The Mech Touch Chapter 1352

1350 Declining Chuko

No matter how much Ves tried to convince Old Man Terrance to share his research gains, the Chukan mech designer adamantly refused.

"The findings I've made are paltry and of limited utility." The man shook his head. "In addition, it's tainted knowledge. In order to further my understanding on how genetic aptitude interacted with neural interfaces, I've engaged in many covert experiments with each mech design I've published. Looking back on my track record, I went too far. Though my customers themselves didn't realize it, I looked closely at how my customers fared. Too many of them fared worse than usual."

This was the blood on the older mech designer's hands. The man raised his wrinkled hands in front of Ves, as if showing off the invisible red stains marring the skin!

"Look at me." Old Man Terrence demanded. "Don't end up like me. I made decisions that I shouldn't have made. I took risks I shouldn't have taken. I ruined the lives of so many mech pilots who didn't deserve a premature end to their careers or lives."

"Why did you do it, then?"

"Because the payoff would have been worth it! Even if I was never destined to make genetic aptitude grades irrelevant, merely reducing the handicaps for low-potential mech pilots would have been enough to make me a celebrated mech designer! My service to the mech community would have been so great that the MTA would have definitely rewarded me with an extension of my life!"

Unfortunately, Terrence Reedan failed. His progress after he advanced to Journeyman was far too meager compared to the substantial human cost he incurred.

"We neural interface specialists constantly tell ourselves that the end justifies the means. It helps us sleep better at night."

"Do you still agree?"

"Of course, Mr. Larkinson! I dare say that every enterprising mech designer has engaged in some experiment or another to advance their design philosophies! You'd probably be no different if you look back on your own track record!"

That.. was admittedly true. Ves had carelessly incorporated many new innovations in his mech designs without adequately testing whether they were safe and working as intended.

He simply didn't bother with the lengthy trials that scientists ought to hold. Ves had never thought about it before because the mech industry operated on a trend of introducing innovations as fast as possible.

Just like the geneticists that constantly pursued breakneck innovation in genetic modification during the Age of Conquest, mech designers turned out to be no different during the Age of Mechs!

Mechs were so popular and ubiquitous that hardly anyone paid attention to the risks and dangers associated with their development and use!

Did this mean that Ves would henceforth slow down and hold extensive trials for each changes he made?

Probably not.

He didn't want to slow down. He was confident in his mech design ability. He also did not regard his design philosophy as something that came with unduly great risks. Perhaps he would be more concerned if he specialized in neural interfaces, but his specialty was only tangentially related to the devil's technology.

At most, his specialty was more of a half-devil than a pure devil.

"In the end, it's all about the results." Ves sighed. "Mech designers who fail to achieve any significant results will have to live with the guilt of their crimes. Those who succeed are absolved by the valuable gains they've passed on to the mech community."

The ends only justified the means for mech designers if they had at least reached some ends. Someone like Terrence Reedan had failed to manage even that, so it was no wonder that he was extraordinarily bitter.

Old Man Terrence ran out of time! Redemption had firmly escaped his grasp! Without achieving any measure of absolution, he faced an extraordinarily dreary ending. Weighed down by a troubled heart and unfulfilled ambitions, Ves genuinely pitied his older counterpart!

Privately, Ves resolved to never end up like Terrence Reedan! He should definitely do his best to achieve at least some solid contributions.

"There are so many design philosophies in the galaxy." The old man sighed. "Countless Journeymen and Seniors are doing their utmost to realize their dreams. Even if few will ever succeed to realize their design philosophies, it's amazing to think how many amazing ideas have turned into reality."

"It is the reason for our existence." Ves affirmed.

"Indeed. While mech design isn't the only field that produces constant technological innovations in this age, it is the biggest driver, no doubt. Not even the CFA can match the breakneck technological progress the MTA has achieved, although they are probably close."

"What does the CFA think of neural interface technology?" Ves asked as he voiced one of his doubts. "I haven't heard any stories about the CFA implementing neural interfaces in their shuttles or ships."

"That's because the CFA and MTA fundamentally disagree on the value and utility of neural interfaces, Mr. Larkinson. Mechs are fundamentally dependent on neural interfaces to provide their mech pilots with the greatest degree of control over the machines. A mech is not a mech without a functioning neural interface."

"Neural interfaces aren't necessary for every mech." Ves frowned. "For example, it's optional for many industrial mechs."

The old man laughed. "Hahaha! Very funny! Let's not kid ourselves that mechs purposed for non-combat use are real mechs. The only mechs that define our current age are mechs designed for battle!"

That was true. No one raved whenever a company released a new industrial mech model.

"Back to my question though, why hasn't the CFA embraced neural interface technology?"

"There are several reasons why. First, it's not necessary. Human warships have functioned without any freaky, risky voodoo technology without any problems for several millennia. Second, the few attempts made by shipwrights to force neural interfacing technology onto warships have either ended in catastrophe or produced no measurable improvements at all!"

"There hasn't been a single successful implementation?"

Terrence shook his head. "Not as far as I know. Even if the CFA did manage to produce a beneficial result, their bias against neural interface technology is far too strong. They won't change their minds if the advantages are too negligible to bother."

"Can you tell me about the exact outcomes of their experiments?"

"I've only heard rumors." The old man shrugged. "As far as I know, warships are far too complex and run thousands, if not millions more systems and subsystems than a typical mech. All of their size isn't taken up by empty space, you know. If you attempt to establish a man-machine connection between a typical potentate and one of the most powerful, most destructive weapons of war that humanity has ever conceived, what do you think will happen?"

"The potentate's unfortunate brains will fry. Or worse."

"Their heads may physically explode." Old Man Terrence grinned darkly. "I know it sounds impossible, but trust me, neural interfaces are more than capable of overloading the heads of potentates!"

Ves very pointedly did not mention that he had indeed witnessed such a sight in person. "I wouldn't want to be the person responsible for subjecting a test subject to such an awful end."

"One of the causes of this extreme reaction is the sheer amount of data being dumped into the mind of the test subjects. They can't handle the sheer influx of data. In order to mitigate this problem and rein back the data that is being transmitted through the man-machine connection, the CFA researchers decided to filter, compress or limit most of the data that is being sent to the test subject."

"I take it that is the reason for the negligible results, right?"

"Right. So many functions and essential data streams are left out of consideration that the test subject barely has anything left to work with. What is the point of interfacing with a starship when most if not all of their human crew is still necessary to keep the systems running smoothly?"

"Starships aren't mechs. They haven't been designed to accommodate neural interface technology."

"Exactly, Mr. Larkinson. While the CFA still harbors some ambition in reducing the headcount that is necessary to run a fully-functional warship, their progress has been lackluster so far. Too much automation and delegation is required to make neural interface technology practical for starships."

"They still haven't found a solution up to this day?"

"As far as I know, no, but I may be wrong. One story I've heard is that some research teams have come up with a very radical premise to solve this fundamental problem. In order to make massive warships work with a single human mind in control, the CFA has thought about developing much better AIs. In fact, the holy grail they regard as the ultimate solution are sentient AIs!"

That almost caused Ves to jump out of his seat, alarming Lucky! "Sentient AIs?!"

"I did not misspeak, Mr. Larkinson! Reportedly, the CFA believes that as long as a starship is operated by a sentient AI, the test subject can safely interface with the vessel! The researchers have faith that their artificial partners can intelligently control and manage the throughput of data and assist in controlling the lesser functioning of the ship! In fact, the CFA hopes that sentient AIs can do so much more!"

"They failed though, right?" Ves nervously asked while he heavily petted Lucky.

"Miserably!" Old Man Terrence exulted in the CFA's misfortunes. "Their pampered researchers squandered so much funding and resources into this rabbit hole, only to find out that they've never managed to make a return on their investment. They found out too late that the rabbit is actually a black hole!"

Ves very pointedly did not mention the existence of a sentient AI who emerged from a crashed CFA warship called Sigrund.

"Is this really true? Has the CFA really failed to create a single sentient AI?" He asked.

"If they truly did, the Age of Mechs would have already been over! Once they cracked this vital barrier, their next generation of warships will have experienced qualitative improvements in so many different areas! There is no way they will continue to share power with the MTA!"

That.. did not sound realistic to Ves. "Wouldn't the MTA just steal the secrets of sentient AIs from the CFA and make them available for mechs?"

"Haha! As if the CFA would give their biggest rival the time to adjust!"

The old man did not have that much more to tell about the CFA. What he just passed on to Ves merely consisted of unreliable rumors spread among the circle of neural interface specialists.

Though Ves accepted that the information might be unreliable, he didn't believe so. From what he already knew about the CFA, the rumors made too much sense!

As Ves continued to weigh the information he received, Old Man Terrence nonchalantly waved his shaky hand. "Enough about me and my specialty. You wanted to have an exchange with me, right? So far, I've been doing most of the talking. If you have any sense of integrity in your bones, you should share some of your insights with me. Even if I am at the end of my life, I don't want to die without learning at least one explosive insight that changes my perspective of mechs!"

"Ah, that's true. I've been remiss in that so far, Mr. Reedan. The insights you've told me is a lot to take in. I already knew that neural interfaces are complicated, but I had no idea how much dirt lurks underneath the surface!"

"Well, you can feel shocked in your own time!" Old Man Terrence barked with an unnerving degree of excitement! "Come now. Please air your dirty laundry. I want to hear whether your so-called 'metaphysical man-machine symbiosis' design philosophy is just as tainted as mine!"

Really now, was Mr. Reedan still a mech designer? Ves wanted to shake his head at the sight. The older man was no different from a nosy grandpa who wanted to swap naughty and embarrassing stories with others!