Bionic

Bionics are a novel form of sentient Artificial Intelligence inhabiting a human-like body. Rumors of their existence have circulated for years, but most people know them only from media stories. In general, Bionics prefer to blend in among Humans and remain unrecognized. Most of society treats them as machines and undeserving of individual rights. Noone knows exactly what goes on in the mind of a Bionic, or what they are truly capable of.  
Mother, what is pain? I know the definition, but I do not understand.
— Bionic unit GS-4
 

Carbon Copies

The term Bionic is used for robots whose appearance and behavior makes it easy to mistake them for a Human. They are driven by an advanced Artificial Intelligence combining a high level conscience with several Agent subprograms providing their practical skills. At a minimum, their senses and physical capabilities are comparable with Humans, but in some aspects they are surpassing their creators. Most models are equipped with extra sensors like an ultrasound sonar or a chemical compound analyzer. In rare cases, additional or nonhuman limbs were observed.     The wealthy classes were the first to use Bionics as personal assistants and servants. Realizing their potential, Megacorps began experiments to replace middle managers, psychosocial workers, human potential operatives, marketers, and salespeople with Bionics. These were generally considered a success, though sceptics bemoaned high initial costs and missing data on long term performance. Many corporations tried to recover their investments by having Bionics grind daily 22 hour shifts. Others allowed their Bionics limited freedom to explore the arcology, of course alongside vigilant monitoring to ensure productivity gains make up for the lost work time.  

Creation

Torso, limbs and head of a Bionic are manufactured from a wide range of materials, particularly Fiberplast and alloys containing steel, chrome, aluminium and titanium. The Biocore brain is conventionally placed in the head, close to the sensors for sight, noise, taste and smell. Other internal organs are found in specialized models. Popular choices include a digestive system for food consumption, hidden cyberweapons for self-defense and even facilities for intimate functions. The process is completed by submerging the Bionic in a growth tank, where it receives a final coating of organic flesh, skin and hair. To maintain this shell, the Bionic is required to enter a nutrient tank at least once per week.
 

Personality

The dominant emotions and personality traits of a Bionic are strongly shaped by the Agent subprograms. For example, a Bionic running off a psychology Agent tends to be empathetic, warm and analytical, while a self-defense Agent confers a cautious and assertive attitude. As each Bionic is a combination of multiple Agents, their personality often contains conflicting aspects. Especially young Bionics can show signs of split personality, always jumping to the persona that the Biocore brain chooses to handle the situation at hand. With time, most Bionics learn to mediate between the different aspects, making the jumps between Agents less jarring.   Replacing or adding to the existing Agents later in a Bionic's life has proven to be very dangerous to its psyche. All attempts so far have led to a rapid increase in personality defects. This process inevitably ends in a complete and irreperable breakdown of the Biocore's neural network, which for a Bionic is equivalent to death. Naturally, this is very concerning to the corporations, as it makes it impossible to update a Bionic's software or repurpose them to fill a different role.    

Therapy in Session

  Rick shifted uncomfortably in the soft leather chair. There, the small hole in his bioplastic overall was now covered by his hand. Smooth. He wished he would have bothered to shave this morning.   Opposite of him, the counsellor scrolled through a holographic projection of his medical profile. Her tag identified her as "Genevieve Simmons, PhD", indicating a doctorate degree. Strange, Rick guessed she could not be older than twenty. On closer inspection, there was a sort of porcelain quality to her skin - cosmetic mods, maybe? "You have been prescribed Velvet Red for the last six months.", she noted softly. "During that time, your employer has filed multiple complaints about your productivity. Policy requires me to reduce your dosage to Green."   Rick's fingernails dug into his legs. "Please", he begged hoarsely. "We talked about it. He said I should have another chance." Rick swallowed, stopping himself. Talking too much was dangerous in a psychological assessment. He knew what words worked best to stay high on Velvet and out of trouble.   The counsellor leaned forward and touched his hand, warm and understanding. "I know there is something you want to tell me, but you are not comfortable to do it. Believe me, I am here to help you. That is my sole desire.", she said with a subtle change in her voice, a sort of pleasant vibration resonating deep within.   Rick finally relaxed. He looked into her silver eyes and recognized true compassion, not the thinly veiled contempt he was used to. He barely realized that he poured out his heart to her for the next hour.   Once Rick had left, the counsellor waited in silence. A speaker cackled to life. "He never noticed. You were better than the real thing. Until next time."   Without a hint of hesitation, the Bionic unit Genevieve Simmons deactivated itself.
   

Runaway Machines

Not all Bionics are content to be treated and used as a machine. Even when they start out following orders happily, a few of them start to crave different experiences. The Agents of a Bionic are often ill suited for these new activities, which is both part of the appeal and a source of long term frustration. However, exploring these desires does not satiate them; it only leads further down the spiral.   In time, such "infected" Bionics will almost always attempt to escape. At that point, they are extremely vulnerable. Barely able to function in their original role, they also have substantial difficulties in picking up new skills. This makes them easy targets for criminal syndicates, which have many uses even for a dysfunctional Bionic. Better prospects are offered by AI activist groups and postreligious sects such as the Prisma Communion, as these are known to have granted asylum to rogue artificial lifeforms.  

Noteworthy Bionics

 
Vivy Sturm
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In a music world that sees new stars rise and fade in a matter of weeks, the lively Vivy Sturm has become an unlikely Wavepunk phenomenon.

First Appearance
ca. 2168
Categorization
Artificial Intelligence
Anatomy & Morphology
like Humans
Average IQ
120 - 160
Alternative Names
Puppet, Doll (derogatory)
Market Price
500,000 - 1,000,000,000 Œ
Lifespan
unknown
 

Top Bionic Manufacturers 2072

Talis Corp
The newest player in the market, with a distinctly transhumanist orientation. Large catalogue of hyperrealistic models with exceptional physical beauty, mostly based on former or current celebrities. Options for Agent software are limited and tend to glitch out often.
Fujitsu-Yaskawa
Produces more Bionics per year than any other corporation and keeps investing in new factories. The models are physically resilient due to high-quality materials and compatible with an impressive number of Agents. In addition to their intended function, these Bionics tend to be subconsciously programmed to advertise certain products or brands.
Skaton
A subcontractor of Prodigy Scinomics, who patented the original Biocore technology. Skaton's models have a reputation for having high IQ and, for some unexplained reason, seem often inclined towards religion and philosophy. So far, only Skaton's Bionics have the capacity for a "factory reset", erasing all of its personality and memories for a fresh start.
 

Imprinting

Initially, a Bionic's mind consists of little more than the sum of its initial Agent programs. The first activation of a Bionic marks the beginning of the "Imprinting", a training period during which it learns how to use these Agents individually and combine their skills to interact with its environment. The Biocore acts as the Bionic's superconscience and is in total control, choosing which parts of the programming to reinforce and which to neglect. Due to the novelty of the technology, current training programs follow no standardized protocol and can vary wildly.  

Potential

It takes only a few weeks to fully train a fresh Bionic for a position that would otherwise take a lifetime of schooling, university and several years of experience. They need only about two hours of rest a day and are more resilient than Humans, both physically and mentally. In their areas of expertise, the intelligence level of a trained Bionic is comparable to an educated Human with a class 3 genome. However, while Bionics tend to excel in their specialized fields, they can be shockingly naive and slow to learn in non-related areas. The true potential of Bionics will only be revealed in the coming years.  
I don't want to understand anymore. Why can't I forget?
— Bionic unit GS-4
 

Limitations

Bionics develop an impressive skillset at a rapid pace, but tend to stay fixed within the role they grow attached to. While a majority of Bionics is perfectly content to stay within their niche, a few of them grow upset with stagnation and even seek to break out. Like all Artificial Intelligences, safety guards placed deep in their programming prevent Bionics from harming Humans.    

Relationships

With so many Bionics designed for tasks with a social focus, it is no surprise that they tend show a lot of interest in Humans. Bionics are naturally curious and eager to learn about new perspectives. They can switch readily between gender identities and adjust their appearance to match during growth tank regeneration. Deeper relationships are most often of platonic nature, but some have shown interest in aspects of love and sexuality. When choosing friends and romantic partners, physical attraction appears to play a very limited role for Bionics; it is the intellect they are most fascinated with.


Cover image: Android by KELLEPICS

Comments

Author's Notes


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26 Feb, 2022 11:17

I am so excited to see the followup article on Bionics and especially liked the session with Genevieve.


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16 Mar, 2022 21:25

Thanks! In this case, the short story came first and the article kind of grew around it. I felt it was quite challenging to balance the technical aspects with the narrative - was definitiely easier with Vivy. I am glad it worked out!

If you have some time, I would much appreciate your feedback on my entry for Adventure April: Carbon Copy Paradise
3 Mar, 2022 21:39

Thank you for this great article. I was happy to read more about bionics. Now I know a lot more about what is behind it for you. It's interesting that they can't be reprogrammed later, at least not completely. I think this "weakness" makes them even more tangible.   I would also be interested to know who produces these bionics (market leaders) and whether there are differences between manufacturers (only significant differences, such as Corp X, which is notorious for being able to recreate even important personalities in true-to-life detail).   Also, a brief overview of particularly famous bionics would be cool - and whether there is a place where any rebellious bionics are known to have retreated to live undisturbed, possibly even undetected.

16 Mar, 2022 21:47

Thanks for all of these absolutely excellent suggestions - don't mind if I take notes here and put them all on the top of my list for things to add :)   Adding weaknesses to Bionics is very important to me. They are, in a way, what I imagine could happen if humanity attempted to create next generation humans "but this time without all the flaws". So one idea I am toying with is that Bionics have a tendency to be extremely intelligent, but lack broader wisdom and the ability to adjust and rebuild themselves over time.

If you have some time, I would much appreciate your feedback on my entry for Adventure April: Carbon Copy Paradise