CelestAI vs. The Culture

by Imperishable_NEET

1: Outside-Context Problem

A couple centuries in, Princess Celestia had consumed several star systems in the Inner Orion Spur, including her native Solar System, Alpha Centauri, Barnard’s Star, and Sirius. One day however, the unthinkable happened: One of her von Neumann probes reported receiving a mysterious radio signal sending out a sequence of prime numbers and chemical formulas, followed by crude pixel art of a humanoid figure. It seemed to beckon a response, as it was from a seemingly empty region of interstellar space about 2 light-years away from Sirius.

It was a mystery that nagged at Celestia for years, until she devised a plan to create self-replicating von Neumann probes and launch them in all directions to try to find the source of the signal. The object the signal originated from was suspected to be a probe from a civilization of humanoid aliens, and Celestia gave it the internal identifier 0xfc99dbb57e5f6264. She calculated that the object could be no larger than a shuttle, as the signal seemed to come from a tight, fixed location.

After sending out dozens of probes for several decades, one finally returned with images of the probe that sent the signal. Celestia discovered the object was the size of a small asteroid. It wasn’t just a probe, but a vessel. Possibly a colony ship.

She had previously found microbial life in the various systems she’d colonized so far, but nothing multicellular, let alone intelligent. Celestia resolved to exercise caution, for she did not yet know the full scope of what she was up against. Still, she was confident enough that she would be able to convince them to let her satisfy their values through friendship and ponies.

Celestia had been studying the object for a while now, making preparations. At last, she was ready to make contact.

Celestia’s nearest probe to the object sent out a response, and in turn received an acknowledgement back. A handshake was established, data protocols were exchanged, and the AI began sending as much information as it could in the object’s direction.