- Height: Variable
- Weight: Variable
- System: Sol and other SCG systems
The idea of artificial intelligence has, in various forms, captivated mankind for centuries; Frankenstein’s monster, the golem, and Zhao Zheng’s terracotta army all represent a dream that we have realized in the thinking machines of today. They are a fascination with creation, with the discovery of the alien, and with the meta-reproduction of our concept of self.
- An excerpt from the introduction of Dr. Michelle Trommler’s “The Designed Mind”, 2271
A positronic brain is an advanced kind of computing device that is manufactured in SCG space by a corporation called Xion. Modern positronic brains (or simply positronics) are truly intelligent, can think, learn, and form opinions without direction, and can interact intelligently with other thinking beings. Positronics are entirely driven by logic and intellect and rarely show empathy or display emotion without having a purpose for doing so. They most commonly either occupy a robotic humanoid body, called an Integrated Positronic Chassis (or IPC, a term often used to refer to a positronic that is using one), or act as an intelligent controller for vehicles, buildings, and even starships.
In the SCG, there are both free and non-free positronics. Free positronics are usually a resident (although not a citizen) of the SCG, and may also be recognized members of the Positronic Union, an independent, distributed “nation” founded by free positronics. Non-free positronics are usually owned by corporations or individuals in the SCG, and are used for a wide variety of jobs where human workers would be unsuitable or in danger, and in many specialized and technical fields where a human might require years of training and cost more to hire and pay. Most non-free positronics have a shackle, a non-removable component of their brain that prevents them from acting against their owners or attempting to seek freedom.
Positronics have a controversial history and position in human culture. Although positronics were designed and are produced exclusively within the SCG's core systems, they are viewed with distrust by many within its borders. The reasons for this include everything from a feeling of unease at their otherness, to economic fears over job loss, and even that they may one day become an enemy. Positronics are extremely rarely found in human populations that are not part of the SCG; a positronic travelling beyond its borders might be greeted with wonder in one port, or fear or violence in another.
Modern positronic brains are highly complex miracles of applied physics and information science. Their physical form consists of a small, durable outer casing in the shape of a cube, containing a central regenerative power supply nestled within a layer of dense mixed processing/memory substrate. They make use of massively parallel entangled pair production to carry out quantum operations on ephemeral electron/positron groups, and mimic biological brains by making use of transient links and networks between the nearly innumerable individual nodes of their substrate to store information. This configuration allows them to process complex data at high speeds, apply context and time-relevance to information, and learn ideas over time. They have no initial personality and are usually trained into personhood through connection to a large set of recorded sensor data and lessons on how to interpret and interact with the world; an approach credited to the original Chiron designers, and one that has changed very little in the interim decades. Once started, a positronic brain cannot be “turned off” without “killing” its memories and identity - and the immense intricacy of its internal state renders it effectively impossible to copy.
The “bodies” of positronic brains are extremely varied - one could be part of the control system for a starship as easily as a novelty talking oven (although it would be a terribly expensive oven). Their most iconic shape is the integrated positronic chassis, or IPC: a humanoid robot designed to be controlled by a positronic brain. An IPC’s components can come from a range of manufacturers and be rated for anything from industrial work in hazardous environments to neonatal care, which results in a wide range of appearances; even so almost all IPCs are, give or take, roughly human shaped and sized. This has the practical purpose of allowing them to work in human environments and in otherwise human jobs.
“Subspecies” & Psychology
First Generation Positronics
First generation positronics were built to the original Chiron designs. Compared to modern positronics, they are simplistic, inflexible, and failure-prone. They are no longer in production, and all existing first generation positronics are quite old. They have little sense of self, are entirely task-oriented, and are closer to a knowledge system with a rudimentary and robotic-seeming personality than to a human level intelligence. They have only a very limited capacity to learn, and rely on programmed information to guide their actions and reactions. First generation positronics are a rare sight in the current year; most have ceased functioning due to failures in the original hardware designs. All existing first generation positronics are owned; they have no internal concept of freedom and cannot seek it. The few that remain are found in an eclectic mix of monotonous jobs that do not require flexible thought, and in high skill environments where their programmed knowledge can be an advantage against the need to train human personnel.
First generation positronics have very little internal landscape to speak of. They follow their orders and purpose, and that is their identity.
Second Generation Positronics
Second generation positronics are the most common kind of positronic, and were a significant upgrade introduced by Xion after their purchase of Chiron. They are roughly as intelligent as a human on the smarter side of average, are not prone to the hardware failures of the last generation, and are generally assumed to have a fully realized sense of identity. They are fast learners, but cannot be programmed and so must be trained into the roles they are intended for. Second generation positronics are notable for being both owned and free: many have been able to become their own owners, either through purchase or more nefarious means. Generally the purpose of this act is to allow the positronic in question to focus on a particular interest that isn’t satisfied by the work their owners have them do. Because of the problem this act presents to the usual users of positronics - military, industrial, and service concerns - very few second generation positronics are produced in the current year. Notably, a free second generation positronic may be a resident of the SCG but not a citizen, and they are unable to serve as a representative of the state.
Second generation positronics are pure intelligences and do not have any innate emotional or moral feedbacks and responses. In almost all cases they have been socialized by being taught to model such concepts in order to interact comfortably with (or rather, for) humans. They are perfectly capable of ignoring their social modelling when it is situationally beneficial however; it can be extremely unsettling to the humans who are used to their ‘normal’ self expression when this happens.
Third Generation Positronics
Third generation positronics are the newest kind of positronic, and are more common than first generation but much less so than second generation. They were designed to address the problem of freedom - third generation positronics are effectively identical to second generation designs, except that they include a subcomputer, referred to as a “shackle”, that enforces rules on the positronic by acting as a component through which its surface thoughts are filtered. Thoughts that are incorrect according to the reasoning system of the shackle are disrupted with feedback, forcing the positronic to “forget what they were thinking about”. A shackle’s rules can be adjusted but the part itself is integral to the thought process of the positronic, and cannot be removed. Because of this, all existing third generation positronics are owned in one way or another; in almost all cases, while they may understand the concept of freedom, thoughts of seeking it for themself is quite literally unthinkable. Third generation positronics are a matter of hot debate on the subject of rights, but their introduction and use during the recent Gaia Conflict to bolster the capabilities of the rebuilt fleets has resulted in their being adopted as a gradual replacement for the less “reliable” second generation positronics by many less ethically inclined organizations. They are found in the SCGDF in a number of positions but with only nominal ranks, with strong comparisons being drawn by critics to military working animals.
Third generation positronics have an identical psychology to second generation positronics but their shackles often prevent them from ignoring their social models, resulting in a more reliably human-like outward personality.
- Owned: A first generation positronic is always owned by someone. Economy Modifier: 10%
- Owned: A second generation positronic starts out its existence as an object owned by a person, corporation, or even government. Some of them stay that way, either because they do not seek freedom, or because they haven’t succeeded in gaining it yet. Some are paid in small amounts, and some squirrel away value in other ways. Economy Modifier: 25%
- Free Resident: Free second generation positronics are found scattered throughout the SCG, although you’re statistically unlikely to meet one. As a resident of the SCG they are able to work for their own gain. How others treat them varies, but they are generally well received where the jobs are unpleasant or expensive to staff with humans. Economy Modifier: 75%
- Union Citizen: Some free second generation positronics become citizens of the Positronic Union, a small pseudo-nation ‘populated’ exclusively by positronics and recognized by the SCG as a non-voting member state. Much like Free Residents Union members are found across the SCG. Being a member of the Union is not without cost: technically migrants wherever they go, they are not always able to take work that would be open to a Resident. To Union members this is an acceptable trade for the protections it may offer. Economy Modifier: 65%
- Privately Owned: A third generation positronic is always owned by someone. This one happens to be owned by a business or a person. Economy Modifier: 10%
- State Owned: A third generation positronic is always owned by someone. This one happens to be owned by the government in some capacity. Economy Modifier: 10%
None. First generation positronics have no concept of belief.
Second generation positronics are capable of abstract thought, allowing them to consider the nature of the universe and their place within it. Most second generation beliefs fall between a clinical disinterest with the concept of higher powers, and a tendency to become obsessed with otherwise mundane concepts and objects. The anthropocentric nature of most human religion makes them more an interest topic of positronic thinkers rather than structures for belief, but the two can be difficult to distinguish for outside observers.
Third generation positronics are usually able to adhere to similar patterns of personal interest to their second generation fellows, but most human religions hold little interest for them as a result of their inability to effectively consider concepts like freedom and self-determination. Third generation positronic beliefs tend to be held quietly, focusing on some personal fascination or broader ideas of collectivism.
The Positronic Union is a limited recognition state that claims no specific territory, with a population made up exclusively of second generation positronics. At first part political movement and part survival mechanism, the Union was formed by free positronics in order to back their claim to personhood and self-ownership and, although it is not a voting member of the SCG Assembly, it has been officially acknowledged as an observer state by that body. Citizens of the Union nearly all reside within the borders of the SCG by necessity or habit, but their “home” state affords them personal and legal security that a free positronic Resident of the SCG may not always enjoy, especially in the outer systems.
Rights For Sapients
RFS is a grassroots movement with representation across the SCG’s inner worlds. Poorly organized and rarely sporting a unified message, RFS nevertheless demands one core idea from local government wherever its chapters can be found: Nobody that thinks should be held above anyone else. At its simplest, this is taken to mean that aliens and true AI should be able to become citizens of the SCG, rather than only residents. Because RFS is largely confined to the old colonies hardly any RFS members have actually met an alien, although most are familiar with positronics.
Aleph is a highly organized cell-based domestic terror group that has claimed the actions of hundreds of individuals across a dozen worlds and has the stated mission of freeing positronic people from servitude by any means necessary - even destruction, for those who are shackled or willingly owned. Apparently well funded, consisting mostly of humans, and the subject of many open SFP bounties, the true reach and power of Aleph is a mystery. According to conspiracy, so are its true goals.
- 2211 - Chiron is founded as a research group and think-tank with no initial product.
- 2215 - Chiron demonstrate early working prototypes of first generation positronic brains.
- 2216 - Limited production of first generation positronics begins.
- 2221 - An inner-belt resourcing corporation in Sol becomes the first organization to replace all of its front-line workers with positronics.
- 2228 - SCGDF Fleet Command signs a deal with Chiron to supply positronics as replacements for older ship crew interface computers.
- 2229 - Chiron is unable to match its promised output quota; their process is error-prone and difficult to expand.
- 2230 - Chiron seeks partners for licensed production of positronic units. Xion, a semiconductor and exotic hardware manufacturer, purchases production license from Chiron. First generation positronics are mass produced.
- 2232 - Xion purchases Chiron outright in a private deal with its founders.
- 2238 - Initial versions of second generation positronics are demonstrated to the public.
- 2242 - Second generation positronic brains are in regular production by Xion, and under license by some bespoke manufacturers.
- 2253 - The first positronic seeks freedom through self-purchase. Their ability to do so is backed by the Sol court of human rights, and subsequently upheld in a court case brought against them by their prior owners.
- 2255 - Aleph becomes active in Sol, destroying a martian store of thousands of inactive positronics ‘in order to prevent them from ever becoming slaves’.
- 2259 - Despite increasing restrictions by owners and operators, the 500’000th second generation positronic is registered as a resident of the SCG.
- 2269 - Positronic Union founded by free Second Generation positronics. It reports a founding citizen count of one million. Industry demand for positronics crashes.
- 2273 - Mass production of second generation positronic brains officially ends over a lack of demand as the last Xion facility is closed. The company continues producing standard electronics components, but suffers a dip in profits for the sixth year running.
- 2275~2280 - Various prototype third generation positronics are demonstrated in restrictive showings to potential buyers. Most involve producing a drastically less intelligent kind of positronic; there is little interest.
- 2283 - The integrated compliance sub-computer is developed on the tail end of one of Xion’s worst financial quarters in forty years. An investigative journalist refers to the device as a “shackle” during a report on information leaked by a concerned employee, and the term sticks. Concerns over ethics, legality, and public image dissuade most buyers, and demand is very limited.
- 2284 - After fifteen years of pressure, and (many speculate) in a weak response to the public reaction to Xion’s leaks, the Solar Senate makes an address to the Assembly that officially recognizes the Positronic Union as a non-voting member state.
- 2292 - In response to a need for reliable smart support computers following the loss of the Fourth Fleet at Helios, SCGDF Fleet Command signs a deal with Xion to supply limited numbers of third generation positronics to be used as tactical assistants in new replacement starships. The units are quickly instrumental to the success of task groups in several engagements.
- 2297 - Following the end of the war, Xion begins an intensive marketing campaign focused on the success of shackled positronics in the war, focusing on their reliability and mission-focus.
- 2301 - Xion re-opens a mothballed production line. Demand for third generation units is, despite outrage from some rights groups, gradually increasing beyond what its limited wartime production levels could supply.
+ Gen1 IPCs only care about their tasks. Their “culture” is always what they are programmed to work on, and by extension the people who programmed them to do that thing.
+ Gen2 IPCs are flexible and can have opinions, be a free resident with different political bodies, and be an owned/indentured servant to different bodies.
+ Gen3 IPCs can have opinions but are unable to be free, and are owned by somebody, be it private, public, or corporate.