There are various levels of thinking being in the universe of The Vanguard. These levels range from subsapient to hypersapient, and within each level are various sub-levels, as explained below.

Subsapient intellects are generally those at animal-level, from bacteria and single cell instincts all the way up to just below human intellects such as great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas etc.,), dolphins and whales. This also applies to non-sapient machines, such as smart weapons and utility drones, and programs like intelligent assistants and interfaces. Much of the infrastructure of starfaring civilizations is made up of subsapient hardware and software.

Sapient intellects are intellects at human level, where “human” applies to any sapient able to make sophisticated tools, understand and communicate highly complex concepts, and create civilizations using both and more. Like the subsapient example, this level of intellect also includes machines and software, generally known as machine intellects (milects for short) and sapienware respectively. Also like the subsapient example, the intellectual capacity at this level can vary considerably, from just above the highest level of subsapience to high level supersapient intellects just below hypersapience. This varies according to the species of sapient in question, as well as how able they are at augmenting their natural intellect either through technology or genetic engineering, and often both. The Valorans for example, who make up the majority of the peacekeeping and exploratory organization called The Vanguard, are at supersapient level.

The Hypersapients are another level of intellect all together, far above the sapients. Their intellect also varies by sublevels; a Level One Hypersapient for example, is generally considered to have the same intellectual ability as a thousand sapients. Their intellectual ability tends to increase exponentially from the next level up. Hypersapients are generally non-biological, but there are exceptions, such as the Eldaaron and some others. They generally administer and supervise the techological infrastructure of modern starfaring civilization, and are generally the de facto leaders of sapients as well, though their leadership tends to be subtle; they will often act as advisors, counselors and arbitrators to sapient governing councils, with sapients generally following their advice and suggestions because it usually turns out to be helpful.

In practice intellect levels are often not as clear-cut as detailed above. Sapients can augment themselves sufficiently to ascend to new levels of intellectual and physical capability, though this process is difficult and often fraught with greater danger the higher one desires to go. Also they can link their minds together through commplants or telepathy to form greater intellects; subsapients can do so as well to form sapient intelligences and above (though subsapients generally have to be augmented by sapients to be able to do so). They can form hive minds and group minds that can sometimes match hypersapients in ability. Intelligent technology with communications capability is also able to do so, but safeguards are designed in to prevent this on a massive, and possibly disruptive, scale.