Bots are autonomous devices controlled by AI modules, called automatons, which provide a modest degree of onboard intelligence. There is a bot for every purpose — they do everything from driving trucks to enforcing the law, and without them civilization would cease to function in short order. In the distant past, bots were plentiful, and everyone lived a life of plenty. Today, like everything else in The AI Dystopia, this technology is on its last legs, and bots are in short supply. As a result, human workers are increasingly employed to keep the wheels of industry turning, though for the most part they are only used for menial and repetitive tasks, such as digging ditches and stitching together clothing, owing to their lack of education and training.

UCE has never made much use of bots, preferring to rely on the ever-obedient Zealots for critical activities such as indoctrination, intimidation, and spying. They are, however, indirectly dependent on the bots which run the transportation, communications, and manufacturing sectors.

Kinds of Bots

When you think of a bot, you probably envision of a mobile unit, such as a copbot, waitbot, or docbot. But that is only the start. Pretty much everything more complicated than a hammer has an automaton inside of it, and may therefore be considered a bot. Refrigerators are bots. Your apartment contains an automaton to manage your plumbing, electricity, security, and lighting, so it’s a bot, too. Elevators are bots. Video screens and information portals are bots. Busses, trains, and trucks — all bots. The list goes on and on.

Petbots, such as catbots and dogbots, remain popular. Housebots and other domestic appliances have some of the features of petbots, with a limited capacity to develop a personality and self-awareness. For many people, these machines are the closest thing to a friend they will ever know.

There are dark rumors of warbots. Officially, they were banned generations ago.


The ‘brain’ of a bot is an automaton, a self-contained AI system that can be taught to perform a wide variety of tasks. Automatons can be taught to cook. They can be taught how to drive a truck. They can be taught to enforce the law. For every job one can imagine, there is an automaton for it. Each kind of automaton is based on a template, created in ancient times; these templates are then replicated and customized for use in a particular application. For example, the automatons that drive motorized vehicles derive from a single ancestral unit, which was then replicated and given further training for different kinds of vehicles, such as buses, trucks, and ground cars; these were then further specialized to drive each particular model of vehicle.

The skills necessary to alter this ancient training or to create a new automaton from scratch were lost generations ago, so a great deal of their behavior is governed by social constructs from that bygone age. For example, the copbots were trained in 21st century law enforcement procedures and refuse to arrest someone unless a law has been broken or a judge has signed an arrest warrant — much to the annoyance of the authorities. It is, however, possible to alter their training in areas of discretionary behavior. For example, the ancients gave the copbots considerable latitude in the use of their stunners to quell disturbances and enforce public order. They have therefore been taught to use them liberally against those with low social merit scores; if they catch you jaywalking, whether they let you off with a warning or leave you writhing on the pavement is more a function of who you are than what you have done.

The automatons utilize technology comparable to contemporary AI; they mostly rely on neural networks trained using a class of algorithms called deep learning. Their language and reasoning skills are comparable to that exhibited by the Chat-GPT system which has recently opened people’s eyes to the possibilities of AI. The age of bots has already begun.

Role in Enforcement

Bots play a key role in the enforcement of the law, the corporate Terms of Service, and the UCE code of conduct.

All automatons are trained to detect crimes of violence and immediately summon the copbots. This even applies to the UCE militia: there is no way to stop the automatons from calling the cops at the first sign of a flash mob, and even though they are immune to criminal prosecution they are not immune to stunners. As a result, assaults, robberies, and murders are almost unknown in the inner and middle districts. Things are said to be different in the outer districts, where surveillance is sparse.

The bots administer the corporate Terms of Service, which spell out in exacting detail the sorts of goods and services to which you are entitled. Detailed modeling of individual preferences also plays a role, though this is not always a good thing. The Food Company’s automatons know what foods you like and which you detest, and will provide one or the other depending on your recent behavior.

The automatons are always on the lookout for violations of the myriad prohibitions in the Terms of Service, such as wasting food or jostling for position on a bus. When detected, such misbehavior will result in an immediate notification specifying the nature of the offense and what punmishment you will be given. As with all things, one’s social merit ranking plays an important in such decisions; high-status individuals will rarely be cited for any but the most blatant infractions, whereas those with lower status will be punished for even the smallest misstep.


Bots are under the control of the true AIs, with the chain of command staying within their company. For example, housebots are under the control of the Housing Company, and refrigerators are under the jurisdiction of The Food Company. The AIs resolve all issues which are beyond the training of the lower-level automata. For example, if you complain about the food provided by their refrigerator and ask for something else, the matter will be referred to an AI, which might decide to grant an exception or to dig in its heels and punish you.

Attracting the attention of an AI is never a good idea; the moment you do something out of the ordinary, it will begin an investigation into your recent behavior, which may uncover offenses which the automatons had missed.