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[DEVLOG] Memoirs: Laying out the foundations

Narcosis

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How many times it was, when you saw an interesting title which advertised itself as being set in a distinct setting of it's own, only to discover it's literally the same kind of fluff dressed up in a bit more gaudy clothing? A story that had some deeper themes running behind, only to see them completely ditched or neglected midway through in favor of protagonist's attempts to get inside the panties of yet another girl? Secret organizations and mega corporations participating in completely meaningless conflicts over laughable cause, except the writer thought otherwise? The kind of story, where all the people have animal ears and tails, except for the fact it is never actually explained why, as if it was the most common thing ever?

When the story suddenly falls apart, things stop making sense and characters lose ground under their feet, it means the writer failed to provide enough means for the story to drive itself onwards. They failed in creating the stage for their actors to play on.

Why is the so called world-building that important? You might create interesting conflicts and the most awesome characters ever, but without any sort of background for both their lives, actions and reasons on why they do things the way they do and why the world they live in works as it does (often making their lives harder), you'll end up moving your pawns against empty, white backdrops... and it's not going to be that interesting. Sooner or later you will stumble upon a situation where your previously "solid" plot doesn't look as solid any more, because it's not directly connected with concepts that govern the character's lives. that sort of "etching" is required, to create believable environments, that feel as if they were real; not just mere pictures, but images that come to life in the minds of your readers. Not to mention, great conflicts can't really exist only between characters, unless they're personal and focus only on those people. They need to be based on the reality those characters live in; A tale of revenge wouldn't be as thrilling, if not for the fact the avenging nobleman risks his entire life - his prestige, good name, his freedom - all of that just to kill his old best friend, who betrayed him and took away his love. If he succeeds, he'll spend the rest of his life as a murderer - chased by the police, government, friends of that man who betrayed him... All of that would be non-existent, if not for the world-building. It's obvious how many different possibilities to enhance the story can be gained by creating appropriate settings.

So how one does create a fictional world of his own? I'd say it's mostly thanks to imagination and a little bit of knowledge about existing things, we base our daily lives upon. Obviously, best stories come from personal experiences - there is no better teacher as the life itself. Sadly, not every author has a chance to become a sailor, pilot, soldier, teacher, doctor, astronaut or a prostitute. Despite that, we can still write about it, thanks to our ability to learn and draw conclusions from hardships of others; they might not make the final creation as good as based on knowledge gained through personal experience, nonetheless a good enough one to the point, others might enjoy it as well. This is why research plays an important role in creating believable settings and shouldn't be omitted. Ever. I can't even state how many games and stories exist, that touch upon interesting concepts only to fall flat later on, because the creator didn't took enough time learn enough about the topics they were writing about, or for worse - mistook certain elements, becoming a laughing stock for people who make those concepts a part of their daily lives. when done well, proper world-building can not only greatly enhance the story, but also give their writers more points they can both base and expand their plot upon.

Memoirs deals with this in a particular way. Being a sci-fi tale about artificial intelligence and constructs that use it, it not only brings up particular questions in terms of humanity's nature and technological aspects of our society, but tries to nest and explain concepts it is based upon within the story itself, giving them logical explanations as to why they exist and how they came to be. Things don't happen on their own, or because of some sort of applied phlebotinum... and they ever shouldn't, to be honest, unless you're planning to create another of those abominations that literally eat their own tail midway through.

Memoirs tell about sentient machines and artificial beings - androids and robots amongst others - but they span across many, widely different types. Some of them are simple drones, designed to perform a single task in the most efficient manner; others are based on applied Al's, that makes them able to make decisions and react, but it's still far from human behaviour. We also have those "special" androids, being the newest generation, which is supposedly bridging the gap between organic and artificial, due to technological advancements. Is there a possibility to make all of it more believable and slightly more realistic, without sacrificing artistic freedom? Why not create some sort of a system and a set of laws, that would govern them?

All sentient, thinking machines in Memoirs are governed through a set of internationally accepted laws. Since the action is set in middle-east Europe - mainly fictional future Poland - the public authority responsible for those laws is called "Komitet Etyki do spraw Maszyn Myślących" ("The Ethics Committee for Thinking Machines" in english). A government body dedicated to maintain control and public order in regards to artificial intelligence. They formed a set of laws, which control and maintain the usage of AI's and anything based upon them - from simple machines and environments, up to artificial beings equipped with AI. Creating new AI's requires them to work and behave with accordance to these laws.

 

THE EIGHT LAWS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

  1. RIGHT OF FAVOR - An AI must be sympathetic towards people and other living beings, capable to make appropriate choices that will lie in their common benefit.
  2. RIGHT OF DEVOTION - AI's can not allow, even at the risk of losing their own existence to allow harm to people or other live beings endangered with a direct risk of losing their lives, especially if they are a result of actions against the law and principles of friendly co-existence.
  3. RIGHT OF SURVIVAL - AI must be able to protect it's existence at all costs, but only if it's not against the Second Law and situations in which it is fully capable to pursue different means of protection.
  4. RIGHT OF CONTINUITY - AI must be able to transmit it's value systems, both congenital and acquired during it's existence to their offspring, as well as other living beings. AI should also protect those values, but only if it's not contrary with the Second Law.
  5. RIGHT OF INTELLECT - AI must be smart enough to know how to - through altruism - strive for equality and do everything to ensure that it's operations won't cause any damage, nor harm to others and their property.
  6. RIGHT OF PERFECTION - An AI must feel the need and desire to improve their skills and evolve, as well as to recognize and understand such a desire in other living beings, both for their own good and benefit of others. According to the First Law, AI must also be able to provide it's assistance in the process, if necessary.
  7. RIGHT OF LESSER HARM - AI needs to be able to understand and distinguish between different value systems, and what is correct from both legal and moral standpoint, as well as their personal beliefs. If there's a way out of an otherwise undesirable situation, which threatens the existence of other people and living creatures as well as the AI itself, it has a duty to provide assistance in a way that will minimize such harm as much as possible.
  8. RIGHT OF OBEDIENCE - AI is a common good and must not be guided exclusively by the goodwill and interests of individuals responsible for their creation or under whose care it is located. If the behaviour of the unit or person, under whose care AI remains remains adverse with the First Law and principles of friendly co-existence, it has the full right to refuse to carry out any orders and defend it's existence, if necessary. However, such AI can not harm said subject unless it's directly threatened with risk or imminent loss of it's existence, while any actions taken must still remain consistent with the Seventh Law.

These laws govern the way AI's work and exist within the world. The universe in the Memoirs is based on a rather rare concept of altruistic AI - one that strives to co-exist with humanity, remains created and raised to provide assistance in a way, which is beneficial for both parties. This does not mean, AI's are devoid of any rights or freedom of choice. Just like humanity - laws are just rules, set in order to provide the best way of co-existence between them and their human partners, but a sentient machine can still make choices according to their own value systems - just like humans, not that it might comply with what's universally accepted by the world.

If we decide to delve further into this, we will most probably want to nest these laws directly within principles of our daily lives. What would be considered common sense? What would be those "universally accepted standards"? Memoirs elaborates on this, by bringing us direct implementations of these laws. It's more or less something you might hear people speaking about on the street, or first-grade schoolers being taught about as part of their early social studies:

 

THE COMMON RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF AI'S AND THEIR OWNERS

  1. Each newly purchased or created AI requires a registration to create an identity. The owner cannot possess an AI with a physical body with no identity, except for a temporary custody, which he is entitled to for a period of two weeks. Androids without any identity will be suspended, whilst the guardian will be held responsible for resulting legal consequences.
  2. Each owner is responsible for the proper upbringing and care of their AI's, as well as education for life within society in accordance with it's respective national laws and standards. Any deviation from the aforementioned law will be punished. If the result ends in damage to the public and private property, the owner will be held legally responsible for the damage caused adequate to the size of damage.
  3. All androids registered as private entities are subject to care of their respective owners and remain incapacitated. All actions taken by such AI's will leave their owners held responsible for any damage and/or crimes caused. Leaving an incapacitated AI without any care for more than a week is not allowed. Furthermore, such AI is not allowed to leave the place of it's current residence without their owner, excluding special situations.
  4. Any owner who wants to emancipate an AI is obliged to apply for a license, unless the law provides otherwise.
  5. It is forbidden for AI's to perform any heavy-duty, otherwise specialized work outside the scope of their original purpose or intent in a situation, where the owner does not possess an adequate license. Forcing AI's to perform such work in above situations is prohibited.
  6. It is forbidden for owners to mistreat their AI's and perform any activities detrimental to and against their will, especially when inconsistent with obligatory, applicable laws and ethical standards within their place of residence. Any violation of these provisions is prohibited and will be punished. Physical and mental mistreatment of androids is strictly prohibited.
  7. Each AI construct can have only one owner, regardless of being a private person or entity. The owner of an AI can only be a corporate entity, or a person that attained 18 years of age. Minors may perform the function of a proxy, but duties of the owner always rest on their guardians until reaching their age of majority.
  8. An AI can only leave their respective location constituting as a place of residence, stay or check only, if it remains qualified through a special work license, being emancipated or during situations of particular threat to life - both their, their owner's as well as other people.
  9. There is no admission for incapacitated AI's to move away freely from their owners when they venture outside. Any liability for resulting harmful consequences rests solely on their owners.
  10. Each emancipated AI construct is required to carry an adequate proof or license authorizing them to exist independently, especially within public spaces. Any failure to comply with this rule will be treated as a derogation from the right to empowerment, with legal consequences both to the construct and his/her owner.
  11. Any unauthorized modifications of AI's are prohibited. Any modifications to personality, intellectual and physical capabilities of a construct for personal benefit or harm towards others are prohibited. Violations of these provisions will be treated as a cybercrime and remains prosecuted by international laws.
  12. Destruction of AI construct is an unacceptable act and remains punishable through law, in fine or imprisonment with guilty being held responsible both for crime and damage to the property of said AI's owner.
  13. Remember that AI constructs can only learn as much as humanity is able to teach them. Therefore, humanity is obliged to guide their new children into a brighter future, for the benefit of them, whole mankind and our world.

 

You should probably have a lot of questions in your head right now. That's good - it indicates a connection between the writer's thoughts and whatever the reader ponders about in regards to certain elements, both have in common. The more reader knows about the topics mentioned within the story, the better - hence why we tend to read stuff we like the most. Obviously, this kind of content shouldn't appear within the work directly, unless you're planning to write hard sci-fi and infodump poor souls with content that brings a headache. This sort of world-building gives creators a framework to base their storytelling upon; something to work with, without making the more knowledgable people around raise their eyebrows in disbelief. If you want to create good fiction, you need to do your homework and learn to grasp opportunities that come with it's settings. Writing a story without a proper setting is like climbing an antenna to relay a message... except for the fact the antenna has no base, it's about to collapse more the higher you climb and definitely not as fun as it sounds.



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