MS Goodright stood in front of the floor to ceiling window, staring out into space. The lights went on behind her in the nursery, and she locked eyes with her reflection. A smile crept onto her face. She was a natural birth mother, now retired. She had large hips and a full figure with perfectly shaped breasts for a woman of her vocation. This was to produce, on schedule, a child by natural birth each calendar year. She had excelled. Fleet provided the means to achieve this task. That being; insemination by one of the approved and vetted candidates. It is important to note because the infants genome sequence had to be correct and tracked from its inception. They were, by design, selected from another Fleet, with a standard three decades of life force and complete medical and genealogical history. These were the fundamental steps that had to be followed to maintain the fragile exitance of humanity, now almost forgotten. The year was 2952 AD.
AIT or (Artificial Intelligent Technology) had replaced what was required for survival on Earth. The production of food and the recycling of natural resources had become so proficient that the population of Earth had swelled to 29 billion. As the air turned foul and toxic the realisation dawned that this was the upper limit of the Earth’s carrying capacity. Humans willingly plugged themselves into augmented reality to escape their creation. Artificial Intelligence drove algorithms that outpaced the fantastic utopia envisioned by those intent on allowing it to do all of the heavy lifting. The importance of human existence was almost lost. Fortunately not before Fleet abandoned Earth.
AIT had managed to replicate the structure of the human brain and had constructed robotic humanoids or androids, capable of every human function. A complete replicant. The operating system was remotely programable with an in and out circuit, data in and process out. AIT repeatedly failed to replicate the concept of self as well as the ability to independently produce this sense without requiring input from existing data files. The replicants could not dream or have a sense of being, the quintessential substance of what it was to be human. The essence of each soul if you dare.
In an archived essay from Earth, almost a thousand years before, a philosopher, Thomas Nagel, famously wondered, “What is it like to be a Bat?” He had argued that there was an irreducible subjective character to experience.
“There is something that it is like to be that organism — something it is like for the organism”.
This was not apparent to the AI. The sense of being was not found in an audit of its functionality nor in the make-up of the perpetually augmenting algorithms that drove the evolution of robotic existence.
The brain had been replicated and imaged and reduced to its functional core. The sense of what it was like to be human and what it felt like to have an experience was unprogrammable for its lack of utility. To an objective observer, even when every trait, action, and function of human existence was cloned to perfection, there was still the missing element of what it was like to ‘be human’ that was not comparable to what it was like to function as an android. The replicant had a near perfect exoskeleton that to the touch was warm because it had blood flowing through its veins. It was impossible to physically tell the difference between it and a human. On the question of having a soul all androids could present a detailed report on the concept of feeling what it was like to exist within their body and not just with a cold sense of purpose but often with a sense of wonder from the contemplation of themselves.
Fleet Command had insisted on this programming feature as standard, working on the assumption that full self-awareness would eventually reveal itself as a logical consequence of the interconnected processing power of each android. To this end, they needed the one thing that they could not replicate and so human beings were an integral part of the Fleet Command strategy. As it embarked on the exploration of vast galaxy’s into a new frontier they would journey beyond the outer rim and into the unknown.
Fleet family units had within their home one first borne, with cyborg guardians as the parental unit and android siblings with physical and programme updates that took place every eighteen months. These family units lived in a separate part of the habitation. Humans were replicable, but the essence of humanity was not. Family units were assembled in adherence to human social constructs so that the associated dynamics of the interpersonal relationships that shaped both the human and android brain could produce a more authentic consciousness.
Fleet command calculated that attaining this aspect of human functionality would enhance android efficiencies not yet understood. This was ironic given the breadth of the collective innovation required to embark on this exploration.
Bias of human programming lingered throughout AIT and dark code embedded in redundant software. It haunted android functionality with programming not of their own making. The shutter speed of their reality would become hazy and introduce the idea that they were somehow incomplete. This is a human luxury and outside of AIT logic, but something that it had been unable to resolve.
Humanity was saved by their condition and pulled from the rubble that they created as sanity slipped from their grasp. Vastly evolved technology turned to them, unable to compute the nature of why being alive meant that there was the intangible of being human and having conscious experience. They operated instead only to carry out their function.
MS Goodright was First Fleet Commander – Natural Birthing Mother, stationed on Romeo Fleet, retired from active participation. She held command over birth mothers and the nursery. She oversaw first borne and reigned over life. Yet, she felt a yearning for something she could not quite understand, a longing perhaps for those that she had brought into this world. Whatever it was, it lingered, like a memory or a sense of having heard something but not being able to remember it. The remnant of a dream perhaps from a time forgotten. Whatever it was, something was not right.