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Dev Diary Supplemental: Chrysalis

Two weeks ago, I ran a series of Twitter polls asking people to rank the alignments against each other. Chrysalis emerged as a clear winner, and as promised, today I’m sharing more details about it.

To recap: The alignments are the five human ideologies in the Voyageur universe, which you can encounter throughout the galaxy. There are five of them, in order: Chrysalis, Hammer, Star, Dome, and Ladder.

Every alignment in Voyageur is defined by two conflicts with its enemy alignments. With Star, Chrysalis is one side of the improvisation-planning conflict; with Dome, it’s one side of the transhumanism-terraforming conflict. Chrysalis wants diversity through transformation; it sees a universe where local conditions are different everywhere, and believes in local, specific solutions. Chrysalis is all about putting your slippers on instead of trying to carpet the world.

Trial and error are key to this pragmatic worldview. If something makes people better off, then it’s good; if it doesn’t, it should be discarded; the only way to find out is to try; and people should be allowed to try.

Over time, this has led to many Chrysalis societies built around radical physical and mental alteration: “Mermorphs” adapted to life in oceanic worlds, living solar sailers skimming energy from stellar coronas, carbon grazers subsisting on the methane-rich environment of of Titanian worlds, radical posthumans incorporating alien material into their biology. When everyone else asks “why”, Chrysalis asks “why not”. Many variations on humanity have been tried, and they have often proved surprisingly enduring.

Dome views this as discarding fundamental human identity. But inasmuch as Chryalis believes such a thing exists, it thinks that humans are defined by the continuous discarding, reshaping, and creation of identity. People and societies change, says Chrysalis. Sometimes that change is just more dramatic than expected. When we learned how to dye cloth, garment colors became an issue of fashion. The same eventually became true of hair. Why does self-expression have to stop short of the shape of your limbs, or the scale of your body, or the chemistry of your metabolism?

But when you’re so willing to embrace the alien, to alter yourself, that begs the question: How can you know what you want when your mind is constantly inhabiting new bodies? At the extremes, some might consider the more radical adherents of Chrysalis philosophy to have effectively supplanted themselves with something other. Not everyone would argue that a sapient space station or a spherical vacuum-dweller are the same people they used to be.

The endpoint of the philosophy of adaptation espoused by Chrysalis is that you really inhabit the world you perceive, and so changing your perception is even better than changing your world. One example is gengineering bacteria to process compounds in the air so one can live around chemical processes that are foul-smelling to others. But this can go all the way up to living entirely in an augmented reality landscape of your own devising, altering everything about the world you see to suit your preferences.

But how can a society function when its members can have radically different perceptions? Chrysalis isn’t blind to the costs of what it’s doing, it just thinks the benefits outweigh those costs… and if they don’t, it can course-correct.