Mass Effect: Ghosts
The Geth are a humanoid race of networked AIs. They were created by the Quarians 300 years ago as tools of labor and war. When the Geth showed signs of self-evolution, the Quarians attempted to exterminate them. The Geth won the resulting war. This example has led to legal, systematic repression of artificial intelligences in galactic society.
The Geth possess a unique distributed intelligence. An individual has rudimentary animal instincts, but as their numbers and proximity increase, the apparent intelligence of each individual improves. In groups, they can reason, analyze situations, and use tactics as well as any organic race.
Geth space is located at the trailing end of the Perseus Arm, beyond the lawless Terminus Systems. The Perseus Veil, an obscuring “dark nebula” of opaque gas and dust, lies between their space and the Terminus Systems.
Armatures are quadruped all-terrain heavy weapons platforms, akin to the armored fighting vehicles of other races. Geth being synthetic intelligences, armatures are not crewed vehicles, but intelligent entities, capable of independent decision-making and learning.
Armatures are equipped with heavy kinetic barriers. Their main cannon, mounted on the articulated “head” turret, appears to be a highly efficient conventional mass accelerators. It is capable of firing in anti-personnel and anti-tank modes. Some armatures carry drones into battle, presumably for reconnaissance purposes. Others host a swarm of insect-sized repair microbots.
The most remarkable aspect of Geth culture is that it may not exist at all. Geth are a network intelligence; a single entity in myriad bodies. They share data with one another, whether discrete facts or “memories”: audiovisual recordings of experiences and logs of thought-processes. Any event experienced by one Geth is uploaded to the group mind, so that all Geth, everywhere, “remember” such an event as if they’d experienced it themselves.
No one knows whether the Geth develop personalities as organic-created AIs do. If an organic-designed AI is transferred into another quantum bluebox, its personality is reset. Most Geth programs transfer from one hardware platform to another constantly; if a Geth needs to travel to another star, it downloads into a starship body. If it needs to replace a piece of malfunctioning hardware, it downloads into a small body with hands. If Geth are reset at transfer, it would make development of individual personalities unlikely.
Records of the Quarian War suggest the Geth have no concept of self-preservation. They do not flinch from gunfire, and do not hesitate to sacrifice themselves if it allows their fellows an advantage. Thousands of mobile platforms were expended assaulting Quarian positions, but file-sharing between platforms ensured their memories and experience would not be lost. Geth are therefore immortal; if their hardware is destroyed, archival copies of their programs and databases can be downloaded into a new body.
With the gap in contact since the Quarian War, the only proven fact about the Geth is that they were isolationists for centuries. They never ventured outside the Perseus Veil, but no organic ship that entered their territory ever returned.
The Geth models collectively dubbed “hoppers” by Alliance forces are electronic warfare platforms. They can project electromagnetic radiation across a broad spectrum as an offensive weapon. They can also perform cyber warfare attacks against the onboard computers of body armor hardsuits and weapons, adversely affecting their performance.
The structure of hoppers consist of an advanced and highly elastic artificial muscle material. This allows a hopper to compress its entire body for powerful leaps. Hoppers also have thousands of molecule-scale “barbs” on the surface of their hands and feet, which are used to cling to walls and ceilings. Hoppers are very difficult targets, leaping from one surface to another in rapid succession.
The Quarians have no record of any Geth models similar to hoppers. This new morphotype must have been developed over the last three hundred years by the Geth themselves. This is troubling proof that the Geth are continuing to move towards technological singularity. Experts in synthetic life are intrigued that hoppers appear to be even more organic than the baseline Geth.
The identified subtypes of hopper have been codenamed Sapper, Stalker, and Ghost.
The most difficult aspect of Geth existence for organics to comprehend is that a body is meaningless to Geth. The biped form commonly perceived as a Geth is nothing more than a “mobile platform.” A Geth’s software — hundreds of programs whose interactions mimic organic consciousness — can be installed in any given hardware. The Geth that was a bipedal soldier an hour ago may now be a quadruped heavy armature and, in another hour, might be a starship. Between tasks, Geth programs upload to gigantic space station mainframes that allow billions of programs to exchange thoughts and memories with minimal lag.
The claim that the Geth are an example of the extreme risk posed by AI development is misleading. As opposed to the “top down” design of organic-created AIs, in which hardware and software are specifically designed to achieve consciousness, Geth are a “bottom up” model. They were never intended to possess more than animal-level, trainable reasoning.
Designed as VI-driven robots — not significantly different from modern security mechs — Geth consciousness developed as their adaptive learning programs interacted with one another via networked processing. The Geth code-base discovered that three individual robots using a wireless local network to form a single mind could perform many tasks more efficiently than they could as individuals. As these local networks were more heavily exploited, they reached a critical mass of processing, achieving consciousness.
Modern Geth retain this remarkable interconnectivity, constantly exchanging data with one another and networking to increase their cognitive abilities. To Geth, these mind-sharing abilities are as natural and unconscious as breathing is to most organics.