Technology line
7th Jul, 2011

This is how I see the order of technology advancement  in 40K (and Sciror). Each level of tech building on the last, with speculative breakthroughs, and incorporating the flavour of the setting.  It’s how all the technologies link together, of all the species of 40K, and how that technology integrates with a setting that includes extra-science (the warp) and the knock on phenomena of psi-powers.

This follows on from my cogitator page;

Technology advancement
Below is the technology line I used to describe mundane technology.

Pre-Electronic > Electronic > Optoelectronics* > Stacked Photonics**

*Optoelectronics is a hybrid of electronics and photonics.
** Something akin to 40K’s crystal tech – 3D stacked chips.

Nanotechnology and biology
Optoelectronics is incredibly complex and at some point I imagine the manufacturers of such tech to start using nanotechnology to build ever more complex ‘chips’ that are ‘stacked’ – 3D.

The most advanced nanotechnology we know off is biology (humans are a bog flesh bag of nanotech), and once the nanotechnology used to build these chips is interlinked and convoluted enough, it becomes a form of artificial biology, and may included actual biology re-purposed for this new task.

Therefore the next jump from stacked photonics is to use ‘biology’ to build, integrate, and maintain the technology. To describe this technology, in a pragmatic fashion, I fused biology and photonics into ‘bio-photonics‘.

This technology is a true fusion, where bioluminescence ‘powers’ the photonic chip. The ‘gates’ in the chip are within biological cells. However the actual structures that carry the light are ‘dead’ like enamel on our teeth, something like carbon nano-tubes.

Rise of psi-technology
Once biology is introduced that can ‘think’, there is potential to access the warp. The unusual thing about a machine intelligence based on ‘bio-photonics’ is the level of concentration. If placed in a loop, it starts to generate a psi-field. The longer it runs, the more of a field it produces until a maximum level is reached. More power (more ‘threads’, faster processing) creates a bigger field and noticeable local distortion in the laws of physics.

This is how border-space was discovered, and later the warp.

Calculated warp jumps
This ‘biological’ component to computers is also why I imagine the old warp drives from the Rogue Trader era could take a snap shot of the warp. The can ‘see’ it, but they were limited.

Integrating this technology, the biological bit, in humans makes hybrids – navigators. They are more flexible that the machine minds found in warp drives, as humans already have a mind, plus a complex set of latent abilities.

It was easier than ‘reinventing the wheel’.

The difference between this human derived technology and the Eldar is degree. The Eldar are so integrated and bonded with their tech is hard to tell where they start and the technology ends. In effect the Eldar are their own technology.

This is far in advance of what humans/ Ad-Mec can do. It’s a level above. The Eldar can conjure matter from thin air (warp), by transmuting warp energy into Materium energy and then matter. This is a feat of technical ability far beyond what humans are capable.

Going back to the line;

Pre-Electronic > Electronic > Optoelectronics* > Photonics > Bio-Phonics** (psi) > Eldar***

* Nano-tech from now on.
** Biology from now on.
*** In Psyker humans this is messy

Mundane technology inevitably leads to psi-technology. The highest level of technology is a Psyker. The Eldar are very controlled, they are like the ‘old money’ of Psykers, humans are not (new money).

The consolidates the technology line. There are anomalies, like the Jokaero and Orcs, both share common concepts in regards to technology. Jokaero are non-psykers who can build psyker tech that is not in and of itself ‘psionic’. Orks have psyker abilities and can build psyker tech in a similar fashion, but less advanced than the Jokaero. I would put them as a variant in between the Humans and Eldar.

The above is ‘simplified’ as there can be many branches (like Orcs, Jokaero, Nids, Necrons!) but all are coming from this central trunk of the technology line.

4 Responses

Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in you are most welcome!

  1. Kage2020 says:

    As always, I’m not particularly a fan of this approach when it comes to the 40k universe, but as a general approach to a setting it has a kind of elegant symmetry.  That is, magic is the alpha and the omega; the beginning and the end.  Cultures start off viewing the world as a magical creation filled with spirits, mana or whatever.  Through science they distill it down to forces, atoms, laws of a rationalised world.  Then, through technology, they find magic once again calling it “biophonics” or whatever, the same force that sang the megalithic structures together.

    I think that you should read the Age of Misrule books by Chadbourn.  It’s actually remarkable it is to what you’re talking about even it comes from a different angle (i.e. mythology).  These books are actually getting quite a bit of love for my Shadowrun Apocalypse project since it ties into the “big picture” elements that I’m rather fond of and which tie in perfectly for the juxtaposition of Earthdawn and Shadowrun.  

    Err, but there you go. 😀

    • Philip S says:

      I might give Age of Misrule a try, I had a look on Amazon and it seems to be a fantasy novel? It might be nice for a change of scene.

      In the bio-tech sphere I’m reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (an acquired taste). It creates a vivid picture of gene tech flourishing in a low power environment. Kinda like a fleshy Blade Runner, or at least that’s how I imagine the aesthetics within my dreamscape.

      The idea that, because bio-tech grows, it is much easier to propagate in a low tech/power environment compared to inorganic tech you have to actually make, appeals to my vision of the Ad-Mec (a part of that vision). I like the idea that any world, or environment, that can support life can support bio-tech. No matter how primitive the world’s tech base/ infrastructure is; the Ad-Mec can deploy tech with minimal external (off-world) support and supply.

      Perhaps the Ad-Mec can to grow batteries, bio-fuel cells, with a energy source injected into the the device. It might be a bit weird ‘feeding’ a device, or going with plant based tech and have a kindle sitting in a bowl of water, basking in the sun, to charge up. However it might not be that bad if it gives you a week of non-stop use. A lot of our modern day tech is pushing towards low power, I wonder how far it will go…


      • Kage2020 says:

        Yeah, it’s fantasy but there are nice elements that seemed appropriate at the time I read the ‘blog post. Then again I could also cite something like A. Attanasio’s Dragon and the Unicorn, though increasingly I’m seeing that more for the Eldar. 😀

        The only problem with your “biotech” as described is that in the context of 40k there’s just so little evidence. Interesting potentials elsewhere, but I’m back to the idea that 40k only really makes sense when you remove the technology and get back to the roots–medieval fantasy. Take away space armour and just put the darned Marine into a suit of Plate Armour +1 (or whatever your flavour of D&Dism) since it’s ultimately less disingenuous. Replace the Necrons with undead, the C’tan with liches blah blah and you’ve got something that is still distinctive, interesting, and certainly not “WFRP in spaaace” as claimed by some.

        Moving on, though.

        Sounds like you need to check out Cyberpunk v3, or Transhuman Space. These ideas are solid gold for those settings. 😀

  2. Vehrec says:

    So what about the Necrons, the ultimate masters of the technological possibilities offered by the physical universe? Complete idiots when it comes to warp technology, but able to produce things so very far ahead of what even the Eldar can do? You say that they come from the same line, but their whole warp-abhorance and what they built millions of years ago makes me question that. You would need to re-write the whole story of the Necrons to get them to fit into this.

    One thing I’ve seen suggested is that they might be masters of fempto-tech and folded space time! Necron technology isn’t matter at all in that interpretation, but tiny defects in reality arranged just so.

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