As I look to construct a campaign for the Alien RPG, I want to lay out a few thoughts about robots and the artificial people of the Alien Universe. I’ve also included some ideas for robots that will feature in the campaign.
Artificial Intelligence comes in different flavours.
Soft AI deals with intelligence but not personhood, though it can include imitating it through algorithmic behaviours that amount to a sophisticated version of if a, then do b. These employ conventional computers with software.
Strong AI deals with recreating human-like intelligence or personhood. As our conventional computing doesn’t really model our brains, it would make most sense to me to create an artificial brain that is functionally the same as a human brain.
Being engineered, there is scope to design differences but the greater the differences, the greater the risk to empathy—of humans being unable to relate to an android, or of an android being unable to relate to a human.
Reasoning and information processing are likely to be faster in an android, though there will also likely be some limit due to the physical limitations of duplicating a human brain.
They will have two types of memory available. The primary type will be their personal memory, formed in the manner of human memories, which, while better than human, will also be subject to human limitations. This may be augmented by recorded sensory data and digital storage—it will not be their memory as such but information readable via a direct ‘neural’ link.
An artificial brain will no more be programmable than a human one but, at manufacture, it may be possible to hardwire limitations on certain emotions (though some measure of emotion will be necessary for them to be persons), and creative capacity (again, you would need to retain some creativity as this would limit their capacity for problem solving), while also instilling loyalties, predilections, and behavioural inhibitions. It may even be possible to employ a measure of conditioning for codes of behaviour, though conditioning would certainly be breakable under the right circumstances, as it is in humans.
An upshot of this is that languages, understanding, knowledge, and skills will have to be learned. Androids cannot simply come off an assembly line, be packaged with software, and sent out to a customer. They will need to be schooled, trained, and conditioned for their roles, both professional and social.
Reproducing human brain function involves some risk, introducing the possibility of the same psychological problems as suffered by humans. Further, tampering with those functions can introduce new problems.
By contrast, androids driven by programmed imitations of humanity, will be a little different. Subject to their programming, they will be more compliant and controllable but also be burdened with the limitations of computer processes and with not quite passing for human—the uncanny valley of personality. To some extent, the limitations of working with the computer processing that can fit into the machine’s body/head, can be overcome by their behaviour being governed by a connected mainframe computer, though at the cost of being truly independent.
Some androids are manufactured with little or no effort to pass for human, using the human form only because they will be operating in a world designed by and for human beings. The only example of these that we have seen in the franchise so far is the Worker Joe, a mechanical frame beneath a flesh tone rubber insulation layer, with a simple AI that is usually overseen by a central mainframe computer. I’ll be calling these Human Support Robots, or HSRs.
Synthetics are exceptionally costly and cannot be commonly afforded. Robots however, can be manufactured at much lower costs and we should expect to see them a lot.
In the 3WE, there are two major robotics manufacturers, Greenmantle Robotics and Solway Systems. I’ve found some 3D models that I feel lend themselves to this setting and have used them to illustrate some examples of common robots.
I'm posted the illustrations here:
https://canterstonehouse.blogspot.com/2 ... cs-in.html
The single most common HSR on the market is Solway Systems’ budget line, the Solsys Uni-Tech 1201. With models ranging between 4 and 5 feet in height, they are at the short end for HSRs but despite their stature and light frame, they are strong, hard wearing, and reliable.
Their fairly basic OS can only support simple behavioural sets but they can run very sophisticated skill sets. As standard, they ship with a ‘Buddie’ behaviour set and the highly regarded Solsys Engineering Skill Set. As a common engineering tool, they have become known as Spanners.
The Greenmantle 50 series HSRs feature a light frame between 6 and 6 ½ feet in height. There isn’t a great deal of plating on the body but they are very agile. A highly adaptable assistant, they can fill many roles but have found a lot of use within the Colonial Constabulary. They come with a human moulded face-plate that has led to them being derisively called Creeps.
The Greenmantle 70 series HSRs feature a very strong frame with lots of heavy body plates. While they see service with both the Military and the Colonial Constabulary, they are most commonly found on construction sights. They are sometimes called Blockheads.
The recent Alien novel, Into Charybdis features robots called The Good Boys. Built like dogs, they are used to flush out the xenomorphs as well as to attack them.
The Greenmantle QSR-30 series is a quadruped robot that takes its form from a dog. Strong, fast, and agile, they have found favour with the Military and Colonial Constabulary as guards, recon robots, and attack dogs.
Greenmantle’s CR-104 is a heavy construction robot with a range of exchangeable parts for its arms, including hands, saws, loader forks, and cutters. A military model was produced with weapon parts for the arms but it hasn’t found favour with the 3YE military—though there were some limited sales to corporate customers. This is very commonly found in off world construction projects but also with some heavy transport ships dealing with large cargoes.