On The Relationship Between Transcend and Transcendi

Kicking this one uphill from a comment to an actual post, since it may clarify matters for any other readers, too, with questions in this area:

Okay. Let me try this again.

All minds, as defined in the ‘verse, are Minskian societies of mind, masses of independently running agents on a shared substrate, from which consciousness, volition, and all other mental properties emerge. (“The Country of the Mind” in Greg Bear’s Queen of Angels would be a good symbolic representation.)

This, for example, is how technologies like the gnostic overlay work; by patching some new voices into the chorus.

The Transcendent soul-shard (hence its technical name, logos bridge) serves as a bridge between two societies of mind, carrying messages back and forth, allowing both the participation of the constitutional’s agents in the Transcend’s mentality and the participation of some of the Transcend’s agents in the constitutional’s. This blurs the strict lines of identity, arguably, but it’s not a complete subsumption of identity such as occurs on joining a Fusion; rather, every time a new constitutional Transcends, both they and It become somewhat different people in various ways, wedded together most intimately, but they don’t achieve identity of identity.

(Incidentally, as I think I mentioned in a 2012 piece, the main reason the Transcend keeps an economy and a governance around, is that they work. Sure, technically, you could replace market coordination with coordination mediated through coadjutors and Transcendent oversouls, but because of that mathematical theorem that demonstrates that even a hypothetical Omniscient Calculator could only at best equal the performance of a free market, not beat it, you’d have nothing to gain except wasted cycles and the lack of a convenient interface to the rest of the universe. Similar logic applies to various other applications.

Basically, you don’t send an oversoul to do a simpler instrumentality’s job.)

A Note On Continuity of Consciousness

So, using my spooky psychic powers1, I have observed that I have been cited a few times here and there in the ongoing argument between those of us who adhere to pattern identity theory and those of us who adhere to continuity identity theory, with particular reference to the so-called “sleep argument”; i.e., that interruptions in consciousness can’t cause a break in identity because we sleep, which interrupts our narrative thread of consciousness.

Except, argue they, it doesn’t. Which we could argue and I’d be prepared to argue: we certainly have some type of consciousness going on in REM sleep, but it gets a lot more dubious in deeper sleep states than that.

But in any case, and here’s my point: it doesn’t matter, because sleep is only the least of the interruptions in consciousness which can be examined. There are also unconsciousness, anaesthesia, coma (natural), coma (medically induced), various states of suppressed brain activity using TMR, extreme hypothermia simulating brain death, and seizure disorders which may not suppress all electrical activity in the brain, but do derange it all to hell. (In animals – sadly not in humans, due to our scientists being bound by petty morality – we have cooled mammals to sub-freezing temperatures with no brain activity, even, and revived them.)

In short: people have come back from having a null electroencephalogram, which is to say a complete absence of consciousness and indeed dynamic mind-state. (Which is why checking for brain death in a medical context requires a sustained absence of such, not just noticing said absence is present.)

All of which is to say, folks, if you’re going to argue continuity of consciousness, it’s not the “sleep metaphor” that you have to dismiss – it’s the curious ability of the brain to reboot itself from a total lack of activity into someone who is functionally identical to the person whose brain was shut all the way down.  (Or, y’know, advance the argument that a large number of coma patients, etc., are in fact completely different people to the ones who went under in the first place, if you want to retain argumentative coherency.)

Incidentally, for a more coherent continuity identity theory than continuity of consciousness, you could always consider causal continuity – in which you remain you through time because your mind-state is necessarily causally derived from your previous mind-state, which has the advantage over consciousness continuity that it doesn’t have the aforementioned problem with neuroscience kicking it repeatedly in the head, belike.

…it does, however, tend to produce results isomorphic with pattern identity in the cases where the difference is relevant, inasmuch as if you copy your mind-state, both copies have causal continuity in this sense from your previous mind-state. (The chief difference here is that two identical mind-states which evolved independently would not be considered the same person, although since that is unlikely to happen even once in the entire lifespan of the universe, it’s not really much of a problem.)

It also makes it a little more explicit that separating diverged copies into two people when they no longer wish to be – or obviously aren’t any more – the same person is much more of a legal issue than one with a convenient cog-sci answer.

1. Referrer logs.

On Free Will and Noetic Architecture

Another little note on identity, following on from here:

On the whole, do eldraeic mainstream views on free will, determinism, and the possible interactions between the two run more towards compatibilism or incompatibilism?

While ideas vary as ideas always do in the absence of proof one way or another, the mainstream position – certainly among sophontechnologists, who have the greatest claim to knowledge on this point – is incompatiblism, and specifically a variant of that form of it that goes by the name of libertarianism; i.e., that free will is true, and determinism is in certain ways, false.

(This is, of course, purely a coincidence. Heh.)

To explain why that is requires delving a little way into my Minovsky cognitive science, which explains how minds work for the purposes of the Eldraeverse. Since this attempts to explain how minds work in the general case, regardless of species, origin, or substrate, it’s rather different in any case from the kind of cognitive science that concentrates on the specific case of human brains, even before we must point out that I’m pretty much pulling it out of my ass.

So what is a mind?

Well, to a large part, it’s a Minskian society of mind. Which is to say that it’s a massively parallel set of personalities, subpersonalities, agents, talents, memes, archetypes, models, animus-anima pairings, instincts, skillsets, etc., etc., etc., all burbling away continuously alongside each other. None of them can strictly be said to be the mind; the mind is none of them. The mind is, to a large extent, the emergent chorus that results from the argument of all of them, or at least the currently dominant set, each with the other.

(This, incidentally, is how gnostic overlays work. By grafting some voices into the chorus while suppressing others, you can add to, shade, or suppress some elements of that emergent chorus without replacing the basic personality.)

It has, however, two identifiable centers. One of these is the consciousness loop, which is a special cognitive entity present in conscious/autosentient beings whose job is to organize the output of the chorus into a narrative thread of consciousness, a.k.a., that little voice you hear when you think out loud. (It’s important to realize, of course, that despite being the part of your cognition that’s visible to you – assuming, gentle reader, that you are in fact conscious – it has no claim to be you, or indeed to play any particular part in controlling what you do. The most accurate analogy for what it does is that it’s the mind’s syslog, recording everything that the other bits of the mind do, and which they can in turn consult to find out what’s going on. It’s also important to realize that it’s not actually necessary for it to be associated with the mind’s own self-symbol, or indeed for it to exist at all, whatever the most common naturally evolved mental architectures might have to say on the matter.)

The other one is the logos, or personality organization algorithm, which is the weird fractal algorithm sitting in the middle of sophont minds, and only sophont minds (i.e., both autosentient and volitional). It’s also the only part of the mind that isn’t computable at all – vis-a-vis being only computable much more slowly – on a standard computer, requiring a quantum processor.

But none of that is the weird thing. The weird thing is this.

It’s empirically nondeterministic.

More to the point, it’s not nondeterministic in a physical sense, dependent upon its substrate; it’s nondeterministic in a mathematical sense. However you choose to compute a logos, you will never get a perfectly consistent result in an arbitrary number of trials. You will never get a statistically consistent result in an arbitrary number of arbitrary numbers of trials. Except that occasionally you will. It’s funny that way, and it’s definitely not simply random or chaotic.

Now, sure, say the physicists. The observable physical universe is deterministic. And chemistry is deterministic, and biology is deterministic, and computation is deterministic, and thus the 99.99% of mental operations in which the logos takes no part are deterministically determined by the rest of one’s society of mind, because free will or no free will, sophonts don’t actually seem to exercise it that often. (Although the exceptions – chaotic clionomic excursions, say – are suggestive.)

But there’s this THING that shows up in sophont minds.

It’s very poorly understood around the edges – enough to clone and modify and seed with it and understand some of its typology – and not at all understood, pretty much, in the middle. It might mean nothing. It might just be some artifact of the underlying cosmic metaphysics that the ontotechnologists play with, of no real significance in this debate.

But, say the mainstream sophontologists, that’s not the way we’re betting. That’s your free will, your volition, right there, in that tiny little mathematical corner peeking into the universe. That minuscule cog of the engine of creation that runs on paracausality, not causality; where will defeats law.

The Flame.

Also, I’m not quite sure how to reverse-engineer the proper philosophical position from the analogy in sensible words, but: Would a drawing of a Kanizsa triangle count as a real triangle?

Well, I wouldn’t say that it is a triangle (but then, I wouldn’t say that about a simple drawing of a triangle either); but I would say that it represents the concept of a triangle. (Along with various other things; most physical objects represent/instantiate/make use of several concepts. To re-use a precious example, Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992 can represent any of “arithmetic”, “book”, “textbook”, “paper”, “cuboid”, etc., etc., depending/instantiate/make use on the context you look at it in.)


Questions: Identity

Some identity questions from Specialist290:

We all know by now the contempt with which a good citizen-shareholder regards the continuity theory of identity,

For new readers not familiar with the Eldraeverse status quo and thus who might not know by now, the dominant theory of identity in the technologically advanced parts of the Worlds is Moravecian pattern identity theory, which the locals would sum up thus:

“‘I’ am the equivalence class of all sufficiently ‘me’-like processes.”

– Fundamentals of Sophotechnology

Continuity identity theory (i.e., that identity depends on continuity of consciousness) is by and large disdained because empiricism kicked it repeatedly in the head as neurology, cognitive science, and eventually noetics and sophotechnology developed. If none of sleep, comas natural and induced, major seizure disorders (which disrupt all electrical activity in the brain, personality and consciousness included), transcranial magnetic suspension of consciousness, or being cryonically frozen down to meatglass half a degree above absolute zero, then thawed out and woken up again break your continuity sufficiently to stop you being you… well, thus they refute it.

but as far as the consensus of those who give serious thought to such matters goes, how does mainstream Imperial philosophy view the other two extreme points on the personal identity triangle:

1. The idea that there is no such thing as a substantive, continuous identity at all, but only a series of momentary perceptions that are constantly destroyed and regenerated moment-to-moment, and that there is no identity that exists in “the present” because the brain can only compute events and perceptions that occurred in its subjective past; and

I suspect the mainstream view there is simply that it’s a category error – the equivalent of looking at a film and saying “there are only individual frames”, or looking at an object and saying “there is no object, all there are are atoms”. Or possibly looking at a drawing of a three-sided figure, and after observing the paper and the graphite marks on it, demanding to be shown which part of it the triangle is.

“Fix your reference frame”, in short.

2. The idea that the only necessary and sufficient cause for a sophont’s identity is the mechanism of sophonce itself, as all other possible determinants of a personality can be reproduced outside of a sophont mind, thus making the statement “There is only one numerically identical person, who is all sophonts in all places and at all times” true?

That one’s harder to refute inasmuch as no-one has yet – despite their best efforts – figured out how logoi (personality organization algorithms) actually work, even if they can grow them from seeds (at which point they tend to be unique). It is rendered even more complicated a question because logoi are non-deterministic algorithms, and executing a mathematically identical logos twice may and probably will produce different results.

(Here’s the really wacky thing. That’s not a property of the substrate. That’s a property of the mathematics. It doesn’t matter how you execute the logos or what you execute it on, certain operations will always produce non-deterministic results. Philosophers there tend to assume this is a product of whatever piece of fractal intricacy spawns volition and paracausality and other interestingly bizarre properties of the sophont mind, and then argue endlessly over the details because it turns out that describing it in noetic math is within delta of infinitely easier than explaining what it actually means.

Whether or not there is an identical mechanism for sophoncy buried inside all of them or not, and for that matter whether or not any of the things currently considered part of the logos can be reduced to conventional deterministic algorithms in the same way that the rest of the mind can, in the absence of Research Not Appearing In This Book, be left as an exercise for the late night dorm bull session of choice.)

That being said, the man on the street would probably point out that just because you can reproduce an alternator outside a car doesn’t mean that the car no longer includes the alternator… and a mind-state stripped all the way down to a logos won’t even run.

Additionally, are (or were) there any notable polities, creeds, or other associations that hold (or held) views close to these extremes in the Associated Worlds?

Not yet, canonically. Although I can see the latter spawning any number of wacky religious movements along the way.

(Continuity identity is probably the second most common – found among more backward civilizations, appealing as it does to pre-sophotech primitives because it matches their intuitions about how things work.)


Questions: Pattern Identity and Succession

More from Specialist290, because it’s post-dinner:

A few small questions regarding pattern identity and the metaphysics thereof:

1. Are there any possible scenarios where two forks of the same personality can diverge from one another significantly enough for them to be regarded as different persons, when the result of either individual pattern shift would not have resulted in enough variation in the pre-fork pattern to constitute a legal change in identity?

In the fork case, it’s the divergence that matters. Actually, it’s almost always the divergence that matters – usually, the only time you’re comparing to a backup is immediately post-reinstantiation to check that the process was carried out correctly, or in the event of some accident or missing-person scenario when there’s some doubt.

Anyway, for fork divergence, it’s always difference from each other that matters. Difference from some pre-fork backup is irrelevant.

2. A purely hypothetical case:  If, without the intervention of any causal agency, two individuals are found to have such closely-matching patterns of personality that one would have been considered a fork of the other had one been created as an act of will, would they still be legally the same person? (Put another way:  If, by blind chance, someone had such a fundamentally identical life experience to your own that your memories would be practically interchangeable to the extent that you could easily mistake your memories for theirs and write off any divergences as a product of your own faults in recollection, would the two of you be considered the same person?)

(Put yet another way:  Could a doppelganger fork arise out of pure synchronicity?)

Hypothetically, yes, they would be – although they would have to be identical on a rather deeper level than just consciously recalled memories. As the legal and philosophical principle puts it, íthal íthalavar: “A is A”, or “a thing is itself”. Two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.

Of course, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation based off the number of bits contained in any one mind-state vector suggests that this could happen considerably less often than once per universe-lifetime, so it’s not like there’s case law on the point…

And Mark Atwood asks:

Which reminds me of an ongoing question I’ve been having. Is being the a member of the Imperial Couple a time-limited term of service, or is it “until (permanent?) death, abdication, or removal”. Given they were immortal even before the tech takeoff, someone could end up being the Lord of some city state for a very very very very long time…

There are no term limits for that particular office. (Or most, but there’s a fair amount of diversity so I’m not saying there are none anywhere.) By wording of the Imperial Charter, you can have it until death, permanent incapacity, abdication, or impeachment.

That said, they are subject to the not-a-law-but-relatively-firm-custom of the Six-Century Rule which suggests to everyone that you find a new career after three centuries1, i.e. 432 Imperial years, if they haven’t done so already. That was never a firm term limit for anyone mostly because if it required someone to leave in the middle of a crisis, that would be a bad idea, right?

So, anyway, I had the dates of the first 15 Imperial Couples handy, and the average reign is rather shorter at 285 years, almost entirely due to abdications. (High of 505 – Alphas I, making sure his empire stuck – and low of 100.) That is almost entirely because it’s a really damned hard job that would age you quickly if you, well, could. I imagine it’s quite a relief to be an Emperor Emeritus with no more pressing Imperial obligations than to sit in the Privy Council and quietly kibitz.

(I’m sure there are some veryn old rulers around in various backwaters, though. I don’t think anyone minds, or in most cases, has noticed.)


  1. Because they changed the calendar after they made the rule. The Calendar of Rhoës used 72-year centuries. Of course, no-one but scholars has used said calendar for nearly 8,000 years at this point, so the main function of the name these days is to confuse and disorient people learning about it who aren’t masters of horological trivia.

Questions: Pacifism, Forking, Conflicting Rights, and Lost Keys

Specialist290 e-mails with some questions. (Also some compliments, for which thank you kindly, but what’s getting responded to here are the questions…)

Here goes:

  1. Are there any major subcultures / subcommunities within the Empire that deviate significantly from the “ideal norm” enough to be noteworthy without actually violating the Charter itself? For instance, are there any “pacifist” (using the term loosely) strains of Imperials who attempt to live by non-violent principles inasmuch as they can do so within the constraints imposed by their charter responsibility to the common defense (as opposed to the “shoot first, ask questions of anything that survives” knee-jerk reaction typical to the eldrae)?

With a clarificatory follow-up:

To clarify on that first question, since I realized on further reading that my example was worded rather vaguely and the use of “pacifist” might have the wrong implications:

Let’s say that you have an Imperial citizen-shareholder who, through the vagaries of whatever process formed their personality, has an aversion to the use of lethal force in any circumstances except when another life would be directly threatened by refraining from the use of lethal force (including their own — they’d be perfectly willing to kill in self-defense as well if they themselves were threatened that way).  They wouldn’t be against carrying or using a weapon, since they realize (as a condition of the previous) that the use of lethal force may certainly be necessary.  Nor would they interfere with the victim’s use of lethal force to subdue a criminal if the victim themself were on hand to defend their own property.  Nevertheless, they view the unnecessary use of lethal force (as parsed through their own moral lens) as an injustice if there is any chance that the criminal in question can be rehabilitated.  Let’s say that, furthermore, they had the means to actually subdue a criminal caught in the act non-lethally and prevent them from inflicting any further harm in a way that would still preserve the criminal’s life (though if the criminal in question would rather die, they’d still honor the criminal’s exercise of free will).

Would that sort of behavior be condoned as acceptable civilized behavior within the framework of Imperial society?

Well, the first thing I must ask you to bear in mind, of course, is that permadeath is hard in a world full of noetic backups – just imagine how hard it is for the people who have to try and implement the death penalty – requiring serious premeditation, and very much not something you are going to be able to inflict in a self-defense sort of situation.

You really can shoot first and ask questions (of the reinstantiated) later, which shifts the effective definition of “lethal force” quite a lot, not so? At least so long as we’re talking about corpicide, and not cognicide.

This is a modern development, of course, but most albeit not all of what’s been seen on-screen is in this era, so it’s particularly relevant.

Anyway, the general case, ignoring that particular consideration. Actually, contra stereotypes, what you propose isn’t actually all that far from the mainstream view. If you were to ask 100 people on the Imperial street, I’m pretty sure you’d get a 90%+ consensus that it’s obviously better to hand petty criminals over to the therapeutic mercies of the Office of Reconstruction to be, y’know, repaired. In an ideal universe.

But that being said, it’s not yet an ideal universe.

And what they teach in self-and-others defense classes is the hardcore version of caritas non obligat cum gravi incommodo. Yes, that’s the ideal, which is why they send the Watch Constabulary’s rookies on the Advanced Non-Lethal Polyspecific Incapacitation Techniques course. But that is a lot longer and more difficult to master than anything that the soph on the street can be expected to master by way of basic self-and-others defense (which, in practice, may well just be what they teach at school-equivalent), and the way this breaks down, per standard mainstream ethics, is this:

a. You are not obliged to place yourself at risk in order to show mercy to an attacker, slaver, or thief, although you may if you choose to;

b. However, you are not entitled to make that choice for anyone else. Their risk management is not yours to decide.

c. Reliably stopping someone and keeping them stopped in a non-lethal manner is a difficult challenge, and not best suited for amateurs.

d. Which is why we teach you to shoot for center mass and make sure that said person isn’t getting up again, because that’s something we can teach you to do reliably in this course.

d. i. Which you are perfectly entitled to do, note, because the Contract is pretty clear on the point that once you deliberately set out to violate the rights of others, you lose the protection of your own. (Note: this is not to say, even though it’s often misinterpreted to say this by outworlders, that permakilling every petty thief you see is the morally optimal solution. It says that it’s ethically permissible, which is not the same thing – hell, it may even qualify as morally pessimal, depending on your own interpretations of same.)

e. And the law is written accordingly, because there’s a limit to the burdens we can reasonably expect people to undertake in pursuit of their Charter-mandated duty to protect the rights of their fellow citizen-shareholders.

So returning to the original question: the governing principle here is going to be “can you make it work?”. If you are going to attempt non-lethal solutions, you’d better be damn sure that you can make your non-lethal solutions work effectively, because you will be held responsible – by the Court of Public Opinion, at the very least – if you fuck it up and fail your duty to protect the rights of your fellow citizen-shareholders because you were flibbling around like an amateur. If you can do it successfully and effectively, that’s great, and you will receive all due plaudits for doing so – but screwing up or exposing people to unnecessarily high levels of risk trying will be looked upon with all the traditional Imperial distaste for incompetence. Caveat pacifist.

(And, well, okay, it’s fair to say that you’re going to be looked at funny if you try and apply this principle to many serious crimes. If you catch, let’s say, a would-be rapist in the act and go to any sort of trouble to restrain them non-lethally, people are going to be asking “Why bother? We’re just going to have to kill him anyway, and now we have to do all this extra paperwork. Dammit.”)

((Further note: I also note “Nor would they interfere with the victim’s use of lethal force to subdue a criminal if the victim themself were on hand to defend their own property.” with the possible implication that this hypothetical person wouldn’t be willing to use lethal force to defend someone else’s property.

…there’s not a let-out clause for that. By that fine old legal principle of el daráv valté eloé có-sa dal, person and property are deemed equivalent, so the exact same self-and-others defense rules apply, and that’s a non-optional obligation.

If you are in a situation where you cannot use non-lethal methods to defend someone else’s property, you must – by the terms of the Charter you agreed to – use lethal methods to defend said property. Otherwise, you will find yourself in court staring down charges of Passive Accessorism/Unmutualism, and your very own appointment with the Office of Reconstruction.))

  1. What’s the dividing line between an instantiated fork of your own personality and a new person who shares your memories? Has there ever been a case where a forked dividual has “evolved” (so to speak) into two legally separate individuals?

Well, there’s both a legal one, and a social one.

The latter amounts to “well, do you think you are the same person?” After all, contradicting someone who thinks they’re someone else on that point would be, at best, rather rude.

There is also a legal standard based on sophotechnologically-determined degrees of divergence (somewhat arbitrary, but you have to draw a bright line somewhere for legal purposes) which is used whenever this sort of question winds up in the court system, be it a civil argument over “He’s me!” “No, I’m not!”, or determination of who exactly the criminal liability attaches to, or whether the restored backup or new edit is the same person in fact, or various other possibilities.

(It is, of course, fairly hard to describe the technical details of exactly where that line is without having the actual scientific vocabulary of sophotechnology to call upon, but as your humble author, I can promise that I know it when I write it…)

On the latter question: absolutely. Happens all the time, sometimes accidentally, mostly intentionally. (Hell, some people prefer to reproduce that way.)

  1. If there’s an apparent “conflict of interest” among any combination of the fundamental and charter rights that arises in the course of a sophont being fulfilling its duties, how is that resolved? Is there an order of precedence where one supersedes the other in the case of conflict?

The only hard and fast rule there is that the rights deriving from the Fundamental Contract (absolute and natural) always supersede those granted by the Imperial Charter when they’re in conflict. Necessarily so: they apply by definition to all sophont beings everywhere, everywhen, whereas charter rights only exist by virtue of the ongoing contract between citizen-shareholders, and you can’t contract away natural law. Makes no sense.

By and large, there’s not a major issue with conflict; the fundamental rights are non-extensive, negative-only, and tightly defined, more or less specifically such that conflict wouldn’t be a problem. Which isn’t to say they never conflict –

(The obvious real-world example, of course, being A Certain Controversial Medical Procedure, which in many cases leaves you with the very ugly choice of deciding to violate one party’s life, or violate the other party’s liberty/property, for values of property equal to body, or else making up some magical unscientific bullshit so you can pretend you aren’t doing either.

In the modern Empire, of course, that’s solved by said procedure having joined the catalog of antique and unpleasant historical medical barbarisms along with leechcraft, trepanation, and in vivo gestation itself, but it’s not like they never had to confront the issue.)

– but they don’t do so very often.

In which cases, there isn’t an order of precedence, but there is precedent, if it’s come up before. If it hasn’t come up with before, you are expected to use your own best judgment when it comes to doing as little harm as possible. It may well – almost certainly will – come up for review afterwards, but the Curia won’t punish you for trying your best to do the Right Thing even if it decides you did the Wrong Thing.

(In keeping, you see, with their general policy that if you want people to use their judgment, you can’t smack them down for making a competent person’s mistakes or failing to use it exactly the way the hypothetical ideal person would have; that just leads to paralyzing initiative, or worse, setting up plans and procedures and the equivalent of zero-tolerance policies at a distance, which inevitably turn into stupid, unjust results up close with the sole virtue that since no-one was expected to think, no-one can be held to blame when charlie does the foxtrot.

They don’t hold with that.)

  1. What happens when an Imperial citizen inevitably loses the keys to their own house (whatever form those “keys” may take given the technology available)?

(Ah, now that one actually has a canonical answer from early on: Where Everything Knows Your Name.)

While there are other ways of doing this for specialized applications, in practice identity is stated and authenticated using a convenient device called a Universal – which is itself a little metal ball about a millimeter in diameter containing a specialized code-engine processor, your unique UCID, your megabit identity (private) key, and a few gigabytes of non-volatile memory for supplemental data. This does two-factor authentication against the authentication systems of the Universal Registry of Citizens and Subjects, the second factor being cognimetric (i.e., your mindprint) to prove that you are you, possibly upped to three-factor against attached local databases.

The Universal serves as more or less everything. It’s your administrative ID, passport, licenses, certificates, registrations, contractee ID, financial account numbers, medical information, insurance cards, membership cards, travel tickets, passwords, subscriptions, encryption keys, door keys, car keys, phone number, etc., etc., etc.

(And you almost never actually need to deliberately use it. Things that you are authorized to use/open/log on to/etc., or that customize themselves to the individual user, just work when you try to do those things, because they quietly do the authentication exchange in the background. To the point that you can sit down in a rented office cubicle on an entirely different planet and get your glasstop, your files, the lighting, chair, and microclimate adjusted to your personal preferences, and a mug of that particular esklav variant you like sitting at your elbow. Automagically. You can just pick up your shopping and walk out of the store, and it’ll automatically bill you. Walk right onto the plane, and your boarding pass checks itself. The entire world just knows who you are and behaves accordingly.)

In less advanced times, people used to carry these things around in signet rings, or other tasteful accessories, and suchlike. These days, though, it/s integrated into the neural lace and or gnostic interlink, and as such rests about a centimeter below one’s medulla oblongata. (Assuming for the purposes of this answer that you’re a biosapience.) If you somehow manage to lose that, you probably have bigger problems than being unable to prove your identity right now…

They do, however, break down, albeit extremely rarely.

At which point you place a call to the nearest Imperial Services office (a free-to-call-even-anonymously line for situations just like this), report the problem, and get it replaced. Which involves spending an irritating amount of time going through the process of validating your identity the old-fashioned way to the Universal Registry’s satisfaction, then having the faulty one disconnected and surgically extracted, then replaced by its shiny new functional counterpart.

It’s an annoyance, but not much more than that.

Trope-a-Day: Loss of Identity

Loss of Identity: Given how often it’s done (see: Body Surf), everyone in a modern transsophont civilization is pretty clear that body-swapping doesn’t cause it.  The mind is not the plaything of the body – fundamentally, at least, even if it may distort the way it plays out.

Strictly speaking, say the Empire’s sophotechnologists, identity could be defined by the logos, the personality organization algorithm, alone.  It’s the unique, volitional, free-will-granting thing, after all – but that’s much the same standard as reincarnation might be said to use; sure, it’s the same soul, but when you throw away all the memories and personality…

Thus, for practical purposes, there are legal standards concerning exactly how much of the mass of archetypes, subpersonalities, personae, agents, talents, memes, memories, etc., etc., that make up the rest of the mind you can grossly edit or remove over how much time before you are no longer, in the eyes of the law and (practically speaking) everyone who knows you, the same person.  To avoid committing de jure cognicide on yourself, stay on this side of the line.