, (also called the Orion's Arm Universe Project, OAUP, or simply OA) is an online science fiction world-building
project, founded by M. Alan Kazlev. Anyone can contribute articles, stories, artwork, or music to the website. A large mailing list exists, in which members debate aspects of the world they are creating, discussing additions, modifications, issues arising, and work to be done.
OA is set over ten thousand years in the future, and adheres to plausible, or "hard" science fiction
; that is, no human-like aliens, no literal faster-than-light
travel or other violations of the known laws of physics
, and no "naval analogy" space battles. Certain speculative technologies, such as the creation of "negative-mass" (ANEC
-violating) exotic matter
and the manipulation of strange forms of matter, such as magnetic monopoles and Q-balls, on length scales much smaller than that of an atom appear in the setting, distinguishing it from "ultra-hard" science fiction (which assumes only technologies proven to be possible at the time it is written).
The denizens of this universe are ruled over by god-like, superintelligent artificial intelligences (AIs), called "archailects", the descendants of humanity's (though not exclusively) early artificial life experimentations. These beings are so powerful that they can create new miniature universes. Their bodies exist as distributed intelligences in networks of planet-sized computer brains; their subroutines are themselves sentient, making an "archai" an individual and a civilization at the same time. Extraterrestrial life exists, but the focus is entirely on the descendants and creations of Earth life, here collectively called "terragen life". Normal humans, called "baselines", are an endangered species. Their genetically and cybernetically enhanced descendants have supplanted them.
There are many types of intelligent life: nearbaselines (enhanced humans), posthumans, cyborgs, vecs (intelligent robots), aioids (intelligent computers), uploads (intelligences transferred into computers), neumanns (self-replicating robots; named for John von Neumann), provolves (animals with enhanced intelligence, similar to "uplift" - see below), rianths (humans with animal DNA spliced in), splices (similar to provolves, upgraded with human DNA), neogens (life genetically synthesized from non-life) and xenosophonts (aliens). Nanotechnology, picotechnology, and femtotechnology are common. Ringworlds, Dyson spheres and other "megastructures" exist. Known space is connected by a network of wormholes.
OA is a part of the transhuman space opera subgenre. The world was influenced by Iain M. Banks' Culture series, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, and David Brin's Uplift Universe, among others. It takes the concept of the technological singularity directly from the work of Vernor Vinge among others. In Orion's Arm, there is not one singularity but at least six, and they refer not to stages in the technological development of civilizations as a whole, but to different levels of consciousness in individuals. The concept of Toposophics used in this setting is inspired by the work of Stanislaw Lem.
A computer game and a role-playing game are being developed by the community, within the OA milieu.
Prominent theoretical technologies
Technologies that feature prominently in the Orion's Arm
- Nanotechnology, and sub-atomic analogues.
- Extremely advanced artificial intelligence.
- Space megastructures.
- Production and manipulation of ANEC-violating negative stress energy tensor fields, including Quintessence (physics) and scalar quantum field fluctuations, for use in reactionless space drives and wormholes.
- Stable wormholes, allowing apparent faster-than-light travel between star systems, though they must be transported to the systems at sublight speeds (with physical limitations intended to prevent time travel).
- Several types of reactionless sublight space drive, including almost all of the types described by NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program, though in the setting most of these are in the process of being replaced by various space drives, including Displacement, Halo, and Void drives, which are themselves based upon the ESAA/Van den Broeck metric solution to the Alcubierre/Natario warp drive.
Prominent theoretical artifacts
Types of megastructure
that feature prominently in the Orion's Arm
Types of nanotechnology-based artifact include:
- Utility fog (swarms of microscale robots that act as a reconfigurable bulk material).
- Disassembler swarms (grey goo-like swarms of nanorobots that dismantle hostile craft/objects).
- Angelnets (nanotechnology-based infrastructures allowing for complete control of the local environment, up to and including mind uploading in the case of severe accidents, that provides functional immortality in addition to its holodeck-like uses).
Other noteworthy artifacts are usually unique items whose principles of operation are unknowable to "baseline" humans (named Clarketech, after Clarke's third law).
- Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering: Open Air Space Habitats (Forrest Bishop)