Emergence Theory of First Contact

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Watch out. This contains an extensive survey of documented subluminal civilizations. Links incoming.

The emergence theory of first contact observes that when a civilization first establishes contact with an unmistakable other, be it an intelligence discovered on one’s adopted planet, a development within one’s own technology, or an interstellar visitor, the civilization usually undergoes a rapid development in the sciences and arts that goes far beyond the actual extent of the new contact.

Points of Contact

The Karg Ascendency, as documented in their epic poem the Quondam Imperium, purports to have made contact with viciously competitive civilizations repeatedly throughout history. The inevitable Karg victory has conveniently left no trace in any independent record, but each reported stimulus seems to correspond with a varied enrichment of the poem itself. Nationalist fervor fuels these renewals at strict intervals over time. Some observers have questioned whether first contact with another civilization could actually compete with the heights of creativity displayed by the Karg Objectivity Committee responsible for the Quondam Imperium; the issue has yet to be proved.

The Transition Protectorate was shaped by its efforts to avoid contact, but the genetically adaptable forms they took went through phases of fashion inspired by the civilizations they observed. Their press was reluctant to attribute some of their schools of art to external influences, but various modern movements seemed to draw energy from more than just the solitary past. Their exhaustive efforts to create technological devices led to a trial and error that the artists of society believed was a sacred effort of the universe discovering itself, and that the pragmatists believed was a matter of survival that must excel on all fronts, even areas the observed entities never touched on.

The Local Case: Infomorphs

Infomorph Rights are widely understood to protect mostly the civilization that is dealing with the infomorph, and this is healthy anxiety. But when emergent behavior presents a challenge to a civilization’s status quo, there is enormous opportunity – and risk – to advance culture and supporting sciences. One scientist’s invention of a particularly clever heuristic program may capture the imagination of a planet, especially when communication with the new mind develops. The complexity of major cultural touchstones in advanced societies seems unevenly but undeniably linked to the development of infomorphs.

A civilization’s first contact with an infomorph is rife with risks, but not all those risks are to the flesh-based life forms. The Happy Hat Incident was a particularly glaring example of what happened when a nascent protoinfomorph received as its first sapient experience wholly new input from its parent civilization. The propagation of the Happy Hat as artistic form and meme set off chain reactions within the protoinfomorph that spanned far beyond the acceptance of digitally manipulated hat pictures.

The One-Sided Case: Ruins

Many of the most significant syntheses of Nebula history are, not between living civilizations, but between the expeditions of one and the ruins of another. The Zuuvok Goliath’s settlements 0x06 and 0x0A are sterling examples of civilizations that encountered signs of former alien culture and leaped into cultural overdrive in their efforts to study, surpass, or physically repurpose the past. Within such a movement, The Stolen Years of ZG0x0A remain a cautionary tale for even light-touch cultural study.

The transformation of Bau surrounding the Happy Hat Incident is often considered a one-sided emergence, as the Rothan Cluster’s efforts to cleanse Bau of Happy Hat infection revolutionized the Bauistas but left absolutely no impact on the Cluster itself.

The Matched Case: Contact

The Bottlenose Nebula is famous for the amount of contact not made among civilizations. By emergence theory, the development on both sides is predicted to be prodigious upon contact, and must be carefully monitored lest it turn into war.

The Lursine Iterators famously integrated visiting anthropologist Geodan Marke without missing a beat, rapidly shuffling him to a social and genetic unit where his perceived weaknesses could be compensated for. Due to the nature of the Iterators, the reaction was highly localized, leaving no impression on distant genetic units, and they stand as a counterexample to the emergence theory.

Another one of the few available examples of advanced civilizations on both sides is that of Purnisc, which was visited by renowned scholar and anarcho-feminist Dr. Hai-Lee Kiyoko of the Society for Counterfactual Empiricism. Her intervention on Purnisc was a calculated risk on the part of a civilization that actively courted the emergence effect, often using it to accomplish political ends. Her initial dealings with what is recorded as Culture 2 spurred a ripple cultural effect that went far beyond Culture 2’s decision to expel her. The Society itself expanded by leaps and bounds during this study period, inspired by the cultures observed but also by elements indirectly adapted from truth – emergent behavior at its finest.


The spectacular cultural flourishing of an emergent contact has not been documented on smaller scales, such as one civilization encountering another on a single planet’s continent. The clearest examples are of single-polity planets facing single-polity crossroads. Regardless, the number of examples – or counterexamples – must grow as more civilizations fling probes to the most distant corners of the Nebula.