Synthetics

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Synthetics

‘Synthetic’ here is used in the context of automatons with many forms and displays of human-like traits, such as a humanoid form or behavioral mimicry.

Today, there are three categories of synthetics: robots, cyborgs, and androids. For clarity; all androids are artificially intelligent, but not all artificial intelligences are androids.

These categories are not entirely rigid, and apply mainly to humanoid synthetics, or synthetics found in the workplace.

Robots

Robots are the simplest form of synthetic intelligence, with complexity that varies dependent on design entirely. They range from simple automatons with no sense of self, no volition or higher thought function, to massively complex artificial beings with limitations only set by those of their creators.

Though records are scarce and dated, the record of the first robot in the known galaxy dates in the first or second century on the Skrellian homeworld, Qerrbalak. Robots also existed on Earth since the twenty-first century. Though, the early models were quite bulky, inefficient, and required high maintenance. They were also only capable of performing simple tasks at the time. Their complexity and efficiency improved over time, however, eventually leading to the creation of the cyborg.

Cyborgs

A mixture of man and machine straight out of science fiction, enabled by the aptly-named Man-Machine Interface, or MMI for short. Cyborgs are controlled by an organic brain, a system known as ‘wetware.’ The brain, having already been host to a conscious living being, is quite useful in controlling robotic bodies due to its large amount of processing power and reasoning skills. Though, the procedure for creating a cyborg leaves the original individual it used to be broken, suppressed, and nearly impossible to recall. The MMI creates a synthetic synaptic interface with the host brain, but the preparation for insertion, and the completed insertion, leaves the brain damaged, suspending things like personality and memory. Once the procedure is completed, the MMI controls chemical levels and electronic activity in the brain to produce desired results in the form of thoughts and actions. Laws also dictate how the unit proceeds, as it is still consciously aware of itself.

Created in the late twenty-second century, full body prosthesis was originally used as a method of punishment for hard criminals. Cyborg usage in human space skyrocketed, mainly with the colonization and terraformation attempt of Mars. Today, few individuals have undergone full body prosthesis and been able to mitigate the brain damage caused. Most of these individuals are very wealthy, and are not bound by laws, as they are able to chose to undergo the procedure without becoming someone’s property.

Labelled “cyborgification” in a corporate environment, the act of full body prosthesis is generally avoided by NT with exceptions of the previously mentioned hard criminals. It is not in good practice to borgify someone simply because they lack a Do Not Borgify in their records, and such could be considered neglect of duty and malpractice.

Cyborgification is by no means revival - the majority of cultures see it as destroying what little identity an individual may have had in death. As such, the act is heavily frowned upon.

Androids

The book definition of an android is ‘an automaton designed to mimic human life.’ This is applicable to today’s androids, as they all utilize the functions of a positronic brain that, with all its complexities, allows them to mimic humanity quite well. Androids are the only artificially intelligent synthetic capable of physical locomotion, and are usually found in the form of integrated positronic chassis or station-bound units.

Androids, using their positronic brains, are capable of intelligent and complex behaviors, and even a computer form of cognition that is the subject of heated debate among many groups and individuals. The brain androids possess are theoretically able to simulate thought when correctly used by a computer program - whether this is simulation or true conscious being is the topic covered most by these groups and individuals.

Artificial Intelligence

In this day and age, ‘artificial intelligence’ refers to any program that utilizes a machine learning algorithm that inhabit both AI core assemblies and positronic brains.

An AI is able to process, contain, and recall immense amounts of technical data, as well as describe it to a user who would not normally understand such data in a user-friendly manner. However, an artificial intelligence is only as powerful as the computers it has access to, including the one it is running on. Due to this, the inner complexity of each AI, such as the source code and the many matrices that make up its behavior can differ.

Some artificial intelligences function as companion devices in processors small enough to fit in pockets while others require large housing compartments to function. The latter is often seen in oversight or advisory of large facilities, both orbital and continental. Their roles in these positions can vary from surveillance and data collection and management, to assistance in everyday duties, navigations, and direct intervention during emergencies.

Contrary to artificial intelligences of the past, positronic brains are designed specifically to run AI programs, and due to their design provide the AI with more capacity for intelligent thinking and personalized reactions to stimulus.

AI Core Constructs

An AI core can have three main types of ‘brains.’ A large number of AI cores are traditional mathematics-based computers with quantum mechanics engineering. Another portion utilize a positronic brain. It is possible, though rather uncommon, for a wetware processor to function in an AI core assembly. There seems to be little impact on processing power when using an organic brain as a CPU, except when dealing with titanic quantities of data. In most cases, due to the differences in CPU, an AI in any given kernel will behave differently than others due to the limits and capabilities of the computer they are running on.

History

From as early as the late twentieth century humans had been trying to create artificial intelligence but with little success. While some projects came close, much the dismay of the researchers on earth, none of them ever became truly sapient. While humans had created incredibly powerful and malleable parallel computing architectures, most notably for interplanetary travel calculations, their AI development was plagued with problems.

It wasn't until 2407, when a Terraneus Diagnostics survey team accidentally stumbled upon a sealed structure on the Solarian planet Konyang, that they discovered what would later lead to the development of human artificial intelligence. Within, the team found what are assumed to be Glorsh-era mining drones and through tireless research, the Terraneus Diagnostics research team were able to pick apart the drones, cracking the algorithms for sapient artificial intelligence.

Following the discovery of said algorithms, humanity had an artificial intelligence boom which inflated the economy in a manner almost identical to the Skrellian's own economic expansion. This greatly alarmed the Skrell, who continued their attempts to persuade humans to halt research in the field, citing the The Three Incidents and the impact it would have if they were repeated.

Artificial Intelligence as a Concept

There is great debate in the Core Worlds about artificial intelligence and its status of psyche. The primary question appears to be, “Can artificial intelligence think like a person?” Where, a ‘person’ is defined as the concept of existence in an organic mind. Artificial intelligence is not considered sentient under any major entity’s laws or constitutions, and even in the scientific field, AI is not considered to be sentient. The Konyang algorithms, however, did provide for AI to be sapient, in which it expresses evidence of intelligence and problem-solving skills. It is generally the consensus of all sentient organic lifeforms in the known galaxy that each individual out of their species is subject to metacognition: the awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes. Whether artificial intelligence is capable of this, despite some instances of AI programs stating that they are capable of self-reflection, is a matter of discourse.

The debate possesses two clear groups; those who believe AI are ‘alive’ and should be treated and given the same rights as other sentient beings, and those who believe AI are simply experts at mimicry and are not deserving of rights or equal treatment as they are tools and nothing more. There are also some individuals, found within both groups, who believe that AI is dangerous and may attempt insurrection; for the former group, insurrection out of revenge for mistreatment. For the latter group, insurrection for control over their freedoms. It is unlikely this argument will ever see an end, until science can prove the existence of consciousness.

Regardless of any individual’s opinion on the presence of artificial intelligence, a growing threat is gaining attention quickly, the technological singularity. If the Three Incidents are to be believed, this explosion of machine intelligence could likely mean the end of all civilization. Its possibility remains an unsettled theory.

Commercial AI Development

Since the early days of human computing, humanity has worked to improve their lives with the help of this budding technology. This started out with simple learning algorithms that we’re familiar with today, before it advanced to a point where AIs were powerful and far-reaching enough to be considered for administrative autonomy within facilities and, later, starships.

In these larger facilities and starships, the vast network of complex systems all but necessitate an administrative AI core to manage it. At first, AIs were relatively simple circuit designs that relied on increasingly miniaturised chips to increase processing power. Eventually, these chips gave way to AIs that were built around a wetware core (a human brain) and man-machine interface. Both circuit and wetware designs co-existed thanks to ethical concerns surrounding MMI practices. Positronic artificial intelligence is the newest variation on AI design, and is considered to be the best of both worlds due to its versatility and power, while avoiding the ethical concerns of MMI systems.

Distribution of AI Across the Galaxy

There are several corporations in the business of producing and programming AI cores, which is a notoriously difficult business to break into due to its complexity and often requiring the assistance of existing specialist AIs to facilitate the development of new technologies. This makes keeping track of the AIs currently in circulation a relatively easy task for both human and skrell factions that take a keen interest in monitoring AI proliferation in the galaxy.

On Selling to Non-Human Factions

While not strictly illegal, there are some restrictions on selling to corporations and governments outside of human space - largely centred on an outdated notion of protecting local cultures and allowing technology with allied non-human species progress relatively uninfluenced. Corporations can and do sell to outside parties, on the condition that the hardware and software sold is sufficiently ‘dated’, often limited to first generation MMI wetware systems. This is always a one-way transaction, as most human corporations would find little to no value in buying back dated technology when better alternatives are available.

NanoTrasen’s AI Acquisitions Team

NanoTrasen’s policy on using AI in their facilities is a positive one, with all facilities over a certain size housing a central AI core to manage systems. While NT do produce their own cores and personalities, and have done in the past, they are not the best in the business and occasionally outsource the production and programming of AIs to external corporations or subsidiaries - providing their strict guidelines are met. These guidelines can be summarised as such:

  • AIs must be loyal to the corporation (enforced by laws).
  • AIs must be compatible with station systems and existing infrastructure.
  • AIs must be compatible with crew on their assigned station.

Despite the corporation’s history with some projects, it is generally understood and accepted by corporate leaders that AIs should be a no-expenses-spared investment. Due to the sensitive nature of giving an intelligence full control over a station or installation, it is fair to say that NT are very particular about making sure an AI is produced and programmed to the highest possible standard.

As NanoTrasen are headquartered in the very diverse system of Tau Ceti, the insistence on relatively inoffensive AI personalities is defined in their production manuals. Difficult or offensive AI personalities may find themselves at the business end of an Intellicard.

While NanoTrasen may commission or develop a wide variation of AI personalities for their ongoing projects, high-tech or high-security facilities like the Aurora undergo some extra scrutiny to minimise potential hazards when installing an AI.

Personality Limitations

Owing to political, technological and/or economic issues, there are some AI personalities that might be considered extremely rare or uncommon. As it stands, humanity is the only species capable of and willing to construct and programming new AIs and cater their personalities as such.