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Xavier
16-08-2007, 18:40
Help to settle an argument if you would.

Machine spirits; what is inhabited by them, what pieces of equipment in the Imperium would have a 'sentient' machine spirit.


A Machine Spirit is a spirit believed by the Adeptus Mechanicus (and, from that source, by most other humans from the Imperium of Man) to inhabit and control a piece of machinery.

The functioning, or lack thereof, of any machine is believed to be the result of its spirit's disposition. To keep their machine spirits happy and cooperative, operators therefore make numerous ritualised advances to their machinery. These depend on the machine, but in most cases include various maintenance rituals and prayers of function and occasionally also an offering or libation. This is increased if the machine is large or important.

Machine spirits are believed to be bestowed by the Machine God and subservient to him. They are in every vital weapon used by those who follow the Emperor. From bolters to power armor, the blessing of the Machine God allows for the Emperor's enemies to be defeated. Even members of the Elite Death Watch are careful to leave some of the original power armor colours as not to offend the machine spirit that resides within[3].

^ Wikipedia's opinion.

Brother Siccarius
16-08-2007, 19:05
The explanation of machine spirits ranges widely depending on what you're looking at.

The Land Raider and it's variants do have a "Machine Spirit" which is a partially organic component of it's construction that takes over when the drivers and gunners are otherwise unable to.

In many cases simple maintenance procedures (Or even normal operation procedures) such as proper lubrication of moving parts and care for delicate electronic equipment has been taken to a whole new level of superstition, where these simple processes are taken as soothing a consciousness within the machine. Of course this isn't too far off from what many people do today, treating each kink and reoccurring problem as part of a machine's personality.

Then there are other things, like lasguns the AK-47 of the future, that require little to no maintenance what-so-ever, but are still seen as having their own personalities by the superstitious people who use them.

Mechanicus
16-08-2007, 19:11
In Mechanicus dogma, I expect all machines are inhabited by sentient machine spirits. Even xenos ones, but they are enslaved and bound (like daemonhosts, and like daemonhosts, I presume the ones that are less tightly bound rebel more (malfunctions, etc) and the ones that are tightly bound function more effectively, raising interesting points about ork machinery and their reliability). Though, obviously, I would assume only the machine spirits blessed with interfaces can interact in a meaningful way with the outside world, showing their sentience (I.E., computer programs like cogitators and Land Raider machine spirits). ;)

Captain_Ardias
16-08-2007, 21:20
wow, I must have been way off. I had always gone with the idea that the spirits of things such as titans and land raiders were A.I. type computer programs (power of the 'machine spirit') and things such as cogitators and servitors had basic computer programs and the remnants of the occupants minds to form their machine spirit.

Things such as rhinos and boltguns would have simple interfaces and feedbacks (such as the boltgun's targeting sights or the rhinos navigation and communication systems) but to unschooled members of the Imperium this would seem to be just as magical and just as deserving of the term 'spirit'

just my take on it though.

Brother Siccarius
16-08-2007, 22:02
A.I. Of almost any type was outlawed before the Great Crusade. It's one of the Taboos of the Imperium and humanity.

AI were originally used during the Dark Age of Technology when populating the stars, but they turned on Humanity and started a long war. Hence any real sentience in machine is done through organic components like the brains of servitors and the organic components in the Land Raider's Machine Spirit (Likely a human brain kept alive and used for the computations).

But like I said, there are some things that simply don't have any real intelligence, but are treated as if they do, much like the way a technician or mechanic might believe that the pieces of machinery they work on have a real personality.
The Lasgun has no sentience, and no interfaces or feedbacks. The Boltgun has no sentience what-so-ever, though the 3rd edition rulebook showed a palm-print sensor and a autosense sight link so would have marginally more feedback and interface options than the lasgun. Machine Spirits are in the mind of the beholder.

TrooperTino
17-08-2007, 03:22
what about more complex machines like starships or titans? I think of the comic Titan where Imperius Dictatio is sentient in some way, and even stores the ghosts of its former Princeps. Starships may be sentient in some way, too (theres a hint in souldrinkers for example, and I think its mentioned elsewhere in the fluff, too). Not like what we mean with A.I. (which is supposed to be nearly human), but much more than simple computers.

Khaine's Messenger
17-08-2007, 03:38
Help to settle an argument if you would.

Welcome to 40k.


what is inhabited by them

They are believed to inhabit any and all machines, even those that have never known the touch or sight of man; as Mechanicus rightly notes, even the alien mechanism is believed to be inhabited by Machine Spirits, tormented and twisted though they are (better to put them out of their misery).

Some of the more absurdist mechanicus philosophers who contemplate the status of organic life as a form of machine might even posit that every complex system might have a machine spirit. But at that point you would reach a runaway number of "machine spirits," and one may as well wonder why such a rich and diverse theology with many and varied temperamental beings has not supplanted the worship of the Emperor. Especially as it is obvious from the background that the Emperor is merely the chief among the many gods worshipped by Men. If one takes that route, the distinction may as well have no meaning, and the AdMech may run its course as all other religions.

No, there's a machine spirit to each "distinct" device, and that's the end of it; any fancy notions of higher, abstract machine spirits are just for purposes of metaphor and politics. And anything that has, in its blueprints, a place where you can point and say "that's where the machine spirit roosts" is, coincidentally, one of the devices that has been known to go on autonomous rampages. Titans, for instance, and Land Raiders. Not necessarily due to AI/Expert Programs/etc. alone (I suggest a forum search--there's been some pretty interesting discussions), but also due to things like psychic feedback from pilots and the like.

However, a special point must be made of servitors and other such poor souls; being turned into a servitor is a punishment, not a blessing. And this is because all servitors are forever denied the Quest for Knowledge as the Mechanicus knows it--they're rendered intellectually inert and thus become incapable of grasping at Comprehension. Whatever machine spirits they have are found in their augmentations alone.

The above is sort of thrown together with my recollection of the =][= articles pertaining to the Mechanicus, which I suggest you read (they're available for free on the specialist games website). I don't think the Wikipedia article is wrong per se, merely incomplete; machine spirits are a sort of bugbear of the setting, a sort of odd-man out in a world with very real and very concrete "daemons." Indeed, psychic powers can manipulate machines...there's even various forms of warp-taint that infest you with some really bad sticky-fingers with regards to machines. But very few machines are possessed of the sort of animating intelligence that Titans are. And being exhaustive would, I think, miss the point....

Drogmir
17-08-2007, 07:05
I remember from 15 hours even the lasgun is read rights.

That means they treat the machine spirit in all tech. but if there really is a spirit there is up to debate.

Green-is-best
17-08-2007, 08:11
I think that a lot of so-called machine spirits are still AIs. Most of the technology used by the Imperium is the product of the STC, meaning that it predates the outlawing of AI. Given the Mechanicum's reverence for the STC and limited understanding of its products, it seems unlikely they would or could re-engineer a fundemental element of an STC design.

RedStompa
17-08-2007, 12:09
I always through they were AIs as well, but whe i read Soul Drinkers I got a totally different picture- true it was on a space hulk, but it had been with the Adeptus Exporator before it got incorporated into the hulk... when Sarpedon fought it it was 'living' circustry, and it knew full well that it had been posesed by a daemon, and wanted to serve the Emperor... it was also directly attacking Soul Drinker peons and Marines when they found it.

swordwind
17-08-2007, 12:25
There is no such thing as the machine spirit.

It is simply a stressed out mechanic trying to repair a broken engine smacking the thing with a hammer and muttering "please work, please work, please work" given 38,000 years of dogma and superstition and no real understanding of how anything actually works anymore.

Born Again
17-08-2007, 12:32
Machine spirits could be anything from a very complex A.I system (more likely in a Land Raider than in a lasgun), millenia of superstition and the Ad Mech being too worried people might figure out how to do things for themselves, or a tiny part of the Void Dragon contained in each machine, like a tiny Avatar. Conspire away...

Like so many things in 40k: we don't know.

Mechanicus
17-08-2007, 12:41
There is no such thing as the machine spirit.

It is simply a stressed out mechanic trying to repair a broken engine smacking the thing with a hammer and muttering "please work, please work, please work" given 38,000 years of dogma and superstition and no real understanding of how anything actually works anymore.The Machine Spirit is as likely to exist as anything else in a universe where gods and daemons exist, possession is a real threat, and beings with supernatural powers exist.

And besides, as far as we know, advanced understanding of technology and science may well exist. We only get a snapshot of the lower levels of the Cult Mechanicus, and given that knowledge is the prime ideal of the Cult Mechanicus, as a person progresses in the Cult, they would gain more knowledge. So it is reasonable to assume that the Adeptus Mechanicus could, and probably would, have detailed knowledge of the workings of machinery and scientific principles. It's just that the Cult guards this knowledge against the unwashed masses, because their knowledge is what secures their position of autonomy and influence in the Imperium. It's as much self-preservation as anything.

Gorbad Ironclaw
17-08-2007, 14:39
Of course, it's also entirely possible that the Adeptus Mechanicus does use A.I.s, remember, they are not actually part of the Emperium, but allied to it, and have there own beliefes, dogmas and laws. So they could easily hide A.I. technology and use it in loads of different machines, calling it the machien spirit to the uninitiated, and making it appear as if it's still powered by a human somewhere along the line.

icegreentea
17-08-2007, 17:27
i always thought the machine spirit was originally formed (like when the rest of technology became a religion) to hand wave away the intricacies of exactly how something works, while keeping users all ready to treat the machine well/maintain it. its the thing to makes the machine work, and to keep to working you have to keep it happy, mostly be praying, preforming maintainance on it, and generally treating the machine well.

aside from the above (which covers pretty much any imperial machine), there also seems to be primitive AI in some of the more complex machines (titans, and landraiders) which are also refered to as machine spirits. in order to get around the whole AI ban, they just have some brain wired into a cognitor or something fun like that. i dont remember the exact source, but i remember some story about a landraider who had its crew all killed, and it raged around the battlefield byself blowing up stuff till it ran out of ammo of something.

SonofUltramar
17-08-2007, 19:14
A.I. Of almost any type was outlawed before the Great Crusade. It's one of the Taboos of the Imperium and humanity.

I was under the impression that Sentient Robot technology was outlawed but i don't recall AI being banned?

As far i was concerned a Machine Spirit was a rudimentary computer intelligence which is able to analyze its surroundings using Auspexes and targeting systems to engage the enemy if needed? It has no higher "brain" function and cannot rationilise problems but instead uses a program to overcome preset situations, abliet many thousands of situations?

TheBedla
17-08-2007, 19:39
(My view based upon a research for my Admech force:)

A machine spirit is an AdMech term, and can actually mean two things:
a) the principle because of which every machine operates. i.e., there is one in every machine (I guess they won't think a machine spirit is in a hammer, but a weak one will be in a drill). A machine spirit must be tended correctly for the machine to work - you must "satisfy it" with "holy fuel" and "activation of runes" (in fact pour in some gas and oil and switch the damn thing on).
b) a "strong" machine spirit is in fact a simple AI, in some cases semi-conscient (or even more then semi, in the instance of the Titans), e.g. a Landraider spirit.

So it can be both only an AdMech superstition, as well as a "real" entity (the latter giving a lot of credibility to the former)
Hope it came out comprehensible...

CELS
17-08-2007, 19:40
Meh... I'm pretty sure GW doesn't answer this question directly, but instead (as usual) leaves it up to the reader to decide for him/herself. As Marc Gascoigne would probably say... "Yes, no and maybe."

Having then undermined some of the more bombastic replies in this thread, allow me to provide my own interpretation. The way I see it, a Machine Spirit is basically artificial intelligence with a soul. The reason robots are banned in the Imperium, is because they are intelligence without souls. Machine spirits, on the other hand, are souls and thus in some ways more alive than robots. They are actually spirits.

It is my interpretation that this is the way it has always been, but those who aren't enlightened in the ways of technology (read: most people in the Imperium) fail to make the distinction, and thus start believing that not only Titans and similar constructions have Machine Spirits, but also Thunderbolts, power armour, chainswords and hammers.

The reason I prefer this interpretation over "All machines have machine spirits" is because a 'machine' can be a bit hard to define in a satisfying way. According to the dictionary, it is "an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work". Among the examples given is a bicycle. Now, I don't know about you, but I refuse to believe that anyone in the Imperium except maybe a senile Ogryn would hold that this (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3e/Torker_Unicycle.JPG) machine has a spirit. That is, unless you favour the interpretation of Warhammer 40,000 wherein the Adeptus Mechanicus are a bunch of ignorant theocrats who have no skill what-so-ever beyond the ability to read and recall holy texts and schematics. *yawn*

Kage2020
18-08-2007, 03:10
If you will forgive me, this question comes up sufficiently frequently that I created a 'stock answer' for it:


This question commonly crops up on the various 40k boards. Ultimately the answer comes down to just how you wish to interpret the 40k universe. A sci-fi fan might, perhaps, believe that it is an AI and use the Land Raider as supporting evidence. On the other hand, someone who prefers their fiction a tad more fantastical, future fantasy or otherwise, might use Chaos vehicles that seem to be "possessed" or at least "corrupted" to indicate that it is actually a supernatural entity. Someone of a more anthropological bent might question the actual category of 'machine spirit' itself, subsuming it under the title "animism" and, rather than determining the existence of it, question just what it means.

Anyway, following are some potential options as to the identity of the "machine spirit". What it is important to remember is that they are not exclusive of each other, but rather complimentary depending on the interpretation and approach of the individual in question.

Attribution: The premise of the 'machine spirit' is a product of the adeptus mechanicus' inherently animistic faith. One can argue that, in this case, the 'machine spirit' is seen as a fragment of the Machine God inherent to all appropriate blessed (read: human) technologies. Of course, just because that is what the adeptus mechanicus believes doesn't necessarily make it true!
Expert Systems: Certain systems can be dedicated to a very specific act, performing it as well if not superior to a human. In a universe that takes the biological as being superior, this might be attributed as the 'ghost in the machine', or a 'machine spirit'. For example, automated targetting or gunnery systems might fall under this category.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Psuedo/Programmed Intelligence (AI/PI): As with Expert Systems, except now it covers a broader range of activities and/or abilities. The 'intelligence' is, however, programmed and shouldn't be thought of as sapience, even though it might give the illusion of that. One might argue that the Land Raider's 'machine spirit' is an example of this.
Machine Intelligence (MI): A true, inorganic (or whatever) intelligence. Otherwise much the same as AI/PI.
Supernatural: In the 40k universe ghosts, goblins and ghouls do exist. The 'machine spirit' might really refer to an attached spirit, or the development of supernatural characters through a variation on psychometry, etc.

As above, all of these can operate in the 40k universe at one time even within a single 'thing'. Consider, for example, that I used the example of AI/PI 'machine spirit' with the Land Raider, implying that it is not truly sapient but gives the illusion of this. There is, of course, nothing that is stopping it from developing into a true MI. Similarly, in the 40k universe there is nothing to stop a supernatural 'machine spirit' from coming to interact with the AI/PI control systems.

40k is a fun and funky game universe where the questions and the possibilities are normally more interesting than the answers, though it's always nice to have those answers! :D
So, that's what it is to me. A bit of everything. It just depends on how you want to define things.


Of course this isn't too far off from what many people do today, treating each kink and reoccurring problem as part of a machine's personality.
Or making it the result of daemonic possession. Vista, anyone? ;)


In Mechanicus dogma, I expect all machines are inhabited by sentient machine spirits.
That would be the animism approach. Of course, just because the Adeptus Mechanicus might take an animistic approach doesn't mean that they cannot treat machines rationally. Or, at least, rationally in their own paradigm. <grin>


A.I. Of almost any type was outlawed before the Great Crusade. It's one of the Taboos of the Imperium and humanity.
Which is not to say that it is not present. After all, "artificial" intelligence has the suggestion of programming, in which case servitors are AI made manifest. ;)

Of course, that might be argued to be an essential rather than thematic view, and 40k is all about themes.


I think of the comic Titan where Imperius Dictatio is sentient in some way...
Hence the "Supernatural" category, above. With the 40k universe even normally inanimate objects can acquire 'sentience,' or 'feeling.' It's like a
variation of psychometry -- the continual accumulation of psychic residue/experience.


However, a special point must be made of servitors and other such poor souls; being turned into a servitor is a punishment, not a blessing.
Yet in many ways they are more valued than a basic "slave." But, yes, it is not just about replacement of limbs but about understanding. Hence the whole 'cult of knowledge' thing.


Given the Mechanicum's reverence for the STC and limited understanding of its products...
Although care must generally be given with that comment, since that then gets us into the "Adeptus Me-can-icus" versus "Adeptus Me-can't-icus" debate: does the Adeptus Mechanicus understand their technology or not?

Okay, I'll stop with the quote thing for now... :D

Kage

Brother Siccarius
18-08-2007, 06:03
The only real problem with saying the Land Raider is an AI is that it isn't fully sentient in any real way. It has two functions, moving the land raider foreword or systematically targeting the enemy with imprecise shots. It's not fully able to Pilot itself precisely or function on the battlefield without the crew doing most of the work most of the time.

If I remember correctly (and I sometimes do to the surprise of myself and everyone else) the Chapter Approved article that contained the detailed blueprint of the Land Raider mentioned that the Machine Spirit was semi-organic meaning that it's not quite AI at all but actual intelligence from the organic parts.

RapidKiller
18-08-2007, 06:12
in the rule book there is a peice of fluff that describes the machine spirit of a titan to be very very angry. as i recall a. i. does not have emotions. so go figure...

Kage2020
18-08-2007, 15:02
The only real problem with saying the Land Raider is an AI is that it isn't fully sentient in any real way. It has two functions, moving the land raider foreword or systematically targeting the enemy with imprecise shots.
That's one of the reasons that I throw the Land Raider into the "Expert System" class, above.

Also, I did not think that emotions - or the lack thereof - defined AI...

Kage

Khaine's Messenger
20-08-2007, 05:17
The reason I prefer this interpretation over "All machines have machine spirits" is because a 'machine' can be a bit hard to define in a satisfying way.

Indeed. It should be clarified that "all machine have machine spirits" is a stance taken as a belief that speaks volumes about an individual's stance on many other things. Very few machines have (so far as we know), as a part of their technical layout, a place where the AdMech has put a "the Machine Spirit is here" sign...as the Land Raider and Titan do. Therefore it is easy to clarify the wiki quote posted by the OP by beginning with a blanket statement of what a Machine Spirit is (to the best of present knowledge) followed by what everyone else believes it to be. Which I think you and Kage did well.


Now, I don't know about you, but I refuse to believe that anyone in the Imperium except maybe a senile Ogryn would hold that this (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3e/Torker_Unicycle.JPG) machine has a spirit.

See, I see a statement like that and wonder if it is necessary to reject out of hand the spiritual nature of reality in order to accept its more technical details. This isn't a case of "both are true" necessarily, but the metaphysics of 40k seem to allow for the intellectual pursuit of spiritual phenomena...and while worrying over a bicycle's "machine spirit" may seem absurd and unthinkable (most people probably do not worry over it), there's bound to be some damnfool who's done it. Just as there are factions of the AdMech that take a liberal stance as to what actually constitutes a "machine" (in terms of scale, complexity, and makeup). They're not blind to normal technical details, but instead have actually developed a philosophy around some obscure ideal in the Quest for Knowledge.