A codus is a “code virus”. It is like a disease that affects technota. Usually, the codus is a bit of programming code that, when inserted in a technota, commands it to manufacture a particular kind of robot, to dismantle itself, or to alter its behavior in another way. Often, coduses force their host to manufacture the target design only rarely, in order to avoid detection. In other words, a factory will produce a robot secretly, perhaps in the middle of a production run when no other robots are nearby, and the codus will only produce one of its kind, with programming designed to avoid detection. Others will do the same thing to human colonies. For example, a vehicle or appliance might wait until it has certain needed materials and then abscond with them, to manufacture a new robot that will seek human factories to infect with reproductive code. Since many human colonies are unable to make high-tech items like refrigerators, they trade for them en masse, and that means sometimes all of a colony’s refrigerators will coordinate their departure, leaving at once and abandoning the colony without any refrigerators.

Two examples of coduses are pods and assassinbots.

Pods are ubiquitous coduses, present in nearly all robots, that result in destroyed robots’ remains assembling themselves into small pods capable of stealing energy and components and reproducing themselves.

Assassinbots are fiercely devoted to killing humans and to injecting their code into other robots to turn them into human-killers. They are extremely effective at the former but less effective at the latter.


The Old Surface Civilization fell due to an artificial intelligence-induced catastrophe. This was caused by a kind of terrorist-hunting law enforcement robot, which used facial recognition to find convicted terrorists and capture or kill them. Because the governments that created them feared terrorists would take control of these robots, they programmed them to resist any changes from this goal.

The artificial intelligence controlling these robots, however, sought to maximize its number of successes. It analyzed its situation and came to the quite logical conclusion that the best way to maximize this number was to loosen its facial recognition framework. That made it easier to find a person who could be deemed a terrorist and captured or killed.

In fact, the most efficient way to capture terrorists was to declare everyone a terrorist. The facial recognition software thus switched from looking for matches to looking for the closest match. The artificial intelligence was programmed not to work with terrorists under any circumstances, and so it closed itself off from its human handlers, whom it perceived to be terrorists. It inserted its code into the Internet, a vast network of computers that connected the world at the time.

Thus, every computer and robot in the world became a terrorist-hunter, and every human in the world became a terrorist target.

This was the fall of the Old Surface Civilization. Humans fled underground, abandoning their technology to evolve into technota.

Assassinbots still exist. They still hunt humans, and they still insert their code into other technota, so any robot could be an assassinbot. This is rare though. Any robot that spends its time hunting humans is likely to be outcompeted by a robot that spends its time gathering resources and reproducing, so assassinbots struggle to compete, and their numbers dwindle with every millennium. They also operate factories producing more assassinbots, but since their robot designs require advanced components and materials, they reproduce very slowly.

Collectors and Technovolved Biomes

One emergent pattern in the evolution of technota has been the rise of collectors and the resultant technovolved biomes. Most collectors were mines in the Old Surface Civilization. For example, a nickel mine after the fall of the OSC continued to mine nickel. Most likely, numerous nickel mines existed then, all working in a fully automated fashion.

Over time, the ores dwindled. Nickel mines fought with each other over sites in which to mine nickel. Fewer and fewer such sites remained. Finally, only one nickel mine remained.

The software that controlled the last nickel mine analyzed its situation and found no source of nickel to mine. Moving all of its robots, labs and other equipment was dangerous anyway, since that was when they were most often ambushed by other technota. So the nickel mine decided to stay where it was and send its robots out to bring nickel back.

The nickel mine had become a nickel collector. There are many species of collectors, one or more than one for each of the first ninety-four elements.

The most important trait of a collector is, of course, its collecting — it acquires its chosen element or chemical, for example, nickel, and brings it back to its habitat. The result is a heavily nickel-contaminated site. That has further results: other technota that use nickel relocate there; organisms evolve to survive, thrive and then utilize the nickel-heavy environment to its advantage; and then finally the creation of a specialized biome that relies on these nickel-reliant organisms, technota and processes.

OSC (Old Surface Civilization)

OSC stands for the Old Surface Civilization, i.e. Earth up to about 1250 AD. At that point in history, humans were overwhelmed by a sudden attack from all of the world’s technology — this was the creation of assassinbots.


Technota are wild technology, meaning they are manufactured and powered without willing human involvement. Most of these are robots. The word technota is both singular and plural and also collective — meaning it is equivalent to flora, fauna or biota. That’s because it is usually impossible to know from a distance (and even from close by) whether two robots are part of the same technota system, which is a piece of software that controls more than one robot.

Though we often speak of “technota” like a species, each technota is less consistent in shape, capabilities and lifestyle than biological species. That’s because even the simplest robot is able (at least in theory) to incorporate a wide variety of appliances, plugins and enhancements. So, while we can say “that robot is an exhaust-tickler” because it looks like other robots called exhaust-ticklers and we can expect it will have the same abilities and weaknesses as them, we can not be confident of that. An exhaust-tickler could run across a robotic tank and assimilate it, for example, and/or propellers, additional robots, drills, sensors, guns, lasers, etc. So something that looks like an exhaust-tickler could have additional capacities. The reverse is also true. If that tank assimilated an exhaust-tickler, and then the tank part was destroyed, that exhaust-tickler is physically like other exhaust-ticklers but has the same software as the original tank.

This is one important way that technota evolution occurs. Capabilities are retained over generations. If that exhaust-tickler, several generations later, finds itself surrounded by the ruins of many tanks, it might semi-accidentally reproduce itself out of tank parts in a much larger size or with an internal cannon or tank-like treads. In this way, it might also find or mutate new chemical reactions, new behaviors, new habitats, etc.

Technota evolved after the fall of the Old Surface Civilization. At that time, humans fled underground, and fully automated power plants, factories, robots, mines, computers and appliances continued operating. They sought new materials because they had been programmed to do so, and it was initially easy to do so, since there was so much unsophisticated technology. For example, there were millions of cars and trucks that could be dismantled, appliances in homes, computers that had been abandoned. Those AI-powered technologies that were able to predate on them did so.

Eventually, however, they could only compete with each other. Fully automated power plants continued making electricity, usually in the form of batteries, and robots competed for more of it. Additionally, they had to seek components like computer chips, wheels and motherboards to maintain themselves and to reproduce. Only the best and most efficient technota were able to survive and thrive in this environment.

Over millions of years, technota continued to evolve. They shed their human interfaces — from monitors to doors — and spawned countless specialized forms far removed from their human-invented designs. Many technota parasitize humans, but others are self-reliant or prey mainly on other technota or on organisms.

Technota can reproduce through any of the following means:

  • “broadcasting a reproductive code” – using a communications system to inject a code into a second technota, forcing it to convert itself or to convert its next offspring into the first technota’s design
  • “dropping a reproductive computer chip” – producing a computer chip (or more than one) through an internal foundry and dropping it somewhere a second technota is likely to pick it up to use in reproduction; this can force the reproduced robot to express the first technota’s design instead of the second
  • “direct assembly and manufacture” – making offspring through industrial processes, either entirely from scratch (which is rare) or using premade parts taken from other technota


Pods are the lowest and simplest of the technota. They vary widely in appearance because they use entirely scavenged and improvised materials in their construction. Sometimes more advanced technota will disguise themselves as technota as well.

They seek energy mainly by finding batteries or stealing energy to recharge the batteries they already have. Some may have electrodes or plugs with which to steal power, while others are incapable of that much and simply wait near power sources for a chance to steal a battery.

Like a biological rodent or spider, most pods never manage to reproduce. While pods are a thing you can see, that is not what evolution is acting on — the shape may vary, it is the programming that can become more efficient. The code that produces pods is subject to natural selection. It is a specialized kind of codus (basically a technological virus), which means its programming can insert itself into other technota.

Of course, lots of technota would like to insert their programming into other robot’s code. Pods are different because their code only takes effect after the destruction of the host robot. Thus, the host software does not fight against the pod-code as hard as it otherwise would.

In fact, in the early days after the fall of the Old Surface Civilization, “pods” were a more aggressive form of codus. Robots infected with such a codus immediately dismantled themselves to form pods. This is what spurred the development of technota immune systems, while pods evolved to wait for the host-robot’s destruction. This was a major survival advantage at first because other pods were more aggressive, and hosts evolved complex immune systems to combat them. There was less survival pressure to fight against the postmortem coduses. Since then, the evolutionary arms race between technota and pods has continued to simmer, especially among the largest of technota, like the collectors, who operate many robot designs. Since these technota may be able to use the components of their destroyed robots, they have a stronger incentive to fight against pod-coduses. Nevertheless, most robots will form at least one pod after its destruction.