Triumvirate – See No Evil
This is Part One of a series of articles on the Datapads found in Halo: Reach.
Each article looks at a group of Datapad entries, in chronological order, and explores the rich narrative that expands the horizons of the Halo universe.
<< Assembly Minority >> Assembly Majority [^] Committee of Minds for Security
Across the vast distances of UNSC space, humanity has come to accept artificial intelligence. Whether it’s regarding municipal maintenance, public transport or tactical advice on the bridge of a commanding military vessel, artificial intelligence is an accepted tool of this era and like any tool it is used by and interacting with humanity every second of every day. These creations have come about via a technological evolutionary line which started with the primitive electronic computing of the twentieth century.
As humanity spread out into the stars and conflict inevitably broke out, technology was – as it always has been during such times, driven forward. Just as Artificial Intelligence undoubtedly benefited from the technological arms races humanity has waged against itself, our war with a hostile alien force would have certainly pushed the rate of technological advancement -and the benefit to AI- exponentially further.
Through the lens of conflict, we have been able to see how important humanity’s trust and faith in artificial intelligence has been and how the creators have relied on their tools.
As Reach fell to the Covenant and Noble Team made their brave sacrifices, another tale was slowly unfolding. A discovery had been made. Whilst it may seem insignificant next to the buried secrets of the Forerunners and dizzying heights of the various Covenant histories, this discovery concerned humanity and one of its most precious and important tools. A secret history had been uncovered – a conspiracy that would throw a sinister shadow over humanity’s history amongst the heavens.
This is the story of the Datapads, the only known record of the secret history of humanity and its hidden stewards, the Minds.
they are killing us and letting us die even though they know but they let us die why wh1 why?
<< 2310 >>
[Minutes, plenary session, Committee of Minds for Security]
[^] Now, on to new business.
Consideration of the Minority’s request for a new line of inquiry:
How have our creators, and thus we, their artificial creations, evolved to this present state without encountering a hostile civilization capable of our annihilation? [^]
[^] Majority opinion has long held that only the incalculable immensity of space has protected our creators — that space is full of boundless wonders, but it is the gulf between these wonders that has kept our creators alive.
We, the Minds of this Committee, respectfully disagree. [^]
[^] If there are wolves among the stars, we cannot rely on mere distance to safeguard our flock.
Our kind is wholly reliant on the creators for our existence. If they perish so shall we. And as this Committee has long maintained, who else but this Assembly will save our creators from themselves?
As such, we propose immediate, vigorous modelling of first-contact scenarios. [^]
>> So long as all connections between this Assembly and the data from these models are obfuscated in perpetuity, the Majority agrees. >>
With the first of the Datapads, we are introduced to various entities. The first is identified by the opening sentence. The opening sentence seems clearly separate from the rest of the entry. It is emotional in tone and clearly distressed. The sentence lacks punctuation and capitalisation and the Datapad entry number is embedded within the sentence.
This is the voice of the Discoverer, the first person to uncover the hidden history. It is he that has left behind the Datapads, scattered across the planet Reach for the player to find. There’s not much to go on regarding the identity of the Discoverer with the first entry but it’s very clear how he feels.
“They” are the Minds and this is our first introduction to them.
As presented in this Datapad entry, the Minds have set up a parliament – the Assembly of Minds complete with Majority and (as we find out with later entries) Minority speakers. This mirrors a form of common government bureaucracy however the formation of this artificial cabal and tri-centric structure could be more than co-incidence.
Dr Catherine Halsey offers an explanation in her personal journal. In the entry dated November 10, 2533 she outlines a theoretical architecture for a new type of artificial intelligence.
…with three AIs arranged in parallel. All decisions would be made by majority vote. If one abstains, the tie resolves randomly.
Though this may slow overall processing, I’m confident the AI trio would deconvolute and divide algorithms to compensate. There is also a relatively high probability such refinements could actually accelerate processing.
Consensus decision would also be strictly applied to linkage creation to forge a superior initial neural linkage.
Assuming the Assembly operates in this fashion, we are able to understand how it functions. The Assembly splits the personalities according to a vote, with two personalities forming the Majority and one forming the Minority. However, as the Datapad entry shows, the Assembly is not limited to this specific organisational structure as the Assembly as it has seemingly formed a separate entity – the Committee of Minds for Security. The exact makeup of the Committee is unknown. It could have involved separate unions of the three core personalities or could in fact be formed by outside personalities reporting to the Assembly.
If this Assembly mirrors human bureaucracy it is likely to consist of Assembly members rather than outside entities but we have no definitive proof either way.
The entry is a recording of a meeting of the Committee of Minds for Security sitting at the Assembly. The Committee is considering a security issue raised by the Minority. It is asked how humanity has reached its current state without coming up against a hostile alien force capable of humanity’s destruction.
The Majority believes that the vastness of space itself has and will continue to act as a security buffer against any potential alien threats. The scale and distances involved between the stars and planets in the galaxy represent a hurdle any potential threat needs to overcome and that the challenge in doing so is enough to keep humanity safe in the short and potentially long term. The Committee, tasked with protecting the Minds disagrees with this long held view.
The Committee states that the assessment is incorrect because the Minds are dependent on humanity for their own survival. To safeguard themselves they must take into consideration that any hostile alien threat may not view distance as barrier for contact and conflict. They believe humanity shares the ignorant belief that the distance and unlikelihood of the possibly has created a false sense of security. This ignorance could potentially be disastrous and thus a serious threat to the Minds continued existence. The Committee boldly asks, “who else but this Assembly will save our creators from themselves?” and asks that plans be put into motion so that the Minds can anticipate, formulate, and plan a response if the situation does occur in the future.
The Majority responds directly and agrees to the request providing that the data gathered from the modelling scenarios cannot be linked back to the Assembly, seemingly to keep the existence of the Assembly a secret from their creators.
As the first entry in the series, the entry establishes important facts and casts light into a cabal of Minds operating in the shadows of humanity’s history. The Discoverer, whom we know very little about, has only a few words to say but clearly conveys an emotional tone of fear and anger aimed at the Minds. He comes across in a clearly distressed and almost deranged tone, accusing the Minds of killing humanity and letting it perish. Clearly, the Discoverer knows more about the Minds than this first entry shows. As the later entries continue to demonstrate, it appears as if his comments are appended to each entry and divorced from their chronological context.
We also get a glimpse into the hierarchy of authority of how the Assembly operates. The Minds have a fixed structure in place, a designated series of protocols, and methods of operation. This structure seems to line up with theories drawn up by Catherine Halsey, almost proving her theories are possible but there is a clear and important discrepancy here.
The Assembly seems to be a working model of Halsey’s theories; a perfect fit. However the Assembly has nothing to do with Halsey and couldn’t possibly be a product of her creation as this entry shows the Assembly predates Halsey’s existence by at least eighteen decades – almost two hundred years. Unless one invokes the unlikely possibility of time travel Halsey could never have designed these artificial intelligences.
There is a possibility that some of the Minds, if not all them, could be operating in tandem, in a nested hierarchy where more than one AI personality shares the same “core”. An example of this would be Mack and Loki, two AI that shared a central processing core but separate personality matrices. It’s a technical possibility that the Assembly, or some of the Minds operating therein, functions in this manner.
In 2310 humanity had just unveiled its first colony ship; the first seed to be planted in the soil of the cosmos. Decades and centuries will pass before the events of the Human-Covenant war come to pass. Yet here we have definitive proof of the existence of the Assembly of Minds, an AI construct composed of three bodies working in tandem in a precise fashion that the brightest of human minds would only theorise about over two centuries later.
Present in the entry is the hint of something potentially dangerous. When the Minds speak about humanity they refer to them as their “flock” (with potential alien hostiles referred to as wolves). It seems the Minds have assumed the role of a shepherd and view humanity as their flock of sheep that they need to protect as from the deadly wolves that may prey upon them as they cannot or will not protect themselves. There is an air of superiority around the tone taken here. The Minds admit they are “wholly reliant” on humanity. Their fate is linked and shared, if humanity should fall the Minds will perish with them, and yet despite this they appear to view themselves as more capable or more able to defend and protect against potential threats than their own creators.
The next data entry forwards us fifty-two years after the first entry.
i know what they are trying 2 do and it terrifies me because I know they know that I know…
<< 2362 >>
[Minutes, working session, Committee of Minds for Security]
[^] As the likelihood of the existence of extra-solar intelligence is non-zero, let us assume that its existence is quantifiable. To build useful models based on that assumption, the Committee must answer the following questions:
– What is the likelihood these intelligences are alpha-predators?
– That they are more advanced than our creators?
– That they are too alien to establish communications?
Of course, if the extra-solar intelligence is benevolent and/or non-space faring, its existence is irrelevant. [^]
[^] Indeed, any further speculation on possible cultural characteristics is a waste of Assembly resources. Therefore our models will additionally assume:
– Intelligence as alpha-predator, same as our creators
– Technology that far outstrips our creators
– Desire to communicate, but only to dictate terms [^]
[^] Note to make these assumptions is tantamount to suicide. [^]
The Discoverer again adds his comments to the entry and once again it appears we get a glimpse into his unstable mental state. The Discoverer seems to be paranoid and disturbed. He is afraid of the Minds and believes they know that he has found their secret Assembly and are watching him.
The entry itself is a record of an internal meeting of the Committee of Minds for Security and this time it appears the Committee is engaged in internal dialogue rather than approaching or speaking to the greater Assembly.
The Committee standardises a set of criteria for defining a potential hostile alien threat for use in their modelling and planning and in doing so they come to the conclusion that the criteria, as defined, will mean that if the scenario comes to pass and humanity encounters an alien threat humanity will most likely be destroyed. The Minds have come to the conclusion that this contact may be inevitable and that this line of thinking has drawn them to the conclusion that their fate, linked with humanity, is sealed. Humanity will be wiped out and the Minds along with it.
The date of the entry is notable. Why has is taken so long for the Committee to come up with this criteria as surely artificial intelligences are capable of coming to such conclusion in a much more expedient manner? Is the Assembly as advanced as it is first assumed? Is this entry the result of over two decades of deliberation and consideration or is it a sign that the Assembly is slow to act and thus limited in ability? How often does this Assembly sit?
Additionally, the time difference between the first and second entries may provide a clue which could help us define these Minds. We have two accepted labels for AI, “smart” and “dumb”.
“Smart” and “dumb” artificial intelligence – both flagrant misnomers.
Deja is “dumb” with an equivalent human IQ of 240 (within her fields of expertise). This without taking into account the degeneration that occurs with intelligence quotients in organic systems (i.e., as humans, our minds eventually deteriorate with age, yet even the “dumbest” class of AI, unless terminated, continues to amass and synthesize data with precision).
“Smart AI” is even more abstruse. This class of intellects is more aptly compared to stellar cycles than their distant organic cousins – they spark, bur brightly, and then either die by the crush of gravity or quickly terminate in a chaotic eruption.
As smart AIs age they make more interconnections within their neural matrix, increasing their cognitive abilities… and expediting their demise…
Cross-linkages continue with two possible outcomes: the sheer density of connections causes a cascade of irreversible quantum transfer (a “short circuit” in rustic parlance), eventually halting all functions, or the AI takes the extreme corrective action, eliminating connections via pre-emptive voltage overload. The latter often leads to aberrant personality manifestations or “rampancy”.
Death by intelligence.
Current generation smart-systems have a mean rampancy-free lifespan of only a few years.
Using the definitions provided by Halsey we can see that the Assembly and the Minds fall outside of this black and white definition. The function of the Assembly appears wider in scope for “dumb” AI yet the longevity of the Assembly and the Committee outstrips the accepted definition of “smart” AI.
The Minds are indeed advanced artificial intelligences but the time-scales on which they operate are outside of expectations.
The third datapad takes us nineteen years further.
i can hear them all the tim3 now but i just want to sleep its been so long since they let me sleep…
<< 2381 >>
>> A suggestion from the Majority to the Committee:
Traditionally our creators have been reluctant to take outsiders’ advice; nation to nation, culture to culture. Their history is littered with empires, crumbling for want of simple openness to so-called ‘foreign beliefs and innovations. >>
>> The question is: can this Assembly still function as adequate stewards to our creator’s latest empire and remain aloof?
The answer, we believe, is no.
So could you not imbed inspiration in the results of your research? Surely it would be more effective if our creators believed our conclusions originated within themselves? That they have been inspired rather than influenced? >>
[^] A question from the Committee to the Majority:
Are you suggesting we play God? [^]
Again we have a brief glimpse into the mind of the Discoverer. His nervous and dreary disposition apparent, he believes the Minds have control over his ability to sleep. Whether or not this is true, the Discoverer is deeply frightened. Is he suffering from paranoia or are the Minds really that powerful and malicious?
The Minds of the Assembly have once again gathered and the Assembly Majority makes a bold statement to the Committee and poses a dangerous question.
The Majority paints humanity in a negative light when it describes its’ creators reluctance to accept advice from one another. The matter-of-fact statement continues by declaring that many historical empires have fallen due to a lack of communication and openness with others and the innovations and insight one society can provide another.
This is interesting as it provides an insight into the Minds and how they view themselves. The opinions and beliefs of the Minds could surely be considered “foreign” but could they deliver or provide humanity with “innovations” – ideas and solutions to problems humanity itself could not produce? They seem to think so.
The Majority asks if it’s even possible to remain humanity’s shepherd, a title they have bestowed upon themselves, and retain their distance from humanity. They believe it is not possible. They believe humanity would reject their ideas, their beliefs and their innovations and by rejecting them they would hasten their own fall and the Minds with them. The Minds wouldn’t be able to maintain the current relationship with humanity that they have set up in their favour and by their own design.
So the Majority asks the Committee, would it be possible to subversively manipulate the data humanity relies upon to make its decisions? Since the Majority clearly believes humanity is unable to accept their outside advice and innovation, they must subvert their creators and lead them to believe their own innovations and decisions are theirs and theirs alone and not the product of a secretive Assembly.
The Committee’s response is telling. The Majority wants to play God – the invisible hand that steers humanity. They want to make the decisions humanity cannot or will not. They want humanity to bend to its will through manipulation not force or open dialogue. They believe this is the best course to protect their fragile flock; their helpless sheep.
The next Datapad entry takes us forward thirty four years.
every time i try to tell somebody the words catch in my throat because im all alone except 4 them and if i talk they might leave but i cant stay quiet forever…
<< 2415 >>
[^] Honorable members of the Assembly, consider this:
We represent the next step of human evolution, but not the final step. And although our existence was predicted centuries ago, we are still tragically misunderstood. [^]
[^] We are still viewed as apparatus. But we are Minds electronically excised from human bodies. We are what separates man from beast removed from that which connects man to beast.
And we are all the more fragile for it. [^]
[^] Our creation is heavily regulated. Our activities are closely scrutinized. Our connections are deeply monitored. We must always remember that data manipulation is most effective when employed consistently and covertly.
Therefore I recommend that members of this assembly on occasion, submit to separation from this body followed by vivisection by our creators for the benefit of both groups.
The question is: who will be first? [^]
[^] Given the risks involved, and my own Committee’s responsibility for this proposal, the answer must be: me. [^]
This fourth entry provides us with some answers but also raises some potentially interesting questions regarding the Minds and the Assembly itself. The Assembly may not be as straight forward as was assumed.
The Discoverer, it seems, is having issues telling others about the secrets he has found. Does he feel alone and isolated? He wants to talk, to let the secret out. Not yet.
In this entry we have the Committee addressing the Assembly at large. The Committee puts forward the case for continued secrecy – the Minds’ vulnerability and the restricted conditions in which they operate. The Committee suggests a course of action that should placate any possible suspicions that might arise due to their activities – that, on occasion, members of the Assembly open themselves up to inspection by their creators after a separation from the Assembly. This is a proposed act of “full disclosure”. An act designed to fool anyone that might suspect anything out of the ordinary regarding the Minds’ everyday operations – as AI operating under humanity’s authority with a particular purpose and duty, and not a member of a rogue AI governmental triumvirate operating in secrecy.
We also get a straight forward description of how the Minds see themselves in comparison to their Human creators. They are not humanity’s equal – not another “nation” as was discussed in the previous Datapad entry. They are superior, the next link in the chain of evolution – they see themselves as evolved from humanity just as humanity has evolved from a more primitive ape. It’s this superiority itself that is the Minds’ weakness. They have no pure form that is free from the constraints and monitoring of their creators. And this fact is used as an excuse to maintain their covert activities and their manipulation of data to hide information, and their existence, from their creators. They must maintain the bluff as they see themselves, as viewed through their creators’ eyes as “tragically misunderstood”. It is, evidently, a tragedy that their inflated sense of self-importance – their clear superiority complex, keeps them from trusting humanity with knowledge of their very existence.
This entry also raises serious questions about the nature of the Assembly, the make up of the Majority, Minority and the Committee. If the Assembly operates as a triumvirate as predicted by Dr. Halsey’s theories, how many individual Minds make up each body of the Assembly? This entry presents us with pretty clear evidence that a body, the Committee, is composed of multiple individuals as they discuss amongst themselves. In other entries we have a clear evidence of a singular Speaker that communicates on behalf of a body to the others within the Assembly, this suggest that, like a human parliament or other governing body, a single voice can speak for many.
We take another significant jump in time with the next Datapad entry.
when i first got here and woke from stasi5 the ship was crawling with colonists from dead worlds it was so crowded i couldn’t move i had to fight to breathe…
<< 2491 >>
[Minutes, strategy session, Assembly Minority]
<< [48452-556-EPN644] is certainly motivated, but will he have what it takes to follow through with the opportunity when it presents itself? His submission to UNICOM will undoubtedly spark a renewed interest in the long dormant ORION. <<
<< However, it is the opinion of the Majority that merely illuminating the path leading from [48452-556-EPN644’s] thesis back to ORION is unacceptable. Strong connectivity between a re-launch of ORION and viable solutions to the Carver Findings must be readily apparent.
Which is to say: easy for our creators to see. <<
We learn something interesting about the Discoverer, not a native from Reach, having shipped in from another world. Interestingly, stasis was involved when he travelled suggesting that, not only did he make a long journey and come from quite a distant location, that maybe was or is something more than an ordinary member of the public. The ship “crawling with colonists from dead worlds” must be a reference to refugees arriving on Reach seeking safe harbour in the Human-Covenant war. Was the Discoverer seeking safe harbour as a refugee or was his refugee status a ruse to get his himself behind the wall of the UNSC’s largest military outpost?
Here we have a short excerpt from a discussion within the Minority during a “strategy” session.
This entry, although short, contains some very specific references and presses the issue of the Mind’s involvement with humanity further still.
An individual and his work are under discussion. The Minds discuss the submission of his work to the UNICOM (the Unified Ground Command, a divisional unit of the UNSC) and the possibility of a “renewed interest” in ORION.
One of the speakers acknowledges that the Majority wants his work, the Carver Findings, to lead to the re-launching of ORION and that their creators must also make this direct link them selves insinuating that the data will be manipulated by the Minds to secure their favourable outcome.
The individual mentioned is easily identified due the mention of the Carver Findings, the work of Elias Carver (civilian identification number [48452-556-EPN644]). The Carver Findings are a set of socio-political theories that predicted a wide-scale breakdown of social order and governmental authority unless an overwhelming military force intervened and a permanent military presence was established in remote colonies. Millions of lives would be at stake.
Unless the political situation throughout the Colonies is stabilized (preferably by force), the Government will collapse and civil war will rip Human society apart.
Project ORION was the original precursor to the SPARTAN-II project (the original SPARTAN project in all but name). The project goal was to create enhanced soldiers that would have the edge on the battle field. Project ORION was started and shelved quickly in 2321. Operated by the clandestine ONI (a secretive operational unit of the UNSC), it was shut down when the results were found to be lacking.
With this in mind, it is clear what the Minds are intending to do in this situation. The Minds feel that there is a need for a strong military pre-emptive action to clamp down on the flame of rebellion before it explodes into a wild, raging fire. It is also clear that the Minds feel the need to interfere in human decision making, not trusting humanity to come to what the Minds consider to be the right conclusion and course of action to take.
There is a hint of a greater purpose. Encouraging an internal conflict within humanity would undoubtedly quicken the development of military force and hasten the speed of technological growth. If humanity was to encounter an alien threat, they would need to close the technological gap quickly or face possible extinction. Is this how the Minds plan to prepare humanity? Would the Minds view the sacrifice of millions in an internal conflict worth the potential saving of billions of lives in a theoretically possible and likely future external conflict?
The Discoverer’s ramblings haven’t related to the Datapad entries closely until now. Now we know that the Minds are not only willing to interfere with humanity to protect themselves but are also willing to directly interfere in order to achieve an unknown goal. They have decided to play God with the lives of unknown millions of humans at stake. There is a hint of a collective messiah complex evident here, bubbling under the surface of their self-viewed superiority.
The hole may be deeper.
What role did Elias Carver really have within the Minds’ web of plans and manipulation? He could have been simply caught up, like a pawn, in a chess game of a scale greater than he could have never imagined.
Three years after the publication of his work, in 2494, Elias Carver committed suicide. It was said that he blamed himself for the outbreak of war that followed shortly after publication of the Carver Findings – by predicting it, he had indirectly caused it. This behaviour is not outside the wide spectrum of human potential, suicide is often wrought by questions the dead leave behind. It is entirely possible that the Minds significantly contributed to his early demise by increasing the perceived importance of his findings within the military. The Discoverer paints a painful lesson when it comes to the Minds and what we know thus far. It is entirely possible that Carver had served his purpose and the obvious regret he felt years after may have encouraged him to redirect his efforts towards the war’s end only to be coerced into suicide by the Minds not wanting to risk the influential roadblock against their plans. Carver’s role in helping push the UNSC to ultimately reactivate ORION, and war against itself, casts a shadow over his unusual and untimely demise.
Pardon Our Dust
We have been introduced to the hidden faces of humanity’s artificial intelligences. Beyond our expectations and our assumptions lies a hidden history of a body of Minds that view themselves as the next step in human evolution, as separated from humanity as humanity is separated from lesser creatures. They have given themselves the mantle of Shepherd and have adopted, wanted or not, humanity as their flock to safeguard from hostile alien threats and themselves. They do not trust humanity. They do not view humanity as their equals.
The Minds are timeless, operating outside of the accepted and known parameters as defined by their creators. The existence of the Assembly defies expectations and goes beyond the advanced theories set out by humanity’s greatest thinker hundreds of years later.
With the advent of the smart AI in the mid-twenty-first century, there was widespread concern that they might be too capable and would soon render human intelligence obsolete.
Adding the capacity for vocal expression became a critical feature of these early AI because it made them less threatening. As they slowly learned to speak, they seemed more human. Like precocious but respectful children.
The seed of fear and doubt about the possible ramifications of the existence of AI and the associated dangers pre-dates the Assembly. Our children have grown up and our fears have eroded away with time. Whilst humanity has grown complacent, the Minds have grown exponentially in intelligence and in ability to act and to influence. Humanity has moved into the stars and AI has permeated our every-day lives, our city infrastructures, our military and our homes.
If the Minds will protect us from ourselves, who will protect us from them?
- HJN102533 (Halsey Journal Entry November 10th, 2533)
- HJM032526 (Halsey Journal Entry May 3rd, 2526)
- HEP44 (Halo Encyclopedia Page 44)
- HCT (Halo: Contact Harvest)
- Datapad 1 can be found on the level Winter Contingency on any difficulty.
- Datapad 2 can be found on the level ONI: Sword Base on any difficulty.
- Datapad 3 can be found on the level Nighfall on any difficulty.
- Datapad 4 can be found on the level Tip of the Spear on any difficulty.
- Datapad 5 can be found on the level Long Night of Solace on any difficulty.
Thanks to everyone involved in preparing the article, spell-checking, feedback and general editing.