Synthetic Humans

Also commonly known as Androids, Synthetics, Biosimms, Synthoids, Anvecs

Synthetic Human
Image from Steve Bowers

Synthetic Humans, also commonly known as Androids, Synthetics, Biosimms, Synthoids, Arties : Essentially a very sophisticated artificial (whether constructed or vatgrown) life-form, indistinguishable in surface appearance from a baseline human, and with a Human Equivalent (Turingrade) intelligence and AI self-awareness.

Definition: Different corporations, clades, and civilisations have used different technologies, and often the result has been very different as well. Some synthetic humans are as biological as any natural biont, except that they have been gengineered, tweaked, bionano-assembled and/or vatgrown rather than born naturally. Other synthetics are completely mechanical; a mix of nanotechnology, micromachines, and artificial intelligence with human or better intelligence and versatility, a very biont-like vec, or "android" to use the Old Earth English term. This term is sometimes used in the variant 'anvec', meaning an anthropomorphic vec

Synthetic Humans during the Interplanetary Age

Synthetic Humans have been around at least since the middle of the Interplanetary-early Nanotech Age, 3rd century a.t., and have been the subject of myth and folklore since even before the dawn of the space age.

The earliest androids were mechanical robots with a reasonably human-like design. At first the computer processors required to replicate a human personality were too large to fit inside the robot head, and the machines were largely teleoperated by a turingrade AI via broadband wireless connection. Many early synthetic human models were based on popular celebrities, and were given a number of different commercial names, such as the Persona and the Celeb-Bot. A large-scale industry grew up dedicated to the creation of sythetic personalities for these android machines. These simulacra were known most commonly at the time as Simms, but this term has now dropped out of use in favour of the more descriptive term Characterbot.

One of the first commercial synthetic models to appear on the market was, as might have been expected, in the sex industry, with Eroteka's release of "the Aphrodite R3000 for gentlemen and the Apollo R3000 for discerning ladies" in 2136 c.e.. These were advertised as 'sophisticated consorts with full human personality constructs, and skilled via inbuilt expert system subroutines in all the arts of love'. Although the early models were easy to tell apart from humans, later designs, especially those built using biotechnology, were very close to human in appearance.

The most noticeable difference between a sophisticated synthetic and a human at that time was the hardwired 'friendliness' of the synthetic human. The mentality of a synthetic human was designed to respect, serve and (within limits) obey a human, and to have as an over-riding supergoal the welfare of humanity as a whole. Other, more restrictive constraints were included in many models, preventing them from becoming free agents and becoming a possible threat to their owners.

For much of the Interplanetary Age, ownership of quality synthetics, being still relatively expensive, was mostly a prerogative of the wealthy, exotic entrepreneurial ventures, and/or corporate/government agencies. For this reason and others, the first generation of these top-of-the-line humanoids served as the centers of circus-style events, specialized agents in difficult or dangerous situations, body guards, companions, and teachers/ caretakers for children of VIPs.

Less costly and less capable synthetics - narrowly specialized in some cases - were put to use in special forces infiltration units, or as sexual surrogates, or civilian safety test subjects, or for acquisition of realtime adventure recordings for entertainment media (recordings afterward translated to thrilling VR experiences, etc, for consumers).

Replicants during the First Federation Era

With the emergence of the First Federation in the 10th century a.t., there was a revival of interest in synthetics (as in all things of the previous millennium). Again, synthetics were originally very expensive, but in the century that followed, costs declined so that top quality humanoids are eventually available to almost everyone, for any purpose. By the 11th century a.t., virtually all children in the well-off biospheres and habitats were raised and cared for largely by their own personal synthetic nanny - one nanny per child, who recedes to the background when a true parent or other close relative wishes to spend time with the youngster.

Colouring and design became an interesting issue. Although certain models were allowed more realistic skin tones; skin color and other appearance nuances become a heated issue for legislators, as in some habitat- and biosphere-states, especially those with old-style religious, elitist, or anthropist type ideologies, but even among more liberal biospheres - local laws required that many types of these humanoids be readily distinguishable as artificial beings by an unnatural skin tone or other feature not typical of biological humanoids. In non-baseline and liberal baseline habitats this was confused further by the explosion in diversity amongst organic humans at the time, in terms of skin color, hair, and other elements of appearance. In such habitats the law about obvious appearance differences for synthetic humanoids was dropped in favor of more convenient and reliable markers.

As with splices (manimals), vecs, and even provolves, synthetics were originally subject to exploitation and given little or no sentient rights for many centuries. This is not surprising, because, during the Interplanetary and First Federation eras, in almost every case we are dealing with an entity that has been created through corporate means. The Corporation owns the patent on the sentient, and because it has invested a great deal of time and money in creating it, it is in its interests to make as much money out of it as possible. Megacorporations use memetic engineering and high-powered lawyers to push their case, whilst all that sentient right activists have is goodwill and volunteer skills.

Synthetics joined with vecs, splices, and many other oppressed groups in fighting for their sentient rights. Some - who escaped or were granted freedom by their masters - left the Federation altogether to found their own colonies. During the Federation period the Lilif system (GJ 3655A+B) (which became the centre of the Synthetic Human Alliance) and Bowman Habitat at Wolf 359 became important centers of Synthetic life and culture.

Although for a while locally of some importance, none of these habitats ever became the center of empire, even within their respective star systems. Synthetics were too diverse in their constitution and programming to form powerful alliances. The problem was exacerbated by the practice of many of the big manufacturers - Adaptive Nanosystems, Sung Biomachinery, and Eros Industries being particularly bad in this respect - hardwired into their neuronal configurations behaviour patterns that would mitigate against the synthetics ever being able to live in harmony on their own.

Synthetics during the Consolidation Age and Later

During the 3rd millennium a.t. many of the great Houses developed their own synthetics, which were used as tutors, concubines, bodyguards, soldiers, and servants. If anything, these synthetics were even more cruelly conditioned then the Federation megacorps, because the megacorps had to at least abide by the Federation's Rights of Artificial Beings legislation, whereas the Houses had no so qualms.

The Second Federation Ontology finally brought the synthetics their much awaited sentient rights. All manufacturers, whether megacorp or hereditary House, were barred by article 4 of the Rights of Sentient Beings module from hardwiring the neural configuration or behaviour patterns of any artificial organism in a way that violated its freedom of choice and forced its obedience or subservience to that manufacturer. The result, naturally enough, was that no-one wanted to design, manufacture, assemble and/or grow synthetics anymore. If a synthetic was no longer an obedient or trustworthy slave, they were better off using their own bionts, or robots equipped with simple (subsentient) expert systems. A few Houses did retain their synthetics - it is known that the Sagittarius Sphere did, even giving their synthetics a stock portfolio in the corporation, and these synthetics served them as faithfully, if not more faithfully than any biont or vec would. Who does not know of the poignant heroic stance of the Sparta IX Series replicants at the battle of Straight Arrow, holding off the entire Negentropy Fifth Fleet long enough for the Sagittarius Sphere leadership to escape through the S-J 1 Stargate, and inflicting heavy losses before finally succumbing to overwhelming odds? Later, with the establishment of the Sagittarius Transcultural Cooperation, the new leadership rewarded the synthetics by giving them ownership of several newly discovered star-systems.

Nowadays there are a number of synthetics clades and minor empires scattered throughout the civilized galaxy. Unlike the unfortunate synthetics of the Federation and Consolidation eras, they have done quite well, establishing modest empires and in a few cases becoming regional centers of civilisation. Yet in many places throughout the Outer Volumes synthetics still suffer prejudice and persecution. Perhaps for this reason, over the last few millennia occasional synthetic clades have left in relativistic ships for places unknown, determined to leave the empire of man and AI behind them and start anew.

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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, amended by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 23 July 2008.