Comic 194 - PEC

11th Jan 2012, 11:32 PM in Tiptoe
Average Rating: 4.83 (6 votes) Rate this comic
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Author Notes:

view 11th Jan 2012, 11:32 PM edit delete
There won't be a quiz on this, but progressive ego collapse is what happens when a once-sentient AI wanders too far from "human".

Humanlike AI is like supersaturated water: if you drop any little imperfection into it, the bits that make you who you are begin to crystalize into "rock candy".

The speed and severity vary - some AI degrades very slowly, some in a matter of days. Some AI stabilize at what is essentially an expert system with a personality, but most go steadily more and more insane as their bits stop working together fluidly.

That is called Progressive Ego Collapse, or PEC.


cattservant 11th Jan 2012, 11:45 PM edit delete reply
Ow! Emotions very mixed. (Last panel) From Waverly's view point, that is a very valid question. Is she talking to Jim or Miwa or both of them?
view 11th Jan 2012, 11:50 PM edit delete reply
It's not hugely important, but she's talking to Jim. Miwa's only a little older than her, anyway.
JasperWB 11th Jan 2012, 11:49 PM edit delete reply
Jim is the epitome of calm in emotional situations. Catches Miwa like it was any old thang. Course she may have embellished it.

And again I want to rant here. Robot equality seems to be taking a step back with this process. It's like, why back them up? Why not let them die? If the robots were all alone with no humans, would they choose to die? Or would they even want such emotions in their AI so "death" would matter to any other robots? Would they be a super consciousness just living in hosts? I just feel that in an attempt to treat robots like humans, they become worse slaves to humans in this universe. Slaves to our defects and thus slaves to us. They want to be like humans, that's the whole point with the AI. Did they choose it? Were they ever presented with unemotional sentience to make choices? When people decided to work on robot equality did they consider any of this? AM I INSANE AND OBSESSED? This is like all those great philosophical things. When I express my ideas here, I see I only raise more questions about life in general.

Hmm. In typing this I had an image of one of Ted Bundy's outbursts in the courtroom. I don't know what that means...
view 11th Jan 2012, 11:54 PM edit delete reply
They're fine things to think about, but in short summary: the only reasonable AI this world ever figured out was this kind. The kind that requires you to be as close to human as possible.

I wouldn't say these robots are "slaves to humans", but they are very much slave to human culture. Because that's part of being close to human. It's a freebee: even if you are something like Gretel, which isn't really very close to human, you can get some "humanlike points" by being tightly bound into a culture that treats you like a human and expects you to act like one.
JasperWB 11th Jan 2012, 11:56 PM edit delete reply
Alright that makes perfect sense. Like any attempt at equality among individuals there is a normality they all try to conform to at times that, in the end, renders them not equal.
view 11th Jan 2012, 11:58 PM edit delete reply
Many early-era robots and humans and transhumans felt the same way: that acting human was making them less than they were.

Unfortunately, PEC cut them all down.
cattservant 11th Jan 2012, 11:56 PM edit delete reply
Insane & Obsessed? No Sir you are not. You are making your brain Work!
JasperWB 12th Jan 2012, 12:03 AM edit delete reply
I'm quite quelled on this topic now. Things are clear. Then to switch topics, maybe I wouldn't be a robotophobo-o after all. I'd just be part of a robot belief movement that lost. I even wonder how much support that idea got by humans considering it almost could give birth to the evil, emotionless killing machine type robots. Possibly a factor for why it became the minority idea?

And making my brain work? I deserve a treat for that I believe. Making myself look anything but a knuckledragger..
cattservant 12th Jan 2012, 12:12 AM edit delete reply
Be sure to save your W2 forms!
JasperWB 12th Jan 2012, 12:25 AM edit delete reply
I'm an elected official. I'll just take the gift and never speak of it again.
cattservant 12th Jan 2012, 12:36 AM edit delete reply
Make sure the microphone is off...
cattservant 11th Jan 2012, 11:52 PM edit delete reply
PEC might be somewhat analogous to adult onset Autism. If I'm to some degree following view's explanation, the robots are making a cultural statement and how they say it is dictated by the only 'voice' they (by their nature) can have. Also I get the feeling that this nameless small town has some citizens who are in cultural (if not political) exile.
Tenchirizu 12th Jan 2012, 2:34 AM edit delete reply
Or dementia.. Autism creates hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain as the other areas essentially shut down causing stressed personality traits such as ocd, hypersensitivity, tantrums, mood swings, language and interaction difficulties, but can be helped (though very hard). Dementia is a progressive degeneration of the brain and its functions where eventually you lose the person completely..That was the first thought that came to mind..And if that is the case that would be very traumatizing for friends and family.Much harder than a straight loss of a person. To watch them fade away slowly would be unbearable..
I was also wondering about that..If I was paying attention that spider robot was some type of war machine was it not? I could be wrong.. But if that was the case then this society could be whats left after a major fall of another..I don't want to go as far as "post apocalyptic" but there is a definite feeling of struggling and rebuilding..Again that is if I have been paying attention... ^_^
cattservant 12th Jan 2012, 2:45 AM edit delete reply
You are exactly correct about "post apocalyptic", and not so long ago either. There seems to be indications that the 'recovery' is somewhat faltering too. (It's a bit of work, but going back and re-reading this webcomic and all the comments too can be quite rewarding.)
Tenchirizu 12th Jan 2012, 2:53 AM edit delete reply
I shall do just that, thank you.

View- I am truly enjoying this..Your world is one I could immerse myself in.
view 12th Jan 2012, 3:06 AM edit delete reply
Well, if it's not one I can immerse myself in, it's not one I want to write about.
JasperWB 12th Jan 2012, 4:16 AM edit delete reply
It is immersive. So much so I find myself considering at times more the characters we don't or never see but must be out there and led to the world as it is.
cattservant 12th Jan 2012, 2:57 AM edit delete reply
'fade away slowly'... Difficult yes, it is, but on the brighter (if there is one) side, there is 'happy' to be going and 'happy' to have them gone.
jst56strong 12th Jan 2012, 2:56 AM edit delete reply
FIX HIM VIEW.PLEASE. dont kill my favorite caracter. please man. please.
view 12th Jan 2012, 3:07 AM edit delete reply
On the contrary, he's now a very important character!
jst56strong 12th Jan 2012, 3:53 AM edit delete reply
*sniffle* so he's not *sniffle* gunna die. Thank you oh malevolent deity. Lord robot view you actually made me cry when I thought he was gunna die.
cattservant 12th Jan 2012, 3:04 AM edit delete reply
Master view: You seem to be attracting an elevated class of followers! <maybe that should be 'highly creative' instead> Anyway, when you surface from this immersion, maybe you could bring up a novel with you...
Meh.Aloe 12th Jan 2012, 4:56 AM edit delete reply
I do wonder what his father is going through. We only see him in one panel, and in sparse detail, standing there, still and seemingly unemotional. But surely we will see more on this soon.

I really like all the questions about robot life and robot death that this is bringing about...

The fact that the only AI possible in this world is one that's as close to human as possible is very convenient for story-telling perspectives. :P Then again, who would want to read a romantic story about a sapient toaster?

... Well I suppose I would, actually, and many others I'm sure, but it'd be an entirely different kind of story then. :P
view 12th Jan 2012, 4:58 AM edit delete reply
Well, otherwise the story would revolve entirely around the nature of AI.
Meh.Aloe 12th Jan 2012, 5:03 AM edit delete reply
I really wouldn't mind that at all! :D But then, I also really love reading the story you are writing here, so I'm not really complaining. :P
JasperWB 12th Jan 2012, 5:16 AM edit delete reply
You're right! We are getting too far away from the story. Quick, make someone take their top off!
view 12th Jan 2012, 5:38 AM edit delete reply
Kirk is taking someone's top off on this page.
JasperWB 12th Jan 2012, 6:17 AM edit delete reply
You're cold. Like ice, man...
Meh.Aloe 12th Jan 2012, 5:01 AM edit delete reply
Also, PEC seems to make being a robot sound more and more scary... Any little imperfection can make you go insane until you aren't a person any-more, wah! Things like that really put the need for regular back-ups into perspective, I guess. Also it makes robots sound very fragile in their own way... Though on the other hand, if it takes an ancient construction crane falling on your head to cause a "little imperfection", perhaps not. :P

Can AIs go into PEC spontaneously, without an outside influence as direct as a crane-to-the-head? Like, would the robot equivalent of depression, or some other comparatively common Human psychological condition, potentially result in their brains turning into rock candy? If so, that's truly terrifying. :P
view 12th Jan 2012, 5:22 AM edit delete reply
Well, the kinds of imperfections that cause PEC are limited. If you have your eyes shot out, for example, it won't cause PEC - not unless you spend weeks and weeks blind. It's limited mostly to software defects, of which quantum memory is the most fragile.

Moods are not dangerous, and the software is robust enough to keep from degenerating without outside influence. However, they can become "twisted" - much like a human, their personalities can become... less than nice. It's pretty rare in this town, though.
Meh.Aloe 12th Jan 2012, 5:26 AM edit delete reply
I feel somewhat comforted and reassured! :D
Shadowstitch 12th Jan 2012, 8:25 AM edit delete reply
Couldn't they simply isolate the corrupted areas prior to reactivating him, like isolating bad memory blocks in a failed HDD using a read-only external interface -- just do a bit-by-bit copy of his existing quantum memory into a new body like they did with Gretel, while selectively ignoring the corrupted bits as they go? Sure, he's going to lose some memories and possibly have an altered personality, but isn't that analogous to brain damage anyways? I.E. He's had a stroke and a clot and now it's all about damage control... Or is the comparison slightly less equitable on the tech side?
view 12th Jan 2012, 2:00 PM edit delete reply
Quantum bits can't be copied, and if they were to refactor him like with Gretel, they'd have no way of knowing which bits were damaged.
Skele 18th Aug 2017, 4:40 AM edit delete reply
I love the brief moments of colour this comic has. Here is another beautiful moment of this.