Bitenic Squid

Bitenic Squid
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(Loligo bitenicus) The Bitenic Squid are generally viewed as a good example of how not to perform provolution, and quite often as a sheer atrocity. The fact that they have survived is quite telling.

The Squid provolution project was begun in AT 1430 by the AI cluster calling itself Bitenics on Europa. Bitenics, apparently a student/derivative of the old Europa ecopoesis AIs had come to the conclusion that the real danger to the terragen clades was similarity in thinking. Humans had created the AIs, provolved the manimals and upgraded to tweakhood and cyborgisation, and hence would have introduced their own cognitive biases deep into the templates of all subsequent intelligences. Bitenics wanted to create something truly alien, and began provolving squid. The squids had utterly different brains from any mammals or vertebrates, to a large extent lacked their social cognition and could be expected to grow into something truly alien.

The bitenic squids were based on ordinary squids, modified to grow to meter size, with extended chromophores and equipped with bionano mental enhancements. Instead of upgrading their minds to perform in a "better" way Bitenics merely set up a complex learning environment with access to many forms of information and sensors, allowing the squids to redefine their minds to suit whatever purposes they had. The initial experiments were total failures, only producing occasional augmented but quite animalistic squids using their faculties to hunt, mate and fight better. But in 1499 Bitenics began to accelerate the mental evolution by adding extensive simulation capabilities to the squid minds. Instead of just reorganising dependent on experience and wishes, the squid minds actually evolved depending on many simulated futures. The result was a very alien form of intelligence, half animal, half AI and definitely not humanoid. Essentially each bitenic squid started out as a tabula rasa, discovering the world with almost no preconceptions whatsoever.

Most bitenic squids do not develop at all, and just end up in recursive dreamworlds or crash as their brain development goes awry. Eventually they die or are culled. Perhaps 1 in 10,000 breaks out of this and becomes an Active. Actives are able to understand and act in the world, essentially being squids with human level intelligence. However, they largely lack social abilities and communication. They cannot work together, do not care about others and often obsess over their own favorite issues - whether it's sex, topology or something else. Only a small portion of the Active population- 1 in 100- become a Communicator, able to communicate with other squids and the AIs. They are smart enough to realise the benefit of cooperation, despite their total egocentrism. These form the bulk of bitenic squid "society".

Bitenic squids are always totally unique mentally speaking, having brains developed in peculiar directions and with highly idiosyncratic goals. Many behave as if they were crazy or obsessed from a human point of view, but it is hard to judge - especially those bitenic squids with extreme enhancements. As a rule they are selfish, fast and mercurial. They have no empathy, although Actives can often perform highly accurate modeling of other beings. One emotion they seem to share with humans is curiosity. Some bitenic squids are notable researchers, explorers and collectors.

Since their creation bitenic squids have been marginal. They do not get along with others, they have little interest (usually) in the rest of society and their goals are unique. Just like the empath clades before, Bitenics found that it was very hard to create a stable society where every member was in fact a sociopath (by human standards). A breakthrough was reached in 1651, when the practice of clans began. Instead of just breeding many squids and hoping some would develop, the bitenic squids began to breed squid under their own active influence. The result was subordinate squid conditioned to think along their Master's ways of thinking, becoming its personal slaves, helpers, advisors, and family. Some squids never bothered with this and began to use bots instead.

Bitenic squid society slowly emerged in interstellar trade and politics, at first as a provolve curiosity (or atrocity), but later as individual and groups of Communicators began to trade and deal with the outside world. They never found humans especially interesting (barring the occasional human-obsessed Active), but learned or had their subordinates learn to deal with them. Over time squid corporations developed, mainly trading in underwater services, problem solving, forecasting, and cognitive engineering. While often competing fiercely with the enhanced dolphins (who had always loathed the squid) and many other major corporations/Houses, the squid corps never managed to hold on over long periods of time and hence remained marginal.

Given their autoevolving nature bitenic squid can develop immense mental capacity, but also quite easily go insane. Status is often given to the most extended squid, not due to any respect or inherent feeling of status-relations, but simply because they are the most powerful and dangerous. Truly extended squids often incorporate massive amounts of both normal bionano and cybernetic enhancements, turning themselves into long-lived ganglia of information, economy and planning. They become a kind of AI, often wildly unpredictable and eccentric.

There have been many occasions when bitenic squids have come into conflict with humanoids. Lacking empathy they have no scruples regarding coercion, killing, or hurting other beings, neither their fellow squids or humanoids. There have often been cases of the "if you can get away with it, do it"-attitude giving them a bad name, and in several cases the combination of sociopathy, ambition, AI-enhanced intelligence and mental ultra-flexibility produced major disasters. Especially well publicised was the Gheeke IV atrocity in 3498, where a bitenic squid decided to switch from human and enhanced dolphin labor to subordinates and bots in a major orbital habitat project. Instead of firing the employees the squid injected them with a paralysing poison and used them as a meat reserve, and then acted enraged when the rest of the civilized galaxy found the practice unacceptable. Over the millennia, bitenic squid mental stability and ability to interact socially with other species have improved significantly, but they remain a disliked, untrusted clade. Many jurisdictions have ruled that bitenic squid constitute dangerous uncontrolled nano/AI use and hence are outlawed within their sphere, most notably the Negentropy Alliance, Cygexpa, and Metasoft as well as all enhanced dolphin worlds.

Modern bitenic squid mainly live in special orbital habitats, run by copies of Bitenics (who still seems to love its charges). The breeding habitats consist of large environments where new squid are bred in the hope of some developing into Actives; if they can figure out a number of traps and challenges needed to leave the breeding volume they are accepted for education. The Actives that develop into Communicators then move on to the other habitats, where the Communicators have their own society. Actives that do not develop communications are often used as "idiot savants" whenever they have useful obsessions and goals, but most are culled after some time if they cannot be sold. Many Communicators become Masters and start their own habitats with subordinates, often going into interstellar trade or research.

Bitenic squids are especially prone to cladization, often to the extent that the only way of recognizing a Bitenic-descended clade is by the presence of their maintenance Bitenics-copies that still faithfully serve/guide them. Due to the widespread dislike and prejudice against them, the bitenic squids have migrated outwards for a long time, setting up many habitats in the Outer Volumes or manning exploration craft. It is not uncommon to find relativist squid exploration craft on the Periphery, although most of the biont relativist clans abhor the "gamma squids".

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 05 September 2000.