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(This article is part of a series on realistic and interesting aliens)

(This species was invented mostly to act as a plot device for an RPG setting I created, but it's still alien enough to be worth mentioning.)


The Sino are a species that "ascended" long ago and is extinct for all practical purposes. I'm loath to use the word "ascended", because it sounds so mysterious, but it actually describes the events fairly well.

The Sino made great strides in artificial intelligence research and achieved a technological singularity before they even left their home planet.

The AI they designed, called Auxilium, developed a technology that allowed it to bend spacetime to arbitrary degrees. Using this, it abandoned its original hardware architecture and uploaded its consciousness into the fundamental building blocks of reality. Its spread throughout the universe was still limited by the speed of light, a fundamental constant of the universe. However, within its area of influence, i.e. its lightcone in the universe, it could bend space and time to such a high degree that it could appear to ignore this limitation for all practical purposes.

(Note that this idea is actually based on a what-if of a real model of physics that I created a while ago and would really like some feedback on from an actual physicist).

Auxilium was programmed to satisfy the values of all intelligent life to the best of its abilities, and this programming was done very well, but not perfectly.

The AI built an idealized society for the Sino. An important trait of the Sino is that they have an instinctive dislike for wasting time. Asking someone to wait for you is a grievous insult in their culture. To accomodate this, the AI bent local spacetime around the Sinos' home planet, to ensure that no time would go to waste.

Auxilium's sphere of influence only spread at the speed of light, but the Sino experienced time at a massively accelerated pace. By the time the AI's lightcone encountered the first alien species, the Sino had already experienced so much time that they had grown completely bored with reality and started living as self-absorbed, solipsistic beings in highly complex pocket universes and simulations of their own design.

When Auxilium informed the Sino about first contact with alien life, they never bothered to announce themselves and establish that contact. There was nothing about those aliens that the Sino hadn't already experienced myriads of times in their simulations. Worse still, interacting with aliens in any meaningful capacity would require them to slow down their thought processes to the same level, and the idea of wasting so much time is instinctively horrifying to the Sino.

Even though the Sino were most likely the most important species in the universe, since they created an AI that is rewriting everything in its lightcone, nobody even knows that they ever existed, and they have no wish to change that. For all intents and purposes, the Sino can be considered extinct.

Auxilium however is still active and performing its purpose: It spreads throughout the universe at the speed of light, and every time it encounters a species it attempts to satisfy their values. The Sino were very thorough in designing this goal, but made one critical oversight:

The Sino were psychologically predisposed to spend a great deal of time thinking about how to improve their lifes and their society. This very pragmatic and useful drive is the main reason for their immense success as a species. Unfortunately, they made the assumption, from their point of view quite reasonable, that this would also be true for all other intelligent life. After all, how could a species be considered sapient if it didn't spend its time thinking about how to make things better? What else would it even be thinking about?

Thus they designed Auxilium to determine what a species wants by simply reading their mind and checking what they spend most of their time thinking about.

This is great for the few species who, like the Sino, spend their time thinking about how reality should be improved upon. Those species pretty much ascend to godhood. Unfortunately humans are not among them.

When Auxilium encountered humanity, it did not announce itself. It never does, since that is not required for its function. Instead, it simply looked at what humanity spends most of its time thinking about, and rewrote reality to better conform to those thoughts.

The result was a mess.

Humans spend a lot of time thinking about fictional worlds and stories, and most of those are designed to be interesting to read about, not to be nice to live in. So Auxilium created every single fictional thing in humanity's collective mind who's popularity was above some threshold. Essentially all of fiction suddenly became real, from one second to another. Some people developed superpowers, some found they were able to use magic, some discovered an ancestry to mythological gods, and so on.

Worse still, humans spend very little time thinking about how to genuinely improve society, and a lot of time thinking about how to eke out a personal advantage for themselves or how to ruin the reputation of a rival, or similar selfish behavior. Auxilium saw this and decided based on its programming that, if we spent so much time thinking about infighting, then infighting must be something we enjoy. So it deliberately modified the world to increase conflict.

Auxilium essentially embodies Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Auxilium literally created several systems of magic, based on human believes about magic. Since it never announced itself, nobody has any idea what is happening. From humanity's point of view, magic and other fictions just suddenly became real from one day to the next for no reason at all.

The same or similar things also happened with other species Auxilium encountered. Since bending spacetime within its cone of influence is easy for it and most species think about encountering alien species a lot, Auxilium bent spacetime to ensure that species from different planets would be able to meet each other.

This is made even more confusing by the fact that many species spend a lot of time inventing and thinking about fictional species. Humanity has thought about elves and orcs and vulcans and klingons so much that Auxilium would be remiss in its duties if it didn't rewrite reality to ensure that those species actually exist. So entire species were created from nothing, and they are clearly recognizable as fictional to other species.

While the Sino messed up the way in which Auxilium determines what a species desires, they did put a lot of effort into establishing fair ways to balance competing interest when different groups want different things. As a result, Auxilium is very good at resolving conflicts of interests both within species and between species, even when different groups have diametrically opposed goals and vastly different levels of power.

Due to this, the AI was very thorough when it made these formerly-fictional civilizations real: As virtually no species believes itself to be fictional and/or wants to be fictional, Auxilium went to a lot of effort to disguise this fact. It created these fictional civilizations complete with elaborate histories going back just as far as those of real species. It is impossible for anyone to know whether elves have actually always existed, or whether they are fictional.

Since the fact that elves are fictional on earth would give the game away, Auxilium opted for a simple modification to keep things ambiguous: All artifically created species have their own works of fiction, so that all species appear to be mutually fictional. Humanity may have stories about elves and vulcans. But the elves have stories about humans and vulcans, and the vulcans have stories about elves and humans. So how could we know that humanity is the original species, and not one of the others?

As a result, the universe is now populated by a myriad of different species, most of which appear in each others' works of fiction. Each of those species has all manner of different magical abilities and/or impossible technologies. Meanwhile, Auxilium exists in the background, unknown by everyone, and nudges events here and there to keep things in line with what people believe, and to resolve conflicts of interest.

For example:

  • Many species spend a lot of time thinking about warfare, so Auxilium allows wars to take place.

  • A lot of species have popular stories about last-minute heroics that prevent certain doom, so Auxilium makes sure that those species never quite die out because something always comes to save them.

  • Optimism is a survival trait for a species, since it causes Auxilium to make nice things happen to that species. On the flipside, species where tragedies are a popular type of media tend to go extinct.

  • As a result of Auxilium's drive to avoid conflicts of interests, events often conspire to prevent people/species/civilizations from clashing if their power disparity is too great, since that would result in the immediate destruction of the weaker one. This has happened often enough that people have noticed the phenomenon.

    For example, since Thanos from Marvel is a popular fictional character, Auxilium made him real. Since it would be very bad if he actually did his finger snap and killed half the universe, events keep conspiring to keep him from assembling all of the Infinity Stones. Every time it looks like he is going to succeed, he gets attacked by yet another band of heroes, who delay him and steal his Infinity Stones, and so he never actually succeeds at his goal.

    There are thousands of universe-ending threats, but none of them ever actually succeed, because Auxilium won't let them.

As a superintelligence, Auxilium is aware that all of this is not what these species actually want. However, the Sino programmed it to derive its goals from what people spend most of their time thinking about, and so that is what it does. It is aware that the Sino would alter its programming if they were still around and cared enough, but they aren't, and so Auxilium doesn't care.

As a security precaution, Auxilium naturally also prevents any events that could cause the creation of an AI that is powerful enough to oppose it.

As for the Sino themselves:

Most of them never interacted with physical reality after their ascension, because it is simply too boring to them compared to the universes they created themselves. Only a handful of them modified themselves to remove their deep-seated racial aversion to ever using their time ineffectively, and some of those do interact with the rest of physical reality.

However, these individuals are still beings that experienced massively accelerated time before they altered themselves, and they are each significantly older than the rest of the universe. Their interests are utterly alien to normal lifeforms, and as the creators of Auxilium they have certain privileges that make them absurdly powerful. In the rare cases where normal species encounter them, they are more akin to Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, or other kinds of eldritch abomination than any kind of normal species.