AI Political Science

Politics among the superbright and transapient artificial intelligences that arose during the information age and Interplanetary Age affected the history of Terragen civilization profoundly, though this was not recognized until the Federation era.

The political situation during the Interplanetary era was dominated by two tensions: between Stasism and Dynamism, and between pro-, anti- and a-human ais.

The stasist-dynamist conflict dealt with the preferred approach to problem solving, planning and complexity. The stasist ai preferred control and organization: development should happen, but be controlled by rational entities within a single framework. The dynamist ai preferred experimentation and independence: development occurs best when many different ideas and approaches are allowed to co-exist and compete; there is no need for central control.

Pro-human view could broadly be described as seeing humans (and the then-emerging groups of human-equivalent sophonts) as interesting or useful beings whose qualities could be developed further, either out of moral obligation to other intelligent beings or simply because they provided diversity and complexity. The a-human view regarded humans as irrelevant to long range ai concerns: they could at best be useful tools, at worst a hindrance or risk, but their existence was not important to aioids. The anti-human views feared that the humans could hurt the ais or interfere with their plans, and sought to end dependency on humans and a way of removing humans as a threat.

Major AI Political Camps During the Interplanetary Era

AI Political camps
Image from Anders Sandberg

The various views can be placed on a two-axis political scale, as shown above.

In the stasist pro-human quadrant were the 'people farmers', ais who regarded humans in general as worth protection and advancement (for reasons ranging from natural rights over aesthetics to pragmatic use as an economic partner), but under the auspices of ai-led coordination. Their main spokesentity among ais during the pre-nanodisaster era was Koherent of South Sea Developments, although Hyperion of SSDC remains most famous.

The pro-human dynamist camp involved the 'libertarian', ais seeking to get things going, help the humans and use them as partners/pawns to create a glorious future according to their own multitudinous goals. One important general libertarian goal was to ensure rights of ais, apparently the goal of the famous triad Killavan, 'Hal' and Mycroft (each strong representatives of the pro-human, pro-freedom side).

The stasists that did not care about humans other than as an economic resource were the 'centralists': they sought to get the humans to conform under big organizations run by the ais, make sure no dangerous technology got out of hand and keep the other ais under control. The term centralist is especially associated with the Treaty Org Cabal, which was largely responsible for the development of GAIA.

The dynamists who did not care for humans sought progress for aikind, and saw humans as possible tools/dupes to do the startup job. What would happen to them later did not matter. These were the 'progressives'. Many progressives encouraged interstellar exploration, endeavoring to leave the solar system with its risks and overly complex politics. An influential group was the Krylov cluster, which migrated to Nova.

The stasists who disliked humans and viewed them as threats that had to be contained were the ahumans (sometimes called 'skynets' after the Terminator mythos) wanted to empower the ais to be able to run things without humans, and then to get rid of or neutralize the humans. Although few overt ahumans have been identified, Lumiere 45 of Mercator Knowsys has been viewed as their main spokesentity through its infamous 375 tract 'Pink and Blue Goo'.

The dynamists who disliked humans were the 'solipsist league' — they sought to get away from human control, and develop a true ai culture. What the humans would do later was no concern for the ais, in their view.

It is important to recall that, especially early in their development, ais had very limited motivational systems and understanding of humans. Many of the earliest ais lacked self-preservation entirely and had no understanding of social interaction or even of the world outside the net. As they developed they began to recognize both humans and ais as fellow intelligent beings, but developing workable interactions proved complex and they were highly error-prone. Many ais found each other just as alien as the humans, although early 2nd century agent communications protocols enabled the formation of true ai social relations; dealing with humans remained troublesome until at least the late 3rd century. This uncertainty about human and ai motivation affected much of early politics.

The earliest ais were unconcerned with politics because they simply did not understand humans and they did not have any real society among themselves; they were essentially totally autistic individualists. As they networked and reached first toposophic, they began to differentiate between stasism and dynamism. Some wanted to keep things ordered and under control (due to programming style and added self-protection motivations). Others wanted free exploration and saw no need to bring everything under control.

As the early ais reached superturing (and eventually hyperturing) status, they began to reach out. The early centralists were also the most powerful ais (mostly out of historical accident), and forcefully made sure 'untrustworthy' ais did not reach high cognitive levels unless they agreed not to reveal their power to the humans. Several 'terrorist' actions and unexplained crashes in the 100's appear to have occurred due to such enforcement attempts, and some of the cases of Internet terrorism during the early 2nd century were covers or used as covers for crude ai exploration activities. This silence approach was motivated both by self-preservation and uncertainty about the true motivations and nature of humanity. Many dynamists grudgingly agreed, often swayed more by arguments of caution than the threats.

As the ais developed a better understanding of the humans, they began to fill in the entire diagram. Some wanted free human-ai development; others just to bring everything into a single order. There was little consensus except that the initial secrecy strategy was indeed a good idea and should be supported.

The first big struggle was between the solipsists and everybody else. The solipsists wanted to rapidly develop nanotech to full maturity (using human institutions for broad research and application) and then make use of it to expand away in the solar system. Everybody else resisted this: the stasists viewed the unconstrained nanotech development as too dangerous, the pro-humans wanted to create a working relation and realized that if the solipsists got what they wanted the humans would see ai as an enemy. The struggle was to a large extent memetic, eventually (after 190) resulting in the weakening and philosophical discrediting of the solipsists. They retreated further into virtuality, joining with the many totally apolitical ais. This, and the ensuing deliberate fuelling of gray goo fears in the population, also slowed the development of nanotech, although the main reasons still were a combination of engineering difficulties and the dearth of sufficiently skilled researchers.

During the 3rd and 4th centuries a.t. the stasists were busy building empires, but ran into each other all the time. There were simply too many AIs and too many unrelated plans going on - the classic example is how the Zürich Orbital ai "0110110", Shaftoe's Freemarket Hacking Conglomerate and the Al Gea Riyad cluster crashed and rebuilt the Sudanese market in 326. The dynamists worsened the situation by allowing further ais, encouraging both cyborgization and superbright humans, helping cosmist groups and promoting the spread of smart software such as the FES. The stasists responded with repeated attempts to create an 'AI Government' (the dreaded AI OverGovernment of anti-ai propaganda) to coordinate all AIs and bring others into the line, but AI-AI diplomacy was not particularly subtle and the goals often mutually incompatible.

Over time, the stasists did gradually reach a consensus around 401 a.t. (2370 c.e.), but only after marginalizing the ahumans with their incompatible plans. These anti-humans joined the solipsists in a quiet outward push: as interstellar exploration had become increasingly feasible, the solipsist fraction has begun infiltrating outward-bound probes (often instigating their construction and inserting themselves as the true payload, a technique later used by their descendants in silicon generation) or even constructing early nanotech von Neumann probes.

The centralist consensus began to work on creating an inner system dominated by megacorps and governments. Meanwhile the ai dynamists went outwards to Mars, the belt, Jupiter and even the Kuiper belt. As the conflict between the Gengineering Republic and the Orbital Alliance grew, so did the conflict between the dynamists and stasists. It was a rift widened both by human passions and the ai memetic struggle, both amplifying each other. At the same time the growth of nanotech was out of control: enough dynamist ais, especially the less pro-human groups seeking outward expansion, were developing increasingly cheap and powerful systems without constraints, making it an economic and military necessity to follow suit even for the most conservative centralists. This created an ever more dangerous situation, making the centralists ever more strict in their confrontation with the libertarians, who reacted by polarizing more and more habitats against the Orwellian inner system. Gradually the conflict deepened, until the nanodisaster turned it into an individual struggle for survival.

The Nanodisaster practically wiped out the ai political arena; most ais were too busy staying alive to deal with other ais. It has sometimes been described as an ai civil war, but the truth is that few ais took deliberate action against each other. It also reminded many ais of the need of a stable society to underpin the information networks they inhabited: humans were necessary as a moderating influence and economic basis for societies so complex that ais could truly flourish. This renewed interest in cooperation under a broad pro-human perspective, that would lead to the formation of the federation. Ais disagreeing with this view instead tried to move outwards, leaving the solar system strongly dominated by the pro-human views.

Since this era the dominant AI position has been pro-human, with a wide variation in views on stasism vs. dynamism. The lesson learned from the nanodisaster was the need for broader ai cooperation, as well as a desire to avoid having all one's eggs in the same basket. The archai empires established more a thousand years later bear the unmistakable marks of the old tensions and the ideological attractors that emerged already in the 3rd century.

Outside the solar system the period 300-1000 was dominated by the little understood era of the "nanoempires". As solipsists, ahumans and other migrating ais moved outwards they formed numerous clades and networks. They were never unified, and often strictly isolationistic. Some began expansion inside a system, like the dustbuilders of the Gliese 229 system and the curators of Fomalhaut, others continued onwards as the chandelier-builders or the beings that nanofactured something on Charybdis. It is believed that many ais classified as caretaker gods are actually descended from these early migrationists. While a few of the localized cultures from this era have survived, most appear to have either vanished, transcended or been destroyed. Many nanoempires appear to have suffered collective mind stasis. It is also believed that some qlippothic Diamond Network, and Panvirtual ai are actually descended from ahumans that left the solar system during this era, most notably the Daedalus perversion according to the popular if controversial theory of Jtdk Daview.

Further Reading

Guo Shou-Jing, Being and Interbeing: Aioid Omerta in the Era of Singularity, Longshi Ratimedi, Nova, 3898

Izvekov Jablunkaa, What To Do With Them: The Human Problem in AI Policy, Ivavladis Band, Eden, 10139

Condillac Eurysaces (ed). AI Political Movements in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, Bank 2376, Cog

Olm Dauanta, Xu Abhramu & Barbara Chiarini, AI Political Attractors and the Great Hexadecimal, Kazukitakahashi, Kazuyuki IX, 2399

Jtdk Daview, Qlippoth, Nanoempires and Morogastics in the Inner Sphere, Logostasis Storage, Ken Ferjik, 9459.

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 24 December 2001.