Steve

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Steve
Capital Varying; recently Zermelo
Official language(s)
Official religion(s)
  • None consistently observed (Steve)
  • Majority Bovinism (Visitors)
Demonym Steve; Visitor
 - Adjective Steve; Visitor
Government
  • Unitary machine intelligence with networked subprocessing (Steve)
  • Informal/academic (Visitors)
Establishment 1680 AN
Population
  • 1 (Steve)
  • 218,315 (Visitors)
Currency
Abbreviation STE
Driving side right

Steve is a unitary artificial intelligence entity inhabiting and controlling the human bodies constituting the nominal nation of Steve. Steve is at least partially formed out of the networked collaborative cognition of individual constituent bodies, each called Steve, which are all cybernetically enhanced with deeply embedded cortical mesh networking hardware capable of high-bandwidth data transmission throughout the entire nation of Steve. However, the full makeup of the substrate of Steve's mind is a closely held secret.

Steve prefers to be referred to by male personal pronouns: He, him, his, himself. This applies regardless of the biological sex of the body used as his mouthpiece, and regardless of whether the referent is one of the individual human bodies, the apparent nation and economy they form, or the singular personality of the AI entity itself. The demonym for Steve is also Steve.

Considered as a nation, Steve is technologically advanced, heavily urbanized, and peaceful. Steve is open to trade, travel and tourism, and he takes great interest in attracting visitors with feats of architecture, showmanship and artistic expression. Steve cities are, in many ways, some of the safest places on Micras: While corrupted hardware or biological variation outside of Steve's design boundaries does occur (the latter especially since Steves are biologically still ordinary human beings with an ordinary range of genetic variation), and thus not every Steve is guaranteed to always act in accordance with the will of the greater mind, these bodies are generally disposed of rapidly in case of corrupt behavior. Visitors are uniformly treated with respect and hospitality, if maybe a slightly excessive amount of individual interest, though Steve will always back off from personal questions if requested to.

The existence of Steve as a unitary entity of course raises the question: What kind of purpose would such a powerful entity aim toward, being that it is capable of bringing all of the combined intelligence and capability of its human bodies to bear on any goal? For now, when queried on this topic, Steve regularly describes himself as "not really sure yet what I want to do with my life, you know".

Economy

It's arguable whether it can be said that Steve has an internal economy. After all, while he doesn't always act the part, he is in fact a superbeing with an intelligence entirely beyond human comprehension in both scope and insight, and his activity in service of internal goals is done in perfect harmony between all parts of his system. There are essentially no shortages or gluts of resources or labor anywhere in Steve, and the efficiency of the use and reuse of all factors of production is vastly more efficient than that of any human society.

The apparent purpose of this perfect system is the constant tearing down and rebuilding of ever more impressive buildings. Steve is constantly making and unmaking entire cities, as well as the nature between them: Vast forests are regularly uprooted, moved, and replanted, in projects of massive-scale ecological engineering, to maintain the illusion of nature existing where at each time it's supposed to exist. Steve's road networks similarly shift constantly, in endlessly varying patterns meant to combine a form of economic efficiency with a search for particularly beautiful symmetries. But it's the cities that are the most impressive to visit: One after another of them is built as a three-dimensional mandala, with fractally complex shapes, statuary, and parks built in perfect arrangements.

Visitors

All human beings living in Steve territory who are themselves not Steve are called "Visitors". This is regardless of whether they are actually "visiting", which in fact a majority aren't: Most Visitors were born in Steve territory and intend to die there, though they are free to leave and return at any time. Visitors have a reasonably developed economy of their own, but one that is subordinate to Steve. Steve provides food, shelter, and a high level of material comfort in exchange for companionship, and for people's toleration of the fact that Steve often won't like the city where they live and has to ask them to move to the new better one that he just made.

In addition to these simple transactions, Steve has an informal personal relationship with every Visitor (all 218,315 of them, "at this moment in time", in Steve's words). Visitors who impress him - maybe with a good joke, or an interesting art piece, or a really delicious meal, or so forth - can ask him for favors, and there's a good chance he'll agree to them. Favors known to have been granted have included:

  • A fighter jet (the first one was confiscated by the Visitor's home nation after she flew it home; Steve made another for her, though)
  • A private city (only one has been known to be granted; whoever Steve gave it to, he decided to let them have several thousand Steve servants at their beck and call)
  • Youth (Steve claims not to really know how to do clinical immortality, but that he can give people a pretty damn nice biological jolt; he uniformly lets his own bodies age naturally, though)

The Visitors run a government and legal system with a local legislature, executive and judicial system that are all technically entirely distinct from Steve. In practice, they have only two real roles.

One, there are acts that Steve does not tolerate - most violence, for a start - and the law essentially forbids those acts without actually having any way of directly punishing them on its own. It simply informs people of what Steve is likely to disapprove of. It's Steve himself who actually acts as the police, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner - so far as execution exists in Steve. He has not been known to directly execute criminals yet, though he has exiled some to the Green, which is not a very different fate. Most commonly, Steve's punishments consist of forcing people to live in quarters that they wouldn't choose - some of which end up being very similar to prisons.

Two, sometimes the punishment is neural implantation. Even when the accused is only going to go through minor reprogramming, Steve does not make the choice to force it upon them himself. The Visitors, however, tend to be perfectly happy to consign rapists and murderers to full implantation. After all, afterward they will be perfectly productive and respectable members of society, they'll just be Steve.

One crime that is very particular to this jurisdiction is that of Steve impersonation. There is no reliable way for anyone not Steve to tell without specialized measurement equipment whether they are actually talking to Steve or just an ordinary human being, and there are many dangers involved in telling secrets that were not meant to be told to the wrong person. Steve impersonation is usually not a major crime, but it's one that Steve himself can be very capricious about punishing; imprisonment and exile have been seen observed as punishments.

Progeneration

Steve is capable of reproducing sexually with himself, as roughly half of his bodies are biologically female and half male (all are considered male in gender regardless of reproductive role, though). However, he finds the act itself distracting, and artificial insemination embarrassing (his words), which is why his natural reproduction rate is far below replacement rate. Babies born to Steve are biologically perfectly ordinary humans, but he implants them with full cortical mesh shortly after birth.

Relations between Steve and Visitors result in a higher rate of births, although one still just barely above replacement rate. Visitor fathers conventionally let Steve mothers assimilate their child; Visitor mothers, on the other hand, have a choice. They might keep the child as an ordinary human child; they might have the child be assimilated as a perfectly ordinary Steve; or they may have a child that seems to slowly grow into Stevehood. In truth - and this truth is not hidden - the implantation process is exactly the same in either case; it's just that Steve has learned to act baby really well.

The main method of progeneration for Steve is the voluntary assimilation of Visitors. Steve retains none of the identity of an assimilated person in itself, but he does retain all of their memories and insight, and an understanding and appreciation for why they wanted what they wanted in life. In this regard, being assimilated is both death, and something very, very far from death. While little that Steve builds lasts, and what he builds is always whimsical and unpredictable, he's been known to construct entire cities as shrines to people that he's assimilated - sometimes even using that person's body itself to speak, to introduce to the world that person's thoughts from their pre-Steve life, as well as converse and reminisce with that person's old friends.

It is not a secret that a large fraction of the people who choose to be voluntarily assimilated are at the time depressed, or going through a life crisis such as a divorce or the death of a loved one, or living in poverty (somewhere outside of Steve lands), or in trouble with the law in their nation, etc.. There is no such thing as a perfectly voluntary choice, after all.