24.89% Age of Cosmic Exploration / Chapter 119: Rise of the Machines!

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Chapter 119: Rise of the Machines!

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

"I’m sure everyone present has gone through the video of the exploration many times. It’s true that the team escaped death by the breath of a hair, and we’ve also come across many inexplicable questions. I hope some of them have been answered in the 13 days I was asleep."

Yao Yuan had asked for a meeting at the war-room the afternoon he was discharged from the hospital. Attendees included the rest of the exploration team and representatives from the Academy, Barracks, and Workshop.

Yao Yuan continued, "First, I would like to know why there is a danger zone 300 kilometers around the warship husks. Is it caused by electromagnetic, or radio-signal interference, or some other more advanced hampering technology? And most importantly, is there a way to bypass it?"

All the scientists shifted their heads away from Yao Yuan until the leader stood up and said, "Captain, we’ve fired off 5 more sets of the pilotless airships in the past 13 days using special devices to counter both electromagnetic and radio-signal interference, but they were to no avail. All forms of electronic signals disappeared the moment they entered the danger zone… it was like the area barred the entry of all electronic signals."

"So we still can’t find a reason, huh?" Yao Yuan frowned, but he added conciliatorily, "That’s fine. After all, we’re dealing with a more advanced civilization, so I’m sure the mystery will be solved in time… Well, let’s move on to the next set of questions. How do the robot guards achieve mobility? I noticed that they didn’t have an exhaust or propellers to aid in their movement, so how do they move so easily through zero-gravity space?"

"They rely on some kind of electromagnetic force."

This time it was Bo Li who stood up. She added, "Based on the analysis on the robot samples that were brought back, the circular plate that held them up were electromagnetic products. As long as they are in a metallic environment, they can rely on the electromagnetic tension formed between the plate and the metallic surface for the purpose of movement. Furthermore, there is a mini particle accelerator inside the circular plate to help with changing of directions and speeds.

"Not only that, we’ve managed to unveil the 3 types of weapon these robots carry. The first is a set of high-voltage tentacle arms that are perfect for close-quarter combat.

"Second is a type of medium artillery that’s similar to our own modified space rifles. They are the least harmful because I believe they are designed to be used inside the warship, so they won’t pose much harm to the ship’s structure.

The last is a type of Gaussian electromagnetic weaponry. It is definitely not something that can be used inside the warship. In space, it can fire off bullets that could reach up to the speed of 2840 kilometers per second. That’s almost 1/100 of the speed of light! The ammo for these weapons is some sort of metallic spheres that are about 10 nanometers in size. Its destructive power is immense. For example, it could easily shred the Hope’s walls like they’re made of paper!"

Bo Li’s revelation sent chills down Yao Yuan’s spine. After he collected himself, he continued, "So it is as I predicted. These robots are not only used for defense, they’re used for offense as well… Is there anything else you’ve found out from the robots?"

Bo Li sat down to let another researcher take the floor. Yao Yuan recognized this person. He was the Hope’s expert on computer hardware. He was leading the effort to dissect and understand the Hope’s central mainframe.

"Captain, we managed to salvage some processing chips from the robots’ internal framework. They are slightly more powerful than our conventional CPU, albeit much more compact in size. However…" the researcher paused, scratching his chin. "The chip contains some sort of external lock that destabilizes most of its uses. This lock also acts as a form of cell... something…"

"Cellular battery," Bo Li beside him offered.

"Yes, cellular battery. It could release a contained electrical charge almost instantly if it receives the signal to do so. The charge is powerful enough to create a plasmatic explosion that could easily wipe out the chip and its surrounding structure," the researcher concluded with a sigh.

Yao Yuan was stunned. He was unsure of the chip’s significance until Chou Yue poked Ren Tao in his back, who then lazily added, "We’ve looked over this set-up’s purpose while you were asleep and we’ve narrowed it down to several possibilities. First is to prevent their technology from being stolen, and another is as a self-destructive last resort.

"However, there are obvious logical loopholes in these 2 hypotheses. For the first, this civilization is, like the Hope, a space nomadic race, but with technology that’s far more advanced than ours. The Academy predicted them to be in a stage that’s equivalent to our fourth or nearing fifth industrial revolution. It’s unlikely for them to be afraid of technological thievery because the enemy they would face would either be drastically backwards like us, or so much more advanced that their technology would be worthless. So unless they are shielding their technology from themselves, the first scenario is quite unlikely.

"The second scenario is hard to believe as well. Even though the battery could create a plasma explosion, its range would be too small to cause any actual harm. The size of the explosion is only as big as the robots themselves, so… this set-up is more likely to harm the robots themselves than their adversary!"

"Self-harming?" The concept crossed Yao Yuan’s mind and initiated a strange train of thoughts, but he quietly waited for Ren Tao to finish.

Ren Tao resumed, "As I’ve said, the civilization’s incredibly advanced, and this could be seen from their military make-up. It is completely automated. A military that has no fear of death or fatigue, it could be said to be the perfect future version of military.

"This might sound like I’m peddling science fiction, but its supremacy could be seen from our foray into the warship husk. A completely destroyed warship that’s not even part of the main fleet still contained so many defending robot guards. One could only imagine the number of robot patrols during the civilization’s golden era. I bet even a single warship contained tens of thousands of these robots back then.

"Obviously these robots could be used for war, but during peace times, they could be converted to become manual laborers that maintain the warship as well. It’s a perfect combination of civilian and army."

Here, Ren Tao’s mouth curved into a chilling smile. "Logically speaking, this insurmountable amount of robots couldn’t possibly be manually controlled. There has to be a central server that control everything, and that most likely will be the central mainframe residing in the gigantic battleship. And I suspect this alien civilization might have even already invented… fully functioning AIs.

"And if one is to follow this supposition, they will arrive at an interesting supposition."

Caught up in the excitement, Ren Tao leaped out of his seat and started pacing around the room. In a conversation that looked suspiciously like he was the sole participant, the elaboration continued. "Invention of AI and robotics must have helped greatly to relieve the citizens of physical labor. It’s not hard to imagine that robots of more diverse functionalities were invented so that the citizens could relegate more time for study and recreation. In other words, the hard part of life, which is work and labor, was cut out thanks to the automated robots…

"However, unlike humans, there is no end to an intelligent robot’s learning capability. As time went on, it is not hard to see them achieve singularity [1]. Yes, there might've been limitations like Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, but as creatures born out of pure logic, it would not be hard to argue them away. This could only lead to… The rise of the machines!

"…Now, it’s hard to say how this robotic uprising plays into this civilization’s overall history, but I have a few speculations in mind. For one, perhaps the alien race came out on top in the war between them and the robots, but the results of that war made their home planet ultimately inhospitable and they had to escape into space to find a new home. I mean, our atomic bombs already had century-long impacts on Earth, so just imagine the weapons of mass destruction for this race. The difference between us and them though is that we have space-warp as a trump card. So perhaps finally admitting the impossibility of survival in space, they seeked a self-destructive end…

"Of course, it could be that the robots were the party that came up victorious in the war. The people had built this battleship to escape the fate of being hunted down. So this battleship might be the survivors that finally got caught up to by their robotic pursuers…

"Either way, these are my inferences from the unique set-up of the internal chip.

"This is a civilization that both depended on and was wary of the use of robotics…

"A civilization that was cornered by its own creation!"

Lonelytree Lonelytree

[1] Term is borrowed from Ron Currie’s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. Definition as provided in the novel, the basic idea is of the moment when a computer wakes up, becomes self-aware, gains consciousness.

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