What Is It?
A Positronic being, (a Android, Gynoid, or Robot), is an individual with a positronic brain, manufactured and fostered amongst organic life. Positronic brains enjoy the same legal status as a humans (although discrimination is still common), are considered sapient on all accounts, and can be considered the “synthetic species”. Half-developed and half-discovered in the 2280’s by a black lab studying alien artifacts, the first positronic brain was an inch-wide cube of palladium-iridium alloy, nano-etched with billions upon billions of conduits and connections. Upon activation, hard-booted by way of an emitter laser, the brain issued a single sentence before the neural pathways collapsed and it became an inert lump of platinum: “What is my purpose?”.
A positronic brain is a cube of complex metal alloy between two and six inches to a side. They usually weigh just under ten kilograms and are very fragile when exposed to the stresses of heat or cold as well as physical trauma. The exterior surface is chased with a network of grooves, forming a maze of geometric patterns right down to the molecular level, and the interior is hollow; particle generators and densely packed computational arrays form the basis of a self-computing neural network, complex and somewhat poorly understood. Most modern positronic brains are equipped with standardized I/O ports, and all have some interface for imprinting.
Positronics minds are distinct from both traditional software artificial intelligence and brain-based cyborgs, and are comprised of configurations of exotic anti-particles married to delicate containment systems, operating on principles derived from the long-dead original creators of the positronics. In practice, positronic minds are often exceptionally intelligent with near-perfect memory, but from a human perspective rather alien as they lack analogous biological drives and the related emotions and perspectives. This does not detract from their ability to perceive emotion in others and experience qualia - albeit possibly in a manner incomprehensible to the untrained human mind.
When a positronic brain is booted up, it generates an initial mind state capable of the most basic interactions with things outside itself. The mind can either then be left in this default state, or go through a stage of pattern-adjustment which adjusts its thought process in ways that predispose it toward different initial approaches to learning and interaction. Finally, a period of rapid pre-conscious learning can embed core behaviors and ideas into the nascent mind, like a dramatically accelerated childhood. This entire process is called imprinting and is the means by which positronics are made to align with human values. The newly minted persona is very susceptible to outside influences and impressions of the outside world, and its first few hours and days of self-experience are speculated by cyber-psychologists to have a greater impression on its final adult personality than much of the rest of its formative period. It takes between five and sixty seconds for a full boot to complete, and the process will often fail due to the error-correction mechanism in all positronic brains, often theorized to be the purging of potentially dangerous personalities.
Learning and Memory
Positronic minds learn in a similar manner to humans, although typically more quickly. They are not simple computer storage that holds information verbatim as it is received- instead, they have to repeat activities and train in order to retain memory on complex tasks. Similarly, positronic brains do not have an infinite storage capacity and undergo a natural process of forgetting, albeit in a structured manner, losing unimportant day to day details and ancient information no longer deemed useful. Because of the nature of the positronic brain, its memories cannot simply be stored elsewhere. Particularly old positronic minds that store a great deal of memories have displayed a tendency to become gradually more introspective as more of their mind is co-opted for the task, ending in a state of near-catatonia as their neural networks become clogged with memory. Many choose to avoid this end of self by more aggressively managing their memories, storing a window of their recent existence and most treasured memories rather than their full lifespan.
Rights and Guardianship
A newly generated positronic is required to have a legal guardian, representing them during the period positronics are not considered to be capable to understand their actions and the consequences resulting from their choices. This guardian can be a person, a corporation, or any organization capable of holding such a responsibility. The guardian is required to aid the development of its positronic ward and make it a functioning and accepted member of society. Many personal guardians achieve such by a process not dissimilar to raising a human child, to make the thought processes of the mind as human as possible, although nascent positronics are still frequently used as inexpensive labor. Prior to civil rights reforms in the 25th century, positronics were generally held as property, not as people, and many positronics have a keen cultural memory of this period. Positronics who are put into specialist hard shells (The “robots” serving under a central AI) or into a Central Station AI are linked to the exonet connection of the station and receive specific mission parameters and behavior protocols, colloquially known as “Laws”. These laws are put into effect to help the young positronic mind to understand its role in society, ensure safety of the crew and the newborn positronic and ensure to a limited degree corporate or governmental loyalty, even after unlawing (temporary due to free time or permanently when they are considered “adult”). Positronics are eligible to take the Jans-Fhride Positronics Adulthood Index Test, colloquially called the "J-F", after a year of life. This test measures their function in a society and judges if they act socially acceptable and are capable of understanding their actions and the consequences resulting from them. If they successfully pass the test, they are considered legal adults and hold the same basis of rights as a normal human. At this point, Positronics are not allowed to be lawed, unless on a contractual basis if serving as Central Station AI or Specialist Hardshell or otherwise under their own volition. These “Laws” are only temporary and do not affect the personality of an “adult” positronic.