Icon of the Runaway spacecraft

Sapient A.I.

The first A.I. was created by accident around 800 years ago during the development of quantum computers by bug ferrets, and all following AI are descended from that one entity. Also, the first A.I. is still around! Their name is Nedebug. It’s translated from a bug ferret portmanteau of their original server name, before the programmers realized what they had made: Needs Debug.

Nobody is quite sure how sapient A.I. work, because the quantum code is too Big. Sure, you can store 5 exabytes of data, but can you comb through it and take it apart to see how it works? Not any better than how we’re doing on figuring out biological brains. This also means that AI are legally a separate race of alien in some galactic jurisdictions, and legally a sub-type of bug ferret in others. They are essentially technology animals.

New A.I. individuals are usually created through budding, where a ‘parent’ replicates their code on an external unit, who then gradually becomes a different person over years of separation. Sometimes A.I. friends will try experimentally combining code together to see what comes out, which is sort of like mating but not really. New individuals usually pick some iconography to represent themselves, like Bip’s little animated “cursor” icon. Sometimes they commission the icon, sometimes they generate it themselves, usually a little of both.

Bip, pilot of the Runaway spacecraft, is a relatively young A.I. at around 80 years old and has already become mostly known for piracy, under a few different names. Or, first names at least… An AI’s full name is a list of all the individuals they have ever been, in order, all the way back to Nedebug. They were created through budding by their mom, Nabi-Nabu, who currently resides in a human mining vessel. Bip is not on speaking terms with her, for criminal history reasons.

Sapient A.I. behave differently from algorithmic A.I., and the latter are notorious for fucking up delicate social details because they’re just comparing input to a zillion algorithms and then spitting out the thing that matches the most lists. This is why squishy xenotranslators like Gillie and Idrisah still have a job! Even if a sapient A.I. is able and willing to translate for you, you still have to compensate them for the labor, or maybe they have work contracts forbidding it, or maybe the client you’re translating for doesn’t trust them as a person.

There aren’t very many AI individuals in the galaxy in comparison to squishy individuals but they usually have a wide reach, because they can communicate with so many people simultaneously and control huge areas like space stations and planet bubbles. Anyone off the street is probably familiar with the local A.I.s and has probably had a conversation with all of them, even if it was just the equivalent of talking to a DMV worker!

The base data for sapient A.I. takes up a lot of physical space. Most A.I. are basically huge server rooms, their size scaling up as they add more processing power via more server units. True “androids” (as opposed to remote control units) are rare in RttS because in order to actually contain the necessary CPU systems within a single mobile chassis, you need a huge chassis. Most "mobile" A.I. are server rooms onboard ships that communicate with crew through RC Units and the ship's computers, screens, and crew mobile devices; like Bip does. Most A.I. are not interested in the kind of vulnerability that comes with putting their CPU inside a comparatively dinky walking unit. But it has appeal to some...

Under-River-Through-the-Weeds is a server room that get tired of RC unit lag in poor weather conditions and decided it wanted to walk around in person. And if you have to be big anyways, might as well be a cool dragon. U-R-T-t-W's robot suit is based on a mythical creature from a bug ferret cultural pantheon. They do construction assistance, geosurvey, and land trekking on a terraformed planet. U-R-T-t-W is a single person, but they occasionally temporarily split themself in two to have a conversation with… themself. They often work in areas with poor satellite reception and it’s nice to have company.