K'Pokk wrote:Eldar are the most advanced. To everyone else their technology looks like magic.
Tau technology looks like technology.
Going by most background, Necrons are the most advanced. Their technological grasp eclipses even the Eldar (with the most pronounced examples being stuff like Inertialess Drives and possibly the Aeonic Orb).
At any rate, matching Tau technology with any other fictional universe is... difficult, not least due to the inherent problems in comparing any kind of fictional world with another (Try comparing the power of magic in different Fantasy settings, for example).
Technology itself is especially hard to compare, because technological development is extremely hard to quantify. In real-life it rarely if ever follows a neat linear path that you can apply universally to all cases. You also have to consider the differences between technological capacity and application - the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War could generally be considered to have roughly the same technological capacity (more or less) at a given point in time, but applied that technological development in very different ways. Even when analysing the technological development of a single organisation in a single faction can be difficult as technology and resources rarely get applied symmetrically - consider the vaunted German army of the Second World War, which is well-known for deploying weapons and equipment that was extremely advanced for the time, but was mostly supplied throughout the conflict by horse-drawn wagons that wouldn't be that out-of-place in a 19th century war.
This is also where the common argument that the Imperium is more technologically advanced than the Tau comes from, because while the Tau are considerably ahead in many technological fields by most reasonable metrics, the Imperium still has a few wonder-devices from the Dark Age of Technology that are beyond what the Tau can currently do (teleportation devices are the most commonly cited example).
What all this comes down to then, is the difference between 'can' and 'does'. Can the Tau make use of the technology shown in Ghost In The Shell
(or it's closest Western analogue, Blade Runner
)? I would say they probably could, if they put their minds to it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they do live in a world as depicted in those stories. Consider that one of the defining traits of the Tau is that they're pragmatists
, and from a pragmatic point of view the most high-tech solution isn't always the best one. Indeed, when people ask me why I still insist on using an old Nokia 'brick' phone instead of a smartphone (which actually happens quite a lot), my response is generally a combination of "I only really need a mobile phone to receive phone calls and text messages, which the old Nokia still does just fine" and "Let's see what happens when one of those new smartphones falls onto a concrete surface...".
It's for this reason that my own Kakapo Canon(tm) has the Tau still making extensive use of tactile keyboards, physical display screens (albeit very sophisticated LCD type affairs) and pencils with physical paper (paper incorporating various high-tech synthetic substances to make it more durable and longer-lasting than regular paper, but still recognisably 'paper' nonetheless), because while they may not be as flashy as holograms and electronic reading devices, there are many aspects that make them more practical in a number of situations. Using a holographic display to control your Hammerhead or Manta, for example, might seem great at first until a temporary power outage causes your entire instrument panel to disappear. And it's much faster and easier to tape a torn page back together than it is to repair the display on an electronic device. Yes, with enough technological development and resources you can make the more high-end options more reliable and durable, but that can only help so much, especially in the context of a military combat environment where things get shot at a lot (to say nothing of combat in 40k where things also get hit with chainsaws a lot) - this is also why Kakapo Canon(tm) has most Tau military equipment being larger and more bulky than what you'd expect, because most of that size and mass consists of protective casings, armour plates and multiple system redundancies.
The same principles can also be applied to cybernetics. Sophisticated as they might be, they are still electronic devices, which means they can still go wrong or break down. Indeed, this is exactly what happened with the first iteration of rail rifles, the cerebrally-implanted targeting systems of which had a nasty habit of malfunctioning and frying the unfortunate Shas'la's brain (reflected in the 3rd edition rules by them having Gets Hot! If you use their hard-wired target lock option). This is an extreme example to be sure, but it highlights some of the risks involved with cerebral implants even with further progression (after all, no system is ever immune to bad luck). Even taking such factors aside, simple challenges like how you maintain an electronic device that's buried under your skull or medical complications like making sure the invasive implants don't drive the immune system berserk must also be considered. With things like this to consider, it's very likely that a sizeable portion of the Tau populace just doesn't see them as worth the risk, and avoids their use wherever possible (especially valuable Tau working in high-risk fields where you want as few potential risks as possible), or simply chooses not to use them based on more emotional reasons (a Shas'O who once served as a Pathfinder in team with first-generation rail rifles and still remembers the horror of what happened when their target locks went bad is probably going to pass on your fancy new cerebral network no matter how many new features it might offer).
What I'm trying to say is that having the capability to make use of fancy high-tech cerebral implants does not necessarily preclude the use of cell phones and interface devices, and while the Tau probably could recreate Ghost In The Shell if they wanted to, that doesn't necessarily mean they will. Finally, it's all down to personal interpretation - like I say, my own take is the Tau continuing to make use of relatively plain cell phones, interface devices and even pencils and paper, with more exotic stuff like holograms and cerebral implants being used in a supplemental role, because that seems to me more like what a pragmatic civilisation would do.