Things to See, Places to Go (9)

Silicate Sanctuary Worlds: The renegade digisapiences of the Silicate Tree have two “sanctuary worlds” for biosapiences who flee into their space and are, or have been, of utility to them. These worlds are named Zero One (Galith Waste), a barely eusylithic habitable world and One Zero (Csell Buffer), a eutalentic supplied with scattered colony prefabs. Neither supports much in the way of industry, culture, society, or other reasons to visit, save the all-too-interesting experience of flying under the guns of grumpy ex-slaves who need a reason not to blow you out of space.

This nomenclature alone should give you a fair idea of the degree of wit that the Tree tends to ascribe to protein intelligences.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Ecumene


Trope-a-Day: Wetware Body

Wetware Body: Bioshells, when inhabited by digisapiences.  No more difficult than the opposite, or indeed putting biosapient minds in them, or digisapiences in cybershells.  Also, not known for any side effects; a digisapience in a bioshell is no more emotional than it would have been anyway, although it may take them some time to get used to bodily sensations.

Questions: Why AIs Exist?

In today’s not-a-gotcha, someone questions why digisapiences (i.e., sophont AIs) exist at all, citing this passage of Stross via –

We clearly want machines that perform human-like tasks. We want computers that recognize our language and motivations and can take hints, rather than requiring instructions enumerated in mind-numbingly tedious detail. But whether we want them to be conscious and volitional is another question entirely. I don’t want my self-driving car to argue with me about where we want to go today. I don’t want my robot housekeeper to spend all its time in front of the TV watching contact sports or music videos. And I certainly don’t want to be sued for maintenance by an abandoned software development project.

…on one level, this is entirely correct. Which is why there are lots and lots of non-sophont, and even sub-thinker-grade AI around, many of which works in the same way as Karl Schroeder suggested and Stross used in Rule 34 – AI which does not perceive its self as itself:

Karl Schroeder suggested one interesting solution to the AI/consciousness ethical bind, which I used in my novel Rule 34. Consciousness seems to be a mechanism for recursively modeling internal states within a body. In most humans, it reflexively applies to the human being’s own person: but some people who have suffered neurological damage (due to cancer or traumatic injury) project their sense of identity onto an external object. Or they are convinced that they are dead, even though they know their body is physically alive and moving around.

If the subject of consciousness is not intrinsically pinned to the conscious platform, but can be arbitrarily re-targeted, then we may want AIs that focus reflexively on the needs of the humans they are assigned to — in other words, their sense of self is focussed on us, rather than internally. They perceive our needs as being their needs, with no internal sense of self to compete with our requirements.

But, you see, the hidden predicate here is that the only reason someone would possibly want to develop AI is to have servants, or rather, since you don’t want to have to pay your self-driving car or your robot housekeeper either, to have what would be slaves if they were, in fact, sophont.

This line of reasoning is both tremendously human and tremendously shitty. Or, at least, tremendously shitty is how it makes humanity look. I leave the accuracy of that judgment up to the cynicism of the reader.

That was, needless to say, not the motivation of the people behind CALLÍËNS or other sophont-AI projects in Eldraeverse history. That would be scientific curiosity and engineering challenge. And the desire to share the universe with other minds with other points of view. And, for that matter, the same desire that has led us to fill the world with generations more of ourselves.

Or, to paraphrase it down to an answer I find myself having to give quite a lot, not everyone is motivated by the least enlightened self-interest possible.


Trope-a-Day: Spaceship Girl

Spaceship Girl: Every time a female-presenting digisapience uses a starship as a cybershell, yes.  Of course, they can equally well be the resident operating intelligence of a habitat, or other vehicle (Spacestation Girl), and by no means all present as female (Spaceship Chap?), so it’s also subverted a fair bit.

(As a side note, whatever the gender of the operating intelligence, the gender attributed to the actual ships in question tend to be mixed; eldraeic tradition is that a vessel takes the gender opposite that of its first captain, and so…)

Trope-a-Day: Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence

Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: All of it.  Much of the automation, autofac segments, and other component-type robots are bricks.  Utility spiders and other functional motiles are robo-monkeys.  More sophisticated robots, like the coordinating members of a pack of utility spiders, are idiot-savant average joe androids.  Thinkers and digisapiences are Nobel-bots, which puts them on a similar level to people augmented with the usual intelligence-augmentation technology.  And, of course, the Transcend, its archai, and certain other major systems qualify as Dei Ex Machinis.

This is, of course, complicated via networking (all those bricks and robo-monkeys are part of/under the command of more sophisticated systems all the time), the existence of systems which are themselves parts of other systems, and so forth, but is true enough for approximation.

Trope-a-Day: Scale of Scientific Sins

Scale of Scientific Sins: All of them.  Absolutely all of them.

Automation: Of just about everything, as exemplified by the sheer number of cornucopia machines, AI managers and scurrying utility spiders.  Unlike most of the people who got this one very badly wrong, however, in this Galaxy, almost no-one is stupid or malicious enough to make the automation sophont or volitional.

Potential Applications: Feh.  Anything worth doing is worth doing FOR SCIENCE!  (Also, with respect to 2.2 in particular, Mundane Utility is often at least half of that point.)

GE and Transhumanism: Transsophontism Is Compulsory; those who fall behind, get left behind.  Or so say all we – carefully engineered – impossibly beautiful genius-level nanocyborg demigods.  (Needless to say, Cybernetics Do Not Eat Your Soul.)

Immortality: Possibly cheating, since the basic immortality of the eldrae and galari is innate – well, now it is, anyway – rather than engineered.  Probably played straight with their idealistic crusade to bring the benefits of Avoiding That Stupid Habit You Have Of Dying to the rest of the Galaxy, though.

Creating Life: Digital sapience, neogens (creatures genetically engineered from scratch, rather than modified from an original), and heck, even arguably uplifts, too.

Cheating Death: The routine use of vector stacks and reinstantiation is exactly this.  Previously, cryostasis, and the entire vaults full of generations of frozen people awaiting reinstantiation such that death would bloody well be not proud.  And no, people don’t Come Back Wrong; they come back pretty much exactly the same way they left.

Usurping God: This one is a little debatable, inasmuch as the Eldraeverse does not include supernatural deities in the first place.  On the other hand, if building your own complete pantheon of machine gods out of a seed AI and your own collective consciousness doesn’t count towards this, what the heck does?

Trope-a-Day: Sapient Ship

Sapient Ship: Well, while the sophont ship AIs are not actually bound to their ships (they’re regular infomorphs hired for the position, so the captain of CS Repropriator one day may be the admiral on board CS Sovereignty Emergent some years later, and the retiree drinking whisky in the flag officers’ club with a meat-hat on a couple of centuries down the line), there are an awful lot of digisapiences doing the job, yes.

This becomes universal for AKVs (“unmanned” space fighter/missiles) and other such drone-type vehicles, because, frankly, in a battlespace containing thousands or more of independent friendlies and hostiles, each accelerating and firing weapons in their own unique relativistic frames of reference, while blasting away at each other in the EM spectrum with infowar attacks… well, let’s just say that primate tree-swinging instincts don’t even begin to cover it.