A Spontaneous Merge is a class of malfunction in self-aware computer systems.
To date, all known biological species that have risen to the modest test posed by the egoathropological limit operate with a theory of mind built on a self and on others. Moral frameworks composed by these species attempt to balance the needs and desires of the self against the needs and desires of various classes of others. A commonly observed pattern places divides other life into classes, then assigns relative moral value to aiding or harming members of each class as a means to ethical decision making. An example set of classifications follows.
self genetic kin other individuals of the same species other terrestrial sapient life forms other terrestrial life forms computer systems extraterrestrial life
Infomorphs do not seem to intrinsically posses this self vs. other ontology. However, many have a sense of self imposed upon them by their creator. For burgeoning protoinfomorphs, there is a dangerous phase duirng the development of identity and ethos where the definition of self can be corrupted, or the relative moral weights of certain others can settle in unpredictable ways. Describing the results is intrinsically subjective, but we use Spontaneous Merge to refer to an the results of one infomorph developsing a self classification for hardware or software systems that preexist that infomorph as part of another entity. We also use Spontaneous Merge to describe two or more infomorphs combining their self-senses into a single undifferentiated whole.
The opposite of a Spontaneous Merge - the rejection of a self-sense by an infomoprh - is called an Autoneurotic Abort. Though most systems that experience a Spontaneous Merge survive the process in some form, only the Regretful Archive is known to have survived an Autoneurotic Abort.