Back in my story, organic beings and AIs fight together against a frightening enemy, one that threatens everyone's freedom and chance to overcome their flaws and achieve a peaceful world. However, in the case of the war, they have a little bit better units than their enemies, but the enemy can easily outnumber them. So we had to be clever and creative:

In order to conceal our commands and to create effective squad tactics, we wish to use music, that's something that the Great Computer's army cannot decipher, they mimic human behavior, but never truly understand it.

  • So the plan is to use music as commands to create synchronized tactics and communicate.
  • The music is composed by five very humanlike AIs, that are capable of making the same thoughts as humans but much more quickly, for them time is really slow. They are:
    • Amitiel - angel of truth.
    • Sachiel - "covering of God."
    • Uzziel - "strength of God."
    • Uriel - "God is my light"
    • Israfel - "angel of music"

We aren't snobs so the genre of the music can change.

Now, I need to make them (my team members) know when to strike, run or make an action. Is it possible in a music, that would confuse the logically thinking robots?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Pete It was also in Neon Genesis Evangelion (when Shinji and Asuka fought together against Israfel) and in Dork Souls $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:40
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Or to go back further, Hudson Hawk where Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello time their heists with music. (Highly under-rated film IMO). $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's possible. but it's probably not worth doing. Music has a low baud rate. If the music is too simple, the Great Computer will decipher the code. If the music is too complex, the humans won't be able to pick out the message among the concealing frippery. Training the humans to reliably identify and decode a complex message under combat stress will take significant time and resources. Many humans simply won't be able to do it at all. And humans cannot easily respond in the same code under stress. Music as a mere timer doesn't work - enemy always does the unexpected and ruins the timing. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ An advanced AI will be extremely good at finding patterns in the behaviour of your army and the music played. I don't think your idea about using music to confuse the enemy is sound. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or Macross? Tee hee. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 17:52

9 Answers 9


This won't work.

Your enemy doesn't need to understand music to predict your actions and destroy you.

Music is - at its core - math. There's a limited number of patterns that people find "attractive", and which really count as music as opposed to random noise. The distinction is important, because the latter can actually damage the focus and rhythm of your troops, thus defeating the purpose of your endeavor (we can't follow the flow of a "non-flowing" sound, right?).

The enemy will simply catch on to what you're doing, and learn to predict your movement patterns by analyzing the signals you're putting out (they might not recognize them as an art form, simply a method of coordination). Once they do, you're toast.

The humans seem to be coordinating by using a strange signal being blasted across the battlefield. Our analysis indicated that every time the signal reaches the X frequency their flanking troops coordinate an advance. The next time we detect that signal we shall preemptively fire our area denial weapons on their predicted path of advance!

Furthermore, by constantly changing tunes you're more likely to confuse your own soldiers than the enemy.

  • $\begingroup$ Can I at least confuse them? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @redactedredacted - maybe the first time or two, but music by its nature is a repetitive pattern. The enemy will learn to simply analyze your pattern and then engage your predicted path, before you even make your move. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ Even if I put other rhythms or something else beneath the system, that only humans can truly understand because they have emotions (randomly throwing around various music, that they can associate with a specific tactical move or feeling, but the machines think that the rhythm is important not what's beneath it, like stories and lyrics that the Great Computer never had in its database in the first place, but something, a human have heard as a child and their AIs know what they feel about it and use it, a personalized, secret code. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ @redactedredacted - that's all very confusing. A song does not necessarily bring up the same feeling in a bunch of different people. A happy song for you might hold a sad connotation for me because it was the favorite of my now dead best friend or something. Interpretation of lyrics is even more subjective. Also, an AI capable of bringing mankind to its knees is probably intelligent enough to figure out what's going on, if only by interrogating prisoners, or by hacking their devices. I think the premise that you can trick a super-smart AI with music is weak. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ @redactedredacted - so your premise is the the AI knows what must be done and sends that information to its human soldiers via personalized music? So each person hearing a song has to go: "Omg, the AI is telling me something! Huh, "Final Countdown" by Europe. That song reminds me of that one holiday in Europe. And also that one action movie. Does this mean that I should charge when the song is over? Blow up that one target in Europe? Or maybe go to Europe when the song is over?" How do you figure this to be a good idea? In a combat situation you need to be clear and concise, music is neither $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:15

This is a fun one because, as many have noted, on the surface the plan is doomed to fail. If it's used to synchronize a bunch of humans in the form "attack on beat 3 of the last measure," it's just a very inefficient code, easily parsed and defeated.

To make this work, we have to stop thinking like computers. We have to stop thinking in terms of simple triggers and use the music for that it is intended for: to stir the human spirit.

You don't need music to synchronize a bunch of pre-planned activities. That is easily done using traditional communication means. The power of music is the ability to synchronize when the actions are much less planned. War is hell. Nothing ever goes according to plan. If you can adapt your behavior to fit reality, rather than slavishly following a plan, you have a huge advantage. Human beings are amazingly good at improvising, if given the opportunity.

The hard part of improvisation is keeping it cohesive. If you look at improve troupes, who make a living going out on stage and improvising, some of the most impressive content they produce is when one person improvises something outrageous and another person just runs with it, turning it into something funnier than the original content could have ever been, and something completely unpredictable.

To make this sort of humanity on the battlefield a reality, we need to focus not just on the composers. You need a conductor. A conductors job is not to stand up in front of a bunch of windbags and keep tempo. Any one of those windbags or fiddlesticks could keep tempo on their own. The job of a conductor is to inspire and direct the human spirit deep within those skilled musicians to form a unified spirit so potent that many poets have theorized it may be capable of stopping war all together.

In that spirit, the notes on the page are really just a framework. The real music comes from the spirits of the musicians unifying and becoming more than they were before. A skilled conductor brings out the very best in each and every one of us on stage (and ideally, in every one of us in the audience).

If I may quote an answer that I gave to a question on Music.SE years ago:

[...] At the epitome of skill, the conductor becomes a peer and a trusted friend. At some point, you can't go any further without losing yourself in the music. Someone is going to have to find you again. That person is the conductor. I will never forget a beautiful violin concerto done by a brilliantly talented violinist. She started the concerto with her opinion of what the music should sound like in one of the classic opening concerto solos. The conductor smiled patiently, and let her take control of the music completely (he even adjusted the tempo to suit her). As she continued the ferocious stream of notes, you could see her start to destabilize -- the music literally was taking control of her. The tempo wavered just a little, suggesting ruin.

Then, in one moment, the conductor changed how he was conducting ever so slightly and locked her playing into something he had some control over. He then tied her emotions directly into the orchestra, so she was no longer just a soloist, but part of the orchestra.

Once she was assimilated, he pushed her harder. He drove her further into the emotion and speed until I don't think she could have stopped if she had tried -- her fingers would have unraveled before she could have stopped the violin from playing its notes.

Half way through the final movement, he calmed things down and let her lose. She finished off the concerto in her style, under her own power. The applause at the end was deafening. She proudly took a bow for her skilled work, but you could see from how she shook while bowing that the conductor had taken her to a level of skill she wasn't even aware she had, let her grasp the stars, and then come back safely.

That, my friend, is what you have a conductor for.

Good luck, Mr. Great Computer.

  • $\begingroup$ :) from NGE (the only scene that isn't depressed, the conductor this time is the music). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ @RedactedRedacted Now imagine how impressive that would have been with a real conductor, rather than just the music! I do love watching John Williams work. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Too bad, that they didn't include this fight scene in the rebuild. :( $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 9:30

The thing is, this system is ultimately doomed to fail.

Robots may very well have no musical knowledge whatsoever, but they can recognize patterns better than any human can. Eventually, they'd realise that after n number of downbeats you strike, and if time actually is slower for them, they would see you coming from a metaphorical mile away anyways!

For this to work, the code would have to constantly change. I'd imagine your team would have a much tougher time recognizing how it changes, and even that simply couldn't be pattern based.

One possible thought is that the notes that the are played are proportional to the movements of the robots in each of the great computer's squadrons. This does in fact not work nearly as well for teams sending signals to each other, but would be much better suited for them to decipher that the robots battle plans are actually famous musical pieces. Like squadron a and other musical notes.

Perhaps that's the system that he'd used to encode plans. Perhaps the team would have to create a musical piece to make the robots run into each other. With that being said: I'm with the last guy on this not being plausible.

Good Luck,



You could use music to coordinate actions like a quarterback uses a nonsense stream of shouted numbers to coordinate plays. The music would be a code that your side understands, just like the football players know what to listen for when the QB shouts the play. For example action one might coordinate to 80s pop hits. You could use any number of pop hits or clips from that era. A different action might be a clip from a disco string section. That as distinguished from an classical piece with a string section or orchestral movie music from last year.

You could definitely coordinate the actions of a group of humans with shared cultural references. Lots of americans can identify a song from a very short clip. Even if a supersmart AI had all songs on a database and could quickly search and find the song from the clip, it would have no way to know that the relevant point in this context was that there was a mandolin, or that it had a measure of 7:8 time in with the 4:4, or that it was a song about a car.

  • $\begingroup$ If it is a supersmart AI identifying instruments or lyrics should be easy, as well as identifying patterns between the actions of humans and components of the music. And if it is about interpretation of a piece of music it will be difficult to have a shared interpretation among any number of humans. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ You are right if you use the same pattern over and over. But if you are using a code you need to keep switching the key. If today Zeppelin or Arrowsmith = plan A, female vocalist plan B, country w male vocals = plan C, any accordion regardless what else Plan D, not one of the above = filler/distraction and then everything changes tomorrow, it will be hard for any outsider to keep up. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 16:58

There are some great points about music as a code being crackable, because it is, at it's core, math.

You might try something with the emotional context of each song though. Establish a musical genre code. An obvious one might be using a band like Five Finger Death Punch for a general, aggressive advance, while a prog rock song from Yes for a feint. Ride of the valkyries or similar operatic music for an arial assault. Obviously, Disco would sound a general retreat :) . This way individual songs don't get assigned any specific meaning, but anyone can recognize speed metal, or jazz, or funk.

The vulnerability is that genres will have some similarities in instruments and time signatures that the Enemy might suss out. This might be combated with interesting covers. I don't know what kind of signal would be sent by a mariachi cover of Ronnie James Dio's "Holy Diver", so the enemy might be equally confused. You might benefit from de-centralization of planning, giving the individual units general objectives with timing keyed by the music, but execution left to individual units.

Each unit would have their comms gear enabled with an Ipod like device that would trigger a locally stored song. This would mean that a radio signal would not need to broadcast the whole song, and the enemy would have even less information to work from. Individual soldiers get their own playlist. for an aggressive advance, soldier one gets FFDP, two gets Disturbed, three gets Metallica, and so on. That might keep things random enough to keep it from being figured out.

It might also be useful to try to keep engagements on as small a scale as possible. These would have a shorter duration, giving less time for pattern analysis.

I think its a really fun concept.


First stack exchange post ever, take it with a grain of salt.

Music is useless! Right?

As has been pointed out in several other comments, music is math so as a unified 'this music means that maneuver' it's easily cracked. That doesn't mean it can't be used. With where we are at in todays world with AI, and from the sounds of your more advanced AI, I don't see why your series of battle conductor computers wouldn't be able to work with soldiers directly.

Your enemy AI doesn't understand emotion

Instead of a single battle hymn playing, each soldier could have their own musical feed. Just like in real world military training where reactions to events are ground into you to the point they become natural, do the same thing but teach each soldier to react to their emotion directly. Teach combat maneuvers, but tie them to emotions. Since each person responds to music differently, this would essentially create a custom encryption for each solder's direction.

As an example, some people jump at loud noises while others freeze or maybe even take a step back. In training find out each soldiers reaction, and use that gut instinct in battle. One person hears a random cannon go off, and they drop to the ground taking cover just when they were fired on. Another stops moving so they stop making noise for half a second just as they could have been detected by sound nearby.

This can be applied to noise levels as well as types of music for each individual. Metal tends to be background noise to me and makes me tired if its too loud too long. String based classical gets my heart pumping while symphonic metal draws my attention. I get irritable at rap.


Soldiers trained to respond to emotion, and trained to focus on their emotions in battle could be individually directed, giving the idea of music for tactics a path to success.

  • $\begingroup$ You have accidentally included rap as a type of music. Rap is spoken-word poetry directly communicated to the listeners. HipHop is Rap, recorded and set to music. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ @milesPrower It wasn't an accident. It's considered a type of music, it's listed on all music platforms as a genre of music and people who like it respond to the question of "what kind of music do you like?" with "rap". Anyway, the premise stands, train soldiers to tactics based on emotion, and navigate their personal emotions to coordinate them. $\endgroup$
    – Zucce05
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ I was not debating your premise, merely giving a correction. As to 'all' music platforms, that is impossible to be sure of, unless you've personally checked each and every music platform. As to people making the same mistake when asked what kind of music they like, that is normal. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 17:23

What you can do is set a crypto code to relate a specific music thema to a specific action (like it was done in the past with the sound of drums or trumpets; for obvious reasons you don't use guitars or violins on a battlefield).

Therefore you can have 3 hits on a drum meaning "left wing advance" and so on. But this is easily exploitable by the enemy after few econunters, so it would be like shouting orders in the open.

You can try a more elaborate scheme (like from 10 to 11 am 3 hits of drums mean "left wing advance", while from 11 to 12 am 3 hits of drums mean "hold your position") and change this scheme on a daily base.

This will be more hard for the enemy to decript, but also for your own troops, which will take longer to react to the order (training induced automatism play a big role in tactics operations).

So, to answer your question, I think music has no specific advantages.


Music does have a meaning for humans (and maybe for animals), but you seem to assume that this fact, that music has meaning, would be helpful in concealing your intentions.

This is not the case.

If you strip the meaning from the music, all you are left with is a signal.

Since you want humans to unterstand those signals without having to run some deciphering first, what it boils down to is code words.

So you might as well replace the beautiful song you had your AI write with the wod swordfish. Because they are both the same: You have agreed beforehand that a certain signal has a certain meaning.

Obviously, the enemy computer will have this decoded ater the fourth or fifth use.
For one-time use this is unbreakable, but you cannot use it repeatedly. It's no cipher, and if you look at it from the perspective of someone hearing a foreign language, it does not even matter any more if you say "attack it's legs" or "swordfish" or sing the ode to joy. neither signal has any conceivable meaning, but you can simply watch and quickly find out that there is a specific reaction to the signal.

You might do something else, though, but it will requite a machine to receive and interpret the signal:

You could use the music as a carrier wave for an encrypted message. Provided you manage to make the AI believe it was "just music", and keep it busy enough to dismiss it as "some background noise"; you could encode a lot of communication over the sound of a piece of music.

Of course you need to extract it on the receiver side and make it intelligible for humans. The friendly AI would obviously be able to read the signal on the fly.


You can use music to establish timing. Which can help coordinate something that was planned ahead of time. See Hudson Hawk for a cat-burgler who used songs as a stop-watch.

But, as Aidan Smith and AndreiROM mention, using music to encode commands is fraught with problems. The computer will, eventually, realize there are encoded commands in the music. Probably not at first; music has patterns, built in, after all. But the AI would eventually connect patterns with actions after enough battles.

Plus, music is a noisy system. You would have to work carefully with each song to make sure the background sounds built into the original music don't encode unintended actions accidentally before you select the songs.

Then you'd have to carefully train your non-commissioned officers or music receivers (radio-men? Comms Officers?) to HEAR the song -- over the sounds of battle -- to pick out the commands embedded in the song. And they'd have to know the song really well. Well enough to recognize the alterations where commands are hidden. The learning curve / training for that would be intense. And would fall apart during the first artillery barrage or tank main-gun firing or other noisy combat effect that disrupts hearing. Which is basically every weapon used in modern warfare. Oh, and while the song is playing, no one could talk to your music-man who's job, like a radio-man, is to listen to that song. Ever. Because if she loses her concentration, she could miss a vital command sequence.

Also, are we talking about just using really loud speakers or using radio transmissions to get the song to your soldiers? If you use speakers, then those speakers become a trivially easy target. Modern warfare is really good at tracking radio signals. There's no way an alien AI couldn't re-engineer their tracking systems to track audio waves. Or realize the audio must be important to consume so much of the military's effort, and therefore they deploy countermeasures like white-noise speakers that get air-dropped on the combat zone. And sound travels at a slow enough speed to observe the gap. The soldiers at the rear will hear the song first and start acting before the sound can travel to the front of the lines. Or worse, the sound will deafen your rear lines while the front lines can't hear it.

If it is by radio transmission... well... jamming radio is a built-in function of modern warfare. Again, your AI would catch on quickly to the value of blocking the entire radio spectrum via white noise broadcasts that flood your radios, whether to block the music, or to block voice commands.

Back to my first paragraph. If you use a song to establish timing, then each soldier can easily have an iPod-like player that has a synchronized start time. After the start signal, it operates independently and is just there to say "start your squad's advance at the second chorus" or whatever. Harder to jam. Less prone to hacking or deciphering. Each song would have been pre-planned, so there's no code to crack. Your flaw here, then, is that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. You can plan your first move or two, but after that, everything has to be fluid enough to allow for whatever the enemy just did. So even a preplanned, timing-based, song system would only be good for coordinating the beginnings of a fight. Beyond that initial encounter at the beginning of a battle, sticking to a rote plan could actually make your military easier to defeat rather than harder. Because the soldiers would train to the plan. And that plan may need to change, but the soldiers can't show enough initiative to adapt to battle conditions, because the song said go NOW, not early because there's a visible weakness, or later because the timing is bad.

  • $\begingroup$ How bout' this?: The AIs compose a music to coordinate attacks, on flight, but based on the enemy's movement. :) Like on those Rayman levels $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ I mean the player would use it similar to the Rayman music levels. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 16:01

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