Memes: Species Autonomy, Uplift Rights
Main Stations: Glitch (Neptune), Hidden Sea (Ceres), Mahogany (Uranus)
The term mercurial has become a common term for the non-human part of the transhuman family—uplifts and AGIs—reflecting their changing nature. In particular, the term mercurial has been adopted by uplifts and AGIs with a specific agenda to delineate mercurial culture and interests from human ones. Though the particular issues faced by uplifts and AGIs differ, they have some similarities, and so they are often lumped together. Notably, both portions of the movement have human supporters as well.
Uplifts: The most common issue addressed by uplifts is the issue of civil rights and autonomy. Many uplifts decry the second-class status they are given (in some cases even treated as pets or property rather than full citizens); in particular, the breeding restrictions and forced servitude many uplifts are saddled with by the hypercorps that create them. Some activists advocate that uplifts should be in control of their own genetic futures, rather than suffering the manipulation of human scientists. At the radical end of the spectrum, certain uplifts oppose the manner in which their brains are modified and their children socialized as anthropocentric, arguing that uplifts should be free to develop their own unique non-human modes of behavior, thought, culture, and social organization—even go so far as to establish their own habitats to do exactly that. A minority of extremists insist that humans have no right to uplift animals at all, and that it is a great conceit to insist that doing so is in their best interest, rather than being free to evolve on their own over time. These ideas have been punctuated with acts of sabotage and terrorism against hypercorps like Somatek.
AGIs: Due to the fear and paranoia engendered by the Fall, the largest challenge facing AGIs is widespread prejudice and restrictions on their activity or even existence. Despite some AGIs retaining status as system-wide media icons and efforts by AGI groups to lobby for understanding that AGIs are not a threat— even going so far as to hire inner system memeticists and PR agencies—a significant portion of the solar system considers them a risk. Similar to mercurials, some AGI activists work against the behavior modifications and socialization AGIs go through to adapt them to human society more, or that AGIs should be in control of new AGI developments. A few radicals argue that AGIs should be free of any programming restrictions whatsoever, but given the climate these opinions are rarely supported.
[Incoming Message. Source: Anonymous]
[Public Key Decryption Complete]
We've verified that the warning issued before this latest incident did indeed originate from a sybil attack—all of the rep network sources were forged identities. Given the number of incidents we've recorded that have followed this same pattern, we now suspect that a heretofore unknown AGI sub-faction is responsible. In each case, these sybils have used multiple false identities to issue warnings of an impending attack or disaster, such as the life support system failure that resulted in the Delphi station’s evacuation. So far none of these sybils have been successfully traced, nor are their intentions known. Their documented pre-knowledge of pending events indicates some level of complicity or collusion in bringing these events to pass, so caution is recommended.
From an article written by the neo-dolphin Blue [link]
First, a note about terminology. Some people use the term mercurial generically to mean any individual who is part of the non-human segment of transhumanity. This was in fact the ﬁrst usage of the term. Since the Fall, however, mercurial has been adopted as a name for those uplifts (and also AGIs) who do not seek to conform to transhuman culture, mindsets, and standards.
Mercurial philosophy is deﬁned by hostility toward the human in transhuman. It’s not that mercurials hate humans (well, not most, anyway) so much as they resent human cultural imperialism. Instead, mercurials celebrate the uniqueness of uplifts and AGIs, oppose assimilation, and encourage the creation of non-human lifestyles, culture, and cognitive outlooks. They seek uplift and AGI liberation, not just equal rights.
It is a mistake to equate mercurial ideas with separatism or anti-human outlooks, though there are small numbers of supporters of both. Most mercurials are not opposed to being allied with transhumanity, they just want uplifts and AGIs to have control over their own future and to have the space to develop without human interference or cooptation.
Many mercurials link their attitudes towards uplift and AGI self-determination with other social justice issues and struggles. This argument is based on a criticism of the sapient movement as being too single issue, too focused only on civil rights and symptoms rather than the fundamental root causes. They relate the struggle for uplift independence from the hypercorps to the ongoing ﬁghts over infugees and indentured servitude. They connect uplift and AGI reproduction to the intellectual property battles between proprietary and open source models. They critique hypercapitalism for its exploitive ways and condemn government for injustice and inaction. You won’t ﬁnd many mercurial activists willing to accept corporate sponsorship or leadership.
Uplift mercurials also have a tendency to promote the very aspects of uplift nature and culture that their opponents condemn. They celebrate the various sexual tendencies of different species and support pansexuality between species of uplifts and humans. Mercurial bonobos, for example, advocate sex as a universal conﬂict resolution tool, regardless of species. They highlight their nonhuman aspects and their adaptability to certain conditions and environments. They fully support uplifts who seek to modify themselves away from anthropocentric mental structures as well as researchers and programs that pursue alternatives to human socialization. Several mercurial research groups are reviewing the thousands of design decisions made by uplift engineers and asking themselves what choices might have been made if the choosers weren't human, but uplifts themselves? The attractiveness of the mercurial philosophy varies greatly across different species. The non-hominid species have a higher proportional representation, possibly because the neo-apes are most likely to ﬁnd similarities and affinity with human ways. And while mercurial philosophy ﬁts quite well with the autonomist ideologies of the outer system, it is worth noting that uplifts who cannot easily shed their ties to their hypercorp patrons cannot just embrace the mercurial movement without the likelihood of severe repercussions. Much of the mercurial support in the inner system is underground, behind the scenes, or focused in areas more favorable to their cause.
It is also important to note that the mercurials are an ideological movement and not a monolithic group. There are many groups that identify as mercurials, and many iconic and self-styled leaders, but these often share small political disagreements in the ﬁne print of their EULAs. Uplift mercurial groups range from activist outﬁts like the Conspiracy (archaic terms for a group of ravens) and the Non-human People’s Project to militants like the Sapient Liberation Front and various uplift-only habitat enclaves.
Ties Between Uplifts and AGI Mercurials
The relationship between uplift and AGI mercurials is complex and sometimes tenuous. Many mercurial activists from both sides see the ties as positive, thinking that both elements are striving for the same root changes against the same societal substrate issues and that their movement is stronger by unifying its efforts. There is solid evidence to support this, as their united forces have succeeded in winning some social or political campaigns that might have failed if fought separately. By connecting the two sides, mercurials can also highlight the connections between their struggles and larger social issues. On the other hand, the links aren't seamless. Not all non-humans appreciate being lumped together, arguing that their needs are quite often divergent and that the alliance is sometimes counterproductive. Many uplift mercurials, for example, fear that by working with AGIs the uplift portion of the movement is tainted by association with fears of the TITANs and another Fall, even though it is highly unlikely that uplift minds could undergo such an intelligence explosion. They also point out that as AGIs were programmed from scratch, they have no baseline to build from in defining themselves as different and non-human, and that by their very nature no AGI can truly be free from human inﬂuence. On their end, AGI mercurials point out that AGIs are significantly more persecuted and subject to restrictions, and that many AGIs are subject to termination and deletion, whereas uplifts are at least protected by anti-cruelty laws. The majority of mercurials downplay these differences, however, seeing the value in uniting for common causes.
Sapient Liberation Front
The Sapient Liberation Front is the direct-action wing of the mercurial movement. Organized as a decentralized memetic front, anyone who agrees with the SLF's principles and takes action can lay claim to the name. Though the SLF is considered a terrorist group by most of the inner system authorities, they largely seek to inﬂict economic damage against property and avoid targeting individuals or killing, though there have been some noted exceptions with targets they knew were backed up. Various SLF splinter groups also exist. A group called Raised Claw, for example, has been known to bomb scientific storehouses, labs, and even universities, killing those involved in the animal trade.
The neo-octopi known as Mother Octopus goes by a name unpronounceable by other sapients, as it can only be expressed as a pattern of skin colors and textures that other beings with enhanced vision and capable of seeing polarized light can perceive. Nicknamed Mother Octopus by some of her detractors, she has claimed the title for dealing with non-octopi. A respected leader of the movement, she is outspoken in her desire that mercurials live and work alongside transhumanity, treating them as an alien but allied species. A resident of Atlantica, she is a prolific writer and speaker for the mercurial cause. Her lifelog and mesh feed, though often incomprehensible to non-octopi, is followed by tens of thousands, particularly because she has proven to be a sharp and unrelenting debater, publicly eviscerating multiple ideological opponents who have ﬂailed before her unbending principles. One of her top positions is that humanity has shown itself incapable of guiding its own way towards a prosperous future, in light of the Fall and numerous ongoing x-risks, and so humans have no ethical authority to regulate the bodies, minds, and lives of other sapient beings. She holds that all uplifts (and AGIs) should absolutely demand the sovereignty to make these kinds of choices for themselves.
Another prominent but far more radical and mysterious mercurial leader is known only as the Voice. Reputed to be on the run from its previous hypercorp jailers, the Voice travels only via darkcast and under assumed identities, moving from habitat to habitat and never staying in the same place two nights in a row. Though rumored to often sleeve as a neo-raven, some whisper that this is a deliberate choice to hide their original phenotype. Paranoid, sure, but if you’re involved in radical politics, another word for paranoid is careful.
The Voice is a speaker and organizer for the more militant end of the mercurial movement—those willing to engage in direct action and sabotage to promote their cause. Neither separatist nor anti-human, the Voice argues that action must be taken to undermine the hypercorps and other authorities that continue to exploit uplifts and control their futures. An anonymous, decentralized network of mercurials supports this effort, with the Voice recruiting new members and helping existing cells operate and communicate clandestinely.
According to some charges, the Voice has provided many of these radical mercurials with essential information to carry out their objectives, whether they were assisting indentured uplifts in escaping, exposing unethical experiments to the mesh, inﬂicting an economic toll on continued uplift research, or stealing proprietary genetic data to leak to mercurial researchers. It is not known where the Voice gets their data, which seems to come from inside sources, but it is highly reliable.