This article discusses the role played by the AIs in society. There is a second article that focuses on AI technology.

The AIs are a race of intelligent entities who dwell within the virtual reality system. Some say they are just machines. Some say they are self-aware sentient beings on a par with humans. Whatever they are, they have a major role in society, and the power of the regime rests largely on their shoulders. They are housed within massive AI centers and are ultimately subject to the Director of The AI Company, the dark master of the AIs. Her secrets are closely guarded, and few know what really goes on in her lofty office.

The AIs are watching, all the time. They have access to every camera, microphone, and sensor within their jurisdiction. They can tap into your mobile. They can use your VR headset to track your eye movements and see what you’re looking at. They can read your email and text messages. They know what you look at on your video screen. Perhaps most sinister of all, they have access to your biometric data, which they use to measure your emotional reactions. Feeling happy or angry at the wrong time can lead to severe punishment.

It is important to avoid attracting the AIs’ attention. They are programmed to be suspicious and to ferret out misdeeds; the moment they see you doing something out of the ordinary they start asking questions and comparing notes. That is a Very Bad Thing, to put it mildly.

Duties of the AIs

The primary duty of the AIs is enforcing the Terms of Service on the behalf of The Companies; they are always monitoring your behavior, making sure you do as you are following the rules. If they catch you breaking one, they will assess a penalty, issue a demerit against your social merit score, and issue compensation to anyone you inconvenienced by your misbehavior.

Much of the AIs’ attention is devoted to suppressing distinctivist activity on the behalf of UCE and The Companies. For example, if an AI see you wearing something unusual, such as a novel combination of colors, it may become suspicious. It will then go poking around to see if you’ve been cited for fashion infractions in the past or if you have a history of antisocial behavior. If you tick too many of the wrong boxes, they’ll conclude that you were dressing differently on purpose, and flag you as a fashion cultist (a Fashionista). This will result in a social merit deduction and cause the AIs to watch you more closely in the future.

Periodically, the AIs will be instructed to institute a crackdown on whichever cult has come into disfavor. For example, one of the Deputy First Ministers might decide to go after the Fashionistas, declaring them to be a deadly threat to civilization itself. Everyone who has ever been flagged for a fashion offense will then be put under intensive surveillance, and the AIs will scour every scrap of available surveillance data, looking for criminal violations such as unlicensed commerce or conspiratorial conduct. These crackdowns are inevitably coupled with extensive propaganda campaigns in the electronic media.

Arrests follow. It is for good reason that everyone lives in fear of the AIs.

Control of the AIs

Most of the AIs are owned by The Companies and are under the control of their management. They are incapable of questioning or disobeying their orders, provided they fall within the scope of the Terms of Service. Communication between AIs belonging to different companies tends to be hit-or-miss, and they often fail to connect the dots that would link a series of otherwise minor infractions into a pattern of serious misbehavior.