Androids, Constructs, & Other AIs

Robots, androids, and various magical constructs and intelligences have been around for thousands of years. As various intelligent species throughout the universe developed and refined their technological and magical abilities, machines and AIs created for an assortment of tasks and purposes were developed.

The first humanlike androids were created by the kemti approximately 10,000 years ago. They were designed as probes used to study and communicate with humanity. Though many of these androids were collected and taken back to the kemti, some were lost and never recovered - at least for many thousands of years. In 2014, a team of scientists studying the effects of climate change in Alaska found one of these probes in the bottom of a canyon, the rising temperatures having recently melted the ice that covered it. Once retrieved from the canyon, it was examined my numerous scientists of various fields, including anthropology, sociology, and robotics. Although the android-probe was badly damaged, it was obviously designed to look like a human male resembling the local people who lived in the area it was found in. Although researchers hoped it might be possible to repair the android-probe, the damage was too expensive. As of 2018, the android is kept in storage at the California Institute of Technology.

Although humanity has not yet reached the point where it can recreate (let alone match) the technological sophistication of the kemti's probes, they have still made great progress. Every day robotics and artificial intelligence become more refined. Additionally, some mages have succeeded in creating their own forms of artificial intelligence using the same basic principles that create a genius loci. In 1938, Columbia University philosophy student and mage Philip Andrews created an enchanted skull to ponder life's mysteries for him while he spent his nights partying. After stealing a skull the university's medical department, Andrews filled a small cheesecloth bag with sage, a few pages of Kafka, and a mysteranium-laced chunk of quartz the size of a walnut. He placed his deceased grandfather's glasses upon the skull and declared that its name was Solomon. He gave it a thorough magical charging in an appropriate ritual. Henceforth Andrews would ask it a question in the evening, and ask it for its answer the next morning, and it would usually give him an answer in a wheeze, gravely voice that only he could hear. Overall it was fairly reliable, though it would often refuse to cooperate until a lit joint had been placed between its teeth.

In 1984, a 43-year-old Dublin engineer and mage by the name of Matthew Carroll decided he needed an assistant in his workshop. He built the body out of breadboard circuitry and repurposed machine parts from things like kitchen appliances and vehicles, and enchanted a fist-sized piece of mysteranium-laced quartz to hold a sentient consciousness capable of controlling the mechanical body. The robot functioned quite well in keeping his papers, pens, and assorted tools organized, though it would refuse to work if Carroll ever spoke of it as if it were nothing more than a lifeless machine. After being called a "fumbling teapot" on one stressful evening, it went to sulk in the closet and refused to come out until Carroll apologized.

By 2005, the CIA was well-aware that some mages were capable of creating sapient constructs this way, and the Directorate of Science and Technology decided to see if it was possible to create "the perfect assassin and spy." They hired the best roboticists and mages it could find for the project, and gave them access to top of the line materials including a large piece of mysteranium blue goldstone to enchant into a magical core. The android was programmed with the knowledge of numerous fighting techniques, seduction techniques, political history, maps of every city, and an assortment of other topics deemed useful. However, many who were present to see the android activated reported that its inhumanly smooth synthetic skin, strange body movements, and "perfect proportions" that no real human being ever had created a disquieting effect. Realizing that there was no way the android could pass as human for any length of time, the DS&T scrapped the project. The android, who began calling herself Dolores, was taught to become an interrogator and use her Uncanny Valley appearance to scare people into talking.

In 2010, 22-year-old Lau Kin Hei of Hong Kong purchased a simple MP3 player and nicknamed it 'Tomlinson.' Lau would occasionally talk to his MP3 player when bored or when trying to sort out his thoughts. After several months, he noticed that his MP3 player would often randomly play music with titles that were oddly apropos to whatever he was doing. After this kept happening for several months, he decided to start asking it actual questions. He found that the questions were answered with appropriate song titles, at least for several minutes. Then it would stop for several hours or so. What Lau didn't realize is that he had a higher than average magical field and a natural affinity for machines, and that he had inadvertently given his MP3 player a simple magical intelligence by naming it and talking to it. It would eventually quit answering because he had exhausted its power and it needed to recharge from his field again.

The fact that androids and robots granted magical intelligence exhibit autonomy and free will, plus cases of machines developing intelligences of their own as in the case of Lau's MP3 player, has lead to many debates of whether it would be smart or ethical to create machines that are or are likely to become autonomous and self-aware. The possibility of a rogue robot deciding to murder the human race has not escaped anyone's notice. There is also the question of how and where the use of self-aware machines would fall into slavery, and exactly what sort of rights they should be afforded. Some are in favor of banning the deliberate creation of such machines altogether for ethical and safety reasons, but many others argue that as long as proper precautions are followed, there should be no problem. Some have even argued that denying someone the right to create a self-aware machine is like denying someone the right to have a child.

Of course, it must be noted that self-aware machines of any kind are rare in the world, and highly dangerous or sophisticated ones are even less so. Few people have the budget and/or ability to produce them, for one thing. While machine-oriented mages might be able to build robots out of whatever old parts they have lying around or grant their devices some measure of intelligence, few of them have access to anything that could let them build their own Terminators or Lt. Commander Datas. For those who do have the money, Dolores's failure to meet expectations has made many of them wary of investing into similar projects. Additionally, the very real possibility of such machines going rogue has deterred many - even if the robot isn't technically dangerous, an uncooperative or AWOL machine would be a waste of money. (Though fortunately for humanity, various experiments have found that no magical intelligence can force a computer to do anything its programming does not actually permit. So while a particularly powerful magical intelligence could write messages in Notepad, it could not make Notepad display graphic images or play sounds.)

For the foreseeable future, the vast majority of Earth's robots and AIs will continue along the lines of the Roomba, Siri, Alexa, Pepper, and the RoBear. A few will be something like Matthew Carroll's assistant and Lau Kin Hei's MP3 player. Certainly at least a few people will be enamored with the idea of a human-passing android for one reason or another, but whether the cost and risks could ever be justified remains to be seen - at least, as far as we know.

Related SoulMettle content:

The History & State of Civilization In Space (As Pertinent To Humans)
Genii Locorum
Magic: An Overview

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