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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
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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.
- Robotic Autonomy