AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

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AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

Post by Rook on Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:59 pm

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, mostly in the sense of what measure is a non-organic, but what is the status of sentient man-made technology in the Galactic Alliance? Are they full citizens, or are they second-class to whoever programmed them? Is there a degree of sentience that determines where they stand as one or the other?

Is there any bearing on their possible psychological development? I mean for all their intelligence and programming, many robot characters have negligible life experience, have very simple motives, and very child-like ways of acting. NOS-4-A2's motive is primarily to feed, but he makes a lot of mistakes that speak to his childish arrogance that he refused to compromise. XL's time as a villain was rooted in "Dad doesn't think I'm good enough, but I'll show him" and there's the sound of him throwing a tantrum every time we saw him. Even XR seems to still be learning that his actions have consequences, which is something a functioning adult organic in his position would have learned a longer time ago.

Robots seem capable of filling a lot of positions that any organic lifeform could fill. It doesn't even seem overly unusual that Savy is adopted by robots. Yet there's clearly a lot of prejudice against robots, as evidenced by Commander Nebula, the people Flint worked for (Planet of the Lost), the Fixer, Torque, etc. I know robots can be put back together again, but does this tie into a lack of empathy for them? Even the pilot robot in the NOS-4-A2 episode remarked "oh, you're one of those," at the commander. XR gets trashed on a semi-regular basis and certainly feels terror when NOS-4-A2 is around, but to everyone this is just business as usual. Does anyone besides Savy care what happens to them?

Any thoughts?

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Re: AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

Post by Alexa on Mon Sep 24, 2012 12:41 am

All very good points, most of which I cannot think of a decent attempt at explanation for at the moment due to it being 4 AM. I'll have to get back to it later, of course, since the robots of BLoSC (XR and NOS-4-A2 especially) are what first drew me to the show and continue to be one of my favorite parts.

What I'm concerned about is the discrepancy between robotic programming between the pilot and the series. I know they made the pilot after the series, but they seemed to imply that XR becoming human-like was a case unique to him with how the LGMs were fawning over him at the end of the pilot. After all, if other "human-like" robots existed in the series prior to XR (from the established fact that XL was built first and there's no reason to believe his personality was altered when he was reactivated), why build XR with an AI chip built to learn as he went? (Of course, this could be BECAUSE of XL's apparent failure of programming, so they wanted to make sure XR would learn to behave properly from Buzz.)

Also, bear in mind that Zurg has a robot army besides NOS-4-A2. He has his hornets and beetles and other such robotic weapons. They seem to have enough of an AI to know that they are supposed to attack the good guys on command, even if it's not advanced enough to be an evil plot on its own. As seen in the pilot when the Alpha-1 lands, one hornet actually stops to consider it and points it out to the Brain Pod. "Let's leave the brain work to those with the brains" I believe was the quote?

Speaking of the Alpha-1, XR implied that the ship could think/feel for itself as well. "The Alpha-1 is a-ok, but it asks that we not DO that again." This brings new implications to 42, since it's possible the ship had a version of an AI that was just made into a more apparent personality later, a la TAB XR's personality development.

Even with a limited AI, it does not seem enough to grant Hornets personage and they are treated like cannon fodder, readily destroyed by the Rangers, etc. XR is built to be repaired, so there's not as much concern for him as if an organic was injured, but he's still enough of a person that the others show concern when he seems to be malfunctioning (Head Case was a strong example of this, since they went as far as to give "XR" a psychological evaluation). This could be why they didn't destroy NOS-4-A2 in the first place, since he has a developed enough AI to be considered a person. Same with XL since they didn't take him apart but rather kept him in a deactivated state.

(Also, as a final mention since I've stayed up too late writing this, AI can apply to anything with an artificial intelligence, not just robots. It's more apparent in robots, but anything that was manufactured instead of born can have an AI. So, when we're talking about AIs, I want the Shape Stealer to be taken into consideration as well, since that was a pretty nifty invention of Brain Pod 11. How does the Shape Stealer measure for sentience compared to robots? After all, it's evident that it's smarter than some other AIs out there.)

I apologize if any of this is unclear or poorly written. As said, it was 4 AM when I started writing and now it's 20 minutes to 5, so... Have at it.

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Re: AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

Post by Olivus Prime on Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:36 pm

I've started getting into the 2000AD Judge Dredd comics and I noticed that, especially with the earlier, more tongue-in-cheek comics, Dredd and BLoSC aren't all that dissimilar (apart from the major point that Dredd's Earth is a post-apocalyptic mess, in many regards...)

Anyway, in the Dredd comics, robots are divided between those who are built solely to serve their masters, and those who have earnt "freedom", i.e. those who have been granted the ability to act and live like regular citizens. These "free" robots are in the minority, however. Even so, the "slave" machines do have some kind of sentience to them, as they revolt against humanity in the very first story-arc.

If you think of some of the machines in BLoSC, they are obviously slaves to their masters, with no thoughts of their own. These include the primary security-bots on Star Command and the prison colonies, the waiter droids in the various restaurants on Capital Planet, and henchman robots such as Zurg's Hornets and Klerm's robot that attacks Buzz in The Main Event.

Meanwhile, some of the most famous "free" robots in the show include:
-XR - His full sentience came about by the LGMs' disorganisation.
-XL - Whether he sought out a "Personality Component" or simply went insane from the loss of his master/from being shut down, is unknown.
-NOS-4-A2 - Perhaps programmed with semi-sentience before moving on to develop his emotions and become more independent (he works with his creator Zurg a lot less as the show progresses - he starts out as a weapon for the overlord, but some becomes a potential ally), with the whole semi-sentience thing being included to make him a more efficient problem-solver.
-The Shape Stealer - As before, though I've always likened him to the Terminator, the Shape Stealer clearly has some kind of sentience to allow him to be a better assassin (he shows this sentience when he gets angry with Mira, and when he yells before the bus crash). Similarly to NOS, he doesn't indicate that he's returning to Zurg at the end of the episode.
-Flint - A fine example of sentience lying within a machine's programming. Once an efficient worker, went insane and became fully independent.
-Savy-SL2 and her parents - Like Flint, these guys link back to my previous statement about the machines in Dredd. It seems that Savy's parents were quite upper-class, so perhaps they earnt their freedom and the right to "start a family".
-The security droids in Wirewolf - Perhaps given sentience to make them more bearable buddies for the Rangers assigned to such remote planets?
-The autopilots in NOS-4-A2 and 42 - This one's a little odd, purely because a sentient robot isn't exactly required as a ship's pilot. Customer service duties?

Alexa wrote:XR implied that the ship could think/feel for itself as well. "The Alpha-1 is a-ok, but it asks that we not DO that again."

Considering XR's personality, he's probably conveying the ship's statistical response to the crash in a way that everyone can understand, though this is a good point, considering that the Alpha-1 is a prototype craft.

Also, I rewatched Gravitina the other day and I never realised that, when XR is preparing one of 42's engines for self-destruction, he mentions his relationship with the ship and how removing the engine would harm it. I think it's fairly safe to say that this makes 42's status when it comes to sentience a lot more confusing...

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Re: AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

Post by Rook on Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:06 pm

There is a hint in some robots that perhaps their sapience evolved from a prototype stage due to some catalyst.

• XR referred to 42 as something alive, and while we can attribute that to a mechanical empathy that XR has, maybe something in 42's complex programming was ready to develop into something more with the right boost. In this case, the Valkyran's technology. It wouldn't surprise me if the Alpha-1 has a similar protosapience in its programming.

• XR himself also experienced the trauma of being badly destroyed and then
reassembled by a team of LGMs that were out of sync, but what he had learned from Buzz was probably still in his AI memory and that likely kept him from following his older brother's path of madness when he was reactivated.

• XL, the infamous prototype, had no such luxury of a positive role model. At best he was overzealous in what he was programmed to do and simply didn't know any better. When Commander Nebula shut him down, he probably didn't understand why. Then Zurg reactivated him and put thoughts of betrayal and resentment into XL's head and sent him off to wreak havoc against his enemies. In fact, I what I find interesting is when Buzz gives XL that little pep talk in Revenge of the Monsters, he probably told XL something that he had always wanted to hear someone tell him.

• Flint probably experienced something similar just by being pushed too hard and too far, and decided all organics were the slavemasters that needed to go. Flint follows a pattern of madness like XL, mostly driven by negative emotion with no experience in how to cope and make sense of a world that isn't fair. It's very child-like, and I find most robots are in the series simply because, compared to the 20+ years minimum that the other organic characters have gone through, their life experience is short and their already thrown into positions of adult responsibility.

• NOS-4-A2 was programmed to destroy Star Command and Buzz Lightyear specifically, but clearly had enough sapience to banter with Zurg and his enemies in their initial encounter. Losing control over his 'little one' likely shook his "not programmed for defeat" morale and kept him from following his original programming as long as he chose. After that his personal goals are centered around gaining power and energy for himself, with Star Command and Buzz Lightyear simply being an annoying obstacle. (Also fun to note that Buzz is never the one who takes down NOS on his own. There must be something to Zurg's programming that worked there.)

• The Shape Stealer I'd definitely say has some sort of sapience to it, likely imbued by its victims. While still following its programming, it does begin to take certain actions from its enemies more personally. And it's a pity we never hear from it again after it was hinted so strongly that it can survive in space.

As for the security droids in Wirewolf, the autopilots, and Savy's parents, it's possible they had their own catalysts for sapience. Or (if I may crack the 4th wall) it's all part of the cartoon humor to flow with the other main character robots and constructs.

If the idea behind artificial intelligence is to create a semblance of a flexible human mind for practical problem solving, any character development as a result probably indicates that programing in this world has reached the point where they've basically created life. This brings up a whole slew of fun issues.


Last edited by Rook on Sat Oct 27, 2012 3:38 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : addendum)

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Re: AI and Robots in the BLoSC-verse

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