Ratu Mahendra

Solsys Era AI designer and activist

Ratu Mahendra
Image from Steve Bowers
Ratu Mahendra was born via exowomb on New Jakarta habitat, Mars orbit in 511 AT (2487 CE). Like her parents, she was a member of Homo cosmoi, designed with modifications allowing her to tolerate indefinite life in a zero-g environment. Raised in the tightly-knit communal creche system popular among many habitats in the early period of space exploration, Ratu demonstrated both a keen intelligence and something of an iconoclastic streak from a young age. In particular, friends who knew her well observed that Mahendra was fascinated (some would say obsessed) with understanding what defined the individuality of herself and others. Perhaps it was this fascination that led her to study the creation of sentient, sapient, and sophont and AI, a field that was expanding rapidly during the Nanotech Window.

After earning degrees from both the Lagrange Research Institute (LRI)and the College of Mars (the latter a recent creation of the Martian Union based on the moon Phobos), in 534 AT Mahendra began her career as a freelance programmer, system designer, and consultant on AI. One of her major early projects was Gentekker-sponsored development of the Primordium virtual environment. Primordium was a virch package with a number of adjustable settings, within which small pieces of self-aggregating code copying with loose fidelity could be rapidly "evolved" into novel patterns via environmental pressures, which the experimenter could alter in real time. Some products of Primordium simulations reached turingrade status, though this was not always recognized immediately. However, the contemporary Gentekker memeset favored experimentalism and diversity. Thus, the Gengineer Republic's stance tended towards acceptance of even radically different mind-states, and most occurrences of spontaneous sophonthood eventually were investigated and adjudicated in a way that allowed the new individual to continue its existence in the way it saw fit.

Mahendra also collaborated with LRI researchers to test the first iterations of a nonsophont "predictive nanodefense" system (a concept which would later appear in much refined form as part of GAIA's capabilities upon activation). During this time, she began a relationship with Esther Huang, a nanofabrication expert who had left Earth to be on the cutting edge of industrial nano applications. The two had one child, Jin Huang-Mahendra.

In between jobs, Mahendra was developing her magnum opus, a novel programming language specifically meant to facilitate creation of adaptable and idiosyncratic AI minds. Naming the language Aurum (a pun on her own initials), Mahendra released the code to the public in 542 AT. Following the release, she enthusiastically provided support and advice to adopters. Aurum's flexibility proved to be its greatest strength, as it accommodated the challenges of creating both vec and "pure" aioid consciousnesses fairly well. (It should be noted, however, that at this period even non-biont mind-states were not as easily transferred and reproduced as they are at present). Within the emerging communities of recognized sophont AI, AI creators, and upload enthusiasts Mahendra was something of a minor celebrity. Her travels due to this celebrity status would determine the direction of the latter portion of her life.

At the time of the Technocalypse, Mahendra was on Gran Pylone habitat deep within the asteroid belt, attending a conference. The rapid collapse of infrastructure and almost total halt to interplanetary commerce following the 566 Malware Outbreaks prevented her from returning to New Jakarta during the crash itself. While Mahendra hoped to return to her partner and child once the situation had stabilized, Technocalypse-fueled uncertainty facilitated the rise of a radical isolationist faction on Gran Pylone under the leadership of Garth Kuznetsov. Instituting tight controls on ingoing and outgoing communications while acting to discourage any gatherings of citizens in hab public spaces that looked to be unfriendly to Kuznetsov's ideals, the Endurist regime quickly moved to consolidate their initial popular support into de facto control over all aspects of habitat life.

Though she eventually resigned herself to the separation from family, Mahendra found ways to occupy herself during the Solsys Dark Age. Predictably, she resisted the changes sweeping over Gran Pylone. As with other Technocalpyse-era history, skepticism must be exercised due to the widespread disinformation plagues circulating. However, both public and private records indicate that Mahendra was incarcerated for at least two years during the 560s due to criticism of the Endurist regime. She also continued to tinker with Aurum, and recovered notes suggest she was even working on a completely new coding language.

In 587, Mahendra died of progressive organ damage that, without access to the regenerative treatments of the Pre-T world could not be corrected. Her work would continue to live on, however. The flowering of scientific and economic prosperity during the First Federation allowed Aurum to resurface as a resource for the creation of sophont and non-sophont AI. Numerous innovators modified or added their own contributions, and there are even a few First Federation-era transapient entities which began their existence as Aurum code (Pre-Federation hyperturings, of course, had their own highly optimized mind-structures which produced superior results to modosophont projects).

Following the founding of Solarism, Mahendra was adopted as one of its culture heroes — creators, leaders, and thinkers who are considered to exemplify the religion's virtues and the development of the self to the best it can be. The golden color scheme that became associated in popular culture with use of the Aurum language (initially as merely an extension of the wordplay in its name) made its individualist creator especially easy to tie to the Solarist memeset. More strongly supernaturalist Solarists believe Mahendra was one of many prophets or forerunners of the Divine Order, while others merely consider her an example of modosophont actualization. As with the sobriquets of other culture heroes, names derived from "Ratu" occassionally see spikes in popularity among among Solarist societies.
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Text by Madine
Initially published on 29 February 2020.