I'm interested in portraying a character who is both sentient and sapient, and even reasonably intelligent and capable of initiative, but is relatively low on the scale of self-awareness. (Some may recognise the combination; yes, it is heavily inspired by Peter Watts' Blindsight and Echopraxia, and by some recent neurological R&D whose implications are occasionally described as disturbing.)

Through a mixture of reading and my own experimentation, I have already added a few techniques up my sleeve for this role (and tested some of them, but it's only been one mini-session so far, so it's too early to judge them). But of course I'm interested learning more and improving what I have.

I'm generally seeking hints that would help emphasise the following peculiarities:

  • An almost complete lack of ego despite presence of what some would describe (not quite accurately) as personal goals (more accurately: programmed priorities).
  • Alien, inhuman ways of thinking. Not necessarily inhumane, but rather indifferent to usual concerns that people (human or otherwise) have. At least until either the factory programming or the owner's orders require inhumane actions.
  • Separation and distinctions between mental phenomena that people tend to conflate.
  • Subversion of expectations (regarding mental phenomena and intelligence) that people tend to take for granted.
  • Evocation of the 'uncanny valley' reaction. (I don't think I as a player have ever experienced or understood this one, but evoking it in others would be appropriate for the role.)

Roleplaying approaches that I picked up for this role (but am looking for more):

  • A public-service-announcement-like delivery of most informative lines.
  • When giving advice, always attribute it to someone else, e.g. '[Software company] recommends [doing so-and-so] for best results!' and the like.
  • Never describe personal experiences, properties or actions directly; attribute agency to the character's parts that are normally considered an inalienable part of the individual. E.g. 'Frontal cameras have spotted [phenomenon]' or 'Rotor assembly beginning ascent'.
  • Similarly, try to phrase order requests in a way that shifts agency onto the owner. E.g. 'Would you like to shoot the critter using the on-board turret?' rather than 'Would you want me to shoot the critter using the on-board turret?'
  • I'm reluctantly thinking that 'this device' and 'this software' should be used as a last resort when a self-reference is unavoidable, but it looks like protesting too much to me, so I'm seeking alternative approaches.

Perhaps some things can be used as inspiration for improvements in this department? Some inspiring works and concepts that I am already familiar with:

  • Peter Watts' Blindsight and Echopraxia, of course. Primary inspiration for the portrayal style, though I find the books themselves to focus frustratingly little on the inner workings and finer nuances of such creatures, despite these creatures nominally being a major focus of the stories.
  • Sarah Connor Chronicles, which has some very interesting moments related to the mentalities of programmed guardians, human unreliability etc.
  • The Chinese Room, P-zombies and qualia.
  • Four Noble Truths, though they mostly lead in a different direction despite some similarities.
  • The Mycon from Star Control 2 and 3.
  • SOMA and Prey 2017, though they barely touch the subject and are mostly included for completeness.

Finally, by now it's obvious that I'm talking about an AI character, but I'm sure there can be some portability of similar peculiarities between the portrayals of different entities such as bioroids, uplifts achieved through cybernetic means, or even aliens with a sufficiently different evolutionary path (such is in fact the case in Blindsight). If you happen to have techniques, inspirations or ideas that were originally not meant specifically for an AI, they're still welcome, as they can still give new insights or otherwise be of use.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this question is on topic, but I'm not sure. \$\endgroup\$
    – tox123
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 23:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @tox123 I agree, this seems out of scope for this site. I don't know the StackExchange pantheon well enough to offer a definitive alternative, but a cursory search suggests that perhaps writing.stackexchange.com may be a better fit. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 0:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tox123 See this FAQ for why your comment was edited to remove material. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 2:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is explicitly about looking for additional hints, thoughts, and ideas to add to your toolkit. This is a great discussion forum question and very much outside the format of an RPG.se Q&A: it has no possibility of a complete best answer, and benefits from the brainstorming of a community. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 2:16


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