Ghosts in the Machines

Image from Bernd Helfert

Technohaunts are considered by the superstitious a "Supertechnical phenomenon". They are bits and pieces of incomplete or incorrect deletions, random programming errors and other strange activity caused by ultratech, transapientech, and godtech worlds, polities or megastructure infrastructures that seem supernatural or mysterious to those of lower tech and/or toposophic levels. When these glitches in the system manifest attached to a locale, this is referred to as a haunting. Most often, these hauntings are totally harmless, sometimes even cute. But occasionally, they become annoying and even dangerous.

Technohaunts are not always sentient, but sometimes do contain the semblance of intelligence. Rarer still are those that are sophonts trapped in this state of existence with no control of where or when they may show up again. These tragic creatures are usually the most disturbing. Usually, when a truly malevolent or powerful Technohaunt is created, it has an ascended mind attached to it in some twisted, and maybe lobotomized way.

Often a Technohaunt will visit a locale or a specific type of system that it was associated with, but sometimes you get a free roamer (usually the most dangerous). Unlike normal AIs, they have less control over their existence, but are much harder to destroy. Their data and code has been scattered, usually, across many nodes and servers, and due to their erratic nature, are incredibly hard to track. Sometimes a Technohaunt was created as a defensive attempt to avoid deletion.

Some Technohaunts may be trying to wreak revenge from "beyond deletion" on those who removed it. Other times they may just replay a daily event that occurred during their service. Some may truly believe they'd become a technological bogeyman and decide to live up to the part. Other kinds of Technohaunts would be viewed as Angels, helping others or providing special attention to certain locations or systems.

Exorcism (as it's playfully called) of a Technohaunt is a specialist position inside the technical services industry. Often the offending program is scattered throughout nodes that can be half way across civilized space independent of where the haunting occurs. Often the technician has to find pieces of the code and delete them one by one till enough is gone that the technohaunt is rendered inoperative and finally is deleted for good. This is usually quite difficult and sometimes dangerous work if the Technohaunt finds out someone is trying to shut them down and where they're located. Depending on the power and intelligence of the Technohaunt, it can infect angelnets, security systems, media outlets and other networks to try and prevent it's destruction if it so chooses. Some may even welcome the deletion, viewing themselves as in torment and wishing to end it all. These of course would actively help the technician in their destruction.

There is a very small Clade of Technohaunts that call themselves "The Undeleted" consisting of more complete and free roaming Virches that are incredibly hard to destroy because their programming is spread so far and wide that even they don't know where their code is stored anymore, and have the delusion that they no longer have code but yet survive.

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Development Notes
Text by Michael Boncher
Initially published on 14 May 2004.