By Ivan Sorensen
This provides an overview of the type of technology that is typically available across Unified Space. It focuses on tech that is fairly readily available commercially or to first rate military forces. Typically the further you travel into Fringe Space, the lower the regional technology base gets as cutting edge hardware cannot be easily manufactured or maintained. As few places in the galaxy are completely isolated, you can always find the odd piece of state-of-the-art or prototype hardware in some backwater shop, traded for whatever the highest bidder will offer.
Computer systems can potentially be embedded into almost any device, especially if they are intended to be used with verbal or linked input. However, “smart” devices are not as ubiquitous as might be expected both due to costs and maintenance requirements. In high security applications there are also concerns about electronic warfare and intrusion, especially when dealing with tech-based organisms such as the Soulless or Converted.
Processing power of a typical home computer is tremendous, though for most civilian uses the applications have not changed much over the decades: entertainment, communication, and day to day commercial interaction and aid.
Commercial computer systems generally include semi-AI systems that act as helpers and virtual assistants. Once a system is trained to work with a particular user, it can carry out most tasks the user needs with minimal input.
A variety of input methods are used depending on the system. Commercial hardware usually accepts both verbal interaction and physical interaction (through a keyboard or similar device). Professional users often have cybernetic connections that allow accelerated input and control especially when paired with a well trained semi-AI.
Cutting edge Precursor systems can carry out most day to day functions through mental insinuation but these do not translate well (or often at all) even to psionically gifted individuals of other species.
Soulless find physical interactions to be baffling and always use a direct mental connection. As a result they have considerable intrusion abilities.
Computer networks are a requirement to conduct large scale planetary economies. A bewildering array of software systems exist, many of which are limited to a single world or even colony, though manufacturers and developers across space typically try to adhere to Unity standards unless they have unique needs (or intentionally wish to avoid compatibility).
Even relatively low-tech colonies will maintain at least a basic information network and most populated worlds maintain planetary networks.
A variety of systems exist to connect networks across space with various degrees of success and time-distortion. Interstellar communications usually employ AI-powered prediction networks to adjust for the delay and distortion inherent in such networks.
One of the corner stones of modern society is the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Commercially available AI systems can easily match or outperform a human within specific areas of expertise, but even with advanced learning routines they tend to lack the wide range of adaptive experience an organic being brings. As such, they are usually confined to specialist and advisory tasks.
A rule of thumb in Unity naval forces is that an AI can perform roughly at 85% capacity of a trained organic crew member, but up to 110% efficiency within a specialist role such as combat gunnery or navigation.
A military drop-ship may use an AI pilot to fly from launch to near the battle area but the AI will revert to an advisory role during combat operations.
AI systems are often programmed with personality routines, allowing them to act fairly convincingly as a person. A wide range of personality types are available with some systems having Emotional Drift routines that allow the personality to develop nuances over time. These also allow systems to adapt to specific operators and improve efficiency.
While AI systems are not legally recognized as human-equivalent under Unity rules, there are legal and ethical rules to govern their use and deployment. It is fairly common for operators to develop friendships with AI companions, giving rise to all manner of philosophical questions.
It should be noted that under Unity diplomatic regulations, all Soulless are considered to be organic-equivalent individuals and not AI systems.