i was recently playing "the Arks" scenario, and my city was almost entirely run by Automatons, everything from the coal mines to the infirmary had the steady hum of automated machinery, working without human assistance to provide for the city 24-7
that got me thinking- for how basic the Victorian-English technology in Frostpunk is compared to our own, they absolutely trounce us when it comes to robotics
they can build machines that can run whole industries without human supervision
we can barely build machines that can traverse uneven terrain on their own
its amazing, that with their primitive technology, they can build robots that are not only slightly more advanced then our own, but decades or even centuries ahead of our current capacity
now, this can obviously be explained by the fact that this is a game, and that in order to make automatons fun and worth the investment put into them, they have to be advanced enough to provide physical value to the city
but that led to another thought-
are automatons… sentient?
now obviously they are not at first, when you first start out, automatons can only do relatively simple tasks, even then they are significantly inferior to a team of humans when it comes to per-hour efficiency, only making up for that fact because they can work almost constantly and do not require food, heat, or a bed
however, if you continue along the automaton tech branch, automatons become more and more efficient, eventually becoming nearly as efficient per-hour as a team of humans
more importantly, they eventually gain the ability to work (alone) in medical and workshop facilities, now, i am not a medical doctor or an engineer, but i understand that these tasks are incredibly complex, they require a level of reasoning, ingenuity, and comprehension of abstract information, that would likely be impossible in a being that is not at least semi-sentient
"the arks" scenario takes it one step further, in it, you can research automaton scouts, which allows your automatons to scout the frostlands, this might not sound like it would be that complicated, But traversing complex terrain is more challenging then it appears, (not to mention the fact that the rover was a information era multi-million dollar machine that was directly guided by some of the best scientists at NASA) the fact that a Victorian era machine could traverse similarly complex terrain, without guided assistance, and could then identify points of interest, search for items that could help the city, and then carry them back through the same complex terrain, by itself, seems to point to sentience
in conclusion: there is strong evidence to suggest that automatons could be sentient, and are almost certainly at least semi-sentient
the question is: what does this mean for the city, and for society after the frost?
could dismantling an automaton be considered the murder of a sentient being?
could automatons bring about a post-scarcity society after, or even during, the frost?
could automatons develop free will? could they rise against humanity?
whatever the answer is, the prospect of Victorian-era sentient robots is an interesting one
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