A group of anti-human Vecs, built to fit into the 'Uncanny Valley' of hu perception by giving themselves appearances that are very close to being human, but sufficiently far from being exactly human, in appearance and behaviour, to seem strange and wrong to unmodified hu perceptions. Some Ghasts can switch this effect on and off by altering their behaviour in pre-defined ways.
Vecs of this type are optimised to be subtly disturbing in appearance rather than blatantly frightening; some use subtle memetics and psychology to deepen the valley for effects that are as unpleasant as possible. However, hu can become as used to Ghasts as they can to other exotic types of sophont, and rearrangements of their perceptions can entirely eliminate the disturbing effects of Ghasts if it is desired. Because of this Ghasts are not be very widespread, and in most places are more of an urban legend than a known fact.
Ghasts are often used as emissaries of anti-human polities such as the Diamond Network when interaction with bionts is necessary. They exploit their uncanny appearance as a psychological tool or weapon for use against bionts in diplomatic relations of this sort. Many humans (especially near-baseline or baseline types) are distracted by the slightly disturbing appearance of these near-human robots putting them at a disadvantage during negotiations.
Sometimes Ghasts as used as explained as such. Sometimes the Ahuman AI who is the master of a given Ghast gives the equivalent of a shrug and the explanation that they 'did their best'. At other times the Ahuman AI simply describes the Ghast as a measure of its hate for Hukind. At all times the explanation considered best for the AI in terms of disconcerting of the bionts in question is the one used.
The effect of the Uncanny Valley exploited by the Ghasts is something that Environmental interfaces, provolutionists, angelnet directors, and may other groups have to take into account, and either choose to 'get it exactly right' or go with a toon-ish subset of norm to avoid its results.
The same effects achieved by hu-type Ghasts apply equally well to non-hu sophonts and other entities, and also to other senses than sight, depending on the exact sensory suite of the entity in question.
Many Ahuman AIs also use other types of Vecs for similar but different effects to those achieved by Ghasts. These include types that are hideously 'deformed' by human standards, but that have perfect manners and are very polite and urbane. But which are also perfectly happy brutally murdering all the humans it has to interact with...
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 26 February 2006.