Dark Age of Technology
[Some cleanup has been done. More may be needed?]
"In ancient times, men built wonders, laid claim to the stars and sought to better themselves for the good of all. But we are much wiser now."
- – Archmagos Ultima Cryol - Speculations On Pre-Imperial History
"The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all previous centuries of its existence"
- – Nikola Tesla
"There have been numerous sages among the nations of mankind. The knowledge that has not come down to us is larger than the knowledge that has. Where are the sciences of the Persians that ‘Umar ordered to be wiped out at the time of the conquest? Where are the sciences of the Chaladaeans, the Syrians and the Babylonians, and the scholarly products and results that were theirs? Where are the sciences of the Copts, their predecessors?"
- – Ibn Khaldun - Muqaddimah
The Dark Age of Technology (or just the Age of Technology) also known to The Mechanicum as "The Place all the Gucci shit came from", was a period of history before the Imperium of Man, where human civilization flourished and spread throughout the stars, of unparalleled scientific progress and enlightenment. It takes place shortly after the discovery of the Warp-drive and the Navigator gene.
Thanks to the discovery of the Warp drive technology, Geller Fields allowing for Warp travel, and the Standard Template Constructs, humanity was able to spread far and wide, settling planets across the galaxy, and driving out many native xenos-civilizations before them. The result was akin to a golden age for humanity, with technological marvels beyond even the Adeptus Mechanicus's ability to
recreate comprehend being constructed, and laws of physics being re-written.
The Age of Technology ironically ended because humanity had become too dependent on their technology and on Warp travel. They lost the former with the rebellion of the Men of Iron; the latter with the increasing emergence of psykers and the uncontrolled release of their powers. As psykers did not know how to control their powers, let alone shield themselves from the Warp, they became convenient focal points for daemons to enter real space, or turned into them power-hungry, possibly Chaos corrupted slaver-kings (as it happened on numerous worlds during the Age of Strife), and Eldar partying too hard caused Warp storms. Enslaver plagues wiping out entire populations due to the increasing number of Human psykers and the resulting aforementioned close encounters of the daemonic kind on various populated human worlds and spacecraft throughout the galaxy further accelerated the downfall to this "first" human empire preceding the Imperium. With humanity struggling to battle the backlash of this sudden mayhem, mankind turned on itself; gone were the grand ideals, instead humans battled amongst themselves for control of what remained. Stories persist of aliens long thought to have been driven off, or who lived under the "benevolent" care of the human empire, coming back / rebelling for sweet sweet vengeance. Thus, humanity fell into a period that would later become known as the Age of Strife. Interestingly, the emergence of psykers in human coincides with the gestation of Slaanesh.
The quickest way to sum it up is "basically Star Trek meets Atlantis, with some minor Alastair Reynolds influence."
So what was it?
The "Dark" in "Dark Age of Technology" is misleading, as it implies that the Imperium considers technology to be inherently evuuul. In truth though, one of the major reasons why humanity uses the term "dark" is that the Age of Strife - characterized by civil unrest, daemonic incursions (including but not limited to depopulation of whole planets), and Warp travel/communication becoming impossible (resulting in complete isolation of human-populated worlds) - led to the worst major loss of previously obtained knowledge in all of human history. Following this dark era, the wars of the Great Crusade, in particular the Horus Heresy, followed by the long millennia of the Age of the Imperium finally resulted in the destruction of basically all records of the Age of Strife and the Dark Age of Technology that may have been preserved until then, leaving only scraps of knowledge and rumours behind. This is similar to how some historians refer to the period between the end of the Roman Empire and the high Middle Ages as "The Dark Ages", because there is or was very little historical evidence left from that time.
The closest thing to how Humanity may have lived during this Age were the Interex, a civilization that was more advanced than the Imperium, but was unfortunately wiped out at some point by the Luna Wolves. The war started with Erebus secretly stealing an Anatheme (the very same Warp-corrupted sword that was later used to mortally wound Horus in order to engineer his corruption) from one of their museums. This convinced the Interex the Imperials had been corrupted by Chaos already, leading to the start of hostilities. Keep in mind, though, that this shows how close the Imperium was by then to fully recovering from the Age of Strife. The modern Imperium wouldn't stand a chance but the 30K Imperium actually won rather handily with a single expeditionary force.
The "Dark Age" is also called such because it is now considered a spiritual dark age compared to the "glorious modern age", as humanity used to put science first (which may or may not have caused the birth of the Omnissiah) rather than the God-Emperor of Mankind. The irony of all this is lost on every human in the setting. Vanishingly few remnants of the technological wonders of that age (called "archeotechnology" or "archeotech," which the Adeptus Mechanicus furiously seeks) exist, with the most prized objects being the STCs, which could be the Imperium's salvation. Other creations of that age, like the Men of Iron, are best left forgotten (or better yet, destroyed). Good luck getting a tech-priest to not poke around the possibly-dangerous ancient technology, though. Apparently “enslaved” Men of Iron were used exclusively by the Dark Angels by the Emperor’s order/permission during the Great Crusade so...
Technology from this age was, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit. The Imperium's current capabilities, as a whole, are but children's toys and infinitesimal fragments compared to the feats of Dark Age humanity. To add insult to injury, it's implied that STC patterns are often misunderstood or misapplied, with some of the most ubiquitous STC patterns used by the Imperium's militaries originally being civilian-grade equipment such as tractors and utility vehicles with guns and armor slapped onto them. Some lore suggests Baneblades were light scout tanks. The more impressive tech of that era canonically includes still-pristine warships with bridges made of solid light, something equivalent to time-weapons, and a cloud of sentient nano-machines that can kill you by making your blood explode. The “Cybernetic Revolution”/“Iron War” had humanity using “Sun Snuffers”; serpentine machines that opened up extending to around the size of Saturn’s rings; their job was to draw in the energy of suns until they were consumed entirely. There were also large spacefaring machines that literally ate their way through planets and the raw data of spacetime itself, and shat out the remains into the void. As fleets and armies. Dark Age of humanity wasn't nothin' to fuck with. It's enough to almost make you feel glad that the Imperium only has access to the most sparse table scraps of this era.
List of reasons why the Dark Age was kickass
- Widespread immunity to all diseases and poisons (The Panacea).
- Far more widespread use of anti-gravity.
- Imperial Knights were used during the early stages of the DAOT and were used in the defence of many of humanity's colonies across the galaxy. They proved themselves over and over again but the Thrones of these mighty war machines would over time begin to affect the minds of their users, turning them from a protective mindset to a far more authoritarian one.
- Archeotech Pistols that were available to the highest ranking officers during the Great Crusade, with stopping power that sits between a Bolter and a Plasma Pistol... and described as firing "micro-atomic munitions or searing directed energy kill-rays that drew power from a planet's magnetosphere." As in nuke pistols. The Dark Angels were entrusted with, among other incredibly powerful Dark Age tech, pistols that can True Death greater daemons.
- Energy guns that created small temporary black holes and also distort time so that even if they miss, the enemy is teleported nanoseconds back in time to occupy the same position as their past selves simultaneously, resulting in both versions being destroyed, i.e. a gun that literally causes targets to telefrag themselves.
- The Speranza from "Priests of Mars" had such a weapon hidden within its body. A vast gun like a great menhir was bought to the surface on heavy-duty rails before it fired a silent dark pulse of energy which would then coalesce into a miniature temporary black hole. Although the Eldar ship Starblade was able to avoid the shot, its solar sail was brushed by the weapon's deadly energy, allowing the secondary effects of the chrono-weaponry to shift the target a nanosecond into the past, forcing identical neutrons of the solar mast into the same quantum space. This caused the mast to detonate violently; now crippled and visible the Starblade was destroyed by the circling Kotov fleet. These weapons were designed to crack the hulls of the ships of their enemies. Let that settle in for a moment: these powerful weapons needed to be this strong in order to damage, not destroy, the ships that opposed them.
- The Speranza also was equipped with "hypometric weapons of such power that they caused entire regions of space to simply cease existing." We see that Graham McNeill has been reading some Alastair Reynolds lately.
- Combat augment arrays could be used to transform a person or entire populations into killing machines. Being able to turn normal colonists into soldiers sounds great but it was considered dishonourable and foolhardy; although you could get an instant army, the array's invasive manipulation of nerve pathways, adrenal glands and musculature normally resulted in the death of those affected. You could enhance an entire planets population into super soldiers but you were also more than likely also signing their death warrants, not to mention that reintegrating a generation of young men taught to kill in an ordinary ca. late-M2 fashion into society has been enough of a challenge in our own time.
- These Combat augment arrays, combined with the existence of the Butcher's Nails add a far darker side to what we know about humanity's golden age; the existence of these technologies either show a flagrant disregard for human life or a desperate attempt to create enough fighting bodies to counter whatever foes they were facing.
- Robots with the strength of Space Marines that numbered in levels close to the Imperial Guard.
- On a similar note, sentient AIs-- or close enough to it to be highly capable if not truly humanlike.
- Not to mention these AIs could control machines the size of planets that fed on stars, swarms of nanomachines that could consume you within moments, and giant robots the size of planets who could eat holes in real space and the warp, all of which humans controlled before they decided that human ass looks just as appetising as the Xenos we were probably using them against-- and humanity
survivedwon. There also were mechavores that were either planet-sized or much larger that ate worlds and shat battlefleets and armies.
- Average humans performing extremely hazardous duty like deep space mining or maintenance of a voidship's plasma coils had access to Terminator armour. While not exactly Terminator armour as the Space Marines use, the incredibly durable exoskeletons-cum-spacesuit that were used by civilians while performing their day job would later serve as the template from which Terminator armour was developed by the AdMech. After they recovered a bunch of them during the Great Crusade, they only had to add auto-senses, black carapace interfaces and other gubbins to allow a Space Marine to use the suit like a regular set of Power Armour.
- Weapons that could shoot enemy ships in the middle of a warp jump.
- Something like DC Comics' Nth Metal (but human-made) called phase-iron. It is used as restraints for Pyskers since the metal is not only resistant to any form of psychic energy directed against it, but also burns their skin like acid anytime they try to use their powers.
- House Van Saar from Necromunda has its founders originate from the time of the DAOT (after some timey-wimey Warp shenanigans they emerged at their intended destination a lot later then they intended). The Van Saar are actually the closest you are ever going to get to playing humans from the DAOT.
Why not everything may be as good as you think...
"Fools have asked ‘why did the Dark Age of Technology end in the fall of humanity?’, and other fools answered back 'folly’, or 'pride’, or 'the worship of progress’, as if these things alone had any meaning. The answer, as the wise know, is simple. It is because finally humanity had the arts at their disposal to make their dreams reality, and the dreams of humanity have ever been the darkest things in all creation."
- – Introduction to the Emerald Testament, suppressed work of the technoarchaeologist Synecius Thor
One of the things people have a tendency to forget is that the idea of progress and the development of technology don't immediately equate to civil rights, empathy, peace, tolerance and the likes, take any given time in history and you will see regimes using and abusing their scientific, industrial, methodological and technological edge to conquer, enslave, oppress and ruin entire parts of the world, you only have to remember the nazis upper hand in military field technology or the soviets being the first to put a satellite and a man in space, virtually all euroamerican powers used developments in naval technology, steam engines, weaponry and geographic knowledge to grab large pieces of land, kill
and/or enslave (none of them enslaved anyone, only bought slaves from non-western civilizations and tribes, and only killed natives in self-defense, if you don’t want to die and lose your land, don’t attack the people who respected your territorial rights) the natives and churn out resources to the metropolis, often with masses of people getting impoverished due unfair competition, changes in industry and abusive monopolies. The non-euroamerican societies skipped the science part straight to the mass-murder and enslavement and mastered being impoverished. Not the right kind of overachievement, guys.
Humankind expanded across the galaxy at a fast rate while machine learning did the job to create new weapons, better technologies and the like, but it only may took a corrupted elite to have control over technology or let it slip in the hands of hardwired AI to unleash hell, the narrative of the Great Crusade reveals worlds were, without the intervention of warp powers or xenos species, the population has been reduced to an state of mere raw resource for maddened AIs.
And what of the xenos species which received this wave of hominid flesh and self-enhacing machines? People think all humans from the Dark Age of Technology may be of an enlightened sort, perhaps a majority yes, we dare to believe like the AI from the Spirit of Eternity that humanity has managed to become the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals, but it only took just a small bit to be rotten apples to plunge entire sections of the galaxy into ruin and mayhem, with tens, perhaps hundreds of peaceful species who may only want to trade or just be left alone crushed by tides of spacial-data destroying machines and unending tides of automata. Although, we don’t have a reason to believe that anyone but humans were targeted by the Men of Iron. Also, any aliens seeking revenge or something for the Iron War either A) are using that as an excuse because the suffering humanity experienced is obviously sufficient punishment, B) cruel or power-hingry and would be an enemy anyway if we weren’t too strong to attack before, or C) hiding from their own populace what humanity experienced or that humans were (judging from combat augment arrays, butcher’s nails, flesh vats, and stitch-horrors) probably basically enslaved by their scientist overlords.
Many people have argued why didn’t the Emperor reveal himself during the Dark Age of Technology, when humanity may have been at their peak technological capability and in the intellectual position to deal with the warp as an actual existential threat, wouldn't they be reasonable enough to understand what awaited them down the evolutionary line? Wasn't the Emperor in the position to foresee the corruption of the Eldar? Or perhaps man truly grew proud and drunk in power, turning true his darkest dreams, given the chance and without a strong cultural background on empathy and decency what do you think the results would be? Do we even have to check the media of our own age to imagine what these false-gods may do given the technological capability? Given what we know of the time, it is extremely likely the Emperor would have simply been imprisoned and experimented on by power-hungry elites of the federation at the time.
Ultimately it may be that mankind, given the chance, may have persevered and lift itself by their own hand from their weaknesses and pettiness, perhaps without the Eldar falling into decadence, without the Men of Iron going rogue, without the epidemic of psychic mutation humans may have somehow be capable to afford the evolutionary jump needed to free themselves through technological means from their own base instincts and wickedness, but perhaps not, as it is, the Dark Age of Technology remains a fable of the follies of progress without the criteria and foresight to make it sustainable, as Stan Lee wrote "Paradise unearned is but a land of shadows". Of course, the main danger of freeing themselves from their own ambition is the risk of killing the growth needed for survival, or being backstabbed by the people entrusted with meddling with our brains or genetics, or strengthening Nurgle and falling prey to him through technologically induced apathy.
A pretty retarded and nonsensical Fanon timeline of the Dark Age of Technology, which makes Matt Ward's creations seem amazing and logical by comparison. http://www.heresy-online.net/forums/155-homebrew-40k-fluff/211473-fanon-history-dark-age-technology.html#post2375305