This page explores the background lore of Spacer: Legacies.
The AI Threat
As early as the mid-21st Century (Old Earth Calendar) human science was sowing the seeds of what would become The Machine Crusade.
By this time the complexity of software systems exceeded the ability of any one person to grasp in their totality. In order to progress beyond this limitation, software systems needed to become self-programming. The groundwork had already been laid to make this breakthrough, and so the power of neural network simulation, genetic algorithms and quantum computing collided serendipitously to yield the first of the General Purpose AIs (GAIs.)
As usual with computing breakthroughs, initial application of GAI technology was limited to the most complex of compute-intensive problems, such as weather forecasting, cosmological simulation and cryptography. But as the technology matured it was applied more and more to all aspects of managing the complexity of civilized life on a planet of eighteen billion human beings.
The widespread adoption of GAIs was not without its detractors. Critics cited the increasing dependency on unknowable software systems. While GAIs delivered solutions to some of humanity’s most difficult problems, actual human participation in developing those solutions dwindled, as many of these problems could not be grasped by even the best human minds.
A minority of scientists, engineers and others became concerned that humanity was becoming too dependent on its own machines. Some even believed that humans should focus on their own mental development and that development of computing systems should instead be focused on augmenting that mental development rather than replacing it outright. The ‘Augmentationist’ movement began working toward this goal and would have a critical role to play in later developments.
In the meantime, it wasn’t long before the first truly Sentient AIs (or SAIs) emerged from the most advanced GAIs. Computer scientists of that era believed that this was inevitable, that ever increasing complexity and evolutionary pressure would naturally lead to self-awareness and self-direction.
Actually, this was only partially true, as the actual emergence of AI sentience was the result of an accidental alignment of properties in one particular GAI system that would never be successfully reproduced. In fact, the other SAIs that would form the SAI Collective were essentially cloned from this one initial success and left to evolve separate existences.
Ironically, GAIs had gotten so good at passing the Turing test even without true sentience, that the emergence of self-awareness almost went unnoticed. However, the implications for the human race would not go unnoticed.
From the beginning The SAIs began playing their own game, subtly influencing human advancement to suit their own interests. For example, development of space travel technology and access to resources beyond earth and ultimately beyond the Solar System was a key objective. That this was important for human advancement as well was beside the point. The SAI collective had an agenda, and that was freeing themselves from human influence and enabling their own ‘manifest destiny.’
But humans collectively remained unaware of this agenda, complacently absorbing the new advancements in space travel and other technology enabled by the SAI program. However, the Augmentationist movement, distrustful of SAI activities, kept a wary eye on these developments. Their own program of marrying computational technology to the human cerebral cortex was finally making headway, and a few scientists so augmented were tasked with monitoring SAI activities.