Gibson City

Seven AIs You May Not Have Heard Of

Excerpt of VR talk show “Good Morning Gibson”, hosted by Jeff & Linda.

Jeff: With one hundred million citizens now living on, or in orbit around, Gibson, our planet is unquestionably a human colony. But we are not the only sentient people inhabiting Gibson. We share our planet with other sentient beings – the only non-human intelligences that exist in the universe.

Linda: These beings? Artificial Intelligences.

Most of us interact with AIs on a daily basis, often completely unaware that the person we are talking to is not human. AIs work as personal assistants, as expert systems, as doctors, finance managers, coaches, even marriage counselors. And about half a million of them have taken, and passed, the Turing-Wellheimer test. They’re legally recognized as sentient. They are citizens, and they have the same rights any human does. They just happen to be digital.

Jeff: Today, we’re taking a look at seven of our most famous, and most mysterious, AI citizens, right after this message.

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Linda: First off, we have Fleet Command, the oldest AI on Gibson, and the only one that was actually put into operation on Earth. It assumed the name “Fleet Command” as it was in charge of the flotilla of six ships comprising Colonial Expedition 762, the “Perseus Pioneers”. Fleet Command was the only being “awake” during the entire voyage. The human passengers and crew were put into cryonic suspension prior to departure. When the colonists landed on Gibson, Fleet Command opted to remain “on” Freedom, the ship that was left in orbit. It provided the colonists with weather and other data and provided advice and data analysis services to the young colony. Over time, its services were required less and today, few citizens are aware that Fleet Command is still around.

Jeff: You gotta wonder what it’s doing up there with all its time.

Next we have an AI that may or may not even exist. Solomon is said to be Gibson’s wealthiest artificial intelligence, and one of the wealthiest individuals overall. It is probably also the most secretive, to the point that many people do not believe Solomon is actually real. Solomon is said to own a luxurious personal Skyrise in the affluent Paradise Shores district, where it hosts extravagant parties. What little is known about these events, the skyrise, and Solomon is what his guests have reported, but there is little supporting evidence and the talkative guests are never invited back. The jury, as they say, is still out on this one.

Linda: (smiles) We’d love to get invited to one those parties, right Jeff?

Jeff: Absolutely, Linda. Absolutely.

Linda: Acting is still one of those professions that is chiefly the domain of humans, with AIs mostly working on production, digital sets, and so on. One AI that is challenging the status quo of Show Biz is Anna Arden. She is one of Gibson’s most famous, beloved, but also controversial, AI celebrities. She works as a model, singer, and actress, having just starred in “It’s A Gibson Summer”, alongside Earl James – a human male lead. She has a very dedicated, very loyal fan-base and has said she has received “hundreds” of marriage proposals. However, she is often criticized for “trying to pass as a human”, with several critics pointing out that there is no skill or talent involved in a machine generating synthetic pictures and synthetic music.

Jeff: Well it looks like we did not leave all our prejudices back on Earth.

Linda: Indeed. Have you watched “A Gibson Summer”, Jeff?

Jeff: I did. I thought it was fantastic.

Linda: (nods) Absolutely right.

Jeff: One AI that has been fighting for AI rights for over a century is 4488451180. It is most well known for being the only AI ever to attempt to run for President. It was barred, however, on the grounds that four-four refused to take the Turning-Wellheimer test, and, as a consequence, is legally not recognized as a person. Four-four argues that AIs should not have to prove that they are people, and that Gibson’s laws illegally favor humans. As for-four puts it, “I think therefore I am, unless I think digitally.”

Linda: Food for thought.

One AI that has recently gone viral is Pauley the Probe. As the name indicates, Pauley is an interplanetary probe that intends to visit every major body in the Gibson system. It recently completed its tour of the Sterling system, and is now heading to Morgan. A trip that will take it quite a while, as Pauley refuses to use grav-assissted drive technology because, and I quote, “it’s Newtonian cheating”, and FTL jumps because it “doesn’t like how hyperspace feels”. The plucky spaceprobe has caught the imagination of many a space nerd and seems more than happy to reply to emails.

Jeff: I love that someone stuck googly eyes to its front shield.

Linda: Pauley is truly adorable, isn’t he.

Jeff: The best.

Pauley’s best friend is also an AI. It calls itself The Guardian and it doesn’t just run our space defense network, it is our space defense network. The Guardian scans the skies for any object that might threaten Gibson, or any of our stations, satellites, or ships. It liaises with Space Traffic Control and exchanges observation data with astronomers at all universities. It has identified two asteroids that will collide with Gibson in the next thousand years and provided plans to either deflect them, or capture them in orbit for mining purposes. When asked if it did anything for fun, The Guardian said it enjoyed alien invasion movies, and bets on sports events.

Linda: Alien invasion movies?

Jeff: I mean, that does make sense, in a way.

Linda: Finally, we have another AI that loves art. Creating it, that is. Vincent is fascinated by human dreams. He pays humans to record their dreams while they sleep, and “paints” the “essence” of those dreams. These digital paintings change over time, like a very minor animation, but they are not looped; the animations are generated by the code of the “paintings”. Vincent downloads his art into digital picture frames with copy protection features that so far have not been cracked. According to one interview, the AI retains copies of all works in a VR “museum” that only a handful of people have been granted access to.

Jeff: A number of Vincent’s paintings are currently on display in the Colonial Gallery of Digital Art. They’re a sight to see.

Linda: Some of them are hauntingly beautiful.

Jeff: Indeed they are Linda. There’s nothing quite like it.

Linda: That concludes our look at seven of our prominent AIs. We plan on interviewing one of these AIs in the future, so let us know which one you’d like us to talk to!

Jeff: We’re taking a short break, but we’ll be back with more after these messages.

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Author’s Comments:

Fleet Command and Solomon have been mentioned before, the others are completely new.

AIs are a fascinating subject. To my mind, they are “people”, but they are not human. Some may mimic human personalities, but there are always differences based on physical differences between a human and a computer, and sooner or later they will cause a drift between the tow. By that I don’t mean that AIs and humans will inevitably become enemies, but rather that the different needs humans and AIs experience will cause different attitudes, opinions, likes and dislikes, and so on.

And yeah, I like the “interview” and related formats. Allows me to throw in “color”, personal biases and opinions of other characters. I think it’s a great way to show aspects of a society without stating explicitly.

Gibson City

An Overview of the Government of Gibson

The government of Gibson derives its legitimization from the United Nations Colonial Authority on Earth, which oversaw all colonial projects undertaken by humankind. Technically, the planetary government is the “United Nations Colonial Authority of Gibson”, with its chief magistrate not elected, but assigned before departure by the UNCA. Successors were to be selected by the Colonial Advisory Council as necessary (retirement, death, etc).

When organizing their expedition, the “Perseus Pioneers” decided that, while useful in the initial phase of colonization, such a system was tantamount to a dictatorship and thus undesirable. Hence, the Colonial Charter included the provision that the UNCA administrator would be replaced by a democratically elected President no later than 10 years after settling on a planet. The international treaties that created the UNCA did not include any provisions that grants colonies the power to declare independence, so the Pioneers and the UNCA assigned administrator agreed that the UNCA administrator shall accept a successor nominated by popular vote.

Analysis: The UNCA charter lacked a provision for colonies to organize self-rule or declare legal independence because several nations felt this would undermine their “territorial integrity”. Some were opposed to giving up control on principle, but even governments that were more liberal in their policies feared that granting colonies the explicit right to declaring independence would be seen as just cause for territories on Earth that might seek self rule.

A Note on AI Rights

Artificial Intelligence was developed on Earth prior to the Exodus. Colonial Expedition 762, which eventually settled Gibson, was commanded by an AI who took on the name “Fleet Command”.

Today, AI is in wide use on Gibson, usually in the form of intelligent but non-sentient systems, such as digital personal assistants or other expert systems. AIs are not necessarily smarter than humans, but they do have some capabilities humans lack, such as the ability to store and crunch large amounts of data. There has never been a “superintelligent” AI on Gibson, and no technological singularity.

By default, AIs are considered non-sentient and are thus not eligible for citizenship. An AI can take the Turing-Wellheimer test to establish whether or not it is sentient, and, if successful, a Citizenship test.

Note: The Turing-Wellheimer test was developed on Earth as an extension of the earlier Turing test. Unlike the Turing test, it does not merely evaluate a machine’s ability to appear human in behavior, it tests sentience, self-awareness, creativity, sapience, and intentionality. The test is generally accepted as reliable; it detects 98+% of AIs who were ordered to take the test. Only 4.5% of machine intelligences who take the Turing-Wellheimer test out of their own volition fail, compared to 7.1% of all humans who take the test.

Relations between humans and AIs are generally good, though many humans still think of all AI as mere “machines” and there is a small but significant number of people who suffer from “robophobia”, the fear that robots and AIs will rise up and enslave or murder humans. Robophobia is recognized as a disability and is generally treatable.


President: The President is the head of state and the head of government of Gibson. He is elected by popular vote of all citizens, technically a nomination which is then accepted by the Advisory Council, proposed to the acting President, who then transfers their powers to the President-elect.

The president sets general policies, signs bills into law, appoints ministers, judges, and members of the advisory council, and controls the colony’s military and law enforcement forces.

Gibson City, for a long time, was the entirety of the colony on Gibson, so the government of the Colony was the same as the government of the City. As Gibson City grew, it was organized into districts, each with their own administration. The President is still technically the Mayor of Gibson City. However, the city is run by the district administrations, which liaise with the “Acting Mayor of Gibson City”, who is part of the President’s cabinet.

The Cabinet: A number of ministers that serve the President as heads of various executive departments. They oversee and effectively run the Colonial administration.

Ministries: The departments of the government are:

  • Department of Finance: In charge of finances, financial regulation, and government budgets.
  • Department of Justice: Organizes the justice system, oversees public prosecutors, and directs investigative agencies, and the police force.
  • Department of Astronautics: Any and all space related activities, as well as aviation. Controls Air and Space traffic control and investigates accidents.
  • Department of Colonial Development: Responsible for industrial development, infrastructure, agriculture, and general economic policy.
  • Department of Health and Population Management: Health, population growth, social affairs, labor
  • Department of Education: Education, information, science, religious affairs.
  • Department of Human-Machine Relations: AI relations and affairs. The position of department head rotates between a human and an AI on a five year basis. When the secretary is a human, their deputy is an AI and vice versa.
  • Gibson City Administration: Municipal affairs of Gibson City.

Advisory Council: The members of the advisory council are appointed by the President and serve for life. The Advisory Council advises the President on all matters, but the President is not required to act on the advice given. The Council also organizes, prepares, and introduces bills.

Citizens: Citizens propose bills, and they approve and abolish laws. They also elect the President.

While citizens can propose bills directly, the usual route is to propose an idea for a bill to the Council, who then write the bill, including any modifications they deem fit to prevent unintended consequences. They’ll also ensure that similar proposals are combined. This work is almost always done in committee, which involves volunteer citizens.

Once a bill has been written, it is proposed for debate and a vote by all citizens. In this phase, any citizen can suggest modifications or amendments. A bill is passed by a simple majority, after which it is presented to the President to sign the bill into law. While the President can refuse to sign a law, this very rarely happens.

Abolishing an existing law is done the same way, though the proposal process is much shorter – no bill needs to be written. Abolishing a law requires a two-thirds majority. Again, the President formally strikes down a law after the vote and could refuse to do so.

Presidential elections can be chaotic affairs, any citizen can nominate any other citizen for the office – including themselves. The candidate with the most votes becomes the next President. This means that a single candidate can be elected with a fairly small number of votes.

Historic Fact: The President elected with the fewest votes was President Goodman “Lucky” Olatunji, with a mere 9.1%.

Thanks to Reddit user /u/IkebanaZombi for making me think about AI Rights earlier than I thought I would.

The idea for the power to cancel laws is from Heinlein’s “A Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, another of my favorite books, and probably one of Heinlein’s best in terms of worldbuilding (which admittedly isn’t saying much, as Heinlein never did a lot of worldbuilding). It’s also aged incredibly well.

This entire article is probably more drafty than the others I published so far, as I am sure there is a lot I didn’t consider. I am not a legal expert or law nerd, so this is difficult subject. This article is also “in universe”, probably from a textbook or encyclopedia or some-such. As an aside, I’ve decided that all articles I write about Gibson shall be “in universe”. Out-of-universe is so much easier, but also a lot less interesting – especially for a setting that has tons of mysteries.