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While reading Citadel by John Ringo [for the third time], they mentioned a fault in equipment that was causing accidents. And I had a flash of "Oh, I remember this", but I was wrong.

Now I wonder which story I was remembering.

Probably 15-20 years old. English USA Paperback.

Space based story with equipment (ship components, shuttles, weapons, etc.) produced by manufacturing plants controlled by AIs. Random faults keep causing accidents, damaging equipment and resulting in injuries (and deaths?) of personnel.

Eventually one of the main protagonists of the novel realizes it can be traced back to one of the manufacturing AIs.

Pretty sure it was a several hundred year old AI, maybe built by an alien race. (Which is why I thought it was Citadel as they have a large 800 year old "fabber" [ship fabrication plant] controlled by an AI bought from a alien race.)

The protagonist investigates or talks with the AI, and discovers that the AI is doing it on purpose.

I don't remember the exact reason why. It might be:

  • Because it was programmed to do it. (Previous race knew it was being done and used it as a training tool for its workers to find the faults)
  • Or it was upset/lonely/bored and doing it to amuse itself.
  • Or it overheard or was told by someone that engineers need a challenge, something to do, after the equipment is built.

I have vague memories that it might be possible the accident that triggers the investigation was a failure of gravity plates in the cargo area of a shuttle or cargo ship, or hallways of a ship. (someone walking over the bad plate is turned to mush on the floor when he walks into a 50g field instead of 1g.

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    I'm sure I have read it (or something very similar) too, but my memory of it is even more vague than yours. I'm looking forward to any answers you (hopefully) will get.
    – Tonny
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:51
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    It does sound very much like one of the novels in Ringo's Troy Rising series (of which Citadel is the second of [currently] three); I'm not sure I've ever encountered the idea in other SF, though I won't rule out the possibility. Jul 11, 2023 at 10:43
  • @JeffZeitlin, I was getting strong vibes it was the second book while reading it, and was surprised it was not. (The other thought was Wandering Engineer series, or Spineward Sector series, but could not remember if Spineward Sector had AIs.)
    – NJohnny
    Jul 11, 2023 at 22:32

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I believe you are referring to the Troy Rising series by John Ringo, specifically the third book, The Hot Gate.

We got cocky. We easily beat off an attack by the Rangorans at the opening of the book. After all, The Rangorans have been throwing inadequate numbers of ships at the Earth and the battlestation, Troy, has been slicing through ’em like a hot knife through butter. Then we stupidly put faith in the cease fire during the peace talks and bam. The Rangorans have slowly been wising up and we are about to take it down the throat.

That’s the main storyline. The human interest plotline revolves around “Comet” Parker. She’s been transferred to the 143 to bring her engineering skills to bear on why it is that the 143’s ships are never out of the maintenance bays. Is it a manufacturing flaw on Apollo’s part for there sure seems to be something wrong with Granadica, the AI fabber (by the way, I want one of these!)? Or is it sabotage?

The TV Tropes entry mentions two reasons for Granadica's glitches:

[A] series of errors (minor, but potentially lethal if allowed to continue) in the Myrmidon shuttles is found to be caused by Granadica subconsciously sabotaging the ships as a plea for attention which was fixed by giving her even more important things to build in a place with far more people nearby.

As part of her Uplift protocols she unconsciously introduced minor errors that would eventually become major malfunctions to weed out those sophonts who don't perform proper and thorough maintenance, a definite necessity in a space faring civilization.

From the book:

“There are problems with the systems coming out of Granadica,” Haumann said. “Especially the Myrmidons. Production systems don’t seem to have the same issue. Just mobile finished products. Everyone else deals with that by performing a hard eval of the bird. Generally, they do the main maintenance programs. That catches most of the problems. All as far as we’ve been able to determine. After that the birds are in good shape.”

I will attempt to mine more quotes from the book later tonight, but grav plate malfunctions are mentioned, but also noted to be non-lethal (albeit painful), with the universal non-lethality of the errors being part of how they determine that the pattern is unlikely to be random, despite seeming random in every other way.

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    I Just started the 3rd book (Hot Gate) But I am sure this is it.
    – NJohnny
    Jul 11, 2023 at 22:30

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