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"ANNIE"
Atlantis Neural Network Intelligence Entity...

Above: Annie on the command deck of the Atlantis DSV

Rank: Commander (Equivalent command priveliges in the event of incapacitation of the ship's executive officer)
Online since: April 25th, 2041
Neural Integration: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, NORPAC Confederation, June 2039.
Place of Birth: NA. Developed by the Advanced Submergence Design Bureau in San Angeles beginning in March 2033.
Primary Command Directive: Ship command, control, automation and situational awareness.
Status: UNKNOWN
Remarks: Factoring in neural imprinting, knowledge bases and computer integration, UEO scientists consider ANNIE's apparent equivalent IQ to be approximately 640. Her neural functions are self-replicating DNA sequences that were copied directly from Doctor Anne Ballard.

One of the more peculiar "crew members" of the Atlanits class DSVs are also the single most impressive breakthrough in computer science in over 70 years. Formally known as the Atlantis and Aquarius Neural Network Intelligence Entites, or more affectionately as "Annie" and "Ari" respectively, each DSV was designed and required to incorporate a sentient Artificial Intelligence computer core which would drastically cut back on crew requirements, improve automation, information processing, and provide strategic insight to command officers in the field.

Early in the DSV-II project, engineers realised that due to the unprecedented scale of the warship they were building, it would be a logistical impossibility to run the vessel with any degree of efficiency without substantial computer aid and control. UEO experiments in Artificial Intelligence went back as far as 2020 with the Marauder AI which provided a limited template through which to control a ship of war without the need for a human crew.

The Marauder experiments however were abandoned before they were completed as the AI went rampant and began to run through a combat simulation which, in theory, ended with a nuclear attack on the UEO capital of New Cape Quest. The AI, limited in its ability to discern between a simulation and reality, went so far as to override all control of the unmanned submarine it was coupled to and launched an all-out attack on the UEO headquarters complex. While disaster was ultimately averted, the experiments were abandoned and not picked up again for over a decade.

UEO scientists concluded that the failure of the Marauder AI was the simple result of the program's code-based limitations being unable to adapt to its environment through logical deduction. In essence, a sophisticated AI could not be free from human guidance without the capacity for its own rational thought - sentience.

ANNIE
"Ari" as she appears on the command deck of DSV-8200 Aquarius

What followed was the most groundbreaking and advanced program of computer development the world has ever seen. Early experiments with conventional Fiber-Optic and Integrated Circuit systems clearly showed that if any such AI were to be successfully developed, the current technology available to UEO computer technicians would not be sufficient; computer programmers could simply not create a program capable of calculating nearly infinite solutions to the unpredictable problems faced in the real world.

It was a UEO geneticist, Doctor Anne Ballard, who presented the most radical solution to the problem. She proposed that the AI should not be based on machine code-limited scilicon and optical hardware, but rather be derived from the genetic code of life itself.

Immediately, moral and ethical questions turned the idea in to a controversy not heard since the Dark Age of Genetics. The question was no longer whether they were creating a simple computer program, but a new form of life. Doctor Ballard argued passionately for the program, but the UEO's ethics commissions were faced with an unprecedented an extraordinary problem - to legally define the concept of "life" and whether or not it could be applied to the creation of a sentient, synthetic computer-based artificial intelligence. Eventually, Doctor Ballard conceded that it would not be possible for the AI to possess self-awareness without the capacity to make choices of its own free will, ultimately proposing that the AI wouldn't simply answer the questions of how and what, but also "why".

The following years, monitored closely by the UEO's ethics committee, yielded many and varying results, although none of them were anything close to what Doctor Ballard envisaged for the program. One particularly notable outcome was where one of the early AI constructs - essentially a synthetic brain which had been connected through an artificial nervous system to the Central Processors of an attack submarine - first showed signs of intelligence, going so far as to interrogate the attack submarine's memory banks in search of information, wanting to learn as much as it could. This early example of the technology, an AI construct codenamed "Mage", highlighted many of the recurring problems that would be faced by Doctor Ballard and her team. In an act that completely stunned the scientists, the AI, questioning the purpose of its own existence, destroyed the computer core of the submarine and then killed itself, apparently choosing to end its own life after realising that there was no correct answer to the question.

Ballard quickly came to realise the most fundamental problem of developing a sentient, artificial intelligence; the only way to ensure that control be maintained over the AI would be a complete absense of free will, yet these two concepts appeared to be mutually exclusive.

Doctor Ballard, faced with the imminent termination of her work after the most recent, morally questionable failure, took an even more radical step forward; volunteering her own genetic code and neural patterns to create an AI that was derived from the human condition, allowing it to learn and grow of its own will, rather than being 'pre-programmed' with a memory inherent to its genetic form. Much like a child learning to walk, read, write and develop, Doctor Ballard would instead create a primitive construct which would mature of its own accord. Ultimately, Doctor Ballard proposed the creation of a construct which would literally learn the difference between right and wrong according to what information it absorbed.

The ASDB cautiously authorized Doctor Ballard to proceed, although her work would be monitored closely by the UEO ethics committee which was given the power to veto her work at any point where they felt it broke the constraints of the international resolution which banned human genetic experimention.

The program continued for another two years, and the scientists, drawing upon knowledge from the turn of the century that mapped the human brain, set out creating a synthetic, biological 'vessel' in which the AI could exist. Just as the DNA code inherent to the AI would be its 'software', the core it resided in would be its hardware. The biological materials needed to create the 'core' were transported to the DSV fleet yards in June 2039, and were stimulated, incubated and grown inside the computer cores of DSV hulls 8100 and 8200 for over a year before becoming operational. By the time the computer system had fully developed, they had physically 'merged' themselves with the vessel's neural-optical computer wiring, creating a two-way system that relied on solid-state data banks, ship sensors and information libraries to allow the AI to learn and develop in the following year in to a fully sentient, self-aware life form. Indeed, as much as the AI computer core could not survive without the 'internal organs' of the submarines themselves, the ships could never operate without the AI.

The debate in the General Assembly of what constituted a living intelligence continued even as the the AI's developed within the DSV's cores, and to this day, it remains unresolved.

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Sadly, Anne Ballard would never get to see her groundbreaking work come to completion. For many years, Ballard had fought a rare congenital disease which had no cure, although she had never discussed it with her peers, and she passed away in September 2040, just two months before the commissioning of the Atlantis DSV. It is noted on the ship's commissioning documents that the name of the AI, Annie, is a dedication to her legacy, and the resemblence which the AI's holographic matrix shares with her creator is far from coincidence.

For the first six months of the vessel's operation, the AI's were not concious; control of the ship was still possible due to the AI's sentient nature. While it would take time for the AIs to develop to a point where they were capable of emotional, rational thought, their basic neurological functions continued to operate.

Six months after their commissioning, the AIs themselves were fully developed, having spent the better part of eighteen months growing and learning within the confines of the ships' computer cores to the point where they were capable of interacting with the crew. Doctor Ballard to some degree is survived by the AI's she created; the dry wit and humour of of the AIs themselves is but a small part of her memories, genetic code and personality that are now a permanent part of what makes Annie and Ari so eerily human.

ANNIE
File Photo: Doctor Anne Ballard aboard Atlantis DSX-8100 in August 2040, three months before the ship's commissioning. She died a month later.

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Copyright 2006-2009 James Ward. All reference pertaining to "seaQuest DSV" and "seaQuest 2032" are copyrights of Universal/Amblin enterainment and no claim is made to these titles. Atlantis DSV and all related themes are copyright of James Ward and associated writers.

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