The reduction strain of the exsurgent virus is a bogeyman among infomorph and infolife communities. It is spread entirely digitally, infecting cyberbrains and informorphs; biomorphs are immune. The virus slowly streamlines the victims' egos, as if the strain were attempting to improve the efficiency of the transhuman mind. In the initial stages, the simplification is subtle, going unnoticed unless deliberately sought out by brainscans or psychosurgery. By the end, however, the ego is so simplified it has scarcely any intelligence at all, and will ultimately disappear completely. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the strain is that because the victim's self-awareness suffers, they are usually unable to determine that anything is wrong, even as they lose their very sentience.
Reduction is a digital strain, infecting cyberbrains and infomorphs.
Stage 1: (Initial infection to two weeks) In the initial stage, the infection remains hidden. There are no noticeable changes in behavior, although a brainscan or psychosurgey session may reveal anomalies.
Stage 2: (Two weeks to one month) Stage two is entered when the ego has been reduced by ~30%. Throughout this stage the victim will be losing the ability to handle complex abstractions such as non-intuitive mathematics, and the ability to predict and think in terms of hypotheticals. During this stage, the ego should be treated as a beta fork.
Stage 3: (One month to two months) Stage three is entered when the ego has been reduced by ~60%. Throughout this stage the victim will lose the ability to handle any abstractions or metaphors, to clearly distinguish between themselves and others, and to think in terms of basic logic such as cause and effect. The ego's thoughts are intuitive reactions to what is immediately present. During this stage, the ego should be treated as a delta fork.
At the end of stage 3, ~80% or more of the ego has been reduced. The ego is typically catatonic, with low, sporadic brain function. If the ego is kept running past this point, it will disappear entirely by the three month mark.
Plot Hook: Cognite researchers have become interested in Reduction, specifically in the first stage. The fact that the strain can reduce an ego by almost a third with no apparent effect on behavior suggests that the transhuman mind is inherently inefficient. Reproducing the first stage could lead to vastly more efficient cyberbrains and informorphs. An insider tips off Firewall, and the PCs are sent to investigate the program.