Martian Autumn, the campaign I GM, has an unrestricted and open-source cornucopia machine of Extropian make as its main MacGuffin.
This desktop cornucopia machine, Black Peregrine, by design:
- can self-replicate from raw materials,
- has a built-in AI named Samuel for design and operation,
- an extremely wide selection of blueprints,
- the ability to keep or forget use logs, and compatibility with most DRM standards.
(Yes, the names refer to an American mystery writer and his most famous novel.)
I imagine B.P. as the sort of thing very useful in colony construction. It certainly includes blueprints enough to bootstrap into a fairly modern industrial base, build healing vats, terraforming equipment, new morphs, ego bridges, vehicles, spacecraft, and weapons from knives to pure fusion explosives.
(This wide range matters for later plot developments.)
B.P. purposely exists as a very dangerous MacGuffin. Players in Martian Autumn immediately started counting how many other characters might know of it once they heard of it, and one of them started
planning how many deaths it would take to keep her possession of it secret. Another player expects many copies to start flooding Mars. No one yet worries about the overall effect on the unstable Martian power structure.
(No, none of the players have read Damon Knight's "A for Anything.")
The device hasn't yet shown up in play. It lies in the ruins of Waddell, near Meltwater, and no one has yet left Elysium City. Once it does, I plan to use the relative disadvantage of general-purpose construction versus special-purpose assembly fabrication to rein in the players. Once the players get used to that, I plan to play up the cultural differences between Mars and Extropia as stage business for the in-game restraint.
(Agoric computing? What do you mean I should have bought futures for the production queue? Do what I tell you, machine!)
Here are a few questions to spark discussion.
- What sort of user access control would exist for a D.C.M. right "out of the box?" Does Samuel, the design AI, imprint on the first transhuman it sees?
- How fast can an effectively unrestricted desktop cornucopia machine self-replicate?
- What limits would such a thing realistically have?
- How would you fingerprint a C.M.? Isotopic ratios or quirks of construction patterns come to mind. What else? (By intentional default, B.P. doesn't use watermarked designs or keep logs.)
- What uncommon or rare raw materials would B.P. need to self-replicate?
- How many other unrestricted cornucopia machines would reasonably exist on Mars and in near-Mars space?
- What would or what have characters from your games done with such machines?
- What else should I have asked?
Sometimes the delete key serves best.