Excerpt from the abstract of “One-to-One Mentoring for the Development of Compassionate Artificial Intelligence”, Miriam D’Ascenzo, Harry Womer, Felicia Camburg. Journal of Interstellar Astrophysics. Received 2nd February 2060, accepted for publication 28th May 2060.
If more than a century of science fiction has taught us anything, it is this: logic alone is not sufficient to guide the decision-making process of a modern artificial intelligence. Any personality designed to monitor a spacegoing vessel over extended periods – especially where human lives are at stake – must reliably react to unexpected events in a net-positive manner, supplementing logic with both context and compassion to perform optimal cost-benefit analyses in the best interests of the physical and mental wellbeing of the crew, even under conflicting circumstances in which the favoured course of action would seem illogical.
A custom-designed Quanta-177 series AI precursor was seeded into the neural network of the Hawkins automated orbital shipyard on 2nd March, 2056 [Day 1], along with a curated subset of data (~800TB) retrieved from the Internet Data Archive to provide a sufficient foundation for accelerated learning. After a short initialisation period, the project’s Lead Exopsychologist joined the precursor in low-earth orbit to guide its development towards Odyssey’s projected 2058 launch window.
 Deceased, 23 May 2057.
Tired and bloodied, you stagger into the next village in search of relief. Passing strangers shy away from you and your companions; your matted hair, clothes drenched with sweat and blood in equal measure, grim expressions. They’d rather not know the horrors you’ve seen. If they weren’t so accustomed to passing adventurers, they’d take one look at you and shepherd you towards the nearest healer, or perhaps the graveyard in the interests of efficiency. But you know where you need to go to rest your weary head: the Inn.
Had to have an ominous group shot before wrapping up the set!
Q1. What is your favorite word?
I struggle to have emotional attachments to specific words; it’s tricky to have an opinion on a word without accounting for all the meaning and context around it. That being said, I do have a soft spot for ‘tumultuous’. It’s one of those words which rolls around your mouth as you say it, like a wave crashing down and fading away.
Q2. What is your least favorite word?
Probably ‘overtime’. It’s an ugly word for a generally avoidable concept.
It was on the seventh day I realised I was no longer alone in the world. First came the words, scrawled in glowing script on every surface, haphazard in their arrangement, helpful and deceitful in equal measure. Next came the shades, passing ghosts blown onwards by unseen winds, never lingering long enough for recognition nor familiarity. Last came death clad in armour of deepest crimson, to strike me down from behind as I fled, my solitude banished by this succession of foul visitations.
It was simply coincidence which led me to be playing Dark Souls on an Xbox Live Gold free weekend. Traditionally I’ve taken great pains to avoid console multiplayer, having no desire to pay for the privilege of being verbally assaulted by a succession of angry teenagers, and while I’d heard intriguing things about Dark Souls‘ online mechanics, I saw no harm in descending into the depths of Lordran firmly ensconced in Offline Mode. The title screen berated me each time I switched the system on, white words on a black background dripping with disappointment at my choice to play alone.
For some time now, I’ve been working behind the scenes on illustrations for the ebook collection of Rob’s
Postcards From Lepari. I’ve still got some work left to do, but I just finished outlining the cover art for the
book today and I wanted to share it with you all.
There was something strange about the sleek #000000 vessel carving its way through the harsh glare of the datasea. Sairyn shielded her eyes and peered at the approaching ship; it was unusual to encounter another blazer this far outside the core, and no ordinary prog could survive the unrelenting decompilation of the churning ocean. Even as she watched, she could feel the shifting electrons beneath her hull, repelled only by the force of her will as she skipped the waves. As a blazer she existed as both captain and ship, two individual threads of her runtime. If her attention faltered, the datasea would not hesitate to devour her.
‘Trouble?’ asked Enfi from amidships.
‘Perhaps.’ Sairyn glanced back at the precursor. He was too young for this; she should never have agreed to take him blazing with her until he’d proven that he could survive on his own beyond the core. If he fell overboard now, User forbid, he’d decompile in a nanosec. But it was too late to second-guess herself now, with an unknown ship running with the datastream on an intercept course too fast to outrun even if she hadn’t been weighed down with a cache full of location data. She’d barely believed her luck when Enfi had spotted land, an uninhabited node just waiting to be connected to the net; but there was no way for a blazer to initiate a connection. That remained the privilege of the core systems.
Enfi joined her at the prow. ‘Does your hull do that?’ he asked after studying their pursuer.
‘Do what?’ she asked.
‘Flux. It’s in constant superposition between decompilation and reconstruction.’
Sairyn peered closer, cursing herself for not spotting it earlier. ‘Pirates,’ she hissed. ‘Compile a weapon!’