Artificial (later Artificially Intelligent) instincts first developed during the mid-Interplanetary Age.

Image from Steve Bowers
Naturally evolved or biologically based sophonts usually possess a variety of instinctual behaviors or mental structures carried over from their pre-sophont or pre-sapient past. Often these instincts, which usually evolved to help ancestral forms survive in a natural baseline environment, prove to be inadequate or even counter-productive when attempting to operate in the complex artificial or foreign environments that a technologically advanced civilization can create or access. During the Interplanetary Age, several groups of researchers began to use a combination of memetics, augmentics, and tachididaxy to develop new “instinctual” behaviors that would be better suited to life in a high-tech, spacefaring civilization.

The first of these “artificial instincts” (actually credited to the Information Age fabulist Larry Niven) prevented subjects from being able to vomit while wearing a space helmet. The second (imagined by the Information Age scientist and fabulist Charles Sheffield) allowed subjects to instinctively react to a sudden drop in air pressure by adjusting their behavior in ways that would maximize their chance of survival during a hull breach or other accident in the vacuum of space. Behavioral adjustments included reversal of the eye-blink response (the eyes spend most of their time closed, opening only for brief “anti-blinks” to establish and adapt to external conditions), initial hyperventilation to maximize the bodies oxygen load while air is still available, and rapid yawning and gasping to evacuate the Eustachian tubes to protect the eardrums and inner ears.

Another popular augmentation refined the human “fight or flight” response so that a subject would be far more likely to respond appropriately, and without the need for extensive training or conditioning, to potential threats of a technological nature (a rapidly approaching vehicle, an explosion, etc.), rather than freezing in fear or confusion.

Other early artificial instincts, some of them based on DNI augmentation, included being able to swim or navigate in free-fall without being taught, being able to empathize with and relate to larger numbers of people, a reduction in the so-called ‘fear of the unknown or the different’ (often deemed vital in a civilization peopled by vast numbers of different looking beings) and basic first aid techniques.

In later centuries, the number of available ainstincts not only increased greatly, but increased in range and capability, in some cases requiring ever greater amounts of processing power to deal with ever more complex scenarios. Intertoposophic relations, Known Net and Godweb access, and proper operation of intelligent ultratech are but some of the most well known examples, often requiring sapient or even near-sophont levels of processing power to be managed safely. In the modern era, many of these functions are managed by a being's exoself, which in the most advanced cultures is usually symbiotically linked with the user at or before birth, providing them will all required ainstincts needed to operate comfortably and safely in society throughout their lives.

At the higher toposophic levels (S1-S4), ainstincts may manifest as fully sophont or transapient entities in their own right, most spending their time on pre-simulation of events before they ever occur, and many operating in a fashion that is difficult, if not impossible, for modosophont level entities to fully comprehend. Ainstinctual behaviors at this level may include creation or operation of machinery, communication with other beings, or other behaviors that would require extended periods of thought or training for a modosophont level mind to even attempt.

At the Fifth Singularity and above, ainstincts have been reported that take on the scale and complexity of entire civilizations, apparently performing functions that are of importance to such lofty beings but which do not rate (or do not appear to rate, since making determinations of this sort is always risky where transapients are concerned) actual conscious attention.

It has been theorized, somewhat disturbingly to many beings, that each of the Sephirotic Empires, or perhaps the entire Civilized Galaxy is nothing more than the manifestation or instrumentality of some ainstinctual behavior that the AI Gods have evolved or created within themselves.

However, to date no solid evidence exists for this assertion one way or the other.
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Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner

Initially published on 26 September 2012.