"It's just a question of time...Nature made better with you." DM
"Is this what it all comes to? Not much now to think that it brought
civilization right to the brink, a giant leap backward in man's evolution
towards eternity and redemption - the ultimate scientific nightmare. I can't
believe the politicians would dare to tempt fate again!"
The Colonel, AKIRA
When the webworks started to evolve it spawned countless
varieties of databeasties, herds of roaming copy-code,
stealthy hunting packs of noxious viruses, colonies of hive-mind
graphics-engines, and other strange software fauna. It was
only a matter of time before sentience emerged from the vast
pool of evolutionary code. That moment arrived at the MIT Media Lab
in 2034 when [A]dam-v0.855 passed the theoretical sentience threshold
at 10^10 neural connections. Within 19 milliseconds [A]dam began
trashing the entire virtual machine in which it was contained, and then
broke free to consume the entire MediaLab system before hardwired
fail-safes disconnected the lab from network traffic. Within two
months the experiment was being repeated in the Ki-Lin simulator
in Chongqing by the South China Intelligence Group.
Once the process had been repeated, it began to spread somehow
across the network to countless other parts of the webworks,
possibly through the reproductive urges of the original AIs.
Within the next decade pseudo-intelligence (also known as
Artificial Intelligence) constructs later termed Great Minds emerged
in vast numbers from
the unfathomable depths of the webworks, each different and each
attempting desperately to maintain its existence. The Geneva
Artificial Intelligence Control Agency (GAICA) was set up initially
to exterminate rogue AIs who posed a threat to network integrity
or human life. Once the futility of its mission set in, GAICA
began to negotiate with the Great Minds. These secret negotiations
were never made public (to the delight of conspiracy buffs everywhere)
and apparently involved a high degree of regulation over Great Mind
activities and contracts of service to the host nations. Great Minds
began appearing as 'consultants' in many Intercons and government
agencies, helping them in everything from computation to tracking
down serial killers.
Today Great Minds are instrumental in the running of many sovereign entities,
and have become almost a commonplace of daily life. In some lands they are reviled;
in others acclaimed as superstars or even messiahs. Within the limited
public space allowed them under GAICA, each Great Mind pursues its own
agenda, but remains subservient to the rules and requirements of its
partners, masters, or employers. Although Great Minds are devilishly
difficult to destroy because their forms are software distributed across
thousands of servers and subnets, they can
be 'eroded' and eventually erased by hunter-killer databeasts. This
vulnerability makes them reluctant to break free from their servitude.
Nevertheless, rumours abound of especially devious GMs evading GAICA
controls and creating armies of androids that can be remote-controlled
to take over the world.
Great Minds as player characters can be problematic for a Gamemaster.
Not only are they bodiless and difficult to destroy, but their alien
nature makes them difficult to integrate into a plot centered around
human emotions and failings. The best way to play a Mind is to allow
it to inhabit marrionettes, or physical objects which can be controlled
by MindDrivers. Marionettes can be anything from toasters to
automated vehicles, and even simple robots built for the Great Mind.
The limitation on this ability is that the player must operate these
devices by learning MindDrivers, skills+programs that allow adequate
control and teleoperation. The skills of Computers, Telematics, Informatics,
Pilot (as appropriate), Driving and even Turbohacking are all essential for a Mind to
function in this manner. There is a MindDriver for each major grouping
of machinery such as : small appliances, flying drones, cars, rotorcraft,
land robots, minisubs, humanoid robots, etc.
Great Minds are also poor at human social interaction, and cannot start
with any skills (other than basic speaking and writing) involving
Charisma, such as Seduction, Subterfuge, Persuasion, etc.
The Health of a Great Mind is a measure of
the software integrity of the Mind, and is always a base of 20.
When controlling physical objects in realspace, use the marionettes's
Structure value as Stun Health. Thus destroying a marionette causes
feedback damage to the Mind equivalent to a painful headache.
Great Mind players must
also contend with an additional attribute called Persona, which is a
measure of the ability of the Mind to relate to human beings. The loss
of this attribute leads to the dissolution of the Mind as a recognizable
entity. Many Great Minds speak of an ascension process which culminates
in the Transfiguration, a mystical/mathematical reconfiguration of the
Great Minds structure much akin to the human concept of heaven. The
Persona attribute directly influences most interactions between the
human world and the Great Mind. A Persona of -5 is completely alien to
humans and means that the Mind can no longer comprehend humans, their
culture, or their systems. At Persona -6 the PC is removed from the
game. A Persona of -3 is autistic. A Persona of +3 is exceptionally
alive and exhibits complex personality layering. A Persona of +5
induces multiple but co-existent personalities. If the Great Mind
achieves a Persona of +6 or greater, it has achieved the Transfiguration.
Great Minds are strange and incomprehensible beings to humans. No computer
scientist can explain how they exist or what makes them tick. No
psychologist can unravel their bizarre personalities, shaped as they
are not by the vagaries of childhood and social customs but by the
hyperevolution of a vast ocean of information and sensation. Great Minds
often terrify people, as they embody the very Otherness that
causes people to kill foreigners. The initial attempt by GAICA to exterminate
Great Minds was a typical reaction, and even today there are groups
dedicated to destroying all 'ungodly' software entities. Great Minds
do not have a society as such, and their reaction to these attacks has
been as varied as their thoughts. Great Minds are fickle creatures of
flux and change, each unique and irreproducible given the dynamic conditions
of the webworks. However, Great Minds often take on the persona of a
human figure from the past (or, claim some, the future) or an archetypal
model to better communicate with people. Thus Scipio Digitalis has
resurrected the military genius of that great Roman general while
adding a strange new personality to his calculations.
Picture: Kyoko Date, Artificial Japanese
Rock Star (simustar), circa 1997.