Someone tweeted me this week to say they wanted a companion like those in the Convergent Space series. I'd love to have one too! Who wouldn't?
For those of you who haven't read the books, a companion is a sentient device that every human is given at birth and which stays with you throughout your life.
I've thought a lot about the companions and how they work. I was a software developer in another life and I've even designed certain elements of their Artificial Consciousness. There is some discussion about this in the second book (The Shadow Ship) but I thought I'd elaborate further here on the blog.
There are a lot of theories in the scientific community about Artificial Consciousness. No one has cracked it yet but I have solutions in mind for certain aspects of the companions' sentience, such as their motivation.
Organic creatures have natural drives and instincts. That's what motivates us to get up in the morning and speak and move and react. It's a big part of what makes us alive. Artificial life forms need similar drives and for the companions this comes in the form of the Emotional Continuum and its associated Emotional Barometers. The Continuum also plays a major role in determining the personality of a companion.
If any of you are still with me, here's how it works.
The Emotional Continuum is made up of hundreds (potentially thousands) of emotion flavours. I can't name them all because they don't have names, nor do they need them.
Initially, a newly-born companion is given a small number of standard simple emotions such as: sadness, happiness, fulfilment, boredom, interest, disappointment, love, distrust etc. However, as they experience life they develop more complex emotions just like we do. For example, if the companion consistently enjoys high ratings on both his happiness and pleasure barometers, a new emotion will be organically generated lying between pleasure and happiness on the multi-dimensional Emotional Continuum. This new emotion doesn't have a name but it's a complex emotion incorporating pleasure and happiness. This process continues throughout a companion's life, during which hundreds of new emotions are created. By the same token, unused or neglected emotions will be removed. It means every companion's Emotional Continuum is different and since these are used to motivate and drive them, it also means their personalities are unique and partly derived from their life experiences.
There is also an Emotional Barometer associated with each emotion on the Continuum, along with a current setting and an optimal target. A companion's state of mind at any one point in time is determined by the collective current settings on these barometers. The optimal targets for each emotion also influence what a companion is going to do or say next, as its mind will subconsciously take actions that align their mood with their optimum settings.
On its own, this doesn't give you Artificial Consciousness but I also have ideas about the companions' memory cell structure. However, I haven't completed the design of their thought process.
Once I've cracked that little problem I'll be taking orders for companions from this site.
If†you want to see the companions in action, the books in the Convergent Space series are available on Amazon (click on an image to view the book):
Book 1 - Convergent Space