I almost forgot about AI characters

In my (still-being-written) Sundog novel, the ship itself is sentient. As the novel explains here:

Interestingly, the same technology that gave humanity hyperdrive also made artificial intelligence – always close, always elusive – actually possible. It turned out that intelligence of any form was a sub-dimensional quantum effect as well. But – singularity proponents notwithstanding – there appeared to be an inherent upper limit to intelligence. An AI could have access to great computational power, great data stores – but the actual intelligence, the actual ability to conceive and comprehend and abstract, quickly hit diminishing returns. AIs (or “heyayes” as they became universally known) were very, very smart, but they were not superhuman.

This, of course, raises the question of why aren’t all interstellar traders simply AIs? Here are a few more excerpts that discuss this question:

=Yes. So interstellar trading can be done, and profits can be made, but it takes someone willing to face all the risks involved. That is not common in any species.=

“Why not just use hayayes like yourself, or cheap labor?”

=Artificial intelligences are relatively rare and expensive. They depend upon the same quantum technologies behind jump drives and quantum stasis. The attempt has been made with AI-only traders, but the ships always disappear after a few runs. No one is quite sure why.

=As for the cheap labor, as you put it — there are upper and lower bounds on the size of a jump ship. Lower bounds, because the jump mechanism does not lend itself to miniaturization. Upper bounds, because the drift effect increases sharply with the mass being jumped, as does the fuel required. The labor — the person guiding the ship — is not the bottleneck; it is the overall size of the ship itself. The problems that can arise — pirates, failed jumps, unexpected drift, decisions regarding buying and selling goods, repairing the ship — all call for a small crew of bright, independent sapients, not cheap labor. In our case, that crew is you and me.=

Furthermore, as Sundog-the-ship explains here to Jace, trading has to be done in person and by actual sapients:

=Not quite. Every spaceport has a standardized trade exchange, and that is where all buying and selling must take place. In person.=

“Wait — so I have to physically go there? To the trade exchange? Is this old Earth or something?” Jace ran his hands over his clothing, making sure everything was in place and functioning. “I mean, why isn’t this all just done via comtech? Back in the mines, we just ordered stuff on the feeds and it showed up in our sleep pods or our lockers.”

=Too many ways to spoof, intercept, and cheat. Plus there are the communications and cultural difficulties among species. Also, heyayes are not permitted on the trading floor. You will find that advanced tech actually means a lot of things have to be done in person; physical presence with the corresponding physical risk is, in effect, the enabling function of any financial transaction.=

The game key here is that AIs are “relatively rare and expensive”. This suggests that with sufficient technology, you as Elare can craft an AI to serve on ships or to help out for local colony management. It strikes me that AIs should be treated like other characters, but with certain differences in range, scope, and types of talents — which is true of alien races as well.

Filed Under: BackstoryCharactersMainModeling

About the Author

Webster has been doing game design since 1980, but only has one actual published game to his credit -- Sundog: Frozen Legacy (Apple II, 1984; Atari ST, 1985). This is his second.

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