Ship intelligence and personalities 2015-11-21 12:42:17
Head Curator of Lilitic Antiquities

Ship intelligence and personalities

Iain Banks's Culture series has been a persistent influence in many respects, and as one of its defining characteristics is how machine sentience is manifested and explored, it is hard to avoid these topics in the context of Thet, a setting already laden with rebellious exoskeleton suits and various transhumanist notions. So, without ado, a comparison of ship psyches from different civilizations.

Telaian ships are, on average, emergent. Mainline Telaiain craft are essentially 'too autistic' to manifest real personality, being animalistically simple in most respects that do not pertain directly to the ship's duties—a ship may be judged for its intelligence in manoeuvring or anticipatory resource allocation, but is rarely aware of individual crew members beyond recognition of their habits. These ships exhibit simpler, survivalistic emotions. Telaian crews with (for example) extensive Lyrisian or Hatel contact may have more intellectual ships.

Most Cossipaian ships vary from Telaian 'emergent' status for e.g. Kafin down to barely-adaptive craft like those of the Xhômish, who rarely trust anyone or anything.

Hatel ships, however, are comparable to Culture craft in power but not temperament. Their Mind equivalent—sometimes called a Mind, but also potentially a Core, a Psyche, a Spirit, or even a Soul depending on the particular ship and its opinion of itself—tends to be more colourful and humble, seeing no reason it should not enjoy the same eccentricity the humans of its species are afforded. This also increases the odds of mental illness, which can be very dangerous; most threats to the Hatel as a whole are thus their own kind.

Lyrisian ships tend to adopt more pretentious titles, manners, and names, as well as having grander scope; they are the exemplar of their kind, being fastidious, thorough, wise, noble, and—if necessary—potent. Predictably, Lyrisian humans generally look up to them. (Hatel ships, however, regard them as intensely boring. Occasionally, a Lyrisian ship will interface with a Hatel one, usually with the effect of the Hatel ship becoming permanently wiser and duller; critics are divided on whether or not this constitutes punishment or intervention.)

Hogedepi attitudes have shifted over time. Development of fully sentient ships began around 150 iky, following the first defeats of the Hogedepi–Thessian War. By the time of Ivilon Desqrit, mechanical intelligence was so intimate and ubiquitous in Hogedepi culture that an individual Hogenem was more machine than not. Hogedepi ship intelligences, unlike the Hogedep themselves, tend to be patient and curious, apparently in emulation of their past defeaters. This is so different from normal Hogedep psychology that the Hogedepi people usually regard their incomprehensibly alien ships as unknowable divinities.

Pesenese ships are piloted by a fusion of biology and machine: the ship's mind, as inscrutable but clever as any other Pesenese invention, requires a partner to interface with, generally exhausting and consuming the pilot's life in a few years. Epyesti ships are an exception only in that their partners are also mechanized, and hence not at risk of expiration.
Samantics comment   8454.153 tgc / 2015.888 ce