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View Full Version : "Spirits" in missles, Thunderhawks, etc....



Rylanor
28-07-2008, 01:45
In Let the Galaxy Burn!, there is a story about some hot-shot Thunderhawk pilots that are sent on some mission somewhere. Every time the pilots used the missiles that their ships were equipped with, the author mentioned spirits inside the missiles that guided them to their mark. A spirit inside the Thunderhawk itself was mentioned also. My questions are, are such spirits in every missle/Thunderhawk? Where do they come from? Have they replaced, uh, robots, i guess?

Juicebox
28-07-2008, 02:29
I imagine that these would be the same as "machine spirits" mentioned elsewhere in a bunch of fluff pieces. A lot of people construe this as the contemporary imperials using, though not understanding, artificial intelligence. Essentially, this technology is a holdover from the Age of Technology. The imperials don't comprehend this sort of tech so it gets cashed out in the only way that they can make sense of it: If a thing has a mind, then it has a soul/spirit; talking machines obviously have minds (otherwise, how could they communicate with us), therefore they have souls/spirits.

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 02:41
And, of course, that gets us into the issue of the potential identity or nature of "machine spirits." As Juicebox correctly mentions one possible interpretation of this is that it is a misunderstanding of some form of machine-based intelligence (whether fully sapient or otherwise programmed is entirely up for grabs). Other possibilities include mere attribution, or the idea that they are merely theological constructs of the Machine Cult, and the idea that they actually are of supernatural origin -- the ghost is, quite literally, in the machine.

Take your pick as to which you believe. Much of GW writing is there to evoke a "sense" of the 40k universe, rather than offer any true definition of it. That's why someone touting canon around as a, well, cannon - the final arbitrator of any argument - is possibly smoking something. At the very best 'canon' is merely an interpretation held by a small number of people who happen to be able to publish. ;)

Kage

zoodog
28-07-2008, 02:44
Well, they long ago had their Men of Iron rebel (AI turn on man) and I believe the emperor outlawed true AI, but they still make use of logic engines and machine sprits

It also come from the fact that the Adaptis Mechanius, the most technical minded people, are more of a religion then a technical college

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 02:53
That's certainly one approach, zoodog, but that last statement is essentially getting into the "Adeptus Me-can-icus" (the Adeptus Mechanicus can and does understand the technology that they deal with) and the "Adeptus Me-can't-icus" (they cannot understand the technology) debate. While you can draw from the obvious A Canticle for Leibowitz, or even the more obvious parallels with medieval Europe (generously lathered on almost every aspect of modern 40k?), for much of the 40k hobbyist community the boat seems to be out on that one... :D

Kage

Khaine's Messenger
28-07-2008, 03:00
Where do they come from?

If you want some more detailed discussion on the phenomenon of "machine spirits," I suggest using the forum search feature. However, the quick and dirty of it is that the prevailing attitude of humans towards technology in 40k is that machines function based on the degree of respect you give to it. That this respect usually comes via prescribed maintenance rituals isn't as important as the "fact" that you appeased the spirits in the machine by performing the ritual. As such, there's a heavy focus on function as opposed to means.

To some of us (that is, people in the real world), this is mainly a coloring of language. Lots of people attribute behavior to their computers or other gadgets, including (notably) such premodern objects as swords. That people in 40k believe these sorts of things (and may have a rational basis for it; see other threads) is supposed to reinforce the notion of "trust not in the progress of science" from the intro blurb for the game. They haven't replaced robots, really.

PondaNagura
28-07-2008, 03:21
it's a mixture of yelling at your computer for not working the way you want it too (mostly user error), and the animism aspect that makes up the superstitious/unlearned characteristic of the Imperium.
though if it's inlet the galaxy burn, then i'm stuck, since such notions should be tossed aside for the [secular] imperial truth.

EDIT: oh, wait, my bad i was thinking Galaxy in Flames...that's an easy mix up.

starlight
28-07-2008, 03:42
Another option is whether or not they understand what they're dealing with (which don't think they do:p). A simple heat/radar/whatever-seeking missile could be mistaken for having a *spirit* due to it's ability to hunt a target on it's own after launch. The sensor could be mistaken for containing the *spirit*, since it is the part that drives the controls...

Juicebox
28-07-2008, 04:15
Well, they long ago had their Men of Iron rebel (AI turn on man) and I believe the emperor outlawed true AI

And look what happened to him :p

Good call Kage, there are a ton of different ideas concerning machine spirits. That said, I think that the A.I. explanation passes the "Sounds-Like-40k" test better than the others.

Khaine's Messenger
28-07-2008, 04:38
though if it's inlet the galaxy burn, then i'm stuck, since such notions should be tossed aside for the [secular] imperial truth.

This is probably the super short story anthology, in which most stories are set after the Horus Heresy. In any event, the "spirits" explanation would probably suffice for most Heresy-era personnel as well, although the iterators would likely give them a tongue lashing after the fact....

Rylanor
28-07-2008, 04:49
:wtf:

....Alright, thanks guys. My theory was that maybe since the Cult of Mars worships the Machine God, and it is the greatest aspiration of a member of said Cult to replace his organic components with robotic ones, they had developed a way to actually use the life-force of serfs (or anyone, for that matter) to power and direct their machines. I thought that it would fit in with the whole our-servitors-are-part-robot-part-human thing. However, now that I've heard everyone else's theories, mine seems crazy ;)

BTW-- It's pretty obvious that everyone who posted on this thread put at least a little bit of thought in to what they were saying, which I really appreciate.

starlight
28-07-2008, 04:54
No crazier than anything in the 40K universe, I'll bet... :p

Tommygun
28-07-2008, 05:12
What if the "computers" or Machine Spirit are actually half lobotomized human brains like the servo skulls or servitors?
I prefer the idea that it is just a computer program, that most people in the 40k universe are not educated about.
Just a thought.

Gorbad Ironclaw
28-07-2008, 08:05
While it is possible that would most likely make it prohibitively expensive/complicated to fit it into ordnance. You will need millions of them, and while I'm sure they could get the brains to do it, the additional machinery to keep the brains alive would likely be more trouble than it's worth, and also seriously restrict the size of ordnance you could build. It would also make storage rather difficult, as they would need power/nutrition to keep the brain alive. All things considered, it would likely be too much trouble compared to using unguided ordnance if that was the case.

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 12:48
Good call Kage, there are a ton of different ideas concerning machine spirits. That said, I think that the A.I. explanation passes the "Sounds-Like-40k" test better than the others.
Given the large variation in the complexity of equipment that is attributed as having a "machine spirit," I think that it's a bit more complex than suggesting that it is just AI. But - hey! - that's just me. Mileage my vary.

Kage

ctsteel
28-07-2008, 14:19
I take as machine spirit = software
the complexity of the software determines the intelligence/power/what-have-you of the spirit. It explains such things as the machine spirit in weapons and vehicles, and also the references to tech priests plugging themselves into machines to commune with the machine's spirit. Basically logging into the operating system, checking the systems and making changes. To Average Joe in the 41st millennium it would be pseudo-mystical.

edit - plus Astartes armour with its war spirit (which is just the monitoring system for life signs, power regulation etc), same for bolters (counting ammo, linking with armour spirit, target tracking etc)

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 16:10
That is the interpretation that I personally favour, ctsteel, so cool. At the same time I don't believe the blanket "suspicion" of technology, feeling that exposure would tend to lead to a certain amount of pragmatism. That whole, "Familiarity breeds contempt" thing.

Kage

ThousandPlateaus
28-07-2008, 21:45
I prefer that interpretation, too - although I do mostly believe in the blanket suspicion of technology (I'm very Mechan-i-can't-us).

I think there will be examples where that suspicion could be subsumed - I think for example, a Guardsman could build a relationship with the spirit in his Lasgun, and it would come to have a personality, but I think it would be a relationship of fear, awe, and respect - like the relationship between an animal trainer and a tamed beast.

Killgore
28-07-2008, 22:17
my favorate story about a machine spirit is the Crimson Fist land raider that gets blasted free from the destruction of the fist's fortress monestry when it gets torped

the LR goes on a uncrewed wrecking spree into Orks lines untill its weapons melt and ammoe drys out


dont forget BFG storys about each starship having its own identify... something to do with its machine spirit

Ekranoplan
28-07-2008, 22:54
The Tech Priests (and maybe even some others) could understand that it is an AI, but even an AI must have a soul or else it wouldn't work. This is the machine spirit. And all pieces of tech have a machine spirit, its just that Land Raiders and other exotic devices have a really powerfull machine spirit.

IMO, not all the workings and malfunctions of a machine is attributed to an angry machine spirit, but rather, an angry machine spirit will cause an otherwise perfectly maintained machine to breakdown. A perfectly maintained machine would rarely breakdown, but that wouldn't stop anyone from believing in the machine spirit.

Additionally, its an angry machine spirit that is responsible for the failure of certain parts. A Tech Priest can understand the schematics perfectly and know exactly why a piece of tech failed, but also believes that the machine spirit would have prevented the failure if the proper rituals were performed. In this way Tech Priests are not viewed as completely ignorant but still maintain their worship, suspicion and reverence of technology.

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 23:12
The Tech Priests (and maybe even some others) could understand that it is an AI, but even an AI must have a soul or else it wouldn't work.
I'm sorry, but isn't that a huge assumption? Indeed, it might be one of the largest that I've seen in a while, which is cool in its own way (i.e. as a source of discussion).


A perfectly maintained machine would rarely breakdown, but that wouldn't stop anyone from believing in the machine spirit.
Erm, no. That seems rather self-evident to me.


Additionally, its an angry machine spirit that is responsible for the failure of certain parts.
Or, I'm sure, so would be the thinking of orthodox Tech Priests.


...but also believes that the machine spirit would have prevented the failure if the proper rituals were performed.
I would imagine that, once again, this is the stance of all but the more radical parts of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Would a TechPriest truly believe that if they understood their technology? Perhaps. Or, at least, I would like to think so... Rituals that are so entrenched from their original purpose that even all but the most heretical deem it the natural practice.

Of course, that doesn't inherently support the "Adeptus Me-can'it-icus" approach, just a more developed approach to the Adeptus Mechanicus that doesn't fit in either of the polar opposite approaches.

Kage

Tommygun
28-07-2008, 23:17
I just remember the graphic novel "Titan: God-Machine".
In that story, a former titan pilot left a psychic mental imprint in the "computer" that helped control the titan.
The new titan pilot could talk to the old pilot in the story. Now, this is not what most people are talking about when they say Machine Spirit,
but it would definitely add to the mythos of the spirit idea.

Kage2020
28-07-2008, 23:57
Ah, the joys of psychometry... ;)

Kage

TheDarkDaff
29-07-2008, 00:16
:wtf:

....Alright, thanks guys. My theory was that maybe since the Cult of Mars worships the Machine God, and it is the greatest aspiration of a member of said Cult to replace his organic components with robotic ones, they had developed a way to actually use the life-force of serfs (or anyone, for that matter) to power and direct their machines. I thought that it would fit in with the whole our-servitors-are-part-robot-part-human thing. However, now that I've heard everyone else's theories, mine seems crazy ;)

BTW-- It's pretty obvious that everyone who posted on this thread put at least a little bit of thought in to what they were saying, which I really appreciate.

Pontius Glaw. Admittedly it suffers from "Chaos did it" syndrome but a Tech Priest built the metal body to put his spirit into.

Rylanor
29-07-2008, 02:16
Pontius Glaw. Admittedly it suffers from "Chaos did it" syndrome but a Tech Priest built the metal body to put his spirit into.

Yeah, I've read the Eisenhorn books, and I remember him. If i recall correctly, the stone his spirit was sealed in was maintained by Chaos-tech, right? Still, I happen to like Kage's theory better (cuz he uses all them big werds ;) ). However, like most murky 40k fluff, this is pretty interesting stuff.

MrBigMr
29-07-2008, 02:33
We have to remember that everything has a machine spirit in the eyes of the Imperium, even your rifle. That is why you have to clean your gun and treat it with sacret oils to keep the machine spirit happy and your gun working.

So I take the passing like this:
"Oh lord, guide this cinder block."
-Homer Simpson, The Simpsons

Khaine's Messenger
29-07-2008, 05:59
they had developed a way to actually use the life-force of serfs (or anyone, for that matter) to power and direct their machines.

In a sense, they have. They do possess the technology to draw power from living beings, although this is based purely on stealing "energy" from the body's chemical reactions and similar...such systems are often mistaken for tattoos. This, along with other power sources, is what allows for a few of the more bizarre (and physically fatiguing) "powers" exhibited by some Tech-Priests. Like throwing bolts of lightning. "Machine spirits" don't seem to enter that discussion often. It might dilute the absurdity, I suppose. :chrome:

olmsted
29-07-2008, 06:12
its probably been said but im not interested in reading the entire thread atm.

it can be judged that to keep the average joe from tinkering around and making improvements and remove the need for the Adeptus Mechanicus it could be deduced that machine spirits are made up to keep the mechanicus usefull and important.


from missile silos to irriagation equipment their are machine spirits.

oh machine spirit of the remote let thy beam fly true and change the channel. rub on the proper ointment... wait 2 secs for the appeasment of the spirit then press the button to change the channel

i think some of it maybe true. other wise i think its just the proper pressing of buttons and the mechanicus wanting to keep power.

Kage2020
30-07-2008, 03:07
In a sense, they have. They do possess the technology to draw power from living beings, although this is based purely on stealing "energy" from the body's chemical reactions and similar...such systems are often mistaken for tattoos. This, along with other power sources, is what allows for a few of the more bizarre (and physically fatiguing) "powers" exhibited by some Tech-Priests. Like throwing bolts of lightning. "Machine spirits" don't seem to enter that discussion often. It might dilute the absurdity, I suppose. :chrome:
Diluting the absurdity by throwing lightning bolts? Perhaps not. I do, however, love the dig in to the "machine spirit" and the interaction with the human (and therefore righteous) soul with the use of electattoos, etc. Cool. Definitely needs some more thought on that one. :D

Kage

swordwind
30-07-2008, 03:38
Look at the level of mysticism surrounding computers and technology nowadays in the 21st century and give it 38,000 years of "I don't really knowing what I'm doing but it worked when steve did it" and being on your knees, bits of your computer's guts being all over the place, your fingers being crossed and you muttering "please work please work please work please work" becomes praying.

Kage2020
30-07-2008, 03:44
Aye, that's the most common argument that is used in trying to substantiate the 40k view of technology. Indeed, it's basically the whole A Canticle for Leibowitz. It's one of the reasons that 40k requires the 'porting of medieval Catholocism...

Kage

Ekranoplan
30-07-2008, 15:41
I'm sorry, but isn't that a huge assumption? Indeed, it might be one of the largest that I've seen in a while, which is cool in its own way (i.e. as a source of discussion).

I suppose I could have stressed the maybe more. Its a big maybe. The 41st millenium is a huge place, and if only .01% of tech priests had this knowledge or belief it would still be a large amount of tech priests. Enough to effect entire planets and armies. And so continues to great internal struggle of puritans and radicals.

I just find it hard to believe that Tech Priests have no understanding of their technology. You can't solve physics equations, or mechanical engineering equations, or even math equations unless you understand the underlying concepts. There are just too many variables to be able to apply a single problem solving methods.

I would imagine lesser tech priests would have no understanding at all, just memorization. They have been told how every component of the munitions plant is suppose to be configured (with no reason beyond the obvious), and they are too construct and maintain the plant.

The greater tech priests, who are a lot older and have much more experience, should have a reasonable understanding of the underlying concepts and science surrounding the tech. The Fabricator General of a forge world, for instance, would probably be responsible for attending to a lot of machines that have unconventional failures, or dealing with unique engineering problems. For example, fitting the munitions plant into an oddly shaped lot. The lesser tech priests who have no understanding of how it all works might not know how you can alter several components, whereas the Fabricator General does. And even the highest up there in the Adeptus Mechanicus would still practice the rituals, because even if everything is perfect, everything is in danger of falling apart without the ritual.

This is all just a rudimentary example (you probably wouldn't need to go as high up as the Fabricator General to find such understanding, its just thats the only tech priest rank I can recall :):) ). Its all my interpretation of how things could work based on all the little tidbits I have read over the years about the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Promethius
30-07-2008, 16:12
dont forget BFG storys about each starship having its own identify... something to do with its machine spirit

I think that is a combination of the machine spirit, the fears/aspirations of the crew, and the ability of warp space to blur the lines somewhat. I've always imagined that Imperial Navy ships possess some incredibly complex software that is programmed to react to certain changes in it's immediate environment (a bit like autopilot for a jumbo jet) and that moving through the warp somehow impregnates that software with a psychic impression of the crew and their impression of the ship. The end result being that over millenia, the ship gains an identity of it's own as the software pics up idiosyncracies. So, for example, when the ship is under fire and perhaps the bridge (for whatever reason) has failed to give new orders, the ship reacts by launching into battle or attempting to ram (or whatever it has learnt to do) in much the same way as it might at the time of construction been programmed to alter course in the face of a meteor shower. The crew notice this reaction, attribute it to the ship's soul or machine spirit, and re-inforce that behaviour with subsequent belief in that aspect of the ship's 'personality'.


I just remember the graphic novel "Titan: God-Machine".
In that story, a former titan pilot left a psychic mental imprint in the "computer" that helped control the titan.
The new titan pilot could talk to the old pilot in the story. Now, this is not what most people are talking about when they say Machine Spirit,
but it would definitely add to the mythos of the spirit idea.

The titan graphic novel was cool as, I remember it fondly. I think in that case, the mind-impulse unit actually allowed the soul of the princeps to pass into the titan's machine spirit/memory banks somehow at the time of his death. Whether that means that the titan can be completely independently controlled by the previous pilot or whether he is just a ghost in the machine, was unfortunately never ascertained with any finality after the sad demise of warhammer monthly.

Gensuke626
30-07-2008, 21:09
Though it's been said many times, I believe the Machine Spirit really isn't anything more than a myth.

As a physics teacher I had in high school once said: "I could put forth the theory that the reason paper tends to bob and float when I drop it is because of invisible, magical paper nymphs that try to hold the paper aloft as it falls. For all you know, I'm right, and there aren't any tests you can run that can completely rule out the existence of invisible magical paper nymphs.

However, we believe in molecules and the idea that the paper is attempting to displace more air molecules than it's weight can manage easily just makes more sense to us."

Kage2020
30-07-2008, 23:59
I suppose I could have stressed the maybe more. Its a big maybe. The 41st millenium is a huge place, and if only .01% of tech priests had this knowledge or belief it would still be a large amount of tech priests. Enough to effect entire planets and armies. And so continues to great internal struggle of puritans and radicals.
Hang on, as I look back on what you're saying and my own reply to it, coupled with your own response here, I might have been grabbing the wrong end of the stick. From your previous post I assumed (yeah, I know) that you were suggesting that AI was required to form the soul (i.e. intelligence=soul), whereas from the comment above it seems that you're going down a similar route as mentioned previously. That is, degree of complexity of programming and the attribution of soul.


I just find it hard to believe that Tech Priests have no understanding of their technology.
I hear you and agree... for the most part.


I would imagine lesser tech priests would have no understanding at all, just memorization.
Again, ditto. :D


The greater tech priests, who are a lot older and have much more experience, should have a reasonable understanding of the underlying concepts and science surrounding the tech.
this is one of the very premises that was behind the creation of the "Philosophies of the Adeptus Mechanicus" thread on old Portent. (The original concept, which isn't necessarily included in some of the uses of the concepts by others... :D)

Kage