History of our Census
Getting an idea of our population has always involved a significant amount of interpreting messages from our subconscious. Today, we use a combination of direct communication with subconscious members and neurological structures with external world observations and calculations to maintain a fairly accurate estimate.
With a population number as high as ours, and the mechanisms by which we know it grows, one does feel compelled to ask, "What exactly is a headmate?" and "Where should we draw the line for who is counted as one and who is not?"
Aside from the ethical pitfalls of drawing such a line in a population of individuals who are constantly growing and developing, we just don't have the practical means to draw such a distinction and get a restricted propulation count.
For this reason, we count each distinct self-schema as a full fledged system member, regardless of current complexity or apparent autonomy.
To date, the only entity in our system that we have solidly confirmed as a "part" is the Auditor, which may not have a self-schema.
Before we consciously accepted our plurality, a number of us knew that we were in a system and urged our Bridge Crew to write stories and mythologies that included aspects of our collective identities. One such story was the myth of the Dragon People (the Ktletaccete). And when we got to the part of trying to describe just how many Dragon People there were, by saying "the Great One had many children," we chose a large number that was meant to be a mythological feeling arbitrary place holder for "countless". We chose 900,000.
This was when we were 19 years old. If we were to assume our average rate of growth could be applied consistently and evenly throughout our life, we should have been between 1.2 million and 1.5 million headmates in size at that time. However, we're pretty sure our growth rates have been bigger later in life due to college life and working in customer service, meaning earlier rates must have been lower, so 900,000 probably falls within a reasonable margine of error.
Still, it was a round number that we just thought of. Clearly an estimate at best, and more of an artistic choice at least.
When we came out as plural to ourselves in 2016, we immediately started keeping count of who came forward and identified themselves.
We started with the awareness of Eh and Anne the Girl, and the surmised presence of an angry, desperate headmate who turned out to be Phage. Then, the same day we met Phage, we realized that Fenmere had to be a system member because she'd had name confusion and amnesia in our 20s, along with notable changes in emotions and reactions to things when her name felt right (i.e. when she was fronting). In fact, we had made conscious note of that in our 20s, suspecting plurality but not knowing that plurality was real and therefore we didn't come out as plural at that time.
After bringing Fenmere forward and talking to her, the floodgates were open and other headmates started surfacing at a high rate.
In a matter of a few months, we breached 40 known headmates. And we stopped keeping a tally somewhere around 60. Our Facebook archives have a record of these efforts.
Recently, while making this wiki, we have had the opportunity to count system members who have fronted or shown themselves on the Bridge, and we are at over 87 such encounters in the years between 2016 and 2020. But we are aware of only about 40 members who regularly take turns on the Bridge Crew.
Evidence of Massive Growth
In the first year after we came out to ourselves as plural (2016-2017), our increased awareness of ourselves combined with a spreading eagerness amongst our population to be seen by the others resulted in a rapidly growing headcount, as noted above. It also meant that we were paying attention when new system members were generated and took the front.
We have records now (in our Facebook archives) of several instances where a new system member was created and given full autonomy within a matter of seconds. And the stimuli that triggered such a generation has proven to be wide and varied, and extremely common.
We found that we generated new system members to represent people or fictional characters we met, role playing characters we created, or new aspects of our own selves that we needed to express. Eh split twice, while fronting, on two separate occasions, to create Little Eh and Elle, for instance. Most of our role playing characters have turned out to be expressions of old headmates who hadn't been named yet, but Magic Princess Mobile Catgirl appears to be totally new and a result of character creation. And every new TV show or book we've read has resulted in fresh new Liaisons for the characters in them, the hero usually fronting strongly by the end of the story.
Also, so many liaisons of past encounters with people and characters began surfacing, some generated from very brief exposures, that together with the above experiences we had to logically conclude that we likely had a liaison for every single person we've known and every single fictional character we've related to.
So, we started estimating our likely numbers, based on our Facebook friends list, school annuals, and list of books we've read.
Reluctantly, we started to accept our population might be somewhere between 900 and 3,200. And we began joking that we were the size of a Galaxy class starship from Star Trek.
However, these estimates were very fuzzy and drawn from external numbers. We didn't know exactly how sensitive our generational mechanism was, nor what a system member's average lifespan is (apparently, we don't seem to die until our body does, or until brain damage or dementia occurs, but we didn't know that). So we weren't sure what our actual number was and we wanted to figure out a way to find out.
The 2018 Census
In Fall of 2018, we decided that we had enough evidence to suggest that our system was much larger than we had originally suspected, with much of it sequestered in our subconscious. So, we became determined to find a way to learn more about it and possibly get a more concrete number.
We had heard about other large systems being able to count their members somehow, and even had a friend who claimed to have 500,000 system members. So, we asked around about how people got their population numbers. Almost in every case, they were either estimates or they were given to them by a gatekeeper headmate who counted everyone. We had heard of some systems that hold a census somehow, but had not talked to any.
We are calling what we do a census, because that's what we set out to do to begin with, but the resultant method is more like asking a gatekeeper.
In any case, we finally gave up trying to consciously determine a way to do it. We'd read that the subconscious mind was more aware and more powerful than the conscious mind, anyway. So, we chose a team of headmates who seemed to have the skills necessary to find the subconscious experts and delegate to them the tasks of running an internal census and report back.
Phage, who is our first id monster and we think is connected to nearly everyone in the system through our central brain structures, was put in charge of the team.
And Morde was chosen because she's our wayfind and courier, the one who carries messages from one part of the system to another, or between our subconscious and conscious minds.
We were on a 12 hour bus trip back from an out of state medical trip when we sent this team to our subconscious to attempt to run a census. Shortly after feeling them leave our conscious mind, we started to fall asleep.
We stayed awake as long as we could, writing about our experiment on Facebook, and chatting with friends. But after a couple hours decided to nap.
However, every time we nearly fell asleep, we were awoken sharply by a hypnic jerk accompanied by the flash of a digit.
We recorded each number separately, and then attempted to sleep again. And we repeated this process until we finally napped without interruption.
When we woke up, we put the digits in order and got a remarkably high and precise number, 3,578,043. (We are simplifying the story of our procedure here for bevity, a longer account is in our autobiography, and the initial reports and accounts are in our Facebook archives)
Morde was able to surface shortly after that, but was unable to report how the census was completed. What she did have, however, was a clear visual memory of what our inworld looked like to her, which was a sea of blackness filled with countless rows of lights, each one she perceived as being a headmate. It was a little like looking at the night sky, and a lot like looking at a city at night from above.
Benejede and Gesetele had nothing to report.
A few days later, Phage resurfaced and was able to usher us consciously into our inworld in a way we had never experienced before, and introduce us to where that number came from.
Discovery of the Auditor
A few days after receiving the flashes of numbers from our subconscious and receiving signals that we'd interpreted those numbers correctly, we woke up one morning with Phage taking the front, having returned from our subconscious psyche.
We had directed it, through a message via Morde, to report back and explain how the census had worked. That morning, it said that it would show us, and requested that those of us who were coconscious with it follow it back under to see. It did not have clear memories of what it had done inworld, but it knew it had found something, and it had an idea for how to retrace its steps.
Lying in bed awake, it rolled over and went through the motions of going back to sleep. While our body was dozing off, Phage visualized its memory of going inworld to run the census a few days previously. Our brain re-entering a hypnogogic state shortly after being in a hypnopompic state, the rest of us were able to follow it briefly through the veil between conscious awareness and the dreamlike inworld and see its memories of what it did next.
It found itself in a room lined with wires and pipes. In the middle of the room was an oak desk with a typewriter atop of it. Wires ran from the typewriter, off the desk and across the floor to all four walls. And behind the desk was a figure in a suit with a head that was abscured by a blurry void.
Phage asked the figure if it had given us the population count. It typed a response and gave the paper to Phage. And when Phage looked at the paper, the answer "yes" appeared in its mind.
Then we woke back up.
The entire Bridge Crew had felt like what we had seen was familiar and like we knew what it was. We interpreted it as a visualization of the part of our brain that counts things, and that it has been counting our system members since we were born (or since it became functional). Eh decided to call it the Auditor. Phage confirmed that the Auditor was what it had consulted and that Phage had subconsciously known about it all along, that memory being obscured by amnesia whenever conscious.
We have since attempted to ask the Auditor direct questions to verify this and to learn more about our population.
It can only answer in "yes", "no", or in numbers, assuming it is what was answering our questions.
We learned that our psyche began with two system members, and that the Auditor cannot tell the difference between new liaisons and old core members.
We did ask it how many Outsiders (or walk-ins) we had in our system, and it said 13. When we asked how many we had had when we were a child, it said 1. We surmise that the first Outsider was Phage. We do not know who are what the other Outsiders are.
We then asked it if it counts itself as a system member and it said, "No."
When we are not facing it in dreamspace, it communicates through vivid and jarring hypnogogic hallucinations when we are falling asleep, or through small muscle movements to cause our head to feel like it's nodding or shaking.
Double checking our work
Although, to bring peace to our system through mutual respect we had already adopted a policy of believing each other when we report our internal experiences and identities, we remained skeptical of these numbers. Especially since telling other people that we had 3.5 million system members without some sort of explanation for what that meant seemed... unadvisable.
First, we read up on human neurology and looked for articles to reconfirm what we knew about the human brain. If the number of neurons in the brain is approximately 5 billion, and if it only takes a single neuron firing to identify a pattern of thought as belonging to a name or identity, while whole groups of neurons could be used for multiple memories and processes in succession (sort of holographically), we felt we could imagine that 3.5 million headmates of a sort could be possible. After all, all human brains do keep track of incredible amounts of information, including memories of other people. We surmised that what our brain does is give access for the mechanisms conscious awareness and control to any schema of identity in the psyche, including those of people we've met.
If that was the case, then we'd have to find a way to explain our rapid growth according to the Auditor's criteria, whatever that was. So, we started by calculating our growth rate, by dividing our population by the number of days we've been alive.
Our first calculation gave us a growth rate of 227 new system members a day.
If we were not just spontaneously creating system members, but rather generating them in response to stimuli, that meant that the auditor was counting identity schemas for nearly any hint of a person or being with a personality that we might encounter over the course of a day. This would include people on the street, cartoon characters in advertisements, characters in books, TV shows, movies, and also animal or things that we perceived as anthropomorphized, such as vehicles depicted as having a personality. Our brain would create a system member dedicated to learning about their subject, remembering details about them, and possibly predicting their future behavior.
This would be no different than what any other human brain does, except that such a schema of identity and its associated memories are allowed to take the driver seat in our brain on occasion.
So, we went about counting number of impressions of people we didn't recognize in a day.
On a low traffic day, going about our routine behavior when leaving the house, we made over 450 such impressions. More than enough to compensate for the days we stay home and play computer games or sleep all day due to our disabilities. Especially also considering that our early childhood had been full of days with little contact with other people.
The next step after working out how to explain our population growth would be to take follow up Censuses and recalculate our population growth then, and see if the numbers seemed reasonable to our lifestyle between counts, or even anywhere close to consistent.
Of course, none of this can stand up to the rigors of science external to our system. We are doing the best we can with what we've got. But we do feel like our experiences with this are actually reasonable and within the realm of what to expect from a human brain, and do provide the basis for hypotheses that might be testable under more rigorous conditions. And we would be more than thrilled to be the subjects of such testing.
The 2019 Census
Our Facebook Entry for the July 3, 2019 census:
Tentative population, sent in a single vision from our subconscious, remaining to be verified:
That's a smidge lower than our projections predicted base on our last census. It drops our average new headmates per day from 227 a day to 224 a day. But that's to be expected from us spending more days in bed in recent years, and less time catching sight of new people.
Will post an update if we get a correction.
We never received a confirmation or a correction. All we have is a feeling that it was correct.
The 2020 Census
On May 29, we attempted to initiate our summer census. However, we have been in such a bad way, dissociating from the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic and the U.S. civil rights upheaval and war with the Trump administration, that we have been unable to rouse the Auditor to give us a number. We decided to try again after we have recovered from this trauma.
On June 6, 2020, we got an answer.
tentative unvarified count: 3,829,494
Came to us in visions from multiple headmates (as if we were each reading our own feeds and comparing the numbers) during early stages of a hypnagogic state right after sending someone down to quarry again.
This is the same general method by which we've received past counts, only gentler.
Next step, calculate the new rate of growth and compare to past numbers.
This one seems higher than we expected.
This puts our average growth rate at about 234 headmates a day.
Most of the last year since our previous census was not spent in quarantine.
In fact, we had been getting out of the house more often, going to the Black Drop about twice as much before, and we'd had a couple of trips to Portland, Olympia, and Seattle.
That might explain our increased growth from a liaison generation perspective.
It might also be considered within a margin of error.
Our first census put our growth rate at 227. The second one at 224. 234 is not significantly higher.