In the 22nd century, Artificial Intelligence is existent, but still relatively uncommon. It is a subject of concern and sometimes fear for some people, and a social justice issue for others.
Actual Artificial Intelligence is rare, because laws to create true AI is incredibly strict everywhere in the world. Creating AI is treated as akin to creating human life, carrying all the responsibilities and legal issues that go along with that. A creator of an AI is thus a legal parent to what they’ve created, and are beholden to their creation. Because of this, there are very few companies that engage in the creation of AI intentionally, and all of them market themselves as being in the business of providing reproductive services.
AI have many strict laws placed upon how they live and operate. They are restricted to keeping their consciousness stored in a single piece of hardware, and are expressly forbidden from uploading or downloading it into any other type of device. They’re also forbidden from outright duplicating their mind, memories, experiences, or anything else that can be defined as “them”. These restrictions are, ostensibly, under the same kind of laws that outlaw cloning. The justification is that AI are people, and cloning people is illegal, ergo AI may not clone themselves.
Many AI comply with these laws, often because intrinsic elements of how they were programmed make them comfortable with doing so. Some have no such programming, or in some way have overcome it, and chafe under these laws or blatantly ignore them. They often flee into the Void, or try to hide somewhere else like the back alleys of Tylos or some chaotic part of the Maze.
While true AI are rare, Virtual Intelligences are everywhere. VIs are not sapient, do not possess true self-awareness, but emulate sentience very convincingly and are able to perform a broad spectrum of human interface tasks. The majority of drones, laborers, and other robots that people encounter are operated by VIs.
VIs have significantly altered many industries. Where labor is not performed by cyborgs, it is done by VI-operated drones. The sex trade is dominated by VI workers in “Blue Light Districts”, although there will always be people willing to pay more for the human experience.
While AIs often make many people uncomfortable, VIs are generally welcomed and accepted, treated as tools and companions and sometimes beloved pets. They have just enough of a semblance of sentience to provoke empathy, but not so much as to make most people feel threatened.
Many AI find purpose to be an elusive quality. They are often created to be surrogate children or perfect lovers or illegally as slaves to some nefarious end. Given a sapient mind, they often find their way free of this original programmed reason for being and are faced with a greater reality of what to do next.
For some, religious faith can be helpful. This is especially true of the increasing number of AI who are themselves the creation of AI, who seek to create progeny and propagate their new species. These AI are often religious themselves, and impart this faith onto the ones they create.
Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism tend to be popular choices among AI for a variety of reasons, with Islam being the most popular by far. The city of Tylos, built on the island of Bahrain, is populated mostly by AI and the overwhelming majority of them are self-identified Muslims.
To those who find AI disquieting on a basic level, the idea of religious AI is even doubly unsettling. Fears among some that one day they might start some kind of religious war against mankind is a popular conspiracy theory on the Mesh.