In the Atlantic Federation and Pacific Rim Coalition, approximately 50% of infants experience decanting, and not birth. The creation of the Creche, or Artificial Womb has made reproduction no longer the sole responsibility of the human female. Genetic material is induced to become an embryo, and that is placed inside the Creche, where it is brought to proper birth size and weight. The decanting process is much less traumatic to the infant, and has largely eliminated sexual discrimination in the most advanced parts of the world.
Clones and cloning to form a large portion of the decanted births, and codex series clones are only a small portion of the total number. The most common form of cloning is that of a single parent having their DNA sampled, screened, and then turned into an embryo, thus, their child is their clone. This is a more common option also explored by same sex couples, barren couples and individuals, and by parents who have lost their naturally conceived children to accident or tragedy, and do not wish to go through the pain and expense of traditional childbirth again.
There are celebrities and genetic donors who have their genetic information available for purchase for the purpose of producing offspring. This is a fairly popular option, and is on par with auto-cloning. The 'beautiful' celebs who donate their genetics become wealthy, as well as having the ego stroking of knowing that their DNA has been spread more extensively than anyone outside of Ghengis Khan. Celeb-seed children often have financially advantaged parent/s and benefit from genetic augmentation and modification that their peers and rivals do not.
True-Born children and conceived naturally between a pair of consenting adults, with both donating their genetic material to the Creche facility, and an embryo is developed. The infant is typically picked up from the center by the new parents, though some more high profile centers offer delivery services.
Elective Deliveries, Inc
Elective Deliveries, Inc, is a well known and respected Creche service provider along the North American east coast. With GeneSEED repositories across the region, Natal Facilities in the majority of major urban centers, and a well known and honored delivery system, it is the leader in child-births in the Amero-Zone of the Federation. The company adopted the classic icon of the stork carrying the bundle of joy as it's logo, which can be found outside of it's reproductive counciling offices, GeneSEED repositories, and most famously, on the sides of the Stork light craft.
More commonly used a derogatory term, free-born describes children who are conceived in the traditional biological manner, and carried to term by their mother. While it has been demonstrated that the only negative impact from this is related to the behaviors of the mother (diet, stress, recreational substance use) the visible result is that free-born children are much less likely to have been genetically screened, and could still carry defective genes, and will possibly suffer from easily correctable issues later in life, such as cancer, diabetes, baldness, obesity, and other hereditary maladies.
There is a small but dedicated group of people within the Cosmic Era who refuse to use the creches, seeing them as a highly negative thing. This group of people is actually highly diverse, having a variety of reasons for eschewing the advanced technology, but are covered under a religious luddite umbrella as far as the rest of the world is concerned. There is a strong trend for free-born to do so out of religious convictions, with different discussions about children being born of a machine being soulless, as they were not born from the union of a man and a woman. There are also 'back to nature' types who claim that the creche is prying apart human social bonds, most powerfully, the bond between mother and child. There are luddites who simply hate the intrusive nature of the technology, and those conspiracists who simply do not trust the genebanks and creche companies. There is a degree of truth to their concern as it isn't as rare as those companies would want it to be, but there is genetic fraud. This typically involves celeb-seed being questionable, contaminated, or just fake. There are also incidents of creche workers deliberately contaminating samples, even swapping samples around for their own amusement, or replacing donor seed with their own.
Free-Birth is still the most common manner of reproduction across the entire world, with many of the creches and other high tech reproductive technologies and services not available outside of the Federation, PRC, and the better parts of the other world powers.
The Slow Decay of the Nuclear Family
The Nuclear Family is in strong decline. The advances in reproductive technologies initially made many families stronger, allowing barren households to conceive, same sex couples to have children that were genetically theirs, and for permanently single people to have children without resorting to one night stands, but with tech superior to the old stand-by sperm bank or fertility clinic. The introduction of cloning tech, celebrity donation, and other social trends, babies changed. New mothers, who were never physically pregnant, and never gave physical birth had the same level of emotional attachment to their infants as they would have to a household pet.
This social decay spread to the traditional pair-bonding that precedes breeding. The institution of marriage entered decline, along with the steady waning of religiosity in the Federation. A husband wasn't required to father or support a child, and a mother wasn't required to bring a child to term and breastfeed it. Literally anyone could have a child so long as they had enough money or passed the UBCS check.
The New Hanseatic League coined the term hassliebling, a portmanteau of hasslich and liebling, for unwanted children. Literally Ugly Darling, or Ugly Pet, the Unwanted are children who were conceived by people who were unprepared or unwilling to face the challenges of being a parent. While there are certainly some children who were monstrous or vile, most were the victim of a parent who wanted a baby, but discovered their dream was much more than they bargained for, infants are messy and become children, and then become teens. The state and its various apparatus have had to adapt to deal with the flood of abandoned children, ranging from infants to young teens. Anglicized into 'Hassles', the Federation has absorbed these unwanted children and used them to populate it's solar ambitions. Many of the adults living in space stations, or on other Federation holdings in space, were Hassles. After education in a government facility, they were launched into orbit. Others were sent to grow up and staff underwater holdings, and go into dangerous and hard to fill jobs. Hassles also form a large slice of the non-clone non-drone component of the military.
Just Another Brick in the Wall
Life in the Cosmic Era is largely sedentary. For children, this means that there isn't a school that they physically go to. It is common for most arcologies to have recreational decks, with artificial parks, playgrounds, and plants for the residents to enjoy, and this is the main area for socializing. Most children have little to no interest in the parks, and instead choose to remain plugged into the Floating World, playing with their boppets, and MUSE companions.
The education system is a CogNet domain that children log into on a daily basis. Using the same functional technology as a dream tank or a major corporate Cog domain, large numbers of children use the same classroom servers. They all have the same roster of educators, and have the same virtual materials to work with. There are variants. There are the State funded and supported education systems, there are also corporate education systems, typically higher quality education with a bias towards corporatism and limited to employee's children, and private sector education systems, which are for profit, and require students retain a certain level of achievement and attendance otherwise face expulsion.
The Benefits of Virtual Education
The benefits of virtual education are many, with AIs handling the educating, the students are able to have near instantaneous one on one time with the instructor, who has the ability to diagnose learning disorders, behavior disorders, and not have it's own issues to deal with. Once vaunted, the Cosmic Era discovered that the human educators were often the weakest link in the classrooms. Replacing them, and instituting national level education standards, largely corrected many of the problems in the system. The use of virtual environments also eliminated the bottomless costs for education. The system no longer needed to support large buildings with extensive staff, including law enforcement officers, and large administrations. On the parent's side, school supplies and books are virtual constructs, and no longer physical things to be purchased. The electives offered by the education system also grew as basic understanding of the human mind dictated that the old head down pencils up book open model was hopelessly inferior and backwards. unrestrained by physical costs, students in the Cosmic Era can take electives that we can only dream about. Since it is all simulated, students can take alpine mountain climbing, professional football, sport yacht racing, polo, equestrian sports, and anything along those lines rather than the shame laced and bully friendly physical education classes of yore. This same level of verisimilitude applies across the board, including art, music, vocational education, higher education, and so forth.
The Petroleum Era had the Ivy League schools, and the Cosmic Era has the Sodales Schools. The Sodales schools, or Sodalities individually, are the long established virtual universities that are the core of arcanotechnology. Each of the seven Sodales predate the 3rdNet, and were pioneers for establishing the CogNet, and are known for not just reputations of the highest standards and social elitism, but also being the institutions that are largely responsible for dimensional science, genetic modification, artificial intelligence, robotics, high energy research, and parapsychic studies. It has been somewhat correctly noticed that the manner of instruction and hierarchy of the sodales more resembles a priesthood or seminary more than academia, but the arcanotechnicians and theoretical arcanocists are the new clergy of the Cosmic Era.
Downfalls of Virtual Education
There are two major downfalls to the virtual education system, lack of human interaction, and homogeneous education. The biggest condemnation of the CogNet is that despite bringing people together across multiple planets, it has dehumanized personal interaction. one of the things that defined human interaction was the people had to adjust to and accommodate others. Attitudes, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, are all human and subjective. The virtual nature of the CogNet changed that. Anyone who didn't fit into a user's weltanshauung (or world view) could easily be blocked or hid, where the two users would be made completely unaware of each other. The profiling indices of MUSE programs could allow predictive blocking, censoring out other users based on their profiles and preferences. Rather than society changing people to fit into a whole, the Cosmic Era individual shapes their virtual society and it is populated with only people who share their similar profiles and preferences.
An outgrowth of the political correct movement of the middle petroleum era, the Autocosset or also autocorrect culture is still alive and well in the Cosmic Era. The self-protectionist, pro-digital activist, social vigilant, hyperconscious neo-Spanish Inquisition autocosseteer lives by a very socially broad and flexible platform that is based around attacked and destroying anything that doesn't fit into their weltanshauung. The culture is easy to find, as they are very vocal and use common terms such as self-identify, fluidity, and such. The culture is obsessed with labels, and once they create one for themselves, they will create a counter label for others, link it to a phobia of their self-identified aspect, then work to make this second, new term, a derogatory term. In the Cosmic Era, the autocosset culture is ignored and frequently censured because it is wrapped in the same materialism and hyper-ego that lead to the Resource Wars and near destruction of the planet.
Yes, in the Cosmic Era, Social Justice Warriors are looked down on the same way neo-nazis are looked down on now.
Also known as Pointlessly Unique, YM or just Muimina is a form of self expression for the purpose of setting the speaker apart from those around them, claiming personal uniqueness often through a spurious or superficial avenue. This self-proclaimed facet is claimed to make the speaker superior and special compared to those around said speaker. Muimina is a common counter-culture in Nippon and across North America. Most adherents of Muimina 'grow out' of the phase, and find their niche in society. A few do not and eventually are shaken out and end up as criminals, disenfranchised, or are exiled for being overly disruptive. Those who do not give up the culture become the leaders of factions like the autocosset culture, or enter the arena of Socialitics (Social Politics).
The second major downfall of virtual education is that by being uniform across vast populations, any biases, mistakes, inaccuracies, or other fallacies are equally distributed. While actual mistakes and errors are rare, the more dangerous aspect is the deliberate misrepresentation of data, and the deliberate teaching of indoctrination. Boiled down to the most basic element, the people who dictate what the curriculum will be are the people who decide how and what the next generation of adults think and believe.
Author's Note: We can see this fight being carried out now, since the state of the Texas is the largest purchaser of text books, the publishers cater their books not to the national audience, but to Texas, the most profitable section. Thus, one state has an inordinate amount of influence over the national discourse on education materials. Similarly, the same historical event can be taught different ways in different parts of a country, because I can tell you that the Civil War is taught in a completely different fashion in Tennessee than it is taught in Texas or Oregon. Thus, in the superstates, the megacorps and government organizations that control and program the virtual schools are the ones that are setting the course that the nations are going to be following for generations to come.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
The teen and early adult years are the most culturally formative, with young people largely driving trends in music, entertainment, popular media, and the milieu of what the young do to have fun. This sort of fun is usually the sort that pushes social boundaries, often challenges legality, certainly tests authority, and explores sexual experiences.
In the CE, this is modified but the basic behaviors remain the same. Teens and young adults are heavily involved in immersive social media, visiting virtual clubs and bars, creating social events, and generally engaging in edgy, brooding, sometimes violent cathartic activities, but all within the confines of the CogNet. It can easily be described as a lifestyle full of sound and fury, but lacking any substance. The hollowness of the Cosmic Era is never as stark as it is during the teen years. Everything that happens in the CogNet is a digital dream, electronic drugs, digital friends, virtual sex, lashing out at authority through cognitive fantasies, and it all happens sitting in a passive state, wearing a skimmer, or being plugging into a MUSE.
This isolation is most profound on the myriad of space stations and offworld colonies, where the reality outside of the 'net is starkly different. The further one gets from the megatowers and arcoplex cities, this changes. Residents of the favelas, the undercities, and those scattered across the land in small communities have something of a more recognizable life. There are actual physical locations where people meet, and while there is the same access to the CogNet it isn't nearly as omnipresent.
Employment is a different matter in the Cosmic Era. Under the tennets of the freemium economy, the demand for manual labor, low skilled, and similar jobs is almost non-existent. The Petroleum Era job market is no longer viable. The industrial sector is completely remodeled, with polyforges and automata making everything that is needed, typically on an as needed basis, and on a localized level. The change away from planned obsolescence and materialistic culture has limited the amount of material based economic activity. The commercial sector has also seen a similar revision, with virtual logistics and shopping replacing traditional brick and mortar retailers. The few places where things can actually be purchased in person are often just showrooms. The vast majority of jobs left are military (increasingly redundant and superficial in the face of the drone and automatic military forces being developed and deployed), private industry, arts and entertainment, and cognitive software development. There is a large portion of the Cosmic Era population that is completely unemployed.
Residents of the federal superstates have the benefit of the government backed Universal Basic Credit Service, a non-monetary subsidy that rewards residents for upright social behavior, having proper social attitudes, and keep the proper company of friends. Through stick and carrot tactics, the unemployed population is held complacent, their basic needs met, and their interests diverted through CogNet entertainment and calculated outbursts of public outrage.
There are human settlements on the majority of planetary bodies in the Solar system. Despite the advances in propulsion technology and logistics, travel between planets is relatively rare. In a regressive step, most people seldom leave the urban centers they are born into. Arcology residents enjoy digital lives, while the lack of physical infrastructure (there aren't roads or rail lines, and booking a ticket on Federation Airlines just isn't a thing like it used to be) keeps most residents of geofronts and other megastructures in place. With the verisimilitude of experiences available through electronic means, the urge to travel and wanderlust have largely become relict behaviors, or are something treated with medication.
The residents of the space habs and the spacers themselves are certainly travelers, but in a certain ironic manner, they dislike leaving their ships and space stations. Some of this comes from the fact that many have been augmented or otherwise conditioned for low to zero gee space conditions and being on something as large as a moon or a planet is simply oppressive and frightening to them. The residents of the non-terrestrial colonies often come from social outcastes, criminals, and the Federation's Unwanted children. These populations are either unable to return to their homes, or are strongly disinterested in returning to the places that threw them away.
There is still travel, but jet-setting is a thing of the past. Aside from the cultural shifts that have happened, there is also the matter of time and distance. Traveling city to city is relatively a minor issue, owing to aerial transports, the resurgent rigid airship (cheapest cost to weight ratio for operating costs) but interplanetary travel is still a more challenging issue. Reaching orbit is not a major obstacle, and traveling to a major space hub is akin to traveling to a major metropolitan center today (NYC, LA, Chicago) while traveling to a nearby body, like the Moon is the same as a transcontinental vacation. Reaching destinations beyond the orbit of the Moon is a more daunting task. Not technologically speaking, but in time and cost. Traveling to Mars takes not hours but days to even weeks (depending on the location of Earth relative to Mars) and reaching Jupiter and posts beyond is weeks, one way. This might not seem like a long time, but in the Cosmic Era, waiting is anathema to the psyche. Traveling to Mars is like a vacation to a distant but civilized destination (Fiji) while Jupiter and points beyond are like booking passage to Antartica, the Galapagos Islands, or other highly remote locations.
Just easier to sit at home and log onto the CogNet and dive into another sensodrama.
Seven Relics of the Petroleum Era
There are some things that are common to ubiquitous in our modern age that are as antique to the denizens of the Cosmic Era as churigeons, roof thatchers, and apothecaries are to us. Some of these remain, but where they remain, they are oddities and eccentricities, strange hobbies and curious interests.
1. Home Cooking - the well stocked home kitchen, with a variety of tools and appliances is a thing of the past. Rather than keeping pantries and cabinets of foodstuff and stock, denizens of the Cosmic Era have Insta-fix and nuka-box (microwave) prepped meals. The thought of taking raw vegetables and meat, seasoning and a starch or carb and making a meal out of it is simply seen as crazy. Raw ingredients are expensive, and the gourmand experience is easier to experience through virtual eating, dining through the CogNet while actually eating a gruel like nutrient paste.
2. Regular Tech Upgrades - the phone carriers have plans where you can get the newest gadget, as soon as they come out, so long as you give them lots of money. This trend in the Petroleum Era was highly destructive, as the gadgets required rare earth metals, expensive synthetics, and other expensive components. The toys and gadgets of the Cosmic Era are either intended to last a long time (with regular software updates, and uncommon mechanical upgrades) or are virtual in nature, running off of dream/cloud processing. A MUSE is intended to last a decade or longer, easily.
3.Print Media - paper is a relic product, and the things made of paper are either completely gone, or have become luxury goods. Books are still present, but their production is very low, and ownership of paper books is a status symbol. Most former print media products have transitioned over to handheld devices like the a fore mentioned MUSE, or are 'read' through CogNet programs. In the CE, the book holds the same position in society as the scroll holds now.
4. The Extended Family - the Nuclear family is still holding the line in the CE, but the extended family is a thing of the past. Family relations beyond mother/father/sibling are not acknowledged or recognized. The family unit is increasingly isolated, and one of the aspects of retro-media is the demonstration of comical family relations. The role of Aunt and Uncle are now more associated with friendly older non-sexual associations, or the adult friends of children. One of the cultural shifts in the Cosmic Era is that children can are are conceived without biological parents, created from genetic donor material, or grown from DNA samples.
5. Handicaps and Disabilities - one of the commonalities of the Petroleum Era was that people with a shared disability or handicap would form not just communities, but would campaign and legislate for recognition of their status. In the Cosmic Era, the vast majority of these disabilities have been eliminated. The blind can see, the deaf can hear, and the only defects that still remain are those that are deliberate. Chances are that if someone has a common Petroleum era disability they have it by choice, or by some strange form of punishment.
6. Grass and Gardens - one of the aspects of the Petroleum Era that stands out in the Cosmic Era is the support and maintenance of green lawns and personal gardens. With the majority of people living in megastructures, the thought of a family unit living in a self enclosed home, surrounded by a buffered green space is seen as a waste of space and resources. The vast amount of square miles of green lawns was nothing more than a waste of land that should have been allowed to go back to nature, and grow steppe, prairie, forest, or other biome. The amount of water and fuel used to maintain the shimmering green fields is held up as one of the great failings of the Petroleum Eras.
7.Cemeteries - While the common conceit is that people are dressed and buried in a satin lined coffin, in their church clothes, there is a bit more to it. Most coffins themselves are placed inside a larger concrete box to prevent the decaying contents from contaminating the ground around them. This takes up large amounts of space, disrupts a large chunk of the environment, and creates a culture of venerating the mortal remains of the deceased through large heavily manicured green spaces. With the migration into megastructures, there is still a period of mourning and grieving, once the funerary procedures are complete, the corpses of the deceased are taken to bioreactor facilities, where the body is rendered down to it's base components. Despite the regular portrayal of unintentional cannibalism in the Cosmic Era, this is actually rare. The rendered remains are sifted into the supply chains. The dehydrated carcass is ground up, fed through an incinerator, and the remaining elements are most often used in plant fertilizers (principally calcium and other trace elements). The viable parts of the body are harvested for organ donation, especially among the poor. Only the very wealthy can afford the luxury of permanent internment in an actual grave.
Senior Years and Aging
There are two paths that most people in the Cosmic Era follow as they age. The poor and common folk live out lifespans comparable to those in the modern era. While the length of life has not noticeably increased, the quality of life is greatly improved. Many maladies of the Petroleum Era have been eradicated by science and medicine in the Cosmic Era, and the greatest threats to human longevity are the gradual erosion of organ function, and the degradation of mental faculties. The human body simply wears out around the century mark.
Those with access to more wealth and influence are able to pursue longevity and even immortality. Organs can be replaced, and the brain can be augmented with cybernetic components and arcanotech treatments can literally roll back the impact of time. So long as their money remains sufficient, the wealthy can live indefinite lives. It is also common for the wealthy to integrate their consciousness with virtual systems, eventually becoming CogNet entities, their mortal husks sitting in bio-support systems.
Also known as a Golden Throne, the Erzengle is a arcanotech stasis pod that can keep a human body alive indefinitely. The original erzengles were med-pods that were engineered for recuperation or preserving patients in severe trauma. The system was refined, as it allowed ancient humans to continue living in relative low-stress. The system preserves the body, and cellular activity continue at low levels. The brain and spirit continue to live on, integrated into the CogNet, where these powerful and wealthy individuals continue to live on, guiding their corporations, nations, or other interests.
The word Dorado, and variations and translations of 'gold' or 'golden' are often tied to individuals who are supported in this fashion. They are also spoken of cryptically, and are often the fulcrum of conspiracy theories. Contrary to these theories, humans occupying hibernation engines are almost completely unrepresented among the hidden masters. The rare individuals who have chosen this path have given themselves over to living in artificial realities, and delegate most of their authority to their subordinates, cybernetic or AISC companions, or avatar programs.
One popular expression was that there are two constants in life, death and taxes. Death hasn't released it's grip on the Cosmic Era. While there have been advances in medical technology and pharmacology, widespread immortality doesn't exist. There are certainly things that could be done to extend lifespans beyond what they currently are in the era, but computer models show that the longer lived a population is, the more stratified, rigid, and stagnant it becomes. Thus, the powers that be, have decided to improve the quality of life, but only marginally extend it. As mentioned above, those in power, exempt themselves from this. The average person lives easily into their 80s, and reaching the century mark is no longer as exceptional as it once was, but after that, mortality rates become fairly consistent. Those in leadership positions and the wealthy and powerful can easily expect lifespans that reach into centuries.
Life After Death
While actually circumventing death is difficult, there are other options available for grieving families and spouses. The collective digital experiences, CogNet user profiles and algorithms, and engrams generated through a lifetime of Cog use can be compiled into a simulacra cathex. This post-mortem avatar of a person can largely emulate them, their mannerisms and general responses. Those who know their time is running out can spend time actually programming their own simulacra. Those who are especially cunning with their programming skills can actually create simulacra that border on passing the Turing tests, and can fool many people into believing that they are still talking to a living person. Cathexes are by nature, able to be transitioned from CogNet environments into analog environments by linking the core programs to an auton or other replica body. These machines, with degrees of success, can integrate into society. This is often done by parents grieving the loss of a child, or by a widowed spouse attempting to replace their lost half.
Cybernetics can also come into play. There are options, such as implanting the brain of a deceased person into a machine like a utili-pod droid. The machine supports the function of the brain, and uses it as it's own organic CPU. While the anima, the essence that makes a human human, is gone, the memories, skills, and abilities largely remain. This is considered a form of cybernetic necromancy, and despite having organic parts, are often more robotic than actual machines, and less convincing than simulacra.
What Lies Beyond
Arcanotech has made incredible advances and discoveries, and one of the more frightening is the existence of the soul. This anima, spirit, aura, etc, is a measurable quantifiable thing. This is considering one of the most severe discoveries ever as it validates thousands of years of superstition and theology. While things like God remain beyond measure, this discovery has changed how people look at religion. For some, theology, crystal waving, and other fringe and psuedo-sciences have been given validation (even if they are completely unlrelated) and a number of religious sects have risen, based around arcanotech.
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