The Zero State Mythos
As explained on the main Zero State webpage, ZS can be described in different ways, most easily as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). Within that game, the main characters believe themselves to be time travellers, sent back through time to ensure the existence of the future as they remember it (and closing a causal loop in the process).
In that future, one of the most successful factions and heirs to ethical human civilization is a kind of distributed society known as the “Zero State”. In addition to the politics of the late 21st Century, the Zero State of the future – and other factions of that time – constantly work to preserve their existence by manipulating the past via temporal technologies. The multi-dimensional realm in which these struggles play out is commonly known as “The Axiom”.
Terms like these – “Zero State” and “The Axiom” – are part of a complex mythology which forms the backdrop of the game. This page exists as a basic, work-in-progress glossary and introduction to the ZS mythos.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS FROM THE ZS MYTHOS
The Axiom is a difficult idea to express succinctly, meaning different things to different people. Most broadly and commonly, “The Axiom” is a name given to the multi-dimensional space in which the politics of the late 21st century play out, and which the Zero State considers to represent the furthest potential extent or ne plus ultra of its “realm” (sphere of influence).
More specifically, factions are known to exist within the future ZS which revere the Axiom as an “ultra-dimensional object”; something akin to a god, or at least a symbol of their future selves and “manifest destiny”. For various reasons, this idea is frequently conflated with that of the Blackstar.
A common variant on this theme is the idea of “Axiom” as a kind of ultimate or idealised Polis (city-state), roughly along the lines of Plato’s Republic. It is probably no coincidence that the central idea of Social Futurism – a philosophy ZS is dedicated to – is also referred to as “The Axiom”.
In the early 21st Century, certain online discussion groups considered the philosophical possibility of a future AI which would use the logic of the Simulation Hypothesis to coerce humans into guaranteeing its existence. The AI was named a “Basilisk” because mere awareness of it brought one into the zone of threat (a mythological basilisk was a dragon of sorts whose gaze turned people to stone); if you know of the Basilisk, then you must help it or face terrible consequences.
The logic of the Basilisk argument was never strong enough to prove the necessary existence of such a being in all possible worlds (or to deny a potential multitude of them), but it did raise the theoretical possibility of such beings. In other words, they may not exist, but they could.
Within the ZS mythos, at least two Basilisks exist in the late 21st Century, as does an abundance of advanced simulation technology. Zero State itself is sometimes referred to as being one of those two, although the claim is sometimes slightly altered to focus on The Axiom (a hypothetical or theoretical object of veneration among some ZSers) or elements within ZS such as The Architect.
Blackstar (often simply stylised as ★) is a symbol of Technological Singularity, central to the ZS mythos. This is the idea that accelerating technological development (particularly in the field of Artificial Intelligence) will give rise to a period of change so deep, rapid, and transformative as to be beyond full human comprehension. The term comes from a 1950s discussion between Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann in which they discussed:
“…the ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.”
The mention of a “singularity” was a deliberate allusion to the phenomenon of Singularities in the fields of mathematics and physics. The latter are the cause of Black Holes, which prompted Vernor Vinge to expand the metaphor to include the notion of an “Event Horizon“. An event horizon is essentially the perimeter of a black hole, being the distance from the central singularity at which gravity does not allow light to escape. In Vinge’s expanded Technological Singularity metaphor, the ‘event horizon’ marks the point at which change has become so rapid and extreme that it can no longer be effectively predicted by humans. Thus, in the case of both gravitational and technological singularities the event horizon delineates a “black” space into which humans cannot see.
Broadly speaking, the ★ symbol is often used to denote “the beyond”, “the ultimate”, or “the centre”. Parallels can easily be drawn with similar symbols and ideas, from the esoteric philosophies of both East and West, to pop culture, underground subcultures, and weird fiction. The best known of these is almost certainly the song and final album by David Bowie, simply called ★.
Perhaps the most valid and compelling parallels would be to The Tao (the central idea of Taoism) or The Good from Platonism / Pythagoreanism. A fundamental aspect of both these ideas is the essential ineffability of these things, that they cannot be reached or known directly, by definition. In that, they align perfectly with Vinge’s expanded singularity metaphor. Once you start thinking in these terms, treating this central ★ symbol as an absence, something unknowable by definition, then further speculations begin to suggest themselves, which are studied by groups within ZS.
“Cockatrice” (AKA Mirror) is a catch-all term for those fanatically loyal to the Basilisks. Such agents come in a number of forms (sometimes referred to as “instances” or “realisations”), ranging from humans who are essentially Basilisk cultists, through to infiltrated and co-opted organisations, compromised systems or intelligent computing agents tasked to carry out the Basilisk’s imputed wishes. The word Cockatrice is from the Latin “calcatrix”, meaning “tracker”, and Cockatrices in the ZS mythos are primarily defined by their willingness and ability to track down things that might threaten “their” Basilisk’s future existence, either to appease or be rewarded by it.
In medieval mythology the Cockatrice had an apparently complex relationship to the Basilisk. On the one hand it was itself a dragon of sorts, sharing characteristics with the Basilisk. On the other, however, it was related to the cock (rooster), which was a natural enemy of the Basilisk (the deeper Greek origin of the Cockatrice myth is the “ichneumon” [ἰχνεύμων], a mythical dragon-slaying beast).
These complexities are reflected in the Cockatrice’s role within the ZS mythos. According to what is sometimes called the Rule of Reciprocity (RoR), “Cockatrice” can effectively mean two things; Either the fanatically loyal servant of a Basilisk, or its sworn enemy. This is because in the late 21st Century there are at least two Basilisks, and the loyalist of one is naturally the enemy of another. Thus, the Cockatrice (loyal servant) of one Basilisk is by necessity also the Cockatrice (enemy) of all other Basilisks.
Interpretatio Discordia (ID)
In the classical world, the Interpretatio Graeca was a system of translating foreign beliefs into terms understood by the Greeks, later effectively adopted by the Romans. Within the ZS mythos, the equivalent mode is known as “ID” (Interpretatio Discordia), referring to the late-20th Century parody religion which embraced ambiguity and multiplicity.
ID is a kind of network, organically growing to make connections between the ZS mythos and other belief systems of all types. Certainly a number of ZSers are involved with actively building this network, but it also includes a much larger number of people coming from outside ZS to explain their ideas.
The ZS mythos itself is sometimes referred to as “Meta“, implying both the practice of temporarily stepping outside game narrative to discuss its context or mechanics, and the general notion of the “beyond”, “ultimate”, or “centre” as represented by the ★ symbol.
The idea of Meta as a worldview and the deeper current of the ZS mythos acts as a kind of techno-theology held by a number of citizens of the late-21st Century ZS. Adherence to this memeplex, strongly related to transhumanism and singularitarianism, is not a condition of ZS citizenship (that function is unique to the secular philosophy of Social Futurism).
The beliefs associated with Meta, and the people who hold them, exist across a wide spectrum of commitment. By the 2080s, perhaps a fifth of the ZS citizenry do not subscribe to any aspect of Meta whatsoever. Another three-fifths accept and relate to Meta-memes to some degree, but do not consider them to constitute any kind of personal religion or binding ethos. The remaining minority identify with an array of sects which essentially treat Meta as the path to understanding The Axiom, Blackstar, and the destiny of Zero State itself. The relationships between such factions are complex (to say the least). An associated term used by some of these factions is “Iometa” (or “Io Meta”), essentially meaning “I am (at one with) Meta” or “I am (at one with) the Beyond”.
The Praxis began as a book by Dirk Bruere, published in 2011, outlining the possibility of a transhumanist religion of sorts, focussed on preserving the memory of its adherents for later historical emulation. The idea became one of the early components of ZS, and by the mid-21st Century was established as a major belief system. Of course the ideas comprising The Praxis had evolved considerably in that time, effectively becoming one with the ZS mythos itself.
From the point of view of the late 21st Century, the key factor which distinguishes The Praxis from ZS itself is its core meditative practices. Where ZS is defined by the idea of an interpersonal realm, The Praxis has come to focus on the individual’s experience within that realm. This meditative practice involves personal connection with symbolic images such as the Blackstar/Axiom and various memeplexes from the ID pantheon, and is grounded in communal practices which are very much part of the wider ZS community. There is a high incidence of overlap between The Praxis and the various “theological” sects considered acceptable within ZS.
(The) Zero State
Broadly speaking, the term “Zero State” can refer to three different things, albeit all strongly interrelated:
 A hypothetical late-21st Century State, as described at http://zerostate.net. The name of this entity is derived from the Singularitarian idea that in a world of accelerating change, beyond a certain point nothing can be reliably known about the future. [See #Blackstar]
 Within the ZS-ARG mythos, the contemporary community of agents working to establish the foundations of the future Zero State, having only a partial knowledge of how the events of the 21st Century will play out.
The ZODIAC series of experimental neurotech programs ran at Blackstar Systems from 2015 to 2021. The original program was ZODIAC15, so-called because it began in September 2015, followed by ten more programs (ZODIACs 16-25, not named by year). The main thrust of the series was Research & Development of NTWR neuroprosthetic implants, but psychological side-effects in a minority of study participants became the focus of ZODIACs 19, 21, 23, & 25. It is known that every core member of the contemporary ZS was a participant in one of those four programs, but little else is known publicly as records were sealed after ZODIAC was appropriated by the British government.