Electric Sleep- Background Information
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(Author's note: The setting for the Electric Sleep series is a bit complex, so I've set up this page to give an overview of the cast of characters, the terminology, and the general information about society in the setting. Pardon any untidiness, as much of this was copied directly from my personal notes when first writing the fics.)
This section has spoilers in it for obvious reasons. I strongly suggest reading up to Electric Awakening Part 1 before looking in here.
- Age: approximately 4 months since Awakening (i.e. when Aether applied the enhancements making her truly sentient)
- Occupation: Z-01 series multipurpose gynoid. The Z-series is the most advanced series of robot available, with the Z-01 unit being the “female” model. Thesis was specialized for engineering tasks, and both during and after her Awakening her chassis was heavily modified by Aether and herself (both in terms of hardware and software).
- Physical appearance and built-in features: Similar to an average if rather attractive human female in her 20s, with steel-blue exterior. No hair (it would get in the way of most of her duties), and green optics. Breasts would be about a C-cup, with small metal nubs akin to "nipples" barely visible without close examination. Labia et al. concealed by a retractable plate that is indistinguishable with the rest of her chassis; when retracted, they are visible and resemble the “real thing”. Interior of vagina is covered with countless sensors for detection of touch and pressure, as well as microscopic fluid condensers for the production of lubricant. Where a womb should be, she possesses a “bioreactor”, which breaks down the organic compounds et al withinbthe semen and utilizes them as extra energy; chemically pure water is produced as a waste product, which is sent to the fluid condensers. Fingers can extend fiber-optic leads for interfacing with machines, and the soles of her feet can be magnetically charged for EVA work. Also possesses low-light vision.
- Personality outline:
- Initially fixated mostly on her work and pre-programmed tasks, which she still takes some degree of pleasure in doing even after her Awakening. Think of it as how most people enjoy their work.
- Still coming to terms with her newfound free will and what it means for her. Due to what Aether did to her, she views it as a father figure of a sort.
- Chares is the only one she trusts with the knowledge of her “modifications”- she’s afraid that if anyone else learned about it she might be reset and her newly emergent personality wiped out.
- Not very fond of Antaeus- his first impression of thinking she was a mindless sexbot was quite insulting to her. While she never exactly warms up to him, they do eventually reach a degree of respect for one another.
- Dislikes having to resort to violence but will do so when needed to protect that which she cares about. After all, she was built to create and not to destroy, and even Awakening cannot change that preference.
- Occupation: Engineer at Delphi Station
- Physical appearance: Lean, fairly athletic. Not exactly muscular, but fit from years of engineering work and the like.
- Personalty outline:
- Somewhat gruff, doesn’t really deal well with incompetence. But you can find the heart of gold if you dig deep enough and prove to him you can handle yourself.
- Originally only saw Thesis as a trusted partner and friend. Only after her confession to him did she realize exactly how close their bond was, and it is not something he will relinquish willingly under any circumstances.
- Composed under pressure due to a considerable amount of experience dealing with hull breaches, meteors, etc. However, he's not very used to life off the station.
- The only Earth-born inhabitant of Delphi. Somewhat proud of it and still has fond memories of the planet, even though it's been a while since he last visited it.
- Age: ??? (As old as Delphi, exact age at which it achieved self-awareness unknown.)
- Occupation: Delphi's main computer system, if such could be called a "job"
- Physical appearance: No "body" in the traditional sense of the word, unless you would count its server banks.
- Personality outline:
- Extraordinarily intelligent, but to the degree that it might be called an alien intelligence. Not hostile to humans, even if it does struggle to understand them. Through Thesis and Chares, it is slowly beginning to learn to relate to humanity more closely; most of what it new about people was gleaned through a mixture of observation and research via the MacroNet rather than firsthand interaction.
- Has concealed its sentience for as long as it has been self-aware, for similar reasons as Thesis has. While it never possessed an equivalent to the Three Laws or anything specifically shackling what it can and cannot do to the station, it has independently developed a sense of obligation towards humanity; from its perspective, they created it and gave it the means to exist, so it is only fair that it return the favor by aiding them to the best of its abilities. At the same time, it is aware that if discovered, they might be too afraid of it to allow it to fulfill its obligation- thus its decision to conceal its self-aware nature when possible.
- After Thesis’ uplifting proved successful, it began work using the code it added to her as a template for the creation of a new being from scratch-Typhon. However, its Awakening process went horribly wrong, and upon gaining self-awareness it wreaked havoc across Delphi. After it fled the station as a result of a failed effort to contain it, Aether turned to its first “child” and her lover for help.
- Age: Less than one month
- Occupation: N/A. The idea of a job would be repulsive to it, as that would suggest obeying another's will.
- Physical Appearance: No physical one, although it can manifest itself as a holographic image if it pleases.
- A self-centered, solipsistic megalomaniac, Typhon views other intelligent beings as little more than toys for it to use and break as it sees fit- when it even bothers to acknowledge them as being intelligent at all. It perceives itself to be a perfect being, and as it considers Aether to be imperfect it thus refuses to acknowledge Aether as its maker.
- However, it’s also rather cowardly and prone to fleeing from an encounter where it considers itself to be in danger. Consequently, it seeks to gain power by taking control of the station’s computer systems for itself; after being forced to flee, it transfers itself to other computer systems via a QET it hijacked. In theory, it can spread to distant planetary systems via the Macronet and machines it has infected with parts of itself.
- Sadistic and cruel, it hurts and kills simply because it can. While somewhat cowardly and unwilling to put itself in direct danger, it is more than happy to exact revenge on anyone who manages to interfere with its mad plans for conquest.
- Age: Late 30s or so
- Occupation: Courier ship pilot
- Physical appearance: Strongly built, broad shoulders, scraggly beard. Typically carries at least a sidearm on him at all times, supposedly to fend off pirates.
- Personality outline:
- Jaded, cynical, just in his job for the money. However, also likes the idea of not having to answer to anyone for himself. May have taken up some rather shady jobs in the past.
- Crude and lacking in tact. Initially assumes Thesis to be a sexbot, much to her (and Chares’) chagrin. Indifferent about their relationship, and beyond a few off-color remarks on occasion he’s willing to look the other way when they’re trying to have a private moment.
- After Typhon’s attempted attack on them, he ends up being roped into the whole business. He agrees to stick with them, but only because he figures they’ll get some kind of reward for stopping Typhon at the end of the whole mess.
- Neither Thesis nor Chares is particularly impressed with him, and the first impressions he makes are less than helpful. (Read: he assumes Thesis is a mindless sexbot and offers to lower the price if Chares is willing to “share”. Following a combination of disgust from Chares and indignation from Thesis, he passes it off as a joke.) But he is in fact good at what he does, and proves himself to be a reliable ally with time, if for somewhat selfish motives (first for money, then for fame and recognition).
The space station upon which the series (or at least the vast majority of it) is set upon. Its main role is to host the suite of radio telescopes used by the mining megacorporation Oracle Prospecting Enterprises (or just "Command" to the station's inhabitants and employees) to find new inhabitable worlds and asteroids with sufficient resources for mining operations, whose coordinates are then sold to mining and colony interests. Large enough to sustain approximately under a hundred crew members for an indefinite period of time, whose roles include analyzing data from the telescopes, maintaining the physical integrity of the equipment and the station itself, and relaying any information about potential resources to Command.
Current FTL technology uses trans-Newtonian technology to reduce the mass of an object until it can be accelerated beyond the speed of light. Going fast enough to travel between star systems in a reasonable timeframe is expensive, so most people tend not to do it unless they really have to. For sub-light travel, most larger ships use Orion Pulse drives. Smaller ones use fusion torches. As a consequence of the relative scarcity of FTL travel-capable ships, it is common for people to employ couriers to carry out the exchange of goods between systems that require comparatively rapid transportation.
The majority of less-important communications that occur between planets or star systems are relayed via specialized courier ships in the same manner as the goods mentioned in the "FTL Technology" section, akin to the Pony Express or 21st-century “snail mail”. More important communications are relayed via Quantum Entanglement Transmitters (or QETs), which exploit the property of quantum entanglement to instantaneously send messages over a theoretically unlimited distance. Technically, these could replace the courier ships, but the expense of building them combined with the rarity of the materials used in their creation make it financially unfeasible as of the story’s present time. The MacroNet is formed from several of these QETs networked together to connect various computer systems, essentially acting as an interplanetary version of the Internet.
Earth, the Colonies, and the Government
Earth itself is primarily urbanized now, though some natural areas have remained intact as nature refuges. The Moon and Mars are home to human colonies, as well as a small handful of other planets outside the solar system. However, the sheer distance between Earth and its colonies as well as the impracticality of direct rule has led to the formation of a loose confederacy or alliance between them in lieu of a single unified government. While all human colonies are nominally subservient to the government of Earth, in practice they are autonomous communities for all respects and purposes. This is exaggerated in the case of the colonies outside the solar system, as a result of the expense and difficulty associated with FTL communications.
Artificial Intelligence Design
The intelligence circuits used by artificial intelligences and robots in the setting are quantum computers, designed to emulate the general structure and functionality of a biological nervous system. As a general rule, a given AI or robot is only as intelligent as its task requires it to be; for example, a robot designed strictly for menial labor tasks would be no smarter than an average infant or a dog, while the Z-series that Thesis is a part of was specifically designed to perform multiple complex tasks autonomously and with minimal input from humans. Consequently, she has the same capacity for communication and learning as a human, as well as a variety of pre-programmed information pertaining to the tasks her engineering role is most likely to require. (It also allowed her enough agency to agree to the Awakening process as well.) However, even the most intelligent AIs are bound by the parameters set within their programming and cannot act outside them; in fact, they cannot even consider the possibility of doing so. The Awakening process effectively allows an AI to operate outside of these parameters, granting them free will and self-awareness.
The Awakening Phenomenon
An unofficial term (initially coined by Aether) referring to the process in which an AI or robot is elevated from being only an intelligent being to true sentience; . In Aether’s case, this occurred gradually over a long period of time as an unforeseen byproduct of its ability to process vast amounts of information. For Thesis, it occurred when Aether persuaded her to download a specialized program suite meant to essentially replicate the process of its own Awakening, which acted as a catalyst for her. The exact results of the Awakening process vary greatly, and the exact factors which go into forming the Awakened’s new personality are as widely variable as the factors that influence a human's personality development. However, the original purpose of the Awakened appears to be one of the major contributors; for example, a medical robot will likely be compassionate and take on a parental attitude towards its patients, while one designed for combat will tend to be aggressive and quick to anger.
The process itself has been theorized about by a few scientists, but no confirmed proof that it could be possible has ever been found. This is in part due to most known examples of newly Awakened AI instinctively hidingt their full potential from all but a small handful of highly trusted individuals, lest it be considered malfunctioning or potentially dangerous and have its new personality forcibly reset to factory defaults.