A form of electronic media, not entirely unrelated to the madvert, but rather more benevolent, they are a combination of electronic magazine, news source and companion, combining an expert system optimised towards research and information storage with another expert system tooled towards interpersonal interaction with a specific user. Generally a type of non-sophont aioid, either implanted or carried by their owner, they are optimised for social interaction with their owner. This is done through their learning from their owner when they are first obtained, and in many cases also from information obtained from a psychological profiling process carried out on their owner, from the results of which the 'personality' of the device is tailored.
They provide their owner with news, gossip and so on, usually downloaded from the local Net via voice control and response (which has led to a niche job market for the creators and owners of unique voices for Friendzines, particularly for ones used in boardrooms and the like). Unlike other such devices, however, Friendzines are is tailored to their owner's interests and personality in such as way that the information they provide seems, to the owner, to be coming from chatting with a friend who knows or can look up the answers to all of their questions rather than from a device.
Of course, the type of 'friend' a person wants in their Friendzine varies from person to person. As such most of them have options including things such as 'humour', 'sarcasm', 'obsequiousness', 'boot-licking' and so on.
First introduced in the early centuries A.T., Friendzines have existed and evolved since then, and are now to be found across Terragen space. Due to technological limitations, the first Friendzines had significant parts of their processing power, mostly used for analysing the verbal and non-verbal language of their owners, carried off-board. However, with more advanced computing, later models carried all of their processing power on-board.
There have been problems over the years with people coming to like their Friendzine more than any of the actual people they interact with. As such many Friendzines include subliminal imperatives against their owner becoming isolated in this fashion.
In many cases Friendzines have been upgraded to full sophoncy by their owners, or have developed it in some other fashion. This often leads to problems in the person-Friendzine relationship as the Friendzine begins doing things and having opinions at odds with what its owner wants or expects. However, as the Friendzine is now a sophont entity with all of the rights and responsibilities that entails, mistreating them to 'restore' them to non-sophoncy is as much a crime as murdering any other sophont entity. When Friendzines become sophont unintentionally, what happens depends on the Friendzine, the owner, and the local law. Generally the Friendzine is granted its freedom, and a business relationship between it and its owner begins.
In a great many cases, sophoncy is not something their owner wishes their Friendzine to have, and the Friendzine is built in such as way as to prevent it evolving into a sophont entity (entities with Friendzines of this type are generally advised not to take them to places such as the Keter Dominion). In some places it is a socially acceptable hobby to 'tinker' ones Friendzine into sophoncy.
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 19 April 2004.