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I have a world where the "supernatural" is all sufficiently advanced technology. With examples like Gods, Demons, and Angels are AI's whose physical forms are swarms of nanobots/nanites. This being said the inhabitants don't know this and believe it to be magic.

How could they go about summoning this demon seeing as they have no sufficiently advanced technology themselves? I've hit a roadblock with this since I don't know how they could summon this demon without having the same technology.

Also, "magical" artifacts actually being hidden technology doesn't work on this case because artifacts like this do not exist.

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    $\begingroup$ Summoning technology based demons is commonplace. The invocations "Hey Siri", "OK Google", and "Alexa!" work perfectly fine in the real world... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 29 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ Well, first off, this would obviously be a Daemon. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Jul 29 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend checking out some Dan Simmons, especially Hyperion Cantos and Illium, for interesting treatments of gods/supernatural as just hyper-advanced A.I. $\endgroup$ – Cain Jul 29 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ Read The Laundry Files. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jul 29 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ >load daemon Asthart -b(inding to current user) $\endgroup$ – jean Jul 30 at 12:24

12 Answers 12

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There are two kinds of summoning, when you really get down to it. There's the summoning where the summoned wants to be summoned, and there is the summoning where the summoned is compelled to be summoned. Define your demon, and its behaviors, and you define how to summon it.

It may want to be summoned, in which case this is extremely easy to explain. The AI merely chooses a sign which the summoner must make to invoke it. This works for any summoning, AI, metaphysical, or otherwise.

It may also be compelled. There may be rituals that simply cannot not fail to summon this. This would be based on a hard-wired response within an AI. Perhaps one has to hold one's breath until the AI feels compelled to check up on you and make sure you are okay. Or maybe the pattern you scribe on the ground to summon it is actually a trap that the AI just can't seem to see past. These summonings have a strong cause-and-effect feel to them.

In the middle, you have the AIs that don't mind being summoned, but they're not going out of their way to be summoned. To summon them, you have to do something which calls them out. Perhaps the AI is trained to look for humans with extraordinary joint mobility. You might develop a ritual which includes hyperextending the joints to attract the AI, and then acts in a way which keeps its attention.

I own a snake. When I go up to the cage, my snake comes out to look at me. She looks genuinely curious, though I don't quite know what she's thinking. All I know is that she likes to follow my finger as I move it back and forth on the other side of the glass. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a snake.

An interesting side effect of this is something I have learned to call "pigeon dances." There was a study done on pigeons a while back, where they had an automated feeder which dispensed food at random times (based on a randomized timer internal to the dispenser). The pigeons obviously wanted to cause food to appear, so they tried things. Eventually, one of them did something at the same time as food got dispensed. They then tried this again, and again. Eventually they did it when the food got dispensed again. So they had to think "what did I do different?" Maybe they were lifting their left wing before, trying to get food, but this time they lifted their left wing and then bobbed their head. Surely that must be it. So they started going around lifting their left wing and then bobbing their head.

Eventually these pigeons developed elaborate ritualized dances to summon food from a randomized food dispenser.

Your humans might develop the same, especially if they are not zealously devoted to the scientific method (and even if they are devoted to the scientific method!) Perhaps the rituals they perform are 98% pigeon dance, and just 2% what the AIs are looking for. That might be all that is needed. Depends on your AIs and their personalities.

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    $\begingroup$ The pigeon dance is particularly interesting. The fact that the computer used is most probably not entirely random, but uses time-based variations of a single seed number through some "randomizer" algorithm, is undoubtedly beyond human predictive abilities, let alone pigeon comprehension. I wonder what happens when somebody cracks the randomizer algorithm of the AI summoning technique... $\endgroup$ – Kyle Zabala Jul 29 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ Could you please add a reference to the pigeon dance study? $\endgroup$ – G. B. Jul 29 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ The pigeon-dance thing could cause a scene from Terry Pratchett's Discworld, where some wizards acknowledge that although you can summon Death with a few small bits of wood and 4cc of mouse blood, it's only right to draw pentagrams and chant ominously around big dribbly candles, because that's how its supposed to be done. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Ingram Jul 29 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @G.B. it's almost certainly Skinner's experiments, detailed here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner#Superstition_in_the_pigeon $\endgroup$ – Rowan Ingram Jul 29 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @RowanIngram, or two small sticks and an egg, it has to be a fresh egg mind you. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 29 at 14:03
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You need a trigger word.

Right now, I can summon a big red round demon with the trigger phrase "hey Siri." My parents summon a materialistic demon with the trigger word "Alexa."

Your demon bots (and nanites, etc) network with each other and if the summoning is done within earshot of any one of them, the message will go to the right demon who can respond, or not.

Say it with fire.

If you don't think the bots will be close enough to hear people frequently enough for this to work (summonings don't always have to be successful, but you want at least a 10-20% success rate), you can use visuals.

Mineral dust (or goo or liquid) thrown on to a large bonfire at night can create sparks and flames in particular unusual colors that could be seen for miles in the right location. Make sure the right location is known to be an important part of the summoning. The top of a hill, for instance.

Just one bot has to see this for the word to get out.

Yo, Megabotilus, the village at the South fork of the Tangerine River just shot up blue sparks. That's you dude.

It may seem unlikely that the bots will notice such goings on but even now, in any populated area, the right trigger words often work (on somebody's device within earshot). I mean small children and parrots have accidentally placed orders via Alexa and so have TVs, as the device doesn't care if the trigger word comes from a live voice.

Unless the demons (et al) don't ever want to be summoned, having a network of watchers and listeners is pretty easy to do. In more rural areas, the summonings could only work in certain locations, or even certain days for really remote places. And that's not hard to set up. In fact, we could probably do it now...

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    $\begingroup$ I hope you will never have to summon the notorious "Hey, IE!" :D $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 29 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ "If you don't think the bots will be close enough to hear people frequently enough for this to work" summoning rituals are usually a lengthy process. Invocations of other being in general tend to take a long time even, say, seeking knowledge from the gods. They might continue for hours or even until you get an answer. So, you could have a ritual take place over, say, two or three days. Having chants and/or other ways to draw the attention of the being (certain behaviour, leaving offerings, conducting certain actions, etc) is common for that period. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jul 29 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ You could do multiple and even have other participants - e.g., somebody chants another lights the sacred candles and other people come to change with each. So, it's not too outlandish that a summoning ceremony takes as long as it needs to take. In-world, it just means that the "being" isn't within range to notice the ritual (e.g., hear the chant of "OK, Google") but it moves around. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jul 29 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ Good points about timing, @VLAZ. And yeah, that totally works. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 29 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Iroh That should be its own answer. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 30 at 0:42
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Interestingly, in unix land, we call any program running autonomously, a daemon.

To interact with these daemon, one must know it's name, the commands available, the method of delivery of those commands, and the format of any data you wish to be processed.

"Hey Siri, tell me tomorrow's weather at my location" sounds innocuous enough, but imagine if it still existed in a world where English was a dead language. To the unlearned, it would sound like some spooky incantation, as would the result. This is why Latin-like words are used in many similar situations: To give the words an arcane feel, from an ancient otherly world.

Extrapolate this further: Between our current time and the time of your story, there is the total integration of the internet into nanotechnology:

"Hey Siri, I need medical attention", which would trigger little nanobots to heal wounds, becomes a spell of healing in the perception of the dwellers of the time.

"Hey Siri, I'm lost" becomes a locator spell. Your limit is your imagination.

An electronic door with a password becomes a magic door.

The "Demon" could simply be a personal visual interface for the internet, and it could be capable of learning new languages, but requires the English "Summoning spell" of "Hey Siri", or "Ok Google". They all look different because the original owners could customize the look and sound of the avatar.

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    $\begingroup$ Came to mention this, as well as a book series by Rick Cook (Wizard's Bane and 5 more) that goes in this direction, although he uses his knowledge of technology to learn how to manipulate the magic of the world he ends up in. As both a D&D fan and a *nix admin (and software dev) I got many giggles and much appreciation from the books. $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Jul 29 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ Brought to mind this answer on SciFi & Fantasy $\endgroup$ – gbjbaanb Jul 30 at 18:23
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Change the premise a little, and you'll have a more interesting lore with more possibilities.

Everything is better with nanites!

Most of the inhabitants don't know it, but they can know it, because they have the same nanites in their bodies. Summoners, magicians, wizards, enchanters, witches, warlocks, alchemists, everyone is unwittingly a magical being.

The gods themselves, who exist as entities networked in all the nanites in all the creatures in the world, made it that way so that they can keep their status as gods, but they might as well have the same human origins. As such, becoming more in touch with your nanites is the same as having better control of your nanites

At the highest level of nanite control, you can be a god yourself. Or worse, the gods will turn you into a subservient demon if you try to enter their domain.

In the case of demons, they are also just subject to the reality-bending rules of self-made gods.


Magic Spells

Demons can be summoned by magic words, which the gods can "hear" by reading the vibrations of your own larynx, since they have nanites there, like having a mic in your own throat.

Magic runes

Some demons can be summoned by writing pentagrams or runes, which the gods "see" by reading the images coming into your eyes, since they have nanites there. Think of QR code recognition, but with your own eyes.

Emotion Manifestation

Others can be summoned by sheer will, or intense emotions, or some combination of ideas, since gods can read your thoughts with nanites that read every firing of every neuron. You can be very afraid of something, and a certain adrenaline and heart-rate threshold will let a demon materialize before your very eyes... as the very thing you fear!. It can work with other emotions.

Enchanted Artifacts

Better yet, some artifacts contain a specific set of nanites that require specific sets of instructions to unlock its utility functions, like it has to be powered by blood, with which the owner-determining function uses the DNA or the blood-type in that blood so that it only authenticates royal blood.

Alternate Realities

Since gods have access to your brain, they can override sensory functions and simulate real-world sensations with virtual ones and voila! You're in a catatonic state, trapped in a virtual reality, a nightmare, a hell. You can even mix real-world sensations with virtual ones and confuse your inhabitants to unfathomable levels of hallucination and madness.

Possession

Similarly, other demons can be ordered to possess people by letting a demon take over the conscious utilities of that person, essentially letting that demon wear that human body.


With nanites, you can rewrite reality with imagination. Combine some of the above, and you get some really complex magic systems that most readers will never ever question.


NOTE: Just call nanites as something else, like quantum mana, or anything related to magitek. Also, explain it in a more mystical tone that readers will have no idea what they're in for.

P.S.: I've had this idea for more than a decade, but I don't have the time to work out a masterpiece, so go ahead live my life for me.

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  • $\begingroup$ You might want to read "The Fifth Season", the first book of a trilogy. By N. K. Jemisin. $\endgroup$ – Adder Jul 30 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Adder Care to explain why? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Zabala Jul 30 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ The book has orogeny, which is like magic, and which might be explained by nanotechnology. $\endgroup$ – Adder Jul 31 at 8:16
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Since you have very tight constraints -- everyone thinks the creatures are magic and the humans don't have advanced technology of their own -- then the meaningless rituals that human perform to summon demons, angels, and gods only work because that is what the creatures want or need, that is they gain some benefit from the interaction.

I would imagine the whole magic thing is a charade that they themselves created to get humans to do their bidding. While they could appear as a flying spaghetti monster or burning bush just tell humans what to do, that might cause other creatures to do the same. Then, the humans are confounded and confused about what is real and who to follow and either end up fighting horrific religious wars or saying the gods are crazy just ignore them. But, whatever the real reason, it doesn't suit the AI's needs or goals.

So, when the AI want someone to do their bidding, the drop a "magic lamp" in some poor kids path or write up an ancient scroll filled with mumbo jumbo and make sure some old guy with a big gut and a pointy hat finds it so he can summon the great and powerful demon Knowlej who grants him unknown knowledge in exchange for some task.

They are just playing the long con to get something they want.

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This has already been done in real life for years.

http://www.linfo.org/daemon.html

Summoned from the command line... or by event or condition:

A daemon is a type of program on Unix-like operating systems that runs unobtrusively in the background, rather than under the direct control of a user, waiting to be activated by the occurance of a specific event or condition.

I suggest the name, "Maxwell".

^^

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    $\begingroup$ At least you didn't mention systemd $\endgroup$ – ivanivan Jul 29 at 20:02
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Humans "infected" with nanites can communicate directly with the god or demon, which can then decide to appear, or be compelled to appear

Since you're using Nanorobotics with these "supernatural" AI beings, you could have them implant nanites into the humans without their knowledge. Maybe they fly their way into an ear hole, or burrow themselves under the skin and into the blood stream (assumed to be a bug bite, maybe)

How ever it happens, the nanobots would make their way to the brain and can send/receive messages to the humans. Then when they are "spoken to by God" or "The devil made me do it!" it's really the demon / god communicating with them through this device.

Perhaps they do this to a sect of people and they become the being's "Clergy" and can be forced to administer ritual food/drink to people en masse, or implant them at birth as a blessing or baptism.

To have the gods / demons communicate with these separated nanorobotics, I imagine you'd have a network of low-orbit satellites that they would fight for control over via hacking, sending viruses, putting up firewalls, something like that.

Once you've established how this communication would take place, you can decide how the AI will be summoned, if it would be compelled through a pre-programmed ritual/phrase, or if it is by choice of the god/demon when invoked.

It's not very clear what level of technology the humans are at, just that they don't have advanced technology. I'm assuming that the level of technology they have is fire, and maybe the wheel. I can see this working up to a level of space exploration, where the satellites would be discovered.

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What is a common method in primitive cultures of summoning demons? Pictograms. Runes. Magic symbols that shamans paint that interact with the spirit world.

Your nanites exist everywhere in the world, unseen, yet with a basic hive vision system that mindlessly observes the environment.

Until a shaman builds a fire, chants a chant, dances a dance, and with a charcoal-based paint draws out the magic rune EXECUTE()

enter image description here

Each tribe would jealously guard their shaman's rune knowledge, and it would be passed down from shaman to shaman within that tribe. Rumours start, of a rune so powerful that the tribe who knows it can command armies of demons, and so our tribe prepares for war before the enemy can work out the last elements...

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In some Yorubá religions, you summon an orisha by making an offering of something they like. Depending on the deity you wish to summon, you should sacrifice a black chicken, whisky, cuban cigars...

Let's take Eleggua, for an example. Take a look at this page and scroll down to "Offerings for Eleggua":

Eleggua will eat just about anything, except pigeon. The younger, child-like roads of Eleggua are typically offered wrapped candies and toys, while the older roads might enjoy hard candies, toasted corn or popcorn. Eleggua enjoys goat, rooster and bushrat, as well as smoked fish.

Once the offering is done and the rituals have been performed, Eleggua will allow one of the faithful to channel him.


In your case, it may be that the nanobots are just about everywhere - might be a worldwide network of them. We can't see them because they are, well, nanobot small. Clusters of these bots run multiple AI's simultaneously, and each AI has its own programming and/or a personality. Performing some rituals, with or without offerings, triggers an AI into responding. The response usually includes a condensation of nanobots so that they take visible form; Or they can enter someone's blood stream and interface with that persons nervous system, allowing a human to "channel" an AI.

For example, if my mind was copied into the virtual world and made an AI, I would respond to offerings of pizza, Marvel comic books and black coffee without sugar. If you offered those while chanting any nerdy meme I would condensate the nanobots into a form that would not seem out of place in a show such as The IT Crowd, and help you with matters of logic and programming.


The part where AI's act like deities and respond to religious practice is actually in the plot of a seminal book for cyberpunk literature. I am masking it so as to avoid a reverse spoiler, in case anyone is reading it:

William Gibson's Count Zero, from the Neuromancer trilogy

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Resonant Frequency of junk amateur radios interacting with A.I. Signal

From my experience with Analog Electronics this instantly came to mind.

Allow me a second to prime you into radio frequency theory:

Electronics have a thing called conductance, Direct Current (~0Hz Frequency) needs a direct path to things to close a circuit from point A to point B, relying heavily on electrical resistance of the material. However, as you go into radio frequency (>0Hz) conductance shifts, and starts happening without the need for a direct path for point A and B, as it starts becoming sensitive to factors such as capacitance and inductance of the circuits. A pairing of impedance will define a Resonant Frequency for the circuit.

You can use this concept to assume "omnipresence" of the A.I., since it is effectively propagating everywhere given enough power/frequency and receivers much like radio itself; "keeping an ear" out for incoming or disrupting activity.

As for interacting with it, if you give your humans some understanding of technology (magic) and offer them a tuning capacitor you can begin to shift the overall impedance of circuits. This can be used to "mindlessly" adjust the following:

  • An FM/AM transmitter, it will carry a signal (usually of a sine wave) up to a certain frequency, which can then be picked up.
  • If you have an FM/AM transmitter and you manage to get the same frequency/amplitude as the A.I. signal you will begin colliding with it, disrupting nearby receiving beacons,
  • If you have a receiver, you will be picking available signals at the Resonant Frequency of the circuit.

Basically, you have "wizards" who know how to build very shoddy boomboxes and pirate radio "frequency sweepers" that pollute the bandwidth of local receivers. This notifies/angers the A.I. who then manifests (either aggressively or what else). Extra points if the wizards often do not know what the resonant frequency of the circuit really is and largely tweak components by eye balling everything while they chant nonsense. Different AIs tune/communicate in different bands and modulations.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh how much this reminds me Hyperion! "THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER MISUSE OF THIS CHANNEL..." :) $\endgroup$ – mikalai Jul 30 at 20:14
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The spell to summon an AI-based demon could be something similar to Adversarial Examples. Basically, an artifact of the learning algorithm which causes the incorrect prediction from seemingly unrelated input. Humans are vulnerable to them as well, so AI will not be immune too. They also (sort of) can occur naturally.

The original adversarial example could be found accidentally and a weird ritual was developed around it, not understanding its nature.

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While generally, when we say summon, we think of a summoner and some form of ritual. However, instead of having someone summon an entity of higher power, what is there to prevent them from summoning themselves? If you are willing to loosen the concept of summon to be a transfer of self (i.e. mentality, consciousness, behavior, etc) to another world, this idea could work.

The Gods, Demons, etc got bored and found humans to be interesting and appears themselves. Since you mention that these supernatural entities are AI based, we can go down the route of having an AI hijack a facility and bootstrap itself from scrapes.

For example, if an AI can take control of a basic robotic facility, it can rewrite the robots/machines to become its workers and gather material to build the nanobots/nanites itself. Humans don't need to be the one that construct the technology; they just need to provide the capability to do so.

Afterward, the AI can inject/copy itself into the new skeleton and exists in reality. If you do go down the copy route of having the AI copy itself, you can always twist the story into some sort of Terminator's Skynet story where the physical being becomes evil.

If you have to have a human summoner, you can always add in something on the course of having a person found out about this construction and decided to help the entity him/herself. It could be that a loud noise that attracted the person's attention or maybe he/she saw a robot mining some rocks. Afterward, maybe the human was tricked, controlled (via electromagnetic interference), threaten, etc to help with the process This could add more routes to the story where maybe the human knows about the technology and could repurposed it to create another robot to fend of the supernaturals or use the technology to rule the world.

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