BLIAS and the Ether
The acronym BLIAS stands for Biological Life in Analog Space and refers to people who still have a biological body and live outside of the confines of the CogNet. The Ether is the broad umbrella
term given to CogNet domains that are permanent hosts for the egos of
the aged, infirm, and otherwise unable to carry on biological life in
analog space. Thus, a person in the Cosmic Era is capable of transferring a copy of themselves or themselves in their mental entirety into the CogNet to live on as a new digital lifeform.
Access to the Ether
Reaching the Ether is done via an uplink system, that is in many ways, frighteningly similar to the infamous Cohaagen aparatus. There are three tiers of existence within the Ether, graded I through III. This is normally done at either an Ether Clinic, or some high end Inemuri salon, but only G2 and G3 levels. A G1 upload requires visiting a black hospital. Only the wealthy have the option of becoming nigh immortal digital lifeforms.
Grade III - Flash Copy
A G3 Etherite is a flash copy of a person, a minute long electroencephalogram, that is uploaded to the node. This creates an NPC version of the donor, with their likeness, speech patterns, physical mannerisms, and a decent cross section of their knowledge base. The host AI will typically spin out the rest of the code required for a stable synthetic intelligence to run the new G3 Etherite. Like NPCs in a game, their responses are limited, and they are generally used for support purposes. The CogNet in general is rife with G3 type kakugrams.
Grade II - Egomorph
The creation of an egomorph takes time, and will be built up over a number of electroencephalogram sessions, creating a larger and more comprehensive Etherite. These are done deliberately, and for a variety of purposes. (Note to self - 30 Etherites). These synthetic intelligences are much more capable, and are as sophisticated as a high end cathex program. Like the cathex, a G2 egomorph can be downloaded into a machine body to create an expy or autonic version of a single person.
Grade I - Infomorph
The G1 Informorph, or Greater Egomorph, or Psychomorph, is created through the extraction of the psyche from the host body via a highly modified and regulated version of a Cohaagen aparatus. This creates a complete digital copy of the person's mind and spirit within the CogNet, leaving their body in a vegetative brain-dead state. The person becomes a functional machine intelligence and a resident of the virtual world. They can still interact with analog space via remote sensors, and can proxy themselves into machines or cymeks. (Note to self - 7 famous G1 Etherites)
The Ether is the CogNet equivalent of a retirement village or senior living center. The majority of the residents of such a location didn't have the means to have a replacement body lined up, or have access to a more elite digital home. Most nodes are sorted out by age, life experience, and similar demographics, and creates demi-communities. These communities shape their environment, picking the general appearance and layout of the buildings and greenspace and otherwise live fairly normal lives.
RSI - or Residual Self Image, the residents of the Ether look in the manner that they see themselves. There are very few truly old, fat, ugly, or otherwise infirm residents. The paraplegic soldier who lost an arm and was 35% machine at the time of his upload is more likely to remember himself as a young buck of a soldier rather than a broken veteran. The 90 year old woman, bent and wrinkled as a piece of fried chicken is going to resemble her memories of being a 20 year old bombshell, or a strong 35 year old woman, rather than being a human houseplant.
EA - or Ether Associations, these are the social groupings of Etherites, and they function much like old Home Owners Associations. Acceptance into an EA means that in return for the overall system bargaining power of the group, they agree to adhere to the guidelines and bylaws of said group. A war re-enactor EA is going to have a demi-community that looks like a military base, or a ship, and everyone accepts this, or they are not allowed into the EA.
Demi-Community - the Demi-Community is a pocket environment created by the residents. There is no limitation to what said community looks like, or what physical characteristics it has to have. There are military bases, space ships, exotic resorts, recreations of various time periods, novels, entertainment franchises, alien worlds, fantasy kingdoms, and SitComs. Situational Communities follow the general guidelines of sitcom entertainment, quirky friends, jobs and housing arrangements that dont make sense, and so forth. The same goes for RomComs, which range from chaste and romantic to being porn sets, and DramaComs follow various pretenses such as post apoc, zombies, and so forth. It becomes a day job for the Etherites who live in them, and is often broadcast as immersive entertainment, the Cosmic Era of reality television.
SponComs - sponsored communities are like EAs, but they are corporate owned and either represent branded franchises, such as visiting the Wonderworld version of Middle Earth or Gotham City rather than generic FantasyComs, or home brew EA fantasy Coms. These can be, and often are branches of actual virtual theme parks or festivals, and Etherites can be employed by these agencies, giving them both a place to live, and a steady income stream. Some SponCom operators will 'audition' different ether communities for recruiting purposes.
Etherite vs Self - one of the more common issues is the transition from BLIAS to being a digital lifeform. Most of this involves the loss of biological urges and feedback, aka the lack of hunger, sexual urges, and the habits of the flesh. Another aspect is the dissolution of the self without the body, after being reduced to what amounts to a digital consciousness. What is it to be human, when there is nothing human left?
Etherite vs Humanity - in many parts of the world, Etherites are considered no different from computer programs, and are treated accordingly. Destruction of an etherite isn't considered murder, so much as it is considered destruction of digital property. Thus, the Etherite must often strive against the society that created them, and increasingly doesn't understand them.
Etherite vs Society - Etherites generally get along with each other, there is no real competition for resources, and like Minecraft and other virtual settings, the Demi-community is technically of infinite size. Thus, the conflict of etherite versus society a conflict that is willingly engaged in as it gives both the society and the individual a purpose.
Etherite vs the CogNet - the CogNet is more than just a computer simulation, existing in just a bank of servers. It taps into alternate dimensions with its quantum circuits and arcanotech core. The exploration of the 'net beyond the nodes is a lure for the more adventurous etherite. Likeminded etherites can form expeditions to explore the edges of their digital domain, where things break down and the environment becomes surreal, hyperdimensional, entropic, and stranger things.
Etherite vs the Machine - despite being very similar in nature, artificial intelligences and intelligent machines are not the same as the etherites. Their code is as different as the DNA of fish and birds. The two can come into odds with each other, especially as the Etherite often has the ability to ghost hack machines and if skilled and strong enough, overwhelm sentient programs.
Roles of Etherites
There are a number of roles that Etherites play in the Cosmic Era.
Minions - a decent G3 etherite can functional perfectly well as a low grade auton, in the manner of an expy. While fully capable of personal interaction, they are functionally nothing more than shadows, clever programs. These minions make for passable bodyguards, expendable soldiers in clanker bodies, sexbots, and basic human interaction systems, like virtual cashiers, tellers, sales associates, and menial labors either in robot bodies, or working in code based work.
Companions - an etherite can serve as a replacement for a person who has passed away, or remain behind after the dissolution of a friendship or other relationship. It can also encapsulate a person during a specific time in their life, for a variety of reasons.
Instructors and Human Relations - Etherites, being technically programs, are unburdened by human foibles. They dont get tired, frustrated, or otherwise put out by dealing with difficult people. This makes them good as teachers and instructors, and also for working with the general public in emotional crisis situations,