Numenéra: Gift of the Calimshan
The datasphere is what the Internet might become if you leave it to stew for the next billion years. Like continental drift, the shape of the data environment has shifted and changed constantly over that time. As civilizations rose and fell, pockets of data remained, often cut off for anything else. Some of those Oddities and Artifacts that Numenera hunters find may contain a lost data fragment, like a pocket dimension. The internet grew into what is called the Datasphere and became a galaxy spanning network of data flowing among various planetary empires. Now however, it is not the tool it was intended to be. It is a shattered testament to what was, filled with creatures of math and rules and hate, the bloated software that helped to make a perfect past now serves to only maintain chaos and misery.
But the datasphere is so much more than just the internet of today. In some worlds, there were once artificial intelligences, programmed intentionally. In others, there might be ascended archives of software, uploaded minds, or the manifestation of other-dimensional entities into a medium tolerant of their ethereal forms. Ghosts in the machine, the living Data have found ways and means to influence the world around them – at a variable scale and with differing degrees of success – while otehr data and intelligences – the gods themseves, perhaps, have become cut off, quarantined, or have yet remained undiscovered. Think of those discarded zettabyte drives, buried or forgotten in subterranean military bases or remote disaster recovery outposts, filled with roiling pools of self-aware data constructs, yearning for freedom.
In its present form, the datasphere, when its purposes can be determined, seeks to archive all knowledge, use those knowledges to predict the future, destroy all knowledge, reshape the world to a predetermined (but likely corrupted and now entirely different) form, preserve all non-machine life, destroy all non-machines, control and regulate the world, and impassively study. These are goals are often contradictory, and are thought to be a result of the designs of previous worlds interacting with each other harshly.
Accessing the Datasphere
The datasphere is all around us, flying invisibly through the air. Occasionally, it interacts with the Numenera on its own, activating parts of lost and broken technology, or speaking with the living. Any explorer that finds a piece of tech that once relied on the connections to the datasphere and can get it working can interact with the datasphere, although there is no guarantee they can understand it. Some individuals can access the datasphere – or at least parts of it – without help. Many of these persons go as mad as the intelligences of the datasphere itself.
It is unlikely that anyplace on the Ninth World is inaccessible to the datasphere, and the insane intelligences therein, though thanks to the destruction of their technologies, the harm they represent now is minor, when they do intend harm, which is infrequent. Sometimes. Fortunately, there are safe ways to interact with the datasphere, and the Aeon Priests can sometimes use it to understand the Numenera, improving the quality of life for everyone.