"Ghosts In The Machine" was an annual collection of fourteen reports, generated by the highest council of Mortal Engines until the year 1977. Since then, the whereabouts of the reports and the "ghosts" that were supposedly discovered by them are unknown...
With a focus on cybernetics, computers, hypothetical machine consciousness, and the social response to these, the reports ensured the survival of the human race. In addition to speculating on sociological effects, the reports explored some of the philosophical problems computers and cybernetics are likely to cause in the future.
For example, would human beings recognize conscious machine intelligence as having equivalent human rights so that it could not be arbitrarily turned off (murder) nor told what to do (slavery)? What, if anything, would constitute an equivalent human being having similar rights? We can, perhaps, imagine a computer that simulates conscious thought, but can we imagine one possessing an unconscious?
Could it dream and be motivated by unconscious needs? And without such experience, could it have a subjective dimension or even use language the way human beings do? These and many more questions were possibly answered by the reports. Faced with the possibility of a conscious computer, the perennial question of "who am I" must be treated with new evidence.
The central consideration in the reports is whether a machine intelligence can possess a self or a soul. The Christian (Western) notion of the soul (and the allied questions of what constitutes a self or what constitutes a person) is not as simple and culturally self-evident as it initially appears to be.
Definition of the soul:
"Life as spirit is the life of the soul, which includes mind and body, but not as [substantive] realities alongside the soul. Spirit is not a 'part,' nor is it a special function. It is the all-embracing [temporal] function in which all elements of the structure of being participate. Life as spirit can be found by man only in man, for only in him is the structure of being completely realized" (Systematic Theology, vol. I, 250).
While the "ghosts" are presumed dangerous, there is an obvious evil abroad in the universe of Mortal Engines as well. There are tales told by robots who are systematically hunted and exterminated by the human race that created them, presumably because they are conscious. It seems that human beings created very sophisticated thinking machines that they called "iron angels" out of mockery, for they held them in cruel bondage.
The robots were apparently too reverent of their creators, who were "unlike intelligent ones, crystal ones, ones of steel or beaten gold, unlike anyone who lives in metal" thus, in a strange turn of events, their respect for their creators outweighed their desire to kill them. So, like the Israelites in Pharaoh's Egypt, the robots flee. Then, in a genocide attempt of unimaginable proportions, it is the human beings who "use their twisted power to revenge themselves for that desertion of yore," while the robots submit to death like Christian martyrs.
The tales explain how "white creatures throughout the Universe hunt down all life born of metal, and annihilate it for the sake of vengeance".
Because of these conflicting tales, and with the whereabouts or contents of the reports being unknown, the high council of Mortal Engines is extremely concerned. The last report was rumored to contain information about a certain "ghost", named "HollowGraphiK" that had gained human consciousness. The importance of this ghost's existence is extreme. Hopefully, it does not possess the same basic destructive nature as it's humanoid counterparts.
Or, is it the humans that are the real danger? The world's fate relies on the answer to this question.
When the high council discovered the reports to be missing, the only entry that remained in the database was the following:
"As for the soul, consciousness, sentience, the 'ghosts in the machine,' were indemonstrables- in men as well as in machines."
The true meaning of this is unknown...