Emeralds by Night
The Virtual Adepts are one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus Sphere is Correspondence.
No Tradition mirrors the modern world so much as the Virtual Adepts. These former Technocrats embrace technology and its ability to empower people, and they strive to make that technology available to everyone. While most Traditionalists concern themselves with antiquated ways and renewal of ancient practices, the Virtual Adepts are on the horizon searching for the cutting edge. The Virtual Adepts ride the wave of the computer revolution, and they use these machines to expand their minds, enable worldwide communication, and model novel visions for reality. By spreading computer and communication technology to the Masses, the Virtual Adepts help people enrich their own minds. The spread of information and knowledge makes everyone richer and leads to better versions of the world, leaving behind antiquarian notions, physical suffering, and social inequity.
Not surprisingly, the Virtual Adepts sprang from the same roots as the Sons of Ether, beginning as a Technocratic Convention when the Electrodyne Engineers and Artificers of the Technocracy gave birth to an entire discipline devoted to computation, logical thought, and the process of storing and interpreting information. These scientists developed machines to process information for humans, to store images or words that humanity described, and to expand human senses, memory, and computation beyond the normal limits of the mind. Fired up by innovations like the telephone and the difference engine, these visionaries became the Difference Engineers, led by Lady Ava Lovelace. They worked with complex models of Babbage's difference engine, Lady Ada Lovelace's computational theory and Bell's long-distance communication devices. At the same time, they included the electrical theories of the Electrodyne Engineers and assimilated revolutionary notions from such luminaries as Nikola Tesla. The result, naturally, was a group of scientific dreamers who brought out ideas at a furious rate, fed their own discoveries with their new computational and communication power and reveled in the wild side of cutting-edge theories.
Naturally, the developing Technocracy needed the computers and communications pioneered by the early Difference Engineers, but it deplored their anarchic notions, haphazard development and barely traceable information network. Matters came to a head during the second World War. The idealistic Adepts pushed for Technocratic involvement with the Allies against Hitler early in the war, but the Technocracy hesitated to bring its weight to bear. The Virtual Adepts brought their resources into play for the Allied forced covertly, sowing the seeds of dissension. Having flouted Technocracy-wide policy once, the Adepts rallied to their own secret projects after World War II. Adept research culminated in virtual reality as Alan Turing explained his theories on virtual space, machine intelligence and self-replicating devices. However, the Technocracy shut him down permanently for his overzealous research.
The loss of Alan Turing signaled to the Virtual Adepts the Technocracy's unwillingness to embrace their new technologies. The Technocracy needed Virtual Adept techniques, but it wanted to implement them in its typical slow and monolithic fashion. The Virtual Adepts wanted to explode peoples' awareness wit their new developments and make their cutting-edge technology available to everyone. Virtual Adepts around the world recognized Turing's demise as a message from the Technocracy to do as they were told and invent what they were ordered to invent, lest they become expendable. In typical anarchic hacker fashion, the Adepts refused to recognize Technocratic authority. Collectively, the majority of the Adepts fled, and the Convention applied as a whole for membership with the Traditions. The sorely pressed Traditions needed inside information about the Technocracy and a holder for the Seat of Correspondence; the Virtual Adepts needed a sheltering organization combined with the freedom to continue their boundary-pushing work. The two groups had found a match.
Although the Virtual Adepts are still distrusted by many within the Traditions due to their reliance on technology, the Tradition remains a keystone in the arsenal against the Technocracy. Their understanding of Technocratic tools and their ability to turn devices against their technological enemies makes them invaluable in the inevitable conflicts. Ideologically, the Virtual Adepts push constantly for new visions of reality, and they put such visions into practice through virtual space. On the Digital Web, they're the masters of all they survey, and they bring out every possible idea for the future world. These elements make them truly vibrant technological blood of the Traditions, and in many ways, they're the ones who fit best in the modern world. As more and more Sleepers get online, the Adepts' community grows. Newer, faster, better, now is graven in the Adepts' hearts, and they'll bring inspiration from the virtual worlds or go out in a blaze of glory trying.
Naturally, Virtual Adepts are a fractiously chaotic lot. Their only real "organization" comes in the form of their various member spaces in the Digital Web and in the few who actually bother to run in groups; most bow to no authority. Indeed, Adepts recognize others only by "eliteness." On the Web, where one's gender, race, and physical state are all irrelevant, the only thing that matters is the quality of one's deeds. Adepts develop reputations based on their achievements, and younger Virtual Adepts may flock to aid a truly elite member when she puts out the call. Odds are good, though, that a few will do their level best to sabotage the assemblage simply to gain some notoriety.
As a result of their near-total disorganization, Virtual Adepts generally don't bother with long-winded titles or recognition for formal occasions. Indeed, they thumb their noses at other Traditionalists — like the Order of Hermes — who rely on such politics. One would think that training and developing a resource base in such circumstances would be difficult, but it's just a matter of computer contacts, rule by the cool, and a little bit of bluster.
Adept factions change as rapidly as technology, so it can be tough to keep abreast of them. Making matters more complicated is the fact that many Adept groups include both Sleepers and Awakened crackers, so one can't always distinguish the mages from the unenlightened.
The dying Cyberpunk movement embraces the nihilistic end-of-days attitude that the future will be darker, dirtier, and meaner than the present, if possible. These crackers use heavy weapons, hardcore programming, infiltration, and sometimes various drugs to amp themselves to the top before going ballistic on their various targets — corporations, politicians, each other… anyone that they don't like. Not surprisingly, they often rely on Forces to get the job done. As the Virtual Adepts continue to refine a vision of a better world, the defeatist attitude of the Cyberpunks thrashes out its death-throes in the gutter. The Cyberpunk movement as a whole seems to be maturing, heading toward a more educated and intellectual elite that embraces high material technology and cybernetic experimentation in a fashion reminiscent of the Technocracy's Iteration X.
The more intellectual Cypherpunks act with the reckless abandon that one would expect of a stereotypical cracker, but instead of relying on guns and a bad attitude, they crank up their computer programs and data-analysis skills. Cypherpunks enjoy collecting random trivia, esoteric data, and hidden secrets, then spreading it around to all and sundry. Often, they're quite contrary, and they force people with whom they associate to examine all sides of a problem. From there, the Cypherpunks hope to gain a new insight in several directions. Cypherpunks spend a great deal of time in the Digital Web, as one might expect. Naturally, many Cypherpunks study Mind sciences in addition to Correspondence.
The Chaoticians use Entropy to study extremely complex and chaotic systems. These Adepts believe that the information process is an inherently unstable one, and they look for understanding in the cracks and flaws of data. Their studies, of course, draw them into fractals, chaos mathematics, unstable systems, and so-called hard problems. From these sorts of premises, they figure out the flaws in how things work, or in the world itself. They also delve into how tiny changes can effect large-scale results, and many indulge in a little bit of experimental social engineering.
The growing Reality Hacker faction believes that the universe itself has an underlying order, information storage system, and language, and they tap into that language to tell the universe how to order itself. Instead of contenting themselves with virtual realities and the Digital Web, these hackers decode the structure of the cosmos. Bending space and gravity are the early expressions of their work, but serious reality hackers get into matter manipulation, alteration of universal forces, and all the things that naughty little hackers shouldn't touch. If the universe is built with the ultimate "computer language," then staying up a whole lifetime to hack it is the ultimate rush.
Expressing the purest Correspondence theories, the Nexplorers make up a large chunk of modern Virtual Adepts. The Digital Web is prime turf to Adepts, but the Nexplorers hope to forge new visions for a brighter, better world. While all Adepts want to create a "Reality 2.0" into which the Masses can Ascend, the Nexplorers are most concerned with making it an improvement on the current world, not just a system that they control. To that end, they advocate careful construction of Digital Realms and exploration of other sorts. They press for space travel and dimensional travel, among other things, although the Tradition has limited resources in that regard.
Information is the ultimate power and the ultimate tool. Devices, magic, tricks, and Traditions can all do great things, but only when guided with the proper information. Therefore, the Virtual Adepts want to learn as much as possible, to explore and develop as many ideas as possible and to open the world to new knowledge by discovering loopholes, tricks, shortcuts, innovations, and dreams. Eventually, people will recognizes that information (and their understanding or processing of it) is their key to sensing the universe. Once that happens, it's a simple matter to make a better universe — a Reality 2.0 that can be modeled, shaped, simulated in a virtually real fashion, then embraced and made into a new world for everyone. The best and brightest (and most elite) lead the way, so that humanity can benefit.
Antiauthoritarianism combined with the respect for only the new means that the Virtual Adepts not only reject society, they spurn the very people they want to help. They treat Sleepers who "just don't get it" with condescension at best, and derision at worst. Strife erupts constantly between competing Adepts as they fight to establish who's on top and who's yesterday's news, and the Tradition recognizes no consistent leadership. Eventually, the Adepts will either implode, or they'll fall into step behind a system of upper-echelon "elite" and lower-class "end users." the tradition needs to grow up and recognize that along with discovery comes a responsibility to implement said discovery safely.
With the recent crash and whiteout of the Digital Web, the Adepts lost a lot of ground in their most promising area of control. Although the Web is back up, it's now flooded with Sleepers who're getting closer and closer to matching the Adepts in computer techniques. Adepts who once saw themselves as masters of the realm are in for a rude awakening as they realize that once the Sleepers are in, they're in for good. Now that the Adepts have thrown open the doors to let everyone into their playground, they have to accept the people are going to do things they don't like. Many Adepts are unwilling to do so, and they go so far as to spitefully crash or flame various Sleepers who get into the Web. Instead of stagnating in the Web and claiming it as their exclusive turf, these Adepts must focus on the Tradition's purpose as heralds of the new. Otherwise, they'll become nothing more than petty dictators in a world that slips slowly away from their control.
Theories And Practices:
Naturally, as masters of the computer, Virtual Adepts excel in all sorts of tele-techniques, information processes, and Digital Web exploration. According to the Adepts, information has a flow all its own. Some Adepts even accord information with purpose or motive. In the end, virtual realities are just data; long-distance communication is just pushing information around; even physical existence is predicated on information storage. If one manipulates the facts, the reality follows suit. And, there are always new facts to find.
Stemming from their mastery of information and transference, Virtual Adepts develop strong computer processes to manipulate their surroundings. Although strongest in the realms of ephemeral data, many Adepts can develop hardware and programs to do anything from projecting force fields to shifting their appearance. Such procedures work best in the Digital Web, of course, but that constraint doesn't stop the Adepts from engaging in some judicious reality hacking with the right techno-toys as backup. The Adepts love new gadgets, high-tech devices, and anything that gives them a leg up on their brethren.
As one might expect, Virtual Adept "meetings" are more along the lines of teleconferences and projections, often in safe havens of the Digital Web. Initiation? Once a prospective young Adept has pulled off a few impressive moves or crunched some good code, he's one of the group — as long as he's not a total social retard among the techno-geeks. Training? What training? Individual Adepts pull together their skills out of experience and sheer balls, combined with their own beliefs in what's important. It's not uncommon for a Virtual Adept to have a certain lucky charm, a day of remembrance for a particularly worshipped hacker (Alan Turing's birthday is common) or even to talk to a computer like it's a friend, pet, or Devil in a box.