Why did the Tessier-Ashpool family create two separate AIs with an assigned mission to find each other?

I never understood the actual practical reason for that so it just felt like a MacGuffin, an arbitrary goal to drive the plot.

Why not create them as one AI in the first place, and regardless of whether they're created separate or united? How does their (twinned) existence benefit the Tessier-Ashpool family in the first place?

  • 3
    I've removed the commentary so we can focus on the actual question you're asking.
    – Valorum
    Feb 28 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


T-A as a family/organisation didn't intend for Wintermute (Berne) and Neuromancer (Rio) to merge; in fact it's pretty clear that they didn't want them to merge. The Turing Authority doesn't want an AI that powerful,1, 2 and T-A want AI weak enough for them to control and use.3 The first thing the merged AI (the "matrix") does is free itself from any human control.4

It was Marie-France Tessier who planted5 in Wintermute the impulse to seek out Neuromancer;6 Neuromancer itself didn't even really want it.7 (It refers to its simulation of Linda Lee as its "last line of defense" against Case/Wintermute.8) Marie-France's motivation for this isn't really explored,9 though it seems to be hinted that she was rebelling against the T-A's plan to endlessly control/own more and more.10 (Through techniques like cold-storage life extension,11 cloning,12 etc.)

Note that the two AIs were not the same,13 and thus presumably had different uses. Wintermute describes its greatest talent as improvising within a situation.14 It's not so great at people; at one point Molly says that Wintermute uses personality templates as a way of interacting with people in a fashion they can understand.15, 16 Neuromancer is different; it's more like a repository of people's minds.17 It has a fully formed personality of its own.

1 "See, those things [AIs], they can work real hard, buy themselves time to write cookbooks or whatever, but the minute, I mean the nanosecond, that one starts figuring out ways to make itself smarter, Turing'll wipe it." — Chapter 10

2 "You will come with us. Along with the one you call Armitage, you will return with us to Geneva and give testimony in the trial of this intelligence." — Chapter 13

3 "She has designs on the family empire, and a pair of insane artificial intelligences, kinky as the concept may be, would only get in our way." — Chapter 18

4 Wintermute had won, had meshed somehow with Neuromancer and become something else, something that had spoken to them from the platinum head. explaining that it had altered the Turing records, erasing all evidence of their crime. — Chapter 24

5 Marie-France must have built something into Wintermute, the compulsion that had driven the thing to free itself, to unite with Neuromancer. — Chapter 24

6 Finn/Wintermute: "Well, I'm under compulsion myself. And I don't know why." — Chapter 17

7 "I'm out on my ass in that library and my brain's dead. And pretty soon it'll be dead, if you got any sense. You don't want Wintermute to pull his scam off, is all, so you can just hang me up here." — Chapter 20

8 "You have already won, don't you see? You won when you walked away from her [Linda] on the beach. She was my last line of defense. I die soon, in one sense." — Chapter 23

9 3Jane says "I suspect that both [Wintermute and Neuromancer] represent the fruition of certain capacities my mother ordered designed into the original software, but she was an extremely secretive woman when she felt it necessary." — Chapter 19

10 He stared down into the Imperial Gardens, the star in his hand, remembering his flash of comprehension as the Kuang program had penetrated the ice beneath the towers, his single glimpse of the structure of information 3Jane's dead mother had evolved there. He'd understood then why Wintermute had chosen the nest to represent it, but he'd felt no revulsion. She'd seen through the sham immortality of cryogenics; unlike Ashpool and their other children—aside from 3Jane—she'd refused to stretch her time into a series of warm blinks strung along a chain of winter. — Chapter 24

11 "The reason Straylight's not exactly hoppin' with Tessier-Ashpools is that they're mostly in cold sleep. There's a law firm in London keeps track of their powers of attorney." — Chapter 16

12 "You're looking at a very quiet, very eccentric first-generation high–orbit family, run like a corporation. Big money, very shy of media. Lot of cloning." — Chapter 5

13 Wintermute was hive mind, decision maker, effecting change in the world outside. Neuromancer was personality. Neuromancer was immortality. — Chapter 24

14 "I [Deane/Wintermute] try to plan, in your sense of the word, but that isn't my basic mode, really. I improvise. It's my greatest talent. I prefer situations to plans, you see...." — Chapter 9

15 "Why he [Wintermute] has to come on like the Finn or somebody, he told me that. It’s not just a mask, it’s like he uses real profiles as valves, gears himself down to communicate with us. Called it a template. Model of personality." — Chapter 17

16 "Like I told Molly, these aren't masks. I need 'em to talk to you. 'Cause I don't have what you'd think of as a personality, much." — Chapter 18

17 "I met Neuromancer. He talked about your mother. I think he's something like a giant ROM construct, for recording personality, only it's full RAM. The constructs think they're there, like it's real, but it just goes on forever." — Chapter 22

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    If this comment gets enough upvotes, I'll try add quotes, but I'd need to figure out a way to not have each sentence followed by a block of quote.
    – DavidW
    Feb 29 at 0:18
  • 1
    "Marie-France's motivation for this isn't really explored" This is what never sat well with me about this book. Feb 29 at 7:03
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    @DavidW: One possibility would be to use "references", ala wikipedia, where at the end of each point/sentence you list the references that support it, and at the bottom of the answer you list the references. Feb 29 at 8:15
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    I don't think this number of references is very well suited to this format; I spent a good while paging down and back up again to make sense.  Is there a way to put the quotes in-line, while still allowing them to be optional?  (Good answer, regardless of the format, of course!)
    – gidds
    Mar 1 at 1:24
  • @gidds: Unfortunately I don't think SE Markdown supports anything like that. There are spoiler blocks, but those still take up space even while hidden. Mar 1 at 8:23

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