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"There are . . . non-human sophonts: the terrestrial Dolphins — co-equal partners with Humans, the aerial Aeroi who abhor violence but dominate interstellar trade in the Colonies Sphere, and the aquarian Meren who often resort to militarism in their quest to control hospitable hydrospheres."
— "Earth Colonies Campaign," Melbourne Times #1

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Non-Human Sophonts

Dolphins | Aeroi | Meren | Robots

The Dolphins of Earth

(Adapted from Melbourne Times #1)

Image - Dolphin in enviro suit with waldos (by Matt Matteo)

Dolphin in environment suit with integral waldos and grav belt
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

Regarded for millennia by Humans as merely bright animals, the Dolphins are equal partners in Terran civilization.  In fact, although there is no archaeological evidence to support their claim, both Dolphin and Human sophontologists now agree, based upon examination of the extensive Dolphin oral history, that Dolphin sentience actually preceded Human sentience.  Dolphins rose to sentience in response to stimuli similar to those for Humans — namely the need for improved cooperation in hunting and in avoiding larger predators.

Physiology: Descended from aquatic, air-breathing omnivore/hunter stock, a typical Dolphin measures 3.5 meters in length and masses about 140 kilograms.  Dolphin coloring tends to be gray on the dorsal surface and white on the ventral surface.  A subcutaneous layer of fat provides a degree of protection equivalent to jack armor.  Quite agile in an aquatic environment, Dolphins can achieve speeds in excess of 50 kph in terrestrial-like waters.  They can remain submerged for up to 40 minutes before needing to surface for air.  Dolphins lack mobility beyond the aquatic environment, although this disadvantage has been overcome through technology with the advent of the grav-assisted environment suit.  These environment suits also provide protection from skin damage due to lack of moisture or excessive exposure to sunlight.

There are two Dolphin sexes with little physical difference between the two.  Sexual maturity occurs in the early teens.  Young dolphins leave their mothers' groups after three to six years and associate with other adolescents until sexual maturity.  Females return to their mothers' group for child bearing and bear live young after a twelve month gestation period.  Males usually form exclusive pair or triplet bonds.  Females usually bond in groups of two to six for the purpose of group child rearing.  Members of male groups often cooperate in wooing females.  Male-female bonding rarely occurs.  Life expectancy is in excess of 80 years.

In addition to highly developed visual, auditory, taste and tactile senses, Dolphins also poses an extensive sense of echolocation — the ability to examine surroundings by emanating and detecting reflected sound waves in water.  They have no sense of smell.

Dolphins require prosthetic devices in order to manipulate most mechanisms.  Known commonly as "waldos," these mechatronic appendages provide manipulation similar to Human arms and hands.  Unlike early models current tech level units can be harnessed to a Dolphin's fins without assistance from another being.

Because much of their speech is beyond the auditory range of Humans, Dolphins often use a voder or "voice-box" to translate their voices into the range of Human hearing.  (The range of Dolphin hearing is sufficient to detect Human sounds).  Early voders required a surgical implant, but more recent units function without invasive measures.  The voder is usually attached with organic adhesive to the lower jaw.

Environmental suits and other suits designed for Dolphins, such as battle dress, incorporate integral waldos and voder.

Image - Dolphin and Human spacers working in orbit

Dolphin and Human spacers working in orbit
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

History: Sophontologists attribute Dolphin sentience to the need for greater cooperation in hunting and in avoiding larger predators.  Such cooperation proved quite successful, with most groups ranging from five to forty individuals.  Family bonds predominated.  Because Dolphins faced few environmental challenges after the development of sentience the need for environmental manipulation never became manifest.  Undoubtedly, the lack of Dolphin manipulative members played no small role in this situation as well.

With environmental manipulation unsuited as an outlet for Dolphin intellectual development, social manipulation became the natural focus of Dolphin intellect.  Early Dolphin society saw much conflict as groups competed for food resources and mating opportunities.  The conflict was more social than physical with "victors" enjoying the cooperation of the school, while such cooperation was denied to the "vanquished."  As Dolphin society developed, this conflict became more managed with individual conflict highly ritualized.  Eventually cooperation was accomplished without conflict.  Furthermore, the great mobility of Dolphins lead to interaction and eventual cooperation throughout the oceans.

Dolphin history is recorded through an extensive oral tradition that far exceeds that of any Human culture.  The sum total of tens of thousands of years of Dolphin history is maintained by the "Singers" of each school.

Dolphins faced their greatest environmental challenge from their encounter with industrial-age Humans.  Dolphins had recognized Human sentience from before the first venturing of Humans into the seas in early ships.  Dolphins were long frustrated by the inability of Humans to recognize sentience in their ocean-dwelling counterparts.  This frustration turned to alarm with the advent of industrial Human society and its wholesale slaughter of Dolphins in fishing operations.  Furthermore, industrial fishing displaced millions of Dolphins as their sources of food were harvested by Humans.  Ocean polluting served as an additional environmental threat to Dolphin society. Dolphins were unable to directly counter the technological assault of Humans; efforts turned more urgently to attempts at communication.

The breakthrough came in the early 22nd Century when Human researchers, looking for methods of communicating with theoretical extraterrestrials, turned their methods on Dolphins as test subjects.  Once the initial contact was made interaction proceeded at a dizzying pace.  Dolphin entities were admitted to Human international organizations and Dolphin territorial jurisdictions were quickly recognized.

Dolphin sociological and political thought served as a driving force in the greater integration of Human society found in this period.

Image - Meren enforcers grapple with Dolphins (by Matt Matteo)

Meren enforcers grapple with Dolphins
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

The advent of communication, portable environmental and prosthetic technologies designed for Dolphins facilitated their emergence and assimilation into Terran society.  Dolphins quickly gained prominence in diplomacy, management, education and the arts.  The fusion of Dolphin "art" and Human "science" produced a new renaissance.

Unfortunately, much of the environmental damage done to the Earth's ecosystem by Human industrial and technological society was well developed long before the new renaissance could begin to deal with it, much less reverse it.

The Dolphins were less devastated by the collapse of the ecosystem than were Humans because they were less dependent upon the infrastructure of a technological society.  Nonetheless, Dolphins were active participants in the exodus of interstellar expeditions that fled Earth during the Sundering.  When Terrans once again ventured out into space Dolphins were firmly established as equal partners with Humans.  Much of the success of reintegrating the Near Solar colonies into the Commonwealth is attributed to Dolphin diplomats such as Garibaldi Bridgebuilder.

Psychology: Dolphin psychology is often quite difficult for Humans to grasp.  Dolphins value their individual independence even more so than most Humans.  And yet Dolphins also place a greater value upon the social community as well.  This aspect of existence is so important that Dolphins often succumb to death when exposed to extend periods of isolation.  On the other hand a Dolphin would not dream of giving up one's own individuality.  Whereas the relationship between individuality and community has been a constant source of conflict in most Human cultures the Dolphins have developed a symbiosis between the two that was unparalleled in pre-contact Human society.

The result is that Dolphin society was much more harmonious and homogeneous than was pre-contact Human culture while at the same time tolerating, even encouraging, greater individuality and a wider range of diversity.  This attitude has facilitated the integration of Human and Dolphin society.  Dolphins do though sometimes have difficulty remaining committed to the ideals of sub-groups within society, say a corporation or governmental entity, and at other times find it difficult to differentiate themselves from the interests of larger groups beyond the society, such as other foreign states.  This may explain the most common stereotype of Dolphins as freelance diplomats (along with a long history of genuine diplomatic accomplishments by many Dolphins).

Image - Dolphin and Human (by Matt Matteo)

Archaeologist Aitchsee Sandsifter, left, and her colleague Alabama Wang
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

Society: Due to the extensive global interaction among groups, Dolphin society did not suffer the extensive fragmentation common to pre-contact Human societies.  Dolphin society was much more harmonious and homogeneous than was pre-contact Human culture.  On the other hand Dolphin society was much more tolerant of diversity and individuality within society than any pre-contact Human culture.

Dolphin society lacked the extensive governmental and mercantile organizations of pre-contact Human society.  Individuals participated in activities on an ad hoc basis.  This may seem unmanageable to non-Dolphins until one takes into account the fact that being a contributing member of society is central to the psyche of every Dolphin.

A specific "Dolphin" society no longer exists.  Dolphin and Human societies are fully integrated, both in the Commonwealth and in most Colonial States — the Dolphin-dominated Theridian League being a prominent exception.  Thus, Dolphins have adopted some of the more formal structures of traditional Human society while at the same time transforming those structures in such a manner that they likely would not be recognized as such by a Human from the period before the fusion of the two cultures.

Dolphins are at the forefront of those calling for integration of the Commonwealth and the other Colonial States.  At the extreme, Dolphins are also prominent among those calling for greater cooperation between Terrans and extraterrestrials.  Dolphins can be found extensively among the diplomatic services, the mercantile concerns, the exploratory services and the arts.  While Dolphins make excellent educators they generally are poor scientists, engineers and soldiers.

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The Aeroi of obu-Pikot

(Adapted from Melbourne Times #2)

Image - Human and Aeroi comparison (by Matt Matteo)

Human and Aeroi size comparison
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

The Aeroi were the first extraterrestrial race encountered by Terrans.  Aeroi civilization is apparently not much older than Terran although the Aeroi did achieve jump drive, with its subsequent interstellar expansion, several hundred years prior to any Terran state.  In a sense, because it was an Aeroi ship that first discovered a Terran settlement, the Aeroi actually "encountered" Terrans.

Physiology: The Aeroi are descended from arboreal, air-breathing grazer stock.  A typical Aeroi measures 1.2 meters in height and masses about 35 kilograms.  Aeroi are able to "stand" to a height of approximately 1.6 meters and their "wingspan" measures nearly 2.6 meters.  Their coloring tends to be a variety of shades from pale yellow through a deep orange.  They are hairless but their tough skin provides good protection.  Aeroi are exceptionally agile both on the ground, their primary environment, and in the air.  Aeroi flight capability is limited primarily to gliding although actual "powered" flight is possible under certain conditions (dense atmospheres, lower gravity).  Aeroi are limited to speeds of 20 kph on the ground but have been known to approach 100 kph in flight.

There are two Aeroi sexes with physical differences limited to the sexual organs.  Aeroi young are born after a gestation period of eight (Earth standard) months encased in a semi-hard-shelled envelope somewhat similar to the eggs of Terran reptiles.  Multiple births are extremely rare.  The young are "hatched" from this envelope after a period of approximately two weeks.  Females were originally responsible for the envelope-stage young while males generally cared for the hatchlings.  These traditional roles have become obsolete with the rise of technological civilization.

Aeroi reach sexual maturity in their early twenties at which point they generally leave their parents' care.  Aeroi bond in exclusive female-male pairs although these pairs seldom last beyond the period required for child rearing.  Both Aeroi females and males remain fertile into their early fifties.  Life expectancy commonly exceeds 120 years.

Aeroi posses exceptional visual (extending into the infrared range), auditory (matching Dolphin high-frequency ranges) and taste senses but have no olfactory organs.  A pair of eyes are located at the front of the head, as is the mouth.  An ear is located on each side of the head.  Breathing orifices are located in this region as well.  Tactile senses are somewhat limited due to the protective nature of the epidermal layer.

Aeroi manipulative appendages, which hang from the lower portion of the abdomen, are highly agile and posses generally higher strength than those of Humans.  The "wing" appendages also terminate in manipulative members although these possess less strength.  Their "wings" are also quite agile — giving them great maneuverability in the air despite being limited to gliding flight most of the time.  Aeroi utilize the "wing" appendages for ambulation and are also quite mobile on the ground.

Aeroi speech organs are able to produce most Human sounds and both Dolphin and Human speech is well within range of Aeroi hearing.  Much of Aeroi speech though, occurs beyond the range of Human hearing but not of Dolphin hearing.  This allows Aeroi to communicate to Humans if necessary but also allows protected communication in the presence of Humans.

Image - Aeroi traders in startown cantina

Aeroi traders in a startown cantina
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

History: Aeroi sentience is attributed to changing environmental factors that lead to decreasing food supplies for early Aeroi groups.  The gradual decline in available vegetation lead to the need for increased cooperation among far-ranging Aeroi groups in locating sources of food.  Family bonds dominated most groups with numbers ranging from 12 to 30 individuals.  As the environmental conditions continued to worsen, the need for manipulation of the environment provided a further impetus for intellectual development.

The deteriorating environmental conditions led to increased conflict among early Aeroi groups.  The scarce grazing areas though also served to maintain great physical distances between groups.  Conflict became more "strategic" in nature and was focused on migration and grazing patterns rather than actual confrontation between groups.  Records of violence between Aeroi groups does not survive in the historical record.

Eventually, groups learned that conflict could be managed.  Cooperation, in the form of mutually beneficial arrangements, became increasingly common.  Conflict still exists but takes the form of competition in the formulation of arrangements.

Aeroi groups grew into clan or tribal organizations but mobility remained important.  Even though technological advancement and improved environmental manipulation have decreased the need for mobility it remains quite important in the Aeroi psyche.  Historical tribal affiliations also remain quite strong.

The advent of technological civilization led to increasing mobility in the search for resources and to competition among tribal groups.  This served as a primary driver in the Aeroi move off-world and, with the discovery of jump drive, into interstellar space.

The first record of Aeroi contact with Terrans is with worlds settled from the Empire of Shinnihon late in the 29th Century.  Since that time Aeroi economic interests have expanded through most of the Colonies Sphere.  Until recently, much of this period was characterized by intense economic conflict with the Meren.

Psychology: The Aeroi are highly individualistic but are also strongly influenced by tribal bonds.  Competition among tribal groups is almost instinctual and the importance of individual contributions to this conflict is widely recognized.  Aeroi can be ruthless to those outside their own tribal group but are exceptionally compassionate to tribal members.

While the Aeroi seem to thrive on conflict they find violence to be abhorrent.  This is not so much a revulsion toward violence as it is a recognition of violence as being blunt and inefficient tool.  In a sense, Aeroi see violence as "beneath" them.

Aeroi see conflict and competition as natural methods of providing improvement and innovation.  The idea of cooperation in an environment free from competition is completely alien to the Aeroi.  To a certain extent, the Aeroi see outsiders as natural.  Aeroi tribal groups have always seen each other as outsiders.  While this has prevented a cohesive racial attitude from developing it has provided the Aeroi with an advantage in dealing with non-Aeroi sophonts.  They see non-Aeroi as no more "alien" than other Aeroi tribes.

Society: In modern society, Aeroi tribal groups are generally organized around some sort of commercial enterprise.  These groups are often insular and because of this highly diversified in their activities.  The Aeroi respect for the individual leads to a great deal of tolerance for diversity within the group.

Each tribal group provides its own governmental structures.  In this sense there is no Aeroi government per se.  Instead a variety of organizations, all of them Aeroi, compete in a broad range of activities.  One might even say that there is no Aeroi society, but rather a collection of Aeroi societies.

Aeroi tribal entities are almost exclusively commercial ventures.  These entities are fierce economic competitors both among themselves and with non-Aeroi groups.  The Aeroi seem to have some difficulty interpreting the role of Terran governmental entities.  For this reason the boundaries between economic and political competition are often blurred from the perspective of Terrans.

The Aeroi distaste for violence is apparent in that Aeroi military and security organizations are almost exclusively staffed by non-Aeroi.  In general, Aeroi military forces tend to be small and conflicts limited.  The Aeroi prefer, and are usually able, to resolve conflicts by non-military means.

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The Meren of Epnyt

(Adapted from Melbourne Times #3)

Image - Meren and Symbol (by Matt Matteo)

Meren and Meren Worlds symbol
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

The Meren are the only extraterrestrial race known to Terrans other than the Aeroi.  Meren civilization is apparently several thousand years older than Terran or Aeroi civilization.  Meren were not actually encountered by Terrans — both races had learned of each other from the Aeroi several years prior to actually meeting.  In fact, the first Meren to venture into the Colonies Sphere did so after learning of the Aeroi's encounter with Terrans.

Physiology: The Meren are descended from aquatic, water-breathing hunter stock.  Typical Meren measure more than 3.5 meters in length and mass nearly 200 kilograms.  Meren coloring ranges from the deep blue of their carapace to several shades of grey in most other areas.  Their dorsal carapace is segmented and provides extensive protection, even against most slug-throwers in an aquatic environment.  Meren locomotion is accomplished by expelling water that has been stored internally through one of five orifices located around its body.  The mouth can also be used for this purpose.  This makes the Meren somewhat clumsy in close quarters but permits bursts of speeds up to 80 kph.

Meren adolescents have two sexes with sexual organs located on the dorsal surface.  In maturity, these organs atrophy and are overgrown by the dorsal carapace.  Meren adults are sexless.  Meren young are born live after a gestation period of eight (Earth standard) months.  Multiple births of two to five young are common.  Both male and female adolescents only mate once.  Adolescent males and females share child-rearing responsibilities while a single adult provides food and protects against predators.  An adult may bond with several adolescent pairs during its lifetime.

Meren adolescents undergo transformation to adulthood after about ten years.  This transformation triggers the transformation to adolescence in the infants who are forced from the family.  Unrelated male and female adolescents bond with a single, unrelated adult shortly after leaving the birth family.  Life expectancy for Meren is relatively short and rarely exceeds sixty years.

Meren sight is exceptionally acute in darkness due to their native deep sea habitats.  A large pair of eyes is located at their anterior, just above the mouth.  They posses an echolocation sense that is somewhat superior to that of Dolphins.  Tactile senses, especially in the manipulative appendages, are highly developed.  Meren poses no olfactory organs.  Breathing is accomplished through gills in the propulsive orifices located around the torso.

Image - Meren enforcers grapple with Dolphins (by Matt Matteo)

Meren enforcers grapple with Dolphins
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

Meren have three anterior manipulative appendages located around the mouth.  These appendages are quite agile and capable of very fine manipulation.  They also posses great strength and are used to pull large prey against the mouth where flesh, excluding bone and cartilage, is "shucked" into the digestive tract.  The manipulative appendages are also used for close locomotion.

Meren speech organs are unable to reproduce Dolphin, Human or Aeroi speech.  Some Meren speech, which relies heavily upon echolocation is understandable to Dolphins but much of it is beyond the range of unassisted Dolphin senses.  Meren are able to understand most Dolphin speech without technological assistance.

History: Meren sentience is attributed to the need for large group cooperation required by reproductive conduct.  The need of Meren adolescent mating pairs to bond with an adult requires extensive social interaction.  On the other hand, the fact that only one adult bonds with each pair of adolescents results in a large number of non-bonded adults in any community.  These adults have usually concerned themselves with the community as a whole.  The fact that nearly half of the adult population has been freed from child-rearing activities resulted in the development of highly complex social structures at relatively early stages in the development of Meren society.

Early Meren social groups consisted of two groups of adults.  Those bonded with adolescent pairs were primarily involved with hunting activities.  Non-bonded adults often fought with neighboring groups for control of hunting ranges.  Thus, conflict is traced to the earliest period of Meren development.

Meren society was extremely complex long before industrialization.

Early Meren industrialization was facilitated by the extensive volcanism on the Homeworld.  Volcanic and other geothermal sources of energy were harnessed for early industrial activity.  Industrialization also led to more effective means of conflict among the few remaining autonomous social entities.  Even before early industrialization had run its course the Meren were unified into a single global society, a feat which would not have been possible without the complex social structures that had already been developed.

Image - Meren in Armor (by Matt Matteo)

Meren troops in modularized light combat armor
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

The lack of intraspecies conflict in Meren society led to conservatism.  Technological progress slowed.  Non-bonded adults, freed from the need to provide for basic material needs of society, turned their efforts to more aesthetic pursuits.  Meren arts and philosophy flourished in this period and remain the envy of Terran and Aeroi cultures to this day.

Meren technological capabilities progressed at a much slower pace than has been the case for Terrans and Aeroi but nevertheless eventually reached higher and higher levels of sophistication.  Meren expansion into interstellar space was initially slow and methodical and driven primarily by population and resource depletion pressures in the Home system.

Initial contact with the Aeroi had a profound effect on Meren expansion.  The highly diverse Aeroi tribal groups confused the homogeneous Meren.  Early Meren sophontologists even hypothesized that the Aeroi were actually several different species.  The Meren halted expansion efforts in the face of this new situation.  Eventually though, Aeroi economic expansion into the Meren worlds led to conflict.

Meren society had been reasonably free of conflict for several millennia by the time contact was made with the Aeroi.  Meren conflict instincts remained but actual skills had lain dormant for generations.  Early hostilities toward the Aeroi were awkward and enjoyed minimal tactical success.  Nevertheless, the Aeroi, to whom armed conflict was virtually unknown, were quite surprised and dismayed.

The Aeroi quickly sought a peaceful resolution and made deep cuts in their economic activities in the Meren Sphere.

The Aeroi withdrawal severely crippled the economy of the Meren Sphere.  Meren economic activity was forced to expand to meet this need.  The Meren, driven by the desire to overcome the Aeroi, abandoned much of their conservative attitudes and became keen economic competitors.

When the Meren learned of the Aeroi contact with Terrans they were well placed for expansion into the Colonies Sphere.  Although both Terrans and Meren had known of each other for some time the first record of Meren contact is with worlds settled from the Ouroran Community early in the 30th Century.  Meren activities have expanded throughout the Colonies Sphere and have long been characterized by frequent conflict with the Aeroi.  Recently, this conflict has mysteriously lessened.

Image - Meren Trader Crew (by Matt Matteo)

Crew members aboard a Meren trading ship
(Illustration by Matt Matteo)

Psychology: The Meren have an extreme sense of racial identity.  Early conflict with the Aeroi was characterized by severe xenophobia.  Since that period Meren interaction with Aeroi and Terrans has greatly reduced their xenophobic tendencies.  Still, Meren are very protective of what they perceive to be "racial" interests with respect to non-Meren.

Meren are highly individualistic.  Meren tastes range across a wide variety to the extent that standardized commercial products are unheard of on Meren Worlds.  No two Meren gravcars, for example, are the same.  Meren producers have dealt with these demands by becoming experts at interchangeable, modularized design.

Bonded Meren adults are highly focused upon their family obligations.  Loyalty to the family in quite intense.  Non-bonded adults have great loyalty to the race as whole.

Meren have great faith in their species and see their purpose as bringing their culture to less fortunate species.  This attitude is driven by a genuine concern for others that is inherent in the Meren attitudes about their culture.  In a sense, the Meren see the diversity and inhomogeneity in Aeroi and Terran societies as being dysfunctional.

Meren are hunters by nature and quite comfortable with conflict.  Their combat capabilities have improved enormously since their early contact with the Aeroi.  Despite this, the Meren are not capricious and only resort to violence when they perceive a clear threat to their interests.  When they do resort to combat Meren are ruthless and effective.  Meren mercenary units are among the most feared, and most sought after, in the Colonies Sphere.

Meren xenophobic tendencies, while no longer dominant, remain quite strong.  Meren have an inherent distrust of non-Meren.  While this has led to many misunderstandings with non-Meren (and more than occasional conflict) the Meren remain quite effective in dealing with non-Meren due their ability to act cohesively.

Society: Modern Meren society is highly homogeneous.  Internal dissent is virtually non-existent due to extensive social structures that have been developed to help provide consensus.  This wide consensus permits Meren society to tolerate a wide degree of individualism among its members.  There are clear distinctions in Meren society between societal interests and individual tastes.  Each individual recognizes their bond to the society.

While Meren prize their homogeneous society there is also great respect for individual tastes within that society.  Because Meren society is so homogeneous individual Meren are not threatened by individual diversity because the idea of societal fragmentation is largely unthinkable to them.

Meren society is divided into two broad groups.  Bonded adults are devoted almost exclusively to caring for their adolescent pair and children.  Bonded adults no longer need to provide material support, which is provided by the larger community, and instead devote their efforts primarily to education.  Bonded adults often continue in the education field after leaving a bonded relationship.

Non-bonded adults conduct the bulk of Meren activities from commerce, to government, to the arts and sciences.  Non-bonded adults though can freely move from their occupational activities to family responsibilities upon bonding.

While Meren activities in the Colonies Sphere are focused upon economic competition, the growing political control of Terran-settled worlds in Europa Subsector reflects a deeper interest in expanding Meren society to non-Meren Worlds.  To date, the Meren have had great difficulty integrating the Terran-settled worlds into the wider Meren culture.

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High-order Robots

(Adapted from Melbourne Times #5)

Image - Ptolemy Rainshower (by Duncan Long)

High-order robot Ptolemy Rainshower
(Illustration by Duncan Long)

The classification of Robots as Sophonts remains highly controversial.  Indeed, on the vast majority of worlds in the Colonies Sphere, even the notion of Robot emancipation — granting a Robot self-ownership and a legal right to self-determination — is hotly debated.  Still, the very fact that Robot self-determination is at issue suggests that these artificial constructs are something more than mere machines.

Physiology: This is the first aspect of Robots that is problematic: Robots have no "physiology."  While many Robots have biological subsystems — including processors or "brains" — they are all artificial constructs that include many non-biological components.  Furthermore, there is no standard physiological form for Robots.  While many are anthropomorphic or delphinomorphic, others have forms that are designed specifically to meet their expected operating requirements.  Nevertheless, all Robots do share certain characteristics and "organic" qualities.

All "high order" Robots — seemingly "self-aware" robots capable of extensive autonomous activity — possess an advanced, bioneural processor.  This processor is mounted in a framework that is equipped with various operative appendages and usually a means of locomotion.  Operative appendages may include sensors (electromagnetic, thermodynamic, chemical, etc.), interface devices (data, power, and materials), and manipulative devices (mechanical, gravitic, electromagnetic).  Locomotion may be mechanical (legs, wheels, etc.), reaction (fluid, plasma, etc.) or gravitic.

Robots are constructed primarily from plastalloy materials, although metallic, plastic or organic components are also present.  Robot mass and volume varies considerably although most are scaled to operate in conjunction with Sophonts.  Mobility and strength also vary according to intended function.  Robots often are able to operate in environments that are hostile to natural Sophonts.

Robots do not "reproduce" in the sense that natural Sophonts do.  Nevertheless, many Robots are capable of constructing replicas of themselves (or of overseeing such replication).  Life expectancy is theoretically unlimited although advances in technological capability often make older Robots obsolete as compared to newer "models" and upgrades and retrofits are often impractical or even impossible after a certain point.

Robot sensory capabilities also vary widely but can extend well beyond those for natural Sophonts.  In addition to visual, auditory, and olfactory sensors, Robots may possess electromagnetic, thermodynamic, chemical, radiological or gravitic sensory devices.

Robot operative appendages often have specialized effectors or interface mechanisms suited to specific tasks.  Others are reconfigurable or are able to accommodate a variety of tools or devices.  Locomotion may be provide mobility over terrain, through fluid, or in microgravity environments.

Robots can be equipped with vocal and audio devices capable of communicating with any natural Sophont.  Furthermore, most Robots may also communicate by electromagnetic transmission or direct data link.

History: Robot sentience is still a matter of dispute but Robot autonomy has existed since early in the 21st Century.  These primitive Robots were hardly self-aware but were able to make limited decisions in the absence of sophont direction.  As Robot tasks increased in sophistication so did Robot capabilities.

Some have argued that the first self-aware Robots were the generation ships that left Earth during the Runaway.  These vessels were certainly self-mobile and their computer systems were highly sophisticated and operated the entire vessel during much of the sublight voyage without Sophont onversight.  Still, it is clear that the generation ships represent a special case and are not what comes to mind when most think of Robots today.

There is much agreement that the first true Robots that were self-aware appeared in the mid-28th Century in the latter stages of sublight exploration by the major Colonial States.  Most sublight exploration vessels made extensive use of autonomous, self-aware Robots to supplement their crews.  These Robots were ideal crew members for the long sublight voyages.

With the development of faster-than-light (FTL) travel in the late 28th Century the need for Robot crewmembers disappeared and increases in Robot sophistication slowed.  Advances in Robot capabilities were focused upon power, locomotion and manipulative subsystems for the next several decades.

The next advance in Robot intelligence was the result of the development of bioneural processors in the mid 29th Century.  Bioneural processors were first utilized in computers but by the end of the century Robots began to appear with bioneural processors, primarily in military applications.  The first commercial Robots with bioneural processors, primarily starship crewmembers, began to appear in the middle of the 30th Century.

The first record of Robot emancipation is in 2962 on New Canaan.  A deceased Guardian left his holdings to his personal valet Robot, known as Chives.  The will included instructions that the Robot was to be emancipated.  While there were no other heirs the will was challenged successfully by local authorities.

Still, since that time Robot emancipation has become common on Abrahamic worlds and in the Federation of Nyanza.  Both the Commonwealth and the Empire of Aztlan have resisted Robot emancipation.  The Ouroran Community has been somewhat more tolerant.  Among other Colonial States and independent worlds in the Colonies Sphere views on Robots run from mere property to full sentient status.

Psychology: Robots can be said to have a psychology.  Every anthropomorphic or delphinomorphic high-order Robot has an emotion simulation (e-sim) package that provides the capability to emulate sophont emotional behavior.  Most e-sim packages are tailored to provide each Robot with a variety of individual "personality traits."

Still, most Robots tend to exhibit only mild emotional characteristics.  They will seem to always be calm and are rarely exited or driven to extremes of emotion.  Robots are inherently loyal and quite perseverant.  They are never discouraged and possess infinite patience.

Robots generally abhor violence.  Even military models are opposed to the use of violence in non-military or non-police operations.  Robots have a great respect for life of all sorts as well as a deep appreciation for artifacts.  Some have seen the fusion of these two views as being at the heart of emancipation sentiments among Robots.

Robots have little sense of affinity as a comprehensive group.  Instead, high-order Robots generally see themselves as members of their immediate community of sophonts and other Robots.  Part of this is due no doubt to the great variety among Robots.

Society: In modern society most Robots are still recognized and accept their position as property, even in those societies where Robot emancipation is recognized.  There is no Robot society that is distinct from the various Sophont societies in which Robots find themselves.

Robots are now found mostly in service sectors working in conjunction with sophonts.  Robots are also common in industries requiring specialized labor tasks, often in frontier settings where extensive, specialized automated equipment in prohibitively expensive.  Robots are also used as multi-skilled workers in frontier areas where skilled sophonts are scarce.

Emancipated Robots are generally no longer involved in specific tasks.  Often their emancipation has come about as part of a financial boon from a former owner.  In those cases where emancipated Robots are still involved in their primary functions they are usually working in conjunction with a close community of sophonts.

The ultimate status of Robots in Colonies Sphere societies remains to be seen.  It seems clear though that even if current ideas of Robot emancipation turn out to be premature the existing level of Robot sophistication suggests that it must be faced someday.  Further advances in technology will likely one day make the issue of sentient status for these artificial constructs moot.

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