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Traveller: The New Era Discussion on Traveller: The New Era

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Old April 13th, 2003, 01:01 PM
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Arsulon Arsulon is offline
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One of my big complaints about TNE (and maybe Traveller in general) is the tendency to freeze the technological horizon at the mid-70's (when the game was published) to maintain canonical integrity. Yes, it's our game ultimately, but I would have liked to have seen rules for incorporating biotech, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The AI problem had been bouncing around in my head for a while: it seemed like the technology had been hinted at (e.g. the Terran Confederation's TL12 naval androids, the Kinunir AI prototype, Aybee the android, Strephon's supposed robotic stand-ins) but was never fully accounted for. Another problem for me was wistfully reading sci-fi (as far back as the 80's) which featured AI's as integral parts of stellar society, but then turning to the wires-and-circuits Far Future (if you're REALLY lucky, your starship computer will have this thing called "fiber optics" and can reset after a PB hit!)

The last sci-fi I'd read recently was the Deathstalker series and Drake's "Crisis of Empire" collaborations: both of which feature AIs with unique personalities interacting with human characters and playing out the age-old problem of what constitutes self-awareness. Well, that did it for me.

I've decided to work AIs into my campaign universe but only have a basic idea of how to do it. Being some 3000 years in the future I think I'll make all computers capable of artificial intelligence emulation; that is, they're not self-aware in the sense that they evolved consciousness, but rather were designed to emulate human behaviour and cognitive development (i.e. experiences form new synaptic connections, which in turn effect new how new connections are formed and experiences/information is processed.)

At the tiniest level, most people will have an AID (Artificial Intelligence Device: borrowed from Drake) housed in a palmtop-sized unit. Rather than being cybernetic, they're independent units that communicate with the owner via subvocalization/"bone-phone"/earbug tech. They'll have either stock "off-the-shelf" personalities optimized for various professions/lifestyles (like those in White Wolf's "Trinity" of SJG's "Transhuman Space") or randomly determined ones a la TNE's pick-a-card NPC personality system.

Larger units will be purpose-designed for starships or installations: there might be interesting campaign possibilities in the PC's buying a used AI that keeps complaining it was designed for a warship, not some stinking free trader.

Off hand, I guess it's statistical performance would be a function of the tech level: the TL being the combined stat/skill you roll against to resolve tasks. I might have a look at ICE's Robotics book to see how they handle this.

What about Virus? Well, a TL15 society, dependant all the way down to a personal level on a sophisticated network of highly centralized AIs WOULD fall apart pretty much as TNE has it: imagine your little personal assistant AID turing on you. I'd likely revise the Virus premise so that it was designed specifically to attack AIs rather than stick with the whole Deyo-chip-IFF-possessed-toaster-oven nonsense. I'd distinguish Viral AI life (e.g. Sandman, the Lily Marlene) as being evolved artificial intelligence: that is, it CAN emulate human thought, but possesses free will independant of its original program design.

How's that sound? Does anyone have any thoughts on the subject or suggestions? I've come to respect this forum as a real thinktank on all matters Traveller and welcome ANY comments including well-argued "You can't do that because..." responses.
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