Green Laser
Image from Luke Campbell

Methods of coercion and destruction have always had a fateful attraction to human and posthuman ingenuity and industry. Over the millennia legitimate defence needs, military ambitions and pure malice have led to the development of a wide array of devices which fall under the general heading of 'weapons'.

Projectile Weapons

Projectile weapons are still the most common anti-individual weapons, employing chemicals or electromagnetism to accelerate projectiles to high velocities. Larger forms, especially mass-drivers, are used in interplanetary fighting. The largest projectile weapons are asteroids (which have occasionally been used against planetary targets) and relativistic rocks, projectiles launched using drives that send them into their targets near lightspeed after a long period of acceleration.

Beam Weapons

Creating damage with radiative energy or particles is much harder to make practical in planetary environments than it is with projectile weapons, and the energy demands require either bulky generators or photonanotech "light batteries" that can convert stored energy directly into laser light. Beams are the most common form of ship-to-ship weapons, although many of the particle-beam type weapons blur the border between projectiles and beams.

Nanotech Weapons

Among the most insidious, versatile and feared types of weapons. The smallest are single nanodevices infiltrating environments, machines or humans, doing subtle manipulations or not-so-subtle replication attacks. The feared 'goo' self-replicating swarms consist of innumerable devices at various scales which may appear quasi-liquid, dustlike or gaseous and consume other material to power themselves and multiply. Long after the lessons of the Solar System Dark Ages many worlds have been devastated by the use of replicating weapons.

Transapientech Weapons

This is a large category of weaponry that can only be created, or only be deployed, by transapients. In some cases they are more conventional weapons that in transapient "hands" are so subtle and deadly that their effects seem magical: structures suddenly fail, organisations dissolve into chaos, and seemingly bizarre accidents and mishaps overtake the target without any apparent cause. In other cases the weapon itself relies on devices that ordinary sophonts can imagine but cannot create or direct. Some of these can lay waste to entire worlds or star systems, while others can delicately vanish a target with barely a ghost of an effect on its surroundings. According to some transapient informants, many or even most transapientech weapons are simply impossible for ordinary sophonts to detect, and carry out actions that are difficult or impossible to explain to a human-equivalent mind, though they may sometimes be known by their side-effects. There is some evidence that these statements are correct.

Biotech Weapons

Biological warfare is an ancient but popular strategy - designer diseases, bionanotech infections targeting only certain species, groups or individuals and genetic tampering sterilising or reprogramming germ cells have all been used. Macroscopic bioweapons like genetically engineered predators have been rarer, but still occur here and there.

Intelligent Weapons

Bots of various kinds can easily be equipped with weaponry, although programming them to become good fighters is harder. There exist military bots ranging from the nanoscale to systemwide defences networks, and they often integrate cyborgisation or AI on various levels. The most dangerous and risky intelligent weapons are Turingrade or beyond, making them not just tools but fighters in their own right. Especially dangerous are intelligent replicator weapons, the autowars, able to build more of themselves and even improve their designs.

Information Weapons

Hacking, cracking and computer viruses are part of the normal arsenal of all powers. Viruses range from mere pieces of scripted code over sophisticated agents to intelligent beings in their own right, able to infiltrate, pervert and possess other systems.

Psychological Weapons

One of the effects of transhuman intelligence and empathy is the proliferation of mental manipulation intended to coerce or weaken enemies. The weapons range from the subtlest forms of propaganda, media manipulation and meme design to direct mental reprogramming. Especially when applied to the governing AIs, psychological weapons can be far more devastating than physical weapons, as demonstrated by the Geteche disaster.

In general, most civilised societies realise the danger weapons of mass destruction or mass manipulation pose, and take steps to limit them. This is one area the high toposophic archailects have apparently settled: most of the truly powerful weapons are kept out of the hands of bionts, vecs, turingrade ais, and other ordinary sophonts and some of the most awful transapientech weaponry is apparently outlawed by a kind of "gentlebeing's agreement". The use of such by the Sagittarius Sphere in the Version War was likely a reason it was dissolved - it is commonly believed that the major AIs behind the Sphere were destroyed by the others for their acts. Outlaw empires might of course have at least some such weapons, but know they will be fiercely attacked by an unified front if they make overt use of them.

  • Aggressive Self-replicating Swarm  - Text by Steve Bowers and John B
    DaharransSelf replicating swarm of sentient aioids dedicated to converting as much of the universe as possible into copies of itself by aggressive, military and/or coercive means. Also known as Aggressive or Coercive Hegemonising Swarm.
  • Armour  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    [1] A defensive covering, as of adamant, arachnoweave, kevlar, metal, wood, or leather, worn to protect the body against weapons (see also Body Armour).
  • Boser - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A matter laser. The stimulated emission of BEC results in bosons marching in coherent phase. Bosers have many uses in energy storage and release and in weapons systems.
  • Claymore Edge Series mines  - Text by John B
    A series of explosive devices that are part of the Trillicon Arms range.
  • Compatibility Doctrine, The  - Text by The Humbler
    Technological doctrine that makes backwards compatibility a priority.
  • Disassembler  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev, updated by Steve Bowers 2024
    A system of very-small-scale devices, able to take an object apart a few atoms at a time, while recording its structure at the molecular level. Often employed as a swarm or part of a swarm. This could be used for uploading, copying objects (when used with an assembler system), a dissolving agent or a weapon.
  • Dreadnought (nanobot) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A military or medical nanobot/mesobot that is excessively over-armed and armoured; replication speed and flexibility is sacrificed in favour of heavy duty actions, or offensive and defensive capacity.
  • Dreadnought (software) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A heavy, massively encrypted and equipped ai virus, stealth virtual, or persona.
  • Drone Weaponry  - Text by Ndege Diamond
    The drone weaponry that emerged during the Information Age allowed a bewildering array of "smart munitions" that could attack different kinds of targets.
  • Laser Weapons  - Text by Luke Campbell; additions by Steve Bowers
    Laser weapons come in many varieties.
  • Nanobar  - Text by John B
    A thin film material which prevents nanotic devices from affecting it, or penetrating it.
  • Polemovore - Text by Anders Sandberg
    A creature that eats war, or more specifically the self-replicating weapons left behind advanced wars. They were postulated as an explanation of why the whole universe has not been overrun by autowars or turned into strange matter viruses by now.
  • Quadrail Gaussrifle  - Text by From an original article by Michael Boncher
    Rugged and flexible ballistic weapon with smooth bore or caged barrel versions.
  • Sensors for use in Space Combat and Defence  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Active and Passive sensors for space warfare and defence.
  • Trillicon Arms  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    NoCoZo megacorp based on Atlantis, famous for selling weapons of all kinds, mostly to ordinary sophonts.
  • Warchive  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg
    Nanotech weapons archive/assembler.
Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg; some additions by Stephen Inniss

Initially published on 31 July 2000.

Additional Information