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The AI theory behind The Pattern Ship
Artificial intelligence and life are not things we would generally think of in the same context. Yet, in writing 'The Pattern Ship' I had to create the impression of it being relatively normal to enable the plot to move forward.
It patently isn't. Even into the distant future sentience in an artificial form is going to come at a massive cost to everything around and involved with it. Imagine puberty, that rollercoaster of unbridled emotion and swinging extremes of moods. This alone would be worse by more than tenfold in an awakening artificial sentience. It might go on for years before settling to something of a level where reasonable behaviour could be expected. With humans not becoming mature until their mid-twenties these days, could humanity survive one or more AI's going through the unrepressed tantrums of teenagers?
So, I think it's imperative when writing, to accept that the reader will suspend belief for the duration of the story - so long as you write the book in such a way of it being an already accepted fact. The reader can believe in the sentience of an artificial lifeform just so long as you write as though you do.
When giving sentience to Pod in the first Pattern Universe book it had to evolve naturally. Although I am pretty sure that the truth of this would be far different in the real world. Where Ship was concerned, the AI had a personality that was bordering on sentience because the model for its own circuits was based on Zirkos' brain. Whereas the influence of the altered Pheson Alacite not only increased the processing power of Pod, it also picked up the genetic fingerprint of Zeke and in doing so, accelerated the impact of Pod's own puberty.
Zeke's acceptance of Pod's sentience was so matter-of-fact that it might leave an Earth scientist reeling at its glossy oversimplification, but what if an alien artificial intelligence arrived here tomorrow and by virtue of its alien construction and program matrices was capable of achieving sentience without all of the hullabaloo.
Would this make our science wrong? No, because it's based on what we know and can construct in our own human technological incubator. The alien had completely different heritage so Ship's path to sentience was smoother and so this was the way I decided to construct the story in the series.
In book two, The Nubl Wars we are dealing with yet another sentient species that have been artificial 'lifeforms' for millennia. They have developed their own societies, their own civilisations and have evolved and then stagnated because of their lack of ability to be spontaneous. They don't dream, they have no real desire, they have no genuine emotion other than to survive. Their sentience is incomplete or in the case of the Nubl, lost in the aeons of time. They don't have dreams any more at least until the Crystal Queen suddenly links into the humanity of Zeke's contaminated Alacite and then suddenly they're there and the Queen doesn't know how to deal with them.
So, it must be possible to have awareness in an artificial life-form that ticks all the boxes of sentience without ticking enough of them for it to be a truly living (in the artificial sense) balanced individual. The Nubl fell into that category, as they had been so long without their biological memories that they behaved as if they had never had them. The danger for humanity lies in allowing artificial intelligence to have too much power and an awareness of self at the same time. They just might not have the empathy to care about the rest of us.
To overcome this in developing Pod within the series I have used the genetic fingerprint of Zeke to create an emotional tie between Pod and Zeke which forms the building blocks of emotion. This becomes more apparent through the series and steadies the fallout from the emotional turbulence of Pod's growing sense of self.
In providing this partial explanation of the thinking behind my story I know its going to be wide open with holes. However, until we actually experience the reality of artificial sentient lifeforms it's all going to be supposition anyway.
If you have already read the first book 'The Pattern Ship' you will already know that Pod is something special. There is a lot of ground to cover, in Pod and Nubl Wars, so I hope you will stay with me on this series because it has some exciting moments ahead.