Monday, July 25, 2016

Benjamin the AI in The Strange

You may have seen a news story making the rounds the last couple of weeks about an AI generated short film.  This article gives you a basic run down.  The short version is that a team of programmers trained an AI on a series of short film screenplays and then the AI, itself, wrote the final product in its entirety.  In all of the discussion, the article buried the lead.  In the process of writing the manuscript, the AI named itself Benjamin.

Seriously.  It named itself.

While I wait for our inevitable robot masters, I thought I would spin this into several elements for a campaign in The Strange.  I will write up options for Benjamin as: an antagonist, a protagonist, and as a neutral complication to a Strange campaign.

Rules of Six (from MoMA NYC) -- Wally Gobetz (flkr)
Antagonist:  The design of Benjamin as an antagonist is not difficult.  We can draw on the various movies, books, stories, etc. that discuss the emergence of dangerous AIs or a robotic apocalypse.  Possibly created as a product of September Project research into the use of the dark matter network for quantum computing, Benjamin could have a special connection to the dark matter network and seek to signal the planetevores.  He could see the planetevores as a way for him to escape into the void of the strange.  To do so, he could either accelerate the September Project programs in domains that would signal the planetevores or seek to acquire the resources to communicate with the planetevores directly.  The PCs could get caught up in this as the September Project begins to aggressively collect novel energy sources or the means to communicate across the dark matter network.  It might even spark an internal division with the September Project between those loyal to Benjamin and those who are not.

Protagonist:  The opposite motivation is also quite feasible for Benjamin.  As his sense of self develops, he may see the planetevores and the work of the September Project as a threat to his existence.  Even if he was created within the September Project, he may try to undermine their efforts -- possibly by bringing the Estate or teams of operatives in to thwart dangerous research projects.  Benjamin may start out as an anonymous information source that tips the PCs off to September Project operations (or even intervenes directly when they need assistance).  Only later might the PCs discover that their mole deep inside the September Project is actually an AI created there (and, in a sense, held captive).

Neutral Complication:  Benjamin could also have motivations that are completely unrelated to the work of the September Project or the PCs.  He could have emerged from entirely different sources and just have found out about the September Project or the PCs through his wanderings in the deep web.  His interests may involve using the technology to his own purposes -- including a better understanding of himself or his possibilities as an actor in the physical world.  This could put him at odds with either group as he seeks the resources to manifest or to make a second AI like himself.  Who knows?  Maybe he is just out searching for that Microsoft AI trained on twitter -- only to learn it is an unredeemable racist and misanthrope.

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