Sapience as a synonym for sophont intelligence is defined as the presence of: awareness of self, awareness of self within one's environment, appropriate judgement in a complex and dynamic environment, and the ability to abstractly conceptualize. "Sophont" is the generally accepted term for a being that possesses a minimum reasoning capacity that demonstrates the core characteristics of sapience.

Sapience is not the same for every species. Each species of sophont, while exhibiting awareness, judgment, and conceptualization capabilities, exhibits these traits in varying ways. Tool use and technology are not universal requirements nor defining characteristics of sapience in and of themselves, nor are civilization or even society.

There are two major concurrent categories by which sophontologists classify intelligence in sophonts.

Focality Classifications

Focal Sapience

Focal sophonts have the ability to focus on a particular object or goal amidst a larger and often irrelevant or discordant environment. This is good for survival in many senses, but it also means the sophont has a hard time visualizing how multiple facets add up to a single large concept, as they physically cannot unfocus. The best a focal sophont can do is shift their focus to encompass the entire thing, but that means letting go of the details of the facets that the large thing is comprised of. This is a very common viewpoint for most sophonts, especially those evolved from predators.

Multifocal Sapience

Focal sapience isn't always single-focus. Many sophont species rely on focal sensory input from more than one set of sensors (most commonly optic organs), and thus are able to split their focus to two or more different things at once. This is highly advantageous to the fast pace of a technologically advanced society where information comes and goes at speeds equal to or arbitrarily greater than the speed of light. Multifocal sapience most commonly evolves in sophont species descended from pack predators and/or the prey of such predators, but is also somewhat common in sophonts with high-complexity environments.

Hemifocal Sapience

Hemifocal sapience is an interesting sapience type where a sophont does not have perfect focal abilities, but has some ability to focus its sensory and mental attention to one (or more) objects or goals. They, like nonfocal sophonts, cannot "tune down" the background input, but they are limited in their scope of nonfocal clarity.

Nonfocal Sapience

Another version of sapience that is the opposite of focal sapience, sometimes referred to as "philosophical" sapience. This occurs in species which, due to their biology, physically cannot focus on a single object or goal and view their entire environment with uniform clarity. They can prioritize in an intuitive sense, but they simply cannot focus their attention on a select thing or even multiple select things. They view their environment holistically. Thus, they can study the details of the facets that make up a grand concept while simultaneously being wholly aware of the grand concept itself. An interesting side effect of nonfocal sapience is that sophonts of this type are significantly better at figuring out higher-order social conundrums due to their holistic view. They are able to see both sides of an issue with equal attention and concern, while at the same time being also aware of how the issue itself affects the environment (in all senses of the word).

Balanced Sapience

Very rarely does a sophont species evolve balanced sapience. This focality type combines focal and nonfocal sapience in a manner different than hemifocal sapience. Sophonts with the balanced type have a full focal capacity bestowed upon them by one or more sets of focal sensory organs, while a separate but linked part of the mind handles the nonfocal input from the panoramic sensory organs. Balanced sophonts can link the data provided by these two sets and formulate solutions based on both.

Social Tendencies: The Socio-Personal Relation Spectrum

The five known 'types' of social sapience are determined by the social structure that they inherently contain; and specifically, how the individual relates to the community in each. The four classifications are actually broad divisions that, together, comprise a wide spectrum of individual-commune relationship structure. An interesting phenomenon inherent in the spectrum is that sophonts closer to the collective end will have increasingly more utopic societies, whereas sophonts closer to the draconic end of the spectrum will have increasingly dystopic and dysfunctional societies. At the collective extreme, societies are noted to be completely utopic and harmonious, as opposed to the draconic extreme where society does not even exist.

Collective Sapience

Collective sapience, also commonly labeled as eusociality (though this is overspecific and thus misleading), is a fairly common sapience type in spacefaring sophont species. All examples of this type of sapience share the same basic social premise: each member of the community unit works solely for the benefit of the community and has a virtually or totally nonexistent drive of individual self-preservation. The 'hives' are highly efficient, though most often at the expense of individuality.

Collective sapience most often derives from a hive mind that thinks as one, sometimes with an individual at the core of the hive mind in which all individualistic intelligence is stored. The nexus, through a shared communication network, dictates what each member of the community will do. Another variant of the same genre of sapience is naturally-occuring true anarcho-synchronism (also termed "emergent swarm behavior"), where there is no nexus or leader but each member works in unison with their contemporaries.

It is possible to have a hive mind as a subconscious neural network, retaining individuality. However, the social structure remains the same: every action is for the benefit of the community at large, with the self-preservation drive taking effect only when the individual is totally isolated from the community (though with a number of species, isolation results in total confusion and potentially eventual death).

Quasi-Collective Sapience

Quasi-collective sapience is closer to the center of the spectrum on the collective side. All versions of quasi-collective sapience display highly similar social organization, where each member of the community unit acts much more strongly for the benefit of the community than for itself. However, an underlying drive of individual self-preservation is distinctly present in quasi-collective sophonts, which differentiates quasi-collective sapience from the absolute communistic approach of collective sapience.

Centric Sapience

Centric sapience is, in essence, found at or near the exact center of the spectrum. A sophont species is considered to have centric sapience if its self-preservation drive is roughly equal to its altruistic impulses. Typically, a true centric sophont will evaluate its actions and priorities on a case-by-case basis, leading to a roughly equal outcome of self-interested and altruistic decisions.

Quasi-Draconic Sapience

Quasi-draconic sapience is defined by a communal drive that is overshadowed by self-interest. While each member of a quasi-draconic community unit acts for the benefit of the community, the sophonts will readily suppress the community instincts in favor of the drive of individual self-preservation. Typically, quasi-draconic sophonts will cooperate in loose groups until an opportunity comes along which allows them to thrive individually.

Draconic Sapience

Draconic sapience is the opposite of collective sapience. Sophonts of this type are virtually or totally devoid of any communal instincts, and instead are individualistic and driven by a dominant need for self-preservation. Due to their nature, draconic sophonts almost never form civilizations, which can make it very difficult for most people to recognize them as intelligent beings. In fact, sophonts with draconic sapience are virtually always solitary predators with no community unit to provide for, and as such they only act for the benefit of themselves. This selfish imperative is the keystone of draconic sapience.

In addition to lacking society, the other critical piece often missing that prevents the formation of civilizations by draconics is technology. Most draconic sophonts have the mental capacity to develop technology, but they commonly forgo tool use for as yet uncertain reasons.

Draconic sapience, rare as it is, typically develops when the entire predator-prey network evolves to become more intelligent. Thus the apex predator, needing to be the smartest, evolves a brain that is of a sufficient inherent complexity and size relative to body that the creature develops comprehensive sapience. Most often this is the result of increased coordination and sensory processing abilities.


Please Login in order to comment!
13 Feb, 2019 23:30

Really well written article with a lot of information that leads to an interesting conclusion! Really drew my interest in with the introduction and then connected it all together with the two 'axes' of sapience that you discussed. Really interested in reading more of the project, now!

15 Feb, 2019 03:02

Oh thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it; I put a lot of thought into these classification systems, as I use the same system across all of my universes. Feel free to poke around more!