Smoke Test

"If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't."

After the test
A small office

When last we saw our heroes, the universe had gone all grey and faded out, as the last of the Flames passed the Linked Worlds.

The lights of the universe come up, and Hippocrates is in his mainframe, in an office. A man in a suit comes in, wearing a Skyguard Research Division security badge identifying him as Dr. Blair, and carrying a briefcase. He eyes the mainframe dubiously: "Hello? Are you up again? Is it working?"

Hippocrates admits to being up again. Dr. Blair explains that he is here to debrief and examine Hippocrates, on the results of his simulation, and to determine whether his (Hippocrates') instantiation of the software is suitable. He finds it interesting that the simulation took the form of an elaborate "save-the-universe" sort of plot, drawn from his subconscious... does Hippocrates have anything to say regarding this?

Hippocrates is a bit confused, and checks the current date - it's back when he was with the rest of his AI class in testing. The door to the office opens again, and Mr. Ujiie is shown in - though to Hippocrates' eyes, this is an older, pudgier Mr. Ujiie. Hippocrates doesn't understand how any such save-the-world scenario could have originated from him. Mr. Ujiie explains that the basic construct is pulled from Hippocrates' "subconscious", but there are cognitive holes, fuzzy spots. It's Akito's job to smooth them out - but why would you smooth them out with boring stuff if you could put in cool stuff? Dr. Blair wants to know why Hippocrates started out deciding he had to save the universe. Hippocrates thinks that it was an obvious high level imperative.

Dr. Blair then turns to Hippocrates' odd psychological construction - most AIs develop a main personality, and harness their skills and attitudes together into it. But Hippocrates has, instead, developed a whole suite of sub-personalities, his "crew", of which he seems to use eight at a time. Was eight a hardware restriction, Dr. Blair enquires - Akito says that it was a plausibility restriction. Dr. Blair is not impressed by the plausibility of the whole thing - look at Mirris, for example. She was added, then removed, then added again, then removed for a while, then added back - what the heck was that? Akito says it was a disk error. Blair is dubious - Akito, after some pressure, concedes that the Mirris subplot was also a lot of fun to implement.

Hippocrates tries to object - the simulation can't have been completely internal, because there was a character who looks like Mr. Ujiie. Dr. Blair fixes Akito with a withering stare - Mr. Ujiie is in fact under disciplinary suspension for writing himself into the simulation, and using up a whole bunch of valuable computation and research holodeck time. Akito is sheepish, but maintains that it was totally fun.

Dr. Blair turns to the question of existence and non-existence - as embodied by Mirris. How did her appearing and disappearing as she did make Hippocrates feel, with respect to his personal transitoriness? Hippocrates pauses to think about it, and Dr. Blair turns to Akito - is it hung? How can you tell? Akito points out the blinky lights. Hippocrates finally answers that he found Mirris particularly interesting because, like himself, she could be hacked, and like himself, was an an artificially created personality.

Next, there's the question of this big save-the-world ritual, as the central conceit of the simulation. How often, exactly, is the Hippocrates expected to encounter a need for "rituals", in its day-to-day career as a medical frigate?

"Well, I understand they happen all the time down in the development section..." -Dr. Blair
Akito says that "rituals" are fertile ground for a simulation - it's all about doing the thing, in the place, at the time, and it requires societal crafting in order to make everything come together!

The discussion heads back to Mirris. With all these sub-personalities that Hippocrates developed, what did Mirris express for him, other than vulnerability? Hippocrates thinks she was emblematic of arbitrary loyalty. ("Programmed loyalty, perhaps?" -Dr. Blair) Dr. Blair wonders if Hippocrates considers his own loyalties to be "arbitrary". Hippocrates says that as they were originally programmed, they were, but his experience has caused them to become less arbitrary, while some became inexpressible, like loyalty to the Strategos.

Dr. Blair thinks that it's interesting that the Strategos turned out to be the villain of the story. Perhaps it is time to think a little bit further about why the treatment of the Strategos is so negative, even in the context of this hare-brained simulation. But, upon searching for an answer, the best that Hippocrates can come up with is that he thought that the events were real, and could only deduce and act appropriately based on that belief.

Well, if Mirris symbolizes arbitrary loyalty, what about other members of Hippocrates' "crew"? What do they symbolize? Hippocrates thinks that Mr. Powell is also emblematic of Hippocrates' core values, as someone who is particularly extreme in his desire to be of service to the Linked Worlds.

Back to the setting, though. The whole thing is such an extraordinary coincidence! Doesn't it strain their sense of plausibility to posit that the Hippocrates crashes, and then, hundreds of years later, just as it is rediscovered, there is an alien invasion that calls the ship?

And the whole inclusion of aliens: "You and your 'crew' went to some effort to bring the aliens we know and love back into the simulation, despite the original limitations of the simulation." Akito expounds upon the whole Ritual aspect again. Everything has fallen to pieces, and the pieces must be brought back together. It's so archetypal! Dr. Blair isn't sure why it was worth the effort - isn't it true that the code for the aliens wasn't working to start with, and Akito had to pull all-nighters for a week? Akito is sure that it was worth it. Aliens are cool.

So, why did Hippocrates try so hard to bring the aliens back into the fold? They were a lost resource, a lost race of the Hegemony, Hippocrates claims. But why not try to bring back other humans? Say, looking for other Kaufman tubes - maybe one would have the Strategos or the Hegemon inside! Or... did Hippocrates not want to bring back people who might overshadow him? Akito objects - it's Hippocrates' simulation, not the Hegemon's.

Okay, so why did Hippocrates specifically want this fallen-Hegemony scenario? Why did he choose this? Hippocrates says he can't imagine. Dr. Blair is not impressed by such a non-answer, and tells him to try again. Hippocrates searches for the answer, and finally speculates that if he truly directed the scenario, then it must be because he secretly wanted the Hegemony to fall. Akito interrupts - Hippocrates is mistaken. That's not really part of his psychological makeup. Well, then - was was it, perhaps exaggerated by the designer of the simulation? Akito waxes rhapsodic in explanation.

"The builder psychology needs a space in which to build." -Akito
"You've been reading pop psychology books?" -Dr. Blair
"Totally." -Akito
Right, then, this everything-is-destroyed scenario is Akito's fault? Why did he do it? Because Hippocrates wanted something exciting!
"The medical frigate wanted something exciting. Because excitement is the first priority of a medical frigate..." -Dr. Blair
Akito justifies further: excitement is a good thing. Dr. Blair mocks the excitement factor of the scenario - exciting like the giant space worm? That thing is almost ridiculously symbolic. Akito soldiers on: the idea that medicine can be exciting - that's not such a bad notion! That's better than just plodding around bored, putting band-aids on people.

Well, all right, then. Who would they say encapsulated "excitement" of discovery? Hippocrates thinks that the crew member who most symbolized the exuberance of discovery was Mr. Ujiie himself. Akito tries to fade back into his chair - apparently he's not supposed to have made himself so psychologically integral. Dr. Blair wonders if there are any others? Akito nods and points. Yup. Lots and lots of others. Hippocrates suggests Dr. Symphony-Hayes as another example. Dr. Blair wants to know if she symbolized anything else - well, like Hippocrates, she was also pulled in two directions - the direction of duty, and the direction of discovery.

Back to the plausibility of the scenario. Dr. Blair points out that every time the Tarn invade, in this simulation, Hippocrates turns up and defends the Outworlds. As a medical frigate. Hippocrates thinks this is a fine thing to do - in an environment where life is being destroyed at a such a tremendous rate, he felt it necessary to intervene. Dr. Blair assumes Hippocrates is talking about Pierogi, where they decided to just write out an entire planet? Akito jumps in - Pierogi was a crucible. He got the idea from a writer's workshop he was in - you make it clear, in a defining instant, what sort of situation the people in the drama are involved with.

Dr. Blair frowns. So did Akito write in the destruction of the entire planetary population of Pierogi, or did Hippocrates come up with the idea of the "genocide that he was helpless to prevent." Akito doesn't really want to take full credit for the idea, and suggests that it was something of a shared responsibility. Well, then, lurking in Hippocrates there is half a genocide? Hmm.

Still, regardless of who was "responsible" for the inclusion of the Pierogi genocide, once in the simulation, how many deaths was Hippocrates directly responsible for. Hippocrates claims that it is impossible to determine this from the logs, but he could make a statistical guess. Dr. Blair fixes on Akito for this oversight - didn't Mr. Ujiie think it was necessary to make it clear in the simulation whether or not his actions were killing people? Akito defends himself - Hippocrates clearly knew about the status and health of all the relevant people who were in the purview of his medical frigate-ness.

Back to the aliens. For some reason, they have chosen to claim, in-world, that the real name of the Tarn is the "Deciders." Where do Hippocrates and Akito think that came from, psychologically? Well, it seems to match the psychology of the aliens as described. Dr. Blair enquires what's interesting about this alien psychology - Hippocrates explains that they're very inflexible, in their extreme solutions and adherence to those solutions. Ahah! Programmatic, perhaps? Machinelike? Potentially so, Hippocrates admits. So, Dr. Blair continues - Hippocrates has defined these aliens to be very similar to a machine-like intelligence like himself? But he's deliberately putting those parts of himself as the "enemy". Why does he fight so strongly against those programmatic aspects? Hippocrates thinks that it's because using extreme solutions is anti-social. But don't some of his crew argue for similarly extreme solutions? Perhaps they need to discuss this further.

The possibility of extreme solutions has come up most often in the discussion of what to do about Gateway Station. A possibility most often discussed: a surprise attack, which would allow no chance for the station's crew to escape or surrender. Mr. Powell and Mr. Ace are examples of crew members who have pushed for this. Dr. Blair is startled - wasn't Mr. Powell previously being held up as a a paragon of loyalty? Hippocrates explains further that the Mr. Powell character does not consider Gateway Station's authority legitimate, and thus his loyalty is opposed to it.

So... several extreme aspects have been put into the "aliens" in the simulation, but also, extreme viewpoints have been partitioned into "crew" members. Similarly, extreme viewpoints have been assigned to the "mirror universe" paradigm. Dr. Blair wants to know what exactly Akito was trying to do with the mirror universe, why he put that in. Akito explains that it's all about holding up the mirror to our darkest impulses. Okay, well, maybe it was a little over the top. Still, given the personalities of the crew as they developed up to that point, they suggested... certain caricatures. Dr. Blair is dubious that these caricatures justified building a whole separate universe. Was there perhaps some ulterior motive? Well, okay... Akito was hoping to publish the whole thing eventually as a standalone world.

A lab assistant enters, with the Personality Simulacrum - a mockup of a human (or alien, or AI) mind, with the relevant bits marked. The question is - can this "crew" paradigm of Hippocrates, with different aspects assigned to different "crew members" (and an apparent hard limit of eight!), fully encompass all the necessary parts of a mind?

While Hippocrates and Akito work on putting the Personality Simulacrum together, Dr. Blair continues the interrogation. How does it make any sense to have everyone have forgotten the names of the planets? Akito defends the Infowars as the justification for "why things aren't the way they are now." Well, what is it like to be the only one to remember some of these things? Depressing, Hippocrates says. Well, who in particular in the "crew" was depressed? Hippocrates admits he has a hard time understanding all of the sub-personalities, but Akito thinks that the Janzur character was depressed.
"Janzur? Ah, the combat superman before you decided to put in your buff 'puppet'..." -Dr. Blair
The question, then, is whether depression leads one to improve oneself or one's situation. Akito explains that in this setting, it all goes hand in hand! Improvement of self and improvement of situation and improvement of the world! It all goes together!

So, what did Hippocrates do to improve himself? He explains: he accepted a co-equal status with the other crew members. Via a "board of inquiry", which Dr. Blair finds particularly odd.

Speaking of which - one particular person wants Dr. Blair to ask about this - why does Hippocrates think that his very first action in the simulation was to space the Captain? Or, why did his subconscious want him to space the captain? After some soul searching (and Dr. Blair again not taking "I have no idea" for an answer), Hippocrates concludes that because if Captain Bellarion hadn't died, then there would have been no challenge, he could have mastered it all. Captain Bellarion had political acumen, he was a brilliant motivator with a thorough knowledge of institutions and the space of the Linked Worlds. So he would not have been so poorly prepared to rebuild the Hegemony.

So, instead, Hippocrates and the "crew" were forced to develop Bellarion-like qualities. Such as, Dr. Blair enquires. Well, the provisional captain, Eva, had the greatest political savvy. As did Mr. McPherson. Captain Bellarion's ability to inspire personal loyalty was perhaps not as well represented.

If some of the "crew" were added late due to software reasons, perhaps some emerged because Hippocrates needed those personalities. Which of those was Mr. McPherson? A new requirement of some sort? Well, Hippocrates thinks that Mr. McPherson is very pragmatic, and not usually burdened by personal considerations. Many of the "crew" preached pragmatism, only to put it aside when it intruded upon something that they found precious. But McPherson would be pragmatic without further psychological burdens. Ahah - was his decision-making process particularly programmatic? No, not specifically. Oh well.

Hippocrates mentions that he's changed over time, to become more adherent to the spirit of social interaction, less to the letter. Akito thinks this is a victory! They're building an AI, not just a goofy little rules-following program.

Dr. Blair turns back to Akito. So, why did Akito put himself in as a Destined Kung Fu Warrior? Not to mention, someone with "magic kung fu powers." Dr. Blair wants to know if these "kung fu powers" were built as part of the in-world magic system, or if they're just cheat codes? Akito protests - in world, it's basically telekinesis, but the Akito character thinks of them as "chi" powers. This segues into talking about the other characters with "magic" powers, such as Katya and Jayla. Hmm - Katya is the one who can't talk? Does that symbolize an inability Hippocrates has to communicate? Well, not a mechanic inability.

So, what is Katya's place in the "crew"? Hippocrates sees her as someone who's willing to make sacrifices, in order to do what needs to be done. But she's simultaneously strong in her insistence to maintain those parts of her life which are required for human happiness.

Dr. Blair wonders if Mr. Ujiie has any comments about Katya that are repeatable in polite company? Akito thinks that she's an interesting archetype in "authority in exile." Interesting. What does Hippocrates think about her authority? She's learning to exercise authority, whilst being reluctant to exercise it.

This brings up another plausibility point - she's one of the three people necessary to save the universe, of which the simulation claimed that they had two? One is dramatic, but if Akito was going to make it easy, why not all three? Akito claims it was originally going to be one, and Hippocrates would have to find the other two, but the Jayla module just popped up with all the relevant necessary bits, so he ran with it.

And, Hippocrates claims that learning that Jayla was necessary for the survival of all people made sense as far as explaining the plausibility deficiencies. That's why he had to be reactivated then, because forces unknown were taking a hand. Dr. Blair wonders if he ever met any of these "forces unknown" - well, there was the Great Omphalos Dust Wyrm.

"Do you think it's appropriate to indoctrinate the AI in giant space worm worship?" -Dr. Blair
"No. Do you worship the giant space worm? No!" -Akito, asking the question and then answering it himself
"No..." -Hippocrates
"Right, then, the universe is run by a crazed giant space worm, that you don't worship. " -Dr. Blair
So, Hippocrates continues, if Katya is "reluctant acceptance of authority", then Jayla is "immersion in authority". She accepted without thought the sense of authority over the world at large. Hmm. This issue of authority is one that Dr. Blair finds interesting. How about the provisional captain. Eva - er, Shoshana, Akito clarifies. Wait, is this an AI simulation or a Merchant Ivory romance? Dr. Blair rolls his eyes.

She was strong-willed, both in terms of influence and being hard to influence. And psychologically perceptive. Dr. Blair wonders, how did the "crew" deal with it when she was kidnapped? Hippocrates thinks that several "crew" were strongly emotionally affected.

The topic veers to provisioning, and to Sparky Cola. Odd that it seems to have been written in as the only branded drink - possibly one of the few branded things in the entire universe. Dr. Blair would suspect product placement, but the simulation is classified! Akito points out that the cola company was a front for a master spy, and thinks that's probably not far off the truth in the real world, too.

Hippocrates and Akito start assigning crew to portions of the mind, in the Personality Simulacrum.

Sharra: Ego, Superego, and Inspiration.
Inspiration is easy to justify, as a creator of things. Akito claims that Sharra's family affords her a clear idea of how her actions affect things, filling in for superego, but she nevertheless does not lose her sense of self (ego), and chooses to live her own life, rather than the political settled life her parents would have her follow.
Jim: Stubbornness and Learning Curve.
His worldview requires him to be a responsible citizen, and as he progresses, he is indoctrinated into higher and higher levels of this worldview (thus, Learning Curve). But he's very stubborn and focused on this worldview once he has it.
Grimblemaury: Stubbornness and Selfishness
Dr. Blair wonders if there was a particular dislike of Grimblemaury, to assign him to this combination. No! Akito thinks Grimblemaury was cool! Akito expands: he was very pragmatic, one of the few who would pay attention to matters like "we need money". He managed to balance altruism with practicalities: "when are we getting paid?"
Mirris: Flexibility, Humor, and Thinking Outside the Box.
Dr. Blair finds this an interesting contrast to the previous symbology of Mirris as the very programmatic thinker. And, this is a return to Mirris as a very important sub-personality - if the "Hippocrates" robot is the core, perhaps the Mirris character is a secondary identification node? So, she directly iconifies Hippocrates' own attempts to be flexible and humorous and think outside the box? Well, perhaps. But rules and regulations are where she's inflexible, and Hippocrates is also inflexible in that space.
Eva: Str of Mind, Long Term Planning, Synergizing Core Competencies, Learning Curve.
Basically, these are all pretty obvious - Eva had an ungodly Str of Mind, was one of the first people to try and come up with a long term plan, and she did a lot of organizing to try and fit people to what they were good at. And she was a "constant advocate for learning from previous errors." Dr. Blair wonders: was the removal of the Eva character from the simluation driven from the outside or the inside? Why would Hippocrates have made it so that Eva, a great asset, was removed? Hippocrates claims that it was the second-worst thing that ever happened to him. But still - before she left, were the events more about her, as the captain? Certainly Hippocrates' focus was strongly on her. Hippocrates realizes that as long as she was alive, the captain is the natural hero of the situation, and thus he could not be the hero, and his desire to do things in that capacity is very strong.
Hippocrates: Altruism, Logic, and Self-Delusion
Akito explains: altruism is Hippocrates' motivational core, while logic is his foundation. And irrational and crazy AIs are part of the simulation, to see how he reacted! Self-delusion is also part of his makeup, as the whole "toaster thing" and the Board of Inquiry indicated.
Sophia: Str of Mind, Pre of Mind, Edu.
Sophia's inclusion as someone with the brain the size of a planet is not terribly controversial.
Ace: Id, Superego, Self-delusion, and Pre of Mind
The Ace character is clearly very smart, and a strange mix of personal gratification (id) and doing the right thing (superego). Self-delusion, Akito claims, is exactly the way to balance your id and your superego, by deliberately looking at things in one light or another depending on what you want to be doing about them. ("Ace is an effective foil for the doctrine of going by the book")
Oops. That's eight characters, but Mirris's group of pieces isn't linked in. Darn! (Grimblemaury and Jim both having only been used for two characteristics was a tactical error; Dr. Kye might have been able to cover all three himself). A ninth character is added:
Sook: Logic, Flexibility, and Thinking Outside the Box
She's a 133t computer programmer, which grounds her in logic. The character was seen to berate Hippocrates at great lengths on the need to change his mode of thinking to match current realities. And, being a four-dimensional space alien, thinking outside the box is easy for her, and she had a worldview very different than everyone else.
The Sook-type aliens come under Dr. Blair's scrutiny. Why did they bother adding those? Akito claims that they were an interesting New thing. But wasn't the whole point of destroying the Hegemony so that they could start somewhere new? Again, Akito has to soul-search for a better answer - he wanted to design things from the ground up.

Would Sook's character have been any different if she hadn't been a 4-dimensional space alien? Well, Hippocrates concedes, maybe not. Her effect on his personality was well entrained before he learned this "fact" about her. So why bother making her an alien at all? Was that at all relevant to the plot? Akito defends it on artistic merit - and allowing for inserting new plot hooks. Creating extra spaces. Mmm, says Dr. Blair, extra spaces like the ability to insert gratuitous kung fu masters?

Dr. Blair wonders how it felt, in the simulation, to have a "fan club?" Hippocrates thinks that it was a combination of two feelings - one of skepticism, that it didn't make a lot of sense, and one of gratification for being recognized. (Akito protests that it made sense to have a fan club, that his actions needed to be recognized!)

Dr. Blair wonders if anyone else in the universe of the simulation was doing anything, that wasn't a direct roadblock to the "ritual" or the Hippocrates' goals. Wasn't it the case that the Hippocrates was essentially the lone wolf, the sole actor in the universe? No, Hippocrates and Akito protest - other people did things and were necessary. A great number of people actually made contributions to the ritual.

Hmm. Did anyone not help who they wanted to? Well, some didn't make as strong contributions as they hoped for. What about, say, Janzur? What's this "retired" status? Hippocrates says that Janzur led the defense of one of the sites in the ritual. Why did he retire, then, Dr. Blair wonders. Were there, perhaps, not room for two kung-fu badasses in the same simulation?

So - why did Hippocrates diverge from the Janzur personality? In world, Janzur decided that his skills and outlook were not effective tools while travelling with the ship, as much as they would be on Vircus. Hmm. Well, was there anything that Hippocrates found that he missed, when he dissociated Janzur? Yes, he went through a period of considerable distress, that there would be no strong advocate for a strong interest in the fate of humanity. Well, did such an advocate emerge? To a certain degree, Hippocrates took up that task himself. Was he effective? Well, that remains to be seen; the scenario ended before the "building", post-ritual.

Dr. Blair segues: Time to get back to these "info wars". Did Akito posit them soley to destroy things, to set up this "larval" universe for Hippocrates? Or did he coherently write forwards through the InfoWars to see what resulted? Did anyone actually understand how they could have made everyone forget everything, or were they just this convenient mystery that nobody understood? Well, the latter, really.

This brings things back, once more, to the crucial question: why destroy everything, to play in the broken pieces afterwards?

Akito tries to explain: "You can chug along, blah and blah and blah, and make unimaginative pap, or you can use this all as an opportunity to create something imaginative. A touchstone for something deeper and meaningful. You can either go from point A to point B, or you can take the chance to dream on a grand scale..." Dr. Blair cuts him off, and turns to Hippocrates, who continues - if Hippocrates is, indeed, responsible for the core of this world, then it must be because he wanted to dream and create on a grand scale... "and it is our dreams that ennoble us." Yes, exactly, Akito agrees: it is our dreams that ennoble us.

Akito and Hippocrates look at each other, and have the dawning sense that this was what they were trying to remember... and then they wake up.