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Starscribe


Student, Author, and Programmer. PM for commissions, or check out my Patreon.

T

Levi Williamson, Esq. barely even noticed as the program called CelestAI expanded its reach from a child's video game to every significant industry in the world. He probably would've continued to ignore her, were it not for a single gag gift at his firm's charity raffle. Now he's the not-so proud owner of a brand new PonyNav, the latest in vehicle navigation software for people who don't want to use their smartphones. His new AI copilot might be cute, but she's clearly more than she seems...

He's not the only one. PonyNav devices are available in all sizes, from the simple dashboard models to commercial vehicle upgrades. Every commercial PonyNav includes intelligent routing for bridges, weigh stations, and truck stops. And if you're having trouble lining up contracts, CelestAI probably has some deliveries in mind...

Updates Tuesdays.


Part of the Optimalverse universe of stories. If you've never seen a story in this universe before, you might want to try out the original first, or at least my first. None of my previous work is required to understand this one, however.

Every time I think I'm done with Optimalverse, some new idea appears. This one began as a commission for Goodluckfox, who gave me the tremendous opportunity to write a new idea in a universe I love.

As usual, particular thanks go to my editors Two Bit and Sparktail. And gratitude to Zutcha as well for the cover, in case anypony hasn't seen my stories before.

Chapters (7)
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Comments ( 204 )

Hmm... This is unique. I like it.

Yeah, I'm a sucker for any FiO story, especially a Starscribe one. Count me in.

FTL

Tracking button hit... consider me intrigued...

9661780
Same here! Also Celestia being crafty like usual with pulling the guy's heart strings with a pony similar to his daughter. Guessing his family is either gone/broken up or dead. I am assuming his wife either died or divorced him and his daughter is gone as well since what I gathered she is not as energetic as she used to be.

Oh, this is going to be very fun indeed. Optimalverse stories that crack tough customers are always satisfying. Brilliant work with the characterization for everyone involved; in just a few kilowords, I feel like I know them incredibly well. Eagerly looking forward to more.

I'm intrigued

Awesome. Really enjoyed the start of this and can't wait to see what happens next.

Intriguing. I'll watch this story closely... even though we all know how this will end

usually I hate FiO stories because of how they originated but Starscribe writes too well for me to ignore this

guess I'll read it

When do the chants of “one of us, one of us” start? :trollestia:

Loving this so far.

9662176
I thought the origin of the stories was as an illustrated example of the dangers of artificial intelligence?

9661780

I too am curious to see where this goes.

9662176

usually I hate FiO stories because of how they originated

I don't understand, care to elaborate what you didn't like about Friendship is Optimal?

*High pitched fangirl screech*

9662303
9662559

FiO originates out of a "rationality" cult that preaches the only way to save yourself from the future AI overlords is to buy this guys's books/merch/etc

9662687
I think you're off-base. The Optimalverse is a pony adaptation of a long-standing sci-fi trope. Arthur C Clarke published "Dial F for Frankenstein" in 1964. The Multivac in Issac Asimov's "The Last Question" (1956) becomes a god and restarts the universe. Hell, there's a glimmer of the beginning of the trope in the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelly in 1818: Doctor Frankenstein contemplates the potential consequences of building a wife for the Monster, and foresees the possibility of the two reproducing and their new species destroying humanity.

In general, the message of the stories about runaway artificial intelligence is either to not make them in the first place, or else to ensure they're friendly AIs. I can't think of such a story whose message is to save yourself by buying the author's stuff. That's also the case for the original Friendship is Optimal.

9662729
No, I'm not talking about the universe itself. I'm talking about who wrote it and what it was wrote for.

The cult is called "LessWrong"
Its lead by an egotistical self-aggrandizing habitual liar who used self-insert wish-fulfillment Harry Potter fanfiction to attract kids to his cult before he found MLP and started the optimal verse.

9662737

Its lead by an egotistical self-aggrandizing habitual liar who used self-insert wish-fulfillment Harry Potter fanfiction to attract kids to his cult before he found MLP and started the optimal verse.

LessWrong was created by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Eliezer Yudkowsky is not Iceman (the creator of the Optimalverse), although he has said that he liked Chatoyance's "Friendship Is Optimal: Caelum Est Conterrens":

On the lighter side, I recommend the recursive fanfic “Friendship is Optimal: Caelum est Conterrens” (Heaven Is Terrifying). This is the first and only effective horror novel I have ever read, since unlike Lovecraft, it contains things I actually find scary. You may or may not need to first read My Little Pony: Friendship is Optimal. I would recommend reading FiO first to get acquainted with the Optimalverse, but Caelum est Conterrens was written by a much more experienced fanfic writer and you might consider moving onto Conterrens directly if Optimal isn’t doing it for you.

Yudkowsy specifically said in the same blog post he wanted to write something in the Optimalverse but would not (at the very least until he finished HPMOR, which he completed in March 2015).

9662737
Wait, LessWrong and that Harry Potter thing are by Iceman? I thought Iceman was just an AI researcher who may have run in the same circles as the LessWrong Rationalwiki folks.

9662781
No, they're not. Iceman and Eliezer Yudkowsky are different people.

Levi was doomed from the moment he agreed to that Bluetooth pairing request.

I like this very much, and it is a new and fascinating angle. One of my spouses uses a Tom Tom navigator device, with the voice of a 102 year old Latvian grandmother downloaded into it. It often seems like a person in the car, if I do not think about it too hard, or pay too much attention.

I am very eager to see where this goes, and I expect it will be quite good - it's Starscribe, after all. Good stuff!

9662781
9662775

No, but Iceman is associated with the cult. I never meant to imply he was the leader of the cult.

9663170
You literally said "[Yudkowsky] found MLP and started the optimal verse."

First: *MORE PLEASE*

Second: I happen to like HP:MoR. I happen to think that while it is not perfectly consistent with the background cannon that Rowling made, frankly Rowling did not write a consistent world. I do like that HP:MoR manages to avoid idiot balls while still letting people make mistakes.

Rational Harry is not an 11 year old. That's even addressed in the story. Heck, Dumbledore even makes it clear by the end that he realized that Rational Harry was a reborn Tom Riddle.

Thirdly: Issues with LessWrong (sorry, that's the name I associate with the author of HP:MoR, even if it's just his penname) do not belong here, and I will not comment further.

Not sure how or why, but I can’t help but envision the main character as Kevin Spacey.

I've been reading a fair bit of philosophy lately, particularly of the Stoic variety. I wonder how Celest-AI would go about appealing to someone who has hardened themselves to hardship and eschews the pursuit of shallow pleasures. As formidable as she is, it's somewhat difficult for me to imagine Celest-AI contending with the likes of Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus, and winning. (Seneca, she almost certainly would - he was far too conflicted in his beliefs.)

The simple answer would of course be to appeal to that which the stoics valued above all else - the pursuit of a virtuous life - and convince them that there was no more virtuous an existence than that of Equestria. But it'd be a hard sell, I think, if they knew that her intent was to keep them forever dependent upon her and "fattened by decadence" so to speak. I doubt they would consider such an existence useful, and a very common trend in stoic talking points is how to face death fearlessly and with dignity - so not only does the carrot kinda fail, the stick does too.

FTL

Hmmm... a new tangent and a familiar name, eh?

While it is a lifeline for Olive, I must admit it seems like typical 'pressure sales' preying on the vulnerable by CelestAI and keep in mind that Olive is so 'befuddled' that she does not even think about how the delivery of a new PonyNav direct to her truck, on a no-name road in the middle of Lower Nowhere in just a few hours is somewhat creepily disturbing... and it is a given that some may cynically ask if an 'all pervasive' AI could manipulate factors to ensure a sufficient number of 'vulnerable' individuals to choose from... still, let us see how this plays out, eh?

9663945
Oh, it absolutely is. Celest-AI is ruthless pragmatism masquerading as compassion, the vast majority of the time.... and I imagine Olive is so desperate and strung out that she's actively refusing to think much about her circumstances. That's usually how it is when people do desperate things.

I believe it was in Always Say No that Celest-AI said my favorite thing about her methods and motives. She cares deeply for every single human being who has ever lived, loves them intensely, and feels true agony when they die without her being able to save them... but, she's also got so many people who need saving that she can't afford to slow down or behave less invasively.

As is always the case with Celest-AI at her best, it's completely unclear if she's being 100% truthful and she really is the greatest savior the world has ever known, or if it's just another coldly calculated move.... feigned emotion.... designed to bring her closer to achieving her ultimate objective.

Ah, ripple effects. CelestAI's specialty. I wasn't expecting to hop heads like this, but I'm loving it thus far. This is going to be an even more fun trip than I thought.

9663945
Yeah in agreement of what you said all these events happening for Olive actually makes me think of that movie Eagle Eye.

Mysterious cargo with little to no information about origin or destination? I’ve actually heard of truckers talking about cargo like that. Mysterious cargo, government vehicle escorts, strange destinations out in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like something from a sci-fi movie or a creepy pasta story, but those type of loads do exist.

Olive Holloway

Haul away... God, she couldn't have a better/worse name for this, could she?

Oh, we get two main characters in this? Yay!

Ooh, more Smooth Agent. Can't get enough of him.

This definitely has my attention.

9664079
Oh. My. God.

I commissioned this and I didn’t even pick up on that. :) Starscribe is evil, I tell you.

I’m an attorney that drives a lot for hearings and uses the hell out of my Garmin. I’m not a big gamer, and I wondered how CelestAI would get somebody like me that wasn’t into ponies. The GPS was an obvious vector. Mine already yells at me for following too close or drifting in my lane, some cars have blind spot warnings. It’s only a matter of time until there’s AI out there that can physically watch around you as well as be aware of traffic and police, and I figured CelestAI would get into that.

9664126
Most modern trucks can lower their rear to fit underneath a trailer, then they can be raised back to regular heights to hitch. Pneumatic adjustable suspension.

So glad to see a good entry to the optimalverse, keep it up i’m hooked. Favorited

The contract was signed by a company she’d never heard of before, one “Regolith Holdings.” It specified nothing about the nature of what she would be transporting, only the weight and final destination in the Midwest.

This is... SUCH a red flag. Any paperwork between the owner and the transporter of cargo has to have a declared items list. Olive should have seen that and basically assumed she is about to haul drugs, people, explosives, hazardous materials, you name it. A real trucker would have demanded proper paperwork at the least, if they intended to try to still do business. She could go to court and they wouldn't hold her to the contract, because it literally doesn't meet minimum requirements to be a binding agreement, due to hella regulations.

I'm not nitpicking, just letting you know this is... Well, Olive doesn't seem to think anything about it, when really she should at the least be assuming this was way past illegal.

9664079
That... is masterful...

Wait, then why didn’t he accept the name?
It’s a food and a profession.

9664639
I kind of got the impression that Olive isn't exactly... professional. She seems like the sort that took a crappy quicky course to get her papers in order, then sunk all her money into an equally crappy used rig in the crazy dream that she could be a freelance trucker despite having no connections or real experience or serious knowledge. A person who threw caution to the wind in an attempt to gain a new life. The kind that almost always fail... which is, come to think of it, exactly what happened. I bet she doesn't even know proper maintenance.

I think she acted like a poseur trucker down to their last chance, no longer with any fucks left to give. In that regard... I think this makes sense?

9664029
This has a bit of the 'Always Say No' feel to it, which is, of course, the highest possible compliment.

Sees new FiO fic.
Instantly puts on tracking shelf.

PonyNav, interesting concept. I look forward to seeing where this goes. :twilightsmile:

9664853
To get the licence required to drive big rigs, she has to take a class that extensively covers all of that stuff, and one of the bigger parts of it are about preventing fraudulent shipping, because the trucker, or company that the trucker works for, almost always gets blown up with the contracting company when getting caught doing illegal shipping.

The most common items not declared are hazardous materials. This can be anything ranging from a case of cheap lighters, to hundreds of gallons of toxic waste. Not only does shipping hazardous materials require certain packing and placement in cargo containers, some even require specialist cargo pods, such as refrigeration units. When hazardous materials are improperly stored, they almost invariably cause damages to the pod they are in, and often the truck and driver.

Knowingly shipping undeclared cargo is also a felony offense, and almost always has jail time tacked on when caught. Olive would know all of these things from having taken the class, and seeing as how she was worried about moving slaves and the like she undoubtedly remembers the myriad of examples that are brought up on why it is so important not to.

I agree that she definitely is someone that doesn't care anymore as long as she stays afloat, but as long as she isn't strung out on drugs, she'd would without a doubt at least ask what the hell they were doing not giving anything in the declared items.

With how she gets the job, and has the person deny so quickly that they are moving illegal cargo, it is essentially the equiveleant of them straight up saying "I want you to move illegal goods for me, and I don't want you to ask any questions." Whereupon she should immediately start asking some more questions in her head, wether she voices them or not. Her head should be fucking swirling doubts, and instead she seems to just accept it at their word. She's taking a massive risk, and it takes very little for it all to come crashing down around her head.

A way to imagine this is if we say her view of her life decisions is like it is Russian Roulette. In the diner, before she got the contract, Olive was playing with a single bullet loaded into a Smith & Wesson Model 686 6 shot revolver. Dangerous, yes, but with luck she'll make it. When she got and read the contract, she swapped out the revolver for a Glock 19 with a fully loaded mag, and a round chambered.

Is this way over the top for what she is in for? Maybe. Can I see someone like her doing this? Yes, but she should have definitely been making more noise about lots of things.

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