A Robot is a machine that can perform tasks, or work, autonomously but not necessarily on its own. A robot is a machine servitor. The degree of independence or autonomous operation helps to determine the level of sophistication of the robot.
- Theoretically robots could one day become self aware and achieve full sophontdom. That is not yet the norm or expectation within Charted Space.
- Robotic Autonomy
- 1 Word Etymology
- 2 Description (Specifications)
- 3 History & Background (Dossier)
- 4 Worlds & Sectors (Astrography)
- 5 References & Contributors (Sources)
- A robot can be a tool (industrial servitors), a weapon (warbots), an enemy (warbots), a friend (domestic servitors) or sometimes even a lover (sexbots). And sometimes many or all of these roles.
- It can be the product of mass production, the unique creation of a lifetime of labour or even a potentially self-begotten being, struggling for equal rights in a universe that sees it as a machine and not as a potential lifeform.
- Robots are often designated by their primary intended function: domestics, industrials, scientifics (often explorers), and warbots. Other designations also exist.
Biological Life vs. Machine Life
Biological life, composed of organic flesh and blood is the conventional expectation for lifeforms within Charted Space. However machine life composed of inorganic components has been theorized for several millenia, but lacks official and legal recognition as sophonts among most polities within Charted Space. Robots are widely regarded as property or belongings.
Mechanical robots are sometimes not recognized as such. Some think of them as merely simple machines or automata. But some use remarkable clockwork innards, mechanical computers, and pre-electronic components to achieve unexpected capabilities. As mechanical robots begin to integrate electronics and sophisticated information technology, they steadily grow in capability becoming bright machines.
The advent of electronics and positronic brains greatly enhanced and expanded the capabilities of the robots using these technological advances. They have become so ubiquitous that many sophonts cannot imagine robots without these technologies.
- Electronics help to establish bright machines and make robots enormously more capable and useful.
Pseudobiological robots use a combination of inorganic and organic substances to mimic the appearance and feel of organic, living matter. More advanced models often incorporate living organic components. Robots or living beings combining flesh, blood, and machine are informally known as cyborgs. The IISS uses a continuum of identification to determine legal designation.
Today biological robotica is being explored and cutting edge pseudobiologicals are remarkably lifelike and often use flesh and blood components. Organic brains are a viable starship component and part of a growing industry. Contemporary biological sciences cannot yet create life matching the sophistication of naturally evolved lifeforms. However, it is conjectured that the Ancients did have life sciences capable of creating any kind of life. Indeed the Ancients were renowned for their advanced geneering.
A Cyborg is a sophont composed of flesh, blood, and machine. There is no easy test of what separates a conventional sophont and a transformed sophont. Just losing a limb that is replaced with a prosthetic may or may not make a cyborg. The conventional definition explains that a cyborg is a sophont that has combined their body with technology for non-aesthetic purposes, but that is not how the greater public sees it.
Universal Robot Profile
The Universal Robot Profile is the most common system used for classifying robota for observation, repair, and sales. While other systems exist, the URP has become the gold label standard for robot identification and classification.
Robots come in many shapes, forms, and compositions. These outwardly observable characteristics are known as the robot's morphology.
Sophontiform bots use the bodily shapes of their originating sophont species. Humans make bots in humanoid firm. Aslan make bots that resemble Aslan. The K'kree make centauroid robots. Curiously enough, Hivers almost never make bots in their own image.
There are many considerations when making sophontiform bots and one of the most important considerations is to avoid the uncanny valley, a design that resembles the originating sophont in strange, repulsive, and creepy ways.
The following kinds of robots very often use sophontiform morphology:
- Personal Servitors
- Counseling Servitors
- Medical Servitors
- Office Servitors
Some robots almost entirely have been designed with just function in mind. These utilitarian bots are designed to be very good at what they do, not to be aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes such bots come in very strange and unsettling forms. Warbots, for instance, often use shapes designed to intimidate, sometimes the shapes of feared predators or the monsters of ancient myth.
These bots are often known to use utilitarian morphologies:
- Impersonal Servitors
- Custodial bots
- Domicile brains
- Room bots
- Ship brains
- Industrial bots
- Manufacturering bots
- Mining bots
These bots are often known to use Zero-G or other environmental morphologies:
- Hostile Environment Bots
- Space Servitors
- Starship Utility Bots
- Zero-G Domestics
Robots are an important part of life in Charted Space. But they have not yet achieved true artificial intelligence. Some call the pre-AI intelligence used at cutting edge TL-15 "brilliant" or "lethetic." Modern positronic brains, the cornerstone of advanced technology robots, can not yet empower robots to independently make decisions although comprehensive, well thought out programming can give the illusion of independent decision.
The earliest robots were mechanical marvels and often clockwork contraptions of marvelous complexity, but they possessed very close to zero autonomous capability: they often performed a single task, or a handful of tasks repetitively. With the advent of early electronics, the autonomous capabilities of robots rose. And their housings or bodies became enormously more capable with hydraulics, servos, and more sophisticated micromotors. The positronic brain was another giant leap forward and vastly expanded autonomous operation.
However capable and autonomous current cutting edge robots may be, they do not yet posses true artificial intelligence. A robot not able to eventually consult with a sophont mind will eventually follow programming leading to fatal mistakes causing its own destruction. Some call this phenomenon "robotic suicide" or "robot endgame." Robots cannot currently feel, dream, independently think, or function autonomously in jumpspace as a sophont mind can.
Jumpspace & Robotica
No combination of advanced robotic and FTL technology can yet survive repeated autonomous operation in jumpspace. Experiments have repeatedly yielded unsatisfactory results. Jump drones launch into jumpspace just fine. Advanced electronics, computers, and organized pseudobiological brains function well shipboard on crewed starships, but.... Uncrewed starships or jump drones inconsistently emerge from jumpspace.
- Many scientists have posited that some component of sophontdom prevents the catastrophic jump failure of uncrewed starships. Many other theories exist and the polity-governments of every major race are exploring this phenomenon.
The future of Robota is with highly intelligent, self-aware machines possessing true artificial intelligence. Robots can already vastly outcalculate humans and other baseline sophonts. When was the last time a sophont outperformed a hypercomputer in the interstellar chess championships?
Significant fears of this next step exist. Many fear that self-aware machines will bring about the end of days and Singularity before its time.
Artificial Intelligence Determination & Characteristics
Robots can be highly variable in appearance, capability, and characteristic depending on their creator. There are a number of semi-standardized methods of specifying these variable characteristics.
- [Once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers.
- ... At some stage therefore we should have to expect the machines to take control, in the way that is mentioned in Samuel Butler's ‘Erewhon.’]
- - Terran scientist, Alan Turing in 1951 CE, speaking about a future in which machines outperform human sophonts intellectually.
A Turing Test is a test of artificial intelligence invented by a scientist from the Terran past. Modern versions of it are still in use within the Third Imperium. The Rule of Man established the test within Charted Space even though similar testing mechanisms existed within several sophont cultures including the Vilani Ziru Sirka.
- The Turing Test is one of the best known tests for determining artificial intelligence ratings within Charted Space. It was developed on old Terra by a cryptological code breaker and mathematician named Alan Turing.
- The Turing Test is essentially one of social interaction. Can a robot convince a conventional sophont that it is a fellow mind through natural conversation or dialogue that flows? Or does it fail, and appear obviously robotic?
- Increasingly sophisticated Turing Tests have been developed over the millenia. AB-101 broke many records with its amazing sophistication and lifelike behavior. More breakthroughs are expected in the near future.
The "Uncanny Valley" is a robotics term representing the feeling of discomfort that many sophonts feel when a robot body takes on a sophontiform appearance that is too eerily close to their own native morphology. Some sophont societies and cultures are much more comfortable with robots and possess a very small or narrow Uncanny Valley.
Robots & Gender
Robots, not being organically biological sophonts, do not possess gender in any conventional sense of the term. However many sophonts still insist upon assigning genderless robots an arbitrary gender nevertheless.
Continuum of Robotic Sophistication
- Calculating Machines (automata and early robots, computers,and supercomputers)
- Thinking Machines (bright machines aka hypercomputers, bright nanocytes, etc.)
- Feeling Machines (true artificial intelligence aka brilliant machines)
- Transcendent Machines (early avatars)
- Ascendant Machines (advanced avatars)
Worlds & Sectors (Astrography)
Robots can be found throughout Charted Space.
Robot Worlds: 1116
References & Contributors (Sources)
- Classic Traveller Book 8 Robots
- MegaTraveller 101 Robots
- MegaTraveller Referee's Companion
- 'Ref's Notes: Robots' Journal of the Travellers Aid Society No. 2
- 'Ref's Notes: Robots Part 2' Journal of the Travellers Aid Society No. 3
- 'Ref's Notes: Robots Part 3' Journal of the Travellers Aid Society No. 4
- 'Robot Design Revisited, Part 1' Periodical: MegaTraveller Travellers' Digest No. 1
- 'Robot Design Revisited, Part 2' Periodical: MegaTraveller Travellers' Digest No. 2
- 'Robot Design Revisited, Part 3' Periodical: MegaTraveller Travellers' Digest No. 3
- Shoot-Out at Shudusham' and 'Beyond 101 Robots' Periodical: MegaTraveller Travellers' Digest No. 8
- TNE Vampire Fleets
- Periodical: Traveller Chronicle 01
- Special Supplement 1: Robots of Charted Space
- Special Supplement 2: Robot Adventures
- Mongoose Traveller: Robot
- Traveller Wiki Editorial Team
- Author & Contributor: Lord (Marquis) and Master of Sophontology Maksim-Smelchak of the Ministry of Science