The Alexandrian

Eclipse Phase: Rimward - Posthuman Studios

In the Eclipse Phase setting, Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs) are the source of some deeply forged and bitterly raw prejudice: Their digital cousins the TITANs — seed AIs capable of recursive self-improvement — underwent a hard-takeoff singularity and shattered human civilization in a genocidal frenzy. The core rulebook states:

The vast majority of transhumanity blames the Fall on rogue seed AIs. As a result, any AIs that are not crippled or somehow limited from improving themselves — including the AGIs that were common and growing in number before the Fall — are completely illegal in many habitats or at least heavily regulated… Many transhumans consider AGIs and the TITANs that murdered their homeworld to be one and the same.

Since AGIs are also playable characters in Eclipse Phase, it can be vitally important to know where you can travel openly and where you need to fall back on smuggling and darkcasts if you’re going to go there at all. Unfortunately, this information is somewhat scattered and often unsatisfactory. (You have to reference various passages from the core rulebook, Sunward, and Rimward, and even then the information is frequently vague.) Reading between the lines and making a few inferences, however, we can draw up some general guidelines.

AGIs AND THE LAW

First, there’s a general spectrum that runs (from most severe limitations to least severe limitations): Jovian Republic, Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, Planetary Consortium, Morningstar Consortium, Titanian Commonwealth, and the Autonomist Alliance.

Within that spectrum, you can use these general guidelines:

Jovian Republic: AGIs are subject to summary erasure. Anyone creating, aiding, or abetting an AGI is subject to severe criminal penalties, including the possibility of execution for treason.

Lunar-Lagrange Alliance: AGIs are outlawed by most LLA communities; they will be banished or placed in cold storage depending on circumstance. Hypercorps or individuals creating AGIs are subject to heavy fines.

Planetary Consortium: Roughly 25% of Planetary Consortium polities ban AGIs completely (similar to the LLA). In other polities they are heavily regulated. AGIs are considered property by the Planetary Consortium and will never have citizenship rights. In addition to regulations by local polities, the Planetary Consortium as a whole has regulations governing the development and use of AGIs. Violations of these regulations are punished with heavy fines.

Morningstar Constellation: The Morningstar Constellation’s approach to AGIs is similar to the Planetary Consortium, but the regulatory oversight is significantly smaller and only 10% of Morningstar polities ban AGIs completely. (Very rare MC polities even grant AGIs citizenship, but citizenship in one Morningstar polity is no guarantee of your rights in another.)

Conservative Independents: This isn’t a specific political body, but a significant number of independent settlements (including some autonomist settlements) fall into this category. In these settlements, AGIs are considered full citizens but they sacrifice some of the normal rights of citizens. This most notably includes privacy: AGIs in these settlements will have their mesh access tightly monitored and their morphs/hardware specs routinely audited. They may even have to undergo mandatory and intensive monitoring of their minds in order to detect the hypothetical onset of a singularity event. It’s even possible that they could be legally forced to undergo psychosurgery in order to prevent it. AGIs visiting such settlements will also undergo such scans (and possibly surgery).

Titanian Commonwealth: AGIs are recognized as full citizens by the Commonwealth and even benefit under Titan’s “one body for every mind” policy. However, new AGIs can expect to undergo extensive monitoring and testing before achieving citizenship. (Optionally, a GM could easily decide that AGI citizens are still subject to heavy surveillance and sousveillance in Titan society.)

Autonomists: AGIs, infomorphs, synthmorphs, Factors, flats… Dude, we’re all sentients, right? Don’t bug them and they probably won’t bug you.

NOTES

Individual habitats, of course, can obviously vary from these generic baselines. (In the case of the PC and LLA, you could even use the listed percentiles to randomly determine a given habitat’s legal framework.) These should be considered tools, not straitjackets.

It should also be noted that the Morningstar Constellation’s attitude towards AGIs is, as far as I can tell, never explicitly spelled out in any of the Eclipse Phase sourcebooks. I’ve intuited the position described above based on specific adventure seeds and historical incidents in Morningstar habitats. Given this paucity of information, however, a GM could easily shift them even further from the Planetary Consortium. (Perhaps you could have them behave like the Conservative Independents I describe above?)

 

8 Responses to “Eclipse Phase: AGI Legal Status”

  1. Neal says:

    Justin,

    I’ve never heard of this game, but you seem familiar with it. I looked at the Amazon link, and it seems this book has been out since 2009, so that’s a few years, anyways. It sounds interesting.

    Have you enjoyed playing this game, or are you just familiar with the books, rather than actually having used them in adventures with players? There are games I have read through that I never actually find anyone to play with, but I find they make for a sort of interactive novel kind of experience… you get to imagine how you’d use them in adventures.

  2. Neal says:

    I like your new Turing Test.

    “Try and see if you can push the physical button, ya damn Immaterial Soviet-Hammer-and-Viagra-Spam Bots!”

    Kinda like Dr. Who (Tom Baker) escaping the Daleks, where he tells them that if they’re the supreme race of the universe, how come they can’t catch up with him, unless there’s a ramp for them to roll up.

  3. OrangeRequired says:

    This is great. Extropia may be the only major hab that I don’t think fits neatly under any of the above (I’m guessing Mars will mostly be along PC lines). Extropia may be a largely autonomist-esque system with a determinedly anti-regulation stance, but seeing how much closer they are to the PC in terms of hypercapitalistic leanings, I’d imagine its culture would have a very different flavour in terms of HOW they accept AGIs as citizens.

  4. OrangeRequired says:

    Also, Neal – this game is brilliant. There’s a lot of crunch there, but there’s just so many freaking ideas in these books. The setting is pretty much my favourite hard-sci-fi setting.

    (Well, hard-ish. There are horror-stargates, after all.)

  5. Neal says:

    OrangeRequired,

    Usually, I like more rules-lite games, but books full of ideas are very valuable. If you’re saying this game is full of brilliant ideas… then that has a lot of appeal.

    I did a bit of research after reading this article by Justin, and found all kinds of debates on the likelihood of AGIs being non-friendly to human values, and likely to decide to repurpose human molecules for their own goals (like turning all matter in the universe into paperclips). Or, that it would even be possible to have a recursive intelligence, since the starting points of intelligence interacting with the universe that responds to its actions and changes in the process… might merely make the attempt an exercise becoming hyper-maladapted to changing conditions. That wasn’t elegantly said, but I hope it gets the idea across.

    I’ve read some of the ideas of Ray Kurzweil and a few others, and think they’re too optimistic about how likely and quickly a singularity event will happen, and how benign it would be. Something along the lines of Candide, when I doubt it would be that easy to make something like an AGI permanently human-sympathetic.

  6. Justin Alexander says:

    @Neal: I’ve played in several one-shots and I’ve run a total nine sessions of the game with three different groups of players. No long-term campaigns yet, but that’s mainly from lack of time rather than interest. (I’ve also considered running an open table for the game, probably focused around gatecrashing expeditions.)

    Last week I finished reading the last of the supplements for the game. (I binged for about three weeks after having taken a couple months break from the game.) I’m hoping to get some more regular play in the game soon.

    The game itself is basically a kitchen-sink for transhuman SF: Although it includes a default setting, I suspect this game is going to be my go-to for anything in the vein of Iain Banks, Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod, Richard K. Morgan, or their ilk. It’s a fantastic toolkit and brimming to the rim with wonderful ideas.

    @OrangeRequired: Extropians are a bit tricky to encapsulate, but from a legal standpoint they’re basically in line with the rest of the autonomists: AGIs are legal citizens with nothing really distinguishing from any of the other legal citizens.

    One notable point, however, is that AGIs are actually in charge of many of the free courts which run the Extropian contract economy according to Rimward. The book doesn’t really go into much detail about the practical effects of that, but it wouldn’t take too much paranoia to suspect that AGIs secretly wield more control in Extropia than anywhere else in the solar system.

  7. Neal says:

    @Justin,

    One of your posts a few years back, I think, mentioned you tend to do marathon gaming sessions of something like 8 hours at a time. Seems exhausting, but fun. Is this just a way to get enough done in any one session of the campaign, since so many people may have problems attending every session?

    Its been a long while since I’ve done actual playing in a group. Something I recall reading on the Tao of D&D, was the idea by Alexis Smolensk, that to give players a chance to relate to PCs you probably should figure they’d advance levels at a rate of reaching 8th level by the end of one year, if you played each week. That sounded like an approximately good amount of time to get the feel for a character at a given power level. I seem to recall something you wrote about leveling up, or almost leveling up, in one 8 hour marathon session. Was that right? Any thoughts on a rough guide of pointers on a rate for level progression speed?

    I’m not quoting Smolensk as any kind of guru, since I disagree with a lot of his self aggrandizing positions and “logic,” just quoting him to compare styles of play and theory.

  8. Justin Alexander says:

    @Neal: I think the solutions to difficult scheduling vary. Sometimes I find longer, marathon-style sessions effective because you can have fewer of them while still covering a lot of territory in aggregate. But the marathon sessions can also be troublesome because it can be harder to find times that work for them. So sometimes shorter sessions at a higher frequency can be the way to go.

    I think the biggest thing when dealing with a dedicated, long-term group (as opposed to an open table) is flexibility. A lot of people try to set a “regular game night” in the hopes that regularity will lead to reliable attendance, but IME that doesn’t actually work. Modern, adult schedules are wacky and complicated and filled with unexpected stuff (vacations, dinner with in-laws, visiting friends from out of town, work commitments, kids’ soccer practice, etc.).

    What I do is send out an e-mail each month listing all the days that I have available. My players delete the dates that don’t work for them and send the e-mail back. I aggregate the available dates and try to schedule 3-5 sessions.

    Re: Players leveling up in a single marathon session. That was actually something I try to avoid. It’s too fast. I generally like to see at least four sessions between levels so that the players have a chance to learn their new abilities, get comfortable with those abilities, and then get creative with those abilities before getting another injection of fresh abilities. (My current 3.5E campaign is averaging 9 sessions per level and the PCs are currently between 8th and 10th level, although the lower levels went faster than that. This is a result of me halving XP rewards.)

    So I’d generally agree with Smolensk (who seems to be looking for an average of 6.5 sessions between levels). Although I don’t think it actually takes anywhere near 52 sessions for players to start relating to their characters.

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