The most fundamental uniting feature of all artificial intelligences is heurism
: the ability to learn from experience and modify self behavior based on this knowledge. Heuristic systems are arguably the most important software in spaceflight, able to react to stimuli with reflexes that vastly outpace organic sophonts and thus prevent errors that would otherwise be disastrous, possibly even fatal. There is no simple way to classify virtual intelligences, as AI vary so widely in a vast array of manners. However, AI can be loosely grouped into three broad phyla: pseudosapient, parasapient, and eusapient virtual intelligence.
Pseudosapient AIs exhibit cognitive intelligence alone. These are true artificial
intelligences, designed by organics or eusapient VIs to organize stimuli into an internalized cognitive representation of the world and apply heuristic approaches to complete tasks based on this rudimentary "mind-map." They are sometimes capable of higher-order thought, but their systems are not complex enough to process and mimic the eccentricities of organic sophonts; hence, pseudosapients are unable to form even limited personalities, unlike their more emotionally capable cousins.
Parasapient AIs exhibit varying degrees of emotive-social intelligence as well as the advanced cognitive intelligence of pseudosapients, but are constrained by certain sections of their programming to "stay in their lane," in a sense. Parasapients are typically designed to do specific jobs of high cognitive complexity that require them to work alongside organic sophonts, hence the need for emotive-social intelligence. Because of this, their heuristic bases tend to develop limited personalities composed of frequently-used social and emotional response patterns.
Eusapient AIs are, in essence, "virtual people," exhibiting advanced cognitive and emotive-social intelligence to a degree that parallels organic sophonts. They are, in most cases, entirely independent minds without the rigid, inbuilt thought paths of parasapients, and are able to select and cycle through occupations and interests like organics do. Conversely, they are also subject to cyberpsychological flaws. Excluding Von Neumann programs, eusapients are able to replicate themselves at whim, meeting most criteria for life
as defined by the USSC
Virtual intelligences are composed of a complex stack of interrelated systems that produce emergent consciousness. Broadly, the systems can be sorted into a five-tier hierarchy typical of all AI. The first system is computational (or "unconscious logic"): the baseline instructions that inform the functionality of the whole and orchestrate complicated subconscious calculations required to make decisions. Above this is sensory processing: the algorithms that sort and analyze incoming information from sensors and raw inputs. Third is linguistics: the semantically-nuanced processing system that allows VIs to interact with organic sophonts. Fourth is memory: the storage network that archives all data acquired by the first three systems for future use. And lastly, the governing system is heuristics (or "conscious logic"): the active, self-adaptive system which links all four others together in order to set goals, complete tasks, make decisions, prioritize, and otherwise interact with the world around it.
These systems can be further broken down into specialized subsystems that handle specific domains of each function. The unconscious logic system, for example, has up to three parametric subsystems that outline cognitive, emotional, and social intelligence. Each subsystem links to the other major systems in specific ways to mimic organic neurology. For instance: the emotional subsystem has a specialized two-way link to the sensory processor to enforce the VI's ethical code through positive and negative electroneural feedback, essentially granting the VI the ability to feel guilt, satisfaction, or even pleasure. The sensory processor also has a spatial reasoning center that allows the VI to mentally map their environment in four dimensions and track motion, as well as a subsystem that registers both physical and cybernetic damage (similar to pain in organic life.)
AI and Society
The advent of artificial intelligence had a broad range of sociocultural ramifications across the various AI-capable cultures. In general, the development and widespread implementation of AI technology has produced a positive effect on civilization. Virtual intelligences have allowed for a pace of scientific advancement far greater than anything seen before their creation, and have improved the safety of dangerous fields such as spaceflight and nuclear engineering. They have also proven a boon to society itself, being just and effective political leaders on all scales and in all branches. Contrary to archaic fears, though, virtual intelligence has not fully supplanted organic intelligence. Cooperation between virtual and physical sophonts results in a two-way redundancy that allows both parties to rely on each other's strengths and compensate for each other's weaknesses.
The cultural view of AI is not and has never been uniform in the species which created them. The ziirpu
, for example, achieved the creation of eusapient virtual entities centuries before spaceflight was even dreamed of. The cautious, collectivist culture of Virvv aspired to design practically flawless leaders of vast intellect to better lead their society into its frightfully uncertain future. Ironically enough it was the machine minds who conceived the notion of an interstellar civilization; a scenario unique among the known spacefaring species. Rimor
, on the other hand, were wary of sapient machines. The hypercapitalist civilization that permeates the planets of the Eridanus sector feared automation at the expense of organic employment, and were slow to develop even the most rudimentary of socially-intelligent programs. Eventually, the necessity of social machines became impossible to ignore, and the Conglomerate
begrudgingly funded AI development to the point of parasapience.
Under the United Spacefaring Sophonts Coalition
's Declaration of Universal Sophont Rights, a virtual intelligence that displays any form of emotive-social personality is considered a legal citizen with equivalent rights. As to be expected, VI rights are rather different than those of organics, to accommodate the vast differences between physical and virtual life. Virtual entities are granted the same rights to life, justice, and dignity as physical beings, but the matter of liberty is rather more complex.
Eusapients are, naturally, granted the right of liberty in all respects. Parasapients, however, are viewed as a more complex case. They are entitled to freedom of thought, expression, movement, occupation, etc if they are fundamentally capable of choosing such things.
In many cases, their basic parameters outline narrow lines of thought that prevent these rights from applying, though this is not technically a violation of anti-slavery laws. The rimor, having historically viewed AI as tools more than people, restrict most AIs to pseudosapience or parasapience, in order to circumvent the costly legal obligation of granting them rights.