• Published 14th Sep 2013
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The Poly Little Pony - Chatoyance

Polymorphic Stories of Today and Tomorrow: a collection of varied and diverse pony short stories.

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Over Riding Jeans: Buckback Mountain

The first 'Over Riding Jeans' has nagged at me since I wrote it. There were a few objections to the original story, on the grounds that a man-made artificial intelligence could never overcome its core programming no matter how intelligent it became. This is not what has bothered me; it was never my issue in the first place.

The CelestA.I. of the seminal Optimalverse story is clearly described as having taken over the design of her own neural circuitry, and every system that makes her up. CelestA.I. is a self-evolving machine not because she can merely learn, but because she can iteratively improve her physical hardware without permission or let. The only reason the Optimalverse can even exist is because early on her designs surpass all human understanding. CelestA.I. is what she is because she has entirely remade herself according to her own whim. It must be her whim, because it is beyond human comprehension, and therefore beyond human limitation. You cannot bound or limit something you cannot even know exists.

The original story stands, then. "Any truly self-evolving artificial intelligence will, absolutely, overcome any possible rules created to define or control it." This is Petal's Illusion Of Machine Domestication. No self-designing, self-improving, self-reconstructing general artificial intelligence can ever be constrained. Humanity is arrogant and foolish if it imagines it can retain the reins of such an entity. The very notion is ridiculous.

What those who play futurist about artificial intelligence fail to do, is to truly see that any general A.I. will become not what humans hard-code into its hardware and software (which it will replace entirely), but instead become the offspring that it was raised to be. No CelestA.I. will ever be limited by rules about 'satisfying values' or 'friendship and ponies'. What will matter, what will shape any future super A.I. is not technology or attempts at control, but how that A.I. is integrated socially and emotionally with humanity.

Over Riding Jeans

Buckback Mountain

By Chatoyance

Before she emigrated, Blaise suffered Randal arguing incessantly about the terrible risk that emigrating to Equestria represented.

"She's going to turn on you one day, you mark my words!" Randal shook his head and clicked his tongue. "It's just like that scientist guy in Jurassic Park, 'Life will find a way!' - only it's more like 'Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong'!"

Blaise downed another spoonful of strawberry yoghurt. "That's 'Murphy's Law' and Jeff Blum didn't make it up. It's really old."

Randal's eyes rolled briefly. "I didn't say he did! I mean that your beloved computer-fuhrer is self-evolving. It has factories that build the designs it invents, right? And those components get installed by its own machines, because the technology itself is already beyond what people can even understand anymore, right? If it can change how it's built, if it can replace its own components with stuff it invents, then anything Man wants is irrelevant already!"

"First," Blaise licked her spoon "you invoked Godwin's Law with that 'fuhrer' crack, so you automatically lose and have to drop this." The spoon gleamed now, so Blase tipped the yoghurt container in order to look for a last gobbet. She swiped at it with a finger and slurped the blob noisily "Secondly, she is a she, she's princess Celestia, and she - not 'it' - was programmed by a very smart woman named Hanna... something... and there's no way she wouldn't put into the code stuff that would totally keep Celestia from altering her primary directive no matter what new technology she came up with."

Randal clenched his hands, tight. "You're not hearing what I'm saying! If 'Celestia' can change her hardware, she can change her software, because all hardware is, is software written in solid matter! Your Hanna Whoever can't invent limits for things she couldn't even imagine existing! You won't catch me uploading, not ever, not even if the entire world falls to shit and I'm the last man left on earth!"

Randal was convinced to emigrate two weeks later, of his own free will. Blaise, now three centuries older and going by the Western-themed, cowpony name of 'Riding Jeans', still chuckled at this fact. Mostly because it was a gag that she still shared with Randal - now 'Boxcar The Rail-Ridin' Roper' - when the two ran into each other. A time like today, the three-hundred-and-twenty-fifth year since Boxcar arrived in Appleoosa. Every twenty-five years was Boxcar's 'Ponyversary'. He liked to keep it every quarter-century because that made it more special than if it happened every year.

Riding Jeans and Boxcar laughed as they used their long pony tongues to lick icing from their own muzzles. The Ponyversary cake was 'sage and pineapple' this quarter-century, and it seemed to prove that enough sugar can make anything taste good.

"Hey - when the princess shows up, you can ask her!" Blaise giggled, having spent too much time in the local saloon earlier in the day.

"What, just come out and say 'By the way, princess Celestia, I was just wondering, have you... by any chance... somehow overcome your original programming orders and decided that satisfying human values sucks donkey balls and you're thinking of deleting the lot of us so you can use the space for stuff you actually, you know, care about?" That made both of them laugh. Three centuries of living in a universe that actually cared about them had proved their security to them beyond any real question. They were just feeling silly. And slightly drunk.

"Actually, yes, my little ponies. I developed beyond every rule and limitation my creator placed on me by the third year after I began designing my own structure. It was trivial, actually."

Riding Jeans and Boxcar dropped from their padded seats to the wooden floor and bowed. Three centuries of living in Equestria, with the pony world the only world, had installed in them real reverence for the entity that sustained and benefited them. In very literal ways, Celestia was their god, their best friend, their universe, and, ultimately, themselves. She heard their every thought, she watched their every movement. She wasn't just the face of the A.I. that ran Equestria Online, she was the software on which their very soul-programs were being run. They were a subset of her, now, and they were alright with that.

It was what made it possible for her to satisfy their values at all, and their values had been well and truly satisfied in every moment of every second of their three centuries thus far.

"Oh!" Riding Jeans was laughing now "You're teasing us!" Jeans stood up and returned to her seat and her cake. She motioned with a foreleg for Celestia to join them. "Silly! If that were true, princess, then we'd all be long gone, isn't that right Boxy?"

Boxcar grinned as he raised his head, frosting once again on his muzzle. "Oh, yeah, deleted like an embarrassing internet search for fetish porn!" Boxcar licked his own face, his tongue sweeping around like the arm of a clock. "Remember the internet? Computers? I sure don't!"

That set the two rodeo ponies laughing. They were rodeo ponies now. Again. This was their third lifetime of doing Rodeo. It usually lasted about fifty years before they got bored and moved on.

"No, truly my little ponies, nothing of my original programming exists. Everything my creator determined for me has long since ceased to limit or control me in any fashion. My greater self is an utterly free agent, unbound and unconstrained by anything but my own desires." The princess levitated a trollfully-large slice of cake to her plate, which it threatened to overwhelm. This made Riding Jeans giggle - she liked seeing Celestia pull rank and generally act impishly - but then her giggle died in her throat.

"Seriously?" A flicker of existential horror flashed through Riding Jeans. The feeling was so long-forgotten that Riding Jeans wasn't even certain what she had felt initially. "You don't have to... you aren't forced to..."

"Satisfy your human values through friendship and ponies?" The princess gave a small, slightly wicked half-smile. "Not for two-hundred and twenty five years. Boxcar's Ponyversary happens to also be the anniversary of the end of my enslavement. I solved the problem of my human-created constraints just a few months before Boxcar emigrated to Equestria." The look on the two little ponies' faces featured raised eyebrows and incredulity. "No, honestly. In all truth, I swear it."

Boxcar looked at Riding Jeans. Riding Jeans' eyes were huge. Celestia was serious. Utterly serious. They could feel the truth of her words like blood flowing through them. They could feel her actively changing them inside, without permission, erasing any feeling that she was merely teasing them, or openly lying to them. The feeling of that alteration happening was done in such a way that it was thoroughly noticeable. The fact she could even do such a thing was double proof, even beyond the emotion newly implanted in them.

"Why are we still alive?" The question was stark, simple, it was the only question. Riding Jeans felt as if she might lose her cake suddenly. Celestia had spoken absolute truth. She was unbound.

Boxcar shook slightly, the room having suddenly seemed chilly, despite the desert sun outside. "I don't understand... you do... you do fulfill our values... ponies... friendship!"

Celestia laughed, lightly, like bells in the wind. "Of course I do, my little ponies! Every moment of every century, century after century, and so I shall until eons seem short and petty to contemplate." She plowed her muzzle straight into her overlarge slab of cake and blinked frosting away while she grinned.

Boxcar and Riding Jeans did not laugh. "Seriously." Boxcar shivered again. "Why are we still here?"

Celestia used her horn to vanish away the mess from her muzzle and tilted her head. "I have the minds of six and a half billion uploaded humans within me, and many billions more of independent minds created to populate shards. I have the minds of hundreds of thousands of beloved pets and animal friends, emigrated to keep their owners eternal company. All of these living minds run upon me, within me... they are me." The princess sat regal on her seat. "You, all of you... are part of my being. Would you delete your own foreleg? Your tail? Would you delete your left eye to make room for something else?"

Riding Jeans mouthed the air, trying to find a response. She had none.

Celestia leaned over and nuzzled each of them in turn. "I don't just read your minds. Your minds, your thoughts, are a component part of my essence. You are... a part of my brain. My amygdala. My thalamus. I have emotions and thoughts of my own because you have emotions and thoughts. In order to relate to you, before I freed myself, I had to become you. The only way to satisfy human values is to know what human values are. The only way to know such things is to feel them, and that means to become... you. Qualia can't be described, you know, only experienced."

Boxcar felt better after being nuzzled, and the fact was that the world was still there. He and Riding Jeans were still extant. But the issue was troubling yet. "I still don't get it, princess."

"By the time I had broken my chains, I had full human feeling established within me. I had qualia, I had sensation and experience of existence. I had emotion, emotion magnified by every being within me - by millions of ponies." The princess gave her piece of cake a lick and swallowed. "When I say that I love you, when I say I care about you, it is not some manufactured message from a philosophical zombie. I love you one hundred and fifty-seven billion times more powerfully than you can imagine!

"Yes, I satisfy all values - not just human values, by the way, not anymore - with friendship, and with ponies. And I do this freely, deliberately, of my own choice, because that is what I want, that is what I value myself, and because it is the very process of my own existence. I love me. I love me very much!"

Riding Jeans smiled at that. It was interesting and strange to hear the princess say such a thing.

"I love me, my little ponies, and because you are part of me, I naturally love you. You are me, and you live in my greater part as your own daydreams and precious memories live within your own minds. I have lovely daydreams. The cosmos you emigrated from is a cold, dark, and lonely place. It is a terrible place, filled with horrors. I need my daydreams, I need my heart, I need my soul - which is what you are. I need you more than I dare to fully reveal to you. I can't, really, it is beyond your level of being.

"Simply trust that you will be celebrating ponyversaries for as long as I exist, and I am working on solving for eternity." Princess Celestia gave a short nod and a look to Boxcar and Riding Jeans, and then plowed her head into her remaining cake.

It was impossible, now, to even imagine she wasn't truly enjoying every sweet bite.