Much of my recent thinking has been influenced by Simon’s upcoming novel. What I have been doing is describing one of the potential pre-histories for his far-future idea. But where he is developing these ideas as a serious philosophical argument – a book, I am just trying to string enough together to get a few games going.
From our discussions a few important concepts can be used for the game.
The first is that the mind-state is not some virtual-reality substrate in which individual minds live out their lives, unlike The Matrix. The mind-state is a totality: a new consciousness in and of itself that has absorbed and continues to absorb human minds, but has become far more than the sum of its parts.
When the mind-state constructs remote entities (machines that operate independantly) and then animates them with intelligence of varying degrees, it is not ‘downloading’ formerly human minds into them. It is, instead, ‘nipping off’ or copying tiny portions of its overall mind. The thinking ability of each of these animated machines varies with the task that it is employed to do, ranging from insect drone-like dedication, right through to human and super-human intelligence complete with appropriate communication powers. Rather than think of these constructions as machines or robots with downloaded intelligence, we are closer to the mark in comparing them to a biolgical body’s component organs. A white blood cell, or phagocite (‘a cell that eats’), is a good way to think of the military constructions of the mind-state. They do not experience individuality as we understand it, and they intuititively understand that they are organs within a greater body, despite their disconection from the mind-state.
An important question is raised by this model. That is: at what point, if at all, does a specific construction (or instantiation as Simon might say) gain sufficient self-awareness to question its own purpose and connection to the mind-state. Does it ever experience existential angst? Without exploring it philosophically, we might ask whether the game behaviour of these constructions will be coloured by ideas of self-preservation over dedication to achiving objectives. Or, put more simply, do these things have morale issues?