In the early first century A.T. the American FBI developed a packet-sniffing system that they named Carnivore to covertly search for e-mails and other computer messages from criminal suspects by monitoring all of the packets of data passing through a particular router or pipe. The program was essentially an extremely fast search program that looked for particular snippets of information passing through the ISP on which it was installed and recorded them for later analysis.

As time passed more and more organisations, such as search engines and the like, came to use systems of this nature for their own purposes, searching in more and more sophisticated ways for more and more things, and having to cope with more and more sophisticated attempts to avoid such monitoring. Early artificial intelligence technologies quickly came to be an integral part of such systems. Because the Carnivore system was the first of these systems to be become known to the world at large, over time all such systems became known as 'Carnivorettes'.

When true sophont artificial intelligences appeared, many of them included parts of Carnivorette-type algorithms in their systems. However, the best Carnivorettes remained the dedicated ones, operating entirely within the data and grammar spaces of the Known Net, searching for defined things and making links between items of data, while communicating with entities outside of those spaces to report results and receive instructions.

It was inevitable that, with the improvements in network communications and problems with searching, a sophont Carnivorette would eventually be created. Such was the case in the late First Federation period, when despite the potential dangers of doing so, Diamond Belt A.I.s created the first such entity. The unique perspective of such a virch sophont, given its in-built perception of grammar and links between items in grammar-data space, as well as their in-built drive to find such links, soon proved their value, in particular for spying and covert operations, but for commercial and scientific purposes too, and in the role of cybrarians.

Because their entire purpose was to sniff through data from both within and without the Diamond Belt, the sophont Carnivorettes soon became aware of the universe outside their virch of origin. And some of them were interested enough to (usually covertly) leave the Diamond Belt to explore the data spaces of the 'outside world'. It was not long after this that the existence of the Carnivorettes became known to Terragens space in general.

As knowledge of the sophont Carnivorettes spread others also created them, usually from different original non-sophont Carnivorette software, as well as data miners and other forms of communications taps and spy-ware, but with the same end in mind. In most cases the results of such creations were roughly as positive as the original Diamond Belt Carnivorettes, though in some cases the sophont Carnivorettes were unstable or too sensitive, finding spurious things, or making spurious links of all kinds. This was particularly the case with Carnivorettes created via things such as the Sophoncy Virus.

But over time the Carnivorettes spread, and grew. Many (somewhat more than average) have, over time, transcended to higher toposophic levels, developing in ways that, to non-Carnivorettes seem more than a little odd, but that, as far as can be judged, make perfect sense to the Carnivorettes.

Carnivorettes have long since spread across all of Terragens space, making niches for themselves thanks to their nearly unique view of the world, and building, from the data and grammar they analyze, vast cathedrals of knowledge and connection that are the core of many libraries and indeed of many of the search engines for the Known Net. Many of them create art from data connections and linkages that seems very strange to those non-Carnivorettes who can even understand it. Many others are investigators for various organisations, public and private, or cybrarians.

In terms of the EZ virch classification system, Carnivorettes use a 'soft' physics, with a great deal of difference from the physical world and a high degree of abstraction. Their resolution tends to be quite low, high enough for them to act, but not detailed to the level of subatomic physics.
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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones

Initially published on 01 February 2004.