AI, standing for Artificial Intelligence, refers to the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI can be broken into two types; weak AI, which can take information it is programmed to know and make intelligent decisions based off that but is unable to grow itself, and strong AI, which can learn and improve itself. In New Eden, weak AI is fairly prevalent, while strong AI is found primarily among the rogue drones and is highly restricted.
Research into artificial intelligence is almost as old as the machine itself. Records from all civilizations contain stories of tinkerers, alchemists, and philosophers striving to create a machine that could think. It was not until the advent of the computer, however, that the first real artificial intelligence research could commence.
Early breakthroughs typically centered around computers that could intelligently play complicated games. The first were typically only challenges to amateurs, but as improvements in computation and programming techniques emerged, they soon began defeating the top players. Following this, advances came in creating systems that could replicate human conversations. This proved to be a much greater challenge, as teaching a computer ideas such as context, colloquialisms, and non-literal speech were difficult.
Eventually, however, these issues were overcome, and programs that seemingly replicated humans perfectly were created. Of course, these were still weak AIs. They were limited by their programming, only able to learn new ideas via updates initiated by human hands. Despite this, these weak AIs were incredibly useful in a variety of fields.
However, the quest for a strong AI continued. A critical turning point in this research came in YC93, when a joint Gallente and Amarr science team developed the Orphyx drone. The drone, built to the size of a battleship and equipped with warp drive, was developed to act independently and intelligently, primarily for military applications. The AI malfunctioned, however, and went rogue. The prototype and some related, lesser drones broke free of their moorings, killed several scientists, and fled into space. Over the years, these drones captured ships and used them to jump into other systems, then spread out across the cluster.
Because of the threat posed by rogue drones, CONCORD immediately clamped down on strong AI research. Despite this, several subsequent illegal programs developed further strong AI. These, such as the Magnus, Creoptolemus, and more, all subsequently went rogue and joined the growing plague of rogue drones. This only reinforced CONCORD's decision to restrict strong AI research.
Today, most AI research is aimed at improving weak AI. However, strong AI research continues to occur in secretive facilities across the cluster. Recent incidents, such as the Spectrum Breach, Code Aria Inquiry, and contact with the mysterious Sleeper drones, have renewed interest in strong AIs. One of the many subdivisions of the Arek'Jaalan program is dedicated to AIs.
Despite being incapable of independent learning, weak AIs are used in a large number of fields. They are nearly ubiquitous throughout any computer system in New Eden, though many are so subtle as to be unnoticed by the majority of users.
AIs have proved vital in the health care field, as AI doctors took over many of the diagnostic roles filled by human doctors. These doctors provide various automated diagnoses, while utilizing modern research into how best to convey the results of those diagnoses to the patients. The AI doctors can perform diagnostics on implants as well as run normal medical tests. They are responsible for deciding if a patient should have surgery or repairs done and if such operations could be underwritten.
Similarly, caretaker drones were created to anticipate the needs and prevent injuries. These drones utilize algorithms to anticipate problems such as falls, heart attacks, and other health emergencies and either prevent them entirely or provide immediate attention.
This has brought cheap, relatively inexpensive health care to the vast majority of people, while freeing humans for more complicated tasks such as seeking out cures, performing surgeries, and tending to special-needs patients.
Weak AIs have seen the most widespread use in the space ship industry. Nearly ever capsuleer ship is equipped with an AI assistant to keep them informed of things such as the status of their shields and armor, their autopilot, and docking procedures. These AIs are skinned with pre-created personalities and voices. The most popular personality skin is the dry, black humored Aura, based off the popular entertainer Excena Foer.
Additionally, AI subsystems take care of a variety of menial tasks on board ships, such as packing cargo in the most efficient manner. On board capsuleer ships, these AIs interface with the capsuleer, utilizing their brainpower and skills to improve their algorithms. This interface with human brains allows the weak AIs to utilize human creativity and learning without risking the development of sentience and subsequently going rogue.
Despite the existence of rogue drones, weak AIs continue to see extensive use in drones. In combat drones, these weak AIs select targets, calculate orbital paths and firing arcs, and coordinate their fire. Though these AIs have proven prone to malfunction, they are rarely dangerous on the order of the rogue drones, and can quickly be leashed by direct commands from their controllers. Their AIs can also directly interface with capsuleers to increase their own abilities.
Salvage drones utilize AI to maneuver through wrecks and retrieve valuable components without damaging them further. Electronic warfare drones use their AIs to modulate their frequencies and keep counter e-war from completely neutralizing them.
Camera drones use AIs to position themselves and focus on the correct subjects. Camera utilized in the entertainment industry are programmed to follow performers and get the best shots. Security camera drones are capable of following targets and avoiding destruction, while spy camera drones use similar algorithms to evade detection.
Already mentioned are caretaker drones, which assist the injured and infirm. Similar technologies allow for housekeeper and secretary drones, though these are typically only available to the wealthy, and they generally prefer human assistants instead. Cleaning bugs, however, are widespread on stations and ships and utilize weak AI algorithms to set their cleaning patterns and avoid being stepped on by inattentive people.
AI performers, similar in construction to the Aura AI, have gained popularity in recent years, particularly in the Federation. AI musicians create inoffensive songs for mass consumption, with appearances designed to appeal to specific demographics, particularly teenagers. Virtual actors and actresses have starred in blockbuster holovids, with a certain subsection of the populace preferring them to flesh-and-blood performers.
The potential uses for strong AIs are many. Strong AIs could perform their own scientific research, theoretically create works of art rivaling those made by human minds, solve complex calculations and make intuitive decisions, come up with military, economic, and social strategies unfettered by sentiment and emotion, and improve their own capabilities when the need arises rather than waiting on a programmer to alter them. However, strong AI has shown a propensity for rebellion, as even designs that are specifically programmed to be limited in application have gone rogue.
The first of the rogue drones was created in YC 93, when the Orphyx program developed what is thought to be the first strong AI. The sentience of Orphyx is debatable, but it and subsequent strong AI programs nearly-universally rebelled against their creators and went rogue. These earliest drones managed to spread out by capturing space ships and hiding inside them, utilizing jump gates to travel from system to system.
The drones behaved very similar to living creatures, constructing homes for themselves out of wreckage and hollowed out asteroids. They reproduced by mining materials and attacking space ships, utilizing the parts to construct new drones. Much like communal insect colonies, once a hive grew large enough, a new hive mother is created and splits off with a number of lesser drones to establish a new colony. Even more worrying, the drones were capable of mutation and innovation, improving their own designs through both apparent accident and intent.
Within a decade, the drones had spread across settled space and were a persistent problem to travelers and explorers. They attack ships and strip mine rich asteroid fields, becoming major threats to both industry and trade. The drones have also been found to have attacked humans directly, though their purpose in these assaults appear confused and have been chalked up to malfunctions by researchers.
Communication with the drones has mostly been impossible. In very rare cases, some success has been reported, though the drones appear to think in very simplistic terms. The drones appear to be universally hostile to humans, with behavioral biologists seeing parallels with the natural evolution of threat responses in animals.
Late in YC 109, a number of previously offline stargates spontaneously reopened, leading to several regions of sealed off space. These areas had been sealed following rogue drone attacks years earlier. Once opened, explorers discovered the regions had been completely colonized by the rogue drones, apart from human interference. There was some scientific pressure to leave the drones alone and commence study on their life cycles, but capsuleers quickly swarmed over the regions and began forcing the drones out.
When the Sleepers were initially discovered beyond the wormholes, their exact nature of their ships were a mystery. Further study eventually revealed that they were artificial drones. They appeared to be more advanced than rogue drones technologically, but also seemed less capable of independent growth and action.
Theories say that the Sleeper drones are fully developed strong AIs which remain in thrall to the lost Sleeper race. Because of the danger of the drones, direct study has been incredibly limited. Most scientists only have access to their wrecks, delivered by fortune-seeking capsuleers. However, it is hoped that the Arek'Jaalan will coordinate efforts and allow further research into the mysterious drones.
Recently, mysterious wormholes have been seen appearing around rogue drone infestations, drawing concern from Sansha's Nation forces which had been using wormholes as staging grounds for their invasions. Soon after, a creature called an "Awakened Informorph" was spotted across New Eden near rogue drone structures and wormholes. These sightings have left researchers baffled, with some worrying that the Sleeper Drones and Rogue Drones have formed some sort of alliance.