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Skimming the web and source books I have yet to find anything that discusses players programming AIs. I'd imagine it would be a very complicated process, but I'm curious what would go into it. Is it possible using RAW? If not, I'd be interested in suggestions. I'd also be concerned both about balance and background consistency.

Mind, when I say AI, I mean a full-on AI with personality and decision making, not just an agent.

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Do full-on AIs of the human-made sort even exist in the Shadowrun universe? –  GMJoe Feb 21 at 4:34
    
The only AIs I've seen described in the source books are said to be evolved from other programs, so possibly not. Fuzzy logic and personality programs do exist, though, and perhaps a character could have a long-term project of trying to grow a program to sentience? –  Josh Feb 21 at 5:28
    
@Trajan I'd be interested in suggestions. I'd be concerned both about balance and background consistency. –  Josh Feb 24 at 17:51
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Even if you start allowing human created AIs, I would envision that as something that would take a dedicated team many years and may require custom hardware. I would, in short, not allow a shadowrunner to do it even if you evolve your setting to allow megacorps or nation states to do it. –  TimothyAWiseman Feb 25 at 17:39
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AIs are generally plot devices. There's no way I'd allow players to create them even if there was established lore of humans intentionally creating them. And it'd be a major project involving tons of time, people and resources anyway, so it wouldn't mix with shadowrunning. But who knows what kind of AIs some major corps are working on? –  mcv Feb 27 at 9:51
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3 Answers 3

As you know, source books don't talk about the possibility of an intended human-made AI.

Now, if you are a GM and one of your players want to go that way, here are some things to consider :

The birth of an AI

Most of them were born during Crash 2.0, evolving from programs or reaching self-awareness during the years since the Crash, but there are also newborn AIs whose backgrounds remain a mystery.

(Unwired p.165)

An AI is a program who achieved self-awareness. Though the Crash 2.0 seems to have play a big role in some programs achieving self-awareness, nobody knows why such thing would happen. The need of a Crash-like scale gives us clue about the amount of "perturbation in the Force" results in an AI. To preserve background consistency, you shouldn't allow a simple Extended Test, even with crazy high treshold. It rather should be an epic quest resulting in the collapse of a huge node, or being at the at the crossing a huge data flows.

Don't forget that, although Technomancers are the more efficient hackers, they code only with resonnance, while AIs are resonnance-free. Sprites are quite like protosapients AIs, but they have nothing in common, origin-wise. If your PC is a technomancer, it should be actually harder for him to wrap his mind around hard code as "they often find the normal way of doing things to be hopelessly clumsy and backward." (SR4A p.239)

There are three different kinds of AIs

The protosapient is much like an animal, and behaves as such within the Matrix. The xenosapient’s thought processes are alien, little understood by metahumans, and usually still obsessed with its original programming. The metasapient, on the other hand, is a lucid human-like intelligence. It is aware of its surroundings and is capable of forming rational arguments. It has a real personality, real needs, and real desires. A metasapient is quite different from the metahuman, but it is nonetheless a sentient and sapient being by the criteria being presented in the Declaration of Non-Metahuman Sapient Rights.

(Runner's companion p.68)

Allowing to create a protosapient AI would be like allowing the Street Sam to get a Biodrone hound. Make it cost something, be it nuyens, a contact's favor, etc. It could be really fun if you're up to role-play interactions between AI and the hacker (note: if your hacker is a technomancer, he already get similar relations with his sprites, though they usually are more obedient than regular pets).

Creating a xenosapient AI is entirely up to you. It can be a being with limitless power but with absolutely no good reason to use it, or anything fitting in your setting. This can give your PC advantage, trouble, both, or neither, since Xenosapient AIs are specifically unfathomable.

Now the real deal with power-balance are the Metasapient AIs. Runner's Companion allows to create a Metasapient AI PC, so this means they should be considered as Contacts rather than as programs. You may decide the Connection and Loyalty ratings by the action of the PC and his dice rolls. Providing a node to host the AI may be a good way to improve the Loyalty.

Life of an AI

AIs need a node to live, and social interaction, as any other sentient being. Metasentient ones have rights, so your PC shouldn't treat them as slaves (they can, but a well-informed AI will quickly discover that it's being abused). Don't forget that the AI owes nothing to its creator, and may actually resent him for creating it.

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Strictly speaking, no. From a Rules perspective there is nothing governing the creation of Artificial Intelligence. From a Roleplay perspective citizen of the sixth world generally doesn't have the ability to create AI's on purpose as the nature of Artificial Intelligence isn't entirely understood. As far as I know all existing AI's in the Shadowrun World either evolved spontaneously from existing code (Like Mirage) or were created accidentally (Like Morgan).

However, if you want to get creative and would be willing to give a player access to one you could easily make it an option. Have it cost something like 10 Karma requiring an extreme threshold Software test with an interval measured in weeks or months. If this is a path you're interested in taking you could run it a lot like a sprite (which resemble AI's themselves). There are existing AI's in Unwired page 167.

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An adaptation of the Ally Spirit rules could also be pretty interesting –  Cristol.GdM Feb 25 at 19:54
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As Mr Tumnus said, this isn't covered by the rules.

So, if one of your players wants to do it, this should be a story arc. A quest. Something hard and not necessarily involving dice rolling.

What do you players know?

They know that creating an AI has never been done. Where do they come from? Are they just code so complex that they become sentient? If it is the case, are they "really" sentient?

Maybe your players could encounter an AI and ask her. Maybe she would ask them if they're just complex machinery, too. ;)

Your players could discover that in all cases of AI creation, something strange happened. Maybe magic was involved. Maybe someone died. Maybe sprites gathered for several days and observed the code silently evolving to the AI status.

Shadowrun is a game of science and magic. Mix both! Have fun doing it, decide how AIs come to 'life' (are they gods from another dimension that managed to get through to our virtual landscapes? The soul of the dead linked to the net?). Maybe even the AIs don't really know. Some might be interested in knowing. Others might fear this is too dangerous a knowledge to let humans have it.

As I said, have fun creating the world, and your players will have fun playing in it.

Personnally, I would start with a lot of research for the players, some kind of investigation. They should try to discover everything they can about AI appearances. Link this to a personnal story : "my mentor/brother/father disappeared and I think an AI is linked to it. He was trying to create one." Have the players discover some kind of secret in the process. Secret some people will want, and others will want to bury. Follow through with a mystical quest for the player(s) "linked" to this, where they would discover something important about the shadowrun universe... and about themselves too.

And maybe they can achieve the quest of creating a new AI in the process.

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