Back in 2027 a brilliant scientist by the name of Dr David Meyell published an academic paper detailing an algorithm for the generation of a new type of ‘artificially intelligent’ program, far surpassing all previous attempts to do so. Since then, the world has been rapidly adapting to the implications of his research.
Dr Meyell succeeded where others had failed by taking several novel approaches to the problem. He realised that, quite simply, no machine could ever match the insight and creativity of the human brain. Conversely, a human-like mind would instantaneously collapse under the weight of machine-speed information processing. The solution was to generate programs which operate in layers.
The top layer directly hosts the human aspect, and is patterned off the human brain, simulating it in minute detail. Meanwhile, the lower layers directly interface with the mechanical and technical systems under the program’s control. Though the top layer can query and send commands to the infrastructure underneath it, it is not directly aware of what’s going on behind the scenes- similar to a user executing a command on a computer.
An award-winning article which brought this new technology to the public’s attention likened these programs to ‘Young Gods’; in that they are beings of immense power, but also unused to the human condition and vulnerable to the (all too human) whims of their controllers. It also coined the term ‘Minds’ to describe them, which has entered common parlance in favour of the unwieldy terminology preferred by academics and politicians.
In theory, a single program given control of a nation’s infrastructure could boost productivity enormously, or bring a country to its knees in mere hours. However, errant Minds can expect to draw the attention of their controllers, who can make use of the many security features built into each program to disable it. Critics are quick to point out, however, that humans are slow and fallible compared to Minds- it is, at least in theory, possible for an Mind to conceal some of its operations from its controllers.
Almost all the Minds generated so far have been done so by large corporations and national institutions, eager to capitalise on the enormous benefits expected from bringing their entire operations under the control of a single near-omniscient servant. However, rumours abound of genius hackers who have found ways to short-cut the generation process and make their own Minds. The media in particular is fascinated with Minds, and several popular new shows are exploring every possible angle of the relationship between creator and creation, the question of machine awareness, and the possibility of malicious Minds.
Executing the algorithm to generate a Mind takes a phenomenal amount of processing power. Even the largest mainframes running Dr Meyell’s algorithm have taken several months of non-stop execution to successfully terminate. Additionally, as the Mind are quintessentially human, each one comes with a unique set of personal traits and preferences- the complete range of human personality has been observed across the several dozen programs generated so far. Smart companies quickly came to the realisation that it was much cheaper to manage and minimise the quirks of an individual Mind than run the algorithm several times in a vain attempt to create the ‘perfect’ personality. Modifications to suppress or eliminate undesirable traits, though possible, have shown to directly and grossly impact an Mind’s efficiency.
It is believed that Minds experience their existence in a similar way to humans. ‘Interviews’ with them have established that they not only understand concepts such as sight and sound, but explain their own experiences interacting with programs, systems, and users in these terms. Some, though not all, have even spoken of their ‘feelings’ and emotions. Philosophers and politicians struggle with renewed urgency to define the nature of consciousness, and some civil rights groups have campaigned for legal protections against the deletion or modification of these programs, but for now they remain solidly the property of their creators, with most of those involved outright avoiding the question of genuine machine awareness and its implications.
The Minds were connected to the internet for the first time at the beginning of 2029 after much debating in the UN.
Minds can acquire, use, and trade items in Emergence just as a person would items in the real world. Programs are represented by small cards. This typically includes a name, description, and complexity. Anyone who can see the card is aware of the program- you should read the description of programs near to you if asked. Programs may also come attached to props, in which case the card must stay attached to the prop.
For Minds, taking damage means the code which composes your consciousness is being corrupted. You do not necessarily feel pain, but will behave more and more erratically as your hits decrease.
If you have 0 hits you ‘crash’ and must hold your exact position or fall to the ground unconscious, taking no further actions. After 5 minutes in this state, you are affected by DEREZ as if you DEREZzed yourself safely. Taking any further damage resets this timer. After you crash for any reason, see a ref at the next opportunity.
All Minds can attempt to delete or permanently damage other programs in a weakened state. If affected by a DELETE call, your consciousness shatters as your code is systematically wiped. Due to the nature of Minds as virtual entities, some may have very high resistance to actually being deleted. Minds are experimental entities and may suffer permanent damage or even deletion from other sources.
If affected by a DEREZ call, the Mind has been removed from the internet to another location, usually their home server. This can be voluntarily, or involuntary. After being derezzed, there is nothing preventing the Minds from immediately reconnecting to the internet (and therefore the game), unless affected by another call.
A character with ‘Awareness X’ can have X points of complex programs stored on them without inconvenience; having more than this inflicts penalties. At X+1 points, you are affected by SLOW. At X+2, you are also affected by BLIND and ROOT. At X+3, you are also affected by CRASH and STUN. You cannot give a program to someone without their consent.
At the ref table in the main room where the game is played there will be an ‘Instructions’ box. Players can put folded notes with instructions to the infrastructure under them in this box. Each note must include your name and the rough time they were added to the box. This box is out-of-character; players must not search through it or interact with it except to add notes. Anyone who sees another character put something in the box notices them looking thoughtful in-character. Players may put blank notes in the box to throw others off. Such notes can also be passed directly to the refs, but the use of the box is preferred. The refs will track and respond to these notes as best they can; in-character, it may take some time to execute your command.
Regardless of what abilities you have, you may make, at most, one call per second. Similarly, you may never attack faster than one strike or one shot per second. This does not include meta-calls such as PAUSE, NOTED, FAILED, etc.
All programs, Minds, and locations in Emergence are composed of code, which can be manipulated by Minds. This is achieved by ‘running’ against the thing in question, during which you will need to physically defeat and overcome your target’s defences. To initiate a run, tell a ref (during downtime) what you are running against and your objective. The difficulty of your objective will be combined with several hidden factors to determine the final difficulty of the run. These shall be done at the start of each session, so there will be a limited number which can be done each time. The refs will endeavour to ensure as many are performed as possible.
Target loses a number of hits equal to their remaining hits. It is possible to use abilities in response to this to avoid actually crashing. After you crash for any reason, see a ref at the next opportunity.
Target puts their hand in the air and responds ‘FAILED- Not Here’ to all calls. After you are DELETED for any reason, see a ref at the next opportunity.
Target puts their hand in the air and responds ‘FAILED- Not Here’ to all calls. After you are DEREZzed for any reason, see a ref at the next opportunity.
Target regains a single hit. May be modified by a number of hits (e.g. ‘MEND 2’). It does not allow you to regain hits over your maximum.
As with MEND, except the hits gained ignore your maximum hits. E.g. a player who started a game on 2 hits (their maximum), currently has 1 hit, and is targeted by OVERMEND 2 goes up to 3 hits. If the third hit is lost, it can’t be restored by a MEND, as their maximum number of hits is still 2 and MEND can’t take them over their maximum. If modified by a time, any hits still remaining over your maximum are lost at the end of the time.