Does Vernor Vinge ever expand upon the identity of Mr. Rabbit?

In an interview from 2006, Mr. Vinge indicates that there's nothing in the book that directly identifies who or what Mr. Rabbit is, but he does say:

I have some theories about what Mr. Rabbit is, and I eventually hope to put those down in writing.

Has he followed through with this in the intervening years? Is there any further explanation about Mr. Rabbit in other writings or interviews of his?


The one article I've found on it suggests several possibilities, making me think he hasn't decided himself.

However, it's most likely an emergent AI. Consider the alien-ness of its personality. It has something akin to morals, in that it seems to keep its bargains even when it is so powerful that it need not do so. But its morals don't preclude it gaining working mind-control either... at the end of the novel it definitely wanted possession of that technology. I didn't get the impression that it wanted to be some Hitler-esque tyrant either, but it'd be hard to argue that it wouldn't use that for all sorts of what could be deemed "pranks" except for their extreme scale and degree.

This is also consistent with the personalities of actual mythological deities. But to claim that the Rabbit is literally such seems absurd, I don't think we'd get that from VV.

A constructed/engineered AI would have a much more designed personality. The morals would either be entirely human in nature, or if (as would be likely) for the military, then sociopathic in nature. And the Rabbit seemed like neither of these to me. For these same reasons, I think we can rule out an actual human genius.

  • Either an emergent AI or someone like Manfred Macx.
    – Jim2B
    Mar 4 '15 at 6:46

Vernor Vinge seems to point in a few possible directions for clues on the identity of Rabbit. The strongest is the one first suggested, that Rabbit is an AI program. Keiko Mitsuri and Günberk Braun seem to think so, mentioning that the crossover point for hardware and networks had been reached to allow such an AI, along with their statements as to its juvenile personality. The strongest evidence for this view is the very fact that Alfred Vaz ridicules the idea, given that he is in the process of deceiving these same intelligence colleagues.

Vaz seems to know what Rabbit is. For one, Rabbit notes that he had left behind so many clues (including the carrot greens) as to his identity, and Vaz confirms this in Chapter 32, when he is convinced that Rabbit was the Next Very Bad Thing due, in part, to the carrot greens left in his office network in Mumbai.

However, Vaz does mention that the minds behind Rabbit had been reduced to ignorance after the revocation attack, and it is not clear that these minds are Rabbit's creators or Rabbit itself. As to the identity/ies of these minds, there are some intriguing possibilities.

  • Rabbit may be DHS. This is a weak argument, but in Chapter 33, Bob Gu, Jr. is "minded" by DHS agent Eve Mallory. At one point, she says "Heh. We'll figure it out. A network attack on a bio-prepped victim - that's a technology that's way to interesting to ignore." Besides the tell-tale "Heh" which I associate with Rabbit, the rest of the statement just sounds like Rabbit.

  • Rabbit is some kind of ego-level AI program. I had a sharp sense of deja vu when comparing the following statements:

"For Robert Gu, real creativity most often came after a good night's sleep, just as he roused himself to wakefulness. That moment was such a reliable source of inspiration... There in the labile freshness of new consciousness, answers would drift into view."

"Rabbit was not always fast. For hard problems, he was like lesser beings; he had to sleep on the question. Then in the morning, the old intuition would deliver remarkable insights."

"Over the past twelve weeks, Rabbit had learned a lot; he had grown, you might say."

Could Rabbit have been "born" or at least instantiated when Robert regains his self-awareness (or as Robert said, his "marbles")? Maybe this happened at UCSF when he went in for the Alzheimer's cure. There is precedent for this view in Vinge's other novels. I think of Arne and Sjana as transcendent ego-level programs based on Jefri and Johanna's actual parents in A Fire Upon the Deep.

  • But what does "Carrot greens" point to?
    – athos
    Jul 24 '17 at 4:45

I think Mr. Rabbit is created by Alice, during the mind training collapse - and he uses her family, in particular grandpa, to break free of the purpose she designed him for.

Basically its a JIT-Split personality, that escapes into the net and then uses its agents, to break out of the last contraints with a small box put in a bathroom.

I think if you work in anti-terrorism, its way more useful to have "childish" true AI then the socio-pathic AI. Should one escape, its limitations allow for easier capture. A childlike mind has less preconcieved notions, which makes it ideal to circumvent rulesets/ imagine unknown threats.

Vaz let that brag go unanswered. He'd come to realize that irritation was the kindliest emotion he could feel for Rabbit. He sat with his back to the concrete caisson and tracked ongoing developments. He could see that the Department of Homeland Security people were watching closely, but they were watching the wrong places. Analyst consensus was that Rabbit had tuned things to match DHS paranoia perfectly. Maybe Alice Gong had been taken down, but undetected by Alliance monitors? Underground, Rabbit's stooges had almost reached Goal A. In ten minutes the "investigation" of that site would begin. In another half hour, he could begin to report his doctored results ... and after that it was simply a matter of getting out and letting the stooges be captured. Things were going so smoothly, he could have stayed back in Mumbai. Not that he was complaining!

There seems to be a slight change in Alices personality, after the bathroom attack occurs and she is unable to communicate.

His intimate knowledge of the capabilitys and security architecture hints at the military / secret service field.

  • 2
    This answer could be improved by editing in any evidence for why you believe Mr. Rabbit is created by Alice. For example, evidence of the change in personality and how this ties in to you thinking he's created by Alice.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 4 '19 at 10:31
  • Very interesting speculation.
    – davidbak
    Nov 26 '21 at 19:13

I am still reading the book, but I do not think that Mr. Rabbit is an AI. There is too much hubris in Mr. Rabbit's personality. The need for Mr. Rabbit to pull pranks and show off indicates that he/she is not fully mature. He/she could be likened to an Ender Wiggins (look up Ender's Game) - a child prodigy who is adept at military strategy and subterfuge. He/She craves to know Alfred Vaz's plan not only due to a child's curiosity but also because he/she would like to become more powerful than the authoritative forces in his/her life, as is any teenager's dream to control those that currently have him/her under control. I believe it is Mr. Rabbit's issue with authority that drives him/her to seek out matters of state, and colluding with Alfred Vaz was no accident, but purposefully planned.


For a while I thought that Mr Rabbit was a combination of Lena (the manipulator), Chumlig (the coordinator), and Xiu (inventor of SHE). And I think that's part of it. But I also think the immature (yet honorable) behavior of Rabbit is interesting, a lot more like the Radner boys combined with Miri. And then I realized, here are all these kids who can manipulate the shared AR with just some muscle twitches in their shoulders, ensemble programming. What if together they were generating Rabbit, maybe without knowing it. Thousands of kids, presented with choices, or things to look up, deciding with a twitch that maybe they're not even conscious of anymore. If I were building an AI, I'd take advantage of such a large mechanical turk pool, especially in areas where I wanted it to fit in with the existing "NI".

Also, the Alice and Bob references around crypto are hilarious. Thanks Mr Vinge.

  • Welcome to SFF.SE. I think the question is looking for something written by Vernor Vinge himself rather than speculation.
    – Null
    May 26 '15 at 16:22
  • There is not much material - as stated by others. So why not engage in speculation when its clearly marked as such?
    – Pica
    Oct 23 '21 at 11:53
  • Until I read this answer I had never connected Alice and Bob with the traditional crypto "personalities". Thank you!
    – davidbak
    Nov 26 '21 at 19:12

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