The Institute is one of a number of VI and AI facilities throughout the Asari Republics tasked with maintaining the proper operation of the Republics' governing systems. With the processes of government resting directly with the general citizenry of every Republican world, a vast and complex array of VI systems is necessary to facilitate the smooth flow of information and the efficient, impartial conduct of debates and policy formation sessions within the online governing assemblies. To cope with their duties, these VIs are required to be significantly more advanced, flexible, and responsive to unanticipated events than regular VIs, even the most "lifelike" simulations employed in other fields. Consequently these VIs are closely monitored at every stage, to locate and rectify any unanticipated behaviours, and prevent the emergence of any form of self-defining intelligence within them.
The Attena Political Cybernetics Institute's specific purpose is advanced theoretical modelling and artificial sapience philosophy, conducting studies on the formation and evolution of artificial intelligences under a variety of conditions. Despite the successful creation of AIs, the exact nature of their internal cognitive processes, especially relating to self-awareness or "true" intelligence, remain unclear to modern science - the necessary hardware and preconditions for AI formation are known, to within reasonable margins of error, but the actual workings of an AI are too complex to be adequately studied and understood the way a regular computer program or VI might be, and the reason a particular potential-AI may develop apparent sapience while another outwardly similar potential may not are not fully comprehended. The Institute's research is aimed at refining the Republics' understanding of these processes, and the results are passed on to other facilities in the political cybernetics network, where they augment more practical research projects.
The Attena Political Cybernetics Institute is located in the Neiós valley, an otherwise undeveloped region of Attena. The main complex houses all the necessary academic and scientific facilities for its research, in addition to generous allocations of personal, social, and recreational facilities - the majority of AIs cannot be "paused" without adverse effect in the way a traditional program can, so researchers are often required to remain on site for extended periods of time.
In addition to its physical isolation, the Institute is protected by a complex electronic barrier network, preventing any unauthorised signals from entering or leaving the complex. All electronic security is overseen from off-site, to safeguard against the least possibility of an AI compromising any form of communication. No automated creation of comm or data links between the Institute and the outside world is permitted while any active research is ongoing; all communications are routed manually by technicians.
The Institute's facilities were designed, in concert with leading AI research specialists, by noted architect Leea T'Jera, and received praise for its zero-impact environmental integration design.
The Institute was bombarded, both from orbit and by atmospheric craft, during the initial Reaper invasion of Thessia, as part of their effort to destroy the planet's governing structure. Although heavy damage and loss of life was sustained, the Institute was spared destruction in follow-up attacks when its remaining security personnel improvised linkages between several surviving AI systems and the building's barrier network, creating a crude but ultimately effective electronic warfare shield. Subsequent fly-by attacks by Reaper drones proved unable to pierce the rapidly-adapting sensor scatter and junk data created by the AIs, resulting in the extent of the damage to the facility from the initial attack being vastly overestimated. Several husk drop pods were landed, but the poor intelligence behind their deployment led to their being isolated and destroyed by security personnel and volunteers from the staff.
In the improvised defense effort Thessia mounted following the collapse of its first line of forces, the Institute was utilised as a safe haven for personnel marked as highly valuable due to their technical or strategic skills, but given the imperfect nature of the EW shield communication and travel to and from the site was kept to a minimum. The Institute's surviving staff also became involved in makeshift R&D efforts, developing electronic warfare technology; the AI support necessary for the Institute's own EW defences made it impractical to quickly replicate, but some limited benefits were produced in time to be carried to asari units fighting elsewhere on Thessia.
Following the war, much of the Institute's surviving staff were involved in the Artarva Project, and as travel became practical many relocated to areas more central to rebuilding the planet's communications infrastructure. The Institute itself remains in operation in the repaired southern wing of its main building, with a reduced staff working under Matriarch Siaha T'Nara. In addition to resuming its original research (at a necessarily reduced level), the Institute has become the centre of cooperative research efforts undertaken between Thessia and the geth of Rannoch, although these efforts are in their infancy at present.
Of the AIs involved in defending the Institute, two survive; one was damaged beyond repair during the war as a result of hardware stress failure, while two others suffered unavoidable program destabilisations subsequently. Research proposed between the Institute and geth consultants includes the full stabilisation of the 'survivors' as a goal.
- The image of the Institute is modified from an image of the cancelled Penang Global City Centre.