Wednesday, March 13, 2013

072: The Automatic Farm

ENTRY 072: The Automatic Farm

In the northern Martian lowlands there is an experiment in absentee terraforming. The habitat covers a dozen acres, and, except for gravity, the interior does a good imitation of the arid grassy field ecosystems of northern Australia on Earth, and is completely absent of transhumanity. Instead, the main inhabitants of the Automatic Farm are a pack of proto-uplifted dogs and a hardy flock of transgenic sheep; the remaining non-vegetable residents consist primarily of insects with roles in pollination, decomposition, soil reclamation, and other such activities.

The guiding philosophy of the Automatic Farm is to investigate the long-term management of terraformed or partially terraformed planets without direct transhuman guidance or interference. The transsheep are engineered to facilitate the process in various specialized roles, minimizing grass fires, spreading grass seeds in their droppings using engineered instinctive patterns to maximize de-desertification, etc. In part to counter and guide the transheep are a pack of canines with enhanced cognition. While not fully uplifted to transhuman intelligence, the large-brained canines have comparable memory and reasoning skills to a chimpanzee. The Martian sheepdogs maintain the population of the transsheep flock and help direct their efforts, but also scout the area ahead of the sheep and maintain a watch for predators and pitfalls.

The interior of the Automatic Farm is mostly hands-off, with new species or even new individuals of existing species introduced only after much solemn debate. The cost of the project is partially offset by a multitude of cameras and sensors set throughout the habitat-dome’s interior; while scientists use this to examine the progress of the animals, the majority of transhumans enjoy seeing newborns “in the wild,” to the point the habitat subsists largely on ad revenue from cute puppy and lamb pictures. There has also been some considerable interest in the techniques behind the Martian sheepdogs, as adults trained as service animals have proven able to teach their offspring something of their skills, though it remains to be seen if this will ever be cheaper or more effective than more invasive training using implants. Still, the sight of an alpha dog trying to get a row of pups to stand in a line always gets at least a million hits on The Automatic Farm’s forums.


  • The Carnival of the Goat has infiltrated the Automatic Farm, installing implants on the transsheep that allow users to puppet them. So far, the Festival has escaped detection by timing their intrusion to the Automatic Farm’s breeding seasons, but it’s only a matter of time before they start to fornicate without regard for such niceties. The Automatic Farm is willing to insert the player characters into the farm to deal the situation—by letting them puppet “control” dogs and letting them cull the puppet transsheep.
  • A transgenics hypercorp wants DNA samples from the Martian sheepdogs, and are willing to pay handsomely. How the PCs get them is up to them…though the hypercorp does have a specially modified intersex canine pod that can collect and store the samples, however they decide to collect them.

1 comment:

  1. Funding the Automatic Farm with puppy pictures is one of the best things that I have ever seen. After all, even transhumans need their cuteness fix.