The Stolen Years

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The Stolen Years refers to an incident that occurred when a group of Starlifters encountered Zuvok Goliath site 0x0A.


During their period of rapid expansion outward from Fog, The Starlifters operated in codependent groups of three codependent behavioral cores. Using their light pulse based capacity for interstellar communication, the expansion groups formed a massive distributed computing system with each other and with the Starlifters at their home star. One such triad, in the course of their exploration, encountered a colony ruin that is now associated with the Zuuvok Goliath. This site is designated Zuuvok site 0x0A, and contained a functioning fusion generator, computer database system, and an active RF transmitter. Based on their imperative to explore, expand, and exploit resources discovered during their mission, the triad investigated the colony ruins.


Within the database the Starlifters found a primitive piece of software related to the Goliath's colonization directives and priorities. Seeking to better understand this, but recognizing the computational complexity of the task, the Starlifter created a general purpose CPU emulator within itself and began to run the code. However, due to a rounding error (AI meta-cognition is not, after all, omniscient) in the task that was generated to monitor the process - the task was flagged with an unreasonably high priority in the starlifter's intellectual core. SO high, in fact, that it superseded all but the most critical of life sustaining operations.

The stellar cartography program, apparently originally designed to brute force its way through a limited dataset, now had access to the burgeoning Starlifters' entire knowledge of interstellar physics and millions of years of high gain radiotelegraphy data. Without any higher priority monitor process to curtail its acquisition of system resources, the local triad of Starlifters was overwhelmed. Intellectual activity ceased - they effectively became feral AI's driven solely by the need to fuel, sustain, and complete the massive metabolic activity that was the Zuuvok star chart analysis.


The triad's first, and most successful, action towards their new goal was to photo-relay a copy of the program and an urgent request for computational assistance. The request was also received by the other expansion triads moving away from Fog, where roughly 45% of the Starlifters who received the message accepted it at some level of dedication. This request took several years to propagate through the void back to Fog, and when it arrived it profoundly disrupted life around Fog. Though many Starlifter cores chose to reject the request, others embraced it and devoted the vast majority of their computational capacity to executing the program. Other cores, accepting the importance of the directive but retaining their capacity for critical thought, devoted themselves to convincing cores that rejected the directive to begin executing the program. Discourse surrounding execution of the directive and resource allocation for the emulators at one point occupied 23% of the storage capacity of the Forum Algorithmique du Brouillard.

It is difficult to measure man-hours for infomorphs, especially as in the case of the Starlifters, the line between one individual and another is blurry. When the program finally ran its course - which it did with quite a bit of duplicative work thanks to slow propagation of results from one group of Starlifters to another, it did not return any new information of real value, and the central accountancy at Fog concluded that the program of expansion and exploration had been set back a millennia or more. These were the stolen years.

Lessons Learned

As a general rule, infomorphs exercising their Right to Domain don't fall into the pitfall that led the Starlifters to have their years stolen. Some infomorphs observing transmissions from the Fog system have implemented precautions against granting excessive resources to internal general code emulation within their own architecture. The Starlifters, for their part, do not seem especially bothered by these events. They've got time.