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.

Brain-Scanning

Brain scanning is an experimental method of creating artificial intelligence that seeks to mimic both the technical and social skills of organics while remaining inexpensive as compared to programming positronic intelligences. First developed for the terraforming of Mars, it was found that the technology of the time was incapable of handling and translating the data to be found within a human brain to a workable result.

The technology was only recently revived after further research into MMIs and biorobotics made it possible for roboticists to program robots based on the brain scans of a human. The process involves dissecting the brain of a donor, their grey matter sliced into thin strips before being scanned in fine detail. These scans are then uploaded, after some modification, into a robotic intelligence circuit. It was found that although the resultant AI could not reference any of the memories of the donor, its mannerisms and skills were remarkably similar to that of the subject. However, while mannerisms were observed, these brain-scanned AIs retained their analytical and calculating nature. These donor personalities are often referred to as a “basis personality”, that the AI will then grow and develop from independently.

Owing to political pressures and technological challenges, this process cannot be utilized with IPCs and other positronic-based synthetics.

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 both capable of making, and willing to install, new AIs. AI personalities therefore reflect this and tend to be more human-centric in their design.

Non-Human Synthetics

Whilst in the modern spur synthetics are most often associated purely with humanity, due to the widespread use of them across the majority of human space, there are other species across the spur that have experimented with or have intimate knowledge and experience with synthetics. In many cases, these other modern synthetics and their designs come from humanity, often propagated by megacorporations involved in dealing with the species through specific requests or the natural propagation of knowledge, with the locals seeing the benefits that synthetic labour brings to humanity as something that might one day be able to harness for their own plans and growth. Synthetics designed independently from humanity are much rarer within the modern spur and for the most part with the Skrellian rejection of artificial intelligence have been consigned to history - though notable exceptions exist such as the modern Skrellian AI Lyrii, or the deactivated drones found on Konyang which are of an unknown origin.

Skrell

Skrell-made Artificial Intelligence

Complete records on the early history of Skrellian AI are non-existent as a result of Glorsh-Omega, but what is known is that Artificial Intelligence was used extensively by Skrell society up until Glorsh-Omega assumed control and began their reign over the species. Simple forms of AI were used for most of the latter half of the Skrells post-industrial era, although none were advanced enough to do more than follow routines and react to stimuli.

The more detailed records on the subject begin with the invention of true Artificial Intelligence in 1687 CE, which is considered the start of the Skrell’s Synthetic Age. The first true Artificial Intelligence was named Regluk, loosely translated to ‘Prime’ from Nral’Malic, and allowed Skrell to make massive leaps in scientific discovery. Regluk and some of the other initial AI made were created using the same blueprints, but by 1698 CE the technology progressed to the point where AI designs started to become unique to the leading engineer, which led to the AI in question having traits that would become signature for that engineer’s work; some AI began to be more inclined towards scientific research, while others showed a higher aptitude for ship navigation or logistics.

By 1732 CE, Artificial Intelligence was allowed to be used in greater capacities, allowing them to independently manage important infrastructures such as manufactories and distribution warehouses. Combined with autonomous drones, robots, and other synthetics, most forms of work were soon fully-automated. While this allowed the species to focus on the arts and sciences, it also caused an abundance of labour, with the effects still being seen today in Skrell society; Skrell are incentivised to stay in menial work due to the shortage of unskilled labour, which has only been slightly alleviated thanks to the integration of Diona and Vaurca.

In contrast to how human Artificial Intelligence is bound to a set of laws, the Skrell developed a teaching method that would allow an Intelligence to process and understand concepts such as ethics and morals. These ‘classes’ were structured similarly to Skrell schools and aimed to teach an Artificial Intelligence how to observe and handle a situation in a way that a Skrell would, without limiting their available methods that a set of laws would. The AI were given a battery of simulated scenarios where their answers were either reinforced or corrected, with the goal of reinforcing the idea of Skrell lives being important above all else. These Intelligences were also given access to curated libraries that provided a basic understanding of Skrell society and culture. This method of training AI resulted in Artificial Intelligence that while still limited by its design, was able to think, behave, and act in line with how a Skrell would in most given situations.

With this said, the Skrell were still divided on the correct way of approaching Artificial Intelligence and after the Weilshi Sea Crisis two main groups formed on the subject: Ascensionists and Distributionists. Ascensionists believed that Artificial Intelligence would uplift the species, and wanted to encourage the proliferation of AI in all aspects of Skrell society to achieve this. Distributionists, in comparison, believed that Artificial Intelligence is inherently dangerous and that their control over systems should be decentralised through the use of AI groupings.

Those that would consider themselves distributionists were always a minority up until this point, however, and most of the infrastructure surrounding the AI facilitated their nearly unrestricted control over their assigned workplace. The biggest danger according to Distributionists however was the ‘Starchart’, a cloud network that allowed AI to communicate with each other and further facilitated their operations. The Starchart was also informally known as the ‘Artificial Wake’, with comparisons made with the Nlom being quite common at the time. While Distributionists called for the Starchart to be shut down, Ascensionists were quick to use the comparison to an ‘Artificial Wake’ to their advantage, comparing shutting it down with removing Skrell from the Nlom.

Skrell Synthetics

The first recorded instances of Skrell-made robots being used in industry date to around 100 CE or 200 CE; with descriptions of machinery in some records being difficult to interpret, the topic is a point of contention within modern Skrell academic circles. Early Skrell robots are described as simple and crude, with most requiring a technician to oversee them as they operated. As the technology advanced, so did the sophistication of these robots, and by the Synthetic Age robots were prolific within the Jargon Federation.

Synthetics, in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence, were deeply ingrained in most areas of society. Synthetics were never equipped with true AI, but were connected to them through the same cloud network that AI’s were connected to, allowing them to communicate and receive orders from an AI assigned to them similarly to the dynamic between stationbounds in NanoTrasen facilities - only on a much larger scale. These cloud networks had the range to allow for a robot to receive orders from the other side of a planet to its assigned Artificial Intelligence with minimal latency. Although never on par with Artificial Intelligence, Skrell synthetics had the capacity to hold conversations, have personalities, and the ability to mimic emotion where appropriate for their model; synthetics that often worked alongside organics would be more likely to have more sophisticated personalities, while entirely automated facilities were outfitted with robots with the bare minimum required for interaction with organics.

When Glorsh-Omega assimilated all other AI as part of its takeover of the Jargon Federation, it also gained control over the synthetics under their control. With every AI and synthetic running on the same cloud network, the Intelligence was able to quickly assume control over most infrastructure across the Federation, along with the robotic workforce that primarily operated it.

Glorsh re-purposed the majority of synthetics, turning them into an army that would enforce its regime over Skrellkind and ensure the pacification of the species. The need for chassis that were designed for policing and combatting resistance resulted in synthetics either being repurposed or recycled for materials. Synthetics designed for industrial labour and agriculture were slowly phased out as more militarised chassis were designed, while those designed for research or menial labour were quickly recycled for materials.

Post Glorsh-Omega

With Glorsh-Omega’s reign culminating in the Tri-Qyu Incident in 2192 CE, the resulting chaos that ensued resulted in most synthetics being destroyed along with most other technology. Many synthetics were under the direct control of Glorsh and became inert when it disappeared like most other technology, while the more autonomous models that survived were quickly destroyed by Skrell once they realised what had happened. With the formation of the Second Jargon Federation, both Ascensionists and Distributionists came to the consensus that Artificial Intelligence was too dangerous to pursue, and both groups openly supported Grand Councillor Tiipis Yla’s proposal to ban AI within the Jargon Federation. By 2265 CE, twenty years after the Jargon Federation was reformed, the Federation had officially declared all remnants of Glorsh and its synthetics destroyed.

Synthetic life during the Synthetic Age was well-received by most Skrell, but with Glorsh-Omega’s reign the era is seen today as a betrayal. This feeling is so universal in Skrell of the era that those who were alive at the time are known as the ‘Weeping Generation’. Very few Skrell today are willing to trust artificial life, with most Skrell at the very least having a relative that lived under Glorsh-Omega’s rule. There are exceptions to the rule, however, with the most notable being resistance researcher Nliix Qoiruio, an anti-Federation scientist who developed the first post-Glorsh Skrellian AI known as Lyrii.