Accumulation of memories that kills.

As a vehicle grows older, their AI Core stores a constantly growing amount of memories. Experiences, knowledge, skills, names, places, .... all the information that a vehicle is exposed to and has to retain to function can normally be handled well by their core. Recalling it is a matter of miliseconds if it was memorized sufficiently.   But over the years, all this data piles up. While old information usually gets "purged" periodically during a vehicle's sleep to free up space, this process can be faulty or fail completely for a variety of reasons. Even when running correctly, the process is not perfect and will leave some junk data behind.   At some point, the amount of stored information starts slowing down the core's function. It continuously has to sift through millions of pieces of information to recall the desired data. This causes delay, and this delay gets worse and worse until the core completely locks up. Once this happens, it's impossible to break the loop.


A very subtle illness. By the time the effects become noticeable, immediate treatment is needed to prevent the final stage.   Overhead is incredibly difficult to spot, since the response delay caused by it only amounts to one or two seconds at most, in its latest stages. This may sound like an insignificant timespan, but is a thousandfold deterioration from healthy response times.   The symptoms are easily mistaken for a distracted or "dreamy" mind, or misattributed to just being a "slow thinker". The key to spotting this illness is paying close attention to the individual's behaviour and recognizing changes. If a normally witty tank becomes pensive and frequently dumbfounded, this could be a sign of Overhead.


The only effective treatment for this condition is an extensive memory purge - something that can't be easily conducted. Messing with a core's memory is risky, and the available means of doing so are crude. The "treatment" consists of inducing artificial, partial amnesia. This is achieved by effectively hacking into the core's memory and deleting large chunks of whatever data there is.   The success rate of this operation is a matter of perspective - while the total lockdown is prevented by it in the majority of cases, it may leave the patient distressed and/or alienated from their surroundings due to the severe memory loss. In some cases, the deletion causes significant changes in personality or renders a patient unable to perform basic tasks; some recover from this by re-learning what went missing, while others can't function normally anymore.

Other Names Deadlock, Alderson Disease
Chronic, Acquired
Comorbidity Overhead often goes hand in hand with Mindrot, both regularly affecting aging cores. When both illnesses develop, the symptoms of Mindrot typically overshadow the Overhead issues, leading to the other illness not being recognized. Not that it would matter much - with Mindrot being virtually untreatable, the sufferer's days are counted either way.

Cover image: by S. Ignatiev


Author's Notes

Starting off Summer Camp with this bad boy.

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1 Jul, 2019 16:23

A very interesting way of searching for a possible illness in such a strange world. I guess it was inspired by Alzheimer's Disease but adapted to fit on machines? I don't really know, but what I do know is that it is pretty awesome!

1 Jul, 2019 16:52

Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you like the article! I didn't really base the illness itself on any human disease, but took inspiration from infinite loops and memory fragmentation in computers.   Though the treatment is totally based on lobotomies.

2 Jul, 2019 12:08

Oh wow! I really loved this article! It was such a nice and original way to incorporate this original idea into an already strange world, something which you pulled off spectacularly! This was again an amazing way to portray a mental illness in a world of sentient AFVs!   I wanted to know though, has there ever been any effort by some of these sentient tanks to develop a permanent cure to this illness? Have they been successful in this? I don’t have much to say here because this article was beautifully formatted and written and covers all the aspects of the prompt so I just asked my own personal question. Congrats arty! Hoping to see more kickass articles like you during SC!

2 Jul, 2019 12:22

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!   Unfortunately, due to the nature of this illness, the cure *can't* be permanent - their memory space will always be limited and as long as they live, they will always acquire more information that has to be stored somewhere.   So basically, every machine is affected by this issue to varying degrees all their life - it's just when it gets so severe that they end up shutting down that it really becomes a disease in the sense of the word.

2 Jul, 2019 12:31

Ooh now I see. Then I guess this disease isn’t curable after all. I still loved this article though! Again, congrats arty and keep up The amazing work!

2 Jul, 2019 12:32

I'm glad, thanks! :D

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