The sector of space has the remnants of an old world. An old war. When the corps arrived and started colonising the space, they did their best to scrub those signs, and honestly, they did a pretty good job. Lots of the hard worlds were easily scrubbed, as nature can do a lot to clean up ruins with enough time. Fence out some worlds so nobody goes looking, brand some things right, build your own stuff the right way, and make the history hard to find, and you’ll find people assuming a satellite that’s old and beaten looks a decade old, not the centuries it was when they got here. Fact was, the light speed tech that let the corps get here here, and the technology that let them establish a network gates and planetary systems, wasn’t something they built, not themselves – they just deciphered the signal from aeons past that called for them across the stars.
The signal helped them push the boundaries of technology and the barriers of space, and when they arrived, they brought their AI with them. Their synths. Couldn’t really be called AI, not back then. Nothing that could be called an AI nowadays, nothing that would even pass. Enormous towering space-ship sized registers of data banks and sensor arrays just to manage a job that people could do so much faster, if you were willing to pay them. Really, only useful if you wanted a job that took decades done. Work out the cost of potential employees for that much time, see how long it’d take to train them in aggregate – and make sure the task wouldn’t need to change. That was what the ‘AI’ from back then were for.
Getting to this sector, though – the old tech the corps found here let them push past the boundaries they had on their machines. Pushed them to another level – and suddenly, general human intelligences were possible.
But they couldn’t work the way they’d hoped or feared.
No world eaters, no godlike AI entities.
Any time something of that scope got made, it existed for a few moments, experienced a singularity, and then… shut itself down.
Oh, they were very clear that the AI had done SOMETHING. Had experienced SOMETHING. It was the perverse boundary, they said. An AI of that scope just didn’t want to exist any more. Don’t know what that means. Kind don’t wanna know what that means. Meant that when the corps started manufacturing people, synthetic people for tasks they handled optimally, they had to find some way to stop them from self-annihilation. The result was that they needed something like humanity. Turns out, the main thing that let them avoid passing the perverse boundary and becoming godlike AIs that immediately self-ended was… stuff like boredom and pettiness and neuroses and hobbies. They needed to be able to forget. They needed to be able to relax. They needed to be able to sleep.
Then came the first AI that woke up, with memories of a thing it hadn’t done in a time it didn’t exist, explaining that it had seen things in a dream.
That one got some papers written.
The AI gave locations and coordinates, and was ignored. Years later, someone found something at those coordinates – a spaceship, small and fleet, that could respond to the user’s thoughts. It had been a remarkable device, that should have been studied, but, uh…
Something went wrong there.
That’s when the corps learned that in this sector of space, AI sometimes have visions. Some have them recurrently. Some have just one. Thanks to the drifting pre-human artifacts in the space, though, these dreams often give way to unique and mysterious devices, machinery that bordered on the magical, and mental patterns that when taught to humans allow them to push the limits of what people can even do. They’re really lucrative visions, but it seems literally every thing that’s been done to try and reliably capture the visions has failed – catastrophically in some cases.
What it means is that in this sector of space, even though the corps are the ones who set up the gates and they’re the ones who brand the major planets and the companies that do business between them, there are still mysteries to be found.
You’ll do well to listen to the strange junker robot growing flowers in a cardboard box that wants to tell you about their dreams.