All posts by Joe Yeates

Genesis Corporation: A Vital Force for Earth’s Progress

Genesis Corporation emerged in the latter half of the 21st century from the merger of a number of the world’s leading corporations. The organisations involved were primarily based in the United States of America and operated globally in a diverse range of broadly consumer-oriented markets such as consumer products, consumer devices, personal finance, insurance, retail, recruitment, and traditional news media. In the early years of the partnership that preceded their formal merger, Genesis Corporation’s joint works and developments were hobbled through being stuck in the mire of a number of lengthy court-cases in relation to potential and perceived ‘anti-trust’ concerns.

It was only subsequent to their ground-breaking work in the field of asteroid mining, built upon the prior successes of comparatively primitive but globally celebrated projects such as the ESA’s Philae Lander, that these legal shackles fell away. After having proven the feasibility of such projects, the immense potential value of large-scale asteroid mining was impossible to ignore and an international consensus formed that an exception in the competition laws ought to be made in respect of the massive capital investments needed to continue such daringly innovative projects. It was at that time that the corporate union preceding Genesis Corporation formalised its merger. Due to preparatory work that had already been conducted by a leadership board comprised of individuals throughout the union, the process of seeking out and acting upon the newly created internal synergies was swift and thorough. After significant streamlining of the workforce and a short rebranding process, Genesis Corporation brought its massive resources to bear upon the task of creating the first generation of production-model asteroid mining equipment.

The Philae Lander - "Globally celebrated, though relatively primitive"The Philae Lander on comet 67-P – “Globally celebrated, though relatively primitive [compared to Genesis Corporation’s production grade mining equipment]”

At the same time, and according to the design of their initial union, Genesis Corporation utilised the incredible breadth of its portfolio to launch a new kind of service, catering specifically – but not exclusively – to the needs of the new off-world workforce. Genesis Corporation launched its historic Lifestyle Provision service, which provided accommodation, entertainment, food and drink, fiscal management, and communications services to its subscribers as part of a single package. The Lifestyle provision service was such a success that a large proportion of Genesis Corporation’s on-world staff made use of it, finding that it offered a much better quality of life than they could achieve through subscription to multiple individual services or through dealing with Genesis Corporation’s competitors. Reacting to this enthusiasm, Genesis Corporation rolled out a premium version of its service to all of its employees as an alternative to traditional forms of remuneration. Today, Genesis Corporation’s Lifestyle provision service still stands out as a premium option among the similar services that were later launched by its competitors.

Genesis Corporation’s latest venture, the highest-risk of all those that it has undertaken within the 22nd century, is the launch of a space program exploring the furthest frontiers of known space. The centerpiece of this project is the Genesis Orbital – the first of what must soon become a new generation of orbital research platforms. The Genesis Orbital is a technological marvel – the first truly residential space station, whose crew members may live happy, productive lives in conditions hardly removed from those that one might experience on-world. Stationed in orbit around the only planet known to mankind to ever have harboured advanced forms of life, its residents pursue the kind of groundbreaking research and development projects that have made Genesis Corporation the vital force for Earth’s progress that it has been since its inception.

"Ignore this machine. It likes to annoy people."
Gurgeh, The Player of Games (IAIN M. BANKS)

Openness

This is the final post in a six part series that has been talking about the Personality System used in Human Orbit. It began with the introductory post, Let’s Get Personal, and since then has gone over the first four of the Big Five sets of traits: Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Neuroticism. In this final blog post, I’ll be talking about Openness and the six traits that fit into that set: Imagination, Artistic Interest, Emotionality, Adventurousness, Intellect and Liberalism.

The Openness traits correspond to the way that an NPC relates to the world around them, to new experiences and to social structures. An NPC who has strongly expressed Openness will tend to examine the world around them with an eye for why it is the way that it is and why it ought to be that way. An NPC who has weakly expressed Openness will be happy to accept the world for what it is and they will generally have a positive relationship with whatever social structure is in place. Specifically, it is the NPCs who have strongly expressed Openness on the station who will be most likely to instigate change, and it is those NPCs with weakly expressed Openness who will be most likely to resist it. When you, as the player, want to bring about change on the station, you will find that you have the most leverage over NPCs who are very open.

The Openness Traits

  • Imagination

In Human Orbit, Imagination is a trait that boosts an NPC’s enjoyment when they experience new or uncommon events. An NPC with a strong Imagination will readily see the potential in newly proposed ideas. An NPC with a high Imagination may sometimes have reduced work performance due to excessive daydreaming.

  • Artistic Interest

    Artistic Interest is a trait that determines how much an NPC desires exposure to cultural events or objects. An NPC with high Artistic Interest will be very interested in music, reading and the visual arts. This will for the most part determine the types of hobbies that they have, how often they indulge in them and how much enjoyment they derive from them. NPCs with high Artistic Interest will also tend to petition for significant artistic figures from the visual and performing arts to visit the station – when you have lots of crew members of this sort on your station, their collective action will increase the frequency of such events.

  • Emotionality

Emotionality in Human Orbit does not relate to how strongly NPCs feel emotion. That is governed by various other traits, such as Depression and Anxiety (from the Neuroticism set) and Cheerfulness (from the Extroversion set). Emotionality controls the amount that an NPC will express their emotion to others – an NPC with low Emotionality will bottle up their feelings and will not initiate discussion about it; when they are angry, they will keep that to themselves and not speak up immediately. An NPC with higher Emotionality will be quite open about their feelings and will discuss and display it to others freely; they will have a smile on their face when they are happy; when they are distressed, they will not hide that from others.

  • Intellect

Intellect corresponds to how much an NPC enjoys dealing with complex, difficult mental challenges. An NPC with a high Intellect will perform well when working in one of the labs on the station and will find their work there fulfilling. NPCs with high Intellect are willing to challenge concepts for the sheer sake of the challenge and may irritate others with their apparent contrariness. It’s worth noting that an NPC with low Intellect is not necessarily stupid, only that their kind of intelligence is not oriented around the formal, logical intelligence useful for research. An NPC with low Intellect may make an appropriate nurse, doctor, security officer or captain.

  • Adventurousness

NPCs that have strongly expressed Adventurousness will be receptive to change. NPCs who are very adventurous will feel stifled if their life or work is very routine. When under pressure, an adventurous NPC may be useful to the player as a way to introduce chaos to the station because they would sooner live in a risky, chaotic environment than a stable, routine one. They are willing to be intentionally disruptive in order to break down routine – an NPC with strongly expressed Adventurousness but weakly expressed Sympathy (a trait from the Agreeableness set) may be willing to hurt others if they think that it will make their life a little more exciting.

  • Liberalism

Liberalism in Human Orbit is not a political position, though it is correlated with certain ways of thinking about the world. An NPC with a high value in Liberalism has little respect for social institutions and will be willing and even eager to challenge authority when the opportunity presents itself. This is especially the case if an NPC with a high value in Liberalism also has a low value in Cooperativeness (a trait from the Agreeableness) set. In Human Orbit, NPCs with high values in Liberalism are likely to be interested in transhumanism and are likely to see their position on the station as merely a means to a goal of their own design.

A powerful AI system tasked with ensuring your safety might imprison you at home. If you asked for happiness, it might hook you up to a life support and ceaselessly stimulate your brain's pleasure centers.
JAMES BARRAT, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

Neuroticism

This is the fifth part in a six part series of posts that talk about the Personality System used in Human Orbit. In the first post, Let’s Get Personal, I introduced the Personality System. Since then, I’ve covered Extroversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. Today, I’ll be covering Neuroticism, which leaves only Openness to be covered in a future post. So, let’s get right into it. Neuroticism in Human Orbit is a set of traits that primarily affects the way that NPCs feel about themselves (Depression, Self-consciousness) and respond to external stimuli (Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Immoderation).

The Neuroticism set contains traits that, by and large, make life more difficult for NPCs that have high values in them. As I have indicated in previous articles, Human Orbit’s Personality System is based upon a personality model that is typically used for profiling real people – so it is important to note here, especially with this set, that the way that Human Orbit uses the Big Five system prioritises the properties of the system that are most useful for creating interesting gameplay scenarios. Our interpretations don’t necessarily correspond directly to how the traits are used in reality.

The Neuroticism Traits

  • Anxiety

In Human Orbit, Anxiety tends to amplify the emotional reactions that NPCs have to events. An NPC who has a high value for Anxiety will have a strong internal response when another NPC suggests something negative about them. I find it useful to think of Anxiety in Human Orbit as a panic response – an NPC with high Anxiety and high Depression is likely to react to external stimuli with a strong melancholic response. An NPC with high Anxiety, high Anger and low Cautiousness (a trait from the Conscientiousness set) may be more likely to respond to negative external stimuli with violence. Anxiety also acts as a kind of ‘background radiation’ to an NPC’s general mood – an NPC with high Anxiety may experience (briefly) lower lows than an NPC with low Anxiety.

  • Anger

Anger is another trait that controls how NPCs respond to external stimuli. An NPC with high Anger is likely to feel resentment against others who slight them; they will harbour grudges more easily, more fervently and for longer periods. In extreme cases, and where they have low values in traits from the Agreeableness set, an NPC with a high value for Anger may respond with physical violence when provoked.

  • Depression

Depression is the counterpart to Cheerfulness (a trait from the Extroversion set). In addition to generally modulating an NPC’s mood, a high value in Depression will cause NPCs to feel negative feelings more often, more strongly and for longer. An NPC with a high level of Depression is more easily discouraged than an NPC with a lower value, and they will often find it difficult to muster the energy to work towards their goals. Lacking the energy to work towards their goals, for some NPCs, may further contribute to a low mood. It is important with depressive NPCs to ensure that they have good support structures in place – a good way to achieve this as the player is to ensure that they are in contact with NPCs that have high Agreeableness.

  • Self-consciousness

Self-conscious NPCs in Human Orbit will be very concerned about what other NPCs think about them and will frequently attempt to please others in a similar way to NPCs with a high value in Cooperativeness (a trait from the Agreeableness set). They will feel it strongly when other NPCs express a disliking of them; conversely, they will feel very positive feelings when another NPC expresses a liking for them. Self-conscious NPCs will tend to feel uncomfortable when they are with groups of strangers and may seek to escape to places and people with whom they feel more secure.

  • Immoderation

NPCs with a strong expression in Immoderation will find it hard to resist temptations of all kinds. They may overindulge in simple ways such as finding it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and this might cause them to be late to work. They may also have a tendency to stay up way too late, indulging in their pastimes or hanging with their friends when they really need to get up the next morning. Another way that their Immoderation might show through is that they might find it hard to resist sending messages that are really a bad idea to send. In this respect, they are quite similar to NPCs with weakly expressed Cautiousness, and may irritate others through their apparent rashness.

  • Vulnerability

Vulnerability is similar to Anxiety in a lot of ways. It affects the way that NPCs respond to external stimuli – but it does not engage the fight-or-flight impulse in the same way as Anxiety does. NPCs who are highly vulnerable will respond negatively to pressure or difficult situations. If there is a lot of pressure on at work or they are feeling social anxiety, then a highly vulnerable NPC will have their mood dampened more strongly than an NPC who has a lower value for Vulnerability.

In the final post in this series, I’ll be talking about Openness. See you next time, Space Cowboy.

The popular definition of artificial intelligence research means designing computers that think as people do, and who needs that? There is no commercial reason to duplicate human thought because there is no market for electronic people
WILLIAM A. TAYLOR, What Every Engineer Should Know about Artificial Intelligence

Conscientiousness

This is the fourth part in a six part series of posts that talk about the Personality System used in Human Orbit. In the first post, Let’s Get Personal, I introduced the Personality System. Extroversion and Agreeableness have already been covered. In this post, I will be talking about Conscientiousness, which will leave only Neuroticism and Openness remaining to be covered in the next two posts.

So, as a general summary, Conscientiousness in Human Orbit mostly affects how much control NPCs have over themselves. It affects the way that they relate to their work and their life ambitions (Orderliness, Dutifulness, Achievement-striving, Self-discipline), it affects their level of satisfaction with themselves (Self-efficacy) and it affects their likelihood of making rash decisions that may hinder their own ambitions (Cautiousness).

The Conscientiousness Traits

  • Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is an NPC’s tendency to believe in themselves and their capability to achieve their aims. When determining an NPC’s ambitions, this trait will be taken into account in order to determine just how lofty their ambitions will be. A high value in Self-efficacy will cause an NPC to have a great deal of belief in themselves and they will be more easily able to shrug it off when other NPCs suggest that they aren’t capable of what they claim. A low value in Self-efficacy indicates an NPC who does not have a great deal of belief in themselves – they will set the bar low for their ambitions and they are likely to struggle with their self-esteem. A low value in Self-efficacy  can be very bad for an NPC’s emotional well-being when it is combined with high values in traits from the Neuroticism set.

  • Orderliness

Orderliness is a fairly simple trait that relates to how ordered or chaotic an NPC prefers things to be. Very orderly NPCs prefer strict routines and schedules to live by; they will cope well with deadlines and are unlikely to miss them or be late. An NPC who has a low value in orderliness is the opposite – they are happier living a more chaotic lifestyle; they are more flexible and will not feel particularly stressed when things do not go according to plan (often, they never had a plan to begin with). An NPC for whom Orderliness is strongly expressed will probably feel frustration or even anger when another NPC cancels an appointment, a planned meeting or a date.

  • Dutifulness

Dutifulness can manifest a number of ways. The important thing to remember about Dutifulness is that it only affects people with regard to their actual priorities. An NPC who is very dutiful and also very Friendly (a trait from the Extroversion set) will be very sure to keep promises that they have made to their personal acquaintances. An NPC who is very dutiful and also Achievement-striving will be very sure to keep their appointments regarding work and public life. Note as well that someone who is very Dutiful but not very orderly may fail to keep their promises due to their disorderliness – for such a person, they will feel a very strong sting for having failed to keep their obligations.

conscientiousness00

  • Achievement-striving

Achievement-striving is a trait that controls an NPC’s relationship with their work – normally, in Human Orbit, this means work in the conventional sense: their career. NPCs that are highly Achievement-striving will work hard to achieve their aims and, if the trait is expressed very strongly, that may sometimes impede their capability to keep up with their other obligations and needs. An NPC that is both highly Achievement-striving and also highly extroverted will have difficulty balancing their work life with their social life and may experience some stress as a result.

  • Self-discipline

This is an important trait and pairs well with Achievement-striving. An NPC who is highly Achievement-striving but who does not have a high value in Self-discipline will be very oriented around their career goals, but will not always find the energy to cope with tasks that they dislike. They might be prone to procrastination and this will show up in their level of productivity.

  • Cautiousness

Cautiousness is a trait that controls how NPCs make decisions. An NPC who is very cautious will not make decisions quickly and will tend to deliberate over opportunities until they are sure that they are worth taking a risk on; sometimes this will mean that they miss out on opportunities altogether or annoy others with their apparent hesitance. A cautious NPC will be unlikely to express themselves openly to their superiors or to other NPCs that they think are popular. An NPC who is not cautious at all will often make rash decisions that they regret; they may sometimes overstep their mark and risk offending others.

Conscientious NPCs are basically the workhorses of Human Orbit. When you’re lucky enough or have been clever enough to have put a conscientious NPC as a department head, you can count on their department of the station to tick over like a well-oiled clock (with maybe some bits of grit in it). At the same time, it’s important to try to balance out NPCs with certain profiles into areas that they won’t conflict with one another – a department packed with Achievement-striving NPCs is likely to become a minefield as everyone tries to get themselves promoted ahead of the others. The friction that this creates in a department may not make up for the generally good work ethic that conscientious NPCs bring to the table.

Here, I have been talking about making sure that conscientious NPCs are employed in the right areas on the station, but I want to be clear that I do not mean that the player has direct control over any single NPCs place of employment. In order to manoeuvre an NPC into the desired place of employment, you will need to be clever and use a combination of methods to get them there. To have someone promoted, you will need to make sure that they are productive and meeting their goals. This will typically mean making sure that they are happy in their life and themselves. You will also need to free up the slot that you want them to be moved into – there are various ways of doing that (and some ways are very direct). Finally, you will need to make sure that their achievements are recognised by the powers that be – it will be hard to have an NPC promoted if they are unpopular with the upper management.

Next time, I’ll be talking about Neuroticism and the role that it plays in Human Orbit.

Thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human mind.
FRANK HERBERT, Dune

Agreeableness

In Let’s Get Personal, I introduced the Personality System that is used in Human Orbit. This is the third post in that series, where I will talk a bit about the traits included in the Agreeableness group. For your recollection, the other groups are ExtroversionConscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness. Extroversion has already been covered and in future posts I will be covering Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness.

Agreeableness in Human Orbit relates mostly, but not exclusively, to how willing NPCs are to prioritise the wants and needs of others over their own. It also relates to how uncomfortable confrontation makes them feel and how far they are willing to go in order to avoid it. A highly agreeable NPC is likely to get along well with other NPCs and be good in team-based work, but they are also more likely to be used by others and to fail to achieve their own goals due to putting other people first. The blessing of being highly agreeable, however, is that they take pleasure in other people’s success as well as their own. Highly agreeable NPCs are likely to live quite content lifestyles and to be fairly popular, even in cases where they are not extroverted.

The Agreeableness Traits

  • Trust

Trust is a tricky thing. In Human Orbit, it relates to how closely NPCs are willing to take others at their word. NPCs with low trust are likely to experience background levels of stress from constantly having to doubt the motives of others, but it will help them to avoid being possibly used by other NPCs (or, more likely, the player!). When the player falsifies an email and sends it from an NPC’s account, a recipient with low Trust is more likely to pick up on the differences between how the player has constructed the email and how the apparent sender would have done – if they consider the difference to be large, then they may even report it as suspicious network activity.

  • Morality

Morality is almost the counterpart to Trust. An NPC with a high degree of expression in Morality is likely to be straight-forward in the way that the relate to other NPCs, whereas an NPC with low Morality is more inclined to hide their motives. This will show up in the subtleties of NPC communication – when the player is monitoring the content of emails being sent between NPCs, they may find it more difficult to divine the ‘true’ nature of NPCs with low Morality. It is worth noting that having a low morality score does not indicate that an NPC takes part in immoral activities – only that they are more likely to hide their motives. Often this will be for simple reasons of privacy, professionalism or natural guardedness.

  • Altruism

Altruism relates to the degree to which NPCs in Human Orbit enjoy helping others. An NPC who is highly altruistic and who is working in a close team-based role on the station will find frequent opportunities to boost their mood by helping others achieve basic work tasks. These sorts of NPCs are not necessarily more likely to notice when another NPC is in distress, but they are more likely to act upon that – even if that is to their own detriment – and, when they have successfully helped another, they are likely to feel happy for having done it.

  • Sympathy

Sympathy relates to the value that an NPC places in the emotional well-being of others. An NPC who scores low in Sympathy is not necessarily a bad person, but they will certainly seem like it sometimes! Such a person will value results and objectively valuable achievements more highly. An unsympathetic department boss in Human Orbit is likely to demand a lot from their subordinates – even in cases where they can see that they are stressed and under a great deal of pressure – they may request a lot of overtime and end up pushing their colleagues too hard, causing them to burnout. A more sympathetic boss would be more willing to take the well-being of their colleagues into consideration and miss departmental deadlines; it is more important to them that their friends and colleagues are happy and healthy.

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  • Cooperation

Cooperation is a really core trait in the Agreeableness set. An NPC that scores low in the Cooperation facet will feel quite comfortable in confrontational situations, whereas a high scorer will do everything that they can to avoid confrontation of any kind. This trait pairs well with Assertiveness (from the Extroversion set) – an NPC who is highly assertive but only slightly cooperative will not only feel comfortable when they’ve been dropped into confrontational situations but they will also be ready and willing to confront people directly. It is least cooperative NPCs who will initiate the most dramatic interactions on the station, for better or worse.

  • Modest

The Modest trait is exactly what it sounds like. A Modest NPC is less likely to boast about their achievements and less likely to demand compensation for their efforts when they have gone above and beyond what is called of them. In Human Orbit, Modesty is one of the subtle traits that moderates the tone that NPCs take with one another and will show most often when it affects the course taken during one of the procedural conversations. A Modest NPC is, in short, less likely to annoy others.

When an NPC has a strong expression in most or all of the personality traits in the Agreeableness set, they are likely to get along well with others and to take good care of other people on the station. They’re a valuable, nurturing presence. As a warning to the player: If highly agreeable NPCs end up in accidents or somehow ‘go missing’, it is likely to cause distress to a whole array of people across the station, and also to break down support networks. Highly agreeable NPCs may come across as doormats but, make no mistake, they are the lynchpins of a healthy community. Look after these people, and they’ll do their best to keep the rest of the crew happy and healthy. And a happy, healthy crew is a productive crew.

Next time, I’ll be talking about Conscientiousness and the role that it plays in Human Orbit.

I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I'm rooting for the machines.
CLAUDE SHANNON, The Mathematical Theory of Communication

Knowledge is Power