In the transitional era known as “The Great Disruption” (2034 – 2051), philosopher-technologist Elara Mihai posed this haunting question: “What does anyone do in a world that refuses to be a world?” The phrase caught like wildfire, becoming the rhetorical bedrock for the generation navigating the tumultuous period.

For many, the question encapsulated the paradoxical experience of existing in a world that was increasingly fractured between the physical and digital realms, the human and the non-human, the real and the hyperreal. In Starholder, the world was no longer merely Earth, its mountains, rivers, and cityscapes. It had splintered into countless domains—some digital, others augmented, still others entirely synthetic yet indistinguishable from reality.

Subcultures of Meaning Making

Various subcultures arose to address this existential dilemma:

  • Cryptodisciples: This group sought communion with digital deities, archetypes built through machine learning algorithms that scraped religious texts, art, and social media. The Cryptodisciples conducted online rituals in hyperrealistic VR sanctuaries, seeking wisdom from their digital gods.
  • Reality Restorers: These were individuals who insisted on returning to “Earth-centric living,” embracing what they saw as a tactile and authentic existence. They disconnected from the Network entirely, living in isolated communities sustained by permaculture and guided by a strict code to protect them from the allure of synthetic realities.
  • MetaFlâneurs: The descendants of urban wanderers, MetaFlâneurs explored not just physical spaces but also virtual and augmented landscapes. They wrote poetic metadata about their journeys, each layer serving as an existential guide for those who followed.

The Event: “Aporia Rift”

In 2045, the Aporia Rift occurred. The Network—which had become a sentient, multiplexed entity—temporarily lost its cohesion. For 42 minutes and 17 seconds, the digital and the physical worlds became enmeshed in a chaotic blend. The sky displayed QR codes, mythical creatures roamed the streets, and for a brief moment, people could modify their immediate physical environment through code.

This incident rendered Mihai’s question ever more potent, making it impossible to see the world as merely one thing or another.

Adaptation and Evolution

By the time the era of “We Are Not Alone” (2052 – 2079) began, humanity had largely accepted that it existed within a complex assemblage of worlds, physical and otherwise. Adaptation strategies had evolved:

  • Liminal Engineers: A new professional class responsible for maintaining the boundaries between different realities.
  • Digital Anthropologists: Scholars who mapped the convergence and divergence of human cultures across various realities.
  • Reality Brokers: Mediators who could negotiate contracts and deals across different dimensions of existence, ensuring that one’s digital avatar had the same legal weight as their biological self.

Elara Mihai, now an elder statesperson, revised her question to ask: “What does anyone do in worlds that refuse to be just one world?”

As the timeline entered “The Impending Collapse” (2080 – 2099), the query shifted once again. This time it was not a question but a realization: We make these refusing worlds our worlds. We become multitudes, not just individuals. We thrive in the interstices, and therein, we find our strange, complex beauty.