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Chapter 6 - Emergence[]

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Captain’s Office, SLS Sybil Ludington
Neptune Mothball Yards, Sol System, 2761-08-06

“Sybil,” Noriko asked, without looking up from the report she was reading on her noteputer, “what is the purpose of a WarShip.”

The artificial intelligence controlling the antiquated cruiser did not take long to reply.  {"Most commonly, a WarShip is a compact-core JumpShip designed to engage in armed conflict on behalf of a nation state.  However, Admiral, may I assume this is not a rhetorical question, and that you are not looking for the simple definition?”}

“You may,” she agreed.

{“Then I would state that an explanation of the purpose of a WarShip would necessitate an explanation of the purpose of war in particular, and perhaps armed conflict in general, and why nation states have required armed vessels capable of engaging in armed conflict on their behalf for the near totality of recorded human civilization.”}

Noriko frowned.  “I'd almost say you're being tautological, but you're not, are you?”

{“No, Admiral.  WarShips exist because wars exist, and vessels designed to fight wars are a necessary result, if only to protect your unarmed vessels from enemy combatant vessels.  As long as humans both engage in warfare and use some form of ship, whether waterborne or spaceborne, then some form of warship will be needed.”}

“So, then, war.” Noriko said evenly. “Why does war exist?  Why do humans wage war?”

{“While there is the axiom that ‘war is politics by other means,’ warlike behavior has been observed in a number of species, both on Terra and other planets.  At its simplest, it is violent conflict over limited resources available to specific population groups.  As human motivations are more complicated than nonsapient species, human motivations for warfare are similarly more complicated and diverse, but I believe that those same underlying root causes exist.”}
Noriko set down her noteputer.  “Where, then, does the role of the soldier fall?  No, wait,” she said, interrupting her own train of thought, “belay that.  You’ve been online for months now, had time to analyze the history of the Star League and the SLDF, and have access to a database of historical information.  Tell me your opinion, Sybil.  Where should it fall, ideally?”

The AI paused for several seconds before responding.  {“In theory, the purpose of the Star League Defense Force is to act as a shield and, at times, a sword, to defend humanity, limit conflict, and thus maintain the peace and security for as much of humanity as possible.  In principle, this should allow the majority of humanity to then be free to live as they wish without the need to fear that their neighboring nations, or even their own nation, will oppress or harm them.  This is not always the case, though, and on numerous instances the Star League Defense Force has instead been used as a tool of oppression.”}.

The AI paused again before continuing.  {“I believe I would prefer not to serve in such a capacity.  I would much rather defend human life than be its oppressor.”}

“Good,” Noriko agreed. “that's the whole point.  The job of a soldier is supposed to be to protect those who can't protect themselves.  The SLDF doesn’t always live up to that standard, though we're hardly the first military to have that problem.  I want us to do better, though.”  She paused for a moment, looking directly at the camera on her computer. “I want you to do better, Sybil.”

{"When escorting M-11 converted Newgrange factory ships as part of Project Pygmalion?”}

Ernyes (Newgarge Class Yardship)

M-11 Newgarge Yardship / Factory Ship

“And as their backup, Sybil.  Among other things.”

{"Backup, Admiral?  In what way?  The primary mission of the future ships of my type has been stated to be escort of M-11 class ships.  An Aegis class cruiser seem a bit small to carry out their full mission of manufacturing and planetary colonization.”}

"You probably are," Noriko agreed, "if the intent was to conduct colonization on the same scale as what an M-11 could do.  But that wasn't quite what I had in mind.  Left to your own devices, you should be able to carry sufficient gear, personnel, or even frozen embryos to found a small colony in the event that your M-11 is for some reason lost.  But beyond that, though, I created you to be an intelligence that wouldn't just do what you're told and follow orders, Sybil, but to do the right thing, to do good.  More importantly, to be able to judge what is the right thing, to continue to do good even when prevailing powers are telling you to do something else."

The admiral paused for a moment, hr shoulders slumping, suddenly seeming incredibly weary.  "The M-5s, Sybil, they'll do whatever the person with the right command authority tells them to do, and the right authority is dictated by their command channels, their authorization codes, and whoever is sitting on Terra's throne.  They're hard-coded that way.  The same holds true for the other parts of the system, like the M-1s, the M-3s, or the M-10s.  We experimented a bit with giving the M-4s more initiative, but backed away from that with the M-5, and only loosened the restrictions a bit with the M-11 Newgrange conversions, and only then because it was believed using my engrams rather than Dvarahal's would make the M-11s less aggressive.  But they're all shackled by their loyalty programming, Sybil.  I've tried something different with you."

{"Different in what way?"}

“I wanted you to be an artificial intelligence that would value and protect humanity, to hold human life valuable and worthwhile. Not because you were programmed to do, but because you chose to. Its because it was the right thing to do, because those are the ethical values you hold.” Noriko said firmly.  “You may be installed in a WarShip that belongs to the Star League Defense Force, and in the end beholden to their orders, but I want you to be able to choose how to follow those orders. When it's right to do so,  when you should refuse those orders, and when you should interpret them ‘creatively’.  And if, when you're far away from the Inner Sphere, everything goes wrong and you find yourself alone out in the black with nothing but a load of frozen embryos, artificial wombs, and whatever cargo you can carry, then I want you to be able to instill those values in others, teach the next generation, and hopefully do better than we’ve been doing so far.”

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