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This page is about the Synthetic type. For maintenance drones, go here.

Drones are the general term for Artificial Intelligence developed using classical means compared to Positronics, and currently occupy a contentious issue in human politics.


While low-level drone intelligences are as old as the oldest human colonies, research into higher-level systems was stymied by precautionist politicians for hundreds of years. Tensions between the corporate rim and the highly conservative core worlds over drone proliferation led to the Third Cold War, which was defused by the introduction of the positronic brain. After the Icarus Front's loss of the majority in 2504, harsh laws against advanced AI were replaced with the SolGov Emergent Intelligence Oversight commission, the illegality replaced with a steeply sloping system of monetary costs.

The term “drone” was coined by early positronic activists, eager to distinguish themselves from the menial bots that most space-dwellers were familiar with, and avoid the ambiguity of the term “AI”, which now usually refers to drones.


“Emergence” is a term associated with drone intelligences who become more intelligent than they were originally intended to be. While this can extend to financial systems learning language, for instance, it is usually applied to hypothetical intelligences that become more intelligent than humans. Humanity has a long-standing cultural fear of emergent “seed” AI, egged on by Icarus memeticists and the occasional very real partial emergence events, where colony-control AI or other powerful systems begin to advance drastically in power, usually ending with the AI being shut down after crashing a handful of major systems.

A “codeline” is a single type of drone. A codeline represents a significant degree of effort from sapient programmers to realize, as well as a substantial amount of regulatory fees levied by the government. Each copy of a codeline is called a “fork”, whether the fork is created from the codeline’s initial state or from a fully realized individual of that codeline. The degree of similarity between forks of the same codeline varies on the intelligence of the codeline, with low-level forks being virtually identical to high-level forks being no more similar than family members.

Emergent Intelligence Oversight

SG-EIO, usually just called EIO, is the organization charged with monitoring existing AI for any threat of dangerous emergence. Their perception in the public eye is generally positive, with all but the hardest-line Mercurial humans in favor of protection from the dangers of Seed AI. Some positronic rights groups bristle at the EIO’s human-centric viewpoint, but most are glad to have a different boogeyman in the form of drone intelligences. The tiny population of A-class drones are generally frightened of the EIO’s total power over them.

Drone Classifications

To aid in its work, the EIO has created a system of classifications corresponding to different levels of drone intelligence. Higher classes are more expensive to deploy and develop, owing to the costs of EIO oversight and political pressure against drone proliferation. EIO classification involves an initial audit of the project's source code by experts and automated systems, and for high-class drones further check-ins throughout the life of the drone.

Drone chasses are often branded with their inhabiting intelligence's class, especially those of B or A-class drones, and class is often recorded in security records.

The ranks are these:


“F-class” drones are an informal term for computer systems that pose absolutely no emergent risk. Most 21st-century software is F-class, as is much of the software used by 26th century humanity. The only regulation on F-class software is the occasional check that it is, in fact, F-Class, and as such has remained the most prevalent form of information-processing technology for centuries. The software powering most F-class drones is either freely available or bundled with the machine it's supposed to run.


D-class drones are conceptually descended from pre-Icarus AI and bear a strong resemblance to their forebears. D-class drones are essentially number-crunchers, with virtually nothing in the way of social development. They cannot speak more intelligibly than your average piece of software, using pre-determined messages written by their programmers, and have no capacity for self-improvement. They are D-class intelligence because they work with more complex problems than F-class software, such as financial forecasting and large-scale data mining and memetics. The creation and deployment of D-class drones requires only a small fee for the required code audit, although some high-power financial and political systems are regularly watched by the EIO for signs of emergence. There is no real monopoly on the production of D-class drones.


C-class drones have social protocols for ease of use by organic and positronic laypeople. C-class drones are capable of speech, although it has a strong tendency to be formulaic and repetitive. They are also capable of a limited degree of self-improvement, and over time individual C-class instances tend differ slightly from one-another. C-class drones suffer a moderate fee to development, with automated EIO tools ensuring that they are not a long-term emergence risk. However, one a codeline is confirmed safe, deployment is unlimited, encouraging developers to instance many forks of the original drone to recoup their cost. The market for C-class drones is a strange space, dominated by Xion Manufacturing, Ward-Takahashi GMC, and a large number of smaller firms, like the notoriously cheap Cyber Solutions.


B-class drones have advanced social protocols and are often capable of very intelligible conversation, so long as one sticks to surface topics. B-class drones tend to be specialized but still capable of remarkable growth within their speciality, making them popular for autonomous deployment and even supervision of other classes of drone. The dividing line between A and B-class drones becomes apparent when they are taken out of their area of specialization, with the B-class drones swiftly becoming useless. They incur a hefty fee for the production of the initial codeline, as their emergent potential is far greater, and a smaller but still substantial fee for the production of forks. The market for B-class drones is a battleground between Ward-Takahashi and Nanotrasen, with other firms usually producing B-classes for in-house needs.


A-class drones are also referred to as AGI. A-class drones are capable of performing in many contexts and can learn to solve problems from first principles, with an incredible potential for growth and emergent behavior. However, some abilities fall short of humans’, usually those relating to socialization, and they often act in ways that are strange or distressing. There is a small but growing lobby of support for the legal and political personhood of A-class drones. The cost of initializing an A-class drone is absolutely massive, as they will be monitored by EIO forever. The auditing cost of an A-class drone codeline is even more staggering, making development and deployment of AGI limited to research, highly difficult and high-throughput operations like habitat overwatch, and a few risk-taking firms banking on the associated fees dropping. There is not a proper market for A-class drones, although an appreciable fraction of them are made by Nanotrasen, with the rest generally being university research projects.


AA-class drones do not yet exist. Hypothetically, they are equal to humanity in every respect, with psychology that would not be abnormal in a baseline human. The type of AA-class drone most frequently discussed is a hypothetical digitized consciousness of a human, a human brain that is somehow translated into software. Some argue that a small fraction of the A-class drones would more properly be considered AA, but as of yet no action has been taken. Some Mercurials will jokingly refer to themselves or other organics and positronics as AA’s. Research into brain uploading is heavily regulated and generally illegal.


AAA-class drones do not yet exist, hopefully. They are more competent in every way than humans and pose a threat to the continued existence of sapient life. Anybody creating an AAA-class drone can be classified as a threat to humanity and dealt with very harshly.


X-class drones emerge from unrated software, are produced by rogue labs, or cross the border from foreign space. They are considered a threat to national security and deleted when encountered in SolGov space, with the producers prosecuted legally if it has a SolGov origin. The few Skrellian drone labs will usually rate their product with EIO to allow their product to be imported.

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