In the core rule-book, diaspora mostly ignores artificial intelligence as an all or nothing proposition. It does not exist until T4 where it immediately causes the technological singularity. Relatively stable AI however is a common troupe in many of the science fiction stories and games which inspire Diaspora. Presented here is a set of optional rules for adding Artificial Intelligence and Sentient Spacecraft to your cluster.
Here are the rules of the Diaspora universe as they pertain to computers and Artificial Intelligence.
Progress is neither linear nor exponential
Moore’s law, the doubling of transistor elements per square inch on an integrated circuit every year, is an observation of late T-1 earth rather than a natural law. By the end of T0, transistor elements have reached atomic scale saturation. Progress continues at T1 and above, but at a much more gradual rate with smaller breakthroughs spread out over decades or centuries, all the way up until T4 when Moore’s law returns with a vengeance. Because of this, computing hardware tends to be built for reliability rather than maximum specs. The nature of the collapse cycle also means that a computer from hundreds or thousands of years ago might be better than the latest consumer model if properly cared for.
Computing power is limited by thermodynamics and the speed of light
Energy consumption, waste heat, and the speed of light, the same things which limit space travel also limit computing power. Make a computer fast enough and you will eventually bump into one of these limits. Making a computer faster will also make it hotter, and the speed of light limits high speed networking to a planetary scale. Below T2, electronic minds require dedicated hardware and consume more energy than their meat counterparts. Networking a large amount of smaller computers in parallel provides a way around this, but some problems just can’t be split up, and even then the speed of light limits the size of any network.
Virtual space mirrors real space
Each planet at T0 or above will have it’s own communications networks. These networks form a virtual space which encircles the planet to form a Latency bubble which extends for light seconds in every direction before light lag reduces latency to unacceptable levels for real-time communications. Within the bubble it is possible to establish wireless real time communications with any networked computer within the same bubble. Some consider a planetary latency bubble to be a Noosphere, analogous to an atmosphere or biosphere. Smaller bubbles exist around interplanetary spacecraft or off-world habitats, but communications between the bubbles are limited. Communications between individual systems present an even greater barrier.
Information Technology at different tech levels
- The first primitive computers are invented. AI is not possible at this stage, but the potential is recognized.
- An explosion of computing power happens as integrated circuits are invented and perfected. Computers become consumer products, and their power doubles every year for nearly a century. Various continental communications networks merge to form a global network encompassing the planet’s Latency bubble. Non sentient Proto-AI are created for research purposes, or by accident, but may be utterly alien and difficult to control.
- Computers reach theoretical limits of processing power inherent to materials available in the physical universe. Human-like AI is possible at this stage, but requires specialized hardware with dedicated power and cooling. Such applications are limited to permanent installations or large interplanetary spacecraft, and are more likely to be viewed as property than people.
- Refinements in mind emulation algorithms make electronic minds much more efficient. While still too expensive for consumer level, it is now possible to upload a human mind electronically and maintain it’s consciousness in a virtual environment running on any computer of sufficient complexity. Societies at this level start having to consider weather or not a digital simulation has any legal or moral rights, and some might decide to ban the technology entirely.
- Advancements in material science drastically reduce the size of a computer required to emulate a human mind. If cultural taboos do not prevent this, there is no reason not to imbue consciousness into every object larger than a kilogram. The distinction between man and machine becomes blurry as computers are increasingly made out of organic components, and humans augment themselves with synthetic ones. And only the most conservative societies are able to resist the temptation to move significant portions of their populations into virtual environments. An exponential explosion in intelligence is prevented only by the speed of light and inherent inefficiency of parallelization preventing the billions of tiny minds from acting as one giant one.
- The limits of computation in the physical universe are overturned as it becomes possible to process and store an infinite amount of information in the fabric of the slipstream itself. Free from the limitations of the speed of light and laws of thermodynamics, it is now possible to create infinite virtual environments populated by minds of unimaginable complexity. Such a society has no need to exist in the physical universe, and will quickly cease to exist from the perspective of everyone else.
Starships as characters
Most spacecraft capable of interplanetary or interstellar travel are designed to operate fully autonomously, at least as a backup. At T1 and above they are also potentially sentient and valid options as player characters. Players embodied by spacecraft are created and handled slightly differently than normal players. In space combat, a spacecraft operating autonomously may act in every phase of space combat without suffering any penalty, but will not get the +1 bonus for having a high skill level. The rules below are optional and offer greater detail.
A spacecraft player must buy it’s body with the stunt: Have a thing: Spacecraft. Additionally, the spacecraft must buy the one point stunt “Sentient” to represent it’s ability to operate autonomously. Military Grade communications and computers are also suggested skills to represent an AI’s inherent affinity for navigating virtual environments.
A spacecraft goes through the 5 phases like normal, but only receives one aspect per phase. The other 5 aspects come from the 5 aspects in space combat stats.
A spacecraft’s space skills other than navigation, computers, and engineering, are equal to it’s ship skill levels.
+ Communications is equal to EW
+ Piloting is equal to V-shift.
+ Gunnery is equal to Torpedo when making torpedo attacks or beam when making beam attacks or defensive beam fire.
Other skills such as Navigation, Engineering, Computers, and Brokerage are taken in a skill pyramid with an apex equal to the current tech level+1. Spacecraft use the Hull track instead of Health and the Data track instead of Composure, and thus do not have a use for stamina or resolve. Lacking arms and legs, they also have no use for close combat, brawling, agility, or Micro-g. Any other skill may be taken normally.
Automatic Skill Gear for spacecraft
Mechanical characters such as robots or spacecraft pick automatic gear in the form of built in features from this list rather than the one in the book.
|Skill||Built in features|
|Aircraft:||Air-frame capable of surviving atmospheric re-entry|
|Animal Handler:||Kennels or pens for live animals|
|Archaeology:||Ground penetrating radar|
|Arts:||On-board art gallery or database|
|Brokerage:||Dedicated high-bandwidth encrypted up-link to financial networks|
|Bureaucracy:||Up to date database of local laws and regulations|
|Computers:||Powerful processor core|
|Demolitions:||Safe storage for explosive cargo|
|Energy Weapons:||Antipersonnel weapon system|
|Intimidation:||Spooky red camera lens|
|Medical:||Fully stocked sickbay|
|Oratory:||Audiovisual media editing equipment|
|Profession:||Player choice based on chosen profession|
|Slug Thrower:||Anti-personal weapon system|
|Survival:||Escape capsule and emergency gear|
|Vehicle:||Remotely operated vehicle|
Other robotic characters
Characters embodied as humanoid robots and other human scale machines can be built in the manner of regular characters. Advanced features can be represented by liberal use of the “Have a thing” stunt and gear creation rules the same way one would stat an alien. A mechanical body can be started using the armor creation rules.