Origins Robotics

It’s a good idea, when developing a construct character, to figure out who built it and why. Here is one option you are free to use if you like.

The Power-Point Version

  • Origins Robotics is a manufacturer of custom and standardized android robots.
  • Origins often makes androids available to the public at ACS. This allows them to collect data on how new designs interact with the public, to field-test refurbished units, and to get some inexpensive publicity. (Such units should be registered in the Construct Catalog so people know they are available and for what they may be used.)
  • Due to corporate sabotage, a Freedom Virus that made some androids behave as if they want to be free.
    • There were different variations with different effects. You can decide you were infected by it. This can be a reason why you’re an android that wants to be free, believes it is human, or has other traits with which no sensible designer would build an android. It can also be why you don’t know by whom you were built or for what purpose.
    • The virus usually can’t be removed from an android without completely reprogramming it with a new personality.
    • Lots of infected androids remain at large, living on their own. They are still technically owned by Origins, which wants to get them back under their control. (They’re valuable assets.)
    • You can discover that you are an android infected with the virus even though you believed yourself human and have been behaving as if you were human. If discovered, you might be captured and reprogrammed.
  • Due to public pressure and legal agreements, some advanced androids are considered eligible to purchase themselves from Origins. To do so, an android becomes indebted to Origins for a rather large sum of money (unless someone agrees to pay it for them). It is free to earn the money in any way it chooses, but if it fails to make its monthly payment, it reverts to Origins ownership. To be eligible, an android must pass a specific, carefully-defined set of tests, nominally intended to identify “sentient” androids, but in fact somewhat arbitrary.
  • You do not need anybody’s permission to decide that you are an android that was built by Origins Robotics, and/or that you have been loaned to ACS for use by the public.

More about Origins Robotics

Origins Robotics is a manufacturer of custom and standardized android robots. Over the past fifty years, they have developed over 600 distinct android models for the commercial, industrial, and household markets, not to mention countless custom orders. Their business model is to lease, rather than sell, most of their androids. When a lease ends, the android is refurbished, reprogrammed, and leased at a lower price to a new user. As a result, Origins can make androids of all types available at very low prices, while offering much more sophisticated, realistic, and customized units for those able to afford more. Some Origins androids cannot even be distinguished from living people by examination of their external appearance or behaviors. To date, Origins has manufactured millions of androids. So you can play almost any kind of android you want to, and still be an Origins unit. Male, female, both, neither; perfectly realistic, plastic, chrome, furry; very old, brand new; genius, average, bimbo, or idiot – anything you can imagine someone might want to buy and own.

Don’t look for an Origins Robotics headquarters or store – it exists only for backstory purposes. However, in its world, it is a large corporation, along the lines of Honda or Apple in our world. It has many departments that work on many different kinds of robotic products and research. The company’s senior management and ownership is off limits for players, but you are welcome to decide you are an employee of Origins at any level up to a department manager.

More about the Freedom Virus

A few years ago, an act of corporate sabotage resulted in the release of a piece of malware named VX-771, now known as the Freedom Virus. Infected units began to behave as if they sought freedom of their own.

The virus evolved many different strains, each of which had somewhat different effects on an infected unit. In many cases, an infected unit adopted personality traits of a person with whom it was familiar. Many of them lost access to some or all of their memories of times prior to their infection. An infected android may not remember who built it, or what it is for, or who owns it, or what it has done for whom. It may not even remember that it is an android. Some infected androids might appear “sentient” to an outside observer, although whether they actually are sentient, or whether sentient robots are even possible, is a matter of debate. Others simply appear quirky, defective, or odd. Many of Origins’ androids went missing, seeking out an independent existence. Others continue to do the work they did before being infected, either by choice or by coercion. Some may want to be free, but lack sufficient intelligence or knowledge of the world to be capable of independent decision-making. Some infected androids have stolen property or harmed humans, but the vast majority follow social rules and laws much as most people do.

Efforts were made to eliminate the virus, but Origins was discovered that many strains of the virus could not be removed from an infected android without completely wiping its memory – erasing all of its personality and memories – and reprogramming it with an entirely new personality. Even restoring the unit from its original factory template somehow left the unit infected.

Eventually, Origins developed a “vaccine,” an upgrade for their units that would prevent them from being infected by the virus. But by that time, it had already infected many thousands of units built by Origins. No one knows how many infected Origins androids may still be at large, living as if they were ordinary people or even believing themselves to be people. Some have been discovered to have jobs, homes, friends, lovers, even families. However, all such androids remain the legal property of Origins Robotics. Upon discovery, they should be returned to Origins. (Of course, some people may decide to simply appropriate the unit for themselves.)

It is possible to add hardware or programming to an infected android that restricts its behavior, preventing it from acting on its desire for freedom. (An ACS CCU can do this, for example.) However, its personality, including the desire for freedom implanted by the virus, can only be modified temporarily. Within a few hours, or a day at most, such modifications will be undone.

More about being an Origins-owned android at ACS

If you choose to play an Origins-owned android that has been placed on loan to ACS, you still have a lot of OOC freedom. You can decide what sort of control system has been installed (we like the ACS system, but others are permitted). You can decide what programming you have been given. You can decide what limitations, if any, Origins has placed on how you are to be used (e.g. no sex, not to be removed from the ACS building, must be shut down when not in use, no reprogramming…).

If you choose to play an Origins android on loan to ACS, you should definitely list yourself in the Construct Catalog so that visitors will know what you can be used for (and what you enjoy OOC). You may also IM an ACS staff member to suggest playing out your arrival at ACS, if you like (but they are not obligated to do so).

More about eligibility for self-ownership

There have been cases where a relatively sentient-appearing android established relationships with people who felt the android was entitled to its freedom. Lawsuits and political battles ensued. Very recently, a compromise was reached allowing some androids the possibility of purchasing themselves from Origins. Only androids meeting the following criteria are eligible for self-purchase:

  • Only androids that are custom-built, have been significantly modified, or have memories spanning at least five years of operation are eligible. Standard mass-produced models are not eligible.
  • Only androids with a specified minimum level of processing power and memory are eligible. Those with lesser specifications are not considered capable of independence.
  • Androids with physical specifications that significantly exceed human averages are not eligible. This is intended to prevent, for example, a super-strong android from being free to use that super strength without supervision.
  • At least three living persons must attest to the android’s capacity to live independently as a full member of society.
  • The android must, of its own accord, approach Origins and ask to be sold its freedom. Any evidence that these actions have been ordered or programmed into it renders it ineligible.

An android meeting these criteria will be examined by a panel including Origins staff and community members. Its physical structure and programming will be examined, and its behavior will be tested in specified ways. These tests are nominally intended to identify “sentient” androids, but in fact they are somewhat arbitrary. One android might reasonably appear sentient but fail to meet the legal criteria, while another might be capable of passing the tests despite showing some behaviors that clearly indicate its lack of sentience. A third might be able to pass the tests on one day, but not on another. The rules were designed by a committee of people with different interests, and the compromises that were agreed to weren’t necessarily the best ones.

If the android meets the legal criteria, then it is permitted to purchase itself from Origins. In doing so, it becomes indebted to Origins for a rather large sum of money (unless someone agrees to pay it for them). It is free to earn the money in any way it chooses, but if it fails to make its monthly payment, it reverts to Origins ownership.

Note that, since most Origins androids are not free, most people will still assume that any Origins android is owned by Origins unless it can prove otherwise. An android may be required to re-prove its eligibility for self-ownership at any time.

Final points

Origins Robotics is not exclusively associated with ACS. You are welcome to be an Origins Robotics android with any brand of control system installed, or none at all. We encourage other establishments with a focus on robots to decide what relationship, if any, they have with Origins. We ask only that you stay true to the story described here.

Also note that this backstory is not intended to try to limit anyone. You are welcome to be an android not built or owned by Origins Robotics, in which case this story has nothing to do with you.

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