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setekhite
05-02-2006, 20:54
Something that I was wondering about (my apologies if I've just missed it in older threads). I've seen a fair bit of discussion about whether Necrons can be completely destroyed, with the answer apparently being 'yes' if a sufficiently powerful weapon is used, or their home base is destroyed.

The converse question, though, is can new Necrons be created?

Elements of the current background suggest otherwise - principally, the idea that the Necrontyr were directly converted into the Necrons. This suggests a 1:1 ratio between the number of Necrontyr at the moment of their conversion, and the number of Necrons at its peak (which will since have declined due to attrition).

Countering that, we have (AFAIK) the single account of new Necrons being manufactured in the Armageddon campaign's "Skopios Incident" background for the Elysians. In this instance, an imperial manufacturing facility had been massively re-engineered and was apparently manufacturing Necron warriors.

Logically, I like to think that new warriors could be created. The C'tan and Necrons are eternal, and it seems unbelievable that they would leave themselves vulnerable to something as simple as attrition - especially when facing a race like the Old Ones, with warp powers to utterly obliterate Necron bodies.

The key, perhaps, is the technology by which living Necrontyr were turned into Necrons. The process appears to have converted the Necrons' material being - personalities, memories etc - into something which could be stored in a mechanical body. Critically, the Necrontyr's essence and souls perished in the process, feeding their C'tan masters and leaving only dead shells. So the 'essence' that remains is something like a data record or programme - something which could be replicated and installed to multiple bodies (Agent Smith style?). In this way, the Necrons are able to replace losses by copying the "personalities" from existing Necrons into new bodies. Their capacity to produce such bodies may currently be limited, but you can be sure the Necron Lords are looking to address the issue...

Nehcrum
05-02-2006, 21:51
Or they can be a bit like their C'tan lords. Being reduced to some sort of souls which only needs to have a new outer shell produced for them to once more enter in their lords service.

Which makes it a finite amount of Necrons capable of existing at a time, but means that losses can be replaced by simply producing new bodies for the necrontyr essences.

astrocortex
05-02-2006, 21:57
The key, perhaps, is the technology by which living Necrontyr were turned into Necrons. The process appears to have converted the Necrons' material being - personalities, memories etc - into something which could be stored in a mechanical body. Critically, the Necrontyr's essence and souls perished in the process, feeding their C'tan masters and leaving only dead shells. So the 'essence' that remains is something like a data record or programme - something which could be replicated and installed to multiple bodies (Agent Smith style?). In this way, the Necrons are able to replace losses by copying the "personalities" from existing Necrons into new bodies. Their capacity to produce such bodies may currently be limited, but you can be sure the Necron Lords are looking to address the issue...

Makes sense doesn't it? In a modern sense, those memories and personalities get converted into a digital format then loaded into the robotic Necron body.
In some ways this would make tomb worlds like giant hard drives.

AgentZero
05-02-2006, 22:14
It's like the Cylons in the new BattleStar Galatica series.
They can be resurrected under the proper conditions.
Considering the C'Tan are more advanced then the Cylons it's possible the Necron are virtually immortal.
This way the C'Tan never need to worry about their workforce and can focus on more important things , like devouring all life >_<

OR the beings turned into the Necron are just copied like a CDR over and over and over.

Khaine's Messenger
05-02-2006, 22:28
This all depends on what you think of as a Necron, no? If a Necron is the whole kit and kaboodle, then it seems unlikely that you could build a new one because there aren't any Necrontyr left (although the creation of the Pariahs seems to suggest they are capable of endowing others with the benefits of robot-hood, even if not full living metal status). You also have to note that their technology can provide for re-assembling a Necron Warrior from a pile of molten slag (Necron I:X), so in point of fact, almost every "Necron" is probably remade. The idea that their self is stored in their body as data is interesting, but I think that is unlikely considering the nature of their system...it's more likely it has to do with the hardware, so that their rebuilding system can reconstruct it. Of course, this may have to do with make and model, blah blah....

damz451
05-02-2006, 23:08
one thing i have always wondered, why dont the imperium/eldar/others just obliterate the planet with known tombs on it?, surely necron warriors are not much threat in the vacuum of space (unless they smack into a ship).

ok it will suck for people living on those planets but the chances are that they will get killed anyway so theres no use trying to protect them from the necrons.

Nehcrum
05-02-2006, 23:33
The tombs are spread out, and most of them are unknown.
The Necrons in general are unknown, they strike, kill everything and then disappear without a trace.

The tombs found are seldomly connected to these attacks, but are seen as something from a long dead race, whilst the necron attacks are seen as a new threat, from something unknown.

MIGHTYPanhead
06-02-2006, 01:05
but once they find a definate necron tomb, they do destroy it.. read up on the "firebrands" article in an older WD

it's just the fact that they don't know where they are that's stopping them

setekhite
06-02-2006, 05:59
I was involved in a thread (http://www.warseer.net/forums/showthread.php?t=17729) about this before. I argued that in order for Necrons to be created after the fashion that they are described as being ("shadows" etc), they have to be transmuted from Necrontyr bodies. This is probably why the C'tan were involved, as they can readily transmute materials into order materials. Moreover that is the only way that the Necrontyr's mind (not soul, mind you, as that's the part of the person that exists in the warp) could be replicated in the product: the Necron.

The idea of 'direct translation' is an interesting one, although it's unclear whether C'tan 'feasting' would leave anything to work with...



There is no doubt that new Necron could be created were there more Necrons to provide the bodies. But there are no more Necrontyr, who became extinct when the C'tan decided that the Necrontyr were worth more to them as shadows than as beings.


You seem very sure of your 'facts' :).
Anyway, it begs the question; what is it that cannot be replicated?

The Necrontyr's 'soul' (warp presence) is long gone. Whatever remains in a Necron is a data record on some sort of physical medium - a 'ghost in the machine' so to speak.

Your theory offers an interesting solution - the process of creating a Necron is sufficiently complicated that it can't (yet) be replicated mechanically and requires the direct involvment of a C'tan; the C'tan's ability to manipulate matter is required for the 'personality transfer'. Building on that, perhaps Necrons can be replicated but it again requires a C'tan's involvement. This neatly bridges the gap as to why the Deceiver was present the only time we've seen Necrons being created from scratch. With only a single fully active C'tan, it also explains why it's not something that's been observed since.

Wraith
06-02-2006, 06:53
On my opinion Necrons cannot be replaced, they are slowly being replaced by Pariah cyborgs which can be.

Anvils Hammer
06-02-2006, 08:24
ill always consider a necron warrior to be almost exactly like the T-X terminator, a liquid metal body around a solid skelton.
the brain ofa necron is nothing more than advanced electronics... very advanced, so id imagine that if they could produce the new bodys, they could clone new warriors. or just copy deads ones from a database.

setekhite
06-02-2006, 19:48
Nurglitch - sorry if my earlier post came across as insulting or sarcastic. I should have chosen my words better.

Anyway, that's a fascinating piece of theory on Necron minds there - I especially like the piece on exactly how the Lords and Immortals are more 'alive'.

What it seems you're aiming for, though, is to prove that a consciousness can only arise from a neural system like a living brain. Surely, though, replicating such a system in a stable, artificial form could be a matter of "sufficiently advanced technology"? (Borrowed deliberately from Arthur C Clarke's famous turn of phrase.) No matter how complex a neural system may be, it still has a finite degree of complexity, so capturing, storing and replicating it is ultimately a question of sufficient data storage and matter manipulation. Very difficult, perhaps, but not automatically impossible; and to a layman, no more fantastic than opening pocket wormholes for precision travel, or regenerating metal.

It may be impossible, even inconceivable, given real world science, but the Necrons are vastly beyond that stage. You use the analogy of a car and a tank, but perhaps a better analogy might be coal and fusion power stations; the effect and purpose are the same, but the mechanisms are radically different.

Your theory, while coherent, is conditional on the impossibility of artificially replicating neural circuitry. Under the circumstances (hyper-advanced aliens with sentient gas clouds as allies) that is, at best, an assumption.

El_Machinae
07-02-2006, 18:00
You cannot make a fluid thing static and preserve it, although you can produce a static print of its space-time existence at time x like a fossil.

I think you're quite wrong. Sure, if it's static, it's currently 'off', but once it's on, it's a functional brain. Computers (when on) are not static, so neither would a necron brain.

You can stop the brain, restart it, and still have a functional brain. The rest is technology ... (this is why cryonics actually can work, too)


The animal's body temperature falls to about 10C until it is in a state of "profound hypothermia" and has no pulse and no electrical activity in its brain.
But after the blood stored earlier is warmed and pumped back into the pig's body its heart starts beating again and it comes back to life.


Source (http://smh.com.au/news/health-and-fitness/doctors-claim-suspended-animation-success/2006/01/20/1137553739997.html#)

setekhite
08-02-2006, 06:06
I have proven, in my thesis, that consciousness is merely the description of a particular set of behaviours that may be instantiated by certain kinds of mechanisms.

Proved, or concluded? It merely strikes me that since 'consciousness' is a slightly wooly term based on human perception, that statement is more of a tautology than anything else.



You would need quite literally storage capacity on one of the larger orders of infinity to store such a set of information

Any order of infinity is still infinity. If you're trying to take a snapshot of a finite system, the complexity and requisite data storage is still finite - in this case, perhaps, down to the spin on every subatomic particle in a brain.




Now, Clarke's dictum that technology sufficiently advanced will be equivalent to magic is incoherent when analyzed seriously.


I seem to recall the line was 'indistinguishable from magic'. That's a rather different thing from 'equivalent to'.


The concept of advancement in technology, for example, is a category mistake; technology is not something that advances or regresses, it just is.

If you choose to define technology as "all things which are physically possible" that's the case. If, on the other hand, you define it as "that which can be readily and reliably accomplished" (which is really what most people refer to) then it does indeed advance or regress for a given group.


As such, the analogy of the difference between coal and fusion power stations is misleading because the order of difference between those things is a different one from the order of difference between a conscious brain and an unconscious machine.

OK, but I was merely suggesting that your example (tank vs race car) didn't make enough of a difference...


Consider it an axiom.

OK. You've certainly created a very well-reasoned case as to why the difficulties involved in creating a Necron without recourse to a living Necrontry would make it extremely impractical, if not necessarily impossible (if only on the grounds of the difficulty of proving a negative). Within the context of the original question, the two are pretty well equivalent. Those difficulties would also explain why most Necrons are only a shadow of their former selves (fossilised snapshots of a mind) rather than conscious beings - I've always felt that, other than Lords, Necrons aren't truly conscious but merely driven by a programme modelled after their earlier lives.

setekhite
09-02-2006, 05:42
You see while a brain is finite, the mind or set of conscious behaviour producible by that organ is infinite in membership. At any particular juncture the observed behaviour of that brain will be finite whether countable or not. But even an entire lifetime of behaviour will not give you enough information to describe a mind. The fluid nature of mind is related to its potentiality as much as its actuality.

Is the issue there one of the number of possible combinations in a brain against the number that can be achieved in a lifetime? If you have a limited number of components, in a limited space, there must be an upper limit to the upper number of ‘states of mind’ possible. It’s a very big number, and without knowing external stimuli you couldn’t predict which states would be obtained, but there would be a finite upper limit to the number possible.


Any attempt to copy a mind by recording the observable or predicted behaviour of a conscious subject will fail like any attempt to copy a mind by copying the machine that produces it.

How is it that you quantify failure in this case? To come back to our fictional mechanoids, I wonder if we’ve gone from strict creation into copying. The question should perhaps be not ‘can the Necrontyr’s mind be re-created’ but ‘can a functioning mind derived from the original Necrontyr be created’? If the answer is no to the first and yes to the second, that seems to fit well with the established Necron background where they were dramatically altered by the translation. Because of potentiality, and the importance of external influences, a Necron (however sophisticated) is a new entity patterned after its ‘parent’ Necrontyr, nothing more or less. It’s a shadow, but one that will make its own way forwards after creation.


When Clarke's dictum makes some technology equivalent to magic, he's failing modal logic 101 because equivalence requires the same value of the information, modal operators included. All technology is potentially explicable, and no magic is potentially explicable. So if we agree with Clarke and say that some technology is currently inexplicable, and that makes it indistinguishable from magic, such that so far as we're concerned it is equivalent to magic, then we are saying that a potentially explicable thing cannot potentially be explained. That is, as I mentioned, incoherent.

To be blunt, you’re applying the rigor of modal logic to something that was not originally constructed using it. It’s rather akin to dropping an artillery shell onto a house and then stating that it wasn’t built well enough. Clarke’s dictum seemed to me to point out exactly the behaviour you noted earlier, that of people treating technology they don’t understand as magic; in this instance, quoted because it makes a point that just because you can’t understand how something could be done, it does not mean it is utterly impossible. For one thing, you’d have to assume that you knew every possible factor first, which except in closed, rigidly defined academic exercises is impossible.


Both definitions that you give would be inaccurate definitions of technology. Technology is simply applied science - the use of knowledge to achieve a desired result. They were. That will teach me to come up with definitions while leaving my dictionary at work. J


: I'll just mention that proving a negative is rather easy, as you simply have to show that an unacceptable level of contradiction may be derived from assuming the opposite or alternate cases of that negative. It's a form of proof called "proof by contradiction" or "reductio ad absurdem" (i.e.: the opposite would be unacceptably incoherent, so we accept the case).

I’m working from a grounding in classical mathematics which is 10 years old and not well revisited, so I’d been working along the lines that to prove a negative you had to prove it for every possible value of a system – which then runs into the problem of needing a closed system. What you quote is, of course, the standard to which most of us work in real life without consciously considering it.
(braces for barrage of scorn on the failings of classical mathematics(/i)).

Anyway, back on topic…


They're not exactly equivalent, as the possibility that building Necrons may be impractical is contained in the proposition that Necrons may be built rather than printed from Necrontyr bodies.

With what’s in the background canon, what stops this from being the case? Accepting that a mind cannot be copied, if the bulk of Necron footsoldiers are essentially mindless, then with the limitations you’ve supplied they could still be built rather than printed at the price of not being conscious. It may not be completely explicit in the canon, but it’s an idea I’ve always liked. To fit the background, all a Necron Immortal would have to be able to do is pass a Turing test as being the continued existence of its Necrontyr parent (in order to fool less-loyal Necrontyr into believing the process works). Only in the case of a fully self aware Necron Lord would a full translation be required. With hindsight, I should have opened the debate around [i]“what is a Necron?” before asking if new ones could be created.

The alternative to fit the written background is that the Necrons can build something that looks and acts like a Necron Warrior, but is actually a true machine along the order of a Tomb Spyder. Of course, if it’s shooting at you the difference is fairly academic, but it would explain how in some accounts the Necrons are quite ‘alive’ and in others appear to be nothing more than machines. Over time, the number of ‘real’ Necrons will have declined while the number of warrior-constructs will have risen.

My pre-Codex idea about the Necrons was that only the Lords were self-aware individuals, while the lower orders were just servant-constructs. It certainly seemed to fit with the way that the Lords were built, functioned and equipped as individuals, while other types had no variation. With the size of tombs in the background, and the apparent ratio of Lords to other types, this still meant each tomb housing thousands of ‘ex-Necrontyr’ Necrons.

[quote]That's not to say that you can't build conscious things. After all, nature does that all the time - it just takes lots of time and the product is squishy.[quote]

Here, of course, we run into GW’s ‘get out clause’ – living metal. Whatever this substance may be, it appears to possess many of the qualities associated with ‘squishy’ organic systems. Living Metal could be huge clusters of nanomachines mimicking the functions of living cells; could this be the technological leap that allows for the creation of an artificial, non-squishy system with comparable flexibility and potential to a mind? It would not be a mind or a consciousness in the sense that a human would instinctively understand, but it might have the capability for rational or even creative thought – such as merging Necron technology with human components to create Pariahs.

The Hoff
09-02-2006, 11:45
I lift my glass to you Nurglitch, your knowledge in this area is most impressive (to the point of being intimidating :)).

A thorough enjoyable read. You should do you're next thesis on the Necrons, you would be sure to take home the Nobel prize.

Sai-Lauren
09-02-2006, 14:27
At the risk of getting trampled by superior knowlege on the subject, I'd jsut like to offer my thoughts.

IMO, when Necrons were created, they simply took the neural patterns of the Necrontyr that was being scanned, and everything else, conciousness, thoughts, dreams, was discarded with the body - flesh becomes meat, and the soul is cut adrift in the warp. The Necron lords were treated slightly differently, in that they were the leaders and priests, and they got more advanced storage circuits so they could still lead their troops more effectively without requiring constant supervision from their C'Tan overlords.

So, if the patterns were stored somewhere, then all the tombs need to do is created new bodies, download a copy of the neural patterns and off they go. There may be some form of "network interference" if the same neural pattern is used multiple times - think of ip conflicts in a computer network - that restrict the use of multiple copies.

There is also the Pariahs and what's happening on Mars, where it seems that souls are being cut adrift, and it's an all-you can eat buffet for the daemons. Maybe the patterning machines still exist, and that sometimes captives or willing subjects are taken back to tomb worlds, their minds scanned for important information, then their patterns are drawn off and a new necron warrior made.


You could produce a simulation of a mind by printing the nervous system of a prepared (trained) Necrontyr. The resulting Necron will appear to behave as though conscious in limited conditions, but only in those conditions for which its hard-wired programming can process into action. If the Necrontyr has been trained well, then its Necron shadow should be able to re-enact the behaviour for which the Necrontyr drilled.
Basically, you're referring to an expert system.

El_Machinae
09-02-2006, 15:55
So the fact that a brain may be stopped and restarted, in similar fashion to a digital computer, is irrelevant to whether its mind-program may be copied and run on another computer mechanism.

Really?

Stop a brain (freezing). Recontruct another brain by copying the original. Restart them both.

You now have a functional copy.

If you can copy a brain using biology, then you can mimic all the processes of biology using a brain. There's no 'magic' in a brain that only works through the magic of biology.

You can copy an arm using technology, such that an amputee functions as if his biological arm was replaced. If the copy is not good enough, that's just a function of engineering.

El_Machinae
09-02-2006, 16:00
Nurglitch ... you seem to think that a mechanical neural network cannot change - it is 'hardwired'.

This doesn't need to be the case. It just needs to be sufficiently advanced such that it can change itself as it receives new stimuli.

Heck, all of our neurons are 'hard-wired' too. Our DNA in each cell doesn't change (well ... much), but the machine of the neuron changes with its environment.

El_Machinae
09-02-2006, 18:31
No, you simply have a duplicate machine. Whether that copy is a functional copy depends on whether the input to the machine is also identical.

Well, as soon as the machines receive different input, they become individuals. You get two new people, of course. Similarily, twins receive the same hardcoding, but different input, meaning they are different people.

If you give the duplicate machines the same input (ignoring quatum mechanics for this), you'll get the same conclusions out of both brains - no 'new' thoughts would be generated.

If the substrate for the 'mind' was capable of being plastic, would that be more to your liking? Would it then be more likely that you could create an artificial mind.

El_Machinae
09-02-2006, 20:26
Ah, you're not as crazy as I thought ...


What's not possible is copying or duplicating individual minds. A consequence of this is that individual minds are unique

What's the difference then, of freezing a mind into a static position, moving the body over ten feet, and then thawing the poor fellow

vs.

Freezing a mind, building a duplicate mind ten feet away, and animating it (keeping the original frozen, or destroyed).

I'd say they're the same thing.

Now, if you animated the original, you'd have two individuals. But changing the input into a mind ALWAYS creates a new mind. The 'mind' is changing every quata of a second. But you're still 'you'. Isn't duplicating the mind just a more brutal 'change'?

El_Machinae
10-02-2006, 17:04
So a frozen brain is still a mind, even when it's frozen?

C'tan
10-02-2006, 17:44
It may be impossible, even inconceivable, given real world science, but the Necrons are vastly beyond that stage. You use the analogy of a car and a tank, but perhaps a better analogy might be coal and fusion power stations; the effect and purpose are the same, but the mechanisms are radically different.

Your theory, while coherent, is conditional on the impossibility of artificially replicating neural circuitry. Under the circumstances (hyper-advanced aliens with sentient gas clouds as allies) that is, at best, an assumption.
We're talking about gods who feed off stars, and make machines to do their bidding. Real life doesn't come in to it.

El_Machinae
10-02-2006, 20:50
No, brains are not minds.

I clearly missed one of your posts that prove that we need to care if there's even a difference.

El_Machinae
10-02-2006, 22:22
Hmmmn, no I got that one.

Okay, with my 'frozen brain' example, one could produce unique individuals by copying the frozen brain and animating it within a unique body. The individual would start off being very similar to the original, and then drift in behaviour (if it was capable of learning).

It would remember being a necrontyr about to be frozen, and then it would remember waking in a necron body.

Since the frozen brain of the necrontyr does not have to be destroyed in the process, more copies could be made. In fact, a machine could easily be made to stamp out these creatures.

El_Machinae
11-02-2006, 16:01
Well, first off, we have to assume that a neuron (or all essential neuronal funcitons) can be mimicked using technology. We can sufficiently replicate an arm, a heart, an eye, etc. using technology, so why not a neuron? There's no good reason. All that we need is to replace each neuron with a 'robot neuron' or replace it with a processor that mimics how a neuron would act with regards to hormone responses, signal activation, interface seeking, potentiation, etc.

Now, how does one go about freezing a brain without harming it?

First off the brain can be harmed (since we're disposing of it anyway), as long as the harm is factored out when the new brain is being designed. By analogy, if you see a broken glass, you can design an identical glass to replace it, despite the breaks, because you have the intelligence to factor in the breaks.

Once the brain is frozen, a snap shot of each neuron can be made, from multiple angles, because a neuron is a discrete object. You don't need to get 100% of the information stored in the neuron, just enough to build a replacement machine - so you need information like: cell size, relative cell location, cell interconnections, etc. You don't need the current electrical potential of the cell, but you probably need to know its membrane make-up.

Remember the link I gave, all electrical activity in the pig's brains was stopped, and then restarted by reintroducing blood. As well, an epileptic has severe chemical activity during a seizure, but in both cases the mind survives these two chemical shakeups.

Finally, all that's required is placing the cybertic neurons (or processors programmed with mimicking neuronal function) with the same relative positioning, and then restarting it.

All this needs for an assumption is that a machine can mimick a biological process.

Sephiroth
11-02-2006, 16:48
Yes, new Necrons can be created. The whole reason the C'Tan set themselves up as Gods on some worlds is for the very purpose of recruiting new Necrons.

When a species is deemed to have passed all trials of their God, they will be elevated to stand alongside his current warriors.

Those that fail in some way, are wiped out.

El_Machinae
11-02-2006, 19:46
Yes, and that assumption needs to be justified. How is it possible?

I'll read your link in a bit. edit: thanks

But, if a heart can be replaced by a machine, a neuron should be able to be replaced as well. Remember, there's nothing 'magic' about the neuron.

In addition, there was no need to preserve the original brain, just the information regarding how it was coordinated (a combination of chemical laws, current biochemistry, and current networking configuration). The necrontyr were replaced by the necrons.

Finally, the freezing process results in predicatable damage. My broken-glass analogy still stands. Once the brain is frozen, it will no longer change.

My point with the pigs and epilepsy is that enough 'information' seems to be preserved in the structure that if the process is stopped (or damaged) intelligence returns after the process starts again.