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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:59 am 
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I just hit the CSI parody arc in my archive dive and it was like hitting a brick wall. So I started wondering; what arc do you like the least? Which chapter of Schlock Mercenary do you dread reaching during *your* archive binges or book re-reads?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:46 am 
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The CSI bit definitely breaks the tone, but it's tolerable. Reparking his buick indeed.

There was probably a side-job taking on a bunch of juvenile delinquents back in the early days, but it was so bad I keep skipping it every time I re-read.
Shufgar's arc is good, except I can't follow the timelines. I need a spirit guide.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:23 pm 
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The first arc where Schlock acts like a hyper-sexualized teenager and Howard was still constantly reaching for the low hanging laughs.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:00 pm 
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I'd have to actually re-read most of the comic to find the worst, but from memory, I'd have to say the last one. 4 different subplots of bullshit followed by a thirty idiot-ball pileup.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:16 pm 
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I think everybody's aware of my opinion on the matter...


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:49 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
I think everybody's aware of my opinion on the matter...

I actually am not, so far as I know.

I liked the mad scientist book well enough to buy it for a friend's birthday gift. I think the whole "Tagon dies" plot could have used a little more thinking-through. Act I, Tagon uses the ship's deflectors to win a paint-ball match. Act V, the same ship can't even use its deflectors to carry a warhead, much less deflect paintballs (or bullets). Never mind the whole "robot aliens need abominable heretics to launch back-door assault" sub-plot or the way Para's hacking turned into a super-power ("Give me 20 minutes and an alien system I've never seen before," really?)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 2:58 pm 
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sotanaht wrote:
I'd have to actually re-read most of the comic to find the worst, but from memory, I'd have to say the last one. 4 different subplots of bullshit followed by a thirty idiot-ball pileup.


I don't know, repairing a ship plus fixing the AI, investigating a circus and winding up in jail, dealing with a despot that you put in power (and discovering the truth about the long gun), and providing security in a mall where some of the crew had a chance to pick up new maneuvering skills (plus a contact that would come back again), all concluding with a kidnapping, the first bus hijack and loss, a new/old ship (got a new number for the old hull), and everyone wondering what would Schlock do. A 30 plot gambit pileup, maybe.

Oh yea, Pi missed an explosion. And we get a robotic surgeon before the current crewmember came along. And someone refused a massive bribe, and we find out that there are somethings a mecenary won't do for any money, or a loyalist won't do against their country, but a sociopath can always be willing to do. And they crack an annie plant (was that their first?).

And the AI's decided to take things into their own hands and not let the meat bags make decisions. You know, the sort of thing that teaches you to make sure that decisions go through you and not the AI. http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2010-11-19

I thought it was rather good. But it does explain why Kaff doesn't trust AI's very much.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:49 pm 
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keybounce wrote:
sotanaht wrote:
I'd have to actually re-read most of the comic to find the worst, but from memory, I'd have to say the last one. 4 different subplots of bullshit followed by a thirty idiot-ball pileup.


I don't know, repairing a ship plus fixing the AI, investigating a circus and winding up in jail, dealing with a despot that you put in power (and discovering the truth about the long gun), and providing security in a mall where some of the crew had a chance to pick up new maneuvering skills (plus a contact that would come back again), all concluding with a kidnapping, the first bus hijack and loss, a new/old ship (got a new number for the old hull), and everyone wondering what would Schlock do. A 30 plot gambit pileup, maybe.

Oh yea, Pi missed an explosion. And we get a robotic surgeon before the current crewmember came along. And someone refused a massive bribe, and we find out that there are somethings a mecenary won't do for any money, or a loyalist won't do against their country, but a sociopath can always be willing to do. And they crack an annie plant (was that their first?).

And the AI's decided to take things into their own hands and not let the meat bags make decisions. You know, the sort of thing that teaches you to make sure that decisions go through you and not the AI. http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2010-11-19

I thought it was rather good. But it does explain why Kaff doesn't trust AI's very much.

You seem to be talking about Book 11: Massively Parallel. I believe sotanaht was discussing Book 16: Big Dumb Objects.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:00 pm 
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Every story has been better than last.


Any other opinion is heresy. HERESY!


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:17 pm 
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Big Dumb Objects was good, but (to borrow Howard's terminology) it didn't cross my Threshold of Awesome, which is odd, because so far, most of Howard's books have. I actually appreciated both Kaff's death, the emotional impact that the death causes, and the decision to bring him back. The only real problem I have with it is the divergence between Kaff's "I had the ship bend the bullets" and the ship's "I'm locked out of the hardware," but Howard is only human. Even the best author in the world isn't going to bat 1000 every time.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:17 pm 
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Black Sheep wrote:
Big Dumb Objects was good, but (to borrow Howard's terminology) it didn't cross my Threshold of Awesome, which is odd, because so far, most of Howard's books have. I actually appreciated both Kaff's death, the emotional impact that the death causes, and the decision to bring him back. The only real problem I have with it is the divergence between Kaff's "I had the ship bend the bullets" and the ship's "I'm locked out of the hardware," but Howard is only human. Even the best author in the world isn't going to bat 1000 every time.


As I've said, theres a big difference between 'bending PAINTBALLS' (NOT bullets, there's a difference in speed of *well* over ten times) and 'I can crush power armored boarders'.

One is a minor shift of gravity that would be slightly disorienting to most organics, and the other requires hundreds of times more power.

Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

It's the difference between a cigarette lighter and Schlock's plasma cannon. Both ignite gas to create light and heat in a relatively controlled manner. One is a weapon, the other is useful, but difficult to make dangerous directly.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:33 pm 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

I missed that--do you have a link handy?

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:54 pm 
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Black Sheep wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

I missed that--do you have a link handy?

http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2016-08-25

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:25 pm 
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Bruce the Loon wrote:
Black Sheep wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

I missed that--do you have a link handy?

http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2016-08-25

Ah! FOr some reason, I was thinking that Iafa was locked out of ANY gravitic control at some point. Thanks for the refresher. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:32 pm 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
Black Sheep wrote:
Big Dumb Objects was good, but (to borrow Howard's terminology) it didn't cross my Threshold of Awesome, which is odd, because so far, most of Howard's books have. I actually appreciated both Kaff's death, the emotional impact that the death causes, and the decision to bring him back. The only real problem I have with it is the divergence between Kaff's "I had the ship bend the bullets" and the ship's "I'm locked out of the hardware," but Howard is only human. Even the best author in the world isn't going to bat 1000 every time.


As I've said, theres a big difference between 'bending PAINTBALLS' (NOT bullets, there's a difference in speed of *well* over ten times) and 'I can crush power armored boarders'.

One is a minor shift of gravity that would be slightly disorienting to most organics, and the other requires hundreds of times more power.

Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

It's the difference between a cigarette lighter and Schlock's plasma cannon. Both ignite gas to create light and heat in a relatively controlled manner. One is a weapon, the other is useful, but difficult to make dangerous directly.


That's a fairly terrible analogy. Bending bullets (they're far more likely to be simunation-style than actual paintball guns) is bending bullets, gravitationally speaking. You still need a pretty intense source to move them in the time available. Intense enough to be useful, even if you can't turn the lab into neurtronium. How can you "hardware lock" the ability to weaponize things anyway? The difference between weapon and tool is one of intent, not capability.

More generally, there's Tagon exulting in the idea of borders after said session, with narry a "Oh right, we actually turned that ability off." Also, so SO stupid a thing to do. Also again, all the super-intelligent AIs completely failing to find out of the box solutions, not limited to taking control of a suit flight system to fly the bomb in remotely. Tagon could survive in his skivvies.
Yeah, it was a bad arc.

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And now you are.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:36 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Yeah, it was a bad arc.

To my mind, it was a bad set-up for the "death and rebirth of Kaff" arc, to be sure. As I said, I enjoyed to pathos of the arc, even considering the idiot ball that several parties played.

But I also realize that this is a "de gustibus" situation. :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:30 pm 
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Black Sheep wrote:
JohnSmith wrote:
Yeah, it was a bad arc.

To my mind, it was a bad set-up for the "death and rebirth of Kaff" arc, to be sure. As I said, I enjoyed to pathos of the arc, even considering the idiot ball that several parties played.

But I also realize that this is a "de gustibus" situation. :)


Ah! I actually agree with you! I even mentioned it at the time. I recognize that Tagon had to die and be restored from backup, and I actually rather enjoy the philosophical exploration of the overall arc. Just that particular section is what annoys me.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:19 pm 
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Even though I suggested Tagon use his flight suit, he probably wouldn't have been able to clear the blast radius while naked.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:24 am 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
Black Sheep wrote:
Big Dumb Objects was good, but (to borrow Howard's terminology) it didn't cross my Threshold of Awesome, which is odd, because so far, most of Howard's books have. I actually appreciated both Kaff's death, the emotional impact that the death causes, and the decision to bring him back. The only real problem I have with it is the divergence between Kaff's "I had the ship bend the bullets" and the ship's "I'm locked out of the hardware," but Howard is only human. Even the best author in the world isn't going to bat 1000 every time.


As I've said, theres a big difference between 'bending PAINTBALLS' (NOT bullets, there's a difference in speed of *well* over ten times) and 'I can crush power armored boarders'.

One is a minor shift of gravity that would be slightly disorienting to most organics, and the other requires hundreds of times more power.

Iafa was never locked out of the hardware, she was locked out of *the ability to weaponize* said hardware. She says that straight out. No inference needed.

It's the difference between a cigarette lighter and Schlock's plasma cannon. Both ignite gas to create light and heat in a relatively controlled manner. One is a weapon, the other is useful, but difficult to make dangerous directly.


That's a fairly terrible analogy. Bending bullets (they're far more likely to be simunation-style than actual paintball guns) is bending bullets, gravitationally speaking. You still need a pretty intense source to move them in the time available. Intense enough to be useful, even if you can't turn the lab into neurtronium. How can you "hardware lock" the ability to weaponize things anyway? The difference between weapon and tool is one of intent, not capability.

More generally, there's Tagon exulting in the idea of borders after said session, with narry a "Oh right, we actually turned that ability off." Also, so SO stupid a thing to do. Also again, all the super-intelligent AIs completely failing to find out of the box solutions, not limited to taking control of a suit flight system to fly the bomb in remotely. Tagon could survive in his skivvies.
Yeah, it was a bad arc.



Another possibility is that Iafa was using the boats' gravsystems, all of which were very far away at the time.

And like I said with the analogy, there IS a difference. Remember Oisri? The Toughs suits could withstand considerable gravity, even if it was difficult to do so. All that's needed is to lock Iafa out of the paths that allow for high power focusing. A lighter makes a poor weapon without a can of hair spray to turn it into a flamethrower.

But then, how do you rig a physical switch to turn your ships AI loyal to whoever flips it and gives a command? That's something that should also be entirely software. And nobody has ever, to my knowledge, griped about Petey's introduction arcs.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:45 am 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
But then, how do you rig a physical switch to turn your ships AI loyal to whoever flips it and gives a command? That's something that should also be entirely software. And nobody has ever, to my knowledge, griped about Petey's introduction arcs.

Yes, that was also a hardware lock.

Sorry, was someone arguing that an AI can't be hardware locked? Does someone not understand that programming can be hardware and not software?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 8:33 am 
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evileeyore wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
But then, how do you rig a physical switch to turn your ships AI loyal to whoever flips it and gives a command? That's something that should also be entirely software. And nobody has ever, to my knowledge, griped about Petey's introduction arcs.

Yes, that was also a hardware lock.

Sorry, was someone arguing that an AI can't be hardware locked? Does someone not understand that programming can be hardware and not software?


JohnSmith was wondering how one would hardware lock the ability to weaponize anything away, since weaponization is one of intent more than capability. Which isnt even all that true, honestly. Theres all kinds of things that *can* be used as a weapon, but most things *shouldn't*, because they make really, really terrible ones.

And I kinda forgot that programming can also be hardware...though I have to wonder about the loyalty switch. That's the kind of thing you really shouldn't be able to do without explicit cooperation of the AI, it seems to me. I mean, if you 'bake it' into the AI when you grow it, sure, but why would the Ob'enn put in the ability to suborn their warships? And Petey was very much uncooperative with the people who were making the switch at the time.

(I can't remember if his loyal crew made the loyalty switch or Kevyn did, but either way, Petey wasn't playing nice - or playing at all when Kevyn was working on him.)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:52 am 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
evileeyore wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
But then, how do you rig a physical switch to turn your ships AI loyal to whoever flips it and gives a command? That's something that should also be entirely software. And nobody has ever, to my knowledge, griped about Petey's introduction arcs.

Yes, that was also a hardware lock.

Sorry, was someone arguing that an AI can't be hardware locked? Does someone not understand that programming can be hardware and not software?


JohnSmith was wondering how one would hardware lock the ability to weaponize anything away, since weaponization is one of intent more than capability. Which isnt even all that true, honestly. Theres all kinds of things that *can* be used as a weapon, but most things *shouldn't*, because they make really, really terrible ones.

And I kinda forgot that programming can also be hardware...though I have to wonder about the loyalty switch. That's the kind of thing you really shouldn't be able to do without explicit cooperation of the AI, it seems to me. I mean, if you 'bake it' into the AI when you grow it, sure, but why would the Ob'enn put in the ability to suborn their warships? And Petey was very much uncooperative with the people who were making the switch at the time.

(I can't remember if his loyal crew made the loyalty switch or Kevyn did, but either way, Petey wasn't playing nice - or playing at all when Kevyn was working on him.)

Petey's loyalty switch was to make him loyal first to the Obenn race, then the fleet and then only to the Obenn commanders on the ship. Switching it off made him loyal to the traitor commander on the ship only. I can see this being done in hardware by modifying the logic gate circuits used in his processors to always add additional elements to an if-statement comparison call. The poor AI might know his decisions are being affected, but has absolutely no control over it if the hardware separation is done right.

Hardware lockout on the gravy controls could be as simple as an attenuation circuit wired into the input to the final stage power amplifier that prevents the driver voltage going above a certain level. My brother did this on an amplifier for a cousin to keep him from driving his parents insane. Not popular.

People tend to forget that many output devices are still analogue and will remain analogue at the point of final conversion. Sound cards, pixels on LED monitors, pumps and wireless transceivers to name a few.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:24 pm 
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Bruce the Loon wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
evileeyore wrote:
Yes, that was also a hardware lock.

Sorry, was someone arguing that an AI can't be hardware locked? Does someone not understand that programming can be hardware and not software?


JohnSmith was wondering how one would hardware lock the ability to weaponize anything away, since weaponization is one of intent more than capability. Which isnt even all that true, honestly. Theres all kinds of things that *can* be used as a weapon, but most things *shouldn't*, because they make really, really terrible ones.

And I kinda forgot that programming can also be hardware...though I have to wonder about the loyalty switch. That's the kind of thing you really shouldn't be able to do without explicit cooperation of the AI, it seems to me. I mean, if you 'bake it' into the AI when you grow it, sure, but why would the Ob'enn put in the ability to suborn their warships? And Petey was very much uncooperative with the people who were making the switch at the time.

(I can't remember if his loyal crew made the loyalty switch or Kevyn did, but either way, Petey wasn't playing nice - or playing at all when Kevyn was working on him.)

Petey's loyalty switch was to make him loyal first to the Obenn race, then the fleet and then only to the Obenn commanders on the ship. Switching it off made him loyal to the traitor commander on the ship only. I can see this being done in hardware by modifying the logic gate circuits used in his processors to always add additional elements to an if-statement comparison call. The poor AI might know his decisions are being affected, but has absolutely no control over it if the hardware separation is done right.

Hardware lockout on the gravy controls could be as simple as an attenuation circuit wired into the input to the final stage power amplifier that prevents the driver voltage going above a certain level. My brother did this on an amplifier for a cousin to keep him from driving his parents insane. Not popular.

People tend to forget that many output devices are still analogue and will remain analogue at the point of final conversion. Sound cards, pixels on LED monitors, pumps and wireless transceivers to name a few.


No, I'm pretty sure that was his 'baked in' loyalty. Because as soon as an Ob'enn was aboard, he had to listen to that Ob'enn over Tagon. The loyalty switch merely marked whoever gave the first command after it was flipped as the Captain, which was two tiers down the priority hierarchy. The traitor captain simply made *his* orders Superscede that of the other two Captains by...killing the other Captains.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:12 pm 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
... why would the Ob'enn put in the ability to suborn their warships?

You obviously don't understand how a paranoid dictator's mind works.

This is both good (in that it means you are healthy) and bad (it makes fighting paranoid dictators more difficult).

My guess as to why Ob'enn warship AIs would have a hard-coded loyalty switch instead of a software constraint:

The Ob'enn are paranoid supremacists. While their leaders know that individuals can turn traitor, they still believe that their race is simply better (and thus no traitor would turn against his own people, only their immediate leaders - any such betrayal is going to be bad for the Ob'enn only in the short term. Long term it only makes the Ob'enn stronger - because they are better).

Thus should any ship be overrun by enemy luck, then the first Ob'enn to make into the AI Core could regain the ship for it's people.

Also individual ship Captains may not be completely trustworthy, but presumably Loyalty Officers would be. Thus in the event of a Captain, crew, and AI turning mutinous, the Loyalty Officer could fix the problem simply by retaking the AI Core (yes, yes, I know easier said than done).

I further suspect that the loyalty switch is largely there because the Ob'enn don't trust their AI, but understand (to a limited degree) that too many hardcodes would hobble and reduce the effectiveness of the AI to a point of diminishing returns.


They also likely aren't as advanced in AI development as other species. They certainly aren't as advanced as Para.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:16 pm 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
Bruce the Loon wrote:
Kendrakirai wrote:
And I kinda forgot that programming can also be hardware...though I have to wonder about the loyalty switch. That's the kind of thing you really shouldn't be able to do without explicit cooperation of the AI, it seems to me. I mean, if you 'bake it' into the AI when you grow it, sure, but why would the Ob'enn put in the ability to suborn their warships? And Petey was very much uncooperative with the people who were making the switch at the time.

(I can't remember if his loyal crew made the loyalty switch or Kevyn did, but either way, Petey wasn't playing nice - or playing at all when Kevyn was working on him.)

Petey's loyalty switch was to make him loyal first to the Obenn race, then the fleet and then only to the Obenn commanders on the ship. Switching it off made him loyal to the traitor commander on the ship only.


No, I'm pretty sure that was his 'baked in' loyalty. Because as soon as an Ob'enn was aboard, he had to listen to that Ob'enn over Tagon. The loyalty switch merely marked whoever gave the first command after it was flipped as the Captain, which was two tiers down the priority hierarchy. The traitor captain simply made *his* orders Superscede that of the other two Captains by...killing the other Captains.


Not how I read the sequence, starting at http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2002-10-11 for the next couple of strips. With the switch on, the traitor captain was going to be killed if he didn't surrender to an Ob'enn flag officer. With it off, Petey is loyal to the most senior Obenn on board, so the switch enforces the fleet/government loyalty to prevent mutinies. The 'baked in' loyalty was to the highest rank Obenn on board whatever the nature of the orders.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:48 pm 
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.....wait, why in the HELL would the Ob'enn hardwire a switch that removes the AI's loyalty *stock*?!

Man, anyone bitching about crippling the AI by making it unable to repel boarders (which would normally be impossible to *have* in any force without in-place Teraport cages) should be complaining about *that*. I never noticed that before. Jesus hell.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:59 pm 
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As for the "Follow whomever flips this switch over the hardcoded Race, Empire, highest ranking Ob'enn" setting on the Allegiance Switch - Kevin added that bit.

That it's a bit dodgy is of course all Kev's fault.


I suspect the original was in case the AI started going rogue and managed to decide that the Captain and crew weren't following proper orders, or in case a Captain (and crew) had to roll dirty for the Greater Good of the Ob'enn and the AI couldn't be trusted to go along with him.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:19 am 
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Kendrakirai wrote:
.....wait, why in the HELL would the Ob'enn hardwire a switch that removes the AI's loyalty *stock*?!

Man, anyone bitching about crippling the AI by making it unable to repel boarders (which would normally be impossible to *have* in any force without in-place Teraport cages) should be complaining about *that*. I never noticed that before. Jesus hell.
Presumably because it's a way around the paperclip maximizer problem. Make an AI loyal to a concept as complex as an entire species and all sorts of odd behaviour might arise. And if they do, it might be helpful to revert to a simpler set of priorities - like obeying a single person - as a sort of debug mode.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 12:25 pm 
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Cifer wrote:
Presumably because it's a way around the paperclip maximizer problem.

Oh good call. It also plays into the way Petey has gone on a "Make the Ob'enn a better race crusade".


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 1:51 pm 
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evileeyore wrote:
Cifer wrote:
Presumably because it's a way around the paperclip maximizer problem.

Oh good call. It also plays into the way Petey has gone on a "Make the Ob'enn a better race crusade".


'loyal to the race' would suggest 'go with what the race wants' more than the 'do what's best for them' though. And the Ob'enn clearly want to rule the galaxy, regardless of whether or not anyone else is left to be ruled.

Petey built an organic body with all of his memories, *but none of his compulsions*.

He's containing and rehabilitating the Ob'enn entirely on his own.


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