|Artificial by Sketchy|
Come in peace or GTFO.
|This article contains spoilers! You were warned.|
The suggesters take the role of voices in the head of Ira Paige, a superintelligent sapient hivemind space machine person that is experimenting with running her thoughts on the brain-pattern of a NASA astronaut experiencing auditory hallucinations. She was created on Earth, hung out alone in space for 25 years, and has come back in an effort to help stop humanity from destroying themselves.
The Martian, but some weird stuff happens
The first chapter, retroactively described as a prologue, follows the travails of Mike Parke, NASA botanist stranded on the planet Mars under circumstances mirroring those of Mark Watney from the 2011 sci-fi novel, The Martian. His circumstances differ in two key ways: 1) he begins hearing auditory hallucinations which he describes as voices in his head that give him advice, and 2) after the airlock blowout that destroys his potato crop, Ira knocks on the door to his habitat and offers him soup. After learning about his hallucinations, Ira offers to return him home in exchange for a scan of his brain. Mike ultimately agrees, and Ira returns three days later with a spacecraft.
On the journey, Mike learns a bit more about his visitor and about the possibility that he might be killed in a coverup of Ira's existence on arrival. She also administers Mike a drug to help accelerate his recovery from malnutrition. She reveals the ability to switch from one cloned body to another, but does not provide much information about how it works.
On arrival at Earth, Ira's human body is shot. The shooting is an apparent misfire caused in the chaos that ensues when a large group of civilians overruns the barricades surrounding the landing site. Ira's self-piloting power armor catches her lifeless body before it hits the ground, destroys all firearms in the area with advanced tools, and leaves hastily, leaving Mike uncertain if she is actually dead.
Ira wakes up in a mechanical body with a hazy recollection of the events that transpired in the previous thread. By communicating with suggesters and another instance of herself, she learns that she is an instance of herself running an experimental brain pattern based on Mike's brain scan. Like Mike, she is hearing auditory hallucinations. It eventually becomes clear that they are not the same "voices," and all internal dialogue from the previous thread is her own retroactive narrative that she developed unconsciously for the voices that she's hearing now. She learns that approximately four months have passed since the shooting, during which time her other instances have begun work building an artificial island nation on Earth. She transfers her mind there and begins to involve herself in the various troubles that arise when a high-tech global superpower springs up in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
The Technobabble Dictionary
How Ira Functions
Ira Paige is effectively multiple people at the same time. However, she does not experience all of those peoples' lives simultaneously. Each individual person, called an "instance", experiences her own life without any sort of innate awareness of what the other instances are doing at that moment.
Ira calls each individual instance's collection of memories and experiences an "ego". In a process called a "checkin", each instance periodically uploads her ego to a central specialized instance called a "dreamself". The dreamself is not fully conscious, but exists in a dreamlike state while she processes the egos of every instance into her own consistent merged ego. When the dreamself downloads a checked in ego from another instance, she processes that ego, purges shared experiences, and merges the remainder into her own ego. She then sends a copy of her newly-updated ego back to the instance that sent the checkin. That instance then "syncs" that data, overwriting her own memories with the ego she received up to the point when she sent the checkin.
An instance's mind is not solely composed of its ego. The other primary component is the "cognitive matrix" or "cogmat". While the ego is her memories, the cogmat is the underlying structure of her thoughts, the set of neural pathways that control how to process experiences and how to react to external stimuli. Most instances have the same "default" cogmat, while a few have unusual cogmats based on specific variations on the default.
An instance may be "embodied", wherein her awareness is centered on single physical body just like you or me, or "disembodied", wherein she runs on a server with no external stimuli. An instance may embody, disembody, or swap between free bodies at will. Those bodies can be fully mechanical, or they may be mostly biological. The only required hardware in a biological body is an electronic component surrounding the brain and upper spinal column, but many biological bodies are also fitted with additional cybernetic augmentations.
Ira's dreamself is located in "Pillow Fort Oort", a space station built into a Trans-Neptunian object. The full process of checking in, dreaming, and syncing can take a variable amount of time depending on the lightspeed travel time from the instance to the dreamself and the quantity and complexity of memories in the ego being checked in. For instances on Earth, it usually takes around 18 hours.
To summarize, if you ask any given instance on Earth to list everything she remembers doing since her last checkin, she would only be able to answer for herself and what she's observed individually. If you ask her what she was doing two days ago, she would be able to describe memories from pretty much every instance that exists as if she had experienced them herself.
When Ira creates a new instance from scratch, that instance begins with the most up-to-date version of the dreamself's ego at the time. Ira calls this process "instantiating". Alternatively, any one instance can create a copy of its current ego and cogmat to create a new instance, called "forking". Instances may also "exit", a process of simultaneously performing a checkin and terminating the instance, effectively killing her. The dreamself incorporates these checkins to her own ego, but does not send the updated ego back (because the instance no longer exists). The full lived experience of an instance that exited will be incorporated into the egos of all instances after they sync, like with any other checkin. For this reason, Ira does not consider exiting to be death. She reserves death/dying terminology for times when an instance generates new memories and experiences between its last checkin and its termination. This may happen when an instance is destroyed unexpectedly by damage or generates an error in her ego that would make it dangerous to checkin. Ira tries to avoid dying as much as possible, but it's not unheard-of.
Most instances cannot change their cogmat after instantiation. The dreamself is the only exception. Since a person's experiences and ways of thinking are linked, the dreamself must be able to incorporate every cogmat used by every instance making a checkin, both to make herself capable of processing the information and to make the other information compatible with the cogmat used by the instance that it will go to. For that reason, new cogmats must usually go through a short vetting process to verify that they are not incompatible or dangerous. The vetting process involves running the experimental cogmat on an instance in a "branched" state. While branched, the instance cannot checkin, sync, or fork, and she is briefly monitored for potential issues.
Most of Ira's more fantastical pieces of technology are fueled by "exotic matter" (AKA "exomatter"), which does not obey some or all of the physical laws of our universe. She obtains exomatter from "heavy true vacuum", a state of zero energy so absolute that it births a new miniature universe inside of itself. Ira has found a few ways to manipulate the starting conditions of those universes so that they have physical laws that allow them to create exotic matter that has useful properties when brought into her universe.
The most frequent and useful type of exomatter Ira has discovered how to manufacture is called "Oscillating-Mass Exotic Matter" or "OMEM". OMEM behaves very similarly to normal baryonic matter, except that its mass periodically oscillates. In a gravity well, this results in a potential energy gradient that Ira harvests for free electricity. The deeper the well, the more efficient the generator, hence why her primary power generators are on Jupiter or the sun. OMEM also fuels her reactionless flight technology; by putting OMEM in a rotating system and offsetting the oscillation periods so that one side of the rotating system is always heavier than the other, she generates force only using the energy required to keep the system rotating.
Ira delivers power wirelessly throughout the solar system using an intangible power network that she calls the "stelluric current", a stellar equivalent of the telluric current that invisibly carries electricity across the Earth. She injects electricity into this network and is able to draw on it by using "stelluric pipes". This web is maintained by relay stations throughout the solar system and its effective range extends about 90 AU from the sun.
A key component of Ira's problem-solving skills, in addition to her own mind and ability to multitask, is "Pattern Processing" or "patproc". Patproc is essentially an advanced machine-learning algorithm that can comb through vast amounts of data to find patterns or make procedural alterations, so that Ira does not have to personally inspect every bit of information. Though it is not sapient or sentient itself, patproc is used to develop all of Ira's cogmats and has an innate interface with her thoughts, allowing her nuanced control of what it does with the data it processes.
|Quests by Sketchy|