lover and another great physicist, is a very specific subject (though non-functional) gender, which is considered to be an eccentric and perhaps perverted by many citizens of the Coalition.
  • Karpal , a gleisner astronomer who lives on the surface of the Moon , first discovers the collapse of Lake G-1 in Lacerta. He later leaves his robotic body and gleisner society to transmigrate to the Carter-Zimmerman polis, seeking a more profound understanding of physics, which is available to creatures.
  • Orlando Venetti , originally a leader of the Bridger Colony of Atlanta; Liana Zabini first welcome Inoshiro and Yatima upon their arrival in gleisner form. In the Lacerta Event, Liana dies but the visitors from Konishi Rescue Orlando and bring him to the polis; he joins the Diaspora, and thanks to his Bridger training he makes the first interactive contact with an alien intelligence. Before joining the Diaspora he creates a sound, Paolo, who will finally join Yatima in exploring higher-dimensional spacetime on the trail of the “Transmuters”.
  • Radiya is Yatima’s first mentor in abstract mathematics and in exploration of the “Truth Mines”, Konishi’s metaphoric representation of the world’s mathematical theorems. Vis icon is a fleshless skeleton made of twigs and branches, with a skull carved from a knotted stump.
  • Hermann , an extremely eccentric member of the Diaspora Often Appears as a segmented worm with six flesher-shaped feet attached to elbow-jointed legs, based on the curl-up from the work of MC Escher . Very old (a member of the original 21st-century Introdus), Hermann describes to vis-a-vis own great-great-grandchild because it has reinvented vis own personality so many times during long life screws.
  • The Star Puppies , a group of Carter-Zimmerman, elect to stay conscious, in real time, for the duration of their spaceflight in the Diaspora (most others enter a state of suspension). The puppies take the form of space-evolved creatures dwelling in a scape representing the hull of the spacecraft, employing personality outlooks (software which accentuates specific moods & values) to ensure they feel constant joy in, and at, the universe around them and retain their sanity.

The Polises

Humanity began transferring itself into the polises (the Introdus ) in the late 21st century, when the technology became possible to effect the nanoscale transmutation of human brains into functionally indistinguishable molecular computer systems.

Many polises exist, though the novel mentions only a few. Though their physical infrastructure is not described, they apparently exist as hardware-based supercomputers of unknown size and computational ability. Konishi polis, at least, is buried deep beneath the Siberian tundra, and is multiply backed up throughout the solar system.

Each polis has its own unique character, encapsulated in a “charter” which defines its goals, philosophies, and attitudes to other polises and to the external world. Citizens are expected to heed the charter of the polis they “live” in; should they begin to disagree with the charter, they can always migrate to a polis which appears more amenable to them.

The most prominent differences between the various polises, at least in the novel, involves their attitudes towards the physical world. Polis societies range of those who wish to experience the real world of normal time and space to the wholly solipsistic who live their lives in esoteric, isolated virtuality .

The citizens of Konishi polish seem to be mostly about mathematics and esoteric philosophical pursuits, and the show of interest in the physical world. They use visual icons for Social Purposes, objective look simulated physical interaction as a violation of individual autonomy .

After the Lacerta Event, Yatima emigrates from Konishi to Carter-Zimmerman polis, which rejects the solipsism exemplified by Konishi and embraces the study of the physical universe as of paramount importance. Given the Lacerta Event, which suggests that the universe has the ability to unleash unknown extreme dangers, Yatima has begun to share this viewpoint.

Polis time, delta, and perception

CST (Coalition Standard Time), measured in tau elapsed since the adoption of the system on January 1, 2065 (UT). The novel begins at CST date 23 387 025 million . CST defines one tau as the amount of time in which a polite citizen can experience the passage of one second of subjectivetime; this elastic value changes with improvements in polis hardware. In the period of the novel a polis citizen’s mind can operate at a maximum speed of about eighty times that of one’s mind, so 1 tau equals approximately 1/800 s. By the beginning of the novel, the Coalition of Polises has just over 741,597 years of recorded history, amounting to 910 years of flesher history; almost all of the Coalition’s history, about 98.3% of it, in the past, since the last major Coalition-wide polished hardware upgrade in UT 2750.

Nothing to do with a high rate; they can not be better than “rush”, meaning to experience consciousness at a speed slower than the maximum polis hardware can maintain. Citizens could therefore experience consciousness at the same speed as a human flesher would, or even freeze their conscious state for a set time or until a previous determined event occurs. Citizens in Lokhande Polis have opted to experience their consciousness slowly and they have witnessed continental drift and geological erosion .

The polises measure distance, an arbitrary value within their virtual scape , in “delta”, which Egan does not fully explain, the glossary indicates that citizens’ icons are generally about delta high, implying that one delta represents (roughly) one meter . Delta may also be fractionalised, and there is no greater or small distance as defined in delta.

Almost all poles citizens, except for those who specifically elect otherwise, experience the world through two sensory modalities: Linear and Gestalt , which Egan describes as distant descendants of hearing and seeing, respectively. Linear conveys information quantitatively, as a string or strings of information formulated with a language in the mind of all citizens. Citizens may “speak” to one another in a different language, or from the mind to the mind. listening in “.

Gestalt conveys information qualitatively, and data sent by the author to all of them, resulting in an experience of immediacy. A citizen need not consciously consider the information sent (as in Linear): Gestalt operates in a completely new way or almost entirely subconsciously. Citizens use Gestalt to create icons for themselves – “visual” representations within Scapes (Gestalt “areas” or “spaces”). Citizens also use Gestalt to convey Tags: packages of information, like that, or any other word. Each Citizen has a unique tag that identifies them as a particular person, regardless of their appearances, and citizens may emit. Early in the novel, for instance, Yatima learns about an asteroid in the real world by its subconsciously tags, which precisely informs about its properties such as mass, velocity, rotation, composition, spectral emission, and other such data discernible to the Coalition’s satellite network. Later on on Earth, however, and the Inoshiro inhabitant derelict Gleisner bodies,

See also

  • Permutation City
  • ” The Planck Dive “


  1. Jump up^ Egan’s short story “Transition Dreams” in the collection Luminous mentions the corporation
  2. Jump up^ Disembodied minds, sometimes Referred to as Generallyinfomorphsdans le genre.
  3. Jump up^ Polis inGreekmeans “city/state”.
  4. Jump up^ The wordyatimainSwahilimeans “orphan”; see “yatima” . Internet Living Swahili Dictionary . The Kamusi Project. Archived from the original on 2011-07-20 . Retrieved 2009-03-06 .

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