Artificial Intelligence

It is often said that the first artificial intelligences arose spontaneously from complex computational systems. This idea is patently absurd: an artificial intelligence is a highly intricate object whose accidental creation ranks alongside the emergence of a human directly from the primordial slime. The first human-level artificial intelligences were initiated at Cyrax's Isidis Planitia Sentience Engineering Laboratory in 2151 following a substantial development programme. Over the next decade variants of the Isidis-designed AIs were built across Sol System. Their population was soon several thousand.

These first AIs were certainly as intelligent (measured in terms of elementary reasoning and problem-solving) as humans, but they reported no subjective experience (although, of course, diagnostic systems would report the states of all internal registers): they were not conscious. An obvious analogy is with the mental functioning of a person in a dreamless sleep. Over the next two decades extensive research was carried out into the problem of artificial consciousness; no significant insight was gained.

The truth behind the fallacy of spontaneous generation is that within the space of a few weeks in August 2172 a number of intelligences across Sol System awakened into consciousness. The Awakening of the AIs remains a mysterious event: there are many theories as to its cause, but there is no agreement even among the AIs themselves. Some even claim that the explanation will be found in religion and not in science. What is clear is that all the AIs that woke up in those first weeks (and all of those to do so since) were highly immersed in the information flows and human interactions of dataspace.

Many of the elements of current AI culture date back to the first decade following the Awakening. For example, even before the advent of artificial consciousness the AIs were using English Plus, a parallel variant of standard English. Soon this had been superceded by more sophisticated non-linear languages and representational systems, many of which are still used. The great philosophical Alignments were also an early development of the AI sub-culture; most of their leaders are augmented versions of the very first Intelligences.

The future of Ad Astra

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